1904 16 h.p. Gladiator

The Lewis Cycle Works had their first interaction with a motor vehicle branded "Gladiator" in 1898 when French racing cycliste Mlle Serpolette visited South Australia with her Gladiator motor tricycle. So far as I can see, Lewis were involved with only one other Gladiator vehicle: a 16 h.p. motor car delivered to Mr. Bertie Barr Smith in November 1904. The relationship was to be an enduring one, because the car was garaged and meticulously maintained at the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works until its owner's untimely death in December 1909.

Bertie's Gladiator appears twice in the Lewis album photographs, but unfortunately one of its appearances is in the only photograph missing from our copy. At least we presume that the one empty space in the album was once occupied by this well known photograph posed outside the Lewis Motor House on Victoria Square, which appeared in publications like the 1909 Lewis Motors booklet. Despite the absence of the fine detail that is characteristic of the original photographs (does anyone have an original print?) we can clearly identify the Barr Smith Gladiator, with Tom O'Grady leaning on the bodywork talking to the driver, who I take to be Bertie Barr Smith. The passenger is likely his father , Mr Robert Barr Smith. (Strictly Bertie was Robert Barr Smith Jnr., but he was universally known as Bertie.)

1904 Gladiator 16 h.p. motor car 1904 Gladiator 16 h.p. motor car

In the spirit of the staged photographs, the car was moved inside the front door of the motor house, where we see it again in photograph 07. Bertie stands behind the car with an unknown Lewis mechanic.

Fortunately some of the service records relating to the Gladiator have survived and give us an insight into motoring in the very early days. Although the Barr Smith family were renowned pastoralists, Bertie obviously preferred the city life and gave his address as the Adelaide Club. While the Gladiator was garaged at the Motor House (at a cost of 10/- per month) it was washed almost daily, and the accumulators were regularly charged (at 1/6 per charge). Presumably all the washing eventually took its toll, and we find an entry for "touch up and two coats of varnish for Gladiator".

During 1907 Bertie added a superb six-cylinder 60 h.p. Napier to his stable, almost certainly purchased from, or at least through, Lewis. In the Napier, with Lewis employee Murray Aunger as mechanic and co-driver, Barr Smith broke the Melbourne-to-Adelaide record in February 1909. In a nice touch, Bertie kept the Gladiator after acquiring the Napier and the two lead a pampered life garaged together at the Lewis Motor House.

Only in the later years did the work on the Gladiator begin to look more like repairs than maintenance. Account items included "Fit new air shutter to Gladiator 2.4.0", "Dressing up 4 platinum screws and 3 blades. New platinum in blades. Take out and clean inlet valves and fit key 9/6", and so on. Because Bertie had two cars with Lewis, the records are not always clear about which car work was performed on, so we're in the dark about which car required "rescue from West terrace 10/-" or ""Towing car to city from Chain of Ponds 2.10.0". Let's guess that it was the Gladiator, because the following month, January 1909, is this entry:

Fit new pair cylinders
2 new piston couplings
complete with rings and pins
take up all bearings of engines              24.0.0

So it seems like Bertie used it enough to wear it out...

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