Colonial Motor Company

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The Colonial Motor Company Limited
Public limited company
Industry Automotive
Automotive industry in New Zealand
Founded 1911 (1911)
Headquarters 57 Courtenay Place[1], Wellington, New Zealand
Area served
New Zealand-wide
Key people
Hope Gibbons
Services Automobile dealerships
Revenue $789 million [FY2015][1]
$16 million[1]
$19 million[1]
Total assets $326 million[1]
Total equity $143 million[1]
Website The Colonial Motor Company Limited
Empire Carriage Factory, Petone circa 1900
Rouse and Hurrell light cart

The Colonial Motor Company Limited is a Ford and Mazda motor vehicle dealer with outlets throughout New Zealand. From 1911 to 1936 it was Ford Canada’s importer and distributor for New Zealand and assembled Ford cars from knocked down packs. It is also a Kenworth truck dealer.

Colonial Motor Company was notable for its pioneering nine-storey assembly plant which built New Zealand’s Ford cars from 1922 to 1936.


The refurbished front of the Colonial Motor Company's Courtenay Place, assembly building
1924 Model T tourer
Henry Ford day Hamilton
The last Ford model assembled in Courtenay Place, a 1936 V8 Model 68

The Colonial Motor Company originated from William Black's American Coach Factory[2] which started operations in 1859 at 89 Courtenay Place, Wellington. In 1881 Black's business became insolvent and was bought[3][4] by the Empire Coach Factory, coach and carriage builders and wheelwrights — "anything from a tramcar to a wheelbarrow"— of Rouse and Hurrell[5][6] who expanded the business with new three storied premises calling it Rouse and Hurrell's Empire Steam and Carriage Works. In 1908 director Charles Norwood arranged a Dominion wide Ford of Canada agency.[7] In August 1911 Rouse and Hurrell's business was transferred to a new incorporation, The Colonial Motor Company Limited.[8] Norwood left and formed Dominion Motors. Following negotiations in 1916 a dominant shareholding and control was acquired in 1918 by Hope Gibbons and his family interests and CMC became a main focus of their business activities.

Assembly of knocked down vehicles[edit]

New Zealand's first specialised car assembly plant was begun by CMC in 1919[9] and completed in 1922 at 89 Courtenay Place, Wellington – a steel box of nine floors, based on the Ford assembly works in Ontario, Canada. The building stood over 30 metres high and was Wellington’s tallest building at the time.[10]

The top two floors were used for administration. Assembly of cars from imported packs of parts started on level 7, and finished vehicles were driven out the ground floor.

  • bodybuilding with the steel stampings from Canada
  • body painting
  • chassis assembly, completion of engine
  • upholstery
  • parts bulk store
  • batteries and electrical
  • bulk cases and unpacking of parts to be hoisted to other floors

In addition to Courtenay Place CMC built smaller assembly plants at Fox Street, Parnell, Auckland and Sophia Street, Timaru. At the end of 1925 assembly staff numbers were 641: Wellington 301, Parnell 188 and Timaru 152 people. At that time daily output was: 25, 20 and 18 respectively.[10] In the 1970s Wellington's former assembly building was given a new facade inspired by a car radiator.

Reconditioning engines[edit]

In 1924 an employee demonstrated the K R Wilson Combination Machine. Within three hours he relined the crankshaft bearings, bored them to accurate size and re-bored four cylinders to a standard Ford size. The work would previously have taken 18 to 20 hours. A special assembly bench by Manley Motor Support assisted with quick and accurate re-assembly. The machinery was claimed to bring factory exactness to the local garage and ensure a full 12,000 miles of running without further attention.[11] Other machinery for the same purpose included the Wright Multi-valve Grinder which grinds 4 valves at once, the Ames Cylinder Gauge, the Wilson Crankcase Aligning Jig and Weaver Axle Stand.[12]

Assembly taken over by Ford[edit]

In 1936 the Ford Motor Company of Canada took over distribution and vehicle assembly establishing a new plant at Seaview near Wellington[13] while CMC retained most of the vehicle dealerships. The new factory began to assemble cars in early 1937 and was formally opened on 7 April 1937.[14]


At the end of 2015 CMC reported its subsidiaries held these dealerships in these locations:[15]

Manukau City, Botany, Pukekohe, New Plymouth, Hawera, Waipukurau, Masterton, Lower Hutt, Wellington, Porirua, Kapiti, Nelson, Christchurch (x2), Rangiora, Timaru, Dunedin, Oamaru, Invercargill, Queenstown
Manukau City, Botany, Pukekohe, Masterton, Lower Hutt, Wellington, Porirua, Kapiti, Timaru, Dunedin, Oamaru, Invercargill, Queenstown
Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Hastings
BMW motorcycles
Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Hastings
Kenworth & DAF
Manukau City, Rotorua, Christchurch
Peugeot, Citroen, Isuzu
Manukau City
New Plymouth
Suzuki motorcycles
Masterton, Christchurch
Hertz Rentals
New Plymouth
Tractors and agricultural equipment for Southland:
Tractors: Case IH, Kubota; Equipment: New Holland, Kuhn, Norwood

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f 97th Annual Report
  2. ^ American Coach Factory Evening Post, Issue 194, 21 September 1865, Page 3
  3. ^ Meeting of creditors Evening Post, Volume XXI, Issue 48, 28 February 1881, Page 2
  4. ^ Wanted Evening Post, Volume XXI, Issue 117, 20 May 1881, Page 3
  5. ^ Rouse and Hurrell. Manawatu Times, Volume XXVIII, Issue 540, 2 November 1905, Page 3
  6. ^ The Rouse and Hurrell Company Limited Evening Post, Volume LXIV, Issue 72, 22 September 1902, Page 7
  7. ^ Rouse and Hurrell Evening Post, Volume LXXVIII, Issue 27, 31 July 1909, Page 6
  8. ^ Success of the Ford. Dominion, Volume 5, Issue 1246, 30 September 1911, Page 8
  9. ^ A nine-storey warehouse. Evening Post, Volume XCVIII, Issue 89, 13 October 1919, Page 8
  10. ^ a b Car assembly. Evening Post, Volume CXI, Issue 19, 23 January 1926, Page 6
  11. ^ Re-manufacturing Fords, NZ Truth , Issue 968, 14 June 1924, Page 6
  12. ^ Ford repair methods. Auckland Star, Volume LV, Issue 194, 16 August 1924, Page 12
  13. ^ New Ford Factory Evening Post , Issue 47, 25 February 1936, Page 4
  14. ^ Forty Cars a Day Evening Post, Volume CXXIII, Issue 82, 8 April 1937, Page 14
  15. ^ Dealerships 2015

External links[edit]