WW1-Era Vintage Cars

By Angela Monroe - April 20, 2021

WW1-Era Vintage Cars

1914 to 1918. Reflecting on the upcoming Anzac day, we take a look at some of the non-military vintage cars that criss-crossed Australia during the early 1900s and the First World War. 

Find out more about vintage vehicles.

About Anzac Day

Anzac Day, held on 25 April each year, was originally held in honour of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers from World War 1 (1914 to 1918). In Australia today, Anzac Day pays tribute to the men and women from all eras who serve our nation in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.

Vintage Cars from the early 1900s

The Ford Model A (1903 to 1904)

The Ford Model A

Engine: 1668 cc 2-cylinder rated at 8 horsepower

The Model A is one of the world’s original vintage cars – and Ford’s actual original vintage car. It was the first car that the company ever produced. Many were imported into Australia from Canada to avoid taxes that non-British-Empire United States attracted.

Interestingly, after developing the Model A, Ford was left with only US$223.65 (about AU$8,630 today) to its name and heavily relied on Model A sales to generate profit. 

The Ford Model T (1908 to 1927)

The Ford Model T

Engine: 2.9-litre inline 4 cylinder rated at 20 horsepower

The Model T, one of history’s most well-known vintage cars, was introduced in Australia a year after it began production, 1908. It was delivered to dealers in Australia as a ‘knock-down kit’, meaning the parts were built at Ford’s plants in the United States, then assembled together once shipped.

The vintage car really put Ford on the map as the company sold over 15 million. However, they served as a lesson for most early Australian drivers. Poor roads, a lack of mechanics and a lack of know-how saw many Model Ts and other vintage cars of the day quickly fall into disrepair.

Some new owners took days just figuring out that it needed petrol to run. Luckily, the Model T could run on gasoline, kerosene, or ethanol which was available in tins from grocers.

Banned. In 1917, the Australian Commonwealth government banned luxury items, including car bodies, which meant they had to be built in Australia.

This prompted Holden to build their own car bodies. In 1917, Holden’s Motor Body Builders Ltd began producing car bodies in Adelaide.

Holden made car bodies for various vintage cars from the era;

Chevrolet Series AB National (1928)

Chevrolet Series AB National(source: vintagecarcollector.com)

Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cylinder rated at 36 horsepower

The Series AB National was a vintage car that came in 2-door and 4-door form. Over 1.1 million were produced to fit various bodies around the world. Holden’s plant in Adelaide was responsible for producing a large number of them.

Holden continued building car bodies for years until in 1948 when their first fully-built car, the Holden 50-2106, rolled off the production line. 

What about the roads?

dirt road

Dust. And more dust. Australian roads (if you can call them that) in the early years of the 20th century were not kind on cars.

Motorists needed goggles, gloves and even scarves worn over their faces to filter the air. Fortunately, with the advent of windscreens, the problem was somewhat reduced.

Furthermore, as some vintage cars used a gravity-fed petrol supply (ie: no fuel pump), roads with steep hills forced cars to stall and had to be taken in reverse.

Vintages Cars Conclusion

Vintage cars once criss-crossed the tracks of Australia that motorists today cruise across at 100+ km/h in air-conditioned comfort.

With the poor conditions of roads, especially in rural areas, vintage cars did an amazing job. Would the cars of today cope as well?

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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