Geraldton to Perth Road Record

In May 1933, Neil Rosman had his driver’s licence restored to him, years after it was cancelled when he had an accident in 1930. Any indications that he might lie low were short-lived.

On 24 July 1933, Neil, along with his friend Spencer Colliver, left Geraldton at 6:45 in the morning, driving a Standard Motor Company Little Twelve Roadster. They intended to prove to the public that British cars were suitable for driving on various roads, and, to monitor the time the journey took them, they carried with them a hermetically sealed watch.

Their journey to Perth went by way of Mingenew and Coorow, and they arrived at Moora at 11:41 am. To reach the town by that time, they averaged 40 miles per hour (about 64 km per hour). From Moora, they travelled through New Norcia and then on to Perth. They reached the eastern side of the Causeway at 2:18 pm. Throughout the entire journey, they averaged 43 miles per hour.

It took Neil and Spencer seven hours and 33 minutes to drive from Geraldton to Perth. Their only stops were for refueling and for tyre punctures, one of which occurred at Guildford. Though they said it was not their intention, they set a light car record for the fastest time travelled between the two places.

Neil and Spencer’s arrival in Perth.

The roads during their trip were in good order; however, the worst spot was between Geraldton and Dongarra. Some sections were gravel, which required caution. Windy conditions initially hampered their speed, but once that passed, they drove much faster.

Neil was the owner of the car and it was noted that it was used regularly in the previous seven months. He had made no special preparations for the drive from Geraldton to Perth. The car “finished in perfect condition” and was immediately placed in the Mortlock Bros. showroom for the public to inspect.

Inside Mortlock Bros. showroom circa 1931. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (100407PD).

Neil worked as a car salesman, and it is obvious he undertook the journey as part of a marketing ploy. When newspaper reports focused on the record he and Spencer set, he made sure to correct them. He wrote to the Sunday Times stating, “I would like to point out that the object of the run was not to establish a record, as the motoring public doubtless thinks, but to demonstrate the entire suitability of the British light car of to-day for use on country roads.” Of course, there is no doubt that having set a record helped draw more attention to the business and was more than likely part of the plan.

Advertisements for Mortlock Bros. in Perth quickly followed in the newspapers. The words “Geraldton to Perth in 7 ½ Hours” were printed in large font at the top of the ad, and included was a photograph of Neil and Spencer, sitting in the car not long after their arrival in Perth, and surrounded by well-wishers.

While the newspaper reports, photographs, and advertisements served a purpose in drawing attention to the car, they also drew attention to Neil and Spencer. The speeds printed in the newspapers were impressive but also exceeded the speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Police charged them both with speeding and produced the newspaper articles as evidence.

Both men appeared before the Traffic Court in September 1933. Both men pleaded not guilty. Defence counsel objected to the use of the newspaper evidence and the magistrate upheld the objection. With no other evidence forthcoming, the case against Spencer was dismissed, while the case against Neil was adjourned without any future resumption date.

For Neil, life returned to normal until June 1934, when he applied to renew his licence. His name was well-known by the police, and they initially refused. Objecting to the refusal at court, he put forward that he had had no convictions since it was returned to him in May the previous year. It was thought that his drive from Geraldton to Perth was the reason for the refusal. After weighing up the facts, the Magistrate granted a renewal for three months. As an offer of reassurance to those present, Neil admitted that he had come to regret his part in the drive and stated that “he would never be concerned in another affair of that kind.

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