South Australia’s First Motor Car and Early Registrations

What was the first car in South Australia? Or why not make that Australia? If your answer was anything to do with Henry Ford, you’d actually be wrong.

In fact the honour of the first car in Australia actually is an Australian built one and goes to a gent from Mannum, which is a small country town along the River Murray …

Below is a portion of an article from Adelaide’s ‘The Mail’ newspaper, dated 10 July 1926. You can read the full article on the Trove website.

Mannum Manufacturer’s Invention
Well known in South Australia as a manufacturer of farm implements, Mr. David Shearer, of Mannum, River Murray,can claim to be Australia’s first inventor of a motor car. In the early nineties he designed and built a power-propelled vehicle, which, a few years later, astonished all Adelaide as it chugged its way through the streets at 15 miles an hour. Special permission from the Mayor had to be obtained before the car could be driven through the streets.
Designed 10 years before Henry Ford’s first models, little is known today of the South Australian’s invention, but farmers, who lived a quarter of a century ago in and around Mannum remember how Mr. Shearer worked day and night on his “automobile,” and they relate today to the younger generation, how Mannum might have been the Detroit of Australia.
England’s first car, which made its appearance two years after Mr. Shearer’s, had a speed of 10 to 12 miles an hour, while the South Australian car actually travelled at 15 miles an hour.
Australia's First Motor Car - Mr Shearer with his family and relatives about to set out on a run in his car.

Australia’s First Motor Car – Mr Shearer with his family and relatives about to set out on a run in his car.

Anyway this post isn’t going into the deep history of “Australia’s first motor car”, as I have something exciting to share with you.

It was 1906 when registration for cars and motorbikes (known back in the day as “motor cars” and “motor bikes”) came into effect in South Australia, and I have found a listing of about over 1400 of them. This list is featured in a book that came out in 1908, and while I’d love to list them all here, I can’t, so I’ve chosen to list just the first 50 of both motor car registrations and motor bike registrations. Each entry gives the registration number, name of owner and address (suburb or town), as shown below.

So where did I find this information? In a title called “Tourists Road Guide: South Australia 4th Ed 1908“. This is a title that has been digitised by Archive Digital Books Australasia, and is available on both CD or as a ebook download.

Number, Name, Address
1 Hargreaves, W.A. Woodville
2 Waite, Peter Glen Osmond
3 Gunson, Dr. J.B. Angas Street
4 Cudmore, Dr. A.M. North Terrace
5 Swift, Dr. H. Victoria Square
6 Ayers, F.G. Waymouth Street
7 Morgan, Dr. A.M. Angas Street
8 Ayers, A.E. King William Street
9 Waterhouse, A. East Terrace
10 Rymill, E.S. East Terrace
11 Rymill, A.G. Glenelg
12 McFarlane, A. Wellington East
13-14 Lendon, Dr. A.A. North Terrace
15 Harris, F.J. Gawler
16 Florey, J. Malvern
17 Smith, T.E. Barr Currie Street
18 Scarfe, A.A. Burnside
19 Marsden, Dr. W.C. Willunga
20 Meikle, Dr. A.J. Yankalilla
21 Smith, Drs. O.W and A.A. Clare
22 Pilkington, C.G. Marryatville
23-24 Ralli, S.S. Adelaide
25 Knox, N.A. Burnside
26 Brown, A.P. Mintaro
27 Gebhardt, L.W. Mount Bryan
28 Gebhardt, Albert G. Kooringa
29 Fooks, Dr. E.V.R. Gawler
30 Crank, Peter Unley Park
31 Hayward, Dr. W.T. Norwood
32 Borthwick, Dr. T. Kensington
33 Marten, Dr. R.H. North Terrace
34 Walker, J.R. King William Street
35 Summers, A.C. Parkside
36 Souter, Dr. C.H.J. Adelaide
37 Bollen, Dr. P. Semaphore
38 Walker, J.W. Mannum
39 Glynn, Dr R. McM. Riverton
40 Rogers, G.J. Wallaroo Bay
41 Main, Hugh Mintaro
42 Shearer, D. Mannum
43 Shearer, J. Mannum
44 Sangster, Dr. J.I. Kooringa
45-46 Reissmann, Dr. C. Norwood
47 Broad, A.S. Unley
48 Davidson, W.L. Hackney
49 Wilksch, E.H.E. King William Street
50 Lavers, Dr. R. North Adelaide

Number, Name, Address
1 Bannigan, J. Malvern
2 Rymill, E.S. East Terrace
3 McFarlane, G.H. Wellington East
4 Woods, Dr. G. Clarendon
5 Doudney, Rev. H.W. Prospect
6 Parker, V.H. Ovingham
7 Bruce, D.W. Norwood
8 Torode, W.C. Fullarton
9 Hancock, F. Moonta
10 Jenkins, C.J.A. Adelaide
11 Rowland, J.M. Adelaide
12 Smith, Dr. A.A. Clare
13 Fidge, E.L. Aldinga
14 Osborne, jun. E.A. Prospect
15 Taylor, R.Y. Payneham
16 Pearce, R.J. Paradise
17 Hall, V.F. Parkside
18 Potts, R.V. Langhorne’s Creek
19 Sanders, J.B. Woodchester
20 McTavish, G. Callington
21 Segar, F. East Adelaide
22 Allnutt, W.A. Wayville
23-24 Wagener, W. East Adelaide
25 Anderson, A.T. Halbury
26 Diamond Brothers Adelaide
27 Lowry, E.J. Gawler
28 Magee, C.C. Penola
29 Shepherdson, G.A. Mount Gambier
30 Nicolls, J. Nantawarra
31 Rooney, R.J. Bute
32 Joyner, O. North Adelaide
33 Dunlop Rubber Company Adelaide
34 Lee, W.A. Gumeracha
35 Collett, L.A. Highbury
36 Trengove, J. Bute
37 Netter, N. Adelaide
38 Gault, A.H. Lower Mitcham
39 Mullins, M.M. New Mile-End
40 May, S.H. Kilkenny
41 Griggs, W.L. Balaklava
42 Import Company Adelaide
43 Davidson, E.S. Hackney
44 Souter, J.F. Uraidla
45 Ambrose, W.S. Mitcham
46 Bettess, W.S. Bute
47 Tidswell, H.R.K. Unley
48 Bond, F.T. Modbury
49 Adamson, H.J. Forestville
50 Eaton, G.W. Medindie

The registration details are only a small portion of what this book actually includes. The title I feel is rather misleading, as it makes it sound rather boring. But if you take the time to look at it, you’ll not only you’ll find the 1400 or so motor vehicle registrants (530 for motor car, and 878 for motor bike), but a heap of maps, times and distances to get to places, together with routes, places you can buy petrol, car clubs, the motoring laws, a heap of adverts that relate to cars. So you’ll find adverts for tyres, mechanics, oils, and even new cars.

Buy now on CD – $16.50
Buy now as a download ebook – $9.95

[Please note I have been given permission from Archive Digital Books Australasia to reproduce some of the detail, in this list]

10 Responses to “South Australia’s First Motor Car and Early Registrations”

  1. Anne says:

    Arthur Murray Cudmore was my great grandfather and had number plate SA4. It stayed in the family til 2012 but was sold as no one lived there anymore. After my grandfather died the number plate passed to my grandmother.
    I wrote about the early cars owned by my great grandfathers at

    • Alona says:

      Anne that is so very cool!! What a wonderful piece of history to treasure.

    • Hugh Major says:

      Hi Anne

      I’ve lived in Forrest, Canberra since the early 1960s and seem to remember the number plate SA 4 on a green Daimler Dart being driven around for many years.

      Am I right in my recollection?

    • Anne Young says:

      Only just seen the comment by Hugh Major of three years ago. Yes his recollection was correct 😉

  2. j.allen says:

    looking to find details of registration 1926 chev tourer reg no 68902

  3. Jeff allen says:

    Thanks for the info Anne.

  4. Greg taylor says:

    Hi I have a model a ford rego no 101923 trying to find out when it was produced in south Australia

  5. Diane Yanakopulos says:

    Greetings from New Zealand. My name is Diane Yanakopulos and I am trying to find the name registered for one of the first Daimlers in Adelaide… in the mid 1920’s… is there any way of finding the name of the owner whom may have been Spyridon Moraitis or Spyridon Morris ???? This information would be incredibly helpful to some family connections research. in gratitude if you can be of any help. thankyou, Diane

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