1956 Year In Review

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Holden FE
The all-new FE would be release in 1956, soon after GMH had manufactured their 250,000 Holden (although this was the FJ).

The MGA would would make its first appearance in Australia in 1956.
It was in 1956 that Aussie kids would stand in the streets, clutching miniature Union Jacks, waiting for a glimpse of the Queen. And it was much the same with the FE Holden. Flags weren't clutched and waved, but millions of heads swung when the new-look Holden drove past. When introduced the Holden FE Special cost A £1226/11 or $2453.10. Of course, Ford had the Zephyr Mark Two by about this time. It was a much nicer car than either its predecessor or its competitor, the new FE. But it won only a moderate following.

Unlike the Holden it had experienced a power boost, so a Mark Two comfortably outperformed an FE and the Ford's top speed was on the high side of 135 km/h. One area where Ford still couldn't compete, however, was price. The Zephyr was more than $200 dearer. So successful was the Holden that GM-H didn't need to do much to the basic design in order to keep market leadership. In 1957 Holdens were outselling Fords (of all types) nearly three-to-one. By 1959 it was closer to four-to-one. From then on, Ford began to challenge hard for the leadership.

The 250,000th FJ Holden

1956 was the year the 250,000th FJ Holden would be built, but there was even bigger news. By now the Holden was well and truly established as market leader, but the design was starting to look dated. In response, the all new "FE Holden " was introduced. Featuring a more modern stream-lined appearance, the Australian-designed body was both bigger and roomier, and featured a longer wheelbase and wider track. A lower roofline and flatter bonnet and boot complemented the new look.

The FE Holden

The FE series also introduced the first Holden station wagon. FE improvements included a one-piece curved windscreen and a larger rear window, these changes combining to provide an amazing 40 per cent improvement in visibility. There was also a new 12 volt electrical system (replacing the six volt 48-215/FJ system), a hydraulically operated clutch and a slightly more powerful 53 kw version of the well-proven 'grey engine'. This power gain was achieved by increasing the compression ratio to 6.8:1 and by fitting stiffened head pistons and larger valves.

Many new exterior colour schemes were available and a new dashboard helped modernise the interior. Smaller wheels and a slightly wider track contributed to improved handling and contemporary road-testers noted a marked improvement in the quality of fit and finish. Sales figures went from strength to strength. GMH were to open their new Dandenong (Melbourne) plant, with a floor space of over five hectares and the capacity to build some 152 bodies and assemble 168 vehicles per day (although it should be noted that further expansion of the facility would lift production capacity to over 400 Holdens per day).

Naturally the General continued to expand, this time purchasing land at Lang Lang, 90km from Melbourne, and establishing their proving ground. At the same time, CKD (completely knocked down) Holdens were packed and shipped to New Zealand for local assembly. Speaking of land aquisition, an American company acquired 600,000 ha of land near Esperance, Western Australia, for the development of 700 odd farms. The company's scheme failed, however the land was subsequently opened up for general selection and many new farms were established in the area, providing an extremely lucky windfall.


The MGA was to make its first appearance in Australia, while in the US tests were performed on an all new shock absorber system. The new double-acting pneumatic shock absorbers were designed to control ride height and body roll. Pat Flaherly won an action-packed Indianapolis 500; while the Renault Thriftmaster at £762 was Australia's cheapest new car. And at a time when take-away food chains were non-existant, there were still the more traditional fast foods available to the public. Naturally Fish and Chips were a regular favourite, but for ease of distribution, particularly at sporting events such as the footy, nothing came close to the good old meat pie.

Meat Pies would become an institution during the 1950's, after one Mr. McClure baked the now famous "Four 'N Twenty" in the Victorian regional town of Bendigo in 1947. The following year he entered his recipe at the Royal Melbourne Show - it was an instant hit. A factory was soon established in suburban Kensington (Melbourne) for their manufacture, and the rest is history. Can you remember the Four 'N Twenty commercials? Commercial #1, Commercial #2.

No Le Mans

It was a rather strange June in 1956 as there was no Le Mans race. The French circuit was still being rebuilt, as a result of changes thought essential following the 1955 LeMans crash tragedy; instead the race was held at the end of July. The major race of the June became therefore Belgian GP, at Spa, and was won by Peter Collins' Lancia-Ferrari at 118.44 miles-per-hour, from Paul Frere's sister car, Stirling Moss' Maserati 250F, and Harry Schell's Vanwall. The two important sports car races were the Nurburgring 1000km, which was won by a Maserati 300S shared by Moss, Behra, Taruffi and Schell (yes, four drivers!), with two Ferraris in second and third places. As a contrast, the Targa Florio was won by Maglioli's 1.5-litre Porsche RS, a light and nimble little machine. Mike Hawthorn had walked out on BRM, whose new four-cylinder car was in all kinds of engine trouble; he would shortly re-join Ferrari. The Indianapolis 500 race had just been won by Pat Flaherty (Zink Special).

The Coronation Safari, which still hadn't moved to the Easter date which by 1956 had become a bit of a tradition, was won by the Vickers-Cecil front-wheel-drive DKW, while the Scottish Rally (then a much less competitive affair than it became in the 1960s) was a social event, with days out from Gleneagles, and there was no provision for an outright winner. The Mobil-gas Economy run was very important in those days, and in 1956 was won by H.G.W. Kendrick's Austin A90 Westminster (on handicap, at 29.74mpg); the best overall mpg figure was 66.12, by Brian Cumber's 4CV Renault, Citroen's 100 ascents-and-descentsof Bwlch-y-Groes with a 2CV was in great contrast - it took I8.5 hours, they averaged 16.5mph and 25.4mpg.

Commerically, the most important new model coming out of Britain was the Wolseley 15/50 - really the Wolseley 4/44 with a BMC B-Series engine instead of the old MG engine but the most interesting was Renault's gas-turbine powered 'Shooting Star', which mated a Turbomeca engine of 270bhp to a Fregate chassis in a special streamlined body. That was an advanced machine - on the other hand, Fairthorpe's new Electron sports car was not. The death of Lord Perry was announced, a man who had so much to do with the founding and subsequent growth of Ford in this country in the first half of the 20th century.

Formula One Championship:

Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina) / Ferrari

NRL Grand Final:

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Melbourne Cup:

Evening Peal (G. Podmore>)

Wimbledon Women:

Shirley Fry d. A. Buxton (6-3 6-1)

Wimbledon Men:

Lew Hoad d. K. Rosewall (6-2 4-6 7-5 6-4)

The Movies:

  • The Seventh Seal
  • Carousel
  • The Dambusters
  • Were no Angels
  • The Tender Trap
  • Giant
  • The Searchers
  • I'll Cry Tomorrow
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • The King and I
  • Friendly Persuasion
  • The Man with the Golden Arm

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - Around the World in 80 Days
  • Best Actor - Yul Brynner (The King and I)
  • Best Actress - Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia)

The Charts:

  1. Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis
  2. Great Pretender - Platters
  3. Love and Marriage - Frank Sinatra
  4. Rock Island Line - Lonnie Donegan
  5. Rock and Roll Waltz - Kay Starr


  • Tommy Dorsey (Trombonist & famous band leader)
  • Connie Mack (Baseball Player)
  • Jackson Pollock (Abstract-expressionist artist)
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