1930s AUSTRAL Club Racer
with BSA Fittings
I bought this Austral Club Racer from Nat in Australia in 2016. I liked it because of its unusual design on the steering head and fork crown, which is similar to a Malvern Star but instead of a star it has a small outline of Australia.
Since it arrived, I’ve been working non-stop on other bicycles. But in the past three months my friend Ben has been helping out at my warehouse once a week so I’m starting to catch up with project such as this. I fitted one of Paul Watson’s saddles and a BSA inflator pump, and yesterday, as the sun was out, I took the Austral down to Falmer village pond for some early morning photos.
Valda Unthank (1909-1987) was a champion cyclist during the 1930s. She broke numerous records for speed, distance and time spent riding, in the process becoming a household name in Australia. She was sponsored to ride Austral bicycles.
BELOW: Valda Unthank on her Austral with Opperman on his Malvern Star – 1938
AUSTRAL CYCLE AGENCY: 1893 – c1900
‘Austral’ was a prominent name in Australia in the 1890s, with a famous race and also a magazine using it. So it’s not surprising that a cycle agency had registered the name too. The Austral Cycle Agency was already selling imported bicycles by 1893. An articlce in ‘The Australian Cyclist’ mentions Humber, Premier, Excelsior, New Rapid, Belsize, Referee and Crypto bicycles at their showrooms at 139 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. By 1897 their advertisements claimed that they were the largest importers of bicycles in Australia, with a sole agency for Humber.
The Poster Maiden, a lithograph from the Troedel Collection (vol. 28, p. 37) in the Picture Collection of the State Library, was designed by William Blamire Young (1862-1935), who has been described as a major water colorist in early twentieth-century Australia. Between 1897 and 1899 he worked as the Art Advertising Manager of the Austral Cycle Agency. Advertisements for Swift’s bicycles were based on this design.
A limited company of the same name was registered in Britain in 1896, and wound up the following year. This was the time of Ernest Hooley’s mass liquidations of cycle companies that he had launched on the stock market at vastly inflated values, and a question was raised to the British Board of Trade in the Commons whether Austral’s liquidation had something to do with Hooley. Though I found no record of it, I did see a connection between Austral and Hooley – Austral in Australia was an agent for Dunlop, Ariel, Swift, Premier and Humber, all companies connected with Hooley.
So far I’ve not found a link between the Austral Cycle Agency and the later Austral company, which was taken over by Bruce Smalls of Malvern Star.
The connection between the Austral Cyce Agency and the later manifestation of the Austral company name is not known.
Austral information and avertisements with thanks to Jason Hunt –