Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Mail -

The reader’s let­ter that is judged to be the best in each is­sue will win a Meguiar’s de­tail­ing pack. – thus ob­tain­ing the pref­er­en­tial im­port tar­iff treat­ment that was then af­forded to Com­mon­wealth coun­tries.

There used to be two as­sem­bly lines at Mar­rickville:

1.The first line un­crated the Com­pletely Knocked Down im­ported parts, then riv­eted the chas­sis rails to­gether and in­stalled the en­gines, gear­boxes, steer­ing col­umns and wheels.

2. Mean­while, a sec­ond line fit­ted the Holden bod­ies with wiring, seat up­hol­stery and other lo­cal con­tent. The bod­ies were then dropped onto the chas­sis and the fi­nal in­spec­tions were com­pleted. The newly as­sem­bled au­to­mo­biles were then re­leased to fran­chised Chevrolet, Pon­tiac and Cadil­lac deal­ers for sale.

The GM fac­tory pro­vided ‘cour­tesy cars’ for Charles Kings­ford Smith and his crew of the South­ern Cross af­ter their suc­cess­ful 1928 Trans-Pa­cific Flight – and it was this plant that pre­sented Don Brad­man with a ma­roon Chevrolet Road­ster af­ter his tri­umphant 1930 Ashes test tour of Eng­land.

The Great De­pres­sion led to a cat­a­strophic col­lapse in Holden body pro­duc­tion, from over 34,000 units in 1930 to only 1651 units just one year later. Gen­eral Mo­tors wound down op­er­a­tions at Mar­rickville in 1931 and pur­chased Holden Mo­tor

Sa­cred fac­to­ries

Ipar­tic­u­larly en­joy the ‘geog­ra­phy’ sto­ries, such as the Sa­cred Sites se­ries and also the visit to the site of Ley­land’s Zet­land plant in the Force 7 fea­ture last year.

I’d love to read a se­ries telling the sto­ries of sig­nif­i­cant old car fac­to­ries. For in­stance, I was stag­gered by the changes at GM-H’s his­toric Dan­de­nong site last time I vis­ited. In con­trast, I was sur­prised to find that Holden’s huge Mar­rickville plant is re­mark­ably un­touched at the north­ern end, de­spite be­ing re­pur­posed as a tobacco ware­house!

The story of Salmon Street, Port Mel­bourne de­serves to be told, start­ing with the orig­i­nal 1936 GM-H site at Fish­er­mans Bend (where GM’s WWII ar­ma­ments foundry was con­verted for lo­cal en­gine pro­duc­tion) and then pro­gress­ing south­ward via the 1960’s Tech­ni­cal Cen­tre (where the Hur­ri­cane and GTR-X were built) to the present ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing/mu­seum at No. 191, con­structed dur­ing Peter Han­nen­berger’s time as head hon­cho.

You may want to con­sider the old Gen­eral Mo­tors man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Mar­rickville, which still stands on Car­ring­ton Road. Gen­eral Mo­tors com­menced pro­duc­tion with great op­ti­mism in Oc­to­ber 1926. I have at­tached a pic­ture of what it looked like when it was opened by the Pre­mier of NSW, Jack Lang. Note the flags over the front door from USA, Australia and Eng­land. Over 400 peo­ple were em­ployed to pro­duce up to 70 cars per day.

Car bod­ies con­structed of steel skins over wooden frames were shipped by rail from Holden’s body fac­tory in Woodville, near Ade­laide. Mean­while, en­gines and chas­sis com­po­nent parts kits were shipped in from GM’s fac­tory in Oshawa, On­tario, Canada Body Builders the same year, merg­ing it with Gen­eral Mo­tors (Australia) Pty Ltd to form Gen­eral Mo­tors-Holden’s Ltd (GM-H). Pro­duc­tion moved to Pagewood in 1936. The Car­ring­ton Road build­ing was sub­se­quently taken over by the Depart­ment of Civil Avi­a­tion (DCA). It is now a cloth­ing ware­house.

Most of the orig­i­nal art deco themed fa­cade is still vis­i­ble at the orig­i­nal site and a huge pic­ture of Smithy’s South­ern Cross still hangs in the stair­well.

I stum­bled onto some of the story on Mar­rickville Coun­cil’s web­site, and the rest I pieced to­gether from Sir Lau­rence Hart­nett’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Big Wheels and Lit­tle Wheels. Larry was GM-H man­ag­ing direc­tor, from 1934 to 1946.

I cap­tured images when I vis­ited the Car­ring­ton Road site last year, but Mar­rickville Coun­cil has no at­tri­bu­tion for the pho­to­graph taken on the 1926 open­ing day.

An­thony Boddy Pen­nant Hills, NSW

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