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Tatong Holden collector devastated at news of brand’s demise

By Simon Ruppert

Tatong's Kevin Smith is a third-generation Holden collector - and like many passionate Holden owners in Australia he was devastated to hear that General Motors were discontinuing the brand.

Mr Smith concedes while he was shocked at the brand's demise and the death of its manufacturing in Australia, it was the Holden workers and those employed by their suppliers who were the real victims of the decision.

And while there is little he can do for those directly affected, he is eager to play his role in maintaining the brand's history and showing future generations what Holden meant to Australia.

A fully restored 1964 EH Holden Ute

On his rural property he has a collection of 126 classic, mostly un-restored Holdens - and he plans to open a car museum at some stage in the future.

His passion for the iconic Aussie brand came from both of his grandfathers whose original cars are still in his collection.

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“I never, in my wildest dreams, thought Holden would disappear,” Mr Smith said.

“I thought that Australia would always be home to the Holden Car, it had always been.

“Even though there was input from the US, Holden's were always treated as Australia's own.”

Interestingly Mr Smith is already talking about Holden in the past-tense, and he holds little hope of the decision ever being reversed.

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He said without Holden or its old rival Ford making Australian cars, the motoring landscape across the country would be different in the future.

“There was always that competition between Ford and Holden and because for car enthusiasts they were both intrinsically Australian,” Mr Smith said.

“By that I mean that Ford had been in Australia since the model T.

“It wasn’t as if they just arrived with the Falcon in 1960.

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“They had been around for a while right back to the 1920s, so Ford had always been part of the Australian landscape as well.

“Both had parent companies in America, but I think as a result of WWI and WWII Australians always aligned themselves more with the US than other countries.

“And both brands produced produced cars that became part of the Australian way of life.

“The first ute was invented here in Australia after a woman requested that someone make a car that she was able to go to church in on Sunday, but could also be used to take her pigs to market on Friday.

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“So the ute was an Aussie invention. And all the cars we produced as a country could hold their own against overseas models.

“We could make a car as good as any and when you look at the contemporary vehicles of the time in France, Italy and England for example, our cars were never second rate.

“And our cars were designed for our conditions.

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“I think the main highway route between Melbourne and Sydney was only completely sealed in 1954.

“When you look at the life of these old Holdens, and the conditions in which they had to perform under, you can't equate the Hume Fwy today.

“And when our highways were not sealed imagine the conditions of some of our minor roads.

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“So these cars did some amazing things that an import designed for a more moderate climate or a smaller country just couldn't compete with.”

The lack of an iconic Australian car brand is now something the country's motoring enthusiasts will have to live with.

Will they find allegiance to another brand? Probably.

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For Mr Smith the plus side is he will likely see the value of his collection increase in the future.

But he said that was little consolation.

“The effect of this decision is that is that Holdens will disappear from Australian roads,” Mr Smith said.

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“They will be around for another 10 to 15 years, but eventually they will be something you can only find in a museum, or personal collection.

“And whilst that is a sad thing, it is the reality and we will probably never see another Australian car brand again.”

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