Duly & Hansford: nuts and bolts to daredevil speedsters

Remember all those nuts and bolts General Motors used on Carrington Road Marrickville? These could have come straight from the Duly & Hansford factory two doors down.

Duly and Hansford opened its factory on 1 February 1927, when Mr Duly boasted the firm was “now in a position to supply the wants of the whole of Australia with bright nuts and bolts.” This impressed Federal Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr Herbert Pratten, who officially opened the factory. Pratten was a supporter of local industry and Australian-made products. He said, “if you buy the home-made article you keep both your goods and your money. If you buy outside all you get is the goods.”

Duly & Hansford soon expanded to springs and shock absorbers including Duofor and Personne-Reed brands. These were used by racing hero Wizard Smith in an attempt to break the land speed record according to an ad taken out by Duly & Hansford in the Sunday Times on 3 November 1929.

The Mystery Car (also known as ANZAC) was a 18.7 litre aircraft engine made by Rolls Royce mounted on a Cadillac limousine chassis with a streamlined racing car body (Eric North, 2004). Wizard Smith set the Australasian record at 90 Mile Beach near Auckland with a speed of 239 km per hour in January 1930. For more on Wizard Smith, see Clinton Walker (2012) Speed, Modernism and the Last Ride of Wizard Smith.

Duly & Hansford continued manufacturing automotive parts on Carrington Road Marrickville until 1968 when taken over by US automotive firm, TWR Inc, which operated the factory for another three decades. Duly & Hansford’s factory buildings are still used by the automotive industry today through repair and body shops.

AH Peters: 125 years making trucks & vans

General Motors Australia weren’t the only automotive manufacturer on Carrington Road Marrickville in the 1920s. AH Peters had also set up next door at No. 16. The AH Peters factory (without its brick façade) can be seen to the right of General Motors Australia on its opening day in 1926. Inside, the building’s impressive first floor trusses suggest heavy machinery may have been used on the first floor. The building is now occupied by Sydney Prop Specialists but AH Peters is still operating today after moving to Condell Park and is proud of its 125-year history.

In the early Twentieth Century, AH Peters made motor vehicle bodies, particularly trucks, vans and utility vehicles, adapting General Motors models for more specialised uses. AH Peters supplied commercial vehicles including to Kellogg’s, MacRobertson’s, Cadbury’s Chocolate, Dairy Farmers, Colda Fruit Salad Delicacies, J. Gadsden, Anderson’s Smallgoods and Steelo, according to archives in the State Library. These commercial vehicles were well-known around Sydney and AH Peters had their bodywork photographed by our favourite photographer, Milton Kent. If you look closely, you can see the Steelo photo was taken out the front of AH Peters premises on Carrington Road!

AH Peters also transformed General Motor’s Buicks into ambulances used across NSW. See more historic Buick ambulances in a collection put together by John Gerdtz.

Carrington Road: So what is an assembly plant?

In the 1920s, the General Motors assembly plant in Marrickville was described an engineering marvel and fascinated Sydneysiders. Visitors to the plant included Charles Kingsford Smith, world-champion golfer Walter Hagen, singing organist Julia Dawn, the Master Builders Association, the Millions Club, the 2UW Radio Club, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Radio Movie Club. An illuminated scale model of the plant was a hit at the 1929 Sydney Motor Show.

But what is an assembly plant? It is a factory with an assembly line, where work is separated into a sequence of tasks. Henry T Ford developed a moving assembly line in 1913 and it cut the cost of automotive production. Cars became affordable so more people could buy one. Assembly lines made household goods cheap and readily available in the Twentieth Century, something we can still appreciate 100 years on.

General Motors on Carrington Road was possibly the first purpose-built assembly plant in New South Wales with moving production lines. Ford had only just opened its plants in Geelong, Adelaide and Brisbane (Sydney came later in 1936). Here’s a description of the General Motors assembly line from the 1930s:

Bodies are hauled by electric hoists into the body storage area, where they are fitted with electric wiring harness and dashboard instruments, later assembly begins with the riveting of the chassis frame. Red hot rivets are tossed from the furnaces to the riveters with seemingly reckless abandon. Each man is ready to collect and the hot rivets are hammered into place with pneumatic hammers. Petrol tank, axles, steering wheel, steering column, transmission and springs are then fitted, and the chassis moves on to a trestle. Mechanics fit spark plugs and prepare the engine. The chassis frame is treated with anti-corrosive, the engine lowered into the chassis frame, and the unit is ready for its journey along the conveyer line. Fenders and other parts are fitted and a body is gently lowered to the frame… An army of men swarms over the unit… the engines are started and the cars roll off under their own power to checking pits. Here every bolt and nut is inspected, steering and wheel alignment are checked, the ignition system is inspected to see that everything is functioning perfectly… The car goes on its first journey…

Speaking of nuts and bolts, we’ll bring you more on where these could have been made soon (hint: it’s just down the road!)

 

 

Speaker Series: The Catch: The Story of Fishing in Australia by Anna Clark

Bringing her personal passion for throwing in a line, local author Anna Clark celebrates the enduring pleasure of fishing. This book charts the history of fishing, from the first known accounts of Indigenous fishing and early European encounters with Australia’s waters to the latest fishing fads; from the introduction of trout and fly fishing to the challenges of balancing needs of commercial and recreational fishers.

Marrickville Library Thursday 28 June 6:30pm-7:30pm Book for sale and signing

Bookings open Monday 7 May.

Swamp to manufacturing marvel

NSW Manager for General Motors in the 1920s, Mr JF Potter, must have been looking for a site to establish General Motors as an industrial showpiece. He chose Carrington Road Marrickville. But why? How did this and other parts of Marrickville become a powerhouse of Australian manufacturing?

One thing you might know is that Carrington Road floods every now and again. There’s a reason for this. It’s built over the former Gumbramorra Swamp. The swamp drained south to the Cooks River, and in the early 1800s was a wild and dangerous place where escaped convicts and bushrangers hid. Later, some parts were turned into brickworks and farms, including dairy farms and market gardens around Carrington Road.

Buicks, Chevrolets, Cadillacs & Oaklands: General Motors Cars of the 1920s

 

Pontiac Six, Motor Progress, No. 1, October 1926

So General Motors actually made cars in Marrickville? Yes! When you think about the car industry in Australia, you probably think Victoria and South Australia but cars were made across Australia for most of the Twentieth Century. The General Motors Australia assembly plant on Carrington Road Marrickville supplied cars to all of New South Wales.

On opening of the plant in November 1926, a car could be completed in just 30 minutes. Then by May 1927, a car was rolling off the assembly line every ten minutes. On 23 August 1927, the plant celebrated its 10,000th car in just the first nine months. It was a Pontiac Six.

Convertibles, family cars and commercial trucks were all made at the Marrickville plant. We’ve put together a list of the vehicles from trade publications and newspaper articles (below). General Motors cars from the 1920s like Chevrolet, Cadillac and Vauxhall are still well known to this day.

General Motors’ extensive range was the part of corporate strategy by American millionaire William C Durant. Mr Durant started General Motors in 1908. You can read about how he did this here. General Motors maintained its brands’ identities and this continued when General Motors purchased one of its major Australian suppliers, Holden in 1931. But more about that another time!

Roads, rail and electricity

Remember Sydney’s flying photographer, Milton Kent? Here is a superb photograph taken by Kent over General Motors on Carrington Road Marrickville.

The gleaming General Motors factory is set against old Sydney with its brick pits and chimneys. A network of new power poles lines the streets. You can see General Motor’s office building, the big saw-tooth roof of the assembly plant and the distribution yard, full of new automobiles. (We’ll get to the cars in coming weeks.) The buildings under construction on the right include a new cafeteria for the factory’s workers.

The goods railway line from Marrickville to Port Botany runs just behind the factory. This line opened on 14 October 1925, just one year before General Motors, and made it easy for vehicle parts made in Australia and overseas to reach the factory by train. It even came right inside the factory’s storerooms, and is still there today.

And Carrington Road itself is a grand boulevarde. General Motors gave £5000 to Marrickville Council to build the road from concrete, as it remains today.

You might also like to explore other aerial photos of 1930s Sydney in the Royal Australian Historical Society’s Adastra Aerial Survey Collection

Carrington Road Let’s get to work!

General Motors on Carrington Road Marrickville was big – as big as Melbourne’s and around double the size of Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. When opened, the plant was designed for 175 workers producing 60 cars a day.

On Opening Day, a Chevrolet was assembled and driven off the assembly line’s rails under its own power in 29 minutes, considered quite a marvel by the fascinated onlookers! Equipment was strung from above and the factory had plenty of beams to support equipment as well as overhead pipes carrying oil and water as well as power.

In the 1920s and 1930s, cars were assembled in Australia from an imported chassis and many locally produced parts and materials. Holden supplied some of the bodies to General Motors. Australian leather and wool was used for seats, timber and lead for batteries and hardware was also locally made. General Motors wanted to showcase its links with Australian manufacturing, even producing a booklet on the topic. Discover Australia Builds a Motor Car (1928) for yourself.

This booklet also mentions another Carrington Road Marrickville business Duly & Hansford (we’ll come back to them another time).

Here is the assembly line in 1928. This photo was taken by commercial photographer Milton Kent. Milton Kent pioneered aerial photography after getting his pilots licence in 1926. We’ve found some photographs of General Motors taken by him in a plane which we’ll show you next week.

General Motors Opening Day

General Motors – Opening Day 30 October 1926. Source: General Motors Australia

In our first post, we introduced the General Motors-Holden factory on Carrington Road Marrickville. It’s still here today but we thought we’d share more about this historic building on its opening day on 30 October 1926.

The building was opened in front of enthusiastic well-wishers. Staff, dealers and suppliers celebrated the future of Australia’s motor trade. Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Olds mobiles lined Carrington road.

Lang is welcomed by Innes Randolph, Managing Director of General Motors in Australia, and JT Potter, Manager of the Sydney Branch. Source: General Motors Australia

The crowd watched NSW Premier Jack Lang shake hands with the General Manager, Innes Randolph. Lang was not known for being cheerful, but photos from the day show him grinning with pride at the opening of the new factory. JT Potter is behind them – he chose the Marrickville site and oversaw construction.

Inside, Jack Lang officially opened the new plant. In his rasping voice, the Premier announced, “Factories are the milestones along the road Australia must travel to become a self-contained nation.” He continued, “There is no market like that created by the employment of local labour…the entire operation will all go to stimulate associated industries, and it will be a striking advertisement to the world of this country of ours.”

General Motors-Holden kept an album of photos from the day for nearly 100 years. Discover the 1926 Album for yourself.

Next time we’ll look at the factory in production.

General Motors establishes in Carrington Road

Have you heard about the old General Motors-Holden factory in Marrickville? It’s right here at No. 10 Carrington Road. You can still see it for yourself. But why Marrickville? What did it mean for Australia and our industry?

Well, we’re excited to bring you the story of how a thin strip of land played a big role in the Twentieth Century. We’re unearthing new information all the time, so join us as we reveal a fascinating history, full of people, their stories and hopes for the future. So let’s go!

Our story starts in 1926. The American motor vehicle company General Motors wanted to expand. Australia seemed perfect – a wide-open land to explore, a wealthy and adventurous people and a prosperous economy.

Their key rival Ford had just fitted out an old wool store in Geelong. But General Motors had bigger ideas. It planned five modern assembly plants: Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney (yep you guessed it – on Carrington Road, Marrickville).

In Sydney, General Motors hired well-known commercial architects Ross and Rowe to build the new factory, and they built fast. The Sydney Morning Herald marvelled at the “speedy construction” (the design was completed in just 10 days) but the feat was impressive: reinforced concrete floor, shadowless light, 1000 electrical points and a fancy office building and staff dining hall.

Discover the Herald’s article from 1926 for yourself.

And what happened to the other General Motors assembly plants across Australia? Gone. This is the last standing.