Snub to national museum sends Holden's heritage to the regions

Produced as a one-off in 1970, the radical Torana GTR-X concept car from the Holden heritage collection is headed for South Australia. Picture: Supplied
Produced as a one-off in 1970, the radical Torana GTR-X concept car from the Holden heritage collection is headed for South Australia. Picture: Supplied

The fate of the priceless Holden heritage vehicle collection has been decided but Canberrans won't get to see any of the important exhibits unless they take a trip to Bathurst.

Curiously, not a single Holden heritage vehicle will make its way to the ACT and find a place in the country's premier storehouse, the National Museum of Australia.

The multi-million dollar collection comprises around 80 production and concept cars and heritage engines built by the former manufacturer, which stopped production three years ago and earlier this year dropped the surprise announcement it would be "retiring" the brand from Australia completely.

The snub to the national museum by General Motors has given a huge shot in the arm to regional museums around the country, with most of the highly-prized items going to the National Motor Museum of Australia in Birdwood, South Australia.

The Birdwood collection will be expanded to include some of the company's most dramatic concept cars including the award-winning Efigy, designed and built by Holden as a modern take on the FX Holden, the Sandman van, the Torana GTR-X, and the swoopy Holden Hurricane sports car.

Echuca's museum will get the last ute to roll off the production line in Australia, as well as the last Statesman built.

ACT MLA Mick Gentleman says his Holden 48-215, in mint condition, is a pleasure to drive. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

ACT MLA Mick Gentleman says his Holden 48-215, in mint condition, is a pleasure to drive. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Other smaller and little-known museums in places like Trafalgar, Shepparton, Winton, Mildura, Moorabbin, Maffra and Whiteman Park and Bertam in WA will take other examples of the collection.

Holden has been carefully collecting and preserving its most important cars, engines and documents since its manufacturing began in 1948.

The managing director for GM Australia and New Zealand, Marc Ebolo, used the announcement of the museum allotments to quell public speculation about the future of the collection.

The 2005 Holden Efijy concept, part of the Holden collection. Picture: Supplied

The 2005 Holden Efijy concept, part of the Holden collection. Picture: Supplied

The company's hasty "retirement" from Australia, leaving hundreds of dealers out of pocket and controversially receiving insufficient financial compensation, was the subject of fierce criticism in Federal parliament this year.

It had been speculated the criticism would sway the company to take a bloody-minded approach and send its best items off to Detroit, then simply auction off the rest.

However, many of the key cars in the collection would not have been able to be exported because they would have fallen under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations 2018, and Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher expressed his desire to keep all the cars in the country.

"There has been considerable speculation with regards to what was going to happen to these iconic pieces of automotive heritage, and I'm pleased to reveal we are displaying our vehicle collection in Australia," Mr Ebolo said.

"We have never thought about sending it overseas."

ACT MLA Mick Gentleman, who is a proud owner of a beautifully preserved Holden 48-215, the first Holden model produced in Australia, described the company's decision not to send any of its cars to the national museum as a "huge disappointment".

"We should have representation of the Holden collection in the national capital," he said.

The name 'Canbra' was one of several which were discussed before General Motors named it after the company's first chairman, Sir Edward Holden.

The National Museum of Australia has several old Holdens in its collection including Prototype Number 1, one of three hand-built by US and Australian engineers in Detroit and shipped to Australia for months of durability and performance tests.

The local collection also contains what is believed to be the first Holden sold commercially. It was delivered to industrialist Essington Lewis (1881-1961) on the eve of 24 February 1949, a day before the first Holdens were released for sale to the general public.

This story Snub to national museum sends Holden's heritage to the regions first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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