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MOTORS IN CANTERBURY

A MODERN INDUSTRY. ITS RISE, PROGRESS AND FUTURE. HISTORICAL AND OTHER, NOTES. The history of motor-driven vehicles in this province starts .somewhere back in tlio eighties, when a Air Empsoa astonished Christchurch residents by appearing on the street:, in t; .steamdriven buggy. It is now difficult to get any reliable description oi : this vehicle, and as it was in 110 way a fore-runner of any of tlio existing types of automobile, and had no effect upon the subsequent history of motoring in Canterbury, it may lie allowed to lie in tho oblivion of the past. The first petrol-driven vehicle seen in Christchnroh was a " Pctrolette" Benz car. Two of these cars were landed in "Wellington exactly fourteen years ago, to tho order of Mr W. M'Loan wiio in tho interim between placing tho order in Paris and tho arrival of tho cars, became secretary of the New Zealand Motor-car Company. The automobile market in "Wellington in 1898 was not a very lucrative field for commercial enterprise, and one of tho cars was brought to Christchurch in November 189 S. Contemporary newspaper accounts state that this car was <;f the old type, with tho engine finder the seat, at tho rear. It weighed 1-lcwt, and was optimistically claimed by its importers to bo capable of travelling at twenty miles an hour. Power was transmitted by leather belt, with a jockey pullv to take up the slack, the car being, in fact", an excellent exampte of the type described in C. and N. Williamson's entertaining novel, "Tho Lightning Conductor." This car, however, was by 110 means' of the earliest pattern. It had electrical ignition, and an engine which wc« a considerable improvement on those first used in petrol-driven cars. No record can be found of the sale of this car in Christchurch.

TIIO next appearance of a motor-ve-hicle in this city was about the middle of 1899, when tho lato Mr Acton-Adams imported from Paris a Do Dion motortricycle. This vehicle will be well remembered by most people, as it was frequently oil the streets, and was generally followed by a largo crowd of boys 011 bicycles. A public demonstration of its cuoabiiitK?:; was given at Lancaster Park at a cycling meeting in November IS9O. This tricycle was of especial interest as being the identical pattern vehicle on which tho Do Doin firm brat fitted its system of electrical ignition.

In the following year, 1900, three new ears made their appearance in Christchurch. The first" was a Star car, constructed on tho Benz principle, with tho engino under the seats. It was imported by Mr Skeates. of Auckland, but the northern city proving, probably, too hilly for the "ear, it was brought to Christchurch, where it was purchased by Mr W. Wardoll, who has therefore the honour of being the first private car-owner in Canterbury. A little later in the year a similar car, a " Star." made on the Benz principle, arrived to the order of Mr N. Oates, then in business as a cycle manufacturer in this city. This car became a very familiar spectacle on the city streets. It puffed prodigiously, and could be heard a long way off. The era of tho car arranged on modern lines, with the engine enclosed in a bonnet at the front of tho vehicle, was ushered in late in 1900 by a car wilh a IJh.p. De Dion engine, purchased in Paris• by Mr F. N. Adams, of the Adams Star Cycle Company. This vehicle was variously known as "the big red car," and the tomato boiler." It cost £450 to land, was water cooled, and had three speeds and reverse. As illustrating the absolute ignorance which prevailed in regard to petrol motors in those early days,, it may be mentioned that when the car arrived in Christchurch and. all the clever mechanics and electricians available had been called in for consultation to get it in running order, it was for a long while found impossible to start it. For ten solid hours relays of perspiring mechanics churned away at its starting crank, without getting a kick out of the engine. Tho reason was that the carburetter was flodded. At the eleventh hour the cock on the petrol tank was accidentally shut, and, lo and behold, tho engine started forthwith and puffed away with great animation. The lesson was not lost on the mechanics, and they had no further trouble in starting the car. While in the city tho automobile v as becoming familiar to the people, it was far otherwise in the country. On one occasion when the red car was puffing its way to Kaiapoi a hoy who wis driving a trap in tho opposite direct, >ll became so scared at the dreadful apparition that ho uttered a wild sc-ecvh 'jumped out of the trap, and raced for "safety behind some trees.

There comes a pause in the motoring progress of Canterbury after tho arrival of " the big red car" until the end of 1901, when r. motor-cycle makes its debut at Lancaster Park. Mr .1. H. Carl, riding the rnotcr-cyelc, raced against Mr X. Oates's Star ear at the Boxing Day cycling sports, and heat the car on the post after an exciting contest. In April 1002 the A Jams Star Cycle Company completed construction of a ear with a 5 h.n. Da Dion engine. The body was made throughout by the Company in its factory in Christchurch. * This car had a chain drive, the Panhard transmission system being adopted, and was placed on tho market to sell at £4OO. It was purchased some months later by Dr Diamond. It was in October of the same year that the first two-cylincler car came to Christ-church, Mr W. Warded importing a two-cylinder 10 h.p. Wolseley car. the English price of which was £330.

Late in 1902. or early in 1903, the first motor-meet in New Zealand was held on Park Terrace, in Christehureh, amongst the cars present being those owned hv Air Y\ ardell. Dr Diamond. Dr Morton Anderson, 'Mr Gates and the Adams Star Cycle Company. Mr Acton-Adams's Do Dion tricycle was also included in the gathering. At this stage the first, or tentative, era of motoring in Canterbury ceases. Up to 1003 the trade importers of motor-vehicles found sales extremely difficult- to accomplish. There was a general feeling in tho community that automobiles were a laughable fad._ Mo-tor-drivers were regarded as amiable cranks, and it was confidently nrophesied that the motor-car would drrr: out of existence as suddenly as it had made its appearance. Motor salesmen found that their greatest difficulty, even when dealin.i with those who could see tho possibilities of the now mode of locomotion, was to convince them thai" the*-- could learn to drive the car and make the necessary adjustments on the road it anvthing went v.Tons. However, this nhase passed in time. Improvement aft"r improvement vas introduced by the I reach ami British motor manufacturers, and iu July. lOflfi, the number of cars iu commission in Christeburch was snflieieutly larce to induce the Christehureh _Citv Council to make proyison for their licencing and registration. Car"" C 1 was entered r.non the Council's register on .Tulv 4. 19C\j. and the number increased slowly but rteadilv up to the present time. There has. nnvev anything like a motoring "boom" in Now Zealand. That has yet to come, and the indications are that, it is not a great wav off. Fn regard to the immhering of cars considerable misapprehension senns to {--. The last number 's'-'ued in Christehureh for a motor vehiclj was iS()!H6. but that must not be taken to indicate that that number of cars has been registered by the Christehureh City Council. Motor-evles are included in. the numbering, and not only that, but the numbers are allotted from Wellington. Christehureh, as tho pioneer motoring centre of the dominion,

was -allotted 1 to 1000. When those numbers were exhausted, a start was made again at 4001, and Christchurch can rim now to t)0(/0. The Waimairi County Council, the Inst local body to start registration of cars, starts at (>OOI. From .Tidy -l_. 1906, to March 20, 1912, 2036 owners of motor vehicles registered with ilic City Connc-il, 822 in respect of cars, and 1231 in respect of motorcycles. These figures do not exactly indicate the number of cars and motorcycles in commission, as an owner may register more than rme car under the same number. Several firms of motor importers', taxi-cab proprietors, and private owners, in this city have comparatively largo nnmh-ers of cars registered under one number. It would be fair to estimate, under these circumstances, that there arc 1000 cars and say 1250 motor-cycles in commission in Christchurch to-day. It is interesting in this connection to note that only n very small number of cars has ever been "scrapped" in Canterbury. Nearly all the cars ever imported here t.re still in commission somewhere in the district. Even some of thoso old Ben?,. Do Dion and Star cars are puffing around yet. Cars which have been despaired of by dealers as being hopelessly out-of-date and out of repair have been acquired by individuals of a mechanical turn of mind, v.-ho have coaxed the old fabrics back to duty and got good service out of them, too. It is evident from the registration figures quoted above that Xew Zealand is still in the day of small things, so far as motoring is concerned. But in the last few months the increase in the number of cars and motor-cycles has become greatly accelerated. The registrations have for some time past averaged 100 cars and motor-cycles per month, and n large firm of importers states that its average monthly sales include seven or eight cars and thirty motor-cycles. Ono of the leading importers in this city expressed the opinion to the writer that the time would come, and come speedily, when the motor-car would bo as universal as the bicycle. Already in America the demand -for cars has become enormous. In the States an automobile is not a luxury reserved for the wealthy, but a necessity demanded by every, man with an oven moderate salary. Ono manufacturing firm in Detroit alone has an output of 50,000 cars per annum. and the demand shows*no signs of slackening. Prices are still comparatively high, but there seems little drmbt that a reliable two-seater car, built on modern lines, at £IOO, will soon be within the bounds of possibility. Whether the inevitable cheapening of the car will affect the popularity of the motor-cycle is a problem that only time can solve, but it may be confidently prophesied in conclusion that the "pc-trol era" is as yet only in its early years. It is surprising how few have been the changes in petrol motor construction since the first De Dion engines wero placed on the market, in fact, with the exceptions of the American two-cycle engine and Knight sleeve-valve engine, there has been no radical change in fifteen years. Tho problem of simplifying and improving the engine itself is now tying determinedly attacked by tho world's leading motor engineers, and at any time one may learn of the introduction of some new principle which may enormous!y rcduco tho cost of manufacture.

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Bibliographic details

MOTORS IN CANTERBURY, Star, Issue 10424, 30 March 1912

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MOTORS IN CANTERBURY Star, Issue 10424, 30 March 1912

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