General Motors might have stopped building and selling Holden cars in Australia, but it would seem that the passion for the brand lives on.
When GM made the announcement that they would be departing Australian shores in February this year there was a national outcry, but the National Holden Museum in Echuca had never been busier.
That momentum continued for several weeks until COVID-19 interrupted the party.
The museum closed for several weeks and then reopened before being forced to close again as part of the current Victorian state-wide lockdown.
The exhibits in Australia’s longest running Holden museum are now under protective covers, but will be brought back to life within a day or two of Victorian restrictions being lifted.
The museum originated in Bayswater Victoria, moved to Bendigo and was reestablished in Echuca in 1993.
It was owned and operated by Ted Furley for 20 years, before a chance conversation with mates Mark and Tony Galea convinced him to hand over the keys in February 2017.
Although they share the same surname, Mark and Tony are not related and met through a shared passion for Holden cars at a club in Melbourne.
They were both looking for a “tree change” and the opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle of Melbourne and a move to Echuca provided the answer.
The majority of the 52 cars in the Museum are on loan from private collectors and from General Motors directly, but Tony and Mark also have a couple of their own vehicles on display.
The cars are regularly rotated to encourage return visits and there have been more than 100 different cars through the museum in the last three years.
Some of the current examples in house include a WB Statesman which was the last of its type ever made and which has just 20km on the odometer.
“When they finished making the Statesman they realised they had enough parts left over to build one more, so they did,” Tony told Speedcafe.com.
“When they were almost finished they realised that they had a few interior bits missing and that’s why it’s a little different on the inside.”
Other current cars of interest include an FC hearse with 9,500 original miles, an HJ Statesman Deville prototype, build #1 of the GTS Maloo ute, which was the fastest car of its type in the world at the time of production and the last Holden VF ute to come off the production line.
“The museum offers us the space to really show the cars properly,” said Tony.
“We don’t encourage people to touch the cars, but we want them to get close to them and be able to look inside.
“For many people, it really is a bit of a walk down memory lane.”
The museum is located just 100 metres from the Echuca’s historic port and has become a valuable part of the tourism industry which drives the Victorian city’s economy.
“Echuca is a terrific place and we are proud to be a part of the community,” said Tony.
“We have a lot of car clubs and groups that come to the museum and we have designed tours which include things like our airbag demonstration.
“Depending on what is happening at the time, guests might find themselves in a one-on-one guided tour with one of us.”
The Galeas wasted no time becoming part of the Echuca landscape and have established their own Holden Collectors Car Club which is open to anyone with a Holden built and bodied car.
Tony is the club’s permit officer, his wife Dina the club secretary and his brother Joe the club President.
The National Holden Motor Museum takes you through Holden’s history and includes historic film footage, photographic exhibitions, memorabilia, souvenirs and car related merchandise.
Current merchandise is also available through the museum’s gift shop and the museum is open 9am to 5pm seven days a week when COVID-19 restrictions are not in place.
|Address||7-11 Warren Street, Echuca VIC, 3564|
|How to get there||The museum is approximately three hours drive north of Melbourne, Victoria.|
|Opening Hours & Tickets||The Museum is open 09:00-17:00pm, 7 days a week (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Adults: $10; Pensioners/seniors $9; Children (5-16) $5; Family $25.|
|Phone||+61 3 5480 2033|
|Additional tip||The museum has an extensive gift shop with a wide range of Holden souvenirs, gifts, toys and games including an excellent selection of clothing, scale models, signs, prints and books.|