A new museum in Taranaki is a Holden lover's dream

by Ken Downie / 11 August, 2018
Steve Fabish polishes an FJ Holden, circa 1953. Photo/Ken Downie/North & South

Steve Fabish polishes an FJ Holden, circa 1953. Photo/Ken Downie/North & South

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Steve and Joy Fabish have created a mecca for Holden fans, just out of New Plymouth.

Steve Fabish is Holden-mad, but his first car was a Trekka. The only commercially produced vehicle designed and manufactured in New Zealand, it was powered by a Škoda engine. Fabish realised he needed something a bit tougher when he broke an axle after over-filling the car with bags of concrete. So, he made the giant leap from a Kiwi icon to an Aussie classic. It was heaven, he says. “And I could pull a trailer.” 

A builder by trade, Fabish was 20 or so when he bought that first Holden, a 1972 HQ ute, and he’s never looked back. Since then, he’s acquired another 38 different Holdens, from the very first model ever produced, a 1949 48-215 sedan, to the latest GTSR W1 V8 coupe. And another 10 acquisitions are on the way.

He and his wife, Joy Fabish, opened their purpose-built Hillsborough Car Museum last November on their rural property, a 10-minute drive from New Plymouth, to showcase the largest private collection of Holden cars and memorabilia in New Zealand.

The couple began thinking about it seriously four years ago, after one of their cars was stolen by a couple of kids out joyriding. “We had to do something; we had cars everywhere,” says Joy, a Holden fancier from way back. “Before the museum, we had Holdens inside the house. There were even a couple in the living room at one stage!”

Steve and Joy Fabish with the first-ever Holden model, a 1949 48-215 (the mint-coloured car at right) and a rare 50s FJ ute (centre). Photo/Ken Downie/North & South

Steve and Joy Fabish with the first-ever Holden model, a 1949 48-215 (the mint-coloured car at right) and a rare 50s FJ ute (centre). Photo/Ken Downie/North & South

The Holden versus Falcon debate is one of the great philosophical conundrums of our time. For Fabish, it was resolved back in 1990, when he decided to buy a brand-new car and took the latest Holden and Falcon models for back-to-back test drives. You can imagine which car won. But what if he’d preferred the Falcon? “I suppose I’m a Holden guy,” he laughs, “although I didn’t grow up with them. My dad had just about everything else.”

His father, Des, was a mechanic who taught Fabish and his brothers how to fix up cars, which has come in handy. Two of the cars in the museum are ground-up restorations Fabish did himself, including his favourite: a 1980 GTS ute, complete with a modernised interior. One of the vehicles in his fleet has a grand total of 26km on the clock; another three have hardly ever been driven. Other cars are on loan from friends, but all are warranted, registered and ready to go.

Despite being an Aussie brand (though it controversially ceased manufacturing across the ditch last year), Holden has made quite an imprint on Kiwi culture. Fabish, who won’t let anyone else clean or polish his treasured collection, says there’s a sense of history behind each car, and they hold a lot of memories.

“I love watching people’s expressions when they come into the showroom for the first time – the recognition on their faces,” he says. “Sometimes I come down here in the evening, crack open a beer, and me and the cars just spend a little time together.” 

This was published in the July 2018 issue of North & South.

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