DRIVING TO DISTRACTION
AUSTRALIAN CARS OF THE PAST
Pardon me if I am distracting you from all the other wonderful and informative content in this great publication but I have been distracted by the automobile industry in Australia. If you thought that the Holden was the first and only Australian car then I think that you may have to think again.
Have you ever heard of the “Australian 6” a car manufactured at the Sydney suburb of Ashfield between 1919 and 1925? This car was sold throughout Australia and New Zealand during that period and was extremely popular.
However the first car made in Australia was the “Phaeton” in 1896. It was not petrol driven but a steam car which averaged a speed of 8.7mph on a trip from Bathurst to Melbourne over a distance of 493 miles. The first petrol driven car built in Australia was the “Tarrant” built in Melbourne by Harley Tarrant & Howard Lewis. Over the ensuing years the partnership built many different models of the “Tarrant”
Getting into more recent living memory, Sir Laurence Harnett who has been called the “Father of the Holden” and was Managing Director of General Motors-Holden back in the 1930s was responsible for the development of the Holden which was eventually released in 1948. Sir Laurence had a distinquished career in the Australian motor industry, but apart from the Holden, Sir Laurence also had some involvement with two other Australian automobiles neither of which were produced by GM-H. He first created the “Harnett” and later went into a partnership with a German based automobile manufacturer to produce the “LloydHarnett” in Australia. Sir Laurence was also influential in the establishment of the aviation industry in Australia but that is perhaps yet another story.
I now go back a few decades and back to Adelaide where Holden first started. Earlier I wrote that the first car made in Australia was the “Phaeton”. This was produced in Melbourne in 1896. According to a 1926 Trove article, a David Shearer of Mannum in South Australia, also in 1896, manufactured a motor vehicle that travelled at a speed of 15mph, but instead of going into production of motor vehicles he decided to concentrate of the production of agricultural machinery. South Austalia was also the base of washing machine and cement mixer manufacturer Lightburn & Co which for a short period was also a car manufacturer that produced the “Lightburn Zeta” car between 1963 and 1965
With David Shearer, Holden and Lightburn it is a wonder that Adelaide did not become the Detroit of the Southern Hemisphere but then again perhaps it once was as the motor industry in Detroit has suffered similarly to that of Australia. I wonder if we will see any further Australian cars as we drive into the future?
Don’t forget to contribute your memories and also any old photographs that you would like to see published in this magazine’s “As We Were” section.
Lightburn Zeta courtesy of the Adelaide Advertiser.