Philip Road, Elizabeth- Holden cars and me


There was still a post-Coronation glow across the Commonwealth when Holden started making cars in Elizabeth, just north of Adelaide. Indeed, our Queen had only been in Buckingham Palace for a few years, and with this respectfully in mind, those mapping the satellite city instead decided that the thoroughfare next to the car manufacturing plant should be named Philip Highway, Elizabeth. I guess Philip Road, Elizabeth was a bit horizontal in tone, especially in the 1950’s.

I’m not a petrol-head, but as a country boy, I was always going to buy a Holden for my first car. Purchased from solid farming folk near Greenock, it was a pale blue HR Holden complete with two-speed Powerglide. It had razor-blade thin tyres, which had the unfortunate habit of prolonged squealing as I gently rounded a corner, or accidently drove in circles at the intersection just up from the Kapunda Pizza Bar. Prior to buying an FM radio, for my driving pleasure I had a portable cassette player and a kazoo. The HR’s registration was REM-097.

Part way through my degree I upgraded to the model I’m confident was made in greater numbers than any other at the Elizabeth plant: a HQ Kingswood (white). In our little country town, there must’ve been twenty of these, and they were mostly driven by us young fellas. Sometimes there’d be three or more of these in a diagonal row, outside Nugget’s Clare Castle Hotel*, late on a Sunday. Owning one seemed almost compulsory, and it functioned as a type of vehicular uniform for our silly army. Its rego was UXA-100.


For a few months, my friends commuted to uni and back with me. Claire and Trish* were Abba fans and musical theatre devotees, and I now confess that I took fiendish, even megalomaniacal delight in controlling our musical accompaniment. They’d holler, “Put on the radio” and “We want SA-FM.”

Deaf to their words, I’d then lean over and pump up the volume on a ten-minute blues song like, “Key to the Highway.” Somehow, we’re still friends.

Nineteen. There may well be an age at which Australian males are more stupid, but I doubt it. With sudden and inexplicable urgency one Friday night, when I was barely nineteen, three friends and I decided that we needed to race down to one of the Kapunda main street’s four pubs (or possibly, all of them).

So, we left the home of the mate that for legal reasons I’ll refer to as Woodsy* and failing entirely to navigate the dirt road behind Kapunda High School, my left fender prised open about twenty feet of the corrugated fence like it was a tin of Whiskers*. The car came to an immediate halt. Our friend was studying electronic engineering at Adelaide uni, so I said, “Chris*, you’re smart, fix it!” He couldn’t.

Subsequent crash analysis revealed a major cause being the HQ Holden’s front bench seat on which, for now obscure reasons, all four of us were, for want of an ergonomically accurate term, sitting. Apparently, this lack of physical space made it difficult for the driver (me) to successfully operate the steering wheel.

Later, another mate, Crackshot* remarked that despite it being only eighteen months since I’d somehow won Kapunda High’s Paul Giles Memorial Prize for Character and Leadership, I still clearly wanted to make a lasting mark on my former school. Under the cold light of Saturday morning, in grim conversation and looking at my Adidas Rome-d feet, neither the headmaster nor the town’s police officer, saw my yearning for scholastic legacy as a legally relevant issue.

The final Holden I owned was the most expensive of the three, and certainly the least likable. Heading off to the West Coast to teach I bought a VK Commodore from Hage’s in Tanunda. It drove well, if thirstily, but the stereo was terrible and the front speaker rattled like buggery whenever I’d turned up a tape, like Billy Joel*. Billy deserves better.

One evening after a prolonged cricket fixture and raffle-ticket selling duties in the Wudinna Club, the VK batted last and was dismissed, run-out by a Ford at a railway line on the road back to my farmhouse accommodation (I wasn’t driving). After extensive rehabilitation, during which I drove Jock* and Snook’s dune buggy, I sold it.

I didn’t know it, but my relationship with Holden’s was finished. I’m unsure whether I’m yet to have my mid-life crisis, or if I’ve been having one all my life, but I often think that one day, I’ll buy myself an EH Holden.

I might even take it on Sunday drives, and do a lap of Kapunda High.

Thanks, Holdens.


*names not changed




19 thoughts on “Philip Road, Elizabeth- Holden cars and me

  1. Still friends?? Yes I am a mighty good one considering when I think back to the endless kms from Salisbury to Kapunda and the yukness of your music choices! ugghhh- can still feel it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Imagine what life would have been without the Holden era. Wold a different automobile have created the same memories, would a friendship have been challenged, would you have blogged about events more mundane? Character building stuff at an age (19 or so) when 30 is old, 40 is ancient and upwards of 50 are the living dead. The immortality of youth with a Holden. Music and all. Enjoy reading about blasts from the past and exploits that obviously hold fond memories.

    I hate to say it, but sounds a very nostalgic post, so that EH Holden seems on the cards and the last drive round Kapunda High somehow seems a fitting farewell to the old ways.

    Good read Mickey

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary- thanks for this. Having reading London Orbital and learning a little about psycho-geography I wonder what this means for me and my hometown, or, indeed, anyone and their place of birth.

      If I don’t buy an EH Holden, then maybe I’ll hire one and go for a drive. Scratch a few itches!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A case of there but for the grace of an EH Holden go I. I often think how huge an early choice is when it comes to life down the line. Psycho-geography is a wonderful tool to lose your sanity to. Do I have free will, am I part of a geological collective mind that drives me to do something…if I was born next door would I have ever bought a Holden. Bit of a meaning of life preamble and brilliant for debating who am I?

        Maybe hiring one would be the solution. Not sure raking out fencing would be appreciated by the lease company, but a senior “road trip” round the past haunts is very nostalgic. I’ve tried similar and found a mixture of sadnes, regret, happiness and loss. All kicking off at once. Exorcised ghosts though, if you find it tipping into the mind, sometimes you have to do it to say goodbye. As a youngster I thought things would never change and when they did I can’t remember the last time I did something or went somewhere in the home town. I use road trips to do that. Or did, once I’d acknowledged this was the last visit and touched it I found it laid things to rest, as it were.


  3. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such fantastic information being shared freely out there.


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