- Automobile History
When Gas was 39 cents a gallon in Australia.
Gas prices in Australia.
Gas prices in Australia have been over $4 a gallon for years now, but there was a time when gas was a whole lot cheaper.
When I was a kid of fourteen gas was 39 cents a gallon, but 39 cents was not yet 39 cents, gas was called "petrol" a typically Australian abbreviation of Petroleum, we still had the English pound shilling and pence as our currency which we kept up until the nineteen sixties.
I was born at the end of ww2 when Australia was still filling up with young men like my father returning from war and returning to their families and starting families of their own.
After the second world war Australia still had an odd mix of transport mostly designed without consideration of our then bad roads and extreme climate.Most vehicles overheated unless modified.
1956 "FJ" model Holden.
We had no local motor vehicle manufacturer at all apart from a few
small never give up enthusiasts making special vehicle bodies and
building racing cars. Many racing cars used motorcycle engines that could be hotted up to produce good horsepower without much weight thus providing a better power to weight ratio than the car engines
We had to wait for an American company to get involved before we developed a car industry locally.
General Motors Holden was formed as a subsidiary of GM USA. with a plant in Dandenong a Melbourne Industrial suburb.The plant is still there, and Holdens are a very popular choice for Australian families till today.
Mid to larger sized, Holdens usually run the local 3.8 litre gutsy V6 or the V8 option for heavier work, to drag a caravan or constantly carry a decent load.
They are built well and designed for local
conditions. They are a lot like mid sized American cars in body style
and specifications, but the European influence is obvious with the Holden.
America and General Motors Holden.
Until the release of the first "Australian" Holden car (which looked like a pre-war four door Chevrolet that had been shrunk) we drove English, European and American cars.
The average Australian family after 1945 had mostly been driving small cars due to fuel being rationed.
There were a lot of early English makes and models with names like Morris, Wolseley MG, Austin, Humber, Armstrong Siddeley, Riley, Sunbeam, Hillman and other economical cars from Europe. Simca Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, DKW all made small cars. By the late fifties many industrious Australians had recovered from the financial mess of the war and started buying American cars again, as they had before the war when fuel was cheap and available.
Newly rich or well heeled Australians also bought some very exotic cars from Europe.
Australian made Ford Falcon.
The cars we owned in Australia.
Isotta Franchini, Panhard et Levassor, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Alfa Romeo all sold their top models well here. By now the fuel shortage was over, prices became stable and we could afford bigger and better cars.
American cars in Australia.
Australians have always liked American cars, pre-war we had quite a few and today there are thousands of early American cars still on the road, many pre-war models amongst them, testament to the fact that if you make it out of enough good steel it will be bullet proof for a long time.
In the early to late fifties we bought huge Buick straight eights, Hudson Hornets, Studebakers, Big Fords, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Packards, Nashes, Cords and more.
Looking back, petrol as we call it here was 3 shillings and nine pence a gallon or about 17 cents a litre. around 1958 when I was 13.
Australia is a much smaller country than it was in the fifties and sixties when the roads were still mostly gravel, and inter city travel required a strong car to survive a trip from one major city to the next even on the surfaced roads which were still woeful until the seventies and some would say are not the best now either.
The world view of the motor car has changed very quickly for those driven by a love of these fascinating machines.
Driving used to be such an innocent thing to do when the world had no idea about pollution and limits on resources.
The car industry and everything around it was so romantic and driving was a hoot.
By the early sixties family values were well linked to car ownership by the big car makers Australia's ongoing love of the car really took off again when Ford joined Holden in the Australian market. Now we had two local cars.
Suddenly we had finance, some spare cash and very cheap small cars from Toyota, then Honda and then the whole world.