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British Industrial History

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Harley Tarrant

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Captain Harley Tarrant (1860-1949) of the Tarrant Motor Co

Born on 6 April 1860 at Clunes, Victoria, son of Joseph Evans Tarrant (1830-1889), miner, and his wife Caroline Brownlow, both from Oxford, England. They married 1855 in Oxford where he is said to be of Ballarat Colony, Australia[1] and a gold miner. Joseph later owned the Clunes Gazette and then the St Kilda Chronicle and Prahran Chronicle.

After attending Clunes Grammar School, Harley was articled to a firm of civil engineers; he worked as a surveyor on the Nullarbor Plain and from 1884 for the New South Wales Department of Lands.

In 1888 he set up his own surveying business in Melbourne and undertook commissions for the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works.

In August 1897 he patented an engine powered by kerosene.

By 1899 he sold his engines as far afield as Western Australia. With larger premises, he also imported cars, beginning in February 1900 with a Benz.

1901 Married Charlotte Jane Gill

Tarrant and his partner in Tarrant Motor & Engineering Co., W. H. H. Lewis, built one of the earliest Australian-made, petrol-driven cars: completed in 1901, it had an imported Benz engine. Two years later their next machine was 90 per cent locally made, including the engine, and became the prototype for at least eight others, for endurance.

The firm made three aero engines for the military in 1915 and continued to manufacture motor bodies which, being bulky, were expensive to import. During World War I the company began assembling chassis from imported components; by this time it also had a thriving spare parts, accessories and repair business.

In 1932 he came out of retirement to take over production supervision at Ruskin Motor Bodies Pty Ltd, an affiliate of the Tarrant company. A tall, dignified man with a bushy moustache, he had done much to pioneer and consolidate the first phase of the Australian motor industry.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette - Saturday 19 May 1855