IN what was the quaint town of Shepparton, the clattering sound of the first motor car echoed through the streets in 1904. This single-cylinder Oldsmobile, a symbol of progress, was brought to town by Mr E.I. Pemberton of West Knight Street.
Pemberton’s automotive journeys with his Oldsmobile were no ordinary trips. Before venturing out of town, he would inform a friend, knowing all too well the likelihood of his car breaking down, requiring a horse-drawn tow back home.
Margaret Taylor, who has family connections to Mr Pemberton, shared a fascinating anecdote online, “We were told that Mr Pemberton bought this car second hand from a gentleman living in Bacchus Marsh,”
“The car was delivered to that town by train and the new owner was unaware that to leave the town he would have to go everywhere in reverse, because the hills surrounding the town were so steep that when he drove forward up the incline, the petrol drained out of the motor. Mr Pemberton bought the car soon after.”
Mr Pemberton’s car, of French manufacture, packing a whopping 2.5 horsepower, and costing £250 (over $46,000 in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation), was a sight to behold. It was said that with “fair roads” it could reach a top speed of about 18 miles an hour.
It was brought from Melbourne by an attendant who provided two weeks of driving instructions. Contrary to expectations, horses took very little notice of the mechanical beast.
Whenever the car halted in a thoroughfare, it quickly became the centre of attention, with crowds gathering to marvel at the unique and uncommon sight. The first car in Shepparton, despite its quirks, marked the beginning of a new era in transportation in the region.