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Many French cars came to Australia beginning very early. Many of these cars were imported into the state of Victoria with its capital Melbourne. Sydney has always promoted itself as a romantically rough and tumble town and yet most of the motor-cars imported were English from very expensive ones to cheaper models. Sydney has always regarded Melbourne as a dull, strait-laced city of dull, strait-laced people but how was it that most of the interesting European cars were imported there?


I have thought about this for forty years and have come to the conclusion that it was the famous Victorian Gold rush of around 1855-60 that brought a flood of non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants into the colony. Many stayed on and settled. A couple of generations later the descendants of these people were more inclined to buy goods that came from the land of their ancestors. Some of the motor-cars I have seen that came into Victoria are, in any order as I think of them, Hurtu, Peugeot, Cottin-Desgouttes, Chenard-Walcker, Lorraine-Dietrich (I owned two of the three-litre models), Amilcar, Salmson, Senechal, Derby, BNC, Sima-Violet, Vermorel, Le Zčbre, Vinot Deguingand, SCAP, SLIM, Hispano-Suiza, Panhard-Levassor, Delage, Bugatti (I owned a Type 38 and a Type 44), Hotchkiss, Bugatti, Lancia, Itala, Excelsior, Voisin (I owned a four-litre short-chassis car), Alfa-Romeo, F.I.A.T., Darracq, Diatto, Ansaldo, Bedelia, Renault, Citroen etc. etc. etc.


I have always had special affection for Amilcars and have owned and used them for over forty-five years. I think that somewhere around 2000 Amilcars came to Australia and that this country was possibly the biggest export market for the marque. Compare this with a total of perhaps 250 Amilcars ever being imported into England and you may begin to understand that the time is long overdue for Australian Amilcaristes to communicate directly with our French friends directly.


Many more Amilcars were imported into the U.S.A. than was thought even ten years ago. Hardly a month goes by without another one being unearthed or discovered. And then there is South America!

Le Zebre - Australie

                                                                                               Bruce Smeaton

I could add more names to Smeaton’s list of known imports, not all of them with great pretensions of quality or performance, but interesting in their diversity.
My Father was the Australian agent for A Harper, Sons & Bean Ltd (later Bean Cars Ltd) from 1925 until the company failed a few years later. Contrary to Smeaton, he always said that Melbourne was a far better market than Sydney, particularly for English cars such as the Bean, which was admittedly a medium, rather than a high-class car. He put this down to flatter topography here, where smaller-engined English & European cars were less disadvantaged compared with the larger-engined, more flexible Americans. Certainly, Australia was the best market for Bean outside UK: cars in Melbourne and light trucks in Sydney. I’d suspect that Melbourne would have been the better market for e.g. Rolls-Royce, Daimler; Sydney perhaps better for Packard, Cadillac etc.

Graeme Simpson

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