South Australia leads other Australian states in adopting motor cars, especially in the 1920s

This 1910 Daimler 38hp nine-seater Landaulette was built by Lewis Cycle and Motor Works in Adelaide on a British chassis.
Displayed at National Motor Museum, Birdwood.

South Australia took up the motor cars quicker than other Australian states. By 1921, there were 24 motor vehicles (excluding motorcycles) per 1000 South Australians. Victoria, with 16 per 1000, was next in Australia.

Some initial antagonism was directed at cars’ noise and smell scaring horses, still the main means of transport.  Speeding cars also threw up dust. But cars were rapidly appreciated by groups such as farmers in reducing isolation and medical practitioners for speedy house calls.

The Automobile and Motor Cycle Club of South Australia (later to become the RAA, Royal Automobile Association), formed in 1903, boosted motoring and a framework for competitions.

Hill climbs and reliability trials were favoured over racing, and were strongly supported by the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works. Vivian Lewis, Tom O'Grady, Bill Courtney and Murray Aunger were regular competitors from among its staff, while Norman Jackson and master builder Walter Torode were keen early competitors on Lewis motorcycles.

Lewis Cycle and Motor Works also ran hire cars. Newspapers reported in 1905 that, “following the practice that has been adopted in some Government departments, (the Premier) engaged a 12hp De Dion Bouton motor car from Mr V. Lewis' establishment” to visit the ailing former attorney-general in Mount Barker 22 miles away. This was praised as efficient use of the premier’s time compared to using a train.

Lewis hire cars also provided sightseeing tours of the hills or to visits to country shows and race meetings.

The cars’ general impact on South Australians began in the 1920s. American cars, such as the Model T Ford, became more practical and cheaper but remained the preserve of the affluent. Motor cycles with sidecars were common.

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