The Horseless Age


Henry Sutton’s first car was called “The Autocar” it was built in 1897, at the time it created a lot of attention and details of the car were published in car journals all over the world. This car made the first long distance journey by an automobile in Australia by travelling from Melbourne to Ballarat. The car soon after took an even longer journey around Western Victoria.

Henry Sutton designed and built a number of different motorcars but only one still exists which is the Ballarat car which was designed and built in Ballarat in 1900.

Henry went on to build other cars for himself and others including a six horse power car for a gentleman in 1901 which was based on the American tonneau style, this car at the time cost between £350 and £400.

Another car which Henry drove was built in 1902 which was referred to as the “Sutton Racine” this car had a larger engine that was designed by Henry.


From first designing bicycles and motorcycles Henry Sutton turned his inventive mind to building cars, he became one of the first people in Australia to design and build automobiles.

Henry took out a number of patents based around the construction of automobiles and by 1900 he intended to go into the business of manufacturing automobiles with the Austral Otis Engineering Company.

Unfortunately due to the high cost of production in Australia Henry’s cars could not compete with imported vehicles which were much cheaper at the time.


The “Autocar” was called a doctor’s phaeton and was elegant in it’s design, it seated two people and had a box seat that could be added at the front for luggage or a third person.

It had a single cylinder air cooled engine driving the front wheels via a chain, it featured front wheel drive and had four wheel steering making it the first four wheel drive car in the world.

An ignition system with advance and retard mechanism, automatic engine oil lubrication and a self starter working on a recoil type hand starter operated from the drivers seat.

It had a two speed transmission driving the front wheels on chains and a full differential shaft, pneumatic tyres were used and the top speed was 18mph on good roads.


Henry Sutton’s Ballarat car is the oldest privately owned car in Australia, other cars made around the same time are housed in Museums.The Ballarat Car was made in 1900 and was designed and built in Ballarat. The car was designed to travel short distances.

After building and selling the car in early 1900 knowledge of who built the car was lost. Little was known about Henry’s Ballarat car its history is picked up in the early 1970’s when rumours were published that there might still exist an early built car somewhere in Ballarat.

Soon after this rumour the car was found in an old shed just outside of Ballarat but where exactly is not known.The car was purchased by a Melbourne collector who made a number of efforts to try and find out about the car including travelling to England to ask experts there. The collector eventually sold the car un-restored to its current owner in Tasmania who painstakingly restored the car.

For over 30 years many attempts were made by the owners to find out who had built the car but it remained a mystery up until recently. A decade ago the Ballarat car was featured on The ABC show The Collectors where it was noticed by Henry Sutton’s great granddaughter Lorayne Branch. She immediately contacted the owner of the car and told them about Henry and that the car could have been made by him.

The owner of the car sent a copy of a photograph of 2 people sitting in the car in when it was first made it was a photo of Henry and his first wife Elizabeth Ellen Wyatt taken around 1900. After swapping information on Henry and his cars it became evident that the Ballarat car was indeed made by Henry Sutton.

After more research by Lorayne Branch new information about the car was uncovered clarifying the car built was built in 1900 and how much the car originally sold for.