Early Automotive Business | Great Australian Story

Early Automotive Business

Early Automotive Business



Cars, Trucks, Tractors


In the early 1920's HE & MA Cuttle (later known as Cuttle's Mallee Stores) built a new Garage in Dillon Street. The first foreman of the workshop was Mr Roy Innes who brought his family from Inglewood. I understood Mr Innes had previous experience in the Electric Generating in Inglewood, consequently when setting out the Machinery Counter Shaft he installed a 110 volt DC Generator to supply electric light for the Garage and the General Store. There was also considerable new machinery installed, such as a 8 foot Bed Hollow Spindle Lathe by Bevan and Edwards, a large 4 speed belt driven drill with rise and fall Turntable, a Pedestal emery grinder, an Air Compressor for free air service for customers . Power was a large wood-fired vertical steam boiler and single cylinder steam engine which was driven by the steam. Mr Innes had a licence to operate the steam.

Although there were several Mechanics, names of whom I have lost track of, I can remember my mate, Francis Michael Casey, who moved to McKinnon, reminded me that he did the firing up of the boiler to keep up the steam which drove the engine, his job entailed greasing and lubricating motor cars. I was mostly interested in the motor cars having considerable experience with a 1914 model T Ford Lizzie Tourer which my Father bought.

My job at the Garage was dismantling various makes of cars and assisting in repairs. At this time there were no Sedans in the district.

Cuttles had the agency for International Tractors which used Power Kerosene. I often had a job fitting Spud Grips with bolts to the big wheels to enable the Tractor to get grip and to oil in the engine and transmission. Having become familiar with the Tractor, Mr Cuttle often came to my home on Wednesday afternoon (which was then our half holiday) and asked me to start the Tractor and show a Farmer how it worked, which more often than not had considerable experience in Automotive and general repairs. The steam engine for machinery had previously been replaced with an International Stationary Kerosene Engine, consequently less man power was required.

As I was always willing to work on any job at any time I was selected by Mr Cuttle Junior to deliver second-hand cars and do numerous other jobs. There were several Mechanics from Melbourne employed by the firm, some were paid off and their job terminated. One thing, all of we employees knew that when Mr Cuttle came around with the pay packet without a letter in his hand, we considered that our employment was good for another week, so we worked from week to week.

If we had a day off we were docked a day's pay. There were no holidays, and if we thought our job was safe we could take a day or two off without pay. Business started to decline, consequently, most of the staff were dismissed and I was left alone.

Mr Cuttle reconstructed his whole business and registered the Garage as Northern District Motors Pty Ltd, and a Mr James Brown from Glasgow, Scotland was appointed Manager and accountant. The business had been reorganized and name changed, a Mechanic from
Melbourne Mr Ronald Hipwell was employed. He was married and had two young sons.

Some time after we were established the Depression got worse, and with a fall off of work in the Garage. Ron Hipwell was the first to go and as a result he eventually got a job as a mechanic in Swan Hill. I was then the only mechanic left in the Garage with the Manager, Mr Brown.

We operated the business until the Depression hit harder and as a result the company Northern District Motors and the parent company Cuttles Mallee Stores went into voluntary liquidation. Mr Lennox-Bigger was appointed as Manager to liquidate Cuttle's Mallee Stores & Garage by D L Kitto Liquidators of Melbourne. And Mr Brown obtained a job in Casterton, then later went to Sydney.

I continued to do repairs, sell petrol, oil and parts for cars and keep records of work and materials used. It was a full time job from opening in the morning until closing time at night.

Mr Lennox-Bigger left the operations to me and he would collect records of sales etc daily. My work went along smoothly as Mr Lennox-Bigger was a very capable and understanding person. The photo of Mr Lennox-Bigger and obituary notice speaks for itself.

Mr Cuttle was able, at a later date, to re-purchase his old business with finance available to him through another party. I had been approached to rent the Workshop only and with the aid of my brother, Jack, it was not long before the work became plentiful.

Having got established in Repairs I was given the opportunity to rent the whole Garage with the option of purchase, which I accepted. I obtained stock on a 30 day basis and traded on a Cash basis.

I got an Agency from Neal's Motors Pty Ltd to sell Terraplane and Hudson cars and after a short time I was able to negotiate a General Motors Franchise for their full range of Cars and Trucks, this was in 1936. From this point the business grew to selling Petrol, Oils, Batteries, Tyres and tubes. Later the Holden car came on the market and created a big demand for new cars. It was impossible to supply the demand as Dealers' supplies were rationed to 2 Units per month, this was gradually increased as production caught up.

We handled Tractors and Trucks of several makes. The workshop was kept busy repairing customer's old cars, fitting new motors and general repairs.