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Holden's closure marks end of an era for automotive manufacturing in Australia

The Australian made cars were synonymous with freedom for Greek migrants

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Nick Varigos eating watermelon in front of the family's Holden. Photos: Supplied

31 October 2017

Last week marked the end of an era for the automotive manufacturing industry with the closure of Holden's car manufacturing plant in Adelaide's north, after 70 years of operation.

Holden rolled its last car - a red Commodore V8 - off the assembly line and hundreds of workers were on hand to mark the occasion in a private ceremony, a bittersweet moment amid feelings of sadness and pride.

Holden's managing director Mark Bernhard thanked the workers in a genuine display of heartfelt emotion, while dozens of Holden fans gathered outside to pay tribute to their much loved brand.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the closure of Holden as a sad day for the country, while SA Premier Jay Weatherill described the lockup as a "massive" hit to the South Australian economy.

The brand has over the years also been extremely popular amongst Greeks in Australia.

"I remember our first family car, a Holden FB, where I would sit and do my Greek homework on a Saturday morning on our way to Greek School," recalls 54-year-old Debbie Argyropoulos, whose family migrated to Australia from the islands of Ithaca and Lesvos in the early 1950s.

"A few years went by and my brother convinced my father to buy another Holden, the legendary two-door Holden Monaro V8 which my then 40-year-old mother drove around with no rear seat belts. That was the car I also learned to drive in," she reveals.

"[Upon] reflection, the closure of Holden marks indeed the end of an era that's now long gone but will always stay alive in our memories."

Debbie Argyropoulos with her father and their Holden.

Over the seven decades of building cars in Australia, Holden produced almost 7.7 million, the largest of any of the local manufacturers, including 2.3 million Commodores.

Nick Varigos, now 64, was just three years old when his parents bought their first.

"For me, and for most Greek families across Australia, back in those days, a Holden was synonymous [with] freedom," says Varigos in an interview with Neos Kosmos.

"The car was our means to go out and explore Australia while many Greeks were employed at the manufacturing plants and helped provide for their families.
"The closure of Holden, a hallmark in the Australian manufacturing industry, brings closure to a massive chapter in our childhood memories," adds Varigos.

Holden's closure follows Ford's and Toyota's progressive cessation of their operations.

The second last Holden built was a Commodore ute, which followed a Commodore wagon and a Caprice limousine. Holden will keep all four cars as museum pieces.

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