Pullman motor cars at Vivian Lewis, Limited

First known reference: The Mail, 10 July 1915, page 19

New Pullman Car

Considerable interest has been aroused in American motoring circles in the new Pullman car. The Pullman Company, which is a branch of the famous Pullman railway firm [I don't think so], has for 15 years been building high-class cars for the American market. This year, however, the company decided to come out with a popular model, which while retaining the best features of the higher priced model, will yet be within the reach of buyers of more moderate means. The result is an extremely smart car of 25/30 h.p., with a fine streamline five seater body. All the latest equipments [sic] are included, such as electric light, self-starter, demountable rims. The car has met with tremendous success, and Australian motorists have been exceptionally busy trying to secure the agency. We understand it has been placed with Messrs. Vivian Lewis, Ltd., who now have a shipment on the water, and purpose [sic] selling the car in Adelaide at 295 complete. The sample model, which arrived a few days since, was promptly secured by Mr. Jamieson, Barunga, who is particularly well pleased with his purchase. The Pullman will meet a big circle of buyers who are anxious to have power for all kinds of roads and hill work with out too heavy a car. The agents will be pleased to give full particulars to all enquirers, and expect to be able to give delivery in a few weeks' time.

Last known reference: May 1918

Summary: The story of the Pullman agency at Vivian Lewis Limited is one of two struggling motor businesses: Vivian Lewis struggling to secure vehicles to sell as their traditional British and European sources dried up due to the war, and the Pullman Motor Car Company of York, Pennsylvania, struggling to keep afloat in an industry increasingly dominated by the large manufacturers.

Pullman advertisement, March 1916

It would seem that most, if not all, of the Pullman cars sold by Lewis were the four-cylinder model, rated at 25/30 h.p. but usually listed as 22.5 h.p. in the surviving registration records. (22.5 h.p. RAC corresponds to a bore of 3 3/4 inches in a four cylinder car.) Early shipments were of complete cars, fitted with either a 5-seat tourer or a 3-seat "clover leaf" (two seats in front, one behind) body. Although Lewis had a fully equipped body building works in their Gawler Place South factory, and tariffs on imported bodies were high, business conditions obviously favoured bringing in complete cars, perhaps due to war-time labour shortages.

Pullman automobile, December 1916

By mid 1917, Lewis were offing Pullman cars fitted with "high quality colonial bodies". These were built at the Lewis works, and for a while were offered together with the two American body options. Interestingly the Lewis-bodied 5 seater touring car at 325 was significantly more expensive than the American-body options, which were available for 295. From the announcement of the embargo on imported bodies in August 1917, all Pullmans would have come in as "chassis only" and been bodied at the Lewis works.

The Pullman Motor Car Company ended its struggle to survive with bankruptcy in 1917, and Lewis advertised its last new Pullman for sale in May 1918. South Australian registration records list 56 Pullman cars registered up to 1920, although as many as 15 of these were registered after the middle of 1918 suggesting they may have been re-registrations of second hand cars. Sales were likely 40-50 cars over a three year period; reasonable but small compared with the Ford and Dodge agencies across town.

One complete but as-yet-unrestored Pullman car survives in South Australia, together with bits and pieces of two other cars.

Amount of information available: Technical detail of cars, bodies, colour schemes, etc.

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