Eager to prove that the Great Depression was not affecting the financial world as badly as newspapers were reporting, Sydney Atkinson of Sydney Atkinson Motors decided to offer a used car for sale for £1 to the first person through the doors at 9 am on Friday, 28 March 1930.
The car was first purchased in 1923 with the original owner paying £600 for it. For years it operated as a taxi between Perth and East Fremantle before it was handed over to Sydney Atkinson Motors.
While the £1 Hudson offer was referred to in Truth as a “good turn” and a “real bargain“, it was also a clever marketing ploy. During such tough times there would no doubt be many people vying to purchase a car for a quid.
On the night before the sale, Sydney Atkinson was working late and did not leave the premises until 8 pm. As he walked out the office door he noticed a man sitting nearby who was willing to stay up all night for the opportunity to be the first person inside. That man was Thomas Mulligan of 90 Tenth Avenue in Maylands.
It was noted that he came prepared. Rather than simply sitting on the floor, he brought with him an oil drum which he upturned and used as a seat.
Of course, there was some people who considered Mulligan mad – but Mulligan “knows his onions,” and he knew that irrespective of the kind of car, so long as it went, and he could get it for £1, he could make more than a week’s wages out of it.Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931); 30 March 1930; Page 1; Strapped Himself to Door
For the most part Thomas was on his own and the night may have been a lonely one if not for a policeman who chatted to him each time he passed by. At midnight however another man arrived prepared to set up camp. He stayed for a short while but with Thomas already there, he decided to move on.
At 2:30 am two young men arrived to wait it out. They only lasted half an hour and departed at 3 am.
Daylight approached and at 4:30 am two women arrived hoping to score a bargain. They waited alongside Thomas and were probably there when he removed some leather straps from under his heavy coat and tied himself between the swinging doors. When they opened at 9 am it was guaranteed that he would be first inside.
By 6 am it was noted that a steady stream of people were arriving at Sydney Atkinson Motors and half an hour before the doors were due to open, there were 500 people gathered in Pier Street. Most were there to try to get the car however it seems some were resigned to the fact that they were not there first. They stayed “to watch the man who had strapped himself to the doors.“
Sure enough, Thomas’s plan worked.
When the Town Hall clock struck nine the doors opened, and in rolled Mulligan after his thirteen hour wait, with a smile on his face as he handed over his £1, and took delivery of the car.Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931); 30 March 1930; Page 1; Strapped Himself to Door
With the car paid for and his photograph taken, Thomas stated that “he would not have missed such a bargain for anything.” He went on to say that, “Bargain hunting like this and picking up cars for £1 is excellent, but the hours are long.” When questioned as to what was next, he said that he would take the car home however, before he decided what he was going to do with it, he was “going to have a long, long sleep.“
- Photo of Sydney Atkinson Motors courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 102249PD).
- 1930 ‘Advertising’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 26 March, p. 18. , viewed 31 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31069703
- 1930 ‘STRAPPED HIMSELF TO DOOR’, Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931), 30 March, p. 1. , viewed 31 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210495420 1930 ‘Advertising’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 26 March, p. 18. , viewed 31 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31069703
- 1930 ‘MONSTROUS LAW’, Truth (Perth, WA : 1903 – 1931), 30 March, p. 1. , viewed 31 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210495416