ADELAIDE HAS WON – AND LOST – THE PRESTIGE OF HOSTING THE AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX AND BEING THE POWERHOUSE OF AUSTRALIAN CAR MAKING, going back to the early 20th Century when Adelaide had the biggest car plant in the British empire and the biggest outside the United States of America.
Yet those losses can’t erase an entrenched culture that confirms Adelaide as Australia’s car city. In an everyday sense, Adelaide is one of most car-dependent cities in the world, with 84% of commuters using the car – higher than any other Australian city.
And South Australia keeps building on its car culture with new ventures, venues and events. In May 2018, David Brabham, son of F1 world champion Jack, tested his Adelaide-built Brabham BT62 on the new Bend racetack at Tailem Bend – combining two whole new South Australian concepts.
South Australia has the highest per capita ownership of historic vehicles in Australia. Its National Motor Museum at Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills is the biggest in the nation. Historic-vehicle events such as Bay-to-Birdwood rallies and the Motorsport Festival grow in popularity.
Speedcars and motorcycle racing became an Adelaide institution, starting at Wayville in the 1920s and a wild golden area at Rowley Park in 1950s.
The Adelaide 500 V8 Supercars event, on the former Grand Prix street circuit, continues to prove the city can present top-class motoring events. The $80 million motorsport park being built by the Shahin family at the old Mitsubishi test track site near Tailem Bend will add to this status.
Adelaide’s contribution to motoring technology will live on. The Zeta (not to be confused with that other Zeta) rear-wheel-drive architecture, developed at the Elizabeth GM Holden’s plant, became a global format.
Adelaide looks to the future with its driverless car tests and companies such as Cohda Wireless, a world leader in smart driving technology. Electric cars are being encouraged as part of the city's carbon-neutral strategy.
19th CENTURY SOUTH AUSTRALIANS BECOME EARLY INNOVATORS AND ADOPTERS OF MOTORING
The first petrol motor vehicle on the roads of South Australia was driven by a French woman in May 1898. French racing cycliste Mlle Serpolette demonstrated a Gladiator motor tricycle at the Jubilee Oval where cycling races were held – but women competitors were forbidden. Serpolette received a “capital reception” at the oval but her motorcycle demonstration struck a fuel problem and the engine wouldn’t start. The event organisers postponed the exhibition to the Tuesday. Mlle Serpolette was relieved: “In Paris, such a failure would have caused a disturbance". The motor tricycle was taken to Vivian Lewis’s city cycle factory for repairs. At 10am on Tuesday, Lewis mechanic T.P. O’Grady tested his repairs by taking the tricycle up to Belair where he collided with a stone carter in South Australia’s first motor accident. The machine’s front forks were damaged and had to be fixed back at the cycle works in time for Mlle Serpolette to collect it for the exhibition. On the way to Jubilee Oval, Mlle Serpolette drove through Wakefield, King William and Rundle streets. Hundreds saw her display but a fuel problem again hampered it. A year later, on June 5, 1899, the locally built Shearer steam car made its first run down the main street of the River Murray town of Mannum.
David Shearer invented Australia’s first motor car. A blacksmith and farm machinery maker with his brother John at Mannum on the River Murray, Shearer began working in 1894 on his “horseless carriage” powered by steam with mallee wood firing the engine. It had the world’s first differential. Shearer got permission for drive his “automobile” in Adelaide city streets in 1900 when he brought it to the Adelaide Chamber of Manufacturers Exhibition. Shearer’s vehicle travelled at 15 miles an hour, faster than England’s first car two years later that reached 10-12 mph. Shearer wasn’t interested in making cars. He just wanted to prove the horseless carriage was workable. He returned to making agricultural machinery. After early experience in blacksmithing and wagon building, David had joined brother in 1877 in making farm implements. The Shearers were invited to Mannum where the farmers needed tough equipment to clear land covered with mallee and pine. The Shearers came up with rugged machines – adding stump jump ploughs to the grubbing machines, fixed ploughs, scarifiers, harrows – that found a ready market in South Australia. In 1888, they invented a virtually unbreakable wrought steel plough share at one quarter the price of the old forged share. These shares swept Australia in popularity and saved farmers millions. By 1895, the Shearers expanded their business but kept improving to produce popular lighter and stronger stripper with a wider cut in 1902. The steam car project was just a background to all this.
Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, with Adelaide horse carriage and tram builders Duncan & Fraser, produced the first petrol-driven motor car made in South Australia – at its McHenry Street, Adelaide, factory in 1900. The Lewis company, founded by Vivian Lewis and Tom O’Grady and initially renowned for its bicycles and building the first South Australian motorcycle in 1899, gained valuable publicity from the small two-horse-power vehicle it made in 1900. The Lewis display at the 1901 Royal Agricultural Society autumn show brought more publicity by featuring two motor vehicles, with the Register reporting that “the whole of the designing, construction, and finishing of these machines being executed at the works". By the spring show, the Lewis car had a more practical water-cooled 5hp motor. With its larger motor, the car travelled to country shows and holiday destinations in 1902. A Lewis car conveyed progress reports of a coronial investigation into a murder at Towitta, 21 miles beyond telegraph station at Angaston. The Lewis design settled in 1903 on the Minerva motor beneath a diamond frame design. Although Lewis built some more motor cars, it eventually favoured importing over manufacturing. The first car imported by Lewis, assembled in the McHenry Street factory, was for Gordon Ayres. A Gladiator for Bertie Barr Smith was “the first four cylindered car imported into Australia”. Lewis started bringing in more quality brands like De Dion, Talbot, Napier and Star and the Lewis Motor House was built on Victoria Square in 1904 with a factory on Molton Street, Adelaide.
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 Automobils 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.
South Australia brought in Australia’s first motor vehicle registration and licensing during 1906. In 1904, with the first “mechanically propelled vehicles” on Adelaide streets, the Motor Traffic Regulation Act had been legislated. By 1910, 1350 cars (and many motor cycles) were registered. Registration plates were first issued in South Australia in 1906 for three classes of vehicles: motorcycles, motor vehicles and trailers. This led to historic plates, with the same number, on each of these three classes. Thus No.1and so on was issued to a car, motorcycle and trailer, at the same time. Unlike the United Kingdom, historic plates could be transferred by registered owners from vehicle to new vehicle. Owners could retain their historic number and transfer it to a new car off an old one or they could transfer the historic number to a new owner when a car was sold. This has led to generations of family members retaining their historic plates. This changed with new rules around the alpha numeric plates in 1966 (starting with RAA-000). The ability to transfer and retain a plate off a car was ended and new cars were issued with new plates. The 1985 historic plate auction changed the rules again, with plate owners needing to get “proprietary rights” to a number to transfer it from car to car or from owner to owner. “SA” became mandatory on South Australia’s number plates in 1931 to distinguish from other states’. Before this, vehicle owners supplied their own plates with no set design or type. Some were painted onto radiators, some were affixed to wood blocks and some cars had elaborate cut-and- polished plates.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA HOME TO BIGGEST AUTOMOTIVE FACTORY IN BRITISH EMPIRE BY 1920s
Adelaide’s place in the 20th Century as a powerhouse of Australian car making was not something brought in from overseas. The Australian car-making industry was spurred by the drive of three Adelaide horse coach/saddlery companies: Holden’s Motor Builders Ltd, floated in 1917; Duncan & Fraser, who switched to making and selling cars as early as 1903; and T.J. Richards and Sons, which became a car-body-building company in 1922. Duncan & Fraser, quality horse coach builders who won the contract to build Adelaide's trams in the 1870s, were ambitious in their 20th Century switch to cars. Those ambitions were choked by Ford Motor Co. in the 1920s. T.J. Richards and Sons also were bold in their car-building vision . It was T.J. Richards that beat Holden’s in 1937/8 by selling Australia’s first all-steel sedan car body. Holden and T.J. Richards had benefited from the 1917 federal government embargo on imported car bodies. But the family companies' next generation made the most of the opportunity. They embraced large investment, innovation and expansion. Under Edward (Ted) Holden, Holden's Motor Body Builders (HMBB) Woodville plant, with the latest technology, became the biggest of its type outside the USA. But the Depression forced Holden’s into selling to American partner General Motors in the 1930s. T.J. Richards remained 100% Australian-owned until Chrysler Corporation bought control in 1951.
Duncan & Fraser, the Adelaide firm that grew from making quality horse carriages and then trams for Adelaide and Melbourne, made bold moves into car selling and making in the early 20th Century. After Duncan & Fraser built its first car body for Adelaide’s Lewis Cycle Works in 1900, joint founder James Fraser set up South Australia’s first showroom for cars. In 1903, it delivered a 5HP Oldsmobile South Australia’s first motorist Dr J.B. Gunson. With James Duncan, he was a founding member of the Automotive & Motor Cycling Club of South Australia – now the RAA. The firm won more car agencies but the big coup was the Ford Model T. After World War I, Fraser & Duncan stopped making horse-drawn transport and sold its Kilkenny trams factory to Holden Motor Body Builders – to fund its own Mile End factory to build cars. When that factory was destroyed in Adelaide's largest fire in 1923, Duncan & Fraser found temporary premises and were assembling eight cars daily within weeks. Ford Motor Co. was unhappy about dealers such as Duncans selling other car brands but, when executive Hubert French visited Adelaide, he conceded the Ford car bodies it was building were the best he’d seen. In 1924, Duncan & Fraser's new three-storey car factory opened in Franklin Street, Adelaide. But, next year, Ford Australia was formed, with French as managing director, and Ford car assembly started in Geelong with bodies made by Duncans. In 1926, Duncans’ assembly role ended when Geelong started taking steel frames only from Canada. The killer blow for Duncan & Fraser came when Ford announced the end of the Model T. Without enough cars to sell and caught in a costs squeeze, Duncan & Fraser ceased trading in August 1927.
John (“T.J.”) Richards founded the horse-coach company that would form the manufacturing base for Chrysler Australia cars. Richards’ first job was with Adamson Brothers farm machinery in Kapunda. He tried other trades, such as cordial making in Gawler and blacksmithing in Unley before learning coach building and opening a shop, in 1885, in Pulteney Street, Adelaide. By 1905, he has 35 coach designs, mostly sulkies, including his “King of the Road”. Richards became a coach-building judge at Sydney shows and, in 1908, headed the Coachbuilders' and Wheelwrights' Society. He retired in 1911. In 1914, the firm began selling Dixi, Palmer-Moore and Swift motor vehicles and Rudge and Pope motorcycles. Next year, it won the Studebaker agency. T. J. Richards & Sons was founded in 1916 and opened and expanded a workshop/showroom in Pirie Street Adelaide and, in 1920, moved to a large new factory on Leader Street, Keswick (later Le Cornu’s furniture warehouse) and concentrated on its “King of the Road” motor bodies, built on chassis made by such companies as Dodge Brothers. In 1928, when a second factory opened at Mile End, the company forged a relationship with Chrysler Corporation and built car bodies for Chrysler, Dodge, DeSoto and Plymouth. The new Australian company Chrysler Dodge Distributors bought control of T.J. Richards & Sons in 1937. The Richards family sold its remaining interest in 1946. In 1951, the American Chrysler Corporation bought 85% of Chrysler Dodge Distributors (Holdings) and renamed it Chrysler Australia.
The Holden story began in 1856 when, James Alexander Holden who emigrated from England in 1852, set up J.A. Holden & Co saddlery business in Adelaide.
In 1885, German-born Henry Frederick Frost joined the business which became Holden & Frost Ltd. Edward Holden, James' grandson, brought an interest in automobiles to the company in 1905. In 1908, Holden & Frost moved into minor repairs to car upholstery. It began making complete motorcycle sidecar bodies in 1913, and Edward experimented with fitting bodies to different carriages. After 1917, wartime trade restrictions led the company to start full-scale production of vehicle body shells. J.A. Holden founded a new company in 1919, Holden's Motor Body Builders (HMBB) specialising in car bodies and using a building on King William Street. By 1923, HMBB were producing 12,000 units per year. HMBB was the first company to assemble bodies for Ford Australia, until its Geelong plant was ready. From 1924, HMBB exclusively supplied car bodies for GM in Australia, making them at the new Woodville plant These bodies suited imported chassis from makers such as Chevrolet and Dodge. In 1926, General Motors (Australia) had assembly plants in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Birkenhead, South Australia, using bodies produced by HMBB Builders and imported chassis. General Motors bought HMBB in 1931 and merged it with General Motors (Australia) Pty Ltd to form General Motors-Holden's Ltd (GM-H).
Edward Holden (1885-1947) took his Adelaide family carriage and saddlery business, Holden & Frost, into a partnership with General Motors to create Australia's first dominant automobile manufacturer, General Motors-Holden’s. Holden was born at College Town (now St Peters), the son of saddler and carriage maker Henry Holden. Educated at Prince Alfred College and Adelaide University, he joined the family firm Holden & Frost in 1905. He saw the firm’s need to diversify into motor vehicles, initially maintaining and repairing (imported) car bodies then building motorcycle sidecars in a shed behind the firm's Grenfell Street premises. In 1917, the Australian Government restricted imports of fully manufactured cars to encourage the country's nascent car industry. Holden negotiated with America's General Motors (as Adelaide contemporary T.J. Richards did with Chrysler) to fit bodies to imported chassis. In 1919, Holden (as managing director) and his father founded Holden's Motor Body Builders with a factory at 400 King William Street, Adelaide. In 1923, after Holden signed an agreement with General Motors, a new factory was set up on Port Road, Woodville, employing the latest production-line technology that boosted productivity. Holden introduced scientific management, cost accounting and production control. With General Motors Export Co., Holden’s cars dominated the Australian market. By 1929, the company employed 3,400 and was the biggest automotive bodybuilder in the British Empire.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN OWNERSHIP LOST BUT TECHNICAL CAPACITY CONTINUES
The Zeta, made from 1963 to 1965 by Lightburn and Co at its factory in the Adelaide suburb of Camden Park, became an instant car collector’s item because of its odd features and rarity. Car enthusiast Harold Lightburn, the company's owner and founder, was convinced that many Australians wanted the convenience of a small second car. Lightburn, who normally made cement mixers and washing machines, introduced the Zeta in 1963, priced £595, but sold fewer than 400. Zeta models were a sedan, sedan deluxe, utility and sports model.The Zeta Sedan (or Runabout) and utility were powered by a 324cc Villiers engine and were front wheel drive with independent rear trailing arms.The sedan had no rear hatch so the front seats had to be removed to access the cargo area. The chassis was steel, with a fibreglass body enclosing a large but sparse interior. Windows were perspex except for the front laminated glass windscreen. The doors were steel with sliding perspex windows.The four-speed, dog clutch Villiers gearbox had no reverse so the engine had to be switched off and started backwards to provide four reverse gears. Fuel came by gravity feed from a tank behind the dashboard. The fuel gauge was a plastic pipe running from top to bottom of the tank with a graduated glass tube section on the dashboard. The utility was the rarest Zeta with only eight produced. Some were bought by Sydney City Council for its Hyde Park fleet. The two-seater Zeta Sports was introduced in 1964. Like the Goggomobil Dart, it lacked doors and bumper bars. Only 28 were sold.
Chrysler Australia opened its Australian vehicle manufacturing plant at Tonsley in 1964 as the largest assembly plant in Australia operating under one roof. Chrysler Australia had started in 1951 when the Chrysler Corporation bought out Chrysler Dodge Distributors (Holdings) formed in 1935 with Adelaide company T. J. Richards & Sons. Initially, Chrysler Australia assembled North American Chrysler cars and trucks. In 1957, there were consolidated into the Royal. Technical changes failed to stop a sales slide and production ceased in 1963. With its Adelaide assembly plants opened at Tonsley Park and Lonsdale in the 1960s, Chrysler became third of the “Big 3” behind GM-H and Ford. By 1963, Chrysler had developed a local version of the Plymouth Valiant, the AP5 Valiant, with distinctive styling. Chrysler Australia expanded the Valiant range but it never gained the popularity of Holdens or Ford Falcons. Chrysler Australia’s most memorable car, the sporty Valiant Charger, won Wheels magazine Car of the Year in 1971. Chrysler Australia’s Hemi-6 engine in the Valiant, unique to Australia from the early 1970s, was the most powerful six-cylinder produced in Australia, with 20% greater fuel economy. But Valiant sales were hit by the mid-1970s oil crisis and a switch to four-cyclinder cars. The Galant and Sigma were winners but they were designed by Mitsubishi which increased its 15% share to a full takeover of Chrysler Australia in 1980.
Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) took over Chrysler Australia and its Tonsley Park and Lonsdale car-making plants in 1980. It reduced the plants’ jobs that had peaked at 7500 in 1979. Chrysler Australia had been building Mitsubishi-designed Chrysler-branded vehicles: the Chrysler Valiant Galant (later Chrysler Galant), based on the 1972–1977 Mitsubishi and the Chrysler Sigma, a variant of the 1977–1985 Mitsubishi Galant. The popular Sigma was replaced by the Magna Colt, started in 1982 and ended in 1990. Mitsubishi introduced innovative multi skilling at Tonsley plus computer design and manufacturing. Mitsubishi’s first female engineer joined Tonsely that prided itself on being a family-friendly workplace. In 1992, Mitsubishi installed 38 robots in the body weld shop, 60 computerised sewing machines in the cut-and-sew section, and shifted manual painting to robotic spraying. In the early 2000s, a facelift for the Magna/Verada line failed to lift sales. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan gave funding to reengineer the Tonsley Park plant to allow the Mitsubishi 380 to come onto the market in 2005. In 2003, MMAL gained $30 million from Japan to create Mitsubishi Research and Development Australia (MRDAus) with MMAL's proving ground at Tailem Bend to be upgraded. Testing laboratories at Tonsley Park were also to be improved. In 2004, Mitsubishi’s global problems halted MRDAus with its 90 employees and an incomplete Tailem Bend site. With negative sentiment about MMAL’s future, the 380 sold poorly. Tonsley Park plant’s closure was announced in 2008.
General Motors-Holden’s car making plant at Elizabeth from 1960 became South Australia’s largest employer. The Elizabeth plant took over from the company’s Woodville plant that, after diverted to making military vehicles during World War II, went into full production of the first Australian car, the Holden, from 1948. As part of his industrialisation push, premier Tom Playford induced General Motors to build its factory at Elizabeth with low-cost homes for workers provided by the housing trust. South Australia actively chased migrant workers from Britain.With sales continually climbing, Holden introduced its third major new model, the FB, in 1960, inspired by 1950s Chevrolets. Elizabeth was central to the Commodore, introduced in 1978 and top-selling Australian car for 15 years. The plant developed Zeta, the full-size rear-wheel drive automobile platform that debuted with the 2006 Commodore and went into the second generation 2013 Commodore (VF). Elizabeth was important in the revisions and modernising GM-H made to hold the No.1 spot in Australian car sales it lost to Toyota in 2003. Tariff cuts (in the 1980s), the high Australian dollar and cost of developing an all-new Commodore compounded this downturn. In 2005, the third-shift assembly line at Elizabeth was shut down, with 1400 jobs lost. In 2013,1700 employees at Elizabeth voted for a wage freeze to decrease the chance of a plant closure in 2016. But survival depended on more government assistance from 2016 to 2022. General Motors in Detroit decided in 2013 that Holden would stop engine and car making in Australia by 2017.
STATE'S MOTORING HERITAGE INTEREST STILL IN TOP GEAR IN 21st CENTURY
The National Motor Museum – Australia’s largest – celebrated its 50th year in Birdwood (formerly Blumberg) in the Adelaide Hills in 2015. The museum has 300 vehicles (a third on loan from private collectors and groups) and documents the social history of Australian road transport with brochures, maps, tin signs, petrol bowsers, toys, models and images. Started by Jack Kaines and Len Vigar in 1964, the museum was bought by the South Australian government as part of its history trust.
The Bay to Birdwood is the largest continuously historic motoring event in the world for veteran, vintage and classic vehicles. It started in 1980, run by the Federation of Historic Motoring Clubs, SAS Channel Ten and National Motor Museum. It acknowledged the first South Australian driver's licence issued to Dr William A. Hargreaves in 1906. The Bay to Birdwood in September is a Run for cars made up to 1959 in even numbered years and a Classic for cars made between 1956 to 1979 in odd numbered years.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MOTORSPORT MATURES INTO SERIOUS BUSINESS
Wayville Showgrounds’ main arena in the 1920s/30s has been claimed as the birthplace of Australian speedway. The showgrounds’ main arena became Speedway Royal, peaking between 1926 and 1934, when it could hold regular crowds of 25,000 and attract world champions such as Lionel van Pragg. In 1928, Wayville, hosting the first of its Australia solo titles, was promoted as “the world's fastest dirt track speedway”. Wayville stopped hosting speedway meetings after 1934.
Friday summer nights at Rowley Park Speedway became the setting for legendary reckless thrills (leading to nine deaths) over its 30 years from the late 1940s. Before the 1970s, the speedway, in inner western suburb Brompton, operated without roll cages and seatbelts for Speedcar and TQ drivers. In 1965, about 20,000 saw Australia's first Demo Derby at Rowley Park. Promoter Kim Bonython also imported overseas drivers, including Bob “Two Gun” Tattersall (USA), to race full seasons.
Vern Schuppan is one another of South Australia’s multi-faceted contributors to motor racing on an international level. After Australian state and national titles in karting, Schuppan switched to motor racing. He won the 1971 British Formula Atlantic Championship and the 1973 Singapore Grand Prix. Schuppan raced in the Indianapolis 500 and most successfully in sports cars, winning 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1983 driving the Porsche 956. He went on to win the 1983 Japanese Sports- Prototype championship and finished sixth at the 1984 Le Mans, driving with 1980 world champion Alan Jones. Schuppan was important in bringing Formula One to Adelaide. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone favoured the Australian Grand Prix being in Sydney. Premier John Bannon asked Schuppan, who knew Ecclestone personally, to bring him to Adelaide. Ecclestone was so impressed that the grand prix was staged in Adelaide 1985-1995.
Glen Dix, a member of the Australian Speedway Hall of Fame, is best known for flamboyantly waving the chequered flag at the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Adelaide 1985-995 and in Melbourne in 1996. He also waved the flag at four Australian 500cc Motorcycle Grands Prix. His 50 years in South Australian motor sport included flag waving at Mallala Motorsport Park, the V8 Super Cars and Bay-to-Birdwood rally through to the national karting titles and the Masters Games. But he started at Rowley Park speedway in 1953 and flagged its final Speedcar feature in 1979. Victor Harbor-born Dix was introduced to the Racing Drivers Association of South Australia by secretary Ross Schultz in 1952. The next season Dix helped 5KA radio announcer Bill Evans to broadcast Rowley Park feature races. Dix began his flag waving as volunteer assistant to Rowley Park clerk of course Ern Sconce and took over in 1954/55. Dix insisted on waving through every driver who finished the race – from first to last
MIXING IT WITH THE BEST IN EVENTS AND VENUES
Adelaide hit the heights of motorsport racing as the host of the Australian Grand Prix for 10 years from 1985. From an idea by businessman Bill O’Gorman, backed by state premier John Bannon and sealed in London in a deal with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, the Adelaide Grand Prix set new standards for the event. Under senior civil servant Mal Hemmerling, the Adelaide event established its own character with a challenging, but popular, 3.7km street circuit incorporating Victoria Park and Dequetteville Terrace.
Adelaide grabs international attention every two years for a car race chasing the sun. The World Solar Challenge for solar-powered cars covers 3,022 km from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most from universities and corporations. In 2015, 43 teams from 23 countries competed to come up with the most innovative solar-powered design. In 2017, a trial stage for cruiser-class solar cars was introduced with a significant cut in the allowable area for solar panels on race vehicles.
t has featured in 21 wins from 40 races (including the Australian Grand Prix non-championship races) and 18 pole positions from 37 qualifying sessions (including Australian Grand Prix races). All teams that ran Supashock had pole positions, wins or podium finishes. SupaShock’s success went international when, at short notice, it created bespoke shock absorbers for the DS Virgin Racing team that had a start-to-finish win in the 2016 ePrix in Buenos Aires. With his staff of 20 at Magill, Supashock managing director Oscar Fiorinotto adapted his suspension range to 4X4, SUV and off-road vehicles. The Supashock 4X4 range is designed, developed and manufactured in Australia, by Australians, for Australian conditions. This world-leading technology increases safety, braking, ride comfort and load-carrying capacity.
Hydrogen fuel-cell urban transport, driverless shuttles and electric city cars are also part of the long-term vision of Fusion Capital. The Adelaide company, based at Edinburgh Parks, grew out of automotive parts supplier Precision Components in the northern suburbs where its primary business was to supply components to the nearby now-defunct General Motors-Holden’s factory at Elizabeth, as well as Toyota and Ford in Victoria. With the demise of car manufacturing in Australia, Precision Components and sister company Fusion diversified their business, including reinventing their automotive operations with a long aim of embracing technologies such as electrification, hydrogen power and autonomous driving systems. The new-look operation started with Precision Buses – a joint venture with one of Australia’s leading bus manufacturers, Bustech, of Queensland. Precision Buses also tendered for a 10-year contract to supply Adelaide Metro with diesel buses but ultimately battery-powered buses that have been trialled by Adelaide Metro. With the help of a $2 million grant from the South Australian government, two prototype electric buses were built at the company’s Edinburgh Parks workshops in a new-look hi-tech automotive manufacturing hub that also includes the Brabham Automotive plant and the specialist vehicle suspension manufacturer SupaShock. Fusion financed Brabham Automotive project to build 70 Brabham BT62 track cars, each valued at $1.8 million. Ultimately, Fusion sees opportunities in “last-mile solutions” – building emissions-free local transport such as driverless shuttles and electric city cars suitable for downtown urban areas and similar confined locations.