Some people think that Australia’s automotive industry dates from 1948 when the first Holden was built. Not so.
Australia began making motor vehicles when the Nation was still a conglomerate of British colonies. One of our automotive pioneers was Victorian Herbert Thomson, who in 1900 drove his steam-powered ‘horseless carriage’ from Sydney to Melbourne.
History didn’t recognise Thomson’s epic journey to nearly the same extent as it did the work of watchmaker Albert Ohlmeyer. His ‘Jigger’ had two seats, no bodywork and a flexible timber chassis with rubber tyres as its sole means of suspension. Like Thomson’s steamer, just one was made yet for decades afterwards people would refer to an ancient or strange motor vehicle as a ‘jigger’.
More inventive and practical was the Caldwell-Vale – forerunner to the All wheel Drive passenger vehicles of today. It was a large open-top touring car that was said to be equally at home in soft sand or on a paved road. The company also built 4WD trucks but legal claims when two of their vehicles broke down sent Caldwell-Vale bankrupt.
The car that should have succeeded and for reasons of penny-pinching didn’t was the Summit. It appeared in 1922, came with features including a radio and cigar lighter, had a top speed of 80km/h and a 12-month warranty.
It also came with ‘Acme Patented Spring Suspension’ – NOT a product of the mail order business made famous by Wile E Coyote – and which was claimed to keep the car level no matter how bumpy the road. The system did work but unfortunately the quality of the steel used for the leaf springs wasn’t great, springs snapped and warranty claims caused the company to close.
Repco is today known as a supplier of spare parts but it once had an engineering division that developed the V8 engines which brought Brabham Cars their first Formula One World titles.
Always innovative, Repco had during the 1950s and in conjunction with genius inventor Phil Irving also developed a cross-flow cylinder head for the Holden ‘grey’ motor. When fitted with dual Weber carburettors, the ‘Highpower’ head was claimed to double the output of a standard Holden motor.
To showcase its development, Repco designer Charlie Dean built a two-seat sports coupe that became known as the Repco Record. At a time when a lot of cars couldn’t manage even 100km/h, the Record was good for over 200km/h.
Chrysler Australia prior to 1971 had built cars based on North American designs. Then it devised the Charger and owning a Valiant suddenly became fashionable. In ultimate ‘E49’ form, the 4.3-litre engine ranked among the most potent six-cylinder power units in the world. Fed by a bank of three dual-throat Weber carburettors, the E49 developed 226kW and was in its day the fastest accelerating six-cylinder car in the world.
Identifying the meanest, fastest and most expensive ‘muscle car’ in Australian automotive history is an easy task. The Holden Monaro 427C was intended for public sale but that didn’t eventuate and just two were ever completed. In 2002 and 2003 they won the only 24-Hour races held at the Mt Panorama circuit and one of them later sold for more than $900,000.
Here at Enthusiast Insurance we love Australian cars and our Vehicle Lists contain thousands of different models. Jump Online when you get a chance www.enthusiast.com.au and see if your Aussie classic is there. If not, give us a call and we’ll make sure our research team find it, price and include it. Oi…Oi…Oi.