EVERYBODY who loves Holden, and even plenty who don’t, remember Holden’s Last Car.
The Red Hot VF Commodore SS-V Redline exited Holden’s production line at 10:45am on Friday 20 October 2017, bringing to an end over a century of automotive construction.
Retained as part of the Holden Heritage Collection, it is currently housed in the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia, as part of the Holden Heroes: A Retrospective 1948-2017 display.
But another car with claims to the title is currently up for auction, this one not in a museum but in private hands. This near-identical VF SS-V Redline has already sailed past the $250,000 mark – and for this particularly significant piece of automotive history, the sky really is the limit.
Former Holden paint shop process engineer Alex Kyriakopoulos owns the car, having sequestered it away in an anonymous suburban garage for the past 3.5 years. Unlike the official Last Car, Alex’s VF is the final Holden to be constructed in Australia.
Alex watched the official Last Car get framed up and painted, inspected, and then placed aside in readiness for its starring role.
It would later return to the line with no others behind it, crawl through General Assembly and emerge to a waiting crowd as the official Last Car.
However, Alex then witnessed many more bodies getting framed up – the floorpans being mated to the side frames, and bonnets, doors and bootlids then added – before heading into his paint shop.
The final body created in this process was allocated VIN 333644, completed by General Assembly on 17 October 2017 before being loaded onto a truck en route to a Victorian Holden dealership.
In a chance conversation with some fellow engineers, Alex learned that while 333644 had indeed been allocated a dealership, it had not yet found a buyer.
“I knew I had to save it from obscurity,” he says. “So I put $60,000 on the table to make that happen.”
For most people, $60,000 is a lot of money for something you don’t want to use, and Alex is no exception. He has put the car up for auction with Lloyds Online, where early bidding has seen it clear the $255,000 barrier.
“I’m not a true collector,” he explains.
“I want it to go to someone who will look after it properly. Don’t get me wrong; it’s garaged and covered, but it’s not like it’s in a climate-controlled museum or whatever, which is really what it deserves.”
Alex isn’t wrong; for him and plenty of other former workers of Holden’s Elizabeth body and paint shops, it’s as deserving of the Last Car title as Holden’s official unit.
As the last car constructed by Holden, 333644 is the final vestige of the firm’s 164-year history, which from 1914 included automotive body construction mated to local or imported chassis.
‘Holden’ as a brand name was first affixed to a car in 1948, yet there are at least three surviving machines that can claim to be Holden’s ‘first car’.
Holden’s original prototype was created by hand in Detroit in 1946, while the first Australian-built prototype was completed in 1947.
Both these cars still exist, as does ‘Old Number One’, the car Prime Minister Ben Chifley greeted on 29 November 1948 as first off the production line.
With three ‘first’ cars, it stands to reason there could be more than one Last Car, and while some might query Holden’s decision to muddy up what appears to be a linear build process, Alex is pragmatic.
“I don’t think those guys have ever worked on a major production line,” he says.
“There can be problems, and there must be solutions. That’s why my car is also a Red Hot SS-V Redline with a sunroof. Imagine if they’d put a wagon through? Or deleted the sunroof? Or someone dropped a rattle gun on the official Last Car?
"It’s not like it could go through the paint shop again; it was all closed. So mine was a contingency car."
“I saved it for the guys and girls in the body shop and the paint shop,” Alex continues. “And me, I must add. For us, it’s the culmination of our careers at Holden. It just couldn’t disappear.”
As much as Alex loves the machine in his garage, he feels it’s time to part with it.
“What if I just hold on to it and it becomes a barn find in 50 years’ time? What benefit has it done to anyone?” he asks rhetorically. “I don’t want the car to spoil. That’s not unreasonable.”
If you think you’re the person, company or museum that can do justice to 333644, the final car constructed and painted by Holden in Australia, you can find it at Lloyds here.
Pictures: Troy Barker
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, it was erroneously stated that the Commodore currently up for auction at Lloyds is the official Last Car housed at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood. This is completely incorrect; they are two different cars, with the one up for auction being owned by Alex Kyriakopoulos. We have updated the article above to remove this error. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to the staff of the National Motor Museum and any other parties involved.