Solar powered automobile ‘Solar Resource’

Made by Landon Smith, Ian in Wahroonga, New South Wales, 1986-1987.

This is an Australian-designed and built solar assisted electric car. It was built in 1986-87 as a privately funded backyard project by a small team of engineers and designers headed by Ian Landon Smith at Wahroonga on Sydney’s North Shore. It was used in the 1987 Pentax World Solar Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide. This solar car achieved 7th overall place and first in the private entry class.


Object No.


Physical Description

Automobile, full-size, solar powered, 'Solar Resource', designed and built by Ian Landon Smith, Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia, 1986-1987

This is a four wheeled vehicle constructed on a square tube frame. It has a very low body (just over one metre in total height), square in section with round nose and removable fibreglass cockpit cover and tinted windscreen. Body panels are made of fibreglass, mylar and kevlar, and painted white. Ther are four holes in the front of the nose for ventilation, and one in the top of the canopy to enable the rear vision mirror to sit above the roof on a 'stalk'. The axles extend horizontally from each side, further at the front than at the rear, and there are white aerofoil covers over the axles. The wheels have pneumatic tyres. There are four orange indicator lights at each corner. A 4200 x 2000 solar deck is fitted behind the cockpit. The solar panel weighs 50kg. Inside the cockpit polystyrene panels are set into the sides, the aluminium tube frame seat is set in the horizontal position; the squabs and headrest consist of light net-like material. Control panel has digital readout instruments labelled with 'Dymo tape': battery voltage, battery amp, solar voltage, solar amp, as well as a clock and stop watch. Bracketed under the instrument panel is a twenty channel CB radio. Behind the seat are two bottles, one attached to a tube for drinking, the other attached to a squirter for cooling the driver. Further back are two 12 volt Pulsar batteries. A boomerang-shaped steering wheel is set in the centre. The car is powered by a Swiss-made electric motor with variable chain drive to rear wheels. Total weight is 170 kilograms.



1040 mm


2000 mm


5430 mm



This is an Australian-designed and built solar assisted electric car. It was built in 1986-87 as a privately funded backyard project by a small team of engineers and designers headed by Ian Landon Smith.


Solar array: 760 monocrystalline GaAs cells
Electrical: 36V system, 1300W
Transmission: variable with chain single reduction final drive
Suspension rear: beam axle and panhead rod with air bag suspension
Suspension front: double swing axle with spring plate and hydraulic dampers
Steering: bevel gear reduction
Brakes disc, dual circuit hydraulic
Mass: without driver 132kg


Landon Smith, Ian 1986-1987


Landon Smith, Ian null



The 1987 World Solar Challenge was the world's first transcontinental race for solar powered cars. Run over a distance of 3,005 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide, the race attracted 24 competitors from seven countries. This car, named 'Solar Resource', is a privately designed and built car, put together in a Sydney backyard. Solar Resource finished in seventh place overall, having travelled at an average speed of 25.64 kilometres per hour, but it gained first place in the Private Entry category. Only 11 of the 24 starters finished the race.

Mr Ian Landon Smith, an engineer and alternative energy specialist, built the car for approximately $75,000 in 1986 - 1987, and in the 18 months he spent designing and building the car, he had to make each component three times over before the final succesful construction. Mr Landon Smith was inspired to build a solar powered car after reading an article in an engineering magazine in 1985. He was well into designing the car when he travelled to Switzerland in 1986 to see the Tour de Sol international solar powered car competition, which then spawned several changes, but did not alter the original concept of his car. After the car proved its engineering prowess in 1987, Mr Landon Smith donated it to the Powerhouse Museum in 1990.


Landon Smith, Ian 1987


Credit Line

Gift of Mr Ian Landon Smith, 1990

Acquisition Date

23 August 1990

Cite this Object


Solar powered automobile 'Solar Resource' 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 October 2018, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Solar powered automobile 'Solar Resource' |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 October 2018 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Transport at the Powerhouse Museum.


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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