Saturday 3 December 2016

Online Index of 80,153 Early WA Motor Vehicle Registrations

The Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.) of Western Australia historically published an annual Year Book & Road Guide. Some of the early editions included lists of every registered motor vehicle in Western Australia. The lists included the owner, their address, the type of vehicle, its license/number plate and the local authority it was registered with.

In partnership with the North Midlands Project we have transcribed, indexed and created a searchable online database of motor vehicle registrations from throughout Western Australia (extracted from the R.A.C. Year Book & Road Guides of 1917-18, 1922-23, 1924-25, 1925-26, 1926-27 and 1927-28). A great many thanks are due to those who worked so hard to transcribe, check and reformat this wealth of information, which can now be searched via the below link...

Arthur & Florence White of Sun Holme Farm in Winchester with their sports model Buick

The index contains 80,153 entries, comprised from the following years:

3,324 vehicles in 1917-18
5,495 vehicles in 1922-23
10,693 vehicles in 1924-25
15,322 vehicles in 1925-26
19,975 vehicles in 1926-27
25,344 vehicles in 1927-28

The growth in vehicles during the ten years from 1917-18 to 1927-28 was over 762 percent!

During this period the most popular make was undoubtedly Ford (28% of all registrations) followed by Chevrolet (12%), Dodge (11%), Overland (7%), Buick (5%), Rugby (3%), Studebaker (3%), Essex (3%), Hupmobile (2%) and then Morris, Fiat, Maxwell and Chrysler (1% each). Other brands, with a less than 1% market share included Reo, Citroen, Austin, Oldsmobile, Willys-Knight, International, Graham, Whippet, Republic, Pontiac, Swift, General Motors Company (G.M.C.), Leyland, Guy and Vauxhall.

The index reveals that some people went through a number of vehicles in the space of ten years. For example, F. J. Enhardt of Dowerin didn't own a vehicle in 1917-18 but in 1922-23 he had a 19-horsepower Ford with the number plate D●11. He retained his plate but by 1924-25 he'd got rid of the Ford and owned a Maxwell. Two years later in 1926-27 he'd changed again and had D●11 on a Chrysler.

It may appear that multiple people had the same number plate at the same time. However, this was generally not the case. Some local governments used the same numbering (but on different coloured plates) for private vehicles and those for trade or hire. In other places, such as Narrogin, there was both a road board and a municipal council - the former would include the dot in the middle while the latter contained no dot.

Sometimes the road board and municipal council would use different letters, but not always! For instance, in 1926-27 the Albany Road Board's plates were A followed by a dot and the Albany Municipal Council also used used A but without a dot - hence both A●21 and A 21 both existed but were on different vehicles owned by different people!

If anyone wishes to view the digitised R.A.C. Year Book & Road Guides, they can be found and viewed within the catalogue of the State Library of Western Australia. Our new index, which can be searched by surname or keyword, can be found via the below link...


Peter Partridge said...

Excellent resource, I know the Veteran Car Club Library have some of the early RAC books. It would be great if this database could be expanded by donations of information by individuals.
TROVE also lists other vehicle details and transfers from early years.

Singleton said...

Wow sterling job Andrew. I see you have been quietly squirrelling away on this. Lesly Singleton

Jim Gordon said...

Ppphhhhhhhhhhhhhhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwoooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. What an amazing resource! I am in absolute awe of the amount of work that's gone into compiling this incredible listing. I know this as I am (very slowly) gathering data for a second Edition of "Western Australian Number Plates". I have many photos and many early plates and spent a lot of time cross-referencing photos and plates against the RACWA Year Books. This is a huge time-saving initiative. I do hope more RACWA Year Books turn up. I know of several in Private collections and it would be fantastic to build on this wonderful foundation.
Jim Gordon NPCC#92 (Number Plate Collectors Club of Australia)

Anonymous said...

I have CA (dot) 274, not listed that I can see.
Cheers dene Callard, Perth

Andrew Bowman-Bright said...

Thanks for the feedback Peter, Lesly and Jim.

Dene - generally numbers were brought into circulation chronologically as more cars and trucks were licensed. In 1927-28 the Carnamah (CA) plates only went up to CA-269 - which is so close to the one you have, but not quite there! It's very likely that CA-274 was used for the first time in 1928-29. Unfortunately the resource we used to create the index doesn't quite go this far.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Andrew!, my interest in the plates and ownership of vehicles is that my Grandfather was Claude William Deane, one of the earliest "Motor Traders" in WA and credited with starting the new car sales here. I imagine quite a few of the vehicles on your database would have been sold, others pre-owned, by him.
I would like to offer my assistance regarding a few entries regarding James William Wright, Perth Architect,(my Great Grandfather) and Claude William Deane.
The information you derived the listings from would have been all handwritten yes?.
Dene 0413554616 if you would like to call.

Anonymous said...

Peter partridge - my Grandmother was RAC member 3-4 or 5 I think!, certainly under the tenth anyway, Lillian May Deane (nee Wright). Cheers Dene Callard