1948 prototype of the Hartnett
Hartnett Motor Company Ltd
1951 to 1955
Jean Grégoire
Body and chassis
Small car
Body style
2-door sedan
2-door tourer
3-door station wagon
FF layout
594 cc flat twin
4-speed manual
2,000 mm (78.8 in)
3,505 mm (138 in)
1,410 mm (55.5 in)
1,410 mm (55.5 in)
Curb weight
445 kg (980 lbs)
The Hartnett is an automobile which was produced by the Hartnett Motor Company Ltd in Australia from 1951 to 1955.
Copy of the Kendall 6hp car advertising brochure hand annotated by Laurence Hartnett. Distributed to potential investors in the Hartnett Motor Company

Company Formation

The former Managing Director of General Motors-Holden's, Laurence Hartnett, was approached by then Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley regarding the possible establishment of an Australian motor manufacturing company to challenge the dominance of GMH in the Australian market. Hartnett met the Prime Minister on 29 November 1948 and it was reported that "the Commonwealth Government favours the project and will give financial assistance to place the industry on a firm basis"
The Hartnett Motor Company was announced in a presentation made by Laurence Hartnett to Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley on 7 February 1949. The original plan was to sell 5,000 cars in the first year of production and 10,000 in each subsequent year. A Prospectus was issued on 29 August 1949, and the company formed on 31 August of that year.

Manufacturing Site

Throughout 1949 there was competition form the state governments to attract the manufacturing site of the company. The state government of Victoria and the Frankston City Council were the favoured option throughout the year.
In March 1950 the company announced that production would begin in England. They stated that as material and labour became more plentiful in Australia they would move closer to the objective of making the whole car in Australia. 
In May 1950 the company announced that all tools, gauges and jigs were ready at a plant in Geelong (Victoria).
In November 1951 Hartnett company director Mr N Goldberg revealed that it had transferred the company production centre from Sydney to Melbourne "where cars are now being assembled".
In March 1952 the first Hartnett car produced in Australia was dispatched from a production facility in Frankston.

Engine Development

In May 1950 the company announced that it had signed a 500,000 pound contract with F. M. Aspin and Co. Ltd., of Bury (Lancashire) to manufacture and supply engines and gearboxes. An unspecified initial consignment was due to be delivered to Australia in August 1950 with a further 500 engines per month thereafter.


Plans were devised to build a small front wheel drive car based on a prototype 2 door sedan developed by French designer Jean Grégoire.
The design of the original Gregorie vehicle had been developed into three separate prototype vehicles using the same basic engineering, but with different body styling. The "Panhard" version and the "Simca" version were developed by French interests. The "Kendall" version was adopted in England by Grantham Productions Limited. The development of the "Kendall" version that commenced in 1946 had been abandoned by Grantham due to financial difficulties.
The choice to move forward with the Gregorie option was primarily based on the availability of the assets of the former Grantham operation at a significant discount. The whole of the tooling, gauges, jigs, fixtures, patterns, dies and suchlike required for the manufacture of the car were available to be purchased for 30,000 pounds. Just two years earlier Grantham had paid 186,000 pounds for these assets.
Hartnett concluded that the availability of these assets would 'obviate a delay of up to three years and make production possible within one year of the commencement of a Public Company'.
The Hartnett, as it was to be called, utilised aluminium castings rather than the typical steel pressings, both to save weight and to reduce tooling costs. It was fitted with independent suspension on all four wheels and a 594 cc air-cooled, horizontally opposed two-cylinder engine. In 1951 it was announced that the 'Tasman' sedan model would be supplemented by the 'Pacific', a soft-top sports tourer.


In May 1950 the company announced that 5 prototype vehicles fully made in England were due to arrive in Australia.

Production Models

On 16 March 1951 the company simultaneously revealed the first two production vehicles in Sydney and Melbourne.
The model displayed was an aluminium bodied Pacific Convertible. At the launch Laurence Hartnett announced that this model was to be followed by a sedan model to be known as the Tasman later in the year.
68 percent of the vehicle was Australian produced with the imported components comprising the engine, gearbox, instruments and some of the brake fittings.
Almost a year to the day after the initial launch the first two cars a further two cars were displayed in Melbourne. They were described as being the first two cars from the Frankston assembly plant. Production was stated as 8 cars per week.
On 23 April 1952 the company announced that 'several' cars had been delivered to buyers in Victoria and that several more would be completed weekly at the Frankston assembly plant.
Production of vehicles ceased in September 1952.


The original price of the car had been promoted at "less than 300 pounds" however by the time the company was formed and before production had commenced it had already risen to an estimated 430 pounds. In January 1950 it was revealed that the car would cost "less than 500 pounds" inclusive of sales tax. By March 1951 no cars had been delivered and the company revealed that the expected pricing was now "549 pounds plus sales tax" meaning that the total purchase price would be "less than 600 pounds". The first aluminium bodied Pacific Convertible vehicles sold in April 1952 cost 695 pounds including sales tax.

Company Failure

Laurence Hartnett originally proposed that production of the car could be commenced in less than one year after the incorporation of the company in August 1949. The fist production cars were released in April 1952. The production figures of 'several' cars per week fell significantly short of the 400 cars per week originally forecast. Between the launch of the company and the commencement of production there were almost monthly public assurances that the company was successfully overcoming production issues and that full production was only weeks away.
The first public indication that the company faced significant issues was when questions were raised in Federal Parliament. On 28th August 1952 a member of the Labour opposition told the House of Representatives that he had failed to be given answers to two questions by the Government. Firstly ha asked why General Motors Holden had been granted a 1,000,000 pound overdraft from the government owned Commonwealth bank where the same facility had been refused to the Hartnett Motor Company. Secondly he asked whether the government owned Commonwealth Engineering Company had obstructed the manufacturing of the Hartnett car by failing to deliver steel body panels that had been on order for over 18 months.
Two weeks later the company called a creditors meeting and stated that it was in debt 63,779 pounds and that its business was at a standstill and production had ceased. The company claimed that the Commonwealth Engineering Company had failed to deliver 2000 sets of steel body panels as agreed in May 1950 with delivery commencing by May 1951. By June 1952 the Hartnett Company had not received a single set.
For the first time it was revealed that the company had orders for only 314 cars. Hartnett Motor Company directors including Laurence Hartnett had previously claimed to hold orders for two thousand cars,
In December 1955 the Commonwealth Engineering Company was ordered to pay the company 37,228 pounds in damages for the non-delivery of the panels. The company had been seeking 170,000 pounds in damages.
The Hartnett Motor Company was dissolved at a creditors meeting in 1956.

Production Statistics

The Frankston production plant appears to have been in use between November 1951 until the second week of September 1952. The first cars off the line were in the third week of April 1952 with "several" cars being produced each week. 19 weeks of production would equate to about 100 vehicles.
Most of the vehicles were delivered as open tourers, although some with station wagon bodies were also built.
Prospectus of Hartnett Motor Company
Prospectus of Hartnett Motor Company - Annexure A
Prospectus of Hartnett Motor Company - Annexure B

Last updated on 23 September 2014 at 12:44.

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