There were several attempts to manufacture cars in Australia in the 1920’s. The most successful of these was the Sydney-based “Australian Six”, with approximately 900 vehicles built between 1919 and 1925. Here is a summary of some of the other Australian makes of the 1920’s.
Advertised as a ‘New Wonder Car’ and ‘An Australian Triumph’, the Summit was built in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria by Kelly’s Motors Ltd between 1922 and 1926. It was equipped with a radio, cigar lighter and electric stop lights. The Summit also came with a 12 month warranty, which was unusual amongst cars of that era.
The Summit was powered by a 3.4 litre 4-cylinder Lycoming side-valve engine. The only body style available was a five-seater tourer. While most of the mechanical components were imported from the United States, an option was an unusual locally designed suspension system.
This used a series of leaf springs running the full length of each side of the chassis frame and was said to provide an exceptionally smooth ride. Unfortunately the long springs were prone to failure. A couple of hundred Summits were built, with at least one fully restored example surviving today.
The Albani Six was built in Melbourne by Albani Motor Constructions Pty Ltd. The protoype, fitted with a US-built Continental 6-cylinder engine, underwent an endurance test in which it covered 8,000 kilometres in 12 days with the bonnet sealed, so that no repairs or adjustments could be made to the engine. Engineers who inspected the car after the trial reported that it suffered no serious mechanical or structural faults. Despite this excellent publicity, the Albani Six never made it into production.
1922 Southern Six
Shortly after the end of World War 1, ex-aviator Cyril Maddocks established the Australian-British Motors Ltd to build a car. The Southern Six was powered by a British-made 2.4 litre 6-cylinder Sage engine developing 20bhp. Other mechanical parts sourced from Britain included Sankey wheels and a Wrigley gearbox. The body was built locally.
The prototype was extensively tested and was said to have a top speed of nearly 100km/h and used only 4.5 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres. Plans were made to make a 4-cylinder engined version of the car, but the only Southern Six built was the prototype.
The Marks-Moir was the most original of the attempts to build an Australian car in the 1920’s. The Marks-Moir was the brainchild of a Sydney dentist, Dr AR Marks, who in 1923 had the car built to his specifications in Britain and shipped to Sydney , where it was his personal car.
The Marks-Moir featured a unique chassis-less construction in which stressed plywood was used to provide an unitary structure. The 4-cylinder engine sat ‘east-west’ across the chassis, closes to the centre for optimum weight distribution. The transmission featured a 2-speed epicycle transmission (probably from a Model T Ford), driving the back axle through a limited-slip differential. A handful of Marks-Moirs were built. One of the cars was passed onto Jim Marks, AR Marks’ son. Jim Marks later went into partnership with noted Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith to build car in the early 1930’s called the Southern Cross, which used the same unitary construction principles.
The Besst was conceived by the May’s Motor Works of Adelaide. The company imported 3.2 litre 4-cylinder Lycoming engines from the United States, along with Muncie gearboxes and other mechanical parts. It is believed that the chassis was clearance stock from the Crow-Elkhart company of Elkhart, Indiana. The lone body style – the ‘King of the Road’ 5-seater tourer was built by local coachbuilder TJ Richards.
The Besst was promoted in local advertisements as a ‘new appreciation of motoring ease and security’, but it cost nearly twice as much as an imported car of similar size and performance, Approximately half a dozen were built and sold.
The black and white pictures for this blog post were sourced from the Allcarindex.com webiste, while the picture of the Besst was taken from the book “South Australian Cars: 1881-1942” by George Brooks and Ivan Hoffman, 1987.
Text is from the book “Aussie Cars” by Pedr Davis, published by Marque Publishing, Sydney in 1987.