This is a 1959 Ford Prefect Model 100E made by the Ford Motor Co. of Australia at Geelong in Victoria. It is unusual because the car was converted to run on electricity by Roy Doring, said to be Sydney's first auto electrician, a business he established in Rockdale in 1921. The car was claimed to have been Australia's first post-World War II electric-powered sedan and the last of 51 vehicles Roy converted to electric power. Roy drove electric cars for years and used this car as his own vehicle.
Originally powered by a 4-cylinder petrol engine, this Ford Prefect was subsequently fitted with thirteen, 6-volt, Exide batteries and a 3 kW electric motor from an early electric car. The switch gear and battery racks were designed by Roy and the car was recharged by just plugging it into a domestic 240 volt power point via the car's petrol filler cap which took between 4 and 8 hours. Roy Doring's electric car had a range of 70 km and a top speed of 60 km/h, which made it ideal for city driving at the time especially with no emissions and no energy expenditure while sitting in traffic jams.
During the Second World War, when petrol rationing forced most cars off the road, Roy did a lucrative trade converting some 40 petrol cars to run on electric power. At 165 pounds a car, it was quite an expensive undertaking. However, he had a number of prominent Sydneysiders among his clients and supporters including Nancy Bird Walton whose 1943 Hillman was converted together with cars owned by Harold Hastings Deering, whose company Hastings Deering Pty Ltd were the sole metropolitan distributor for the Ford Motor Co., and Samuel Hordern from the famous Sydney retailing family. Roy worked in collaboration with Sir Roland Wilson, a senior Canberra public servant, whose own homemade electric car is also in the museum's collection (object number B2339). During the war Wilson and Doring worked on a motorised electric transporter to row crashed airmen through the water and a gas-powered machine gun.
Is not well known that during the early twentieth century electric cars were a real threat to petrol driven ones. They were so popular in Sydney as town cars that the local council even established a charging station for them in 1914. However, development of electric cars virtually ceased during the 1930s because they could no longer be competitive. A century after their initial halcyon days, electric cars finally became accepted again with production by large car companies. In the late 1960s Roy was ahead of his time being convinced that the electric car was about to make a comeback with the imminent development of storage batteries to reduce their weight and increase capacity. He recognised the benefits of operating an electric car which included its very low operating and maintenance costs, extreme reliability, no pollution, fast acceleration and quiet operation. During the 1950s and 1960s petrol cars were not as reliable as today (2015), engines needed servicing much more often incurring extra expense and broke down much more often than they do now.
Roy Doring died in 1971 without seeing his vision of a return to electric car popularity and widespread acceptance. His son, Bill Doring, continued to use the Ford Prefect for the family's auto electrician business. In 1983 Bill donated the car to the Museum as an example of a local enthusiast's work in the development and promotion of electric-powered cars in Australia. The car is a very interesting example of a local attempt to find a viable alternative to petrol as a source to power automobiles.
Davis, Pedr, 'Roy Sparks a New Motoring Interest You Just Plug in for Power' in "Pix", 20 April 1968.
Information provided by the Doring family.
Margaret Simpson, Curator