* * *
The first car I remember was a gas producer - a company car which my father drove to and from work. I was born just a few weeks before WWII broke out. Australia didn't have it's own oil industry at that time and there was petrol rationing for several years. Father used to power up the car with wood shavings before driving to work. From research I have done recently it would appear that the cars ran by passing hot air over coal or coke.
My grandparents had a very large black Hudson car and my grandmother was always the driver for reasons which I never found out. It was a very heavy car and was slow to take off and to brake due to its weight. When my grandmother eventually bought herself a smaller, lighter car she used the same braking and accelerating technique which she had used on the Hudson and consequently she would stop very suddenly at the traffic lights and take off like a maniac when she got the green light. It made for an exciting ride.
Around the farm horses were used for most of the heavy work, though there was an old Fordson tractor and a truck with an open cabin. The tray at the back of the truck had extensions to a level with the seat and my sister and I used to sit, one on either side, and hold on for dear life. My grandfather sometimes allowed us to "drive" by sitting us on his lap, pulling out the throttle and allowing us to steer - only in open paddocks, of course.
The Hudson was used to drive to Adelaide, a distance of about 30 miles and as the road was at that time unsealed for about half the distance it was very dusty in summer and very muddy in winter. In summer we all got very adept at rapidly winding up the windows at the sight of an oncoming car in order to prevent the dust from coming in and in winter chains had to be used on the tyres if there had been a lot of rain. There was a layby near where the sealed road began and we used to pull to the side to remove the chains which would be stowed in the boot ready for the return journey.
My parents owned an Austin 12 which started life dark blue but had a green paint job done on her later. After we moved to Perth to live it usually stayed at home with Mother and Father again drove a company car. The one which he usually drove was a small bright red convertible which was nicknamed "the tomato." It was a fun car and at weekends my baby brother would be suspended from the metal roof frame in his carry cot and we used to drive to the hills or the beaches for picnics.
My Great-Aunt Ada and my great grandmother travelled around in an old Terraplane with a velvet rope across the back of the front seats to assist back seat passengers. I am not sure who drove this monstrosity because my aunt was a tiny little thing and would have had difficulty seeing over the bonnet - perhaps Uncle Roy used to do the driving. My great grandmother used to sit regally in the back seat, for all the world like Queen Victoria. One day we were all standing around the terraplane, talking, with my great grandmother sitting in the back as usual (I never remember her walking - in all my mental pictures of her she was sitting down) when it suddenly decided to take off of its own volition: She was was helpless as the car set off down the driveway. My father, with great presence of mind leapt onto the running board and managed to pull on the brake and stop the car. As a thank you to my father for saving her life my great grandmother, much to his embarrassment, presented him with a pair of strictly prohibited brass knuckle-dusters which languished for years at the back of my mothers wardrobe and then disappeared quietly, never to be seen again.