How Holdens Came to Elizabeth, South Australia

In late 1955, Sir Tom Playford managed to persuade the President of General Motors that any new Holden factory should be sited at Elizabeth, South Australia.  Housing Trust, General Manager, Alex Ramsay, was told to escort the GM President to Elizabeth and sell him whatever land he liked.  Playford told Mr Ramsay that ‘any reasonable request would be met.’  ‘If they wanted us to bend a road, we would bend it.’  In fact, this was done and explains why the main road, Philip Highway, today has a deviation from the original which ran straight through the Holden plant and was known as Glue pot road.

Ramsay returned to the city with the news that he had sold GM 324 acres.  But there was a problem; the land he’d sold didn’t actually belong to the Housing Trust.  It was owned by an old farmer, Kevin Judd, who had always refused to part with it.  And it was the only site GMH was interested in.  It couldn’t be compulsorily acquire because it wasn’t for Government purposes.  So Ramsay had to go back to purchase the land.

However, the farmer took some persuading winning over.  He established that the farmer would be making a rare trip to Adelaide to collect a load of barley for his cows at Kent Town malthouse.  Ramsay at once expressed great interest in the operation and offered to meet his new friend at the malthouse and help him load his truck.

It was a very hot day and the farmer was elderly and Alex was not a strong person.  However, between them they got the ancient truck loaded.  The farmer told Alex he knew they could get a couple of pots of free beer from a window at the back of the malthouse.

After several rounds the farmer said:  ‘Ramsay, I’d sell you the land you want but I don’t want to handle all that money.  What do I do?’

Alex told him to hang on while he rang the Premier for advice.  It was decided that Ramsay would become his unpaid attorney and  take charge of the money.

The deal was then clinched.

When the Premier told the GM President the story he said they would need only a small part of their 300 acres during the next few years.  So far as the company was concerned Kevin could stay where he was and go on farming for the rest of his life free of any rent or other costs.  And that’s what happened.  Alex Ramsay looked after the farmer’s money until he died.

What Playford usually neglected to add to this entertaining story is that Kevin Judd may have been cannier than he was given credit for.  His obstinate refusal to sell his land until the last moment had gained him a price of £1,030 an acre for it – a record price for that area.

early GMH Holden emblem.

early GMH Holden emblem.

Holden Limited, Philip Highway, Elizabeth, SA

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