Many people falsely believe that the first Australian-made car was the Holden in 1948 or even the Australian Six in 1919 but there were numerous early attempts to start an Australian automotive industry, some with innovative ideas. A rare surviving example of an early Australian-made car engine is this one designed and made by Alfred John Swinnerton in 1914. Swinnerton was an engineer and at his Rozelle foundry in Sydney made this 11 hp, four-cylinder engine he called "The Weston" to go in his own car, the Swinnerton.
Alfred Swinnerton was ahead of his time, as although the Italian motoring firm Lancia is generally credited with devising the first production car with an integrated chassis and body structure, Swinnerton was working on this idea with his cycle car of 1904 and a roadster, from which this engine survives, that he built in 1914.
Swinnerton's idea was further developed by another Australian, Dr A.R. Marks of Sydney. He built the Marks-Moir car which had a unique unitary structure, dispensing with the usual steel-rail chassis, and a body of stressed plywood. Dr Marks' son Jim later went into partnership with aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith to build an updated "Marks-Moir", released in 1933 as the "Southern Cross". Few cars were built and Smithy's untimely death in 1935 put an end to the project.
Alfred Swinnerton was a clever and gifted engineer and inventor who was one of pioneers of early automobile and engine construction in Australia.
Simpson, Margaret, "On the Move: a history of transport in Australia", Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 2004
Curator, Science & Industry