Yesterday Today | Donnelly Bros at your service

READY, SET, GO: This Overland Six was taking part in an economy run from Sydney to Parkes in March 1926. Note the driver in the latest gear.
READY, SET, GO: This Overland Six was taking part in an economy run from Sydney to Parkes in March 1926. Note the driver in the latest gear.

Continuing from last week, we have another vehicle, an Overland Six, out the front of Donnelly Brothers’ Mobiloil garage in George Street, which is where Winning Edge Cycles is today. 

The Overland Six was taking part in an economy run from Sydney to Parkes in March 1926. The image is from the Bathurst District Historical Society photo collection. Ironically, as this trial was taking place in Australia, problems with the parent company in America led to the end of production for the Overland Six.

You will notice one of the drivers sitting on a spare wheel that is being changed. He is all dressed up in the latest driving gear - leather coat and leather helmet with fancy driving goggles. The appearance of the automobiles has attracted several onlookers. 

Cars around this time were considered unsafe if they travelled at speeds of over 55 miles per hour. The 2000-mile event was tiring for the drivers, who were quite worn out by the time they arrived in Bathurst.

Donnelly Brothers not only sold cars and repaired them, but also hired cars (as they had done years earlier when hiring out horse and carriages). J & T Donnelly conducted their livery stables on the same block of land in 1901.

In 1906, the two men decided to change their name to Donnelly Bros Livery Stables. It stayed this way until 1913, when the business changed. By 1925, they called it Donnelly Motor Garage and it continued in business until around the start of World War Two.   

In 1919, Willys-Overland had sold 94,000 automobiles, including vehicles exported to Australia, though it was some 46,000 fewer than the company had produced during 1916. By the mid-1920s, the company had five factories in the United States manufacturing completed chassis with the popular Knight engines. At the same time, Willys-Knight were fabricating and completing 250 cars each day.

This car design was astonishingly quiet, and another advantage was that its sleeve valves required a minimum amount of attention. The drawback was that it cost more to build as the sleeves’ surfaces required more time for precise grinding. 

Another factor, especially around Bathurst, was it was much more difficult to start it. With the open roads around Bathurst, it used more oil at faster speeds, which could mean carrying enough oil for a longer journey and pouring in some two quarts of oil every 70 miles.

The Donnelley Bros did, however, compliment the company on the design of the engine with its centrally located spark plugs, the larger ports for better gas flow and its hemispherical combustion chambers allowing greater power.

Unlike today, these earlier cars required a good deal of maintenance. In the mid-1920s, drivers purchased different oil for winter and summer and the Donnelly Bros kept good supplies in stock. 

In summer, Bathurst motor car owners bought Triumph motor oil type ‘O’, which was a pure mineral paraffin-base oil guaranteed to give satisfaction under most arduous conditions. 

Triumph claimed that although it was a light-bodied oil, it did not thin down unduly under the influence of heat, and a perfect seal was maintained at high temperatures. It was sold in various sized metal tins, with the quarter gallon at 2/3, half gallon at 4/-, the one gallon at 7/- and the largest four-gallon tin for 24/-.     

Once frosts arrived, and for the rest of winter, Bathurstians bought Triumph motor oil type ‘G’, which was an exceptionally clean oil. With its use, carbon troubles were practically unknown. 

Extremely tenacious in character, it preserved an even and complete film between the piston rings and cylinder walls at high temperatures, thus ensuring long life and even running to the engine. A quarter gallon cost 2/4, a half gallon was 4/4, one gallon was 7/9 and a four-gallon tin cost 27/-.

Alan McRae is with the Bathurst District Historical Society