Early Australian automotive design 1895-1953

Darwin, N 2017, Early Australian automotive design 1895-1953, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Urban Design, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Early Australian automotive design 1895-1953
Author(s) Darwin, N
Year 2017
Abstract The aim of this research is to reveal new knowledge about one of the most significant Australian industries of the twentieth century, the automotive industry. In particular, it provides the first comprehensive account of the origins and early development of Australian vehicle design from the 1890s to the 1950s. Furthermore, by incorporating automotive design into the broader field of Australian design history, it paves the way for the future development of this field of research. An extensive literature review highlighted the gaps in the published accounts of the Australian automotive industry in relation to automotive design. For the early period covered by this thesis almost no research has been published on local design efforts. The general consensus is, that Australia received its ideas from overseas. Extensive archival research and re-examination of the early primary publication record however, have found this not to be true and that it is possible to trace a history of design in the period relevant to this thesis. The thesis is structured chronologically and identifies five periods where local design can be discerned using Adrian Forty’s definition of design as the conjunction of the visual with the instruction. Early inventers, tinkers and builders up to WWI (1895-1916) provided the grounding in automobile design using both borrowed technologies and new concepts that proved to be significant. Opportunities that arose from an embargo on imported bodies (1917-1922) led new industries to mass-produce a standardized motor body and several post-war cars, a few using new ideas and construction methods. The development of the first design centres (1923-1929) and formal links with overseas motor companies witnessed a transfer of technology that resulted in local design equalling international design. The financial collapse of the depression saw American companies consolidate their Australian positions (1930-1939), leading to new management, variations and unique body styles. Opportunities afforded by WWII to design and produce an Australian mass produced car, principally the Holden (1939-1953), reveals unrecognised expertise Australian designers had developed previously in the Holden’s body design. The outcome of this research is the first scholarly account of early Australian automotive design during its formative years. The research provides a chronological narrative of this design development and uncovers the names of many unknown or neglected Australian designers. At the same time, it has identified a number of previously unrecorded Australian automobiles. The thesis also explores the contribution of individual component designers, many of whom produced internationally successful automobile engines, transmission systems and suspension parts. Appendix I identifies and lists all the cars that are true Australian efforts, clarifying and expanding previous incomplete lists and providing a documented basis for future research. Appendix II provides short biographies of the key designers discussed in the thesis.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Urban Design
Subjects Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Keyword(s) Automotive
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Created: Fri, 29 Jun 2018, 10:06:13 EST by Adam Rivett
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