In November 1908 carriage builder Frederick Paine completed construction of the first car for Launceston motor dealers Hall and Jackson of George Street.
The car was a two-seater 8hp De Dion (pictured at right) and F. Paine Carriage Builder, located at 68 Paterson Street, had built the body, with provision for a detachable tonneau.
The body was painted in French grey, picked out with blue lines and trimmed with blue leather and it was reported that It had attracted a good deal of attention..
The Weekly Courier of April 6, 1909, reported that the little French car had since been “all over Tasmania” and had received “golden opinions” from motorists.
A bright future for the motoring industry in Launceston was predicted with the encouragement of protective import tariffs introduced by the federal government.
This meant that the import duty on a completely finished motorcar was 20 per cent while a chassis (frame with engine, gearing, and road wheels) was taxed at only 5 per cent.
Freight added 25 per cent to the cost of an imported motorcar in complete form.
The Weekly Courier’s story said that Mr Paine had now completed three cars, two French De Dions and a British Napier.
“Expert motorists and carriage builders alike are unanimous in the opinion that these are equal and in some respects superior to imported bodies.”
Frederick Paine’s father George who had emigrated from England in 1860 had established Paine’s carriage building business in Launceston in 1864.
It was originally located in York Street but moved to Paterson Street in 1902 under Frederick Paine’s management. His name is still visible on the building’s facade.
Frederick Paine’s first venture in motor building was the body for a steam bus in 1905 for the Launceston Motor Omnibus Company.
“That departure from ordinary carriage building led to the inception of a motor work department. Since then many jobs in repair and overhaul work, painting, re-trimming, hood making, etc., have been put through,” the Weekly Courier reported.
The third motorcar order placed with Mr Paine, for a body for a 15hp Napier, had been completed in just 26 working days.
“As a pioneer of the industry in Launceston, Mr Paine may look forward to a busy time in the next season,” the Weekly Courier said.
And it was until the increase in mass-produced cars after the First World War saw a dramatic decline in the manufacture of locally made car bodies.
F. Paine Carriage Builder and staff built Launceston’s first motor ambulance in 1921 and were able to continue building vehicle bodies, mostly for motor buses, into the 1950s.
Fred Paine, second from left, with staff at his Paterson Street business circa 1919, built Launceston's first car in 1908.
(Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in the Sunday Examiner on 22 September 2019)
Top image: Weekly Courier of 6 May 1909. Bottom image: Mike & Phil Paine