1951 48-215 Holden May- July 2023 Cover Story

1951 48-215 Holden

In March 1994, when my late wife Doreen and I lived in Jannali in Sydney, my son Steve showed me an advertisement in Restored Cars magazine for a 48-215 Holden sedan in Ballarat for $5,000. I had been interested in 48-215s for some time, and when I rang the owner the car sounded very appealing.

I spent the next week trying to organize a way to get to Ballarat and to bring the car home if I bought it. As there were no commercial flights to Ballarat I decided to hire a car and drive down with my lifetime friend Jeff Howell. Jeff and I set off from Jannali at 7pm on 18 March and arrived in Ballarat at 7am next morning. After breakfast we drove to meet the car and its owner. I examined the car thoroughly and it seemed quite honest. It needed some work on the interior, but its exterior seemed OK.

We test-drove the car, finding that the engine, diff and gearbox needed oil changes and the brakes needed fluid. I offered the owner $4,750 and he accepted. Cash and keys were exchanged, we shook hands and then I drove down the road to a garage where I changed the oils and fitted a new radiator cap. Once fuelled up we set off for Sydney at 1pm. I drove the old girl – which we had christened “Sal” – and Jeff drove the hire car. Driving Sal at 50mph while trucks and cars screamed past at 70-80mph was certainly an experience: the wind drag was enormous.

We rumbled into Jannali at 7.30am on Sunday 20 March. Sal got 31 miles per gallon and used no oil. The Victorian registration was VT460, but I registered it in NSW with NL215 plates, which I eventually changed to Vintage Permit Plate 003.

In August 1995 I had the interior reupholstered, this being the only major issue I’d found with the car when I first inspected it in Victoria. I contacted many upholsterers, but eventually decided on John Howling from Vintage Upholstery. The job took six weeks but I was very happy with the result.
I was keen to learn something of the origins of my 48-215, and the Ballarat owner from whom I had purchased it knew much of its history. He was the car’s third owner, making me its fourth. He explained that the first owner lived in Rochester in North Central Victoria and had bought the car new in 1951. He had a farm 16km away, and apparently only drove the car back and forth to his farm. He died in the 1960s and the car passed to his nephew, who lived in Melton, west of Melbourne.

The car’s low mileage indicates that the second owner rarely drove it, and after a few decades his wife insisted that he sell it, as it was taking up room in their garage. He was reluctant to sell, but his wife must have prevailed, as the third owner bought the car in January 1983 after seeing it advertised in Restored Cars. He drove it home to Ballarat on very hard perished tyres and with the original radiator hoses reduced almost to jelly. It was heavy with mud and dust underneath from years of country running, but the speedo registered only 22,000 genuine miles.

The car had no turn indicators when he purchased it in 1983, and as they were not standard equipment and the car had been first registered before 1952 VicRoads did not require them. He drove the car for some time giving hand signals as in the old days, but found it extremely hazardous, as other motorists were used to turn indicators and often didn’t notice his hand signals!

When I purchased the car in 1994 I systematically cleaned it up but chose to keep it as original as possible. I rebuilt the engine to standard specifications, with original pistons and standard rings. The bores hardly needed to be touched, as the car had still only done 24,000 miles.

My son Steve and I were both members of the Southern Sydney Early Holden Car Club, and regularly attended Club events and outings, including several MotorFests. Doreen and I travelled extensively in Sal, including the Club’s trip to Melbourne in 1998.

I rarely drive Sal these days, but I fondly remember when she used to be a big part of the family.

(photos from Southern Sydney Early Holden Car Club magazine)

Source : “The Bayside Vehicle Restorers Club Inc. Magazine”

1951 48-215 Holden
1951 48-215 Holden