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Postwar Recovery

Material shortages, lack of spending money and, in America, labour disputes meant that most of the cars produced in the period immediately after the Second World War aimed to provide basic transportation with few frills.

Volkswagen Beetle

The original concept for the Volkswagen was introduced by Ferdinand Porsche in 1934. By 1939, prototypes had been built and a factory was nearing completion but, with the outbreak of war, the factory was converted to making munitions. In 1943, vehicle production commenced but it was halted again in 1944 because of bomb damage to the factory and shortage of petrol.

At the end of the War, the Volkswagen factory came under the control of the British Army who decided to restart production as a means of normalising life in the region. By 1949, when Volkswagen was handed back to Germany, it was producing more than 46,000 cars a year.

The "Beetles" produced immediately after the War had a split rear screen, cable-operated brakes and an 1100cc engine giving a top speed of just 63 mph.

1951 Beetle
1951 Beetle

1953 saw the introduction of a 1192cc motor and a single oval rear screen. (The cable-operated brakes had already given way to hydraulics.) 1953 was also the year of the first official Volkswagen imports into Australia; assembly in Australia began in 1954 with up to 80% Australian parts being used in the early sixties. Assembly in Australia ended in 1975.

In 1957, the oval rear screen was replaced by a rectangular one and a larger front window was introduced.

In 1961, handling deficiencies were addressed with a front anti-roll bar and a revised rear suspension; engine capacity was increased to 1255cc and a fuel gauge was included for the first time. In 1967, to conform to US safety regulations, lights and bumpers were repositioned. In 1970, a 1500cc engine was introduced and the front suspension was changed to MacPherson struts.

Despite having had only these minor changes, the Beetle's biggest sales year came in 1971 - 37 years after its original design. - when 1,291,612 Beetles were built.

Morris Minor

Series MM Morris Minor (1948`52)
Series MM Morris Minor (1948-52)

Another can which had a long lifespan was few major changes was the Morris Minor. First produced in 1948, the original MM Series had a a 918cc engine.

When Morris and the Nuffield Group (comprising Austin, Wolseley, MG and Riley) merged in 1952, the Series 2 Morris Minor with a 803cc Austin engine was introduced. 1962 saw the introduction of the Series 3, with a 948cc engine and a single curved windscreen replacing the two flat panels on the earlier models.

Production continued until 1971 although the 1098cc Morris Minor 1000 built from 1963 in the UK was not sold in Australia.

1960 Series 3 Morris Minor
1960 Series 3 Morris Minor

General Motors Holden FX & FJ

In 1948, General Motors Holden built Australia's first car, officially called the 48-215, but generally know as the Holden FX. It was priced at £733. The sedan was followed in 1951 by the "Coupe Utility".

In 1953, the FX range was replaced by the similarly styled Holden FJ. The FJ remained in production until 1956.

The 1951 Holden FX Coupe Utility or "Ute" was a passenger cabin and load tray designed and constructed as a single unit - as distinct from the American "pickup truck" in which the cabin and load tray are separate. This design originated in Australia in the early 1930s.

During the Second World War, General Motors-Holden had built Chevrolet utes for the Army. After the War, it continue to make ute bodes for Chevrolets, Vauxhalls and Bedfords. These were phased out after manufacture of the Holden ute began.

1953 Holden FJ
1953 Holden FJ

Ford Prefect

The Ford Prefect produced up until 1953 was very similar to the wartime model first produced in 1939 and, as this 1949 ad shows, looked a lot like pre-War British Fords.

In Australia, it was the main competitor for the first Holdens.

1949 Ford Prefect Ad