Joel Wakely, Legends of the 48-215

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Manning Valley resident Joel has been attracted to cars from an early age, and has led a successful career spanning many facets of the motor vehicle industry. Not many can say they’ve owned a successful race car – but this is one of Joel’s fond memories, and led to the production of his first book, Legends of the 48-215. The book has received amazing feedback since its release. Joel’s visiting Port Macquarie this month to share his story …

Hi Joel. What originally brought you to the Manning-Great Lakes area?

Nine years ago while planning our retirement, away from Sydney, we visited the Manning-Great Lakes area and discovered Harrington. Soon after, we made the move and immediately settled into an active lifestyle with community involvement and many newfound friends.

As Sydney is only a short drive away, we can still stay in touch with our extended family and friends while enjoying the host of local activities we have discovered that the Manning Valley has to offer.

Your business background includes owning the BP Boomerang Service Station in Sydney, acting as NSW/QLD Sales manager for Bob Jane, working for Avis Rent a Car, and owning Avant-Garde Detailing. Seems to me there’s a theme here – a love for cars! What first inspired your love for motor vehicles – and especially Holdens?

From an early age I was attracted to motor cars. My passion was to own a MG TC, and in 1955 my dream became a reality that started my career in the car industry. In 1959 I opened my first business, a BP Service Station and mechanical workshop. 1968/73 I worked for Bob Jane in the development of the T Mart tyre franchise business, followed by 20 years with Avis in the Rent A Car industry.

At the age of 65 years young I opened a car Detailing/ Restoration business, Avant-Garde Detailing, specialising in prestige and collectable cars. In my new business I joked that I was “playing with other kids’ toys”. It was a rewarding business that gave a great sense of achievement.

After 60 years and still counting in the motor industry, I have written a book about early model Holdens and the car that started another chapter in my life.

During your time owning the BP Boomerang Service Station, an iconic race car was born. Tell us a bit about the Boomerang 48-215 Holden’s career … 

I purchased a modified FX Holden from a workmate who was going overseas. In the excitement of owing a race car, without much persuading, together with my mate, Bob, a mechanic, and Spencer the driver, as he had a race licence, we decided to purpose build my car for the Appendix J touring car series races.

Together we dismantled and mechanically overhauled and rebuilt the car; this was a purpose built race car.

The success of my car’s achievements are recorded in the record books. Spencer Martin drove the car in the 1963 season. The following year, Barry Seton was our driver. Over the period our car had a 94 % finish record. Out of 43 races, it archived 29 firsts, six second placings, three thirds, one ninth and four did not finish. In total, an 86% podium record.

The on track record most certainly assisted all team members in their future job prospects, and undoubtedly it promoted my business and reputation. All benefited from their association with my race car, taking us all onto bigger and better things.

The Holden 48-215 was also known by other names, including the “humpy”. How did these cars earn this nickname?

The Holden 48-215, Model FX, The Humpy Holden – take your pick – all refer to the first model Holden.

The 48-215 name established initially by GMH relates to 1948; 48 being the first year of production, 215 is from the engine cubic capacity volume 2150 cc or 215 L = 48-215

Later the model or series code was decided; it was FX. To follow was the FJ, then the FB.

The “Humpy Holden” tag was a term of endearment bestowed on these early model Holdens because of the humpy shape. Like a nickname, it is still used in media and at Holden shows throughout the country.

For the cars’ release, the name Holden was chosen in honour of Sir Edward Holden, the company’s  first chairman.

For some more specific detail, between what years were the 48-215s manufactured, and what were some of their tech specs?

Three prototype models of the 48-215 were built in 1946 by GMH at their Detroit factory in the USA and shipped to Australia for testing. Later, the Adelaide plant produced two prototype models for testing, followed by, in September 1948, 10 production line models. Full production started in late 1948, with an additional 112 cars produced and shipped to the dealer network for their release.

The 48-215 was a basic car designed to suit Australian conditions. It was lightweight, with an economical six cylinder motor coupled to a three speed manual gear box, all together with a modern day suspension to handle our rugged road conditions. The design concept proved a winner for both GMH and the Australian public. By 1956, Holden sales reached 250,000. By 1962, one million Holdens had been manufactured by GMH in Australia.

What is it about these early days of car racing with these old Holdens that inspired you to write your book, Legends of the 48-215?

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of my car, I was asked to do an article for the Unique Car magazine. Soon after, because of the response, I was inspired to go into greater detail. To make a magazine article into a book, it required more script, so I used the 48-215 model as the feature and expanded into other related subject matters.

In my research, I found it hard to stop; there is so much untold history and stories to tell about these Australian built Holden cars.

You launched your book locally back in March. What kind of feedback have you received since?

The feedback I have received is amazing; people from all over have contacted me personally, sent me photos of their car and complimented me on the book.

Following the official launch at both Taree and Harrington Libraries, we had follow up press and radio reports. I have been invited to be guest speaker at several car club meetings, three in the area, and also Newcastle, Sydney and soon at Port Macquarie and again in Sydney at the MG Club July meeting.

Where can readers source a copy of your book?

My book is now into a second print run, and copies can be obtained online for $34.95 through:

Pitstopbooks online, – in Taree @Mals Toy Shop or Harrington Newsagency and Post Office.

Do you have any other books/projects in mind for the future?

Yes, I am considering another book about Holdens in the immediate future.

Thanks Joel. Interview by Jo Robinson.

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