Owning a vintage car is one of the greatest motoring joys in a life behind the wheel. While the options are many and varied, and speed and technology is compromised for the feel of old leather and the NRMA on speed-dial, the feeling of hitting a long and winding road in a beautiful old machine is incomparable, and Sunday drives go from a chore to a palpable pleasure.
While everybody can see themselves in a cherry red Cadillac, cruising down the south coast; white leather on the inside and a surfboard poking out the rear window, the reality is that classic American cars simply weren’t built for Australian roads (or, rather, Australian roads just weren’t built for them). This is why you should, if anything, own a vintage Holden Special.
Introduced in 1953, the Special was the premium offering from Holden and included luxury trim with the option of flash kits to keep up with the recent design trends coming out of the States. Bold and beautiful, these cars oozed post-war sex appeal, but in the body of a car that didn’t drink gas like it was going out of fashion and that you could actually reverse park into a normal parking space.
Nowadays they make the perfect weekend driver for several reasons. They’re easy to drive and cheap to run. They’re also easy enough to find: you can pick up a clean example for under AU$30K. They also made an absolute shitload of them back in the day, and the nation is lousy with collectors and enthusiasts, so finding parts when the time comes for a replacement or repair is surprisingly easy (and affordable).
As the second model from the second generation of the Special, here we see American design elements from the 50s creep into Holden’s designs. Fins emerge at the rear, and the lines of the bodywork are sharper and more linear. The headlights now also shine out under pointed eyelids and flash kits have become popular in keeping with the trends from Cadillac and Chevrolet.
By 1961, the Holden Special had well and truly taken off, and the EK was the last model to fully replicate that classic 50s Americana look. By now, the fins were sharper, the wheelbase longer and the flash kits flasher, though you could still park it in the city without needing three spaces. These are now some of the most collectable examples of the revered Special available, if you can find one in original condition.
By the time the EJ Holden was released, it was time for a new approach to the design to catch up with the rest of the world, and boy did Holden deliver. Gone were the fins and sharp lines of yesteryear and in came the softer, straighter lines and overall shape which would eventually become the sedan as we know it today. The EJ marked a change in how we perceived the humble Holden Special and are favoured among collectors for both original examples and for heavy modification.