Backward Glance: Driving and motor garage memories – Part 1
  • Wednesday 05 December 2018

Over the next two weeks we will shine the spotlight on the history of driving and the role garages have played on our Sunshine Coast.

When the first cars were introduced in Queensland around 1910, driving enthusiasts had to deal with dusty, rutted, unsealed tracks with little signage to guide them on their journey.

They wore goggles to keep the grit out of their eyes, and caps and loose dust jackets to cover their clothing.

Ladies behind the wheel wore light materials and scarves over their hair and faces to protect them from the elements.

Driving gloves were also popular as they protected the hands from the sun and cold weather.

Wrist watches became a trend with the keen motorist because it was much easier to check the time on your wrist, and keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, than to find your pocket watch

With the continuous development and popularity of the motor vehicle, new legislation governing road use came into force in Queensland by 1922.

Drivers had to be aged over 18 years and compulsory driver’s licences came into effect.

A licence was valid for a period of 12 months and gave a physical description of the driver, including their age, height, complexion, eye and hair colour. The fee was seven shillings and six pence and remained unchanged until 1952, when their issue was free.

The new Traffic Act of 1949 allowed driver’s licences to be issued at all police stations.

The early driver’s licences were paper and did not have photographs until the final decades of the 20th century.

In spite of the Great War, car sales increased and by 1915, around 1200 cars had been sold in Brisbane and some of those purchased were transferred by rail to country regions due to the poor state of roads.

A new type of facility was required to service and supply the needs of the motorist.

The first petrol bowser in this region was in Bulcock Street, Caloundra.

Ernie Rinaldi opened for business in 1921.

Ernie and wife Eva, also had a shop adjoining his garage and petrol pump.

Ernie became a popular and well-known character in Caloundra. Carters Garage, later known as Caloundra Motors, also operated from these premises.

A veteran of WWl, Edward Aspland later joined by fellow veteran Edgar Wells, founded the Returned Soldiers Garage in Nambour.

The first petrol bowsers in front of the garage were installed in time for Christmas in December 1923.

In Nambour, a fire that tore through the town in March 1926 destroyed the Currie Street Garage along with eight other businesses.

A new brick garage, with two large showroom windows displaying motor accessories and parts for the latest models, was opened on the site in 1926.

A ramp was fitted at the end of the building to service the vehicles.

The garage housed an agent and dealer of various makes and models including the Overland, Ford and Dodge cars.

Trucks were also in demand as they were able to carry produce to markets and soon started to take over from the heavy lifting draught horse of earlier years.

Maleny’s Harry Lyons operated a motor business and bus depot at the lower end of Maple Street, Maleny.

Harry Lyons pioneered the first motor transport service between Maleny and Landsborough to meet passengers from the train around 1923.

During WWll, Lyon’s Garage often served as a venue for skating and dancing to raise funds in aid of the Red Cross.

In spite of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the horse was no longer the main source of transport as motor transport sales increased.

In this region, the Maroochy Motorists Association and the Buderim Automobile Club petitioned for better roads, posted signage and motoring facilities.

Streamlined “air flow” design revolutionised car designs with closed in models which were quite different in shape and looks to earlier times. Gone were the goggles and silk scarves swathed across the face to keep the dust out while motoring.

With growing popularity of the automobile came the need for mechanics and motor garages in most of the towns across the region and along the main roads.

In 1939, there were 238 garages listed through the RACQ road service across Queensland.

Dotted across the Near North Coast, these essential businesses provided for motorists’ needs and many also became dealerships for the sale of the automobile.

It was the trusted motor garage that assisted many locals when their car or truck stopped running and they didn’t know how to fix it.

By the mid-1930s, Morrie Rutherford’s garage on the corner of Howard and Ann streets, Nambour provided motorists with both mechanical and fuel needs.

The Bruce Highway opened in 1934 and was originally known as the Great North Coast Road.

This road ran through most towns and Nambour was an ideal stopping place to refuel the motor vehicle and perhaps stop for a cup of tea at a local café.

Morrie’s brother Norm occupied a portion of the garage offering a service as an upholstery business replacing and repairing the canvas type hoods on the older model tourer vehicles.

Around 1946, the new proprietors, brothers Mick and Don Swan and Walter Thompson, took over and were the appointed Morris Minor dealers which were a popular vehicle for many years.

In 1951, Walter sold his share to the brothers and the business was renamed Swans Garage.

Swans was also the depot for RACQ services and serviced Nambour customers for many years.

Make sure you catch part two of this story next week.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image captions:

Hero image: Interior of Williams Motor Company showroom and sales office, corner of Currie and Bury Streets, Nambour, 1952.

Carousel images:

Image 1: Staff in front of the Williams Motor Company showroom, corner Currie and Bury Streets, Nambour, 1952. 

Image 2: Group with touring cars on the Montville Road, ca 1930.

Image 3: Motor cars at Krebs Garage on the ground floor of ‘Jazzland, a dance hall and picture theatre, near the corner of King Street and Cotton Tree Parade, Cotton Tree, 1951.

Image 4: United Engineering Services (U.E.S.) premises, Nambour, 1952. The business commenced operations in Nambour in 1946.