The Summit was one of the several attempts to manufacture an “Australian” car in the period between World War 1 and World War 2. Kelly’s Motors of the inner Sydney suburb of Alexandria were the firm behind the Summit. Production began in 1923, and Kellys ensured that details of the new car featured prominently in the press, such as this piece from the Burnie Advocate, dated the 7th of September 1923.
The Summit Car.
Among the new cars on the market today a striking example of the progress made in design is the Summit. Not only is the engine rendered, almost vibrationless by a five bearing, forced lubrication, crankshaft, supported on the chassis by a four-point suspension, but the inevitable road shocks are eliminated, as far as possible by the special method of springing. The Acme springs employed carry the whole strain throughout the whole chassis instead of each axle, absorbing the shock individually. This not only increases comfort in driving, by giving a rolling motion, instead of jolting, but saves considerable wear on tires. The full benefit of these springs must be seen to be believed. The makers themselves show their faith in the design, material and workmanship, by giving a written guarantee for twelve months, with each new car. This car is fitted with a 1923 New Lycoming Motor with Lynite Pistons and 12-inch Connecting Rods, thus eliminating excessive side slap on thc cylinder walls. The clutch is a 10-inch Borg & Beck dry plate, as used hitherto only in high priced cars. The radiator is a Pedders Honeycomb, same as used in the Packard. The wheel base is 112 inches. The car as supplied by the makers is equipped to such an extent that the buyer finds it entirely unnecessary to dip further into his pocket for those additions which add so materially to the comfort of the private car.
This last sentence was a reference to some of the features that were fitted as standard to the Summit – clock, cigar lighter, sun shield, wind deflectors and nickel-plated bumpers.
While the majority of the Summit’s mechanicals were relatively standard, the Acme springing system was an Australian designed system. In 1921 Christian Fredriksen and business partner William T Kelly travelled to the United Kingdom and the United States to demonstrate and sell Fredriksen’s invention – the Acme Spring Suspension System. Using two sets of three cantilevered leaf springs, the system spread shocks along the length of the car for a smoother ride over rough surfaces. Already proven on the difficult Australian road conditions, in 1921 the system was offered as a factory fitted extra on the Australian assembled Lincoln Six. Despite many attempts to sell the international manufacturing rights to various motor car producers, better road conditions experienced in Britain and the United States meant that the benefits of the system were not as apparent. Convinced of the need for the Acme system, Kelly’s company decided to market the Summit to see if the system would be a success on Australian roads.
Production commenced in late 1923, with the 5-seater tourer selling for approximately £495. Like the other attempts to sell a locally built car at this time, the Summit could not compete on price with imported cars, many of which were imported as chassis into Australia, avoiding import taxes, and fitted with Australian bodies. The Acme springing system was also prone to failure.
Kelly’s Motors advertised the Summit as the “New Wonder Car” and “An Australian Triumph”, and also used testimonials from owners, such as this one from the Adelaide Chronicle, dated the 1st of March 1924:
‘Summit’ Cars. The following letter has been received by May’s Motor Works who handle ‘Summit’ cars. The writer of the letter, Mr. H. C. Ward, is a well-known resident of Millicent:
‘It is with pleasure that I write to you with respect to my ‘Summit’ car. I journeyed from Auburn to Peterborough, and over bad roads the car averaged 26 miles to the gallon with a full load of passengers. From Auburn to Port Pirie, a distance of 190 miles, it averaged 25 miles per gallon of Plume motor spirit. The ‘Summit’ car has done good work for me on all roads, and on my return to Millicent, in the South-East, through the Coorong, with a full load, the car did the whole journey of 278 miles on 12 gallons of benzine, averaging 23 miles to the gallon over bad roads. I have never had to change a gear or to use a wrench on my Summit. The springs on the car make the Coorong long journey a pleasure trip, as it was a real treat to drive through in this car. I am satisfied that it is one of the best cars I have driven or ridden in. I have obtained 900 miles per gallon of oil.’
Unfortunately the Summit did not last long in the marketplace, with the last cars being built in early 1926. Production figures are estimated between 300-500 cars. Five complete cars survive, along with approximately ten cars in various stages of completeness. The car featured in this post is on display at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia.