A Goggomobil Dart parked outside the laneway to the Finlay Brothers workshop entrance - in Little Londsdale Street, Melbourne
Photograph by John Boucher. Courtesy of Howard Knox.
Bicycles… Motorcycles… and Cars…?
Yes, cars were one of the many different vehicles sold by Finlay Brothers. However, in comparison to bicycles and motorcycles – which were sold almost continuously throughout the company’s history – cars appear to have been sold only during two distinct periods of time.
Firstly, cars began to appear in Finlay Brothers’ advertising prior to World War I - in 1911.1 It is possible that car sales simply represented a natural progression for a “cycle works” company that was looking to stay abreast of customer demands. The firm had already successfully introduced motorcycle sales, and may have seen cars as a further way to diversify.
The earliest car known to have been advertised by Finlay Brothers was a kit-car called the Metz. This vehicle was produced in America from 1909 until 1922, and initially had a two-cylinder air-cooled engine, with later models being four-cylinder water-cooled.2 Finlay Brothers were advertising Metz for 165 pounds in 1911.3
|A Finlay Brothers' |
Roadster brochure from
1912 is held by Museum
Victoria and can be seen
in their online catalogue
Other early agencies held by Finlay Brothers included the Moon4 – an American car manufactured by the Moon Motor Car Company of St Louis, Missouri, the Humber5 – made by a British firm subsequently taken over by the Rootes Group,6 and the Pullman – a car about which very little is known, but was shipped to Finlay Brothers from New York.7
A.D. Finlay, one of the founding brothers, was known to travel overseas to liaise with the parent companies of some of the vehicles Finlay Brothers were selling, with one such interesting trip recorded by the photograph (front and rear) below:
Private family collection (front and rear of photograph shown)
It is likely that at some stage during the 1930’s, car sales were ceased by Finlay Brothers. The reason for this is not known, but may have been related to customer spending patterns – with people seeking more affordable methods of transport (such as bicycles and motorcycles) during the Great Depression, or possibly the difficulty in obtaining overseas vehicles during this period due to reduced car manufacturing.
Subsequently, a period of time emerges in which Finlay Brothers do not appear to have held any agencies for car sales. However, Bri-Law Motors - a business which leased part of the ground floor showroom from Finlay Brothers, from the time of the new building’s opening in 1941 - certainly was selling cars from the Elizabeth Street premises. A Finlay Brothers employee recalled that the Bri-Law Motors’ agencies were taken over by Finlay Brothers in about 1956, including their Morgan car dealership.8
Thus, a second and quite significant period of car sales emerges for Finlay Brothers from the late 1950’s onward, possibly prompted by a downturn in motorcycle sales that was occurring with the increasing affordability of family cars in the surging economy of the post-World War II boom.
An amazing display of four of the five models of Goggomobils produced in Australia -
clockwise from back left: Carryall Van, Sedan, Coupe Convertible (Cabriolet), and
Dart at front left. Missing is the Coupe. Finlay Brothers are thought to have sold all
of these types of models except for the Coupe Convertible.
Courtesy of David Nobbs
At this stage, it is recalled by an employee of Finlay Brothers that many changes were made to incorporate cars into the operations of the firm. Numerous agencies for car sales were taken on by the company, training was provided to the Workshop’s Head Mechanic to enable him to work on Standard cars, and a ramp was added to the rear entrance of the ground floor Workshop in order to allow cars to be driven in.9
Mechanics of this era supplied many of their own tools for work on vehicles. Keith Gales, employed at Finlay Brothers from 1948 until 1960, recalls asking for about 10 shillings a week to be taken out of his wages, in order to purchase a set of metric tools – so that he would be able to work on Goggomobil cars.10
The agencies for car sales that were held by Finlay Brothers from the late 1950’s onward included Morgan, Standard, Goggomobil and Lloyd.
Morgan cars are a British make well known for their open sports car design.11 Recollection is that Finlay Brothers only sold limited numbers of Morgan cars. Bri-Law Motors had been displaying the three-wheel Morgans in the Finlay Brothers’ showroom12 – a style produced only up until 1952.13
Standard cars were a British make, subsequently assembled and sold by an Australian subsidiary, and having a 17.2% share of the Australian market with its Standard 8, Vanguard and Triumph models.14 Finlay Brothers are remembered as having sold the Standard 8, Standard 10 Cadet and Vanguard models.15
The Goggomobil was a German car, produced with a metal body, however Australian production by Bill Buckle in Sydney resulted in models with a fibreglass body16 that were sold by Finlay Brothers. The vehicles were trucked to Melbourne for sale. Mechanics in the Finlay Brothers’ Workshop serviced and repaired them, as well as having to develop proficiency in fibreglass repair work and having them custom painted by the Workshop’s Spray Paint Department.17 Use of fibreglass was a big change for a company previously only dealing with steel motorcycles and bicycles.
Courtesy of David Nobbs
Courtesy of David Nobbs
Finlay Brothers are remembered as selling the Dart, sedan, coupe and Carryall van models,18 (see accompanying photographs) with vehicles running on two-stroke fuel. The Dart was an open two-seater Bill Buckle design that had no doors, seats that tilted up to assist in getting in and out of the vehicle, a 293cc engine19 and weighed only 345kg.20
In May 1959, Finlay Brothers were announced...
This paragraph has been removed for editing and updating. Will be available soon.
...Staffing included a General Manager, Workshop Manager, Workshop Foreman, assembly staff, workshop staff and office staff.26
One of the suburban premises of Finlay Brothers – at Ringwood - was also selling cars from its showroom.27
The Finlay Brothers company was eventually taken over by another firm in 1961 – this was at a time when motorcycle sales were being strongly impacted upon by car sales. Yet, unfortunately, the makes of cars taken on by Finlay Brothers in the late 1950’s were not without feeling challenges themselves, and the widespread impact of the 1960-61 credit squeeze was apparent.
Goggomobil Carryall Van
Courtesy of David Nobbs
Courtesy of David Nobbs
Bill Buckle’s Australian production of the Goggomobil ceased in 1961, probably due to competition by the Mini Minor.28 ...(This section has been removed for editing and updating)... The Australian makers of Standard cars struggled financially in 1958, with the subsequent parent company transitioning into Japanese products in 1963 and ceasing Standard car production in 1964.30
In summary, Finlay Brothers had an interestingly strong history of involvement in car sales and held numerous dealerships during the two distinct periods that the firm traded in cars. Many changes were made to incorporate cars into the business structure. Though motorcycle sales will always be recalled as the company’s principle trade, Finlay Brothers’ involvement in cars illustrates the economy-driven cycles that occurred within the business, in an effort to remain commercially viable.
1. The Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times (Broadford, Vic. : 1893 - 1916),May 5, 1911, 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59209748
2. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 304-305.
3. See note 1 above.
4. Examiner (Launceston, Tas: 1900-1954), February 23, 1924, 6.
5. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1956), August 21, 1923, p5.
6. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 413-414.
7. 'Dog Packed in Motor Case.', Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918),March 22, 1916, 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73873825
8. Information from an employee of Finlay Brothers during the 1950’s.
9. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p 21 of Chapter 2.
10. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p 22 of Chapter 2.
11. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 315.
12. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p 10 of Chapter 2.
13. See note 11 above.
14. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 455.
15. See note 9 above.
16. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 194.
17. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p 23 of Chapter 2.
18. Keith Gales, personal communication, January 1, 2013.
19. Tony Davis, You Must be Skidding (South Australia: Random House Australia Pty Ltd, 2007), 67-68.
20. See note 16 above.
21. ‘New agents for Lloyd’, The Age, May 5, 1959, 6. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=_cATAAAAIBAJ&sjid=F6wDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5468%2C632147
22. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 278.
23. ‘Lloyd assembled in Victoria’, The Age, August 25, 1959, 8. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=U55VAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Tq8DAAAAIBAJ&dq=lloyd%20car%20finlay&pg=6847%2C3906021
24. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 208-209.
25. See note 23 above.
26. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), pp 26-27 of Chapter 2.
27. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p 27 of Chapter 2.
28. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 194.
29. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 278.
30. Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring (Dee Why, NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1986), 28.