'Ethel' rolled out in loving memory

Maria Rowan with her beloved 1954 FJ Holden.
Maria Rowan with her beloved 1954 FJ Holden. Melanie Keyte

WHENEVER she's driving her 1954 FJ Holden, Maria Rowan feels her beloved brother's spirit beside her.

The hard-working Laidley volunteer bought the classic 50's ride about five years ago after her brother's death and has treasured it dearly ever since.

"It's an original, still with the original 6-volt system,” she said.

"The speedo is in miles per hour and it's done 57,868 miles.

"Of course, it's had new tyres, new brakes and it was repainted about 40 years ago, but still in the original colours.”

Ms Rowan decided to call the car 'Ethel', a purposely ill-fitting name which makes Ethel's owner smile from ear to ear, as it once made her brother smile.

"My brother called his wife that, and she hated it but would only ever let him call her that,” she said.

"It's our way of remembering.”

Maria Rowan's 1954 FJ Holden carries a special tribute to her brother under the bonnet, on the air filter.
Maria Rowan's 1954 FJ Holden carries a special tribute to her brother under the bonnet, on the air filter. Melanie Keyte

Ethel was wheeled out again last month, when the Laidley Pioneer Village Museum took retirees from the region for a scenic ride in an array of vintage cars for Senior's Week on August 25.

Ms Rowan said the 63-year-old vehicle was a hit with the attendees, many of whom could tell a tale or two about their youthful adventures in the old cars.

"A lot of people are very interested in the old Holdens,” she said.

"When you're driving around in it, people will honk or take photos too.

"It brings back memories, like how many people would remember going to the drive-through in something like that?

"I even had a lady say to me (on the day) that she had her first kiss in an FJ.

"A few others have said other things I won't repeat!”

As a volunteer at the pioneer museum, Ms Rowan values history and believed there was an intangible value in preserving and showing vintage cars such as her own.

"It's good for people of the day, not just the youth but everyone, to remember our past,” she said.

"We're always going to have a past and to show the old cars is a particular way of remembering that.

"A lot of people would only see pictures of cars like these.”

In its heyday, the FJ was the fashion for high-earning executives in society, Ms Rowan said.

Maria Rowan's beloved 1954 FJ Holden on show at the Laidley Pioneer Village.
Maria Rowan's beloved 1954 FJ Holden on show at the Laidley Pioneer Village. Melanie Keyte

Those who have grown up accustomed to slick BMWs and Rolls Royce rides being the favourite of the rich may find this fact hard to believe, but Ms Rowan knows where to look for such clues.

"If you see the chrome on the handles and the teardrops on the bonnet, I've been told they were made for people with money,” she said.

"It was called the 'executive car' for people like bankers and board members and rich people.”

Now, Ms Rowan only takes Ethel out for club rides and special events, having retired the old motor from daily use many years ago.

It might be only twice a month, but every time she said she remembers her dear brother.

"I love it because it was my brother's pride and joy, and he's always in the car when I'm driving,” she said.

"I reckon he'd be saying 'Good on you sis'.”

Ms Rowan is also a member of the Lockyer Classic Cruisers car club.

You can find out more about that club via their Facebook page or keep up with the Lockyer Antique Motor Association via

Topics:  cars fj holden history holden laidley pioneer village museum old cars vintage vintage cars

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