gerringong-speedway001The first motor vehicle to ever pass through Kiama was 11 August 1902. Although the driver was on their way from Sydney to Bega, they had an untimely end to the journey at Broughton Village. Running over an embankment meant the car had to be transported by train back to Sydney. This vehicle made another first, as the first car accident in the district.

It took some time before motor vehicles were seen as integral to life as they are now. The dangers these early vehicles presented to pedestrians and those on horses was a feature of the times. Before the advent of speed and engines, there was just as much excitement with the regular horse races on Seven Mile Beach. Speed often results in tragedy and horse racing is no exception. The Gerringong Christmas races of 1861 resulted in a fatal collision of 2 horsemen.

The roads were also not entirely suitable to motor vehicles either. In November 1909, the Alkin Family (husband, wife and child) were making the perilous descent on Jamberoo Mountain, when they discovered that the brakes could not hold their vehicle. They had to drive into an embankment and all three were very bruised and the car badly damaged. By the October holidays in 1919 there was a record number of motor traffic. In just 2 hours, 12 vehicles had been counted driving through town. Eight years later there were enough vehicles that Kiama Council supported a recommendation to outlaw racing motorists from attempting road record speed tests on roads.

Seven Mile Beach became known as the Gerringong Speedway and it was a popular outing to attend the races. The horse races on Seven Mile Beach since the 1860’s couldn’t compete with the speed and excitement of motor. The Kiama Municipality was the scene of a rather significant event in the Australian history of the motor vehicle, when the 100 miles per hour barrier was broken. There were regular races throughout the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Around 2000 spectators were present at the Royal Automobile Club speed trials in March 1925, hoping to see the 100m/h barrier broken.  The race to be the first to break the 100m/h barrier in Australia was finally achieved by Don Harkness on October 7, 1925 on our very own Seven Mile Beach. His official speed was 107.75mph in his Hispano-Suiza, V8 powered Minerva. This car reached a speed of 120mph in later land speed tests.

gerringong-speedway003Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith and Don Harkness made an attempt to break the 100mph barrier on Seven Mile Beach on 1 December 1929, in a cadillac with a Rolls Royce aeronautical engine. The rough surf and the bumpy sand hindered the land speed trial, but the aero engine almost enabled them to enter flight trials, Smith reported that the car hit one bump and sailed above the sand for 40 feet. Various car and motor cycle groups from all around came to race along the generally smooth, flat beach. The Goulburn Motorcycle Club visited in 1923, when 75 miles per hour was clocked on a 4 cylinder Henderson motor bike.

Various car and motor cycle groups from all around came to race. The Goulburn Motorcycle Club visited in 1923, when 75 miles per hour was clocked on a 4 cylinder Henderson motor bike. More than 2000 people came to watch speed trials by the Royal Automobile Club of Sydney in March 1925, and by October 7 the same year, Don Harkness became the first to break the 100mph barrier on Seven Mile Beach. His official speed was 107.75mph. The Hispano-Suiza, V8 powered Minerva reached a speed of 120mph in later land speed tests.

Eight years later in 1933, cars used their headlights to provide extra illumination for the first commercial flight between Australia and New Zealand. Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith used Seven Mile Beach as the runway for this auspicious flight and several thousand people came to watch the 2:30am take off. Another era of transport had begun. The crowds were excited by the car racing and land speed trials on Seven Mile Beach but in 1933 an entirely new era of transport begun in our municipality. Local cars used their headlights to provide extra illumination for the first commercial flight between Australia and New Zealand.  Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith used Seven Mile Beach as the runway for this auspicious flight and several thousand people came to watch the 2:30am take off.


Photo of Don Harkness in his Hispano-Suiza, V8 powered Minerva, 1925.
http://winfield.50megs.com/Adams/OZ_DonHarkness.jpg

 

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