1954 FJ Holden

Shawn Rannard

My great and lifelong interest in, and love of, old vehicles goes back to the late 1950s, when 1920s cars were worthless and unwanted, and is to me just as important as my car’s acquisition. This is an unusual and unique story relating to just that, so I’ll start at the beginning.

My father purchased a one-owner 1954 FJ Holden Special. It was that car that started me on the road nine years later, to someday acquiring one of my own. Years before I started high school, I collected photos and books of old cars, and dreamed of the day I’d acquire a vintage or veteran car and painstakingly restore it, even down to new leather upholstery. 


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Shawn’s 1954 FJ Holden

During 1968, before I gained my driving licence, I decided that I wanted an FJ Special in original outstanding condition. Early Holdens were also unwanted then, except by teenagers who required “a set of wheels” until they could afford something more modern. Many were bought by those who destroyed the cars’ beautiful looks by vastly modifying them. Though a teenager, I quickly developed a passionate and very long-lasting hatred towards those who destroyed so many lovely cars, and I was sickened to the stomach when I saw 48 and FJ Holdens which had been so disfigured. When, with great trepidation, I told my father I wanted an FJ Holden, he said “Those cars are too old now. Save for a new car, otherwise you’ll only be buying another man’s troubles”. I was still secretly determined, however, to buy one, though it would have to be parked in the street, deteriorating, and be a temptation to car thieves. I remember well, as a teenager, telling people where I worked, that even if I were to win the Opera House lottery, I’d buy an FJ Holden Special, much to their good-natured amusement! Then, even one-owner FJs were being advertised by dealers. Even so, I hesitated, remembering my father’s words. Those cars could have been worn out, or rusted, or both, and I really wasn’t in a position to pay for such repairs.

The years went by, and the prices of FJ Holdens started to increase, but financial concerns and vehicle condition weren’t the only reason I didn’t buy. I was moving around with my job on the railways, living in boarding houses and hotels whilst relieving in country areas, so storage was unavailable. Later, marriage and other commitments came along. To buy a fully restored Holden in addition to an everyday modern car was out of the question. I’ve bought several old cars over the years, because all were cheaper than FJ Holdens. When I was finally in a position to buy an FJ Special in the excellent restored condition I wanted, the quality of those for sale was not as good as the owners made out. Very few good cars were on offer.

During August 2019, 51 years after I’d made that firm decision to someday buy an FJ, I saw a 1954 Special advertised, and it looked beautiful. Yes, I had looked at so many, but somehow I knew this was the one I’d waited all of those years for. And I wanted a 1954 car most of all. I bought my green-tinted cream car – my favourite car colour – almost 60 years to the day after my father bought his, and on the anniversary of his death! Nothing is known of its history, except that the body was built at Woodville, Adelaide, in July 1954. The car was assembled at the Melbourne’s Fisherman’s Bend plant. Some work has been carried out on it whilst in my possession, and it’s still a “work-in-progress”.

Throughout those years I’ve retained my enthusiasm for all old vehicles, and I’d love to have a place large enough to be able to collect more, but of course we can’t have everything we want. The most reliable old timers I’ve owned were two Austin A40 ‘Devon’ sedans. The car I had the most fun in (by far) was a 1927 Overland Whippet tourer. I’d dearly love another pre-1931 tourer, a proper vintage car, but that is no longer possible. No matter what its past, I love owning and driving my Holden, and I can smile to myself when I think of all those years I spent waiting for my elusive car!  

Shawn Rannard