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

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.