A Major Milestone
The FC created a major milestone in the history of GM-H when on the 22nd of October 1958 it became the 500,000 Holden to be produced since the FX (48-215). It was also the first time Holden had produced more than 100,000 units in a year and its market share was over 50% with its nearest rival being just half this.
As with the introduction of the FJ
, Holden had learnt that to revise or "facelift" a model half way through its life would maintain interest and therefore sales. And so the FC was simply an improved version of the FE
, and following the FX
formula it sported more chrome and a more elegant grille, which incorporated the parking lights (in all models) and indicators (Specials only) at either end of the lower bar.
Once again chrome fins were mounted on the rear guards, and extra brightwork was added to side panels for the Specials. The interior now featured better seat and door trims and a new vertical-bar radio-speaker grille. The FC's interior trim featured more pleating than the FE's by using narrower strips on the seats. The drivers seating position was improved and the new steering wheel with a half horn ring (instead of the FE's full ring) made for better visibility of the instruments.
The interior appearance was improved by a new instrument panel, narrow seat coverings, and two-tone finish. GM-H
didn't stop there, and added extra "hooding" around the instruments to help cut down on distracting reflections. Two-toned paint styling on Specials was made possible by stainless steel side flash trims separating the colours. Over the period of this model 3 different permutations of car colour were employed. There were minor changes to the engine to improve torque and some refinement to the suspension
and brakes to improve the vehicles driveability.
Following its policy of gradual (almost conservative) development, GM-H
raised engine compression a little, from 6.8 up to 7 to 1. This was still a low compression even by 1958
standards, but it did give the maximum in low speed flexibility, long mileages between decarbonisations, and the possibility of using lower grade fuel. These advantages were gained at the expense of some greater liveliness and better fuel mileages normally resulting from higher compression.
The other mechanical changes were a new camshaft, and stronger mountings for the rocker shaft of the over-head valve gear. Road tests from the time showed an increase in minimum speed of 2 mph in top and second gears, a slight drop in accelerative ability at moderate speeds, a slight drop in fuel mileage (1 mpg), and virtually no change in hill climbing ability. The car itself remained a very sound and commonsense vehicle, which gave lively performance at the usual town and country driving speeds, and which was never greedy of fuel.
FC Holden Performance
The Holden engine spun very freely, and the car would cruise comfortably around 70 mph on good country roads. Flexibility in top gear was maintained down to about 30 mph, above which speed the car gave quick response. The FC's maximum urge (a gross torque of 110 lbs-ft) was developed at the extraordinarily low speeds of 26 mph in top gear, and 16 mph in second gear. In practice, prompt overtaking required the use of second gear below 30 mph, and top gear would suffice over this speed. Performance times for acceleration were: Second gear: 20 to 40 m.p.h., 5.4 seconds.; 30 to 50 m.p.h., 6.6 seconds. Top gear: 20 to 40 m.p.h., 8.9 seconds.; 30 to 50 m.p.h., 9.7 seconds.; 40 to 60 m.p.h., 12.6 seconds.
The FC Holden made a good showing in top gear on most main road hills. If the change down to second was necessary, it will climb mountain passes with ease. The power to weight ratio was good for the time, at 57.8 bhp per ton. Top gearing was moderate for this power, and yielded a road speed of 18.6 m.p.h. at 1000 r.p.m. While recirculating ball steering was never going to be a match for rack-and-pinion, the FC’s mechanism was nevertheless very good. Its action was quick enough, with 2 7/8 turns from lock to lock, and steering action was never heavy. The reaction transmitted to the hands over bad roads was negligible, and the moderate turning circle of 361 feet conferred easy manoeuvrability.
The brake lining area was by no means great at 96i square inches, but the brakes gave a satisfactory performance with moderate pedal pressures. It was easy enough to produce brake fade, but they did cool quickly enough such that, under normal driving situations, they remained up to the job. The handbrake was of the twist-and-pull type under the fascia, and with a heavy pull it was just able to stop the car from 30 mph.
On the Road
The FC Holden offered average comfort and it was not unduly affected by bad roads. On the more rugged back-roads then common in Australia you could push the FC quite hard, and it was difficult to reach a point where bottoming would occur. The Holden engineers had designed the suspension
to suit average Australian road conditions as much as was possible using a conventional type of springing. Road adhesion when cornering was satisfactory, and the FC would not exhibit any vicious tendencies when deliberately put into slides on loose dirt roads. There was some noticeable body roll when cornered hard, but tyre
squeal was moderate. At an average speed of 45 mph the FC Holden returned fuel consumption of 27.5 miles per gallon, and when you take into account the size of the fuel tank, the FC had an operation range of around 260 miles between fills.
The seating was moderately upright, but the clutch and brake pedals were much too high, some four inches above the level of the throttle pedal, and considerably more above the floor. The steering wheel was placed rather too close to the driver's seat, and with this unfortunate combination, it was difficult to get really comfortable and relaxed on a long run. Vision was particularly good in all directions, and the curved screens and rear window were of ample size. The driver's window required 3.5 turns of its crank for full movement. The gearshift was positive and the synchromesh was good. The instruments were well placed before the driver, and comprised speedometer
and fuel gauge.
Behind the Wheel
The minor controls were intelligently spread beneath the dials. Warning lights were fitted for oil pressure, generator operation, and engine temperature. A half-circle horn ring was fitted, and the turn indicators were self-cancelling and were operated by a small stalk extending from the right side of the steering column. The dipswitch unfortunately was placed between the clutch and brake pedals, requiring the left foot to be moved from its rest position for each change of headlight beam. It was necessary for the driver to lean forward to reach the handbrake -beneath the right side of the fascia. Vacuum operated wipers cleared a good section of the screen, but they suffered from the general fault of this type, that their operation noticeably slowed when the throttle was fully opened.
The FC Holden underwent plenty of testing, not only at the hands of Holden designers and engineers, but the motoring press of the time, when the launch of any new model, and particularly a Holden, was big news. All were impressed about the smoothness and willing performance given by the Holden engine. While entirely conservative in design, it achieved a high degree of reliability and delivered satisfactory power. Bore and stroke were 76.7 by 79.4 mm, and a Stromberg carburettor with oil-bath cleaner was fitted. The clutch and brake pedals were of pendent type, and operated through hydraulic rams mounted on the bulkhead. Accessibility to all engine units requiring regular service was particularly good. Holden did not provide an external oil filter, presumably on the theory that it may be overlooked.
The gearshift was on the column. It was positive in action and had a good synchromesh
. Ratios were: top, 3.9, second gear 6.2 to 1. The unitarily constructed FC was suspended at the front end on coils and wishbones, and at the rear on semi-elliptics. All springs
were controlled by telescopic dampers, and an anti-roll bar was fitted at the front. The induction manifold was fitted with an automatic hotspot, and the induction ports were siamesed. The electrical system was 12-volt, fed by a battery of small size. The bonnet and boot lids were counterbalanced for ease and safety.
On the Outside
As mentioned at the start of this article, the major changes in the FC Holden were in body styling. There were also some technical changes in the engine, but road tests from the time indicated that these did not have any profound effect on performance. The external appearance of the Special was noticeably changed by a bolder pattern for the radiator grille, and a prominent down-sweep on the side body flash in the zone of the rear door. The front bumper was matched by a prominent trim bar extending across the front of the car beneath the grille, and carrying the indicator turn lights in its ends.
The essential characteristics of the Holden body were the ease of entry and the spaciousness of the interior. For the overall size of the car there was indeed a high percentage of passenger and luggage accommodation. The two bench seats measured 51 and 57 inches respectively, so that no difficulty was found in seating six adults. The boot had a capacity of approximately 25 cub. ft., and therefore would accept weekend luggage for all passengers. Unfortunately the spare wheel robbed the boot of a good deal of its space, and was so placed as to interfere with its width, where golf clubs and buggies were concerned. Without using a wrap-around screen, the Holden had an ample area of glass to give excellent vision in all directions.
There were ventilating panels in the front windows, and reasonable floor ventilation was ensured by a flip-up scuttle ventilator. On the Special the seats were sponge rubber over springs, covered with close pleated Elastafab. Two-tone finish was used throughout the interior, but rubber floor mats were fitted in both compartments. The hump over the gearbox was less pronounced than usual for the time, and the lockable glovebox was of modest size. An unpleasant feature was the very high noise level in the front compartment when the ventilating panels were open. There was plenty of turbulence caused by the vent-windows and the prominent rain gutters ahead of them. Leg and head room were ample for tall persons in both seats, and this spaciousness was considered an important feature for long-distance travel in the 1950s.
Wheels magazine claimed the FC Holden as "a worthy continuance of the combination of features which made the previous model so popular... the designers have steered an excellent course through the paths of compromise ... Holden has far fewer faults than many cars with higher price tags and imposing overseas origins".