Amilcar Trip over the Victorian Alps, 1928 by Sallie Muirden
Nearly 100 years ago young Victorian motorist Charles Hall went on a car ride through the Victorian Alps in an Amilcar with a couple of mates. He took photographs along the way and more than fifty years later, donated the set of eleven images to the RHSV, where they provide a unique record of early motoring, the Alpine region in summer and the tough driving and primitive camping conditions endured. We don’t know for sure (unless more information comes to light) who Charles Hall was, how old he was, if he owned the Amilcar he was driving, or whether there was a second vehicle on the tour. However, we do have these remarkable photographs that record Charles Hall’s adventures and the Victorian Alpine landscape for posterity.
Charles Hall stops for a breather on an ungraded road in Mount Hotham. Note the traditional 1920s motoring costume worn by Hall: a driving cap with ear flaps, goggles, and trousers tucked into long leather boots.
In these photographs, the Amilcar driven by Charles Hall is a 1924 CS model with a spare tyre sitting further forward on the car than in the previous model. The CS was the second model produced by the French makers, Joseph Lamy and Emil Akar. Designed as a lightweight sports car, the Amilcar won many racing and distance-driving records in its day both here and overseas. Australian car critics found the vehicle: “remarkably reliable” and made for “the heaviest gruelling that can be meted out on the Australian roads”. It was a popular import in the 1920s, shipped here in parts and reassembled by the Australian dealers. Basic models could be purchased for around three hundred pounds and the car gained the nickname “poor man’s Bugatti”.
Charles Hall’s cousin Heck McGregor changing a flat tyre in densely forested bush on a Mount Hotham road. No doubt there was many a flat tyre that occurred on this trip. The tinder dry landscape suggests the season is summer. Mount Hotham is always blanketed in snow in winter and it can be very wet in spring.
Bridge over the Mitta Mitta River.
Charles Hall driving the Amilcar across a timber multiple truss bridge on the Omeo Valley Road. The bridge is most probably the famous Victorian Hinnomunjie Bridge that opened in 1910, and remains in the same place, with modifications, today.
Campsite by the Mitta Mitta River.
The Amilcar rests besides a small tent. Towels hang drying over the tent’s improvised ridgepole. A young man (unnamed, and not Charles Hall) sits on a stone or chunk of wood in front of a fireplace and drinks from a mug, perhaps a cup of tea.
Wash-up in the Mitta Mitta River
Charles Hall in partial undress, takes a wash in a shallow section of the river. The Mitta Mitta River flows north-east of Mount Hotham and is a direct tributary of the Murray River within the Murray-Darling basin and in the alpine district of Victoria. The name Mitta Mitta derives from the Aboriginal word mida-modoenga, meaning reeds called modunga.
Other photos in the unique set show the old Mount Hotham hotel; the Razor Back Road, Mount Hotham; and the Amilcar stopping on the Razor Back Road to let a herd of cattle and a drover pass.
Boldiston, Bill. The Amilcar in New South Wales. Sydney: Murray Child, 1992.
The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW newspaper), March 15, 1928.
Mitchell, Angus. “Amilcar Models in Australia.” Angus Mitchell Automotive. Accessed January 2022. http://amilcar.com.au/amilcar-models-in-australia/
Motor life Australia [magazine]. August, 1927. Sydney: Pacific Publications (Australia).
The National Trust of Australia (Victoria). “Hinnomunjie Bridge over the Mitta River [file no. B6320].” Accessed January 2022. http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/search/nt_search
State Government of Victoria. ‘Mitta Mitta River’ in VicNames. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria, 1966.