General Motors Holden: FE Holden - The Average Man

General Motors Holden: FE Holden - The Average Man
General Motors Holden
Access fees

This clip explains the methods used to design the new model FE Holden. A GMH employee holds a transparent plastic life-size model to demonstrate how the 'average man’ determines the proportions of the car’s interior. The car’s development is traced from initial sketches to a full-size blackboard outline and then a three-dimensional plaster model in the GMH experimental engineering section. The car is put through mechanical and on-road tests. After summarising the work and resources that have gone into the new model, the GMH representative looks out the window onto rows of Holden cars. The clip closes with a title card for GMH.

The Holden FE was released in 1956, the same year that television came to Australia. This is one of GMH’s earliest television advertisements and the explanatory style and length reflect cinema advertisements of the time where advertisers had two minutes to address a captive audience. Television soon prompted a shift to shorter advertising, but here the GMH representative takes his time in explaining the drafting, research and testing processes involved in the development of the new Holden.

In the 1950s and 60s, Holden emphasised the authorised Holden dealer as an expert from whom you could buy with confidence (see General Motors Holden – Buy with Confidence, 1968). The GMH representative in this ad functions in much the same way as a reputable Holden dealer – he is a man you can trust, cast in a position of authority and presented as both informed and honest. GMH made a series of television advertisements which centred around this character, building a familiarity with the audience that would have reinforced his trustworthiness (whether or not he was a true GMH representative or an actor is unclear).

In this clip, Holden uses the plastic cut-out 'average man’ to illustrate how the Holden has been developed to accommodate a typical Australian body. This figure (complete with hat!) conformed to the 'general physical appearance of the average Australian’ of the time. The average Australian of today looks a little different – and may not be a man at all. Postwar migration from Europe, and subsequent waves of migration from South-East Asia, the Middle East and most recently Africa, have changed the physical make-up of the 'average’ Australian. In the 1950s, Australian identity seemed fairly fixed and multiculturalism and debates about Australianness were decades away.