Friday, 3 September 2021

Mr Nutting 'invents' a new type of Ute

 The Argus of October 13, 1936 published the following article

A NEW TYPE OF COUPE UTILITY Victorian's Invention
An interesting variation of the coupe utility type of coachwork has been invented in Victoria. It gives all the goods carrying facilities of the usual type, but the tray can be converted to a lorry type in 
a few seconds, or can be folded so that the vehicle is indistinguishable from an ordinary private coupe car. Last week Mr. A. C. Nutting, the proprietor of general stores at Garfield and Catani, who was largely responsible for the design, demonstrated a vehicle built to his specifications to General Motors-Holden's Ltd., who have expressed considerable interest in it. 

Mr. Nutting has used the vehicle for some time in his business, and claims that it has several advantages over the usual coupe utility. For example, it can protect bulky loads from the weather; it can be adjusted to take long articles which extend over the rear of the vehicle; and when folded down does not possess the appearance of a commercial vehicle, and, consequently, does not look out of place for social use.

The construction is simple. The boot cover, which is substantially built, is hinged in two places, so that when unfolded half of it forms an extension to the floor of the boot and the other half forms the rear flap of the goods tray. On this rear flap the two side pieces are hinged. Mr. Nutting's car is a Ford Ten, and the floor space for goods obtained with his patented coachwork is about 5ft. 3in. by 4ft. It is believed that a rather similar type of coachwork has been developed with considerable success in America

This is the image which accompanied the article. The caption reads - Above, as a coupe. In the centre, opened for carrying goods which may extend over the rear platform. Below, as a utility with bows in place for covering in wet weather.

I don't believe Mr Nutting's design went into full production, but it was an innovative solution which allowed him to carry out deliveries in a motor car, rather than having to purchase a truck, and this was the same rationale behind the invention of the standard Utility. There are various versions on the Internet as to how and why the Ford utility was invented - the story goes that  in 1932 or 1933  a 'farmers wife' from Gippsland wrote to Ford Australia asking if they could produce a vehicle which could be used for 'going to church on Sunday and to  take the pigs to market on Monday'. I have read somewhere that the farmer's wife was actually from Bunyip.  The Managing Director of Ford, Hubert French, passed the letter onto Louis Thornet Bandt of the design team and the first Ford coupe utility was built at Ford's Geelong Plant in 1934 (2). The Ford Utility thus predates Mr Nutting's 'invention' by two years, but the benefit of his design was that goods could be carried in the standard boot, or the space could be extended to take longer items and a cover could also be fitted for protection from rain. 

Who was Mr Nutting?  Arthur Clive Nutting was born in Carlton on February 19, 1896 to George and Emilie (nee Sears) Nutting. George was a tinsmith and the family lived at 70 McIlwraith Street in North Carlton (3).  On April 27, 1916 Arthur enlisted in the A.I.F. His occupation was listed as a Clerk and he was 20 years old. Arthur embarked on May 20 and after serving overseas he Returned to Australia July 23, 1919. Arthur also served in the Volunteer Defence Corps in the Second World War (4).  In April 1920, Arthur was admitted as a Licentiate of the Incorporated Institute of Accountants (5).  During the early 1920s he was employed in the Commonwealth Public Service War Service Home Commission until his resignation in November 1922 (6).

In 1923, Arthur married Connie Eunice Grace Smith, the daughter Andrew and Emily (nee Wildman) Smith. They had three children that I can trace - Donald George, Robert Arthur and Heather Elizabeth (7). The family lived  at 292 Riversdale Road in Auburn until 1926 when they moved to Catani to operate the General Store (8). The store had been established by Robert Bush in 1922 (9) in the newly created town on the Koo Wee Rup to Strzelecki Railway line. In November 1927, Arthur successfully applied to the Cranbourne Shire to install a petrol pump in front of the shop (10). He also applied at the same time to the Licensing Court for a Spirit's Merchant's and Grocer's Licence (11). Whilst living at Catani the family took part in the social life of the community - in February 1927 Arthur was the Secretary of the Yannathan and Catani Picnic Race Club and the next year he was the President of the Catani Tennis Club (12).

Catani State School 1931.
Arthur and Connie's son, Don, is fourth from left in the front row (13).
Image: Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society. 

In January 1929, the family had a narrow escape from a fire, an unusual fire, except if you are living in a town on a reclaimed Swamp, like Catani was - this is the report from The Age -  The store of Mr. Nutting, of Catani, narrowly escaped destruction by fire yesterday. The peat near the store had been burning for some days, and yesterday's high wind caused the fire to spread rapidly. Owing to the peat burning some distance under the surface, a trench had to be dug on three sides of the buildings. A large number of neighboring farmers gave valuable assistance in saving the premises. The railway buildings were also threatened at one stage (14).

In 1930, the Nuttings, who had been renting the Catani store from Robert Bush, purchased a store in Garfield, however he still continued to operate the Catani store until 1936, as far as I can tell from the Cranbourne Shire Rate books. They moved to Garfield around 1932 (15).

Arthur was a man who saw a future in motor cars, because in 1934 he applied to the Berwick Shire to have  a petrol pump installed in front of his store and this was granted (16). Once again, the family involved themselves with the community - in 1933 Arthur was elected as President of the Garfield Golf Club and he was later the Secretary; in 1935 Connie was the Secretary of the newly formed Baby Health Care Centre in Garfield and she was also the Vice President of the Mothers Club (17). 

It was in October 1936 when Arthur demonstrated a vehicle built to his specifications to General Motors-Holden's Ltd. (18) The Nuttings, as well as operating the store at Garfield also had a farm as  there are a numerous references of sales of his merino sheep in the Newmarket sales reports (19). The farm was sold in 1945 and the store was sold in 1950, but the Nuttings had already left Garfield for Black Rock in 1943, where they lived at 32 Ebden Avenue (20).

The Nuttings home after Garfield, Black Rock House.
Black Rock House. Photographer: Rose Stereograph Co. 
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/5101

The Nuttings moved (20) to the original house in Black Rock, Black Rock House, which had been built in 1856 for Charles Ebden - the house gave the suburb its name (22). In August 1973, Arthur Nutting applied to the Sandringham Council for permission to demolish the house to build flats. The application to demolish the house was refused, after some involvement from the National Trust and other interested parties. The Age newspaper of August 14, 1973, also published an interesting article, written by Peter Smark, about the building, under the head line - Time to  stop developer - If the hammer falls the council and people of the area will have proved they care nothing about the origins of their place and Melbourne as a whole will have shown it has learned nothing (23).

The garden walls of Black Rock House, Black Rock, the property 
the Nuttings moved to when they left Garfield.
Black Rock House and Fortifications, c. 1905. 
Image is cropped from a postcard. State Library of Victoria Image H90.140/55

Further in the article Peter Smark wrote about the significance of the building Black Rock House was built of timber and sandstone quarried from nearby Quiet Corner area in 1856-57. It was designed by Clauscen and Becker for Mr Charles H. Ebden, and the superb stonework on the garden walls is by John and Patrick Barrow, two of the best stone craftsmen then working in the Port Phillip Bay area.  Mr Ebden was a man of some importance. Before separation he was the Port Phillip District's member in the NSW Legislative Council. He later served as Auditor-General to Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe and was Treasurer and member of the first Victorian Legislative Council (24).

Arthur Nutting, World War One veteran, Accountant, Storekeeper and the inventor of a new type of Ute, died November 13, 1978, aged 82 and his wife, Connie, died April 10,  1983, aged 81 (25).

Trove list - I have created a list of articles on Arthur Nutting and his family, access it here.

(1) The Argus, October 13, 1936, see here.
(3) Date of birth from his listing on the Springvale Botanical Cemetery website, here. Address and father's occupation from the Electoral Rolls on
(5) The Herald, April 22, 1920, see here.
(6) Commonwealth of Australia Gazette December 28, 1922, see here and resignation Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, March 22, 1923, see here.
(7) Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages Index; children listed with them in the Electoral Rolls and Donald  served in World War Two He was born August 2, 1924. 
(8) Date of arrival in Catani from the Electoral Rolls - in 1927 they were listed at Riversdale Road, and in 1928 Arthur was listed as a Merchant at Catani. As he became the Secretary of the Yannathan and Catani Pony Races in February 1927,  I believe they must have been in the town in 1926, in spite of what the Electoral Roll says. 
(10) Dandenong Journal, December 10, 1927, see here.
(11) The Argus November 22, 1927, see here.
(12) The Argus, February 24 1927, see here; The Argus, April 3, 1928, see here.
(13) The Photo was labelled with most of the names when it was donated to the Koo Wee Rup Historical Society in 2020.
(14) The Age, January 19, 1929, see here.
(15) Shire of Berwick and Shire of Cranbourne Rate Books. Move to Garfield - based on the 1931 school photo  (above) and newspaper reports in my Trove list.
(16) Dandenong Journal, August 23, 1934, see here.
(17) The Age, April 25, 1933, see here; The Argus, July 25, 1935, see here; The Argus, July 15, 1936, see here.
(18) The Argus, October 13, 1936, see here.
(19) See my Trove list.
(20) Shire of Berwick Rate books, various articles in my Trove list and the Electoral Rolls on
(21) A Colonial Beau Brummell built Black Rock House by John Hetherington,  The Age, October 19, 1963. p. 22. The article said the Nuttings purchased the property in 1943 and lived in part of the old house for a while but now lived in a modern house on the property. The Age article was accessed on, an add-on.
(22) The house has a Friends Group -
(23) Time to Stop Developer by Peter Smark, The Age, August 14, 1973, p. 2. Accessed on, an add-on.
(24) Time to Stop Developer by Peter Smark, The Age, August 14, 1973, p. 2. Accessed on, an add-on.
(25) Springvale Botanical Cemetery website, here.

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