CC Outtake: Mystery Car With Some History

Old Narbethong photo

I have something a bit different for this next mystery car, which was in a photographic display at a roadside park at Narbethong, Victoria, located in the Yarra Ranges roughly 55 miles north-east of Melbourne.  The caption at bottom right is clearly wrong however, as it is not a Ford!  The same photographer was quite prolific in the area and there are some interesting insights into bygone times, read on to see some more.

The photo is actually a cropped and slightly colourised version of a photograph held in the State Library of Victoria, which was taken by photographer Lindsay G Cumming.



Cumming was from the nearby town of Alexandra, where in addition to a photography studio he ran a bicycle shop, was a bee keeper and eventually had a Ford dealership (photographed presumably around the time of the launch of the Falcon in 1960).

Black Spur Hotel

He took a range of photographs around the district from 1910-1950 (he lived from 1894-1979), with this photograph estimated by the cataloguer to date from the 1920’s.  Judging by the growth of the trees compared to other period photographs of the hotel, the photograph would seem to be closer to 1930.  The building looks quite different now, but might be simply the second storey extended the full width of the building, and a simpler roof replacing the gabled original.  The hotel was built in the gold rush times of 1863, and has narrowly escaped destruction in two massive bushfires that decimated the area (1939 and 2009).

The same cataloguer also assigned the caption “Ford Touring cars outside Black Spur Hotel, Narbethong House”.  It is easy to see how the mis-identification happened, because “they all look the same” but this is clearly not a Ford; the signature transverse leaf-spring is absent.  There are plenty of clues of the make in the shape of the radiator, and its badge can be seen if not read.

The car in the background facing away from us would appear to be a Ford though, possibly even the same one seen in this photograph described as a picnic group.  Hopefully not all 14 people (including the photographer) were travelling in the Ford!

While you are trying to work out what the car is, let’s have a look at a few other photos from Mr Cummings, like this group of motorists.  Also not Fords!  It does look like they may all be the same make of car because the radiators and front chassis leg setups appear to be the same.  Not a lot can be assumed from the body rear of the engine compartment in this era because typically locally-built bodies were fitted to imported chassis and running gear.

Timber was an important industry in the hills, and still is in tightly controlled areas, and Cummings had many photos such as this one of the Rubicon mill.  That the mill looks fairly primitive is not surprising because it is a very isolated area in the Cathedral Ranges around 15 miles upstream from Alexandra.  The name of the range of hills gives an idea of the terrain, another is the current-day existence of two hydroelectric power stations in the area.

Note the steam engine situated under a simple shelter, without any wheels so it is not going anywhere in a hurry, driving a pair of saws through large belts.

A steam traction engine is getting ready to haul away a load of sawn timber in what looks to be a fairly precarious operation.  Note the suction hose on the side of the engine that would be used to replenish the boiler from creeks along the journey.  There are also a pair of Clydesdale horses (presumably) in the background together with a pile of hay; just how far before WW2 this photo was taken is anyone’s guess, motorised tractors had the disadvantage of requiring fuel that didn’t grow locally!

Beekeeping Camp Ford truck

There are many photos relating to bee keeping, which also feature a series of Cummings’ Ford trucks and a caravan used by the family.  The setting here is looks pretty nice too.

This car is driving along a tramway that connected the Rubicon dam and its hydroelectric power station roughly 7 miles away.  The gauge is 2 feet.  It appears this may be the same make as the mystery car!

Cummings photos

There are photos from the mundane, like bottle-feeding orphan lambs, to the eccentric, like people sitting in tall tree ferns.

Construction works at Sugarloaf Dam, Eildon

To documenting things like building the Sugarloaf Dam on Lake Eildon.

Streetscape showing Seymour floods 1916

And a photo of floods in the main street of Seymour from 1916, which was a one in 100 year flood and the largest in the 20th century.

Early model car on rough road with half cleared trees in background (snow)

To finish, here is a great photo of a car driving through the snow in a partially-cleared area of the forest.

All historic photographs are from the State Library of Victoria, Lindsay G Cumming collection