This year marks Australian House & Garden’s 65th in print! Join us as we dip into the archives to celebrate some unsung heroes.
This momentous year saw the launch of two future icons in Australia – Holden and Australian House & Garden. An ivory Holden 48-215 was unveiled with great fanfare in Port Melbourne by Prime Minister Ben Chifley. Although dubbed an all-Australian car, it borrowed from its General Motors US parent – it was designed by Chevrolet – but was built super-rugged to tackle the Aussie outback, with tauter suspension and a tank-like, supposedly dust-proof, body. The timing was perfect – city dwellers were beginning their migration to the suburbs and their love affair with the family six-cylinder. While it was more modest in dimensions than the US land-yachts of the time, it could comfortably seat six, thanks to the bench seat in the front and the three-speed manual column shift. Spartan hardly sums it up – there was no heater or demister, and forget direction indicators – winding down the window took care of the former and sticking your hand out took care of the latter. The new Holden drove – although never too briskly, it must be said – into Aussie legend, together with the cork hat and the stubby.
Holden’s VE Commodore, developed in Australia, is not only equipped with air-conditioning and direction indicators, but with iQ touch-screen controls to access your MP3 player, GPS navigation or Bluetooth calling, six airbags, parking sensors and optional rear-seat DVD player to keep the kids entertained. Its rival, the Ford Falcon, has a similar booty. Recalling Chifley’s memorable moment more than 60 years earlier, in 2011 Prime Minister Julia Gillard drove a four-cylinder Holden Cruze off the assembly line in Elizabeth, SA. Holden dubbed it the most fuel-efficient car built in Australia. It was an international collaboration, with input from South Korea, Europe and the US. Aiming to take ground from Toyota’s electric/petrol hybrid, the Prius, the Holden Volt shifts the electric-car concept into another gear – it recharges its battery as you drive, so overcoming the 'range anxiety' that plagues electric-powered cars, which is a huge plus in our vast continent.
What the future holds…
Question marks hover over the Australian car industry today, jacked up as it is by Federal Government subsidies. With fuel efficiency top of mind, thirsty sixes and voracious V8s have given way to the frugal fours in sales figures (Holden will launch its South Korean Malibu midsize four cylinder to complement the Cruze later this year), while alternative fuel sources are being explored. Want to read your iPad or send emails during your commute? Driverless cars are on the horizon – Volvo successfully road-tested the technology in 2011.