When the FE Holden was unveiled in July, 1956, it made front-page news all over the country and the first examples to be parked on city streets were mobbed by crowds of admirers. With its fully Australian-designed body, the FE introduced a more angular 'new look' and was longer, lower, wider and more powerful than the immensely popular FJ model it superseded.
The FE series was the product of a $4 million investment and four years of design and development work. It introduced the first wagon, or 'Station Sedan' (in 1957) and consolidated Holden's position as Australia's most popular car.
One of the benefits of the FE's updated styling was better visibility. Glass area increased by 40 per cent, thanks largely to the curved, one-piece windscreen and bigger rear window. Engine power was boosted to 53kW; suspension and handling were improved by such additions as a front stabiliser bar, new springs and better steering gear; interiors were appreciably roomier.
These facts were not lost on Melbourne Argus motoring writer John Williams, who wrote: "Biggest improvement in the new Holden is its driving vision - and on the road it feels like a real winner. Next was the extra width of the front seat if you want to carry six. Those extra inches may not sound much, but they gave me the feeling that 'Two Ton' Tessie O'Shea could easily make a third."
The FE Holden range also featured a fresh new range of 'single and two-tone fashion colours', restyled interiors with a more up-to-date dashboard design, a 12-volt electrical system, twin tail and stop lights and electric turn signals on Special sedans and wagons. Optional extras included reversing lights, windscreen washers and front screen demister.
Base price at introduction: $2284/$1142
Total number built: 155,161
Models: Standard sedan, Special sedan, Business sedan, Standard station wagon, Special station wagon, panel van, utility.
Engine: 2.15 litre six-cylinder
Dimensions (sedan): Length: 4470 mm; Wheelbase: 2667mm; Width 1701mm.
Power Output: 70bhp/53kW @ 4000rpm
Transmission: Three-speed manual with synchromesh on second and third. Column mounted shift lever.
ALSO IN 1956-58:
Holden's Dandenong (Vic) body and assembly plant opened
The Lang Lang (Vic) proving ground commenced operations
Holden passenger cars accounted for almost 50% of total registrations
The total number of Holdens produced since 1948 exceeded 500,000
Holdens were exported to 19 markets - Thailand, Hong Kong and East Africa among them
Popular songs and films of 1956:
Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley); The Great Pretender (The Platters); Love and Marriage (Frank Sinatra); Rock and Roll Waltz (Kay Starr); Rock Island Line (Lonnie Donegan) .
Carousel (Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones); The Dambusters (Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave); We're No Angels (Humphrey Bogart); The Tender Trap (Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds).