Mal Jocumsen and his 1956 FJ Holden.
Mal Jocumsen and his 1956 FJ Holden.

Why death of iconic car brand takes part of Gympie’s history

THE lion-shaped hole carved into the heart of Australia by the death of the Holden brand will be keenly felt in Gympie, with the iconic car a key part of the region’s economic history.

“I was born into the world of Holden,” Madills Holden dealer John Scott Madill said of the brand once synonymous with football, meat pies and kangaroos.

“It was a massive part of our life.

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It was a big piece of the city’s history too, starting with three car dealerships: Gilliand’s Garage opposite the Civic Centre, AV Lilley at the corner of Mary and Channon streets, and Madills on River Rd.

This trio became two when Madills took over Gilliand’s.

Early model FJ Holdens at the National Holden Museum Echuca. Picture: David Caird
Early model FJ Holdens at the National Holden Museum Echuca. Picture: David Caird

When AV Lilley wound up it left the now-iconic Gympie family standing as Gympie’s Holden dealer, from which an empire was born.

And the car was a common sight in the family.

“Whenever there’s been a new Holden, it’s been in our garage,” Mr Madill said.

So why has the company become such a cultural icon?

“Holden originally was an Australia-specific brand,” he said.

“If you look at Ford, you can also buy one in America.

General Motors is ending the Holden brand.
General Motors is ending the Holden brand.

“Holden was only available in Australia and New Zealand.”

And it dominated the market, at one point accounting for 20 per cent of the market share and “for a hell of a long time embraced by Australia”.

Southside resident Mal Jocumsen was one such fan.

Mr Jocumsen, who spent two decades with Madills in Gympie and now helps repair Holdens as part of his retirement, said this week’s news was disappointing – but not surprising.

Mal Jocumsen at the wheel of his 1956 FJ Holden.
Mal Jocumsen at the wheel of his 1956 FJ Holden.

With the closure of the Holden manufacturing centres down south, he said he was “expecting this was going to happen a long time ago”.

But this did not reduce the sting of the brand’s closure.

“It (Holden) means everything to us,” he said.

“It’s been the brand of our era.”

And it was a part of Gympie’s business history, too.

“There was a lot of loyalty … in Gympie for Tom Madill,” Mr Jocumsen said.

“If you were working for Madills, you were working for one of Gympie’s biggest employers.”

Gympie Historic Auto Club president Rob White is the owner of a 1964 Holden EH.

“It was Australia’s first mass produced car,” Mr White said.

The iconic Holden lion.
The iconic Holden lion.

And if you happened to flick through an old car magazine, he said, Holden’s staying power was clear as day.

“There were about 49 brands of cars on the market (back then),” he said.

“Brands have come and gone … (Holden’s) just always been there”.

Mr Madill said he was “saddened” by the decision, “but at the end of the day it’s a business”.

And there was still some silver lining.

“We’ve in recent times consolidated the Holden business,” he said.

“(The brand’s death) does not mean job losses with us at all.”

Gympie Times


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