JW Aspin Archive

Hardnett Car

1951 Hartnett 4-seater tourer.
The Hartnett car was built by the Hartnett Motor Company Ltd. The plan was to build a small front wheel drive car based on a prototype two door sedan developed by French designer Jean Grégoire. The design of the original Gregorie vehicle had been developed into three separate prototype vehicles using the same basic engineering, but with different body styling. The "Panhard" version and the "Simca" version were developed by French interests. The "Kendall" version was adopted in England by Grantham Productions Limited. The development of the "Kendall" version that commenced in 1946 had been abandoned by Grantham due to financial difficulties. The choice to move forward with the Gregorie option was primarily based on the availability of the assets of the former Grantham operation at a significant discount. The whole of the tooling, gauges, jigs, fixtures, patterns, dies and suchlike required for the manufacture of the car were available to be purchased for 30,000 pounds. Just two years earlier Grantham had paid 186,000 pounds for these assets. Hartnett concluded that the availability of these assets would 'obviate a delay of up to three years and make production possible within one year of the commencement of a Public Company'.
The former GM-Holden Managing Director (Sir) Laurence Harnett established the firm to fill a perceived gap in the market for a small economical car. It utilised aluminium chassis castings to save weight and reduce costs. The front end of the roof, windscreen surround, upper dash and cowl is a single casting which bolts to the lower dash and chassis frame. A total of six sections bolt together to make the chassis. It was fitted with a two-cylinder horizontally opposed engine. Hard-top 'Tasman' and soft-top 'Pacific' body styles were offered.
Frank Aspin had quoted for, or been invited to tender, for the engine for a new Australian "peoples car", and a deal was announced. London May 1950: A £500,000 sterling contract has been signed by F. M. Aspin and Co. Ltd., of Bury, Lancashire to manufacture petrol engines for the new 6h.p. Australian people's car expected to be on the market by the end of this year (1950). Mr. L. J. Hartnett. who negotiated the contract, said it would be the first all-Empire built car. Assembling will be done in Australia, gear-boxes and parts will be made at Wolverhampton and the engines at Bury The first consignment of engines will be ready for shipment at the end of August, after which 500 will be ready monthly. The Hartnett car will be built entirely of cast aluminium, amd will seat four. It is claimed that it will do 30 miles to the gallon at an average speed of 40 miles an hour.

Original Specifications: Engine Type: Flat twin-cylinder, horizontally opposed, 4-stroke overhead valve Bore x Stroke: 72 mm x 73 mm Carburettor: Solex down-draft Max Power: 19 b.h.p. @ 4,000 r.p.m. Engine Capacity: 600 c.c Weight: 1,200 lbs (approx 544 kg) Speeds: 3-forward & reverse, plus overdrive Top Speed: 70 m.p.h. (112 km/h) Tyres: 4.50 x 15 Electricals: 6-volt 70 amp battery Fuel Capacity: 5 gallons (22 L) Fuel Type: Petrol Fuel Economy: Average 60 m.p.g. (4.7 L/100km)

In May 1950 the company announced that 5 prototype vehicles fully made in England were due to arrive in Australia. Production Models. On 16 March 1951 the company simultaneously revealed the first two production vehicles in Sydney and Melbourne. The model displayed was an aluminium bodied Pacific Convertible. At the launch Laurence Hartnett announced that this model was to be followed by a sedan model to be known as the Tasman later in the year. 68 percent of the vehicle was Australian produced with the imported components comprising the engine, gearbox, instruments and some of the brake fittings. Almost a year to the day after the initial launch the first two cars a further two cars were displayed in Melbourne. They were described as being the first two cars from the Frankston assembly plant. Production was stated as 8 cars per week. On 23 April 1952 the company announced that 'several' cars had been delivered to buyers in Victoria and that several more would be completed weekly at the Frankston assembly plant. Production of vehicles ceased in September 1952. The original price of the car had been promoted at "less than 300 pounds" however by the time the company was formed and before production had commenced it had already risen to an estimated 430 pounds. In January 1950 it was revealed that the car would cost "less than 500 pounds" inclusive of sales tax. By March 1951 no cars had been delivered and the company revealed that the expected pricing was now "549 pounds plus sales tax" meaning that the total purchase price would be "less than 600 pounds". The first aluminium bodied Pacific Convertible vehicles sold in April 1952 cost 695 pounds including sales tax. The first public indication that the company faced significant issues was when questions were raised in Federal Parliament. On 28th August 1952 a member of the Labour opposition told the House of Representatives that he had failed to be given answers to two questions by the Government. Firstly ha asked why General Motors Holden had been granted a 1,000,000 pound overdraft from the government owned Commonwealth bank where the same facility had been refused to the Hartnett Motor Company. Secondly he asked whether the government owned Commonwealth Engineering Company had obstructed the manufacturing of the Hartnett car by failing to deliver steel body panels that had been on order for over 18 months. Two weeks later the company called a creditors meeting and stated that it was in debt 63,779 pounds and that its business was at a standstill and production had ceased. The company claimed that the Commonwealth Engineering Company had failed to deliver 2000 sets of steel body panels as agreed in May 1950 with delivery commencing by May 1951. By June 1952 the Hartnett Company had not received a single set. For the first time it was revealed that the company had orders for only 314 cars. Hartnett Motor Company directors including Laurence Hartnett had previously claimed to hold orders for two thousand cars, In December 1955 the Commonwealth Engineering Company was ordered to pay the company 37,228 pounds in damages for the non-delivery of the panels. The company had been seeking 170,000 pounds in damages. The Hartnett Motor Company was dissolved at a creditors meeting in 1956.

Frank Aspin bought the UK assets of the failed Grantham Productions Limited, and Ted Ogden , who worked for Frank Aspin 1947-1956 as well as being a works BSA trials rider, was told to move the assets from Grantham to the Aspin factory in Bury. Connected with these assets, Aspin got the temporary loan of a Lea-Francis design engineer, who designed a two-seater car to use the flat twin cylinder engine.