The Motor Tricycle

In 1897 Henry Sutton had imported from England a De Dion motor tricycle and soon after it arriving in Melbourne Henry took out the tricycles engine and carburettor and installed ones he had designed and built himself. After numerous tests of the vehicle travelling around Melbourne streets with great success, it was time to attempt a longer journey to test his engines capabilities. News of the first long distance journey by a motor vehicle drew a huge crowd on the day and the press was there to record the moment.

In September 1897 the huge crowd gathered outside the Melbourne Post Office on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets to witness the beginning of this historic journey. Also along for the trip to Ballarat were members of the Sutton family and the Melbourne Bicycle Club, who were to ride their bicycles alongside the motor-tricycle. The Sutton cyclists were Henry’s son, Arthur, and his brothers Alfred and Walter. Henry Sutton stood proudly beside his motor-tricycle as his engineer John Mennie started up the engine. The crowd roared with excitement and with exuberant cheers echoing through the city streets, the motor-tricycle headed up Elizabeth Street with the posse of cyclists.

The motor-tricycle travelled through Keilor and Melton, reaching Bacchus Marsh where a crowd of over five hundred people greeted them. All along the journey, many cyclists had joined them and throngs of spectators had lined the sides of the roads to see the new motor-tricycle and cheer the riders on. A large posse of five hundred cyclists rode from Ballarat to Gordon to greet the entourage, after which the now very large party of riders headed off on the home stretch to Ballarat.

As the motor-tricycle and cyclists travelled along the main road into Ballarat, hundreds of people cheered them on as they entered the city. In the city centre, the sight was one to behold as from one end of Sturt Street to the Town Hall there was a sea of eager and anxious spectators. The motor-tricycle was in sight and as it glided down Bridge Street the crowd, which now numbered thousands, surged forward in a mad rush – each person trying to push others aside in an attempt to get a better view. The crowd’s roars and cheers heralded the arrival of the motoring party and echoed all up and down Sturt Street. A near riot occurred as the police frantically held back the crowd and the tricycle was driven straight through the front doors of Suttons Music Store in Sturt St.

The journey of around 70 miles just over 112 kilometres was at the time the first long distance journey in Australia by a motor vehicle and the rest is history.


The Melbourne Herald 25th November 1898 Page 3

Mr Harry (Henry correction) Sutton of Sutton Bros. The well-known agents, is just now engaged in putting the finishing touches to a motor machine which , Is likely to eclipse anything of the kind that has yet been manufactured. Most of my readers are doubtless aware that Mr Sutton succeeded In applying power to a motor tricycle by means of benzine, and the same cheap oil is being utilised in connection with a pacing tandem that is now on the stocks – or the stand. 1 saw It In operation the other day in the work-shop, and readily recognised that It Is extremely likely to stand all tests. The power developed will carry the machine at the rate of from 35 to 60 miles an hour— slower If required— and simplicity is the great leading feature of the construction.