Text (Theme would like to look like a time line, with text at ...
Text (Theme would like to look like a time line, with text at side of years and including
photographs of vehicles/technological change)
SA MOTORING HISTORY - TIMELINE
Although the first car was probably built in 1672 by Padre Verbiest for the Emperor of China, it
was not until lightweight engines were developed in the 1880’s that car development really
1888 - 1908
While some enthusiasts imported European cars such as the Benz, several Australian inventors
and engineers built vehicles powered by either petrol engines or steam between 1888 and the
outbreak of war in 1914. The oldest Australian-made car still running is the 1899 Shearer Steam
Carriage built at Mannum, South Australia and currently on display at the National Motor
Museum, Birdwood SA.
Cars of this period were roofless, often without windscreens and needed lots of care and attention
to keep them going. Very rich people had large luxury cars, such as the Rolls-Royce, driven by
chauffeurs while people who were not quite as rich drove smaller cars like the De Dion Bouton.
Most people could not afford any sort of car and either used horse-powered buggies or they
In 1908 Dutton and Aunger drove a Talbot from Adelaide to Darwin, proving cars were more than
a novelty but could handle the tough Australian conditions. This car is on display at the National
1908 - 1925
With cars now more reliable, Australians used them more and more. Electric light lights replace
the old gas lamps, but the biggest change was the Production Line introduced by Henry Ford in
America in 1908. This made cars much cheaper and more people could afford them. Soon the
roads were full of Model T Fords, assembled in Australia.
1n 1914 a remarkable Australian car appeared. This was the Caldwell-Vale four wheel drive, four
wheel steering off-road car. Unfortunately it did not go into production, though the company did
build four wheel drive trucks.
While there were several Australian built cars, they used imported parts and were too expensive
to compete with the Fords, Dodges and Chevrolets.
Cars of this period usually had soft-tops and open sides, so when it rained you got wet.
1925 - 1939
By the mid 1920’s more cars were fitted with electric starters. While in the past many women
drove cars and used the crank-handles to start them, now motoring was available to all. Cars had
come a long way from the first primitive machines and were now a convenience.
Hard top sedan bodies gave a weatherproof ride.
In 1934 another Australian contribution to motoring design was the Coupe Utility Body. The story
goes that a farmer asked Ford for a car he could use to take his wife to church on Sunday and his
pig to market on Monday. The result was the “ute”, with both Ford and General Motors designing
Through the 1930’s styling became sleeker with lights being built into the car instead of being
attached to the outside. Cars ranged from the luxury limousines to the tiny Austin Sevens.
1939 - 1945
Because most factories were used in the war effort there were fewer ordinary cars built, but
people learned how to built things quicker and cheaper. The war also helped develop new
materials like plastics and nylon, and improved electrical equipment from things like radar. Military
vehicles like the jeep and the Blitz truck could be seen for many years after the war ended and
some are still in use.
1945 - 1960
After the war it was decided to build “Australia’s Own Car” and General Motors were chosen to
build it. In 1946 the first prototype was tested and in November 1948 the first Holden rolled off the
production line. The first production Holden is on display at the National Motor Museum.
With more people able to afford cars, towns changed to suit the increased traffic. Many new
roads were built.
The bodies of cars changed with wheel arches going inside the body-line instead of sticking out.
Automatic transmissions were starting to get more popular.
1960 - 1975
While the big-engine “muscle cars” like the Ford Falcon GTHO and Holden Monaro were the
dream of many, most people drove either the standard Falcon’s and Kingswood’s or the smaller
car like the, Morris Minor. Volkswagen or Mini.
The Mini made front wheel drive more popular and safety features like seatbelts were fitted to
1975 - 1995
The Middle-East Oil Crisis made petrol much more expensive and people turned to the fuel-
efficient Japanese cars. These cars came with features that had previously been sold as extras.
Local car makers changed their vehicles to compete with the imported cars so all cars became
Government anti-pollution laws and design rules meant that cars had to be cleaner and safer than
1995 - 2001
Tighter safety standards. Greenhouse gas emission controls and worldwide competition have led
to cars that use new materials and features to make them stronger and cleaner. It would be too
expensive for every car maker to make all these things so now manufacturers share many parts
and make “world cars”. Air bags and energy absorbing panels make cars safer while computer
controlled engines make them more efficient. More materials used in new cars are designed to be