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David Hayward's

Automotive History

This site has been established in order to publish various Working Papers for general study and comment on automotive history.



Holden Car Mag 1920's
Augustin Neil "Gus" Lawrence, was an American by birth but later a British citizen, after having acquired Canadian citizenship. He was educated as an engineer, and entered the automobile trade in 1910. For nine years he was general sales manager for Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, until he left to join General Motors, probably the Export Company in New York. He was appointed as sales Director of General Motors Limited on 17 May 1922 at the same time as Christian Lie, Norwegian, who was the Branch Manager of General Motors Export Company in Paris, which indicates that these were nominations by the Export Company as they were want to do. However, he was to go on to gain considerable experience of the establishing a new Plant. He was also appointed a Director of GENERAL MOTORS (IRELAND) LIMITED from when the company was founded in 1923 to 1925, alongside James D. Mooney, to be replaced by Edward C. Riley when Lawrence left General Motors Limited as well! However, for about a year, A.N. Lawrence and James D. Mooney were both directors of General Motors Limited, so they were both directors of General Motors in the U.K. and Ireland at the same time.
Lawrence and Lie resigned from General Motors Limited on 8 June 1925, and Edward Creaser Riley joined the Board as Managing Director, and a director of Limited until he also resigned by 4 January 1929 and was recalled to the U.S.

A.N. Lawrence was appointed to General Motors South African Property Limited, and oversaw the building of a plant in Elizabethtown, later Port Elizabeth, which started Chevrolet assembly of Bloomfield C.K.D. kits in 1926: in fact Lawrence established the first assembly operations. Nathaniel Currier Tuxbury of the General Motors Export Company was appointed Managing Director and General Manager in 1926 having arrived in South Africa in 1918 then left for the U.S. in 1919, returning in 1926 and remaining as Managing Director until 1947. General Motors South African (Pty) Limited was registered on 20 February 1926 with a capital of £20,000, production starting in an old wool store in Darling Street.

On 6 August 1926, Percy Crosbie Kidner and Leslie Walton joined the General Motors Limited Board, already having been appointed as joint Managing Directors of Vauxhall Motors Limited. Kidner resigned on 4 January 1929 to be replaced by Cyril George Griffin, who was also Assistant to Leslie Walton as Managing Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited: Griffin had been sales manager of F.S. Bennett Limited in 1919, and had followed Fred Bennett to General Motors Limited. It seems that he may also have been connected with Chevrolet and W.C. Durant from 1915 onwards. Kidner also resigned from Directorship of Vauxhall Motors Limited as well.


The first large-scale importation of Chevrolets into Australia was achieved by one S.A. "Bert" Cheney, an enterprising Dealer and owner of Cheney Motors Limited, though others also had a hand in importing chassis before the position was regularised by General Motors Export Company in New York.

Bert Cheney's book "From Horse to Horsepower". Cheney claimed that he started chassis assembly in a plant in South Melbourne, Victoria, in 1922. Cecil Whitta was his Melbourne Service Manager. However it was not until mid 1928 that General Motors Australia Pty. Ltd. commenced actual chassis assembly from C.K.D. components, which is true in the case of the five General Motors (A.) State Assembly plants that opened in late 1926 to mid 1927 period. However, it is now believed that chassis assembly was started by the independent State distributors in Australia as early as 1922 for the Oshawa-sourced 1922 models that started production in September 1921 in Canada. Did Whitta have anything to do with this large assembly operation that Cheney started as his roll of Service Manager? It is thought that this large assembly operation with so many employees involved was just not a back shop venture.

S A Cheney in his book "From Horse to Horsepower," 1964, wrote:
"At the representative's request I agreed to accept the Chevrolet franchise for Victoria and the Riverina instead of New South Wales. I arrived with my family in Melbourne in November 1920, stayed for two days at an hotel in St Kilda before settling in a furnished house in Canterbury, and then began to search for business premises. I secured a small building in South Melbourne, suitable only as a temporary service and assembly shop, and also one room for an office on the first floor of 230 Little Collins Street, where I carried on the business for three months with the use of a friendly neighbour's telephone. In 1921, when I was embarking on my new venture as distributor for Chevrolet cars in Victoria, the world suffered a mild depression .Car sales had slumped. At the end of three months I had established a business with my own funds and in my own name. I then founded the company of S. A. Cheney Proprietary Limited to purchase the business I had established. The company in which I had subscribed the whole of the capital allotted me 15,000 £1 shares for the business at valuation. By that time I had secured a small garage in Spring Street, between Little Lonsdale Street and Latrobe Street, close by the Chinese quarter of the city. The building was renovated and partitioned off into a showroom and offices. Bins for spare parts were built upstairs and the place was reasonable suitable as a temporary home for the company. Despite the general trade slump that was setting in, the company soon outgrew its business premises in Spring Street, and in November 1921 we moved into the magnificent five-storey building at 22 Flinders Street which has been our headquarters ever since. The site, at the south eastern entrance to the city, has a splendid outlook, and is ideal for a motor showrooms and offices. I secured the premises on lease at a very satisfactory figure, but later purchased them outright.

Fairly large assembly works had to be provided by my company to put the Chevrolet on the market in Victoria. The chassis, which were imported in sections, had to be assembled there. The bodies were brought over from Adelaide and attached to the chassis at our workshop; in addition we had to provide tyres, batteries, and various other fittings, and do all the paint work on the vehicle. I asked General Motors to let me have the Chevrolet chassis without tyres. For a long time the Company refused my request, but eventually agreed to it .they would alter their routine of boxing , and send the chassis minus tyres, but they would not make any allowances for the tyres. After another shipment or two . General Motors decided to make the requested allowance.

With a view to reducing cost, in 1922 I set up a travelling chain assembly line at South Melbourne for assembling knocked-down chassis. It was the first assembly line in the motor industry in Australia. I also took part in planning with General Motors to have the chassis packed in smaller, still smaller crates, until finally they came in 'completely knocked-down' form, referred to as C.K.D. This effected savings in freight space, packing case cost, and cartage charges, and greatly facilitated the work of our assemblers in handling axles, springs, and other components shipped in cases by themselves.

In the spring of 1923, I purchased the South Australian agency for Chevrolet [from George M. May] for a stipulated sum, plus payment at valuation for stock, plant, and premises. The transfer of the agency was approved by General Motors Export Company when I explained that it was proposed to operate the franchise through a company to be formed by Mr Mann and myself on the lines of the Melbourne organization, and for Mann to take charge of it. [known as Mann's Motors Limited].

Year by year the Chevrolet gained in valve and prestige, and in volume of sales eventually surpassed all competitors. In 1919, the year before I took up the agency, Chevrolet sales in Victoria were fewer than 100. In the year 1925-26 [physical year ended June 30, 1926] they reached 5,650. In South Australia only 91 Chevrolets were sold during the year before Mr Mann and I took over the agency from Mr May, but after that their sales increased to approximately 700 in the first year, 1600 in the second year, and 2300 in the third year. [physical year ended June 30, 1926].

The turnover value ran into many millions of pounds. Floor space occupied by the two companies exceeded eight and a half acres, and the total number of employees exceeded 1,150, with a pay roll of about £7,000 a week. Profits were correspondingly satisfactory.

[ I received a cable] dated 30 April, [1926, that] advised me of the cancellation of our agreement with General Motors . . . It stated that our agreement would not be renewed from 30 June but, but provided we agreed to accept the alternative, a metropolitan agreement as from the date of General Motors's opening in Australia,1 November 1926, our then present agreement would be extended until that date; it was stated also that we should receive certain compensation. Suitable compensation was later paid by General Motors in a very fair and equitable way to the distributors thus affected.

My next step was to tell General Motors' representative of my plans to transfer activities to the sale [and assembly] of British cars and trucks. I asked permission to transfer my valuable metropolitan franchise for Chevrolet cars and trucks to Lanes Motors. At this time I was Chairman of Directors of and had a large financial interest in Mann's Motors Ltd, Adelaide, which under the new arrangement with General Motors had been giving the metropolitan franchise in place of the South Australian State franchise. I then arranged to sell the whole of my interest in Mann's Motors to Fred Mann".

Ken Kaufmann comments that Cheney was assembling K.D. chassis from Canada in 1922-23 and from Tarrytown and Bloomfield from 1924-26 with Mann also assembling K.D. chassis from at least 1924 to 26. When GMA took over on Nov 1st 1926 it had to start from scratch in the new 5 states "Assembly Plants". It is not clear how Cheney and Mann [and McGrath?] serial-numbered their assembled cars between 1922 and October 1926.


General Motors (Australia) Pty. Limited began operations in Australia on 1 November 1926. This was announced on that day by full-page advertisements in all the leading Australian newspapers. On the same day the same daily papers in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales each carried a double-page advertisement announcing that my companies in those States were now agents for British cars . In the body of the announcement it was explained that "as the American manufactures no longer required our well-established assembly plants for their use, these were to be swung over and utilised for the benefit of British motor-car manufactures, who were in possession of no such facilities in Australia".

In a 1 November advertisement was illustrated the large Cheney Victoria Factory in South Melbourne along with a aerial view of this plant. Another facility was named the Cheney Motors Factory, located on City Road, and two views of a third facility called the New Car Depot. A fourth building shown was the Truck Assembly Depot with a fifth building with a large Chevrolet "bowtie" on the side called the Paint Shop, both located in South Melbourne.

[The Melbourne premises were the last General Motors (Australia) State assembly plant to open, at the corner of City Road and Balston Street, South Melbourne, and were leased from Messrs John Sharp and Sons Limited. The building was renovated before assembly operations commenced on May 4, 1927. The total floor area was 198,000 sq. ft. [5 acres] of which 26,508 sq. ft. were for warehouse operations. The plant had a capacity of 60 cars per day and employed 175 workmen. The building also housed the Melbourne branch and the Central Organization].

It appears that Australia imported S.U.P. chassis from Tarrytown Plant in New York, up to mid 1928 when the switch to C.K.D. chassis to be imported and General Motors (A.) commenced true chassis assembly. Therefore, up to mid 1928, these General Motors (A.) States assembly plants simply installed bodies shipped from Holden's Woodville plant. This was rather like the Hendon Plant, where body assembly started in 1923 but chassis assembly from C.K.D. components did not actually start until May 1925.


James Alexander Holden's grandson, Edward "Edward W. "Ted"" Wheewall Holden had been the Managing Director since Holden's Motor Body Builders was registered late 1917, and incorporated 25 February 1919 as HOLDEN'S MOTOR BODY BUILDERS LIMITED. Amongst others Holdens' were building car and commercial bodies for General Motors' vehicles imported from the U.S. and Canada. In 1923, William Arthur Holden, Edward W. "Ted"'s younger brother, instigated a search for a site for a new purpose-built premises in the Adelaide area. His enquiries led to a tract of land in open countryside lying between Adelaide and the Port, and as a consequence, 22 acres of land near the railway line were purchased for the first purpose-built plant, which was intended to include a 10 acre factory: Woodville body Plant, which was to build Holden bodies for the various operations then in train such as Melbourne Tramcars.

In 1923, Edward W. "Ted" Holden went on a world tour to see the industry in England, Europe, Canada and the USA. Whilst he was away, he purchased new plant and equipment for the Woodville factory to the value of £25,000. The company then re-capitalised to £1 million early in 1924 to cope with the Woodville facility. Whilst Edward W. "Ted" Holden was away, and whilst the new factory building was still being built, a survey mission from General Motors Export Company in New York visited Australia with a view to cutting the vehicle unit costs down for vehicles which were exported C.K.D. in chassis-only form to avoid the high levels of import duty imposed on built-up vehicles. It was anticipated by General Motors that cuts in costs could be achieved principally by rationalising their body procurement programme from the local body-building companies. They were so impressed by Holdens' scale of activities and efficiency, that they decided there and then that it would be advantageous to agree that the new Woodville Plant should concentrate wholly on General Motors products: this was at much the same time as the Hendon, London Plant was assembling vehicles with supplied bodies and cabs, and the start-up of the General Motors assembly plants in Antwerp, Belgium and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Edward C. Riley on behalf of the General Motors Export Company [and whilst a Director of General Motors Limited] agreed with the Holdens' Chairman, Henry J. Holden, that the Woodville Plant was to be devoted to purely General Motors vehicles, and when Edward W. "Ted" Holden returned from his tour, he revealed that he had been talking to Ford in the U.S. with the same view. However, although General Motors World including July/August 1959 referring to Riley's retirement, suggest that Riley was in charge of this mission, Mooney had overall control and exercised it personally: though this was evidently retrospectively hushed-up! Prof. Peter Swan's Thesis GMH and the Australian Automobile Industry in Economic Perspective,. Monash University 1972 quotes a letter sent by J D Mooney to E C Riley sent on April 25th 1923, with instructions:- This memorandum is to confirm our previous discussion relative to your going to Australia and New Zealand to assist Messrs. Rumely, Miles and Ladin in increasing Chevrolet sales in the Australian Territory.
"Obviously, any reduction in retail selling price will tend towards increasing sales. You ould there for be of assistance in making a study of all the factors entering into this price with the end in view of reducing them where possible by whatever means may be satisfactory.

Specifically, in this latter connection you will among other things, concentrate on the body situation which obtains at present in the Australian market. This will involve a detailed study with
recommendations for improvement over existing methods".

Note the reference to "Dave" Ladin. L.M. Rumely set sail for Sydney April 22 1923 to take over the Sydney office of General Motors Export Company: General Motors World July 1925. Rumely subsequently became Vice-President, G.M.E.C. and Regional Director for Europe, June 1925, after returning to New York May 11 1925, and replaced A.L. Haskell as General Manager, June 15 1925.

What the letter does not state is that Mooney himself travelled to Australia, and was photographed with Edward Holden, Riley, Rumely, and what appears to have been Bruce Miles. General Motors World April 1931, discussing the merger between General Motors (Australia) and Holden's Body Builders reported that Holden Motor Body Builders had "a visit by Edward Riley, James Mooney, L.M. Rumely and the Melbourne Zone Manager, Bruce Miles in the Fall of 1923".

The Holden Board agreed the contract with G.M.E.C. in December 1923, and although no capital was invested in Holdens by New York, advice of future planning and an aim at making Holdens' their sole source of bodies in Australia. This arrangement came into effect in 1924 when the Woodville Plant came into full operation under the management of J.M. Irving. As a consequence, General Motors increased market penetration though Holdens' also bodied Dodge, Maxwell, Essex and Overland. Holdens' decided that they could not provide bodies for Ford as well as General Motors, and as a consequence Ford through partial-subsidiary Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, established Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited's own Australian operation in Geelong, near Melbourne, which effectively marked the beginning of the end for independent Ford bodybuilders such as Duncan & Fraser, Adelaide, and Steenbohms, Sydney, NSW, who were liquidated in 1927 resulting in 400 men in each case being laid off.

In 1926, General Motors Export Company incorporated a new subsidiary, the aforesaid GENERAL MOTORS (AUSTRALIA) PROPERTY LIMITED, based in Melbourne and Sydney, and Innes K. Randolph was appointed the company's first Managing Director: Randolph had been in one of the Indian Sales Offices with Graeme K. Howard and was promoted and moved by General Motors Export Company to Australia to head the new subsidiary. Laurence J. Hartnett and G.C. Sears had replaced Randolph and Howard in India. This was a proper assembly operation of chassis exported from U.S. Plants, Chevrolet kits being supplied from the Tarrytown-on-Hudson Assembly Plant which exported S.U.P. cars, with "22" prefixes [these were the special chassis with cowl as against fully C.K.D. until the 1929 Models which were sourced from Bloomfield Boxing Plant]. Holdens' had started producing closed bodies for Hudson and Essex in 1925, and then for 1926 assembled bodies from imported packs which were virtually identical to North American bodies. From this point on, more and more local content was added. This work required the installation of a much larger panel press at Woodville, which resulted in the acquisition and installation of a 40-ton machine that could exert a pressure of 300 tons and process 160 panels per hour. Increases in demand and output in 1926 resulted in increases in floor-space, with the result that the company claimed that they were the largest of their kind in the Empire outside Canada.

Ken Kaufmann comments that for the 1927 and 1928 early models, G.M.(A.) imported SUP from Tarrytown and assembled H.B.B. bodies on these chassis and it was not until about September of 1928 that G.M.(A.) was able to assemble C.K.D. chassis which are identified by the G.M.(A.) Nameplate and own serial number assigned with plant code prefix..

In 1926, Holdens' were called upon to body Morris's Cowley models as well as the 12 h.p. Austin. It appears that Holden had visited Morris when in the U.K., as well as Vauxhalls: Holdens' bodied Vauxhall chassis from at least 1925, after General Motors had acquired the English company. Holdens' reacted to the constant improvements in designs by acquiring Whitlingstowe Engineering Limited located in Beverly, an adjoining Adelaide suburb to Woodville. This company acquisition enabled Holdens' to produce drop-forged, heat-treated or machined components. Further upgrading of Woodville which totalled A£460,000 with the new company purchase cost, saw the installation of heavy presses for cowl and door panel stamping and an increase of floor space at Woodville to 23 acres to allow production of up to 300 bodies per day. A further result was the removal of work and the Head Office from the original Adelaide city building to Woodville. Speculation was then rife that General Motors (Australia), the assembly operation was to take over Holdens' but Randolph and his counterpart Edward W. "Ted" Holden put down this idea.

The Plant addresses were:
City Road, Melbourne, Victoria
Bridge Street, Sydney, New South Wales
Wickham Street, Valley, Brisbane, Queensland
Corner Rann & Birkenhead Streets, Birkenhead, South Australia
Corner Buckland & Victoria Streets, Cottelsoe Beach, Western Australia


Production continued apace with more closed-body designs, but in common with the rage in the U.K., Holdens' turned to fabric body production, primarily for the Austin 7. However, the Wall Street Crash of October 1929 caused immediate fall-off in demand for motor bodies, and in 1930 bankruptcies resulted in body-building companies. Woodville was first closed in October 1929 and operated on-and-off for the next two years. Edward W. "Ted" Holden was forced to travel to the U.S. at the end of 1929 to try and seek a massive aid package from General Motors to save the company [if this is correct, then it must have been to see James D. Mooney, see below]. In the meantime, every effort possible was made to stimulate demand for motor bodies. Employees numbered 2,300 at the beginning of 1930 as compared with 4,000 a year earlier. In 1931, the slide reached rock bottom as just 1,651 bodies were produced and the Woodville Plant was more closed than open!

Norm Darwin states "I find the trip to the U.S. in 1929 strange. Consider this:
1. H.M.B.B. is in trouble from September 1929 with G.M.(A.) deferring orders for two months.
2. The market collapses.
3. In the first week of December E.W. Holden sets sail for Europe and the U.S. Nancy Butterfield says he was "optimistic" but the signs gave no reason for optimism. Edward left his brother William as acting Chairman on a Committee of Management comprising each of the company's section managers.
4. Edward's brother dies December 22 1929.
5. In January 1930 Arthur Rymill takes control of H.M..BB. Nancy Butterfield says this was without Edward's knowledge and that he was "angry but could little about it on the other side of the world." So why does he not come home then?
6. In June Ms. Butterfield says "that EW Holden is on 'a Motoring tour of Europe' realising the seriousness of his companies situation he abandons the tour and heads directly for New York and a meeting with General Motors". A report in General Motors World in 1931 records, however, that E.W. Holden was in New York for a GM Export Company Conference.
7. Holden meets Alfred P. Sloan after the conference and convinces him to purchase H.M.B.B. Sloan then gets Graeme K. Howard to meet E.W. Holden in Cairo on his way back to Australia (See Alfred P. Sloan Jr.'s book "My Life With General Motors").
8. Howard and Holden arrive in Adelaide the first week in November 1930.
9. Howard completes his study of H.M.B.B. and submits it to Sloan to buy by the end of December 1930.
10. The deal was approved and adopted by H.M.B.B. March 19 1931.

So what was E.W. Holden doing for 6 months (January - June 1930) was he canvassing a sale package in Britain?"

In South Africa, Chevrolet production started with production at around 11 units per day, and in October 1926 the 1,000th Chevrolet had been assembled. Demand increased so much that Lawrence and his colleagues had a new factory built in Kempston Road, Port Elizabeth which was completed in 1929. 1929 production reached 11,457 units, dropping to 5,678 in 1930 and 2,100 in 1931. However, during the depression Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick and Chevrolet vehicles were assembled.

General Motors Export Company [i.e. Mooney?] transferred A.N. Lawrence from General Motors South African to become Managing Director of General Motors Near East in Alexandria in July 1929, but Lawrence was replaced in November 1929 by E.K. Wild [1]. General Motors Export Division in New York under General Manager L.M. Rumely, moved Lawrence to Melbourne and had him appointed Managing Director of General Motors (Australia) Pty. Limited, with a brief to try and improve the production and bring the Australian assembly plants up to scratch, presumably having faith in his proven abilities in South Africa. However, even he simply failed to make any impression, and there is evidence that he caused more ructions than improvements!

The Courier of Brisbane February 11 1930 had a photograph of Innes Randolph driving a Buick convertible as well as the general sales manager. A.H. Bartsch, in an Oldsmobile 4-door sedan. Randolph had toured Queensland, N.S.W. and Victoria in his car as he was retiring as managing director from General Motors (Australia) Pty. Ltd., so presumably Lawrence was appointed as Randolph "retired" in early 1930.


Laurence Hartnett died at the age of 88 on 4 April 1986, having been knighted in 1967 for services to the motor industry, and until he was knighted there was general feeling that he had not been given the credit due to him as "the father of the Holden".

Laurence J. Hartnett was born in Britain, attended Epsom College, with the ambition to become a doctor, but left school at the age of 16 and joined Vickers as an apprentice. When the Great War broke out, Hartnett joined the RFC and became a pilot.

After the War, Hartnett purchased a small motor garage, but yearned for greater things, and when he saw a job advertised in Singapore by the importers, Guthrie and Co. For an engineer, he applied for, and was given the job. Guthries were initially importers of National engines for stationary units as supplied to rubber plantations, but he then persuaded the company to become Buick car importers as well, and such was his success that he came to the attention of James Mooney. After three years in Singapore, Hartnett joined General Motors Export Company in charge of S.E. Asia handling and administration. He excelled in his positions, and rose through the General Motors ranks. By 1927, he was appointed General Manager at General Motors Nørdiska, SA in Stockholm Sweden, and then in 1929 a Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited, appointed presumably by Mooney to re-organise Vauxhall, joining the Product Study Group set up by Mooney. In 1930, Hartnett was appointed Export Director of Vauxhall Motors with a brief from the parent company! General Motors World September 1930, referred to the Vauxhall Motors Limited announcement that there were new Vauxhall models launched in September, the VY and VX models. The specifications for export had been determined largely in a report by Laurence J. Hartnett after being sent on an extensive tour on behalf of G.M. Overseas Operations of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia which was made with a view to finding out the requirements of these overseas markets. However, it is clear that although ostensibly sent out as Export director of Vauxhalls, he was in fact on a much more serious commission from James D. Mooney, and he obviously came into contact with A.N. Lawrence, ensconced in Adelaide. The first G.M.-designed Opels were the late 1930 1.8 litre with a 6-cylinder 1,788 c.c. engine of L-head design which closely followed Oldsmobile and Pontiac styling, and then in early 1931, the 1 litre with a 995 c.c. engine.


Negotiations between Edward W. "Ted"" Holden of Holden's and General Motors in New York about a merger of his company with that of General Motors (Australia) had started in 1929 and continued to the middle of 1930. These reached a peak when Graeme K. Howard, by then the General Manager of General Motors Export Division [having been promoted from Asian General Manager in September 1930 replacing L.M. Rumely] met Edward W. "Ted" Holden in Cairo, presumably after an inspection of the GENERAL MOTORS NEAR EAST LIMITED plant in Alexandria, Egypt, for the return journey through the Suez Canal to Australia [it appears that Graeme K. Howard may have been a Director of G.M. (Australia) at that time]. The merger was spurred on after Ford had talks with Edward W. "Ted" Holden, whether Edward W. "Ted" Holden used Ford as a lever is unknown but General Motors could not afford to lose its main body plant to the opposition. Having said that, Autocar December 5 1958 stated that in 1931, Australian car sales were at an all-time low, and Edward (later Sir Edward) Holden as managing director of Holden's Limited arranged a meeting with James D. Mooney as President of G.M.O.O. This then resulted in the merger of Holden's and General Motors (A.) Limited . though this must in fact have been in 1929 in New York, and then again into 1930, and the decision was given when Howard met Holden in Cairo.

It was agreed, and this arrangement must be viewed on a global basis with the Vauxhall and Opel export drives, and the success of the Chevrolet-derived Bedford commercial chassis, that Holden's Motor Body Builders Limited and General Motors (Australia) Pty. Ltd. were to be merged at last, which was achieved in April 1931 using General Motors (Australia) funds amounting to £1,111,600 which had been earned but not repatriated to New York because of currency restrictions then in force. Autocar 5 December 1958 stated that "Holdens" [the Holden family?] received 6% Preference Shares which normally carried no voting rights, in the new company, and the rest of the Capital was American. In its first year, the new company showed a record loss of A£561,000. The 1931 General Motors Corporation Annual Report comments "For the purpose of better controlling the manufacture of its products, and also having in mind the nationalization of its Australian operation, Holden's Motor Body Builders Limited was consolidated with General Motors (Australia) Pty. Ltd., as of May 1 1931, forming General Motors-Holden's Ltd." The new company was entitled, as just mentioned GENERAL MOTORS-HOLDEN'S PROPERTY LIMITED, with an headquarters in Melbourne, and ultimately assembly Plants in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and finally Perth, plus the Woodville body Plant. Edward W. "Ted"" Holden was appointed Chairman and also joint Managing Director with A.N. Lawrence, plus Sir Wallace Bruce, and A.G. Rymill of Holdens', and Sir John Butters of General Motors (Australia). A.M. Lemon, Holdens' Secretary, continued in his position with the new company. The South Australian Government imposed a stipulation on their agreement to the merger that the Woodville Plant was to continue to be able to make bodies, but for the industry at large. All chassis assembly at this stage was concentrated on the South Melbourne General Motors (A.) Plant where the Head Office was located.

Back in July 1928, James D. Mooney had proposed a new model for Vauxhall, which was presumably as a result of the success of the Vauxhall R-type; however Mooney felt that Vauxhall should go more mass-market and build smaller cars. Alfred P. Sloan and General Motors Corporation agreed to the proposal, and in 1929, General Motors set up the first Product Study Group to adapt the Chevrolet for the use of Vauxhall, which he felt, was a precedent for production expansion in other countries. This group also included it seems Laurence Hartnett who was also a Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited with particular responsibility for exports. The same group then designed new Opels and other small cars. From the end of 1931, the General Motors Limited Hendon Plant became a Vauxhall and Bedford boxing operation in the reverse of the previous ones! Initial exports of chassis components were made to Woodville, which arrived, in early 1932 as a direct consequence of the Hartnett report. However, Sloan states in his book, My Time With General Motors that the G.M.C. Executive Committee considered throughout 1928 the question of whether the Corporation should expend capital on overseas manufacturing or associate with overseas manufacturers. Mooney favoured using existing manufacturing facilities, whereas Sloan claims that he preferred in the case of Germany, not expansion of the Berlin Plant but an association with a German manufacturer. One consideration was whether a modified Chevrolet could be exported from the U.S. and compete in Europe. Sloan was interested in a suggestion that the Corporation form an organisation to design a modified "small-bore" Chevrolet to escape the Horsepower Tax in the U.K. and Germany. If this went ahead, a new small Vauxhall or a new production in Germany might not be necessary but if it should become necessary to produce such a car overseas, then they would at least have such a design available. The problem with the Chevrolet, as Mooney explained, was that it cost the user 75% more than the buyer in the U.S., and yet the overseas buyer only had 60% of the money of the American buyer to purchase that Chevrolet!

In 1930, General Motors South African transferred production to a new facility just down the road, and from 1932 Bedford assembly started, though only a few hundred trucks were assembled each year until WW11. However, after Adam Opel A.G. had launched their Kadett model, the first mass-production Opel which was very similar to the Vauxhall VY Cadet, exports started to South Africa and in practice the Opels were better received in southern Africa than Vauxhalls! This in turn had a pronounced influence on decisions to be made a few years later. In fact, Vauxhalls and Bedfords were few and far between in South Africa until after the War, having gained an excellent reputation in the SA forces.

On 9 July 1930, Arthur Francis Palmer-Phillips, joined the General Motors Limited Board as Sales Director. In early 1932, Albert Bradley as Vice-President of General Motors Corporation with responsibility for finance headed a committee to report on the Vauxhall product range, and as a result, later that year, the committee recommended scrapping the existing range and introducing a light six model and later a four-cylinder model, at least for the domestic market: the "Light Six" debuted in 1933 and the four-cylinder in 1937. On 15 June 1932, Palmer-Phillips resigned as Director of General Motors Limited, but in reality was promoted to Sales Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited instead, and Leslie Walton resigned from the Limited Board, presumably to concentrate on his position at Vauxhall Motors Limited. Vauxhall were at this time headquartered at The Hyde, Hendon anyway so there was no physical move required. Walton had joined the Board on 6 August 1926 with Percy Crosbie Kidner, already having been appointed as joint Managing Directors of Vauxhall Motors Limited. Kidner resigned on 4 January 1929 to be replaced by Cyril George Griffin, who was also Assistant to Leslie Walton as Managing Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited.


The U.S. magazine, Automotive Industries 30 March 1929 announced that General Motors had purchased Opel. It was stated that on 20 March 1928, James D. Mooney, President of the General Motors Export Company, speaking before the Export Managers' Club of New York referred in his speech to that of "the building of an industrial and commercial empire". The next year, General Motors Corporation acquired all of the shares in Vauxhall Motors Limited that it did not already own.

However, alongside this was an announcement made on 18 March 1929 by Alfred P. Sloan Jnr., President of General Motors Corporation, at Wiesbaden, Germany, that General Motors Corporation had formed an association with Adam Opel Company in Rüsselsheim, Germany, a substantial interest in that company being taken at a cost of approximately U.S.$30 million. The financial world had already guessed that something was afoot by October 1928, and finally when Messrs. Sloan and Mooney left for Germany by ship and the rumours seemed to have been confirmed. In fact, and General Motors World Number 8 issue of 1951 confirms, that the Adam Opel was experiencing a decline in its domestic market as it lacked funds for modern machinery and equipment, and had no adequate export facilities either. General Motors were apparently to be wishing to expand into those export markets where German-made cars sold, just as the decision was made to increase exports of Vauxhalls from 1930 to the British Empire markets, though southern Africa was one Empire area that Opel met success in and yet Vauxhalls did not. General Motors had realised that so far as exports were concerned, the larger North American car was losing out to smaller, cheaper, more economical cars favoured by the European manufacturers. General Motors therefore needed a Continental base for its North American and British products, and of course General Motors had assembly plants all over Europe as well as subsidiary sales companies. Thus, during the latter part of 1928, Geheimrat Wilhelm von Opel met and talked to General Motors executives and the many advantages of taking over an existing factory persuaded General Motors to buy-out Opel on a majority basis. From then on, following just behind the tooling for the new Vauxhall Models launched August 1930, and the |Bedford Trucks, April 1931, tooling for new Opels was underway by July 1930, production starting of cars in February 1931, and later in 1931, Opel's answer to the Bedfords, the "Blitz" or "Lightning" trucks. From then on, Vauxhall and Opel would seem, certainly until 1939, to be running in tandem with each other. This aspect will be considered below in greater detail.

The exact price was put at $28 million. On the 24 January 1929, the Opel family holdings were placed into a limited liability company. Shares were issued totalling 60,000 with a par value of 1000 marks each, capitalising the company at over $12 million. This was a holding company for the Opel works, and public offering of stock was made, but the Opel family retained control. It was then surmised that General Motors paid $28 million for 76% of the stock which represented the Opel family holdings, or more than twice the par value of the company! 18 March it was stated that the new board of directors would consist of five Americans and three Germans and that then head of the firm, Fritz Opel would be displaced by an American, I.J. Reuter. However, Sloan went on to say that Opels would be run as an independent organization by the then present management committee, with General Motors engineering, manufacturing, financing and managerial co-operation. However, this time General Motors had acquired a majority stake in a company five times that of Vauxhall Motors Limited!

Then, just as the recession caused by the Wall Street Crash caused ripples throughout the world, particularly in Germany, when the U.S. companies called in their foreign investments, General Motors acquired the balance of the Opel family interest, and General Motors then owned 100% of the Adam Opel A.G. company in October 1931. In 1932, the recession in Germany was at its deepest, though Opel produced 20,982 units of which 6,804 were exported, or 32.4%! By 1939 this had increased to total production of 118,794 and exports of 36,805 a percentage of 31%. There was no longer any anti-German feeling in 1931/2 just as Luton were given their "head" to export, export, export by James Mooney, with great success to the British Empire, with all the jingoistic tones that could be mustered. From 1932 Model year onwards to the present day, Opel were never to replace the Vauxhall name, but not for want of trying, and James D. Mooney with overall responsibility for both marques had no qualms about them competing with each other in the U.K. market, and arguably he was proven right.

In 1931 Adam Opel A.G. launched their Blitz model trucks, which looked uncannily like the Bedfords, and presumably Mooney and Sloan had the defunct 1930 Model Marquette engine tooling and dies from the Buick Flint motor plant completely uprooted and re-assembled in Rüsselsheim to produce a sidevalve-engined truck which would complement or compete if required with the very similar-looking o.h.v. Bedford, derived from the 1929 Chevrolet International series! The engines used by Opel were in fact derived from the 1929-30 Marquette models: Adam Opel A.G. acquired the complete Marquette engine production machinery from Buick Division in Flint.


The team of Holden and Lawrence was doomed from the start! The result was that in August 1931, Lawrence resigned [was pushed?] from his position as Managing Director, and was appointed instead Regional Director of Australasian & South African operations of General Motors Overseas Operations, responsible for the Port Elizabeth, the Australian and Wellington, New Zealand Plants [GENERAL MOTORS NEW ZEALAND LIMITED] and other export markets. Edward W. "Ted" Holden was appointed Managing Director in his place as well as Chairman.

In February 1932, Lawrence returned from a 7-month world tour, impressed with the advances at Vauxhall Motors since his previous visit two years before. He also visited Adam Opel in Rüsselsheim as well. He thought that the motor industry showed signs of revival. There was probably another aspect to this visit. In 1932, G.M.-Holden's imported a 1932 Model Opel sedan, with the former Marquette engine. Both G.M. (A.) and Holden's had experience with the 1930 Marquettes, exported from Canada. It appears that there was a serious suggestion of assembling Opels in Australia at this stage, as the first attempt by G.M. of an "all-Australian" car.I suggest that because of the recession at the time, and given that the first unitary construction Opel, the Olympia, was due as a 1935 Model, it is certain that Lawrence had been fully informed of the advancements in this revolutionary construction and proposals for Opel assembly were put on hold for the time being.

In early 1932, the Bradley committee's decision recommended dropping the existing range Vauxhall and replacing them with new models. This resulted in the ceasing of production of the VY and VX models, and the introduction of the 12 h.p. ASY and 14 h.p. ASX, as well as the ASYC and ASXC Bedford light commercial chassis based thereon. However, it was to be 1937 for 1938 Model Year before the four-cylinder H-types were introduced, as just mentioned.

Then, in March 1932, James D. Mooney, in his positions as President of General Motors Overseas Operations and the Export Company, and Vice-President of General Motors Corporation, visited Australia to see for himself what was going on: at this time all exports of C.K.D. chassis were from the U.S. Plants, and subject to higher import duties than those from the Oshawa, Ontario Plant which had the benefit of the 1932 Ottawa Agreement on tariffs which governed British Empire trading. The Agreement resulted in the establishment as in the U.K. and Canada of Import Duty Advisory Committees to supervise tariffs on certain goods, particularly motor vehicles and components since there had to be a considerable importation of components which were simply not made locally, e.g. shock-absorbers.

Given the success he had achieved at Vauxhall, Mooney and the G.M.O.O. Board appointed Laurence J. Hartnett Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's Pty. Ltd. in February [?] 1934, with a brief: "Make Holden profitable or close it down". A.N. Lawrence had clearly failed to make any significant improvement in production: some bodies were being produced in as little as 18 units per year, others 4,000! The range was diverse, and Holden's were still building bodies for other companies in addition. Hartnett had clearly reported back to G.M.O.O. on the state of the Australian facilities, and clearly found at that time that there were serious problems. G.M.O.O. [Mooney?] then transferred Hartnett to General Motors-Holden's to try and achieve the same result as he had at Vauxhalls. He arrived in Sydney in March 1934, and immediately set to, to improve car sales in the lessening depression period, just as Lawrence himself was transferred in the opposite direction from being Regional Director for G.M.O.O. in Australasia to London! It was thus that in March 1934 control of the Australian subsidiary was placed in the able hands of Hartnett. Lawrence was "re-assigned" to become a Vice-President of the General Motors Export Company, and then on 22 May 1936 a Director of General Motors Limited, having been "Vice-President in London". Lawrence would be a key figure from now on until the outbreak of war with regard to the establishment of the General Motors Limited assembly plant in Southampton. However, it seems that Lawrence returned to the U.S. in 1939, after war broke out. The new Australasian Regional Director was H.B. "Harry" Phillips, and his responsibility extended from South Africa through Australia to New Zealand. Phillips would remain in a crucial position as Regional Director until at least 1940.

It is also essential at this stage to refer to the other Managers that had cross-directorships, and whose decisions were so instrumental in product planning. Edward C. Riley, as mentioned, had resigned as a Director of General Motors Limited in London in 1929, and after having served as Managing Director of General Motors Continental in Antwerp, he was appointed Regional Director for Europe in July 1930, and five years later collected a team of construction and equipment engineers and started work on the G.M. Suisse Plant. Before it was completed. Riley was appointed Assistant General Manager of the General Motors Export Division, and then in 1935 General Manager. In the Autumn of 1938, the Export division and the Manufacturing Operations in England and Germany were combined and reorganised into geographical regions. In February 1938, in the General Manager's office, headed by Edward C. Riley as General Manager was Personnel Officer: William Harvey, Junior, and Opel-Vauxhall Liaison, W.T. Whalen. The Vauxhall Liaison man in New York had been E.C.H. Shillaker from 1934 to 1936. In 1940 Riley was promoted Assistant General Manager of the Corporation, and General manager in 1941, and then in 1942 a Vice-President.

In 1930, both Vauxhall and Adam Opel A.G., were transferred from under the General Motors Export Division to the Export Division Vice-President's control instead, who was in fact Graeme K. Howard, who was promoted to General Manager to replace L.M. Rumely and held the position from September 1930. Howard was a General Motors Corporation Vice-President from 1939. As General Manager he would also have been a Vice-President of the Export Division, then in 1932 the Overseas Operations Group. He must have then been promoted President of General Motors Overseas Operations, running from 1941 to 1942, when he resigned. Howard must have been appointed General Manager of the OVERSEAS DIVISION on 30 September 1938, with the merger of the Opel, Vauxhall and Export Divisions, with Riley as Assistant General Manager. Mooney would then have been President of the Overseas Division.

Note that James D. Mooney and Graeme K. Howard were at various times Directors of G.M-Holden's Pty Ltd. [2], General Motors G.m.b.H., Berlin, whilst Mooney was a Director of General Motors Limited, and also of Adam Opel A.G. Graeme K. Howard was a Director of Opel from 1937 onwards as well as Mooney. At some stage, Riley and Mooney were both not only directors of G.M. G.m.b.H., but also of ADAM OPEL A.G. Mooney was continuously a director of General Motors Limited in the U.K. to 1934, and then a director of the second company, also General Motors Limited, from 1934 to 1941.

Cyrus R. Osborn was appointed General Manager of Adam Opel A.G. in June 1937 in succession to E.R. Palmer. Osborn joined the staff of the General Manager of G.M.O.O. in March 1934, for the making of important manufacturing studies. When the Engineering Department was created in December 1934, Osborn was appointed Vice-president in charge of Engineering in Detroit. Early in 1936, Osborn was sent to Rüsselsheim on special assignment. He became Assistant to the General Manager shortly afterwards, and then early in 1937, Assistant General Manager.

ADAM OPEL AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT was Founded 1862, A.G., 3 December 1928, eingetragen 27 December 1928 acquired by General Motors Corporation, March 1929, for 120 million RM. Directors:
Russelsheim, and Branches in Aaachen, Düsseldorf, Bresslau and Magdeburg

Dr R.A. Fleischer
Edwin R. Palmer
Deputy: Adam Bangert

Chairman: Geheimrat Kommerz-Raf Dr.-Ing. e.h. Wilhelm von Opel
Deputy: Farbrikant Dr.-Ing. e.h. Fritz Opel
Deputy: Director-General Ronald K. Evans
Alfred P. Sloan
Fred Fisher
James D. Mooney
John Thomas Smith
Albert Bradley
Charles Fisher

Dr R.A. Fleischer
Edwin R. Palmer
Deputy: Adam Bangert
Dipl-Ing. Otto Byckhoff
Otto C. Mueller

Chairman: Geheimrat Kommerz-Raf Dr.-Ing. e.h. Wilhelm von Opel
Deputy: Farbrikant Dr.-Ing. e.h. Fritz Opel
Deputy: Director-General Ronald K. Evans
President Professor Dr Karl Lüer
Bank Director Franz Belitz
President Alfred P. Sloan [of GMC]
President James D. Mooney [of G.M.O.O.]
Vice-President John Thomas Smith [of GMC]
Albert Bradley
Charles Fisher

Russelsheim, Brandenburg/Havel and Branches in Aaachen, Düsseldorf, Bresslau and Magdeburg

Dr R.A. Fleischer
Edwin R. Palmer
Deputy: Adam Bangert
Dipl-Ing. Otto Byckhoff
Otto C. Mueller

Chairman: Geheimrat Kommerz-Raf Dr.-Ing. e.h. Wilhelm von Opel
Deputy: Farbrikant Dr.-Ing. e.h. Fritz Opel
Deputy: Director-General Ronald K. Evans
President Professor Dr Karl Lüer
Bank Director Franz Belitz
President Alfred P. Sloan [of GMC]
President James D. Mooney [of G.M.O.O.]
Vice-President John Thomas Smith [of GMC]

Dr R.A. Fleischer
Adam Bangert
C.R. Osborn.
Deputy: Otto C. Mueller
Karl Stief
Dipl-Ing. Dr. Gerd Stieler von Heydekampf

Chairman: Geheimrat Kommerzienrat Dr.-Ing. e.h. Wilhelm von Opel
Deputy: Farbrikant Dr.-Ing. e.h. Fritz Opel
Graeme K. Howard
President Professor Dr Karl Lüer
Bank Director Franz Belitz
President Alfred P. Sloan [of GMC]
President James D. Mooney [of G.M.O.O.]
Vice-President John Thomas Smith [of GMC]

Cyrus C. Osborn, Chairman
Adam Bangert
William G. Guthrie
Elis S. Hoglund
Albert A. Maynard
Karl Stief
Heinrich Wagner

Deputy Committee members:
Dr. Kurt Auerbach
Hanns Grewenig
Herman Hansen
Dr-Ing Gerd Stieler von Heydekampf
Otto C. Mueller
Carl T. Zaoral

Chairman: Geheimrat Kommerzienrat Dr.-Ing. e.h. Wilhelm von Opel
Deputy Chairman: Farbrikant Dr.-Ing. e.h. Fritz Opel
Director-General and Deputy Chairman, Graeme K. Howard, NY
President Professor Dr Karl Lüer
Dr. Franz Belitz
President Alfred P. Sloan [of GMC]
Vice-President President James D. Mooney [of G.M.O.O.]
G. Nicholas Vansittart, Antwerp
David F. Ladin, Copenhagen

Heinrich Wagner, Chairman
Hanns Grewenig, Deputy Chairman
Adam Bangert
Herman Hansen
Dr-Ing Gerd Stieler von Heydekampf
Karl Stief

Deputy Committee members:
Otto Jacob
Dipl-Ing Heinz Nordhoff

Chairman: Geheimrat Kommerzienrat Dr.-Ing. e.h. Wilhelm von Opel
Cyrus R. Osborn, Deputy Chairman
Dr. Franz Belitz
Elis S. Hoglund
Director-General, Graeme K. Howard, NY
President Professor Dr Karl Lüer
President Alfred P. Sloan [of GMC]
Vice-President President James D. Mooney [of G.M.O.O.]
David F. Ladin, Copenhagen
Albin D. Madsen, Copenhagen

Compare with General Motors-Holden's Pty. Limited Directors:

1934- 1935 Board of Directors
John R. McKenzie, Finance
Edward W. Holden, Chairman
Laurence J. Hartnett, Managing Director
James J. Welker, Service
James R. Holden, Body Division
Graeme K. Howard, Director
Sir Wallace Bruce, Director
Sir John Butters, Director
James D. Mooney, Director
John Storey, Manufacture
Vernon L Sunners, Sales

In 1938/9:
L.J. Hartnett, Managing DirectorV. L. Sunners, Director of Sales
J R McKenzie Diector of Finance
J. Storey, Director of Manufacturing


As just mentioned, the Engineering Department of General Motors Corporation was formed in December 1934. However, the June 1937 G.M.C. operations chart in Sloan's book shows that there were two sections, alongside "Distribution", "Manufacturing" and "Labour". These were "Style Development" with subservient "Styling Section"; and "Engineering" with subservient "Plant Inspection Section", "Proving Ground Section", "New Devices Section", Patent Section" with subservient "Foreign Patent Section", and finally "Photographic Section". The departments reported in turn to the Vice-president General Assistant along with various other Groups including the "Overseas Group", through "General Motors Overseas Operations", to the "German Division" consisting of Opel and Frigidaire G.m.b.H., the "English Division" which consisted of Vauxhall, and the other U.K. accessory companies, and finally the "Export Division", which included General Motors Limited and G.M.-Holden's.

The General Motors World February 1938 G.M.C. Export Division chart showed that under Riley as General Manager was the Assistant General Manager [G.W. Wolf at that time], and he was responsible for "Product Engineering" [F. Sergardi and G.H. Kublin, product engineers], with "Chassis Design and Layout", "Experimental Shop", "Body design and Layout [E.L. Bare], "Parts and Accessories" and "Engineering Records". Also reporting with other sections was "Opel and Vauxhall Liaison", with Walter D. Appel, Engineering, and H.H. Smith, Manufacturing. This was because at that time, the German and English Divisions were parallel to the Export Division.

This arrangement changed on 30 September 1938 when General Motors Corporation combined the Opel, Vauxhall, and Export Divisions of which General Motors Limited was a part, under the new Overseas Division. Edward C. Riley, General Manager of the Export Division was appointed Assistant General Manager, under General Manager Graeme K. Howard, and President, James D. Mooney

11. BUDD

In 1926, Holdens' were called upon to body Morris's Cowley models as well as the 12 h.p. Austin. It will be remembered that James D. Mooney had tried to buy Morris Motors Limited before Austin.In 1925, William R. Morris, owner of the Morris Motor Company in Cowley travelled to see the Budd Company in Philadelphia to learn about the then-new processes to manufacture all-steel bodywork. Edward Gower Budd, born Delaware 1870 had established his company in 1912 to manufacture all-steel bodies, and in 1913 the Dodge Brothers had become the first manufacturers to decide to build an all-steel car, the 1916 Dodge Brothers Four, produced until 1923. However, before the Dodge car was available, small quantities of bodies manufactured by Edward G, Budd Manufacturing Company were produced for Cadillac and Oakland as well as other companies, though as the Dodge was not even announced until November 1914, the other companies were able to take advantage since they were already established. However, Dodge's requirements of 70,000 all-steel bodies in 1916 and 99,000 in 1917 gave the company the necessary experience and wherewithal to expand such that in 1917 the Budd Company had 2,000 employees. However, initial production required no less than 1200 stampings per car, even though they were open Tourers, which saved on panels as against a saloon body. This was to change in March 1919, with the world's first production all-steel saloon. In June 1922, this was succeeded as a world first by the launch of an all-steel coupe. In 1925, Dodge had built and delivered 1.25 million all-steel cars, and in 1926, Hudson-Essex began making all-steel bodies themselves. By 1928, one-half of all the automobile bodies manufactured were claimed by Budd to be substantially entirely of metal. In 1929, over 6 million all-steel bodies were in use in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands in other countries. The Budd Company had 3 million square feet of floor space and employed over 10,000 men at the Philadelphia Plant alone. It was thus natural that Morris should make the trip to see the massive plant in operation, and as a result of negotiations, Morris agreed with Budd to be granted licenses to use the Budd patents, as well as an agreement to put-up half the finance and all the expertise to build an entirely new factory devoted to all-steel body building: the first of its kind in the U.K., Pressed Steel Company of Cowley, adjacent to the Morris factory. The Morris Cowley thus became the first all-steel body to be manufactured in Britain. The new company was THE PRESSED STEEL COMPANY LIMITED, Company Number 213505, post-1958 known as Pressed Steel-Fisher Limited after the merger with a Birmingham company, Fisher and Ludlow Limited. The company was formed on 28 April 1926. Manufacture of Pressed Steel panels started in 1926, and they supplied by the mid-1930's a wide range of British manufacturers. André Citröen also agreed a licence with Budd to manufacture all-steel bodies in Paris, and then in 1926 assembly started at the Slough Trading Estate of Paris-built bodies on Slough-assembled chassis.

In Germany, as with Pressed Steel in England, Budd assisted in the establishment of a new company which could produce all-steel bodies, the AMBI-BUDD PRESSE WERKE, established 1926 with the benefit of Budd patents. The company pioneered all-steel bodies and integral body-chassis construction in Germany. Budd apparently charged little for license fees, and gave out free advice and assistance. He even lent advice to European steel mills to enable them to produce the high-grade quality steel panelling which automotive bodies required.

At this point we have to bring in yet another key player: RUSSELL S. BEGG. Begg was born in the U.S.A., and graduated in 1909 from the University of Michigan with a B.Sc. Degree. He then spent three years with the Packard Motor Company, then a period with the E.B. Thomas Motor Car Company, and then the Sheldon Axle Company. After that he was appointed Assistant Chief Engineer at Thomas B. Jeffery Motor Company, where he was responsible for Rambler and Jeffery motor cars. He was then appointed Chief Engineer to the Jordan Motor Company went the company was reorganised, and was in that post for 12 years. However, at the end of his period of tenure with Jordan, the E.G. Budd company took him up, where he gained valuable experience with steel body construction techniques as reputedly, their Chief Engineer. After this influential period with Budd, Begg moved to the Stutz Motor Company in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was appointed Chief Engineer. Presumably as Stutz went out of business, he was taken up by GENERAL MOTORS ENGINEERING, and appointed engineer in charge of design in Lou Thoms' Product Study group in Detroit. It appears that he was appointed Deputy Chief Designer at Adam Opel A.G. in Rüsselsheim in 1934, at the same time as being a member of the P.S.G. He was then promoted in 1936 and reassigned permanently to Adam Opel A.G. as Assistant Chief Engineer. Earle MacPherson no doubt filled Begg's position in the P.S.G.: see below so that Begg was not directly responsible for the Light Car Project, which he would, nevertheless, be involved with.

In Germany, Adam Opel A.G. were able to use Budd patents and panels from Ambi-Budd Press Werke, with steel supplied by Armco, to produce their Olympia model in 1935, the first Opel to use unitary construction, and then the new 1.1 litre Kadett and 1,488 c.c. new Olympia both using unitary construction. However, in France, just as the German-French crisis over the Rhineland was seething, Louis Renault, using Armco steel panels, pirated the Kadett design for his own company and produced the 1937 Model Juvaquatre, which was an 8 h.p. 1,000 cc small car, also assembled in Acton, West London. Budd received no payments, nor even an acknowledgement, and pursued Renault personally through the German courts, using the Ambi-Budd patents. Renault had to give way and pay royalties to Budd as a consequence! The Renault "Eight" [8 h.p.] was a 2-Door unitary construction car, also assembled to 1939 by Renault Limited at Western Avenue, Acton, London W.3. Ambi-Budd's plant in Berlin also supplied Ford of Germany. On 1 June 1933, the German government began to allow domestic manufacturers to write off as tax-deductible expenditure the cost of all replacement machiery purchased from German companies. This also enabled the German corporations, though write-offs of American machinery could be written-off over a period of years [discriminatory!]. [3]

It seems that just before Christmas 1935, Laurence Hartnett and Leslie Walton [of Vauxhall Motors] visited the Australian Prime Minister in Canberra. Author's comment: it is noted that Leslie Walton was at the meeting with the Prime Minister. This proves that Vauxhall Motors Limited were aware of the proposed assembly of Opel Olympia cars in Australia, which would have, one the face of it, been contrary to Vauxhalls' traditional export markets. There seems not to have been any objections on behalf of Vauxhalls, and I have come to the conclusion that the Directors of Vauxhall may have accepted that ultimately Opel would predominate.

It was Budd that sponsored the art of electric arc welding of all-steel bodies as gas welding caused distortion of panels. The wooden content of automotive bodies and cabs gradually reduced until in the U.S., General Motors, following Chrysler, produced the "all-steel turret-top" body. This eliminated, finally, the wooden supports on four corners, which fixed the roof panel to the rest of the body. This also applied to all-steel closed truck cabs as well. Budd had assisted Chrysler with the design of the Airflow models, which consisted of a cage of steel pressings with panels: a first unitary construction car but "not quite there". The Airflow design influenced other manufacturers, and in Germany the 2.5 Adler used a streamlined body produced by Ambi-Budd in Berlin, in one welded unit, but then mounted this body onto a chassis at the Adler works. However, with the promised savings, and U.S. investment, Adam Opel A.G. were able to produce their own unitary construction model, as mentioned above named the "Olympia" for 1936 in honour of the '36 Berlin Olympics. The man responsible for the novel design, was Mr Russell S. Begg, who was appointed Assistant Chief Engineer at Adam Opel AG in 1935/6 having gained the experience whilst at Budd in the U.S.!

The Olympia was the first General Motors unitary construction automobile, designed using Budd inputs, and with the benefit of the Ambi-Budd Press Werke panels and patents: German courts were very vigorous at upholding patents at the time, unlike the French courts. The Olympia used a four-cylinder sidevalve engine, later an overhead valve unit for 1937, and was in many ways so advanced that it is no wonder that other General Motors Overseas Operations subsidiaries decided to assemble them: Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Argentina at least! The "Opel" name stood for quality and in certain markets simply outsold Vauxhall who were to use chassis until 1938 and 1939: using U.S. inputs, Vauxhall's first unitary construction car was the 1938 Model Vauxhall 10 h.p. H-type which was built at Luton, although also assembled overseas with a chassis/body version, and then finally the 1939 Model Vauxhall 14 h.p. J-type [the Model JB], both being launched in the previous October [October 1937 and 1938 respectively]. The 1938 Model Vauxhall HB 10 h.p. and I 12 h.p. just beat the Morris 10 and 14 h.p. equivalents to the title of the first British unitary construction car. However, both used Budd technology! However, it was experience with the H-type that gave the Australian Car Project engineering team the experience to tackle the first all-Australian unitary car.

In fact, Pressed Steel in Cowley supplied Vauxhall Motors Limited with panels and even produced certain low-volume versions such as the 10 h.p. H-type coupé. This explains why Vauxhall were able to build a unitary construction body without previous experience for the 1938 H-type saloons. Opel in their publicity material for 1937 suggested that the Opel unitary construction designs were produced in-house at Rüsselsheim, but this was not actually correct since the engineering was conducted by Ambi- Budd.

The seeds of the Australian Car Project can possibly be traced back as far as 1929. Alfred P. Sloan Jnr. and James D. Mooney set up a Product Study Group to adapt the Chevrolet for the use of Vauxhall in England in the Spring of 1929 as demand outstripped supply. The initial decision was taken at a special meeting held by James D. Mooney, as President of General Motors Export Company and a G.M. Corporation Vice-President with all the Heads of foreign subsidiaries. This meeting was at a regional Conference of the General Motors Export Group, held at Shawnee-on-the-Delaware, Pennsylvania, May 22-30, 1929, attended by representatives from 28 different countries. This meeting determined the direction to be taken by General Motors Limited, Vauxhall Motors Limited and amongst others, G.M. (Australia) Pty. Ltd. Mooney was of course still a Director and Shareholder of G.M. Limited in addition. Laurence J. Hartnett was appointed to this P.S.G., and he then became Export Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited as decisions were made as to the style of the new Chevrolet-based Vauxhalls for the all-important export markets.

In early 1932, Albert Bradley as Vice-President of General Motors Corporation headed a committee to report on the Vauxhall product range, and as a result, later that year, the committee recommended scrapping the existing range and introducing a light six model and later a four-cylinder model, at least for the domestic market.

General Motors World September 1930 issue mentioned that Vauxhall Motors Limited had announced that there were new Vauxhall models launched in September, the VY and VX models, though the British market would call their version the "Cadet", just as G.M. saw Adam Opel AG launch their equivalent, the "Kadett". There were two new cars that were designed from the outset for the export market: the 17 h.p. engined version, which was the VX type, which was in theory available for export but it was thought that no-one wanted such a small engine, and the 26h.p. VY type for export. This engine would also be fitted to the first Bedford 2-Tonner and the first 30 cwt. Chassis, as well as the first Bedford 12 cwt. Chassis and also Vauxhall-badged commercial chassis for export, initially to Australia. The Cadet looked very much like a Chevrolet, but with the traditional Vauxhall "flutes", different bonnet louvers, and the Vauxhall "Wyvern" mascot and badge on the radiator cap. The wheelbase was the same on both models, 8 feet 11 in., which was exactly the same as the Model AD Chevrolet. The specifications for export had been determined largely in a report by Laurence J. Hartnett after his extensive tour on behalf of G.M. Export Group of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia which was made with a view to finding out the requirements of these overseas markets. Hartnett had been a Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited and a member of the export committee which had been set up to be responsible for Vauxhall cars and commercial vehicles marketed worldwide.

Further, in 1931 Adam Opel A.G. launched their Blitz model trucks, which looked uncannily like the Bedfords, and presumably Mooney and Sloan had the defunct 1930 MODEL Marquette engine tooling and dies from the Buick Flint motor plant completely uprooted and re-assembled in Rüsselsheim to produce a sidevalve-engined truck which would complement or compete if required with the very similar-looking o.h.v. Bedford, derived from the 1929 Chevrolet International series! The engines used by Opel were in fact derived from the 1929-30 Marquette models: Adam Opel A.G. acquired the complete Marquette engine production machinery from Buick Division in Flint.

In August 1931, in Australia, Augustin "Gus" Lawrence resigned [was pushed?] from his position as Managing Director of General Motors'-Holden's, and was appointed instead Regional Director of Australasian & South African operations of General Motors Overseas Group, responsible for Port Elizabeth, the Australian and Wellington, New Zealand Plants [GENERAL MOTORS NEW ZEALAND LIMITED] and other export markets. Edward W. "Ted" Holden was appointed Managing Director in his place as well as Chairman.

In February 1932, Lawrence returned from a 7-month world tour, impressed with the advances at Vauxhall Motors since his previous visit two years before. He also visited Adam Opel in Rüsselsheim as well. He thought that the motor industry showed signs of revival. There was probably another aspect to this visit. In 1932, G.M.-Holden's imported a 1932 Model Opel sedan, with the former Marquette engine. Both G.M. (Australia) and Holden's had experience with the 1930 Marquettes, exported from Canada. It appears that there was a serious suggestion of assembling Opels in Australia at this stage, as the first attempt by G.M. of an "all-Australian" car. In any event, the Australian market was in dire straits and there was no funding available.

In early 1932, Albert Bradley's committee reported on the Vauxhall product range, and as a result, later that year, the existing range was dropped in favour of the light six model and later the four-cylinder model, at least for the domestic market. This resulted in the ceasing of production of the VY and VX models, and the introduction of the 12 h.p. ASY and 14 h.p. ASX, as well as the ASYC and ASXC Bedford light commercial chassis based thereon. However, it was to be 1937 for 1938 Model Year before the four-cylinder H-types were introduced. Whether this committee also authorised the proceeding with the first G.M. unitary construction car by Opel, is not known at this stage. However, Bradley was certainly a Director of Adam Opel A.G. by 1934, and therefore it very likely that decisions were taken simultaneously for Vauxhall and Opel.

Venturing back into the small car sector after more than 30 years, was a move that signalled G.M.'s and Vauxhall's intention to cover the major segments of the British car market. During 1936 68% of the domestic British market consisted of cars under the 12 h.p. category. The 10 h.p. Models HB and chassised HI helped Vauxhall triple the 9,949 production of 1933, when their Light Six made its debut, to 34,367 by the end of the decade.

The interest that the car aroused at the 1937 Earls Court Show resulted in the visitors having to wait in line to see the new '10', the H-type. The man behind this engineering was Alex Taub who had come to regard fuel economy as his prime goal. Using the term "six phase" carburettor, Taub worked with Zenith to provide a variable fuel mixture. In typical Vauxhall tradition the small 10 h.p. car arrived with a new technical innovation for British cars; an integrated body structure that no longer had a separate chassis. This involved a tooling cost of £1 million that was significant for the time. The Ten was so far advanced in comparison to the competition that rumours started circulating that the Dubonnet independent front suspension was a publicity stunt and that the unitary construction rendered the car unsafe in a collision and costly or impossible to repair. Palmer-Phillips responded by inviting the Insurance companies to examine the car before issuing rates. Damage sustained in an actual collision was also evaluated and in spite of a severe frontal hit, no crumpling occurred aft of the firewall. Accordingly, the insurance rates were comparable with other light cars.

Vauxhall's new small car would find itself competing against its German cousin at a considerable disadvantage. In 1937 an Opel Kadett was actually cheaper at £135 in Britain than in its homeland, thanks to a 43% government subsidy. Germany subsidised its exports because of a thirst for foreign currency. In comparison, the cheapest Vauxhall sold for £168, with the de luxe model costing £182 and a coupe for £198. The Coupé model [HI] was built by The Pressed Steel Company Limited, but using a conventional chassis from the Bedford light van the Model HC, to one of the first designs of David Jones, who had joined the Company in 1934 as a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art. In spite of the small size, the Coupé and deluxe models featured leather upholstery and sunroofs. The 'Ten' was without question the most advanced car of its size built in Britain. The modern body was propelled by a 1,203 cc o.h.v. motor through a 3-speed gearbox synchronised on second and third, suspended by the Dubonnet torque tube front suspension and stopped by Lockheed hydraulic brakes. A characteristic of this suspension was that the front of the car rose rather than fell on heavy braking - an early unintentional form of anti-dive braking. The light weight and efficient mechanical design added a bonus of the best economy in its class. Electrics were still only 6-volt. Understandably the car was a sales success with 10,000 being produced in the first 5 months. Total production was 42,245 from 1937 - 1940.For the 1940 model year Vauxhall produced a larger body for the '10' while retaining the body shape to the point that few could notice any difference. The wheelbase increased from 94 in. to 97¾ in. pushing the length from 156 in. to 158.5 in. Width also went up 2 in to 61 in. with similar increases to the track. The most notable difference, was the moving of the spare tire from inside to outside the trunk lid. With all the engineering advances being introduced by Vauxhall, the need for a research centre was answered with the opening in 1938 of the Vauxhall Engineering Research Building. This gave the company the finest facilities in the U. K. for research and testing of new engineering concepts. The replacement for the 12 h.p. six, [Model DY] was an enlarged bore version of the four -cylinder from the 'Ten', the Model I. Unlike the previous model that shared a body with the 14 h.p. version, the new models shared little. With the previous '14' enjoying market leadership, the '12' was overshadowed, so the intention in the new '12' was to position it closer to the '10'. Visually the '12' and the '14' looked the same, sharing a light six body style, except when viewed from the rear where the 14 had a divided rear window, an extended trunk and a separate spare wheel container. The spare wheel of the 12 was mounted on a flat boot lid. Wheelbases varied from 101.25 in. to 10 in." and the width of the 12 was 2 in. greater than the 10 but 1.25 in. less than the 14 at 63 in. On the '14' model, horizontal chrome strips replaced the 'waterfall' grille.

The 12 h.p. I-type arrived in September 1938 a month ahead of its larger 14 h.p. brother, the J-type. Prices dropped to £189 and £230 respectively.

The 14 h.p. Models JB and JI [the latter being the chassised version] motor had the same dimensions as its 1,781 cc predecessor but the head incorporated the staggered valves and combustion pre-chamber design from the 25 h.p. model giving speeds of over 70 m.p.h. Although the body was larger, the integrated construction technology allowed a lighter weight of 2,505 pounds, giving improved performance and economy. A fully synchronised 3-speed gearbox was virtually unheard of and a typical Vauxhall pioneering trait. An appealing feature was a telescopically adjustable steering wheel attached to the Burman-Douglas screw and nut steering. Even the door armrest was adjustable, something not available today.

Maurice Olley, [referred to below] the renowned suspension expert, was seconded by G.M from Detroit to Luton in 1937 to provide handling characteristics more in keeping with British tastes. Olley had been instrumental in G.M.'s fascination with independent suspension. Had the War not intervened, Olley would have installed a wishbone suspension in the next model introduction. Unfortunately the next major chassis revision had to wait until 1951. However, he did specify a rear anti-roll bar for the 14 h.p. model.12.


Then, in March 1932, James D. Mooney, in his positions as President of General Motors Overseas Operations and the Export Company, and Vice-President of General Motors Corporation, visited Australia to see for himself what was going on, and it is of no surprise that nothing was heard of any Opel assembly proposals following that visit. At this time all exports of C.K.D. chassis were from the U.S. Plants, and subject to higher import duties than those from the Oshawa, Ontario Plant which had the benefit of the 1932 Ottawa Agreement on tariffs, which governed British Empire trade. The Agreement resulted in the establishment as in the U.K. and Canada of Import Duty Advisory Committees to supervise tariffs on certain goods, particularly motor vehicles and components since there had to be a considerable importation of components which were simply not made locally, e.g. shock-absorbers.

Given the success he had achieved at Vauxhall, Mooney and the G.M.O.O. Board appointed Laurence Hartnett Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's in February [?] 1934, with a brief: "Make Holden profitable or close it down". Lawrence had clearly failed to make any significant improvement in production: some bodies were being produced in as little as 18 units per year, others 4,000! The range was diverse, and Holdens were still building bodies for other companies in addition. Hartnett had clearly reported back to G.M.O.O. on the state of the Australian facilities, and clearly found at that time that there were serious problems. G.M.O.O. [Mooney?] then transferred Hartnett to General Motors-Holden's to try and achieve the same result as he had at Vauxhalls. He arrived in Sydney in March 1934, and immediately set to, to improve car sales in the lessening depression period, just as Lawrence himself was transferred in the opposite direction from G.M.O.O. in Australasia to General Motors Limited in London! It was thus that in March 1934 control of the company was placed in the able hands of Hartnett. The new Managing Director's arrival coincided that year with the re-opening of the Carrington Street, Marrickville, N.S.W. Plant which had been closed for many years, though the company had not made a profit for many years and had amassed an accumulated deficit of A£400,000! Other G.M. subsidiaries had cut costs, and it appears certain top management were vocal in their view of winding-up the whole operation, dubbed "Howard's Folly" with blame on Graeme K. Howard for his decision in 1930.

Lawrence was in 1934 "re-assigned" to become Vice-President of General Motors Export Company based in London. In March 1936, A.N. Lawrence was appointed a Director of General Motors Limited, 22 May 1936 and then Chairman in November of that year. Lawrence would be a key figure from now on until the outbreak of war with regard to the establishment of the G.M. Limited Southampton Plant, announced December 1937. However, it seems that Lawrence returned to the U.S. in 1939, after war broke out.

The 1935 G.M.-Holden's Board of Directors included Graeme K. Howard and James D. Mooney. Mooney had been a Director of Adam Opel A.G. since at least 1935, and Howard was a Director from 1937. Edward C. Riley had resigned as a Director of General Motors Limited in London in 1929, and after having served as Managing Director of General Motors Continental in Antwerp, he was appointed Regional Director for Europe in 1933. He was shortly afterwards appointed Assistant General Manager of the General Motors Export Division, and then in 1935 General Manager. Alfred P. Sloan Jnr. was another constant Director of Adam Opel A.G., as well as serving as G.M. Corporation President.

It is to the considerable credit of Hartnett that rationalisation and regular top staff conferences were at the forefront of new working practices. The formation of the National Automotive Service Company, or NASCO, took care of the parts and accessories activities, and Industrial and Domestic Engineering Company the Frigidaire, Delco home lighting plants and industrial engines. By 1935, all assembly Plants were back in operation for the first time in years, and some export orders were received for Holden bodies.


Although it was not official G.M. policy, at that time, to entertain proposals for complete auto manufacture in Australia, Hartnett held consistently to a long-term view that was a desire to make a car himself. This belief would later be admitted by him to be akin to an obsession. Hartnett's outward expression of this was in the building of the new Fishermen's Bend Plant

Hartnett wrote to a fellow director of G.M.-Holden's, Sir John Butters in 1935 with a suggestion that Sir John might bring certain pertinent facts to the attention of the Government when in discussions with his contacts. These were in the hope that the Government might formulate a policy in regard to motor chassis manufacture in the same way that earlier administrations had with body-building. Hartnett contended that
1. 1. separate chassis were outmoded;
2. 2. Australia could produce component parts at competitive prices;
3. 3. the already-achieved design/tooling/manufacture of bodies represented only one-half of the complete car;
4. 4. the production of major mechanical units was an uncomplicated procedure with longer production runs than bodies;
5. 5. the volume of sales in Australia rivalled countries where complete manufacture was achieved;
6. 6. the country had an abundance of raw materials and skilled personnel;
7. 7. parts could be made for the national vehicle fleet;
8. 8. there was the ability to make a wide range of defence materiel in the event of an emergency;
9. 9. there were consistent problems with limited overseas currency exchange and a shortage of dollars that hampered importation;
10. 10. it was economically sound and inevitable that Australia should manufacture its own motor vehicles;
11. 11. although the yearly body-change in the U.S. and Canada was acceptable when the dies and tooling wore out because of huge production, this was unnecessary and costly in Australia where consistent production over several years was the aim.

By early 1935, there were serious concerns in Australia that the local automotive industry was not being protected sufficiently, and the answer appeared to be to introduce a licensing system for imports which would favour those countries with whom Australia had a favourable balance of Trade. The Minister in Charge of Trade Treaties, Sir Henry Gullett consequently announced in the House of Representatives, along with his colleague, the Minister for Customs, Lieut.-Colonel White, the new prohibitions and also a new increased level of tariffs. This took the form of a duty of 0.7d per lb. weight on imported chassis, known as the Automatic Inducement to Manufacture. This was to provide a bounty to be paid to manufacturers, so that a radiator incurred a bounty duty of 10s. Gullett had hoped that these would promote trade with Britain and other countries that were good customers of Australia: The Advertiser, Adelaide. The thought was that the U.S. would be affected by the determination of the Ministry to establish the motor chassis manufacturing industry in Australia. Talks were also held with Canada to ensure that supply of goods subject to the import control were not diverted to Canada, in view of the large adverse balance of trade with Canada, which would defeat the Ministry's object of diversion. Gullett had in fact spent some time overseas researching the tariff policies in other countries, and it is believed, had met the British Government representatives as well, because of the provisions of the Ottawa Agreement, 1932.

Given this background, it is understandable that Laurence J. Hartnett, as Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's Limited, Melbourne, had discussed at length the tariff on body panels with the Minister of Commerce, Dr Earle Page. This was in the absence of the Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon. J.A. Lyons, MP who was in England at the time, possibly for the 1935 Imperial Conference in London. It seems that Page was in charge of the Government during Lyons' absence. Hartnett, presumably under pressure from James D. Mooney as President of General Motors Export Company, saw an opportunity to try and bring about that which was most close to his, and many people's hearts, the assembly of motor vehicles in Australia; not only that, but chassis-less vehicles. Unfortunately, with hindsight, it becomes clear that there was an ulterior motive that was not obvious at the time, but even if it was, the Hartnett's sole concern at Australian automotive assembly blinded him, unless he blinkered himself? Given the later role of Mooney in international relations, Hartnett must have been prompted and encouraged to do so by his superior.

It appears that Hartnett had asked for the interview with Page in order to appeal to him, knowing full well what would curry favour. Because of the "Blocked Marks" system imposed in 1935, which prevented the export of Reichsmarks for goods exported from Germany, all goods exported had to be paid for in Germany. This caused a great deal of concern to G.M. in New York, because of the desire to extract as much profit out of their German subsidiary, Adam Opel A.G. as possible. Ways were sought by which a Dividend could be paid, and which would not fall foul of the new economic stringencies. It appears that G.M. managed to extract around $10 million each year by dint of substantial effort, e.g. by exchanging Reichsmarks for goods such as typewriters and Christmas decorations which were then exported back to the U.S. and sold. In other words, G.M. had established that a barter system of sorts was required.

Given the fact that Australia's main export, wool, was subject to restrictions and tariff charges in many countries, the prospects were bleak for the future trade in this most important commodity. However, it is assumed that Mooney saw a prime opportunity that would serve the best interests of both G.M.'s German and Australian subsidiaries, and also be another means of extracting a Dividend from Opel for G.M. There is no direct proof that Mooney suggested to Hartnett that Hartnett should instigate an offer of mutual trade, but all the circumstantial evidence is that this must have happened. The result was that Hartnett had proposed to Page that Germany was prepared to acquire large amounts of Australian wool in return for mutual trade, subject to the problem of the "Blocked Marks" being resolved. Hartnett played his cards very well, and very sensitively. The thought of substantial sales of wool to a country with whom there had been little trade, and imports in return which would not affect the tariff policies were attractive, so much so that the proposals gained importance and fell to be discussed at Government level. No thought appears to have been given to why Germany would want substantial quantities of wool, though with the expansion of Germany's forces, it would have seemed obvious that the troops would be provided with uniforms, bedding and blankets, and other clothing which would be woven from imported fibres. It is suggested that if Mooney knew the real reason, he would not have hesitated in any way in pursuing the goal to extract as much profit out of Opel as practicable, and was not concerned with domestic politics. He had first met Hitler in May 1934 when they had discussed the possibility of Germany making more than three million cars per year. Hitler had characterised the then 1.2 litre Opel as his conception of the "Volkswagen": General Motors World June 1934.

Hartnett seems to have been exemplary at playing the Government along. Page understandably had indicated immediately that the Government of Australia was anxious to promote trade with Germany. It was pointed out that in return, Germany was prepared "even anxious" to purchase primary products from Australia, especially wool, but in view of the exchange control restrictions, Australia had to find a way of purchasing more German products to balance the wool purchases. Page then requested Hartnett to use every endeavour to purchase more materials from Germany, and this Hartnett was amazingly able to do! Hartnett quickly placed an order for 20,000 Electric windscreen wipers from Robert Bosch A.G. There was no other country then able to supply electric wiper motors, and the U.S., Canada and U.K. only manufactured vacuum-powered wipers, or mechanical types, pre-war. This was a small but significant step, and which satisfied G.M.-Holden's requirements, and also showed that such trade-offs for wool could be achieved readily. G.M.-Holden's actively promoted Bosch windscreen wipers and sparking plugs for instance in their Dealer magazine Pointers.

Hartnett then wrote to the Prime Minister, Lyons, on 18 November 1935, and referred to the discussion with Page, and the placement of the order for windscreen wipers. The request was put that if this transaction had worked so well, to mutual advantage, then as Hartnett had reached a stage whereby a full-scale trade could commence, would this be in line with Government practice? The letter went on to state that the agreement for extra imports of Australian wool and other primary products in exchange for German goods had German Government approval. However, and then he played his hand, Hartnett appealed to the dispensation to be given for the special importation of
"certain machinery and equipment, and certain sample materials, at a special advantageous rate of duty furthermore, that the essential units, such as the engine and back axle, which cannot, as yet, be satisfactorily manufactured in Australia, be allowed to come into Australia at the lowest possible rate of duty"
because the materials would be imported as packages of engines, etc. and not as motor cars or trucks.

Hartnett had contacted Adam Opel A.G. with a view to establish whether they would co-operate with G.M.-Holden's in developing trade in accordance with intentions laid down by Page. Communications between G.M.-Holden's and Opel had reached the stage where it called for a major decision to be made by G.M.-H as it would likely involve the expenditure of A£300,000 to A£400,000 in special plant and equipment in Australia, and the decision had to be made by the Government as to whether this was in accordance with their wishes.

The suggested scheme that was put to the Prime Minister was: Germany wanted to acquire large quantities of Australian wool, and consistently. The German Government confirmed this with Hartnett, but in view of the exchange control regulations, some form of barter arrangement had to be set up. Motor cars were a high value item, Germany was anxious to develop an export market, and to that end Opel had confirmed that the German Government was prepared to make special effort to establish the flow of business, and that anything that Opel shipped to G.M.-Holden's could be offset by additional German purchases of Australian raw materials. Motor car design was undergoing an important transient phase, and within two or three years construction would be on the basis of an integral steel unit onto which the engine and axles were fitted. This was very important for Australia because practically all bodies were mounted onto chassis and frames. Unitary construction would require the Australian Government and body industry to decide to move further on and manufacture a car, or go backwards and allow more of the care to be imported. The latest model of Opel used unitary construction, and the design had been thoroughly proven and tested and had shown to be more satisfactory than was anticipated.

For the benefit of Australia, as much industrial development should take place, and for the G.M.-Holden's business as much as possible, if not all of the car, should be manufactured in Australia. If this was not practicable in one step, then it should be carried out in several easier stages. By careful study of the new German Opel design, it appeared practicable to manufacture the entire body and frame unit in Australia, with the need to import only the engine, axles and steering from Germany. However, it would require £300,000 in investment in machinery and equipment, so Government support or endorsement was required. Note that this reference to careful study is apparently a reference to the importation of sample Opel Kadett and Olympia cars imported for technical evaluation.

There was a possibility that the moment a quantity of Opel cars was sold in Australia, which would be approximately 75% Australian manufacture, there would be objections or complaints from U.K. motor car manufacturers as Australia had encouraged the import of German material rather than British. The reply to these objections was that the Opel design allowed a high local-content percentage, and that by purchasing components, more wool was exported to Germany. However, there was concern that the company did not wish to invest the money and then find that they were hindered or handicapped by new legislation [this point made with the new Ottawa Agreement in mind].

The new design of motor car employed almost entirely sheet metal, and because the company could work these sheets and turn them into panels in their own Plant, the company had been stimulating Sheet Steel manufacturers overseas to come and establish works in Australia, which would mean that a very high percentage of the total car would be Australian-produced.

A copy was sent to Dr Page and Lt.-Col. White for their comments. There is no evidence as to their replies.

Hartnett had the bit between his teeth: on 23 December 1935, he wrote again to the Prime Minister, and referred to his previous letter. Since 18 November, certain important changes had taken place: the German Government had informed the German Foreign Office, who in turn had instructed the Consul-General in Sydney that the Germans would approve a compensation deal for wool in exchange for Opel cars. The German Government had suggested that Sir Henry Gullett would be aware of the workings of such an arrangement as they were in line with discussions about general trade which he had conducted when he was in Berlin .presumably when he was in Europe investigating tariffs. It is possible that Mooney had caused Opels to make suggestions about an exchange at the same time as Mooney would have instructed Hartnett. The German Government had selected Simonius Vischer and Co. as the wool importer through whom the special quota for wool would be passed. That this agreement should be between the two governments. The German Government had earmarked 3 million Reichsmarks for the additional acquisition of Australian wool which sum and permit would be valid. This sum probably equated to something like A£300,000, and thus would explain where Hartnett got his figures from for equipment! The situation had got to the point where Hartnett and the German Government were awaiting the approval of the Australian Government. The company was prepared to invest a large sum of money to purchase special tools and equipment for part manufacture of a motor car that would of necessity involve import of components from Germany as not being available economically in Australia. Hartnett then added that the transaction had no great financial appeal to the company but it was to the economy's benefit to sell large quantities of wool to Germany, which would otherwise not be procurable.
It was of utmost importance that the company should know whether they could proceed as they had a difficult programme ahead to manufacture these cars and they needed to purchase tools and equipment and have several of their senior engineers visit the German factories immediately.

Hartnett then wrote again on 3 February 1936 to the Prime Minister concerning the proposed trade with Germany. However it should be mentioned here that the Australian tariff barriers were withdrawn in 1936 as a result of various negotiations which were conducted during 1935 and the following year. No trade war with Canada resulted, and the Canadian Prime Minister substituted a new, lower, tariff schedule for imports, with U.K. exports duty free, which had a stimulating effect on the Canadian motor industry. This in turn led to negotiations between Canada and the U.K. in the summer of 1936, and the second Ottawa Agreement, which also affected Australia and the rest of the Empire. The Imperial Preference was confirmed, and pressure groups were campaigning to further Imperial trade, and the threat of German subsidised exports.

Prime Minister Lyons had sent a telegram, which arrived that morning. Apparently, Hartnett had himself telegraphed the P.M. the previous Friday. The reason for this flurry of correspondence was that in January 1936, the Australian Press had got wind of the story and broke the news after Hartnett had clarified some erroneous items, having no need to deny or suppress the story. However, Sir Henry Gullett had objected to the release of information, perhaps feeling that an opportunity for him to do so grand-standing had been lost! As a consequence, Gullett "tore into" Hartnett: Information from Max Gregory, Automotive Historian, Australia. This in turn led to Hartnett complaining bitterly about the way he had been treated, and also that of the company, as he had put a great deal of effort into the project which was in accordance with government objectives. It also appears that there was a considerable personal clash between Dr Earle and Gullett, which the Press announcement merely aggravated.

Hartnett stated in his letter that on 7 March 1935, Dr Earle Page, as Acting Prime Minister, in Canberra interviewed Mr E.W. Holden and Hartnett. Page had raised the point that it would be helpful to the Government if companies such as G.M.-Holden's could look favourably upon Germany as a source of supply for materials, especially those not readily available in Australia or the U.K., Further, the Government wanted to expand its trade with countries such as Germany who were potentially large wool purchasers, through the means of increasing imports.

As Hartnett saw it, it was the Prime Minister's national policy that Australia should develop her resources to the utmost degree which would include the building up of her own secondary interests, that the materials that had to be imported into Australia should first come from the U.K. because of the large buying power of primary produce from Australia, meaning wool and meat, and do to everything possible to extend the trade with those countries which were large potential buyers of Australian primary produce. This policy had adopted by the company, and they had gone out of their way to develop local industries and extended a 10% preference on all Australian-produced materials provided that specification and sufficient production capacity was assured. There were a number of companies that could be named who owed their existence to efforts by the company to provide them with technical data, and assistance with personnel and capital. Diecasters Pty. Ltd. Of Melbourne were supplying 90% of their output to G.M.-H, but at least 30% of their products could be imported at lower cost. Sonnerdale of Sydney supplied almost all of the company's replacement gears, this being possible because of all the blueprints, specifications and technical advice given them by G.M.-H. Further, the company standardised on all their cars PYROX-BOSCH sparking plugs which were made in Australia, yet G.M. owned A.C. Spark Plug plants in the U.S. [Flint, Michigan], England [Dunstable] and France [Gennevilliers] and it would pay the company 1d per plug [0.5p] to import their own plugs, but the policy was to put Australian products first, which was in accordance with the Government's policy as well. However, it was stressed that there was no connection with Robert Bosch in Germany, even though windscreen wipers had been purchased from them the year before, and Bosch supplied Opel with electrical components!

Following the conversation with Dr Page, and in accordance with company policy, G.M.-H. immediately investigated every possible article which could be imported from Germany without affecting Australian or U.K. manufacturers and suppliers. The first action was to import 20,000 Bosch electric windscreen wiper motors, and then had increased this later to 30,000 units. These could not have been supplied from the U.K., as could be confirmed by the Department of Overseas Trade in London. The purchase of these wiper motors was a very small item, but a regular flow of trade. This caused them to carry on further and "by chance" discovered that a new Opel model, known as the Olympia, which was entirely designed and manufactured by Adam Opel at Rüsselsheim was of a peculiar nature and lent itself by co-incidence to the further manufacture of a car in Australia. With respect, this is in my opinion absolute nonsense, as James Mooney was in overall charge of G.M.O.O. and would have directed G.M.-H to seek local assembly of Olympias. However, it is clear that it was politic to hide this fact at last in public.

The Olympia had the advantage that the body and chassis frame were unitary, and almost the last operation in assembly was to install the engine and rear axle. The company then went to work and spent "many weeks" in careful study and analysis of the problem and the consensus was that at the cost of £200,00 to £300,000 for specialist tools and machinery, the company could evolve a practically all-Australian car, which was in line with the policy of the development of the Australian industry and providing added employment. It did not seem practicable or sound to the company to design and manufacture an engine, rear axle and steering gear, and so as these units were not available from anywhere else, the company approached Adam Opel to see whether they would sell these components. " Somewhat to our surprise, they agreed and at a fairly favourable price". This is again dismissed: Mooney would have arranged that they were available, and then Opel would have negotiated with the German ministries to agree the level of subsidy applicable to these components in line with that on complete cars.

Having reached the stage where a careful study had been made of the proposition, official enquiry was then made of the Australian Government through the P.M. as to whether these actions or plans would be sympathetically approved. The question of a formal Trade Agreement or barter had never occurred to the company as they knew from experience with the wiper motors that practically all purchases of German material were made through the medium of barter. Also because Mooney had arranged it so.

It seems that just before Christmas 1935, Hartnett and Leslie Walton [of Vauxhall Motors] visited the P.M. in Canberra. The P.M. suggested that they also speak to any Ministers of the Cabinet in Melbourne [presumably the State Government] then it would be a good idea to speak to them. In addition, the German telegrams had intimated that they should approach Sir Henry Gullett, as the message to do so came from the German authorities. Gullett was thereupon interviewed, and appraised of the proposals and suggestions. He in turn replied that in his opinion, a Trade Treaty or Barter Agreement with Germany was not practical and "did not appeal to him". However, Hartnett complained to the P.M. that this did not materially answer the question of whether or not the proposals were satisfactory to the Government, as whether the Australian Government signed a Trade Treaty or Barter Agreement was beside the point since barter trade had happened, whether with the Australian Government's blessing or not.

What then happened was that the fact that 3 million Reichsmarks were allocated from the German side became known to a large number of Wool Buyers and interested parties in Australia, and Hartnett himself started to receive a continual flow of enquiries about the proposed trade. Towards the end of January 1936, a newspaper telephoned Hartnett asking him to confirm or amplify the breaking news story about G.M.-H contemplating the purchase of certain German motor car components. Hartnett then asked the sub-editor of the 'paper to condense down the article, and then the news hit the streets. Hartnett went on to suggest that the leak came from a Public Relations company that did publicity for G.M.-H, based in Sydney, and had thought that this would do the company some good, and persuaded newspapers to give prominence to the story. Hartnett said that he took no steps to suppress the story as he saw no reason why it should not appear.

Further, as part of the proposals to assemble Opels, G.M.-H had mentioned the possibility of selling Opels to one of Sydney's leading distributors, in order to find out the potential distribution strength should the Opel be marketed in Australia. This news was then passed on, and the news broke.

Hartnett stressed that the scheme and suggestion had no commercial appeal to the company or to him personally, but it was intended to carry out the Government's aims to increase the nation's trade. If Gullett had said at the time that this proposal or development of local industry was not acceptable, then the matter could have been dropped without the company's regrets.

However, what upset Hartnett to the core was that Gullett, for personal reasons, used his full power of authority as a Minister to make a general release statement for all newspapers throughout Australia, which Hartnett complained made discriminatory remarks and unfair remarks about G.M.-H. Hartnett complained to the P.M. that whatever his personal feelings, he should not have used his official standing to make the remarks that he had. In fact, on checking, Hartnett found that Gullett had made them with premeditation and thought, careful intention, and personal spleen!

Hartnett asked the P.M. to investigate, and was clearly rightly angry that the company had been merely carrying out Government policy for the good of the Commonwealth. However, what was not taken into account was that there were bodies such as the Empire Industries Association which actively campaigned for Imperial trade, and who were openly hostile to German, and possibly U.S. exports. It is suggested that once Gullett saw that he had lost the opportunity to Grandstand, that he then saw the opening to champion Imperial trade just as the negotiations that would result in the new Ottawa Agreement were being scheduled for a few months' time. It was also Gullett that had stood up in Parliament and announced the strict licensing system to effectively prevent non-British goods being imported, and had tried to ensure that the Canadians would not defeat the principle by accepting diverted banned goods, and so worsen the trade balance with that Dominion.

Hartnett reiterated that the policies set by him for G.M.-H. were for the support and assistance of the Australian Government. He then gave examples: the Body Panel application under the Ottawa Agreement that they favour and do what was possible for British motor car manufacturers but leave the general tariff alone; that there was a much lower profit margin involved in importing Vauxhall and Bedford compared with "American" products that they handled [no mention of Canadian Chevrolet and Buick], and finally the Townsend report which bore out that the company subsidised U.K. car manufacturers compared with U.S. manufacturers. Hartnett put it that if the company had raised the prices on Vauxhall and Bedford to the same level as U.S. products, and cut the subsidy for bodies for U.K. car chassis importers in Australia, the price increases would cut U.K. car and truck registrations by at least 40-50%! Hartnett said that as an Englishman he had a great interest in furthering Empire trade and was in a position at G.M.-H to influence to a certain extent the policies of G.M.'s undertakings in Australia, "but naturally, I do not receive full support overseas in this regard at certain times". I take this to confirm that overall, Mooney was in overall charge, and putting forward Opel as against Vauxhall/Bedford was his responsibility and Hartnett had no say in the matter.

However, apart from requesting that Gullett correct his misstatements, Hartnett confirmed that the proposed arrangement of importing German components for an Australian car was suspended, and would be forgotten unless and until the P.M resurrected it!.

The P.M. then wrote to Hartnett on 10 March 1936 to reply, and Hartnett responded in turn from G.M. Export Company in New York on 27 April. The Prime Minister had eased the tension between Hartnett and Gullett, and any misunderstanding was resolved. The P.M. clearly tried to dampen down Hartnett's ire by saying that he and the company's efforts were for the greater industrial development of Australia. Tempers were tempered.

However, Hartnett added that whilst he was in the U.S., and presumably he had met Mooney and taken instructions [was he "recalled for talks" in diplomatic speak?], that normalised, deep drawing, fine finish sheet metal from which body panels were pressed, was not available in Australia. It was a "speciality" of the steel industry and not an easy product to manufacture. All of this special steel had been, up to then, imported into Australia from either Armco or Lysaght in England, or from the U.S., chiefly Armco. The imported tonnages of this steel were considerable, and as the U.S. steel was generally of better quality, most had been imported from the U.S. In 1936 this was estimated to be about 35,000 tons at A£10 per ton, or A£350,000. Hartnett had discussed several times with B.H.P. the likelihood of producing this steel in Australia, but the prospects were not very bright. Thus, on arrival in the U.S., Hartnett visited the Armco mills in Middletown, Ohio, and discussed in a full day's session with the company's executives in New York the possibility of Armco International, who had rolling mills in England, Germany, France and U.S., about setting up rolling mills if not complete steel works in Australia. Hartnett believed that in the very near future this would be achieved, and would considerably reduce imports, increase employment and make the Australian body-building business more self-contained. A Mr W.M. Allen was a Director of Armco and several other steel companies, and was sailing to Australia, to arrive 22 May, with a letter of introduction to the P.M. Allen had the authority to decide on the spot whether Armco should have a steel works and rolling mill, and to what extent the works should contain.

Holden's were traditionally reliant on steel imported from John Lysaght's American Rolling Mills Company or ARMCO of Middletown, Ohio with established steel plants in the U.K., Germany and France. Joseph Sankey and Sons of Bilston, Staffordshire, England, first patented the steel-spoked artillery wheel, in 1908. The firm had been founded in 1854, and entered the motor trade in 1904 through the production of innovative pressed steel bodywork. Austin, Daimler and Humber were customers, and demand was such that the firm moved to the by then empty former Milnes-Daimler works at Wellington or Telford, Shropshire: the company having been bought by Daimler in 1902: hence the connection! In 1906, Sankey's steel bodies were even being exported to America"! Sankey were soon the largest producers of wheels in this country, and in 1919 the business was bought by the John Lysaght steel company which, in 1920, became a subsidiary of Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds. There seems to have been an English company, Armco International Company Limited by 1928, and also an Australian company, John Lysaght Limited. A new English subsidiary, ARMCO LIMITED, was formed on 5 December 1933 in London as a subsidiary of Armco International Corporation as a sales company, presumably to sell imported steel. Armco International were in fact G.M.-Holdens' only available supplier of high-grade steel acceptable for unitary construction. Some had to be imported from the U.K. but the vast majority came from the U.S. factory in Middletown, Ohio. In 1936, as a consequence of the demand from G.M.-Holden's and other companies in Australia, Armco set up a specialist high-finish sheet-metal plant, which became the Commonwealth Rolling Mills in Port Kembla, N.S.W.

Presumably after having been directed by Mooney, Hartnett wrote that he was raising the question of the degree to which G.M. was to be engaged in manufacture in Australia in the future. The Tariff Item 404 provided that the special importation of engines and axles was allowed provided that they were to be built into the final product by Australian industry. Hartnett said that he had practically prevailed upon G.M. to go down the road that if they were allowed to import a few highly tooled and specialised items such as engines and axles, then in the course of time they would manufacture the rest of the motor car in Australia, On his return to Australia, Hartnett said that he looked forward to discussing this important question with the "Minister of Customs" [Lieutenant-Colonel White though a copy of the letter was sent also to Gullett by the P.M.], and it appeared to Hartnett to be a very sound and logical course for Australia to follow for her industrial development. This way it would be possible to have a very low imported content in the Australian car and only those items would be imported which carried the full advantage of high tooling and specialised production. Naturally, he added, this would mean considerably increased investment by G.M. in Australia, but there would be the satisfaction of added employment and a greater degree of Australian materials in the motor car. Hartnett ended by saying that he had high hopes of getting U.S. and British companies to set up new factories in Australia.

However, after the Imperial Conference had resulted in the new Ottawa Agreement that came into effect in 1937, it would appear at first glance that the Opel project was suspended, and buried as preference was given to British goods, and that meant that the way was open to Vauxhalls to export their cars and commercial vehicles. However, these all used a separate chassis until 1939. This was not the case, though. What is known is that at least one set of Olympia components consisting of a front end, wheels, engine, and axle, possibly a chassis of sorts, were assembled using Vauxhall J-type Caleche open car panels in 1939, and the car was used by a G.M.-Holden's employee during the war. Further, post-war, Adam Opel A.G. tried to recover the small sum of £118.13.9 from the custodian of enemy property, being monies due from G.M.-H to Opel pre-war, though there were also apparently sums due to Opel from G.M. South Africa, and NZ£6,769 due to Opel from G.M. New Zealand for pre-war sums.

Having said all this, was the second attempt at an Australian-assembled car really dropped? I suggest that the evidence was that it was not, and that a new approach was tried. However, it must be made clear that the evidence suggests that a considerable amount of testing of Opel's unitary construction cars was carried out, no doubt at Fishermen's Bend which had a foundry, an engine shop and a laboratory. James D. Mooney states that two German representatives travelled to New York in the autumn of 1936 to plead that G.M. put up $1,000,000 to finance Adam Opel's own rubber requirements in Germany as demanded by a newly-introduced government ruling. G.M. put up the money, but only after receiving assurances that the expenditure would be liquidated by means of barter transactions and exports of Opel cars and trucks. One of the two representatives was an Adam Opel director from 1935, and President of the company, Professor Dr Karl Lüer, who was appointed Chairman of the company in 1942 [4]. R.K. Evans was General Manager of Adam Opel at the time.

One regrettable fetter on Hartnett's standing in G.M. was that Hartnett was asked by the Australian Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, to form an indigenous military aircraft manufacturing facility: this became the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. G.M.-Holden's had a maximum 10% of the company, but Alfred P. Sloan seems to have reduced his opinion of Hartnett when he found out in view of the previous unprofitable experiences by G.M. in aviation. It has been suggested that, despite Hartnett being able to turn around the Australian car producing company, his involvement with C.A.C. could have cost him his job.


Hartnett as Managing Director was instrumental in reversing a previous policy of only using locally-produced components if they were 10% cheaper than imported components. From then on, local components were to be used except when the imported item was 10% cheaper. The new factory and company Headquarters at Fishermen's Bend, two miles from Melbourne, replaced the old City Road, South Melbourne, building which had been used since the establishment of G.M. (Australia). The ink had changed from red to black in the ledgers, and New York changed their attitude to Australian investment. The first sod was turned by the then Victorian Premier, in February 1936 and the official opening ceremony was conducted in a little over six months later by the P.M., the aforesaid Joseph Lyons.

Despite the lack of ministerial support, Hartnett agreed with New York that heavy expenditure was required in connection with all-steel construction. G.M.-Holden's were not the only company that had to make such changes. The rival bodybuilding companies had also to turn to all-steel bodies and truck cabs for the other U.S. and Canadian imported chassis. G.M.-H. firstly acquired Australian-made Ruwolt hydraulic presses early in 1936, followed by a 100-ton imported machine at the end of the year. In 1938, G.M.-H. received a 1,000-tons pressure press, weighing 500 tons, the largest to have been exported to a G.M.O.O. plant. These presses were used to build Australia's first unitary construction body, the 1939 Vauxhall J-type 14 h.p. which was 3 cwt. lighter than the previous model.

In 1937, G.M.-H.'s annual profit was over A£1 million, with market penetration increasing from 20% in 1934 to over 40%, with 32,694 bodies produced by a workforce of 6,500, with 28,000 for G.M. chassis.
In 1939, a new factory was opened in New South Wales: Pagewood near Sydney supplanted the Marrickville works which had opened in 1926.


In Section 9 above it was mentioned that Sir Henry Gullett had introduced a bounty on imported components to be paid to companies that wished to produce complete chassis. The Government announced that it was inviting proposals from those interested. This was intended to attract G.M. and Ford, but singularly failed to do so! Various small companies were the only ones who expressed a desire to do so.

During 1937 and 1938 a Tariff Board Enquiry took evidence from interested parties relating to complete auto manufacture, though it soon became clear that the major auto companies were against the idea. Representatives from Ford, Chrysler, G.M.-H., the British Industry and the Australian Automobile Manufacturers Association all raised objections. The comments by Hartnett of G.M.-H. are rather surprising in view of the prior attempts by Hartnett to achieve a locally-assembled Opel. In fact, it was probably his lack of success with the Government that coloured his attitude. Hartnett indicated that the proposal to build an all-Australian car was practicable but that there were still many factors militating against its economic sense. In his view there was only room for one viable volume producer and that it would introduce the problem of a monopoly and that uncertainty over future Government policy was inhibiting because no-one could outlay such a vast sum on plant when it was possible for the Government to change the guidelines and protection it operated under. Despite, or as a consequence of, his company's experience, Hartnett stated that G.M.-H. would prefer to see the motor industry mature by a steady increase in local content over an extended period. No major automotive companies submitted a proposal for a subsidy on imported chassis.

The British Motor Industry stated that a motor industry required an infrastructure of general and specialised engineering expertise behind it and this was undeveloped in Australia: rather condescending!

Hartnett seems to have been unimpressed with the Government proposals. He felt that there was no concrete plan, no desire to discuss any technical matters related to setting up the requisite manufacturing capability; rather it was simply a request to see if anyone would do so, and a vague offer of help if anyone did. It was felt that there were still significant gaps in expertise that needed to be filled by the company and its suppliers before a complete local production programme could be instigated. Again, this seems to have flown against Hartnett's intentions with regards to Opel assembly. However, there is one possible difference here and that is that the proposal to assemble the unitary construction Olympia model would still require the importation of engines, gearboxes, and other components that had to be imported. Another explanation is that G.M.-H. was attempting to firstly gain the experience with the Vauxhall J-type, and then assemble Opels sourced from the U.K. via Belgium. There was increasing concern in the G.M.-H. Sales Department that with every new year's model from the U.S. and Canada, the cars grew bigger and heavier, and less suitable to cope with Australian roads and conditions. The Chevrolet had a 3½ litre engine, and weighed over 3,000 lbs. There was no car between the Vauxhall J-type 1.8 litre and 2,300 lbs weight and the Chevrolet. However, Detroit had the answer!

In 1940 the R.G. Menzies Liberal Government decided that it was essential, despite the Tariff Board advice to the contrary, that Australia should make complete motor vehicles. The Government passed the MOTOR VEHICLE AGREEMENT ACT was passed on 9 May 1940, shortly after the MOTOR VEHICLE ENGINE BOUNTY ACT 1939 was passed on 8 December 1939, and was aimed at providing an incentive for Australian companies that had 2/3rds paid up capital owned by British subjects in Australia, to manufacture automobile and truck engines and chassis in Australia. The amount of bounty collected by the Government under the Gullett scheme had reached A£1.1 million. The bounty was paid as follows on each 20,000 units: for the first year of production, a bounty of £30 per engine, second year £25 per engine, and third year, £20 per engine which gave virtually a monopoly to Australian Consolidated Industries (Australian Glass Company), a company with no previous motor car manufacture. Before any car could be produced by G.M.-H. or any other company, these Acts had to be repealed The Acts gave Australian Consolidated Industries Limited sole rights to produce engines and chassis in Australia; they were one of the major industrial enterprises in the country, and had glass making factories in Australia and N.Z., as well as interests in steel working, packaging, tools and engineering. They acquired the old Cord body dies from the Graham plant and intended to reinstall them in an Australian factory.


a. MARTIA: Special-Interest Autos, November/December 1971

The North American motor manufacturers must have taken the effects of the post-1929 Depression seriously. Ford in Dearborn had responded to a request from Ford of England to design their first overseas model, the 950 c.c. 8 h.p. Y-type, a scaled-down model for 1933. Ford and G.M. were therefore not alone in designing experimental small economy cars. Various small companies and even Chrysler, together with the "Big Two" came up with designs for rear-engined cars in advance of Ferdinand Porsche's "Volks Wagen".

In 1929, Charles F. Kettering, head of G.M.'s Research Laboratories in Milwaukee Avenue, across the street from the rear of the G.M. Building in uptown Detroit, had instigated a project "Research Light Car Body". No doubt this had an input into the Vauxhall and Opel designs. General Motors then established their Automotive Design Department in 1933, headed by E.O. "Olle" Schjolin, assisted by Carl A. Lindblom, and other engineers. The A.D.D. was responsible for conceiving, building and testing experimental vehicles for possible future production. The A.D.D. conceived and built three rear-engined experimental cars between February 1934 and 1938, with unitary construction bodies, supercharged 4-cylinder radial 2-stroke engines, transaxles, three radiators, fully independent Dubonnet suspension on all four corners, and a projected kerb weight of 2,000 lbs. In 1939, G.M. was granted eight patents on the innovations incorporated, including one relating to the method of mounting the engine in the unitary construction body.

The three cars were given pet names by Schjolin: Marta I, Martia II, and AD-800, with a 107-inch wheelbase for the first two cars and height of 66 in., with the third car being slightly larger. Engine displacement was 101 cu. in., 130 cu. in., and 160 cu. in. respectively.

In 1938, Schjolin and Lindblom left G.M. and went to Volvo in Sweden, with the latter becoming eventually the passenger car division chief engineer. Schjolin was replaced by Darl Caris, who carried on the radial 2-stroke engine. It would appear that by 1939, the Research Light Car Body project had been shelved.

An extension of the two-cycle gasoline engine programme was a series of 4-cylinder in-line diesel engines with U-shaped combustion chambers and superchargers. These experimental engines were then uses in Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles, and no doubt contributed to the design of G.M.'s two-stroke diesel engines of varying capacities. During the war, Roots-blower radial 2-stroke engines were installed experimentally in standard Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles, and by 1945 there were five cars running. It is possible that these cars had some influence on the Project Cadet, see below.

b. ALBANITA: Special-Interest Autos., February-March 1973.

The next experimental car that has been publicised was the 1933-34 Albanita. This design did, however, have some influence on future models.

The Albanita was arguably to lead to Chrysler's attempt at streamlining a large passenger car, the 1934 Airflow, which incidentally was produced using tooling and stamping by Budd. The G.M. car became roadable in early 1933, and grew from two separate research programmes. The first was the body from Art & Colour (Styling), which was probably under "Style Development" section, as an exercise. However, the concept of a sloping back first appeared on a Show Car, a 1933 Cadillac, which seems to confirm the parallel thinking for small and large cars. The concepts of all-steel Turret Top and Fisher's No-Draft ventilating system were already set for production. It was the radiator design that was so obviously cribbed for the 1937 Chevrolets that makes the 1933 design look so much more modern: the Holden-bodied enclosed coupe or "Sloper" in Australian parlance seems to be a direct crib, although they were unrelated.

The chassis was an experimental trial for some of G.M. Engineering's work on independent suspension systems. However, the Albanita used a single-tube backbone chassis. The chassis and suspension systems were built in the seventh floor machine shop of the G.M. Research Building, with final assembly and much of the testing on the eighth floor, with photographs taken on the roof of the same building.

Carl Lindblom helped to test the Abanita's frame for torsional rigidity, though it turned out not up to the job and the conventional X-member frame proved much better. The Albanita had a 113-inch wheelbase and stayed in service until 1938. Schjolin, Lindblom and Maurice Olley, hired from Rolls-Royce in 1930, went on to other experimental projects.

In Australia, General Motors-Holden's at Woodville had come up with their own design for an All-Enclosed Coupe, a two-door sloping rear design with built-in trunk. This debuted in production in the 6-cylinder Model F-35 at Easter 1935. A body was then shipped with pride to G.M. Styling and Engineering, via G.M. Export Company, New York, in November 1935. This was to provide the U.S. personnel with an idea of how such an elegant design could be achieved. However, the Holden design owed nothing to the Albanita, as the Australians had no idea of the experimental car.

It appears that in 1938 there had also been a study carried out on the annual costs of running several 1938 Model cars for 15,000 miles, with sales to the trade in 1940. The "Proposed Car" was supposed to sell at A£275, the same price as a Ford 10 Sedan, and cheaper than the Vauxhall 10 h.p.! The car was intended to retain 65% of its value after two years, but Norm Darwin suggests that in 1940, with a 30% mark up, the value would have been A£359.10.0! The average fuel consumption was to have been around 30 m.p.g. Was this "Proposed Car" to be an Opel-based design?


It was probable that as a consequence of the dire consequences in the agricultural sector in both the U.S. and Canada, and just before the "Roosevelt Recession", that General Motors' Product Study Group under the direction of Lou Thoms in Detroit developed two new Light Cars with all-steel unitary construction. However, Karl Ludvigsen in Special-Interest Autos., January-February 1974 confirms that the Chief Design Engineer at the time, and who had responsibility for the Light Cars was one Earle Steele MacPherson, the inventor of the famous "MacPherson Strut".

MacPherson was born in 1895, and first worked for Chalmers in 1915, and then on aircraft engines in Europe during The Great War. He then worked for Liberty from 1919 to 1922 and then Huppmobile from 1922 to 1934, where he worked with an engine specialist, Earl W. Rohrbacher. MacPherson left Hupp to join General Motors in the Central Engineering Office, whilst M.E. Coyle was General Manager of Chevrolet: he was appointed 1933 and had previously been G.M.'s Chief Finance Officer. In 1935/6, MacPherson was appointed Chief Design Engineer at Chevrolet, and moved there mainly to direct the creation of a small Chevrolet. Given the dates, it seems that the original proposal for the new light car was taken as early as 1936, possibly on the back of the success with the Opel Olympia, and the failure of the "Martia" cars. Given Coyle's later concerns about the need for a smaller, cheaper, Chevrolet, did he suggest that this was appropriate at that time, or was it just an extension of the continuing experimental small car designs?

Coyle had concerns that as there had been a post-war recession in 1921, so again there might be another after the recovery from the "Great Depression" resulting from the Wall Street Crash in October 1929. It appears that Coyle was justifiably concerned: in 1937 North America was hit by what the Republicans dubbed the "Roosevelt Recession" and it is quite understandable that Coyle and colleagues could see what was likely to happen. There also seems to have been a personal interest in the project by General Motors' Vice-President and President of the G.M. Export Company, James D. Mooney. It is likely that after the idea for a small Chevrolet was considered, the suitability for overseas sales of the same design were taken up by Mooney, because there was no sign of such a recession hitting overseas markets which were still recovering from the ripple effects of the Crash. It now appears that this was part of a greater, international, plan. The February 1938 Export Division Organisational Chart shows that under General Manager Riley was Assistant General Manager G.W. Wolf, and under him was "Cars, Trucks, Parts and Accessories". Under Wolf was amongst others, "Product Engineering", with Chassis Design and Layout, Engineering Records, Experimental Shop, Body Design and Layout and Parts and Accessories. Product Engineers were F. Sergardi and G.H. Kublin. [5]

The "Roosevelt Recession" which hit the U.S., and to a certain extent Canada, had some of its roots apparently in the automotive industry! President Theodore Roosevelt explained the depression in a Radio broadcast in April 1938:
" But the very vigour of the recovery in both durable goods and consumers' goods brought into the picture early in 1937, a year ago, certain highly undesirable practices, which were in large part responsible for the economic decline which began in the later months of that year. Again production had outrun the ability to buy. There were many reasons for this over-production. One of them was fear -- fear of war abroad, fear of inflation, fear of nation-wide strikes. None of these fears have been borne out. Production in many important lines of goods outran the ability of the public to purchase them. For example, also, automobile manufacturers not only turned out a normal increase of finished cars, but also encouraged the normal increase to run into abnormal figures, using every known method to push their sales. This meant, of course, that the steel mills of the Nation ran on a twenty-four hour basis, and the tyre companies and cotton factories and glass factories and others speeded up to meet the same type of abnormally stimulated demand. Yes, the buying power of the Nation lagged behind. Thus by the autumn of 1937, last autumn, the Nation again had stocks on hand which the consuming public could not buy because the purchasing power of the consuming public had not kept pace with the production ."

Following on from the previous "X-Cars", two new light cars were designed, though there were in fact three prototypes, at a total cost of U.S.$750,000. They were allocated Project Numbers 195-Y-13 for a 4-cylinder light car with a 102 inch wheel-base of 132.5 cubic in., 195-Y-15 on the same wheel-base but with a 6-cylinder engine also of 132.5 cubic in., and 195-Y-17 which was a 112 inch wheel-base model with a 132.5 cubic in.' displacement 6-cylinder engine. Don Loffler, an Australian Automotive Historian who has researched the origins of the Holden Model 48-215 stated that when he was in Melbourne, he interviewed one of the Australian engineers who went across to the United States in 1945 to work on the Australian car project. He was then aged 87, but still as "lively as a cricket" and blessed with all his faculties. In the course of their talk, he commented "the 195-Y-13 and 15 cars were brought across to Detroit from Opel by Russell S. Begg, who had been doing a stint there and who became the chief engineer of the Holden project". The Australian Engineer was not too sure of the exact details, but he explained that a prototype is never started from nothing, but is always based on something that already exists. So his assumption is that Begg brought over one or two Opel prototypes, which were then developed and adapted in Detroit - by one Louis Thoms, as he discovered in his researches.


Projects 195-Y-13 & 195-Y-15 were identical cars in appearance, using stock 1938 Model Chevrolet body panels and radiator so far as was possible in order to reduce costs. Both these cars were built in 1937 by a group in the G.M. Product Study area, headed by Lou Thoms, probably in the G.M. Research Labs. Building in Detroit which was immediately behind G.M.'s Detroit building. This group was not attached to any G.M. Division although the product study group used G.M.'s body subsidiary Fisher Body's Fisher Engineering in the same building as the Research Labs. to construct the bodies and Chevrolet Engineering to build the mechanicals. The purpose of Lou Thoms' study was to determine if a 4 or 6 cylinder car of the same wheelbase, weight etc had the same performance, i.e. fuel consumption and acceleration. Maurice A. Thorne, following Chevrolet and G.M.C. practice, designed the engines.

195-Y-13 Engine: 4-cylinder, Bore & Stroke 3 7/16 x 3 9/16 in. [87.3 x 90.5 m.m.]; wheelbase 102 in.
195-Y-15 Engine: 6-cylinder, Bore & Stroke 3 x 3 1/8 in. [76.2 x 79.4 m.m.]; wheelbase 102 in.
Both engines had a capacity of 132.5 cu. ins. [2,172 c.c.]; Transmission was a 3-speed without synchromesh on first gear. Ratios: 2.986:1; 1.59:1 and 1:1, Reverse 2.986:1. Rear end: Hotchkiss drive, with leaf springs and 4.215: 1 final drive.

195-Y-17 Engine 6-cylinder, 174 cu. ins. [2,850 c.c.?]; wheelbase 112 in.

The 6-cylinder car 195-Y-15 was equipped with a front frame attached with rubber insulators: the front suspension was a tubular axle with leaf springs and '38 Chevrolet shock absorbers. The 4-cylinder car, 195-Y-13 had independent front suspension, four link coil rear suspension, banjo axle with 4.215:1 rear ratio, and double-acting tubular shock absorbers.

195-Y-17 seems to have been a later exercise, scaled-up somewhat from the 102 in. wheelbase -13 and -15 cars. Whether this was actually turned into a prototype or not is not certain.

The study used the following vehicles as a comparison: a 1938 Chevrolet, 1938 60 h.p. Ford V-8, and a 1938 Willys. The study was completed in 1938, the reports being filed with G.M.'s domestic divisions and G.M.O.O., which would have filtered through to all interested parties.

Royer…. Comments that his late father actually worked for G.M. Research Laboratories pre WW2. They were located in the Annex behind old G.M. Building on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. G.M.R. was involved only in the early stages of the project from what his father mentioned. He went on to a number of other things at G.M.R. when the S.C.P. was turned over to Chevrolet. One of the things he mentioned working on circa 1938 was a 5-cylinder radial engine which was mounted in the front with the crankshaft sitting at about a 45-degree angle (as viewed from the side). This drove through one of the 4-Speed GM Automatic Safety Transmissions - with the prototypes later being retro-fitted with fully automatic 4-Speed Hydramatic transmissions when they became available. As far as comments about the Chevrolet small car project which ultimately became the Holden: he adds "I am (and was) quite aware of that. In fact, my late father worked on the small car project while employed at G.M. Research prior to WW2. His, and others, had advised me that this was never intended to replace - only to possibly supplement - the standard size Chevy models which we are quite familiar with".

However, there is another dimension to the Light Car Project that has never been considered before. For 1937 Model Year, Flint, Michigan, Chevrolet Motor Plant were able to offer a reduced-capacity 6-cylinder engine with a Bore & Stroke of 81 x 95.25 m.m., for a capacity of 196 cu. in. or 2,945 c.c., i.e. under 3 litres, as against the 1937 Model design 216.5 cu. in. engine of 3.3 litres. In the U.K., the then Concessionaires offered this smaller-capacity engine in certain body styles [in late 1937] as the "Cheetah" [pun on "cheater"], intending to sell to a local market dominated by the dreaded "Horsepower Tax". This engine was available in 1938 British market models as well. The same engine was also used by G.M. Suisse in Biel/Bienne in Switzerland from 1937, and possibly by G.M. Continental, Antwerp, and offered as a 15 PS engine as against the standard 18 PS. There must have also been a local requirement for a sub-2.5 litre engine as well, as G.M. Suisse also offered in some body styles a 12.6/13 PS engine, of 80 x 82 m.m. Bore & Stroke, 2,473 c.c. capacity, which produced 60 b.h.p. This engine was available from 1937 to 1939, as was the 2,945 c.c. unit, though the latter by then had Aluminium pistons as against the Cast Iron of the 216.5 unit. The 2.5 litre unit used Aluminium pistons throughout. This small unit engine was NOT a Chevrolet unit: it was in fact the 1937-April 1938 Opel 2.5 litre Super Six engine, which in turn was replaced by the 1939 Model Kapitän, although identical in more-or-less every respect. This 6-cylinder overhead valve engine was in Imperial measurements 3.15 x 3.23 in., capacity 150.9 cu. in., or in metric 80 x 82 m.m., 2,473 c.c., rated at 24 h.p. producing 60 b.h.p. @ 3,500 r.p.m. and was as just mentioned, first used in Swiss-assembled Chevrolets for 1937.

It can thus be seen that in Europe, Opel engines of 2.5 litres/150 cu. in. were being installed in standard Chevrolet bodies for European requirements. This was clearly a precursor to the European plants assembling an Opel-Chevrolet unitary design.

The explanation for this inter-changeability is quite simple. In 1936, and I assume here that Russell S. Begg was responsible, a new engine was designed for the forthcoming Opel Admiral model. The engine for this large Chevrolet-sized car was based on the all-new 1937-on 216.5 cu. in./3,549 c.c. 6-cylinder Chevrolet engine, with four main bearings [3 ½ x 3 ¾ in. or 88.9 x 95.25 m.m., rating 29.4 h.p.]. The Opel engine was copied from the Chevrolet by redrawing the original blueprint drawings and converting from Imperial to Metric measurements. In fact, at the end of the day the engine more closely corresponded with the Canadian Pontiac car engine for 1937, the 224 cu. in. unit, which was fitted into a Chevrolet-based bodyshell to create the Pontiac 224 model. The "224" unit was created by increasing the Chevrolet 216.5 unit bore by 0.0625", with aluminium pistons instead of cast iron. The Bore & Stroke were then 3.5625 x 3.75 in. [3 9/16 x 3 ¾ in.] [30.2 h.p. rated engine measured exactly at 224.1 cu in.]. The Opel engine became 90 x 95 m.m. Bore & Stroke, the nearest Metric equivalent, or 3.5433 x 3.74015 ", for 3,626 c.c. [Rated at 30.1 h.p., producing 86 b.h.p. @ 3,200 r.p.m.]. The Opel engine had a 6:1 compression ratio as against the Chevrolet 6.25:1, and used the same transmission ratios as the Chevrolet: 2.94:1, 1.68:1 and 1.0:1. The "Super Six" had a 6-cylinder overhead valve engine of 80 x 82 m.m., the Bore being the same as the 1,488 c.c. 1937 Olympia, but with a longer Stroke. However, it is clear that the 2.5 litre unit was based on Chevrolet engines, as it fitted into the same engine bay as the American engine!

Norm Darwin has a copy of a Report by G.M.-Holden's Chief Engineer J.K Stuart in 1939. It referred to the U.S./Canadian Holden-bodied cars.


We had designed the 1938 Vauxhall Wyvem Sedan [H-type] to use a side panel pressed from one sheet of metal and this model had, by this time, been in production long enough to demonstrate its practicability, advantages and disadvantages."

It seems that following the success of the Vauxhall side panel Holden's went on to change to the same type of pressing for all their bodies. This method of construction eliminated welded intersections at the door openings and provided better sealing and less distortion.

Although production of Vauxhall's 14 h.p. unitary construction J-type began in October 1938 as a '39 Model, G.M.-Holden's did not start assembly until March 1939. However, some J-types were of conventional chassis design as they were intended for bodying as coupes or Caleche tourers. Pressed Steel in Cowley produced the chassis for the Vauxhall 10 h.p., 12 h.p. and 14 h.p. mechanicals. Pressed Steel also produced bodies for open versions for the British market. Holden's were thus referring to their own body style created on the chassis version of the I-type, the Model IC: the other models were the HC and JC respectively.

However, G.M.-Holden's Woodville Plant was not the only one to start assembly of these new Vauxhalls. General Motors World of August 1939 published an article on the McCairns Motors Limited assembly Plant in Dawson Street, Dublin, Eire. In November 1935 Vauxhall and Bedford Truck C.K.D. assembly had commenced in Dublin. This was the project of Tom McCairns, formerly a member of the Vauxhall Motors' Luton sales staff. McCairns resigned two years previously to become a Distributor in Eire. McCairns' project was as a result of the Irish government's determination to foster local industry through vehicle assembly by placing prohibitive tariffs on all complete units imported from abroad. This policy was announced a year after McCairns Motors Limited had been appointed a Dealer. McCairns was apparently apprehensive about going into the complete assembly of kits from England, but along with R.A. Davis, the Sales Manager of Vauxhall Motors Limited, he was amongst the first to consult with the government of the Irish Free State with regard to setting up an assembly plant.

With governmental encouragement and substantial aid from Luton, in the form of key men, staff assistants, factory experts, accountants, jigs, etc the new project went into operation in October 1935. This despite the gloomy predictions of those who viewed the matter with alarm. Despite the fact that Eire was an agricultural country, and the suggestions that the assembly operations would be crippled by scarcity of skilled labour, the Irish workman gave proof of his ability to assemble cars and trucks. The C.K.D. crated components were boxed up at the G.M. Limited Hendon Plant, and then shipped by sea. Progress was so rapid after assembly started that expansion of the small plant was necessary almost immediately. By 1939 the works covered an area of about 60,000 square ft. and had a capacity of twelve cars and trucks per-day, A very high degree of skilled labour was required as a man in the plant of that size had to be responsible for perhaps fifty or sixty operations. However, as at 1939 the McCairns product compared very favourably with the Luton product and the plant itself was the largest motor assembly enterprise in Dublin. The staff level had increased to 200, with a constant level of expansion. New ovens and spray booths of the latest type were being installed and the company had recently purchased a new site where service and sales operations could be carried on separately.

The new Vauxhall they were referring to was the new 1939 Model 14 h.p. J-type, which were assembled on jigs and then welded. If McCairns Motors Limited were able to cope with the unitary construction principle, with ease and so there was no great difficulty it appears in changing to chassis-less construction.

18. OPEL'S 1940 MODELS

Given the similarity between the Project 195-Y-13 and photographs of the proposed Opel 1940 Models, it appears that Rüsselsheim scaled-down the Detroit designs to produce, firstly, the 1940 Kadett, and then the 1940 Olympia in two versions. The earliest known photograph is of the Kadett numbered 38/4996 of 1938 being a study of the new two-door 1.2 litre 4-cylinder [1195 c.c.]. The front end is reminiscent of the '39 Buick although the rest of the body is pure Opel. The next design study is of the Kadett 40, from 1939, i.e. a 1940 Model. This was again a two-door model, but with detail differences that arguably show the influence of the 195-Y- projects. It would appear that the '38 Study was more of a development of the '37 unitary construction car, and the '39 Study the recipient of input to make the styling more "American" and much more like the Detroit designs. Whereas the '38 had rear bumpers, the '39 had a spare mounted at the rear without cover, and no bumpers. Altogether, a much more attractive model.

Where the Detroit influence is more obvious is in the two new Olympia series. For 1940, there were 2-door, 4-door and a cabriolet version of the Olympia Standard, which was to equate to the previous year's "de Luxe" model: this was in fact the Olympia spezial Model K38, sold in the U.K. as the Olympia Master. The third line was the new Olympia de Luxe. The de Luxe was not available in cabriolet version. The new series were to be Kadett 4400; Olympia Standard 4500 and Olympia 4600 aka Olympia Super. The Study photographs show cabriolet and 2-door de Luxe models, as well as a car with two doors on the left side and four on the right. The Olympia series were basically the same styling but with several differences.

Probably in the summer of 1939, as there is no date on the document, a confidential listing of the advance new model data for Opel cars and blitz trucks were issued to named individuals totalling 52. The distribution list shows that in the New York office, Graeme K. Howard, Edward Riley, C.R. Evans, and W.T. Whalen were listed, and yet not James D. Mooney: this suggests that Mooney had sent out the Advance Model listing. Evans was apparently Assistant Sales Manager for Cars and Trucks in the Export Division in the February 1938 chart. There were also copies for "Detroit Operations", including W.D. Appel; the Regional Directors including A.J. Wieland for West Europe, D.F. "Dave" Ladin for North Europe, H.B. Phillips of Australasia, and G.N. [Guy Nicholas "Nick"] Vansittart for the British Isles. Copies were significantly sent to L.J. Hartnett, J. Storey and N.A. Pointer at Melbourne, J.R. Holden and J.K. Stuart at Woodville, and various named persons at Rüsselsheim including Cyrus R. Osborn, Elis Sterner "Pete" Hoglund. Thus various key Regional Directors and G.M.-Holden's managers were fully aware of these new 1940 Models long before production was scheduled to start.

It was stated that 1939 Model production was to end in stages: Kadett Standard and Kadett de Luxe [Kadett Normal KJ38 and Kadett spezial K38] on 20 November 1939, and Olympia on 14 February 1940. The new model production was to start in stages after a shutdown: Kadett production to start 1 February 1940 [including 2-door Cabrio-Coach]; Olympia Standard 2-door Coach 15 February as well as Olympia Standard 2-door Cabrio-Coach; the Olympia Standard 4-door Sedan on 1 May; Olympia de Luxe 4-door Sedan 1 April, and Olympia de Luxe 2-Door Coach 15 May. Announcement of these new models was to be made mid-February 1940. The codes for the 2-door Coach were LZ; the 2-door Cabrio-Coach CL, and 4-door Sedan LV.

The Kapitän was to be, in general, the same as the 1939 Models with minor changes to be announced later, and the Admiral was to be in general the same as 1939 as well. All 1939 Model Blitz truck chassis in the 1 ½ Ton and 3 Ton chassis range were to be continued without change, and the 1 Ton would be discontinued at the end of 1939.

The 1940 Model passenger cars had entirely new styling with newly designed front ends, hoods and fenders, with "entirely new" bodies in the case of the Kadett with increased roominess and new bodies with increased shoulder width [Olympia Standard] and increased roominess [Olympia de Luxe]. The frames of the Kadett were modified 1939 underbodies to accommodate a new type front axle. The Olympia Standard had a modified 1939 Olympia underbody to take a new S.L.A. front suspension. The de Luxe had a new underbody to take the new S.L.A. front suspension and increased body size. Rear axles were also changed: in the Kadett there was a wider tread and different rear axle ratio; the Olympias had a new design of rear axle with a different ratio. Transmissions were three-speed [Kadett] and four-speed [Olympia] as before. Steering was by modified worm and sector type in each model. There were a number of differences in the engines: the Kadett had a larger capacity 1,195 c.c. sidevalve unit [72.9 cu. in.] with a 6.75:1 compression ratio. The Olympias had the same 1,488 c.c. capacity [90.8 cu. in.] but with a 6.5:1 compression ratio for increased performance and economy.

Where there were significant differences was in the body styles and dimensions. The Kadett Series 4400 had a 93.1 in. wheelbase, up by 1 inch with a 46.5 in. front tread, up 3 in., and 48 in. rear with a 2 in. increase. The overall length of the body was increased by 3.7 in. to 153.7 in. The Olympia Standard Series 4500 had a 94.3-inch wheelbase, reduced by 1.4 in., with the same treads as the Kadett, which meant a 3-inch increase in the front and reduction of 1.2 in the rear. Overall length was now 160.2 in. compared with the 1939 158.3 in. The de Luxe model [or Super] Series 4600 had a 97.2 in. wheelbase, increased 1.5 in. on 1939, with a 46.5 inch front tread, increased 3 in., and 50.4 in. rear, increased 1.2 in. Overall length had gone to 163.4 in., up from 158.3 of the 1939 Models. The de Luxe models had a luggage compartment accessible from the outside as well as the interior, Front end designs were all-new on the Olympias, with entirely new front end sheet metal, plus an Alligator-type hood hinged at the dash, new streamlined front and rear fenders, and a new rear deck panel.

Right-hand drive equipment was optional on all models, and there was a possibility for the installation of defroster equipment, heater and radio. Whether these were meant to be factory options or locally-fitted is not known though a combination of both is likely.

Note that the Olympia de Luxe had a wheelbase just under 5 inches shorter than the 195-Y-13/-15. All new cars had unitary construction bodies, as did the Kapitän, and all had new type independent S.L.A. front suspension.

These new car models were, understandably, not the only Opels being developed. Tests were carried out on new designs of engines, for instance, including air-cooled 2-stroke diesel engines. From 1939, new designs of trucks were conceived which were years ahead of their time: the Type 6500S. These were conventional long-hood designs similar to the 1941 Model Chevrolets and GMC's, and a more modern short-hood type with a cab-over-engine forward-control design, again owing much to the 1941 Chevrolet/G.M.C. trucks. Either 4 x 2 or 4 x 4 "Allrad" drive was available. It would appear though that these were intended as 1941 Models as the first styling photographs were presented in November 1940. Ford-Werke A.G. had take advantage of U.S. cab styling to replace their 1939 U.S. 1938-9 cabs and also introduced a new Cab-over-Engine design of their own; it is not surprising that Adam Opel performed a similar update, albeit for 1941 or possibly 1942 Model Year. [1]

None of these models were sold new, though the styling prototypes remained at Rüsselsheim, only to be bombed by the U.S.A.A.F. in 1942, and then 1944. The 2-door/4-door Olympia De Luxe styling buck survived in heat-damaged condition to be photographed by the U.S. forces post-war. Because of the war, car production slumped in 1940, and consisted of held-over 1940 Models. Having said that, it appears that the 1940 Models were available for production in any post-war environment, should peace be declared. Car production was as follows:

1939 1940
Kadett Standard KJ 38: 5,089 376
Kadett 38 22,004 899
Olympia 38 36,954 3,193
Kapitän 39 23,755 952
Admiral 38 3,056
P4-Lieferwagen 3,335 410

It appears that Kadett manufacture ended around February 1940, though the last Kapitän was apparently assembled in October 1940 just after the millionth Opel was produced, and Olympia production ended in November 1940.

The only possible part of the design that made it to production was the independent front coil spring suspension with cantilever rear springing. These debuted on the 1947 Model Olympia Oly47, which was essentially a revision of the 1939 Models. There seems to be no comparison bodywise with the proposed 1940 Models. However, the 1947 models' replacements did indeed owe much to the 1940 Models: see below!


If G.M.-Holden's were to assemble Opel cars under licence, using certain essential parts sourced from Germany, how would they have been paid for? The evidence suggests beyond reasonable doubt that there would have been imports via the General Motors Limited Southampton Plant, as this would have rendered them "British" for the purposes of Australian legislation as well as for the purposes of the Ottawa Agreement 1937. Imperial Preference would have not just ensured lower import duties, but avoided licensing quotas, bounties, etc. The Southampton Plant would in turn have received imports from the General Motors Continental Plant in Antwerp, Belgium, transported by British shipping line. Presumably the imports were paid for in Belgian Francs or Sterling, or were bartered. Extrapolating back again, Opel components were railed from Rüsselsheim and Brandenburg through Aachen on the Belgian-German border, and the Antwerp operation must have exchanged Reichsmarks for Francs in an exchange and barter arrangement. This could have worked in several ways: Belgian exporters to Germany would have received payment in Francs in Belgium from G.M.

Here is an extrapolated example of how this could have been achieved: G.M. Continental, Antwerp, ordered from German exporter Adam Opel A.G., Opels costing 900,000 registered marks. Antwerp then purchased $270,000 worth of chemicals from American firm DuPont at $270,000, which was ¾ of the dollar value of 900,000 registered marks. Antwerp had the chemicals shipped from New York to the Port of Antwerp, and then sent them by rail through Aachen by way of sale, to the German firm I.G. Farben who were interested in buying U.S. chemicals. On receipt of the chemicals, I.G. Farben deposited a credit of 900,000 registered marks with Adam Opel, G.M. G.m.b.H. or their bank in Berlin, in the name of G.M. Continental, as importer of German Opels. Adam Opel then railed the Opels to Antwerp via Aachen as well. DuPont never shipped any chemicals to G.M. Continental, though they went through the Port Antwerp, but only posted invoices for such chemicals, and G.M. Continental in turn posted invoices to I.G. Farben. This also worked for copper or petroleum from 1934 onwards. However, the importation of chemicals is cited here in view of the relationship between G.M. Corporation, I.G. Farben, the Du Pont Corporation, and Standard Oil [later Exxon, and Esso]. For "chemicals" could be substituted "patents", "process information", etc.

Why would G.M.-Holden's not barter direct with Germany for the sale of wool, as had been discussed in 1935-36? It is unlikely that Australia had anything else that the Germans wanted for their own hidden agenda. The answer is that the Principal Supply Officers' Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence [which had direct contacts with Principal Supply Officers or equivalent in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and no doubt South Africa] tried to pilot through the 1937 Imperial Conference an agreement with Canada concerning wartime supplies of bauxite [aluminium ore] and aluminium itself. The Conference pronounced against any commitments in peacetime for the supply of raw materials in war [2]. However, the plan was not abandoned, and on July 1938 the C.I.D. itself revived the proposals and in the autumn of 1938 the Board of Trade entered into negotiations with Empire producers for the bulk purchase of a number of commodities, initially lead, zinc and wool. The contract for the purchase of the entire wool clip of Australia and New Zealand was finally concluded in October 1939. The Ministry of Supply was established in August 1939, and the Ministry then immediately established the Raw Materials Department, which was then subjected to diktats from the War Cabinet's Materials Priority Sub-Committee by the end of October 1939. Wool, aluminium and bauxite were treated as "essential" commodities amongst others, and subjected to statutory controls of licensing, purchase and distribution as part of the first war legislation passed. However, allocations of wool did not start in the U.K. until March 1940 [6], reflecting delays in collecting the orders, shipping them to the U.K., and then storage. Given the extreme priority given by Whitehall to the acquisition of wool for uniforms, coats, blankets, etc., and the acceptance of sterling in Australasia, as well as maintenance of exports in reverse trade, there would have been no wool to exchange with Germany from 1938 to some time after cessation of hostilities even if the war had ended in the autumn of 1940. A convoluted process as outlined would have had to be used, and of course General Motors Corporation gained at every stage!

Reference is made above to Adam Opel A.G. being the exporter of Opel cars. However, Bundesarchiv records show that General Motors G.m.b.H. was still extant in 1942, and because of the relationship between this company and Opel, and G.M. subsidiaries in adjoining countries, the exports could have been handled through this company instead. In 1925 (possibly 1 April), General Motors G.m.b.H. was founded in Berlin, to import into Germany the products of G.M. Export Company, (New York), G.M. International A/S (Copenhagen) and G.M. Continental S.A. (Antwerp) under control. G.M. G.m.b.H. also promoted these companies. The German import restrictions meant that G.M. G.m.b.H. was a sales office initially, placing its orders with G.M. Export Company in New York G.M. Continental in Antwerp, and G.M. International in Copenhagen. When the import restrictions were lifted in 1925, G.M. G.m.b.H. secured a warehouse in the Hamburg [free trade area]. It has been claimed that in 1926, G.m.b.H. moved to Berlin-Charlottenhütte and Berlin-Borsigwalde in co-operation with Berlin-Karlsruher Industriewerke and Schweitzer & Oppler Eisenfabrikate. General Motors World explained that G.m.b.H. moved to Berlin in late 1926, which was presumably Berlin-Borsigwalde. In October 1927, the larger Karslruher Plant was leased and remodeled, and all assembly operations had been carried on in this, larger, building, by the end of December 1927. [7]

General Motors' German office headquarters were located at "Wiesbaden", Berlin, and this headquarters also served as the official headquarters of Adam Opel A.G. for the purposes of meetings and discussions with the German government and in 1929 as the base from which G.M. negotiated the acquisition of Adam Opel A.G. Looking at the 1937 City Map of Berlin shows that on the left side of the Charlottenburger Straße (Charlottenburg is a district of Berlin), there was a large industrial building listed as "General Motors G.m.b.H." and "Berlin-Karlsruher Industriewerke". Berlin-Karlsruher Industriewerke (B.K.I.) was formerly Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken. On 23 February 1929, the Vereinigten Kugellager-Fabriken A.G. was founded (United Ball-Bearing-Factories). The initiative came from the Svenska Kullager-Fabriken A/B of Gothenburg, Sweden. On 2 January 1930 B.K.I. acquired part of this A.G. B.K.I. sold its Wälzlagerabteilung (Roller-Bearing-Departement) to the A.G. and closed its plant in Berlin-Wittenau. [8]

An interesting connection here is that L.C. Fitzgerald, was appointed production manager of the Southampton factory in 1938. He joined General Motors Export in 1926, and was subsequently made Production Manager of General Motors International [Copenhagen]. In 1927 Fitzgerald was appointed works manager in Berlin, and was transferred to Brazil in 1932. Frederick R. Gibson, joined General Motors in 1923 [working for General Motors Acceptance Corporation in London]. He then served in G.M. Near East, USA, Puerto Rico, Germany and England [becoming Treasurer of G.M. Limited by 1938].

General Motors World [9] states that truck assembly ended at the end of 1931, and G.m.b.H. operations were placed under the jurisdiction of G.M. Continental [under G.N. Vansittart as Managing Director] and set up as a Zone Office. H.F. Hansen was appointed as Manager at G.m.b.H. by mid-1934.

According to a report in 1943 in the Bundesarchiv, G.M. G.m.b.H. had a capital of 1 million RM and was owned by General Motors Corporation in New York. However, control [by 1936?] was in the hands of the G.M. Export Company, New York, G.M. International and G.M. Continental. This seems to be correct as I April 1932, G.M. (France) was transferred to the jurisdiction of G.M. Continental and, as with G.m.b.H., was regarded as a Zone under the Antwerp operations.

By 1939 the Committee of Control, or Board of Directors was:

JAMES DAVID MOONEY, Director General Motors Limited and Adam Opel A.G.
GRAEME K. HOWARD, G.M. V-P, General Manager of G.M.O.O. until 1940
CYRUS C. OSBORN, also a director of G.M. CONTINENTAL, and G.M. SUISSE?
ELIS S. "PETE" HOGLUND, Also a director of G.M. CONTINENTAL?, G.M. SUISSE and also a director of ADAM OPEL A.G.

Osborn served in the Great War as a Private in the U.S. Army. Post-war, he became Managing Director of General Motors Nørdiska, Stockholm, and then Assistant to the General Manager of G.M. Export Division in New York, then General Manager of Adam Opel A.G., and finally Vice-President of General Motors, New York. Mooney was a Director of General Motors Limited at the time. C.R. Osborn fled from Belgium in 1940 back to the U.S. after the country was invaded. However, Hoglund was in Bienne in Switzerland [as a Director of G.M. Suisse] when Antwerp was bombed, and it appears from the Reich Commissar records that Hoglund was granted a general Power of Attorney over Adam Opel A.G. in March 1940, and did not leave Germany for another year [February 1941: he was the last American in G.M.'s German operations to leave for New York]. He then transferred the P. of A. to Mooney's/G.M.'s Attorney in Berlin, Heinrich Richter. Hoglund was later General Manager of General Motors Overseas Operations from 1959 to 1961, in succession to Edward C. Riley, and post-war a Director of General Motors Limited.

The Company Report says that G.M. G.m.b.H. ceased trading in April 1937 but was not liquidated, and was then resuscitated in the summer of 1940. It appears that 239 Chevrolet cars were sold which were imported from G.M. Export Company in N.Y.C., delivered in February 1935. In the final year of 1937, just 12 Chevrolet cars were sold. The question is why was the dormant company resuscitated in 1940? Was it because it was intended to be the trading company for Opel components? We do know that the company manufactured AC Oil filters from 1937 in Berlin, as well as Frigidaire appliances by Frigidaire G.m.b.H. until 1939 when Adam Opel A.G. acquired Frigidaire and moved some production to Rüsselsheim.


G.M.-Holden's had advance information on the new 1940 Opels, and were evidently prepared to assemble these cars under licence. However, this did not provide a solution to Hartnett's all-consuming desire to produce his own car, and also the requirement for a larger, bigger-capacity model for the Australian market.

Hartnett therefore oversaw a detailed styling exercise by the Woodville design group for a new all-Australian car, labelled Project 2200. Mr Darwin has confirmed that dates on the original draft studies, entitled "Car Manufacture Study Vol. II Technical Aspects", shows statistics were drawn up in late 1939, and appears to have been written in May or June 1940 with a graph of petrol/gasoline prices apparently ending in May 1940. The initial proposal was for a 107 in. wheelbase car, which had strong G.M. styling cues, as can be imagined. The styling painting by air-brush shows a remarkable similarity to the 1939 Model Opel Kapitan Sedan. The tread was 56 ½ in., with a curb weight of 2,650 to 2,750 lb., though the engine was a 22.5 h.p. 143.6 cu. in. side-valve 6-cylinder unit.

By mid-1940, Project 2200 had metamorphosed into a much larger car of 111½ in. wheelbase, comparable with the 1940 Chevrolet of 113 in. wheelbase and Ford of 112 in. This later design was then translated into a clay scale model, and the essential information set down in a 5-volume study which was then sent with a formal request, to New York, logically to the HQ of General Motors Overseas Operations, entitled "Motor Car Manufacture in Australia. 5th June 1940". This loose-leafed book set out each engineering aspect of what G.M.-H.'s engineers thought was an ideal specification for their all-Australian car. In the author's opinion, they ought to have known what would stand up to local conditions! This is perhaps better illustrated in Mr Darwin's comments that in the chapter on Body Data, the report states "The engine has been kept well forward and follows closely the position in relation to the front axle of the engine in the Opel Kapitän". It then goes on to say that the engine capacity and size were very similar to that of the Opel [Kapitän Model Kpt-39]. In the chapter on "Frame Data" it states "Either integral or conventional [i.e. separate chassis] depending on engineering considerations. Both types have been designed and tested in Australia for both sedans and utes. There are no sales preferences for either type". Later, in the study this latter section was changed to read "separate frame proposed". Mr Darwin, in the author's opinion, correctly, asserts that "whilst the G.M.-H. engineering team at Woodville and Fishermen's Bend knew of the "Light Car Project" but ignored it, preferring instead to start with a clean sheet of paper and drew up a specification that they believed was ideal for Australian conditions and market". This would explain why New York sent out detailed advance information on the new 1940 Model Opels, which were to go into production between mid-February and May 1940. If G.M.-H. were being dictated to that they had to assemble at least the smaller-capacity Kadett and Olympia models, then this left the requirement for an Australian equivalent of the Kapitän: a smaller-capacity car compared with the 1940-1 Chevrolet.

It is interesting to note that there seems to have been comparison with a test Kapitän Sedan. The Kpt-39 was available in three versions, two-door Coach; 4-door Sedan, or Limousine; and 2-door Cabrio-Coach. All three were of unitary construction, though the cabriolet version evidently had under-frame strengthening a kin to a separate chassis. Where the Australian and German cars differed is in their engines: the Kapitän had a 150.0 cu. in/ 2,473 c.c. overhead-valve unit that had seen service in Opels and Chevrolets, as well as commercial vehicles. The G.M.-H. specification called for a slightly smaller, 2.2 litre [?] sidevalve unit that would have bridged the gap between the 1.5 litre Opel, the 1.8 litre Vauxhall 14 h.p., and the 3.5 litre 29 h.p. Chevrolet 216.5 cu. in unit. Side-valves were to be used as per the '40 Kadett [1.2 litres], Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, GMC trucks, and would have been not only cheaper to produce locally, but arguably easier to maintain "in the Bush". Having said that, Opel's Super-Six derived unit was launched in 1937 with heavy publicity showing that it was state-of-the-art, with higher efficiency and better fuel consumption that an L-head/sidevalve design [have copies of their publicity material]. L-heads were therefore a backward step!

Walter D. Appel, Chief Engineer at G.M.O.O. in New York, evidently received the representation and his people quickly noticed the similarity to the specification to Lou Thoms' 6 cylinder project car, 195-Y-17, which is not surprising. Appel, who had been Vauxhall & Opel Liaison Engineer for G.M.O.O. of course, wrote to G.M.-Holden's on 14 October 1940 in reply, with a list of comments. He said that he [and his team] had noticed a similarity between the G.M.-H. specification and the Light Car Project 195-Y-17, and made various comments, criticising the Hotchkiss drive and worm-and-roller steering box. Appel opined that Australia needed an open drive rear axle and recirculating ball steering. The G.M. Research Laboratories in Detroit were at that time only too willing to take the 195-Y-17, and rework it, including building of two prototypes. However, war commitments and possible other pressures put a hold on the furtherance of the 2200 exercise.

Mr Darwin asserts that it was when the Thoms' group became aware of the Project 2200 that the Light Car Project had its first influence on the Australian concept. However, it remains a query as to what extent the Opel Kapitän styling and engineering had on 2200. As a consequence was it at that point that expertise based in Russell Begg's 1935 Olympia design finally come together in Detroit? There was it seems parallel development and styling with more of a tenuous connection on the Australian side through G.M.-H. assessment of the Kapitän.

I had at one stage queried whether Hartnett had deliberately overseen a development of the 1939 and 1940 Opels to stand any chance of getting approval. This would have used the benefit of Opel's unitary construction data. However, this was evidently not the case: Hartnett had overseen a new design with nodding reference to the Opel Kapitän, and with experience of not only the Vauxhall J-type, but also Chevrolet, Vauxhall, Bedford, bodies using chassis-mounted bodies, and also the same but strengthened for the mounting of Utility bodies. The author is mindful here of Ford of Australia's adaptation of the unitary construction 1951 Model Mark 1 Consul and Zephyr, which used Earle MacPherson's front suspension [see below], into a utility. Ford of Britain refused to believe that a unitary construction body could be strong enough for the task, completely forgetting that the Australians had had over fifteen years' experience at Utility assembly and design. The 1957 Model Mark 11 Zephyr was successfully turned into a Utility with a cruciform strengthening arrangement in the base of the floorpan, and the "Ute" went into production. Dagenham's own design of "Pick-Up" designed by Briggs Motor Bodies was arguably more aesthetic, but expressed no concept of practicality. G.M.-H. also successfully adapted Vauxhall and Bedford platforms to Utility vehicles, with great success; Luton's only efforts were the 1955/6 Pick-up on the 4-cylinder/6-cylinder E-series platform which went nowhere, and its descendant, the 1961 Bedford JO model, combining the 2.6 litre PA-series Vauxhall 6-cylinder engine and the smallest Bedford J-type cab. The result of the latter ran from 1961 to 1966, and was a pathetic load carrier with a 10 cwt./ ½ Ton capacity. There is no question with hindsight that the Australians knew best what would cope with their indigenous conditions, though they have had to put up with dictates from Detroit and Dearborn as to what was thought that the Australians needed. Hartnett arguably came closest pre-1962 to overcoming this handicap.


These are the comparisons between the 195-Y-15 and Project 2200:

195-Y-15 Holdens' specification for assembly
W/base [in.] 102 107 [later 111½ in.]
Engine capacity [cu. in.] 144 149.6 [previously 22.5 h.p. 143.6 cu. in. ]
Length [in.] 169 165-166
Weight [lbs.] 2060 2550-2750 [previously 2,650-2,750 lb. curb wt.]

Given the longer wheelbase and extra 11 in. in the length and additional 500Ibs weight, 195-Y-17 would have needed a bigger body somewhat, comments Mr Darwin.

Hartnett already knew the existence of Projects 195-Y-13/-15/-17 anyway, but decided to start with a clean sheet of paper. We know that Hartnett knew of the Chevrolet Light Car Project in 1940, because Harry Phillips, the G.M. Overseas Operations' Pacific Regional manager had written to Walter Appel, with a copy to Hartnett discussing the similarities between G.M.-Holden's Project 2200 and the Design Group Project 195-Y-17. He had already had advance information, as had Hartnett and others at G.M.-Holden's of the 1940 Opels. Further, a report of the Light Car Project was appended to the Holden Australian Car Study of 1940. The answer to this conundrum appears to be that the report sent refers to the scaled-up longer wheelbase 195-Y-17, which Hartnett might not have known of. The information about the Light Car project had been evidently distributed throughout the G.M.O.O. empire, and I propose that Hartnett put in train the Project 2200 as an Australian alternative loosely based on the L.C.P. cars, as well as the '40 Opels. Opel had evidently gone one stage further and turned their interpretation of the L.C.P. designs into prototype stage.

Mr Darwin has produced some of Holden's comparative specifications for their early Australian car (early 1940 proposal) as presented in the aforesaid 5-volume appraisal. The suggested Australian car was compared to 9 cars on sale in Australia in 1940. These included the Standard 12/4 h.p., the Vauxhall 14h.p. J-type, the Austin 16h.p., Willys, Studebaker, Hudson 6-cylinder, Plymouth from Chrysler, Ford 85 h.p. V-8 from Canada and the 1940 Chevrolet Master. Also compared were a Ford 60 h.p. with the British Ford 22h.p. V-8, the Vauxhall 12h.p. I-type and a 1939 Model Opel Kapitan: [Opel's unitary construction 2.5 litre plus [150.1 cu. ins.] 6-cylinder car]. This comparison with the Kapitan seems to be the confirmation of the inter-relationship between Opel and Chevrolet pre-war, and also confirms that at least one Kapitan was exported to Australia. Not mentioned before was that the Kapitän Model Kpt-39 was an amalgam of engineering and styling from Detroit and Rüsselsheim. The rear seems to owe a lot to the 1935-on G.M.-H. "Sloper" body, especially relevant in the 2-door Coach version. Conversely, G.M.-H.'s September 1938-on Convertible Cabriolet body on the 3.5 litre Vauxhall GY chassis is very similar to the Kapitän Cabrio-Coach body, as was the 1939-40 Convertible Coupe. Mr Darwin in his book suggested that the Australian body owed something to the 1937 Kadett Cabriolet Model K-37. The Kapitän front end owes a lot to the 1939 Oldsmobile F-39, although the major difference was that the Kapitän had front headlamps incorporated in the front fenders, which was way ahead of Detroit. Having said that, there is a clear resemblance with the proposed G.M.-H. body for Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac

The following are some related body manufacturing costs for Chevrolet & Vauxhall for 1940. The Chevrolet was imported as a chassis only, and bodied by Holden with their own design body, as was the Vauxhall 10 h.p. H-type, the chassis being built at Luton [the HI model, or HC commercial chassis]. The Vauxhall 14 h.p. was the unitary construction JB model, assembled from Luton-built kits. All cars were 4-door sedans or saloons.

Chevrolet 4dr Vauxhall l4 h.p. Vauxhall 10 h.p.
Materials £A 47. 6.2 38. 2.0 34.1.0
Labour Costs/hrs. 16. 6.4 (135 hrs) 15.16.0 (131 hrs) 14.5.4(118hrs)
Overheads 24.14.3 24.14.7 22.6.7
Tooling 6.18.5 5.0.4 4.3.3
Total 95. 5.2 83.12.11 74.16.2
Freight costs 6.15.7 5.15.6 5.10.1

(To assembly plants-equalised)

Cost to Assembly plant:
£102.0.9 £89. 8.5 £80. 6.3

Chevrolet Vauxhall 14 h.p. Vauxhall 10 h.p.

Imported cost (Completely Knocked Down or C.K.D. kits):
£49.15.9 £ 61.8.2 £47.0.11

Assembly costs: £87.02.8 £ 52.17.0 £45. 9.8

Cost to Assembly Plant:
£136.18.5 £114. 5.2 £92.10.7

You can see why the bodies were made in Australia. It is tempting to say that this was an academic comparison given the outbreak of war, which prevented exports for civilian purposes, though in reality the British Government were anxious to retain export deliveries in order to bring in foreign currency.

Mr Darwin maintains that the construction of a unitary construction car at Holden's was no great enterprise, given that there is so little recorded about it. It seems that on release, in March/April 1939, the J-type 14 h.p. was not touted as something special or different, just another Vauxhall. The competence of the McCairns Motors assembly operations in Dublin seems to bear this out.

Mr Darwin also suggests that the projects 195-Y-13 and 15 were nothing to do with Chevrolet, except that they built the test cars: which was in fact not correct. Fisher Body Engineering in Detroit, G.M.'s body making subsidiary, constructed the bodies. Further, General Motors Overseas Division dictated which models were to be exported and assembled overseas and directed the General Motors' Divisions to produce what they stated were required. However, Chevrolet was in a rather special position, because by far the majority of overseas-assembled cars and commercial vehicles were in fact badged as "Chevrolets", and this position is maintained today: "Chevrolet" is a name that is in common parlance, and consequently Chevrolet Engineering undertook work for right-hand drive cars and commercial vehicles under contract to G.M.O.D. Even so, the fact that Earle MacPherson and M.E. Coyle were involved with the projects shows that Chevrolet Division was very much in control, with G.M.O.D. taking advantage of the Chevrolet Division's engineering and finance.

War demands evidently put paid to any immediate developments, until 1943 when Holden started a study project, which lead to the 25 October 1944 "Australian Post War Car Manufacturing Program". Sloan says in his book My Time With General Motors, that in 1942 he suggested setting up a Post War Planning Policy Group inside G.M. Corporation. The Group was entrusted with the responsibility of making estimates of the future world political landscape, and of recommending future G.M.'s policies abroad. Sloan appointed himself chairman of the Group, and Edward C. Riley, a G.M. vice-president and General Manager of the Overseas Division, undertook to provide Sloan and the group a detailed summary of the best available thinking on the political and economic situation in the post-war world. This he did by letter dated 23 February 1943. After studying Riley's report and other evidence, the Overseas Policy Group under Albert Bradley adopted in June 1943 a statement dealing with the Corporation's plans for future overseas expansion after the war: entitled "Policy Governing Matters Dealing with Postwar Industrialization in Overseas Countries" which governed Riley's and the Overseas Operations Divisions since the end of the war! [10]. The statement maintained that "G.M. does not believe that the basic conditions required to support complete manufacture of cars and trucks exist or will be found to exist for some time in any countries abroad which did not already have such manufacture before the war. An exception to the above is Australia". Only in Australia, therefore, would there be an intention to acquire a new manufacturing base abroad, post-war. This statement must have then been sent out to interested parties, including the Regional Directors, and thus to G.M.-Holden's, to reach the desk of L.J. Hartnett. In 1943, Holden engineers had anticipated the peacetime requirements, probably spurred on by, amongst others, the Motor Dealers and Garages Association who had in 1942 commented on the engineering skills and expertise gained by the munitions production and military contracts, and rightly claimed that this would have a post-war influence on the Australian motor industry, particularly in respect of the establishment of an indigenous car building industry. The problem was, as in other British Commonwealth countries: what to do to return to peacetime production and also satisfy the pent-up demand for vehicles. There was also, not it seems mentioned widely if at all in print, that there was going to be a shortage of dollars for importing vehicles. In late 1943, Alfred P. Sloan, consequently advised Hartnett that G.M. Corporation would not be averse to receiving a submission from G.M.-H. for an Australian car. Sloan advised the Australians to send over to the U.S. a series of presentations dealing with all major factors. Anticipating the possibility of at last manufacturing an all-Australian car, on 20 December 1943 Hartnett called a meeting of the top five G.M.-H. engineers with a request that they start work on an experimental Australian car rather than an assembled body and sheet metal exercise. The result of this brief was initially to be kept secret from New York "in case they got the wrong idea". Hartnett had dug out the Project 2200 design which had been conceived and modelled at Woodville in 1940, based on a wheelbase of 107 in., and later 111 in.: this was the subject of the 5-volume report sent to New York, referred to below. The revised Project 2200 was derived from the original 1940 Project 2200, and turned into a 1/8 scale model. This was evidently intended to be a proposed 1942 model with either U.S. Aero-sedan or Notch Sedan styling, and was varied as might be expected to become a "1943 Model". The late-1943 meeting discussed and took in various relevant factors, including economy of 30 m.p.g., light weight, materials, tax and registration levels post-war, and the types of steel that B.H.P. could produce.

At the same time as G.M.'s machinations, the Australian Government opened preliminary talks with most motor companies and L.J. Hartnett were naturally one of the first approached. In 1944 the Secondary Industries Assistance Commission was established under the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction, chaired by John K. Jensen [later Sir John], which was to look to returning industry to peacetime activities [the file Series # MP394/1 5/81/102 Part 3 refers to a proposal for a Finsbury factory]. With the change of Government that year, under the Labour Party Prime Minister John Curtin, was the Treasurer and Minister for Post-War reconstruction, Ben Chiffley. In the first half of 1944, Hartnett met with Jensen and discussed with him what could be done with all of the experience that Holden's had gained from the manufacture of munitions. When Hartnett and Chiffley met, the Minister expressed doubt that the overseas controlled concerns would become involved with a motor manufacturing programme, and asked Hartnett what steps should be taken to proceed. Hartnett replied, correctly, that nothing could be done until the Motor Vehicle Agreement Act was abolished as only A.C.I. had statutory permission to build cars in the country. Sloan says in his book that the Australian Government had officially invited G.M. and others to submit proposals for an all-Australian car in October of 1944. What actually seems to have happened is that probably following on from the Hartnett-Chiffley meeting, the Department of Trade and Customs issued an invitation to companies engaged in, or likely to, the assembly of motor vehicles or manufacture of components, to submit a proposal to the Government outlining their plans for the manufacture of complete cars in Australia. It was stated that the M.V.A.A. and the Motor Vehicle Bounty Act would be repealed, that the question of using Government war production factories should be borne in mind [was this the Finsbury Factory?], that a freight equalisation scheme would be effected to aid the decentralisation of the industry, and finally, the "sting": if private enterprise failed to do so, then the Government would consider setting up a corporation to manufacture complete cars. Hartnett took this on board, and in view of the fact that so much work had been done by G.M.-H. by November 1944, it would appear that he had either advance knowledge of the request or had already put wheels in motion.

Mr Darwin says that on 20 September 1944, the Leader of the Senate in Canberra was requested to state the Government's policy on local manufacture of engines and chassis, and that this was the formal catalyst for the D.T.C. invitation. Presumably after Sloan had sounded-out Hartnett, by January 1944 G.M.-H. received a formal questionnaire from G.M.O.O. in New York asking what the Overseas Division subsidiaries' natural and industrial resources were. The terms of this enquiry seem to suggest that it had a wide distribution, and may not have been specifically for Australia, in which case it was not necessarily dependent on Sloan's enquiry; the explanation may be that it was from Albert Bradley as Chairman of the Overseas Policy Group. The formal reply to the questionnaire was expanded from the initial late-1943 to a comprehensive local report prepared by top G.M.-H. men which included a rundown on achievements, training being carried out, research and testing facilities, and factors affecting car design in Australia. This was then sent to New York in February 1944, headed "Design Invention and Scientific Thought in Australia". Hartnett seems to have given a considerable amount of thought to all relevant factors including people's income, and the cost of running such a car. The design study that resulted as drawn up at Fishermen's Bend settled on a car weighing 2,200 lbs., seated six, had a 2.2 litre engine, and cost A£500 retail. Certain aspects of the "Projected Australian G.M. Car Sedan" as it was called were identical to "195-Y-15 Light Car Project Sedan" as it was termed. These included the 3.0 x 3.125 in. bore & stroke, 132.5 cu. in. displacement, rear axle ratio, tyres, weight, etc. However, the Australian car was projected with a 104 in. wheelbase as against the 102 in. 195-Y-15; a 53 in. versus 55.50 in. front tread and 54 versus 56.50 rear tread, and slightly reduced length [167.25 as against 170.50] width, by two inches, and height, by nearly 2 inches. The study compared the two cars with a 1940 Vauxhall 10/4 deluxe sedan, a 1940 14/6 deluxe sedan, a 1939 Opel Olympia, 1939 Opel Kapitän, 1940 Chevrolet Special De Luxe Sport Sedan, and a 1941 Chevrolet Special De Luxe Sport Sedan. This seems to confirm that G.M.-Holden's had imported at least one each of the Olympia K38 and 1939 Kapitän Model Kpt-39. Both these models were of unitary construction. The Model Kpt-39 had a 106 in. wheelbase and was nearly 182 in. long.


A copy of the Report by Hartnett exists. The cars whose specifications were compared were:


The Chevrolets were the only cars not built in unitary construction all-steel form. The Project 195-Y-15 had a quoted 6-cylinder engine of 132.5 cu. ins., with a Bore and Stroke of 3 x 3.125 in. The Kapitän had a 6-cylinder engine of 150.9 cu. ins., with a Bore and Stroke of 3.15 x 3.23 in., and a wheelbase of 106.09 in. However, the 195-Y-15 and Australian car had identical engine sizes, and a similar wheelbase of 102 and 104 in. respectively, slightly shorter than the Kapitän. In all other major respects, such as gears, fuel capacity, etc. they were identical. Thus, it seems that at this point the Australian car had effectively been adapted from the 195-Y-15.

Sloan maintains that the Overseas Policy Group had already decided to move in the direction of complete car manufacture in Australia. This may have been as a result of the previous 1944 Report, but the retrospective comments do not sit easily with the evidence at the time. Hartnett and his associate Jack Horne travelled to New York with the complete design study and more, entitled "Australia-G.M.'s Performance and Results-Manufacture of Complete Cars in Australia". This was to be personally put before the G.M. Post War Planning Policy Group committee, including a display of large photographs of the Australian operation, charts of production and freight costs, climate, population growth, vehicle numbers, productivity and sales expectations, audio-visuals of the Australian environs, and the combined efforts of a competent group of stenographers, photographers, statisticians, and experts from the various G.M.-H. divisions. This presentation was set down for 20 September 1944. However, when he arrived, Hartnett found that the reception was decidedly cool! Edward C. Riley, General Manager, G.M.O.O., was more interested in convincing Hartnett to stay in New York and take a top position. Having said that, ever the realist, Hartnett had an impediment already in the shape of Henry Phillips, the Regional Director for Australasia, who had apparently spoken against the idea, even though he had been involved in the 1940 proposals. Thus, before the actual meeting, Hartnett cabled John K. Jensen in Canberra saying that he intended to present a forcible case, and if he failed then he could be counted on to get the car making project under whatever corporate structure was considered best. The Post War Planning Group Committee then approved the plan in principle and put it to the G.M. Corporation Administration Committee on 1 November 1944. The meeting was held in the New York City H.Q. building. Attending were Alfred P. Sloan, Chairman of G.M. Corporation; Charles E. Wilson, President; L.J. Hartnett, and a selection of G.M. top executives. The intention was to sell the massive expansion programme aimed at providing G.M.-H. with the facilities to construct a complete car. The difficulties that the Australian team had to overcome to secure approval were laid down in the Post War Policy Planning Policy Group, and Riley's 23 February 1943 letter. Chairman Sloan himself as to the effect of the then-current Labour Government cast doubts, and the belief that the Australian branch was incapable of organising the expansion required to inaugurate a full-scale manufacturing project. Sloan was also not greatly impressed by Hartnett, either, which seemed to dampen proceedings. Hartnett evidently responded with nothing to lose by setting out the country's options and the likely Australian public response to moves, which G.M. or any other company might make. It was apparently a question from Wilson that directed the meeting to a new course. Wilson asked about the range of cars that was to be chosen for Australian production. The answer was that it would have to be a completely new car reflecting the needs and economics of the country and based on expected volume which would in turn dictate the extent and grade of tooling for production. This of course had been part of the presentation and documentation prepared! The logic of this answer seemed to appeal to Wilson, and his enthusiastic appreciation of it soon swung the meeting's mood around. In the end, the record of Holdens' bodywork allayed scepticism before and during the War and the phenomenal achievements in engineering, which achieved such a variety of war production. However, Sloan in his book states that the Administration Committee had pointed out to them that the Corporation was already manufacturing and a decision to go all the way was "only a question of degree"; that Australia had the skilled labour, low-cost steel and other economic foundations for an automotive producer as well as a good climate; that the alternative to manufacturing would doubtless lead to a declining share in a protected market.

The Committee therefore responded to the hard sell by the G.M.-H. team, and the authority was given to proceed accordingly, which would normally have required a submission to the G.M. Executive Committee, which was to meet in a further two months' time. Fortunately, the matter was approved even though Hartnett was forced to admit that he had a personal desire to build such a car. The agreement reached provided that, in accordance with the submissions, the Australians would be responsible for sheet metal work, and U.S. engineers would provide all possible assistance to G.M.-H. as they had for Opel and Vauxhall. All that was then required was the G.M. Finance Committee to authorise funds for the setting up of production. This was thought to be a formality since the E.C. and F.C. normally worked in harmony together. However, when the G.M. Finance Committee met three weeks later to approve the investment, they refused the allocation of corporate funds and therefore there would be no investment to proceed further. Max Gregory queries, justifiably, whether this method was chosen by those implacably opposed to the idea as a last-ditch means of having the proposals rejected, or whether if the Australian government could finance a nationalised car making effort, then it could finance the G.M.-H. proposal. Given the dollar shortage affecting the ability to purchase from the U.S., such a placement of dollars might well have been beneficial to G.M. as well as the Commonwealth. I agree with this entirely.

It was allegedly during the visit to New York that O.E. Hunt, Vice-president of Engineering, wished to provide G.M.-H. with all technical assistance. He thus had Walter D. Appel, Chief Engineer, G.M.O.O.D. take Hartnett and his team to the G.M. Milford Proving Ground and shown the Project 195-Y-13/-15 cars which were there lying idle, since they were very near the specifications of the proposed all-Australian car. However, this cannot be strictly correct, since Hartnett's team had already detailed the project 195-Y-15 car specifications. I suggest that it was either an accidental or deliberate mis-telling of the story, and what in fact happened was that Appel showed the dust-covered prototypes to show the Australians what they had perhaps only seen photographs of previously, and then suggestions were made as to how to mix-and-match componentry. The reality was that the 1940 Holden Project 2200 had been revised and improved and was then put to G.M. in New York in 1944; it was more than coincidence that it matched the Project 195-Y-15 very closely, though with a smaller 103 inch wheelbase. In addition, though not made clear in the 1944 submission, was that aspects of the 4-cylinder 195-Y-13 were also incorporated in the proposed Australian car. The 6-cylinder car 195-Y-15 was adapted to take the 4-cylinder 195-Y-13 car's independent front suspension, with a wheelbase stretched by 1 inch, a reduction in tread of 2 inches, and a raised rear axle ratio from 4.125:1 to 3.889:1, and an increased weight of 160 lb. Hartnett had been aware of the 1937/8 Light Car Project some years previously, though in any event it is academic as it made perfect sense for the new proposed Australian car to match the specification of the in-the-flesh previous project[s], which would save millions of Dollars. This had given the Financial Committee's refusal to grant corporate funds, which meant that the buck fell in Australia's lap. I wish to correct what I suggest was not a slight on the Hartnett team, but a lack of due credit on the Australian team [led by an Englishman] of the foresight to base the proposals on existing, tried, concepts.

G.M.-H. then submitted a proposal for the new All-Australian car via Mr. J.K. Jensen to the Australian Government on 5 January 1945. One of the proposals was that the constrictive legislation had to be repealed. Prime Minister J.J. Curtin replied formally on 3 February 1945, and on 22 March, the announcement of G.M.-H.'s proposal was made to the Australian Press. To be precise, when Hartnett informed Treasurer and Minister for Post War Development, Ben Chiffley of the approval, the Minister was rather surprised, though perhaps disappointed on the other hand that G.M.C. were not going to fund the project. This little matter was not to be a block: Chiffley called Mr H.T. Armitage, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, advising him of the project and subsequently when he called on the Governor, he was advised that a request had been approved for A£2.5 million. In the end, the Bank provided £2 million, with the balance of £500,000 coming from the Bank of Adelaide. This reflected their very long association with Holden's and the fact that "Ted" Holden was one of their directors: this indicated that they wished to be part of this new project.

Two Australians: Chief Draughtsman Val Stacey and Chassis Engineer Cliff Kaye were working in Detroit in the last days of 1944, working on the project specification. In addition, given the go-ahead, Walter Appel did not waste any time either and quickly drafted a plan for re-designing the new Australian car. This required four groups: Appel's General Motors Overseas Engineering Group with Russell S. Begg in charge, having been appointed Chief Engineer that year; General Motors Styling Section; General Motors Product Study group with Lou Thoms in charge, and General Motors-Holden's Engineering Team, headed by R.C. Rainsford. The Holden team may have included Charles H. Phillips, draughtsman and engineer, and then by early 1945 Bill Abbott and Tom Wylie, the Production Engineer for Woodville who had sailed for the U.S.

After authority was received to proceed, Fishermen's Bend revised Project 2200 to become the new first in a series of new proposals: Project 2000: "2000" was a G.M.-H. project number used for the company to plan capital projects, says Mr Darwin, this first version being the Detroit styling sketch which G.M.-H. adapted and built a full-size cut-out of [was "2200" derived from the rough cylinder capacity in c.c.?]. Project 2000 was turned into a series of 4 clay models, the first completed by February 1945, which reflected the original Project 2000 with amendments and improvements made thereon, then the revised 2001, then 2002 and 2003. In late 1944, Detroit designers had also produced their own version of # 2000, which is referred to below. There thus seems to have been a mutual starting-point for both teams that then acted independently for a time. Project 2001 was based solely on the G.M. styling sketch from Detroit which was labelled "2000"; 2002 and 2003 showed various side variations. Proposals 2004 to 2006 reflected different grille treatments, and 2007 and 2008 finalised G.M.-H.'s ideals for a light, cheaper, car. # 2008 debuted 1 June 1945.

At Fishermen's Bend, the Experimental Department had created a mock-up buck using a Willys power unit from a scrapped Willys 77 car found in a wrecker's yard, and a unitary construction floor pan based possibly on the Vauxhall J-type, as Vauxhall wheels were used, plus a seating buck and the eight styling concept models.

However, 2008 proceeded no further: the Australians had good grounds for thinking that the Executive Committee had given such responsibility to them, though when photographs of 2008 reached Detroit via unauthorised channels with "highly coloured" stories of its use of Willys parts, there seems to have been a return to the concerns about Hartnett's obsession with producing his own car. One interpretation of what happened is that the opinion in Detroit was that Hartnett was trying to achieve his personal aims at G.M.'s expense, incorrectly, because they could not or would not believe that so much could have been done in such a short time. Fishermen's Bend had in fact been working from December 1943 on styling and design based on G.M. engineering in several countries. The sheer talent and abilities of the Experimental Department is evident in photographs of the various styling exercises that were transmuted into full-scale paintings, scale clay models, and bucks, though such evidence would not have been available in Detroit. With the benefit of an independent viewpoint, it can be appreciated that an unfortunate misconstruction could have occurred, though it has to be queried whether personalities and professional jealousies came to the fore again. When the Americans did land at last, and were able to see the hard evidence for themselves, did they finally give their Australian colleagues an apology? Regrettably for Hartnett, after misguided opinions flew from Detroit, there was a marked depreciation in working relationships between the U.S. and Australians at top level. Further, that Project 2008 was killed off when the Australians wanted to open up a discussion about rear wheel track measurement and wheel arch intrusion and were bluntly told that henceforth, all decisions would be made in Detroit. Having said that, we know that Edward C. Riley vetoed the re-bodying of the 14 h.p. Vauxhall, proposed by Vauxhall's Chief Engineer, David "Davey" Jones. Thus it was the 12 h.p. car that was to be re-bodied to become the 1948 L-series, with the 14 h.p. six-cylinder installed therein: see below. With the demise of 2008, the advanced full-width flush-panelled line on the new car was dropped, only to be resurrected for a 1947 Australian-bodied forward-control Bedford bus.

Another interpretation is thus: it was the Project 2007 and 2008 models that were shipped to Detroit in August 1945 with a small team of engineers, where they were met by a group of G.M.O.O. engineers. The Americans were unimpressed and soon had their own interpretation prepared. Mr Darwin comments that it appears that the U.S. stylists under Harley Earl ignored the G.M.-H. clay models and simply developed their original concept, which meant going back to # 2000, which were then finalised with a reduction of the front fenders and trimmed-down rear fenders. In Detroit, the Product Study Group assigned the U.S. Project # 195-Y-25 to their own proposals for the U.S. version of Project 2000, following on from the previous U.S. series, which we know included 195-Y-17. It had by then become clear that the 1937-8 design 195-Y-15 could not be carried forward as it stood. The "Project 195-Y-25" 12 inch clay model had a swage through the body for the rear fenders, as directed by Harley Earl, the G.M. Chief designer. However, the Australian team was dismayed at the size of the rear fender that looked totally ridiculous. In the end, the swage was dropped to cut costs. Edward C. Riley, President of G.M.O.O.D. rejected Hartnett's objections to the styling, as "the risks were too great". The American clay designs were completed on 18 September 1945, and then approved three days later, using the 195-Y-15 mechanical designs in order to save considerable time drafting engine, transmission and axle.

As to the new body design, Walter Appel cautioned against the use of a lightweight highly stressed structure. He plotted figures, which indicated body efficiency, and these showed that 195-Y-25 had a ratio of passenger and luggage load equal to 120% of its body weight, which compared with 90% for a sample group of five-passenger sedans. The Opel Olympia was the existing design that came closest to the desired value, with 117%.

In Australia, although the Government had received the request for the repeal of the fettering legislation, snags arose which resulted in delays caused by bureaucratic bungling. This was only resolved by a direct appeal to the new Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Ben Chiffley, who formed a Motor Vehicle Advisory Committee to liase with Government departments such as the Department of Labour and Department of Customs. Further, the Americans selected for the new car programme were reluctant to leave the U.S. as they would have been subject to high rates of personal taxation [I imagine that they would have been subject to double-taxation in the absence of any agreement]. The Government allowed any American a tax-free period in Australia provided that Hartnett signed a certificate to the effect that no Australian could have filled the American employee's position. This then resulted in everyone wanting to come to Australia, needed or not, and when Hartnett refused to sign certificates for all and sundry, he was informed by New York that he had better do so as the team had been selected. This proved to be the "straw that broke the camel's back", and Hartnett began to receive messages regretting that he had become so out of touch with top-level thinking.

On 1 June 1945, the G.M.-H. management formally approved the post-War Australian Car Programme, and matters could then proceed apace. It seems that when styling bucks were being produced from clay and wood, that G.M.-H. seemingly dropped their "Project 2000" nomenclature, and adopted "Project 320" instead. This ultimately became the Model 48-215, introduced in 1948 just as the Vauxhall L-type debuted as well: see below. However, although "320" was the G.M.-H. Engineering reference number, issued to cover the three U.S.-built prototypes and the testing period. G.M.-H. Engineering used the "300" series until at least 1956 when a 4-digit number appeared, says Mr Darwin. G.M.-H. finance department would have used the 2000 number to collect capital costs, tooling and plant, though General Motors Overseas Operations Division used a different code: see below.

The final mechanical design had been left largely to the U.S. team[s], the Australians the body/structural design. When Hartnett returned from the U.S., Australian technicians were sent to Detroit to gain experience in the latest manufacturing and production techniques. On 23 March 1945 the ultimate clay model was commenced, and this was finally completed in Detroit on 18 September 1945, this being approved three days later by the G.M.-H. team. With Styling work completed, work started on the agreed three prototypes. On 30 August 1946, the first body structure was completed by Fisher Body Experimental Build Shop, probably in Detroit although the Flint Plant also produced low-production bodies as well. Car # 2 and # 3 followed on 3 October and 14 November respectively. The mechanical components were installed, using Blocks and Heads cast by G.M.'s contractor foundry, Campbell, Wyant and Canon of Muskegon ["CWC" casting marks]. The cars were assembled in the same building as the Projects 195-Y-13 to -17, in Detroit, and then transported to Chevrolet [at Flint?], and then on to the Milford Proving Ground where Car # 1 went through the obligatory testing and checks where 195-Y-15 had run up 25,000 miles in testing. The Proving Ground work was completed and on 4 December 1946, Cars 1, 2 and 3 and the Australian team accompanied by the 22 U.S. personnel and families [total 75] left Vancouver, British Columbia on the S.S. Wangenella for Melbourne: they had travelled on a specially chartered Canadian Pacific train from Detroit. The ship berthed 28 December 1946. The cars were transported to Fishermen's Bend, and then registered as "Chevrolets" to start rigorous testing on public roads, mainly it seems of what the British would describe as "colonial roads"!

With the three U.S.-built prototypes in hand, two further experimental cars were commenced at Woodville using a high Australian content, entitled, not surprisingly, Project 320. The first Australian prototype was completed on 22 August 1947, by when Car # 2 had completed over 30,000 miles of testing.

The "Australian Car Programme", code "AMX", as it was called by General Motors Overseas Operations. "AMX" fitted into their post-war series where every Assembly Plant or Distributor had an end-user code. An observant reader would have noticed in 1948 that G.M.O.D.'s magazine, General Motors World March-April 1948 referred to the A.C.P., and therefore would have been aware that there was something afoot going on. To supply the Australian Car Programme, G.M.O.O. agreed to the expenditure by G.M.-H. of A£750,000 on new presses and a paint shop, with £1,200,000 spent on new buildings at Fishermen's Bend for the manufacture of engines, transmissions, and other items. The first cars all ran CWC Blocks, with local castings coming in from January 1949.

On 5 April 1948 the first pilot-build Model 48-215 as it was coded, rolled down the production line, and on 29 November the first full production car was waived off by the then Prime Minister J. Ben Chiffley.

It is pertinent here to mention that the 48-215 used all Australian build components except for the carburettor which was a U.S.-build Stromberg item, and the fuel pump and instruments and panel, which were supplied by General Motors Limited's AC-Sphinx and Delco-Remy & Hyatt Divisions in Dunstable and London respectively, and the Starter Motor and Generator, which were AC-Delco items from McKinnon Industries Limited, St. Catherine's, Ontario, Canada.!

1948 production totalled 163 units, and this expanded in 1949 to 7,724, thence to 20,190 in 1950.

20. PROJECT CADET; Karl Ludvigsen, Special-Interest Autos.

Despite the suggestions that there was nothing in common with this project for a post-war light car, the similarities between the wartime Holden studies and the Post-War Project Cadet are remarkable, and explainable.

Chevrolet General Manager Coyle was still in his position in 1945. It is suggested that he was concerned that the post-war economy would go into a recession as had happened after The Great War, and again with the "Roosevelt Recession". He was thus probably likely to have agreed to support a plan for an all-new low-priced Chevrolet just as the Holden project was being approved. The aim was to produce a new Chevrolet that would sell for $1,000 or less when the cheapest Ford was $1,050. However, G.M. Chairman Alfred P. Sloan was not convinced of the need for a small car, and pushed for expansion of the company's ability to produce conventional cars in the belief that post-war the demand for large American cars was going to boom: after all he had just agreed to the Holden which was very conventional in layout although of unitary construction throughout. He was right! As a compromise between the two schools of thought, the Chevrolet Light Car Project was set up as a self-contained unit in the early Spring of 1945 with Earle MacPherson as Chief Engineer. MacPherson brought in Mr Rohrbacher to the project as Chief Design Engineer for mechanical components. On 15 May 1945 C.E. Wilson, President of G.M. announced that Chevrolet was to produce a new lighter weight and more economical car in the post-War period, but that nothing would happen until the Japanese war was over. It is suggested that MacPherson must have been involved with the Holden project, at least on the American side, as he had been in charge of the engineering of the original Light Car Project, and also because the Australian Project 2008 is very similar in overall design to the prototype Project Cadet! Cadet was designed after the Australians proposed 2008 was received, and the only major differences apart from overall size are the bodywork covering the front wheels and the grille, as well as round headlamps instead of the Australian square ones. The downward sweep of the body line is very similar to the G.M.-H. design, and so is the rear side bodywork covering the rear wheels. Either this was "common evolution" or MacPherson was influenced by the Project 2008 with which he must have been involved, at least on the periphery. If later evidence is anything to go by, MacPherson oversaw a design which had already been approved in principle, so this would be perfectly appropriate for him to do so.

Theodore E. Dougherty was appointed as Light Car Experimental Engineer, and he had to wait for experimental parts were built up as MacPherson took his time with the designs. By the Autumn of 1945 the design was materialising on paper, and that design was a front-engines, rear-wheel drive 4-door car for 4 passengers. However there were revolutionary ideas incorporated, such as tall tubular shock-absorbers with external coil springs surrounding, which became universally known as the "MacPherson Strut". Independent suspension was incorporated all round, plus diaphragm. spring inside the clutch with hydraulic actuation, innovative transmission, dual flywheels on the engine, and 4 main bearings for the slightly oversquare 6-cylinder engine. The design was of unitary construction but without reference to Fisher Body: he had compiled a huge book of typical body sections which may have been put together with the previous post-war designs.

Early in 1946, prototype cars numbers 811, 812 and 813 were produced, and in the spring the Chevrolet Light Car Division was formed with Arnold Lenz as Manufacturing Manager: Lenz had been a Manufacturing executive with Chevrolet since 1932. New factories were built, including in Cleveland, Ohio to produce all of the components. Budd Company expert Alexander Lindsay was hired to advice on reduction of road noise.

However, the Auto Workers' strike in 1945-46 delayed the a new project and by the time that the Prototype # 814 had been completed in 1947 with new ideas introduced after testing, the move away from a light car was being made. There were concerns that the public would not buy enough to make the project viable, and the conventional cars were selling so well, that the Cadet was deemed impractical. Prototype # 815, the fifth car was completed in the summer of 1947, but the project wound up by September 1948, just as the Holden was about to be launched.

MacPherson did not want to stay around whilst the project died, and in September 1947 he was approached by Ford, and went to work on the new designs which would see the 1951 British Fords use the MacPherson Strut for the first time anywhere in production, and then in 1952 he was appointed Engineering Vice-President until he retired in 1958, and then he died in 1960.

The Chevrolet Light Car Plants were used for other purposes, and the Powerglide automatic transmissions were built there. Had the project gone ahead, 10,000 workers would have been employed!

Ford had been spurred into action when they had wind of the Light Car Project. They came up with their own design, which was commuted into the French Ford Vedette after Cadet was cancelled. Detroit did however design the 1948 Vauxhall Wyvern, followed by the E-Series., though it was only in 1957 that the very secret "Holden Car Project" was started which resulted in the 1959-debut Chevrolet Corvair with its all-aluminium air-cooled six-cylinder rear-mounted engine.


Like the rest of the industry, the quickest way to resume production of Vauxhall-badged cars at Luton, was to reintroduce the pre-war models. The large 25 h.p. six GY had been discontinued before the outbreak of hostilities and was excluded from the post-war models along with the coupe version of the 10 h.p., the HI When production commenced early in 1946 three models were offered, the two 4 cylinder '10' and '12' cars [the latter the 1946-only I-type] and the 6 -cylinder '14', the last offering a heater and radio as optional equipment. G.M.-Holden's started post-war production with the 14 h.p. in April 1946, and then Wyvern production on 21 May 1946 using pre-war tooling. At the outset the Twelve had a shorter wheelbase version of the body of the Fourteen as it had done pre-war. Almost immediately, on March 1946, the Twelve motor began sharing the Ten body which had been enlarged late in 1939 and called the 'HIX' Type. The small Ten motor would last only to September 1937 shortly after the announcement that the old h.p. tax was to be replaced by a flat rate tax of £10. The Model designations were: 1946-48 Models HB 12 h.p., HIX 10 h.p. & HIY 10 h.p., the 1946-48 10 h.p. HC commercial chassis; the 1946-48 14 h.p. JB and chassised JI, and the 12 h.p. JC commercial chassis]. The Finance Act 1947 introduced by the Labour Government of 1945 repealed the Finance Act 1920 H.P. rating as reduced in 1935, and instead substituted a new flat rate for all cars at £10 per year The change to flat annual tax had been championed by Sir Charles Bartlett. He pointed out to the government that building a variety of models to cater to the various tax categories was inefficient in comparison to a lesser variety based on consumer demands.

In an effort to revive the British economy, the allocation of steel to a manufacturer was directly related to their export volume. Confronted with these limited resources, in typical G.M. fashion, there was little reason to produce the low profit small cars, when more profit could be derived from a car that only consumed marginally greater material.

Among the Family Tens and Twelves available in 1946 only Vauxhall came with modern suspensions and hydraulic brakes. Neither of these features were available from Austin, Ford or Hillman.

With American cars being produced through to 1942, their styling had outpaced that of the Europeans. Stylists David Jones created a very effective re-style of the Twelve body with a 97 ¾ in. wheelbase, although Vauxhall argued that the bodies were all-new. The addition of an extended boot (trunk) along with a totally new front end, hid the origins of the old body. The horizontal grill with lights fared into the fenders and other features brought Vauxhall styling up to date when the 'L' type was introduced at the Autumn 1948 Motor Show. Unfortunately the extra weight robbed what little power the 1,442 cc motor had. However, for its size it was unusually economical, getting as much as 35 m.p.g.

Edward C. Riley, General Manager of G.M. Overseas Division, disallowed a similar re-styling exercise on the larger Fourteen with a suggestion by G.M. Vice-president O. E. Hunt that the six-cylinder motor be installed in the Twelve body. Maurice Platt, the Vauxhall Motors' Engineer states in his autobiography [11] that when he and colleague went to see Edward Riley in New York in mid-1945, Riley's formidable personality or his unequivocal belief in the validity of a bold post-war policy to increase G.M.'s manufacturing capacity overseas, especially in England. Riley informed the Britons of a firm intention to manufacture a new passenger car in Australia and arranged for them to see the styling model and engineering drawings in Detroit. Sir Charles Bartlett and other members of Vauxhall's product committee had so liked the proposals for updating the 12 h.p. that it was decided to make similar appearance changes to the related 6-cylinder 14 h.p. to coincide with the introduction of the overbored engine. However, when apprised of the intention Riley refused to authorise the "face-lift" and a tug-of-war resulted in which neither side would give way. The impasse resulted in Riley visiting Luton, which must have been in 1947. Considering that this body originated as the small Ten, a fair amount of shoe-horning was required. The radiator had to be brought forward and enlarged to the point that there was no room for a manual crank handle. This would earn the car the distinction of being the first British (and possibly European) car to dispense with this emergency starting device. Another new trend was the alligator opening of the bonnet, which had debuted with the abortive 1940 Model Opels. Riley was a Director of General Motors Limited from 1944 to 1946, and was a member, if not the head, of a team that oversaw the design of the Holden 48-215. It is most probable, if not certain, that Riley was overseeing David Jones' efforts at the same time as Hartnett's Australian Car Project, and explains the similarities between various models. Thus, it can be argued that the 1940 Opels, 1948 Holden 48-215 and 1949 Model Vauxhall L-series were all based to differing degrees on the Project 195-Y-13/-15. The Velox name, from the grand 30/98 days, was revived for the six -cylinder model which was now increased to 2,275 cc from 1,781 cc by having the same bore size as the four. This increased performance allowing a 75 m.p.h. top speed even if the Dubonnet suspension had a hard time keeping handling up to par. The four -cylinder model was given the name of Wyvern, a mythical dragon, on the mistaken assumption that it was the fire breathing creature in the Vauxhall crest. This name was new to British Vauxhalls but down under, the Australians had called the "10/4" a Wyvern since 1938.

The American influence would ensure that the 'L' type Velox and Wyvern would be one of the first British cars to locate the gear shifting on the steering column. This practice of a "three on the tree", as the Americans called it, was advantageous in large cars that could accommodate three people in the front seat. The benefit of removing a floor change was of little use if there was no room for a central passenger as in most European cars.

The launch to the dealers was a repeat of the 1933 event except this time 150 rather than 250 cars were driven-away. However, with the emphasis on exporting, local demand was intense. Each of the drive away cars had a sticker proclaiming; "For the Home Motorist". The 'L' Type was introduced at the London Motor Show - the first after a 10 year gap. A similar drive-away occurred in Melbourne, Australia, from the S. A. Cheney showrooms. G.M.-Holden's started L-type assembly later than Luton, in 1949, with two Holden bodies: the Holden six-light body but with front-hinging rear doors at last, and the Caleche 2-door tourer, an imported Luton Sedan body and an assembled Sedan from imported panels. These then ran to October/November 1952.With the Wyvern having broadcloth seats and the Velox with leather seats, their prices were very competitive. A Wyvern in 1950 without a heater sold for £375 pre-tax in comparison to a Hillman Minx at £395, a Morris Oxford at £427, an Austin A40 at £392 all with a 1.5 power plants. In the two and a quarter litre class a Velox was £430 versus an Austin A70 at £507, a Morris Six at £525, or a Wolseley 6/80 at £600. Unfortunately these prices indicate the Vauxhall name did not enjoy any prestige status allowing a price premium over competitive common sedans. Regrettably also, the Vauxhall's performance was lower than these competitors except for fuel economy.

For the avoidance of confusion, the 12 h.p. L-type unitary construction model was the Model LBX, and its sister chassised version, probably as per pre-war, by The Pressed Steel Company Limited, Coventry, the Model LIX. The 14 h.p. versions were the LBP and LIP respectively. There was also a Model PC 12 h.p. commercial chassis which ran from 1948 to 1951.

22. OPEL OLYMPIA Oly.47 and beyond

The Brandenburg Plant, located near Berlin, was seized by the Soviet troops and as war reparations, the entire factory was dismantled and railed back to Moscow, the rebuilt plant eventually assembling the Moskwich car which was a copy of the pre-war Opel Kadett.

General Motors Corporation tried immediately after the war to regain control of their Opel Plant at Rüsselsheim, but it was not to be easily achieved! The Motor 26 November 1948 announced that management and control of the Opel works had finally been resumed by G.M. The new board of Directors was elected that month, control having previously been entirely under the Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.), being located in the American sector of Germany.

The U.S. forces had started production from 1946 of 1939 Model Opel Olympias mainly for U.S. service use, and also repaired and refurbished sequestrated pre-war German cars such as Opels! For 1949 it was hoped that between 25,000 and 35,000 cars would be produced. After the Olympia, the next model to be produced was the Kapitän 47 in 1947, for the occupation forces.

Car production then re-started under the Military Government control in 1947 with 20 produced of the Olympia 47, with a 1.5 Litre 37 PS engine, and then 5,762 were produced in 1948 as well as the Kapitän 47 with a 2.5 Litre engine producing 55 PS, an update of the pre-war model, with 266 produced in 1948 and then 7,820 in 1949. Most if not all of the 1948 domestic production at least were taken up by the military, and then auctioned-off later. However, exports to Switzerland for instance started in the Winter of 1947/8, and The Motor 11 February 1948 carried out an appraisal of the "new" model Oly.47. These cars were much the same as the K38 model, but with the former Kapitän-style coil springs and transverse wishbones instead of Dubonnet front suspension. Semi-elliptic rear springs were used with a rigid axle, though between the leaves of the springs were inserts ensuring silent operation as per the "1940" models. Hydraulic double-acting shock absorbers were used all round.

The new Kapitän model Kpt.49 debuted in 1949, followed by the 1950 Model, the first to be exported in r.h.d. These were essentially updates of the pre-war model.

The big news was reserved for 1950 season, when the Olympia Oly.50 was launched in 2-door, 4-door and cabriolet versions. These were updates and improvements, not of the 1947 models, but the abortive 1940 versions albeit with different radiator design and certain revisions! The same 1.5 litre engine was used as well. These cars ran for two years, and were replaced in turn by updates as the Oly.51, the 1951 Models which ran from 1951 to 1953. Thus, it can be seen that the 1939 designs were indeed well ahead of their time!