History of the Australian Automobile Industry
Following the Second World War, the Australian Government embarked on a programme to develop a local manufacturing base. Hefty import duties were placed on imported manufactured goods., often of the order of 80%. In the case of motor vehicles, considerable tariff reductions were applied where a specified and significant local content was achieved.
For this reason, many large international motor vehicle manufacturers established local Australian manufacturing facilities. Over the years, local outposts were established by BMC, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi and others. A large component supply industry grew up to support these local manufacturers.
In the case of MG, it proved cost-effective for BMC to locally assemble the MGA and thereafter the MGB, as, by achieving a 45% local content a considerably lower tariff was applicable. This was achieved by using local tyre, trim, electrical component and paint suppliers, in addition to the labour cost component afforded by local assembly. CKD ("completely knocked down") kits were dispatched from the UK for local assembly.
This "Australian MGB" actually had no connection with the Abingdon MG factory itself, with components being supplied by "Pressed Steel", BMC "Tractors and Transmissions Branch" etc. etc. Ultimately approximately 10,000 MGB's were built in Australia between 1963 and 1972.
Australian Hardtop Manufacturers
Despite Australia's relatively benign climate, with local assembly of MG's (A, B, Midget), Triumph TR4's and Spitfires, in addition to fully imported Datsun Fairlady's and Honda S600/S800's, the local sportscar market was large enough to support its own aftermarket hardtop supply businesses. These included "International Body Styling" and "Peter Manton Motors" in Melbourne. The most prolific by far of these however was "J&S" based in the western Sydney suburb of Ashfield.
J&S was established in 1956 by John Jennens and Jeff Simmonds. Initially building complete sports cars with bought in mechanical components, the "green Monster" was quickly shelved to be replaced by the "Buchanan" sports car (Design: Nat Buchanan)
Thereafter followed another complete car, again available in kit-form, the "Hunter" sports car, designed by Len Moya, who had meanwhile joined the J&S concern. The Hunter however was not a great success with only 14 completed before the project ended by 1961.
1961 also brought with it a severe "credit squeeze" (these days termed a "recession") which nearly drove J&S to the wall. The manufacture of fibreglass industrial tanks kept things ticking over however till the national financial situation began to ease, and J&S looked for new automobile ventures to explore. They acquired the body moulds for the Buchanan Cobra sports car from "Pressed Metal" (who coincidentally assembled the MGA and thereafter the Mk1 MGB's in the Sydney suburb of Enfield).
It became clear however that the manufacture of complete motor cars and related kits was not the solution to J&S's survival. The introduction of the locally assembled MGB in 1963 however brought with it the realisation of the potential for after-market sports car hard tops, and J&S set out to fill this niche with great success.
The first of these tops were styled by Len Moya and the style continually evolved on a trial and error basis, in full size (never on the drawing board.)
With the MGB GT never locally assembled, there was a marketing opportunity for after-market fixed hardtops in Australia. A gifted stylist from Melbourne, Anthony Pusteria had already had two of his designs produced. The first was sold by Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne. as the "MGB Gran Turismo."
Tony Pusteria, having accepted a position with Chrysler in Detroit in "Styling", sold his business, "International Styling" and under the new owners, the hardtop was remodeled with a Kamm tail and the opening rear hatch was eliminated, necessitating luggage access through the cabin. This revised design was marketed across Australia as the "MGB Fastback" by International Body Styling.
En route to Chrysler in Detroit, Tony Pusteria made contact with J&S in Sydney, ultimately contributing at least one design to J&S, which was subsequently marketed as the "MGB GTB" fixed hardtop.
The GTB was remodeled in 1970 with a more curved roof profile and a larger boot-lid which afforded better headroom and greater convenience, possibly at the cost of a less dramatic appearance.
The finish on J&S hardtops was always far more elaborate than that offered on most alternative hardtop producers' products, with a car-style interior lining suspended on metal bows as was normal practice in large volume production sedans. In the case of the GTB, proper "flow-through" arrangements were also included.
While this J&S hardtop has been fitted with a non-original interior light, the quality of the interior fit-out in a J&S product is obvious.
The majority of J&S production and sales however always remained the detachable style of hardtop, in particular for the MGB, which was by far the commonest sports car on Australian roads. Despite Australia's mild climate, the fitting of such a top became very popular, probably due to the stylish lines of the J&S products; in today's terminology, they were simply "cool". A number of different styles of detachable hardtops for the MGB were produced, with at times, up to three different styles of detachable styles available at any one time.
In 1972, the Australian Federal Government announced that the structure of import duties applying to motor vehicles was to be varied, necessitating a larger domestic input for a favorable import duty. The sales of MGBs, MG Midgets, and sports cars generally were falling at this time as local tastes shifted more towards high powered locally produced sedans such as the Holden Torana GTR and XU1, the Ford Falcon GT and the Valiant Charger. (These were the Australian home-grown equivalent to the North-American "Muscle Car")
As a result, with dwindling sales of MG's, altering import duty concessions and the need to free up production space for the imminent Leyland P76 (Ultimately a sales disaster). the decision was taken by Leyland Australia to cease local MG production and to not bother with importation of sports car. Consequently, J&S's market progressively disappeared.
The company tried to produce alternative products, including a quite successful "dune buggy", but the end finally came when J&S went into voluntary liquidation in 1980.
J&S hardtop on Thomas Aczel's 1965 MGB:
And a period advertisement for J&S hardtops on a Bugeye Sprite:
based on my personal observations and reading in the 50's, 60's and 70's.(But proof read
and confirmed by a long term BMC/BLMC/Rover Aust. manager.) The information about
the hardtop suppliers was obtained from multiple articles and advertisements from period
magazines, as well as internet searches. I was particularly interested in the 'J and S'
company, and tried very hard, ultimately without success, to track down people involved
with the company. My closest lead was that the "J" of 'J and S' (Jennens) who was last
known to be managing a caravan park in Queensland, but my contact (who'd raced a J and
S Hunter) had in turn lost contact with Jennens.
I don't know if Jennens or Simmonds are still alive, but I suspect they'd be amazed to find
their designs are now internationally recognized and admired.
NUTS Dot com" site about a year ago. Steve however hadn't used it yet, and it seemed a
shame to let all my work go to waste, so I decided to post it here.
hope this helps.
ps = also still have a letter from Jeff re my car on J&S letter head.
hunting info about them, you have answered a lot of my questions.
Next to find out the numbers made of each ? Thank you !!
sold the company he offered me the Hunter moulds, but when I got there
the only mould left was the bonnet mould(which I still have and
supplied to hunter owners); the rest where 'disposed of' and I suspect
a lot of others went the same way including records (that where not
very well kept anyway). The majority of his buis was both the hard
tops and catamarans (which are now sort after for racing).The amount
of beach buggies where a major source also and there are a few beach
buggy sites that have pages dedicated to J & S. I know that Jeff would
be delighted knowing there is an interest in his products (and not
before time really). Indecently,Len Moir's son has a Renault Moir
special and is active on one of the French car sites (I have chased
one for ages but it appears most are long gone the the wreckers yard
in the sky!)
Much more information has come to light since I put this article together a few years back,
and has been added to the article. As a result however, the article has now become too big
to email making it difficult to bring the above article's content up to date. I probably
should look at splitting the article into Parts 1 and 2, making it more readily transmissible.
One inaccuracy also appears in the above article's content, in that the MGB was in fact
assembled in Australia, right from the beginning of local production, from the basic
smaller panel components, and never built up onto the illustrated subframe shown at the
top of the article.
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