Introduction to the Hinkler Project
by Sandy Cameron
on behalf of the Armstrong Siddeley Heritage Trust
The Armstrong Siddeley marque enjoyed success following the commencement of Australian dealerships in 1920. One of the more active locations was the Queensland and northern rivers distributor, Lee Monteath & Biggs, which became British and Australian Motors Limited soon after 1924.
Despite the change in proprietorship of this Brisbane business at least one of the principals of the original firm continued, Mr. L. G. Lee. Mr. Lee was responsible for the promotion of Armstrong Siddeley in his sales territory, and was presented with an ideal opportunity in 1928.
H.J.A. (Bert) Hinkler was born in Bundaberg, Queensland on 8th December 1892, and became a pioneer Australian aviator and inventor. He travelled to the United Kingdom in 1913 and began working for the Sopwith Aviation Company, owned by T.O.M. Sopwith, later to become Sir Thomas Sopwith C.B.E., Chairman of the Hawker Siddeley Group. Bert would also have made the acquaintance of another famous Australian aviator, Victorian born H.G. (Harry) Hawker who became chief test pilot for the Sopwith Aviation Company, following his commencement in June 1912.
Bert Hinkler also worked for aircraft manufacturer A.V. Roe and company (name later abbreviated to AVRO) in Southampton. Following several mechanical setbacks and survivable aviation mishaps, Hinkler began to set many records, amongst which were;
- Nonstop flight from England to Latvia
- First solo flight from England to Australia, in a British registered single engine Avro Avian biplane G-EBOV, arriving in his home town of Bundaberg on 27th February 1928, following his Australian landfall at Darwin on February 22nd.
In recognition of his aviation feats he was invited to take a seat on floor of the House of Representatives in newly established Canberra, and later in 1928 was awarded the Air Force Cross in London by the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VIII. Prior to this Bert Hinkler was given a parade of honour through the streets of Brisbane on March 6th 1928.
The vehicle that conveyed Bert Hinkler on this well attended parade was a 1926 model Armstrong Siddeley 18 HP Mk. II, car number AS 40760, an open tourer fitted with a Brisbane made Peel Body Works body, and supplied by the aforementioned keen marketer Mr. L.G. Lee of British Australian Motors Limited.
The above photograph was taken on March 6th 1928 and shows the 18 HP MK.II Armstrong Siddeley Peel bodied Tourer being driven through Brisbane streets during the procession to honour pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler.
The car, AS 40760, passed through a number of hands in the intervening years, later being cut down to make an orchard truck before being rescued by Brisbane resident and Queensland branch formation member, Tom Smethurst who has dry stored the vehicle for forty years.
The Hinkler House Memorial Museum and Research Association Limited have now purchased two other similar period 18 HP Armstrong Siddeley cars, both previously owned by Warwick Gordon-Smith, and have also received the original 18 HP Hinkler parade car as a donation. It is planned that multiple restorations will take place resulting in the preservation of this truly historic piece of Australian motoring memorabilia.
The official invitation to the Project Launch hosted by the Mayor of Bundaberg, and held in the North Bundaberg Botanic Gardens.
The Armstrong Siddeley Car Club of Australia have aligned themselves to this unique project and a number of members have already become involved with this restoration project. The Hinkler House Memorial Museum and Research Association Incorporated have become financial members of the ASCC and have begun to gather important data on the 18 HP Mark II.
To celebrate the link between the Armstrong Siddeley marque, Bert Hinkler and the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, an Official Launch by the Mayor, Councillor Mal Forman took place in the Botanic Gardens, North Bundaberg on Australia Day 2015. The Club was represented by Tom Smethurst's daughter, Blythe who delivered a speech on our behalf. There are also plans to build a memorial to Bert Hinkler in the Italian mountain range where he lost his life while flying from England to Australia on January 8th 1933,
As an interesting sidelight, the Federal Government seat for Bundaberg and surrounding electoral district is named in honour of Bert Hinkler. The current sitting member for Hinkler is club member Mr. Keith Pitt M.H.R. who is a proud 346 Sapphire owner and ASCC member.
Take a look at the Project Diary to see what's happened so far. We ask any Club Member who is contacted by the Hinkler Hall of Aviation to assist wherever possible. You can also of course, be proactive by emailing Tom Smethurst to offer your assistance.