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Clintons Motors Car Showroom, motoring and modernism

A new era in Camden motoring

The beginning of a new phase of Camden’s motoring history created excitement and anticipation in March 1948 with the opening of the new ultra-modern car showroom for Clintons Motors at 16 Argyle Street.

Camden Clintons Motor Dealers building collage 2019 IW
A collage of the former Clintons Motors car showroom. The style building is influenced by Art Deco’s streamlined detail to the exterior. (I Willis, 2019)

1948 was a landmark in Australian motoring history with the launch of the first Australian-made mass-produced motor car – the FX Holden sedan – in November. The National Museum of Australia states that

The Holden transformed suburban Australia, boosted national pride and quickly become a national icon. The car was economical, sturdy and stylish and was immediately popular with the public.

Camden Clintons Motors New Holden on display CN1948Dec2
Clintons Motor promoted the new FX Holden motorcar in 1948. The new car was highly anticipated by the Camden community. (Camden News, 2 December 1948)

Clinton Motors announced in September 1948 that it would sell the new Holden motorcar (Camden News, 23 September 1948). The first Holden car was displayed in the new streamlined showroom in  December 1948 and sold for £675. (Camden News, 16 December 1948)

Camden Clinton Motors New Holden CN1948Dec16
The arrival of the new Holden, as it was just called, was highly anticipated by the Camden community. (Camden News, 16 December 1948)

The new showroom displays motoring modernism

The former Clintons Motor building was an iconic, stylish Art Deco Interwar influenced building with its clean, streamlined appearance drawn from  American and French influences.

Camden Shirley Rorke Beth Jackman 1953 Clintons SRorke_adjusted
Clintons Motors Showroom with sales assistants Shirley Dunk and Beth Jackman in 1953. The business sold electrical goods, motor cars, accessories and tyres. (S Rorke)

The new showroom was described on the opening as ‘the most modern department store’ in Camden.

A blue and white building with modernistic streamlined front and wide plate glass fittings. Inside, behind imposing doors set between giant white pillars, are to be seen a range of colourful displays that glistened beneath batteries of flourescent lights. Big placards mounted on plastic coated display stands illustrate the advice which Goodyear gives motorists in obtaining tyres. Other plastic and glass tables hold an unexpectedly large variety of accessories for cars and trucks. (Camden News, 18 March 1948).

Camden News 18 March 1948

The new premises were constructed by Camden builder Jim Bracken on the former site of the Camden tweed mill, which burnt down in 1899 and left a standing chimney for many years. During the Interwar period, the site was used as a horse paddock.

The new premises sold tyres, motor accessories and electrical goods including refrigerators. The showroom  ‘combined all the features modern merchants in America have developed to improve their service to their customers’. (Camden News, 18 March 1948).

Holden FX 1948 Cover Sales brochure Wikimedia
The cover of the sales brochure for the new Holden motor car in 1948. The new FX Holden created great excitement throughout the community on its release. (Wikimedia)

Tourism and motoring modernism

The former Clintons Motors showroom is one of the first buildings visitors encounter as they enter the town centre after crossing the Cowpastures Bridge and the Nepean River floodplain on the former Hume Highway (now Camden Valley Way).

Camden Clinton Motors 1983 JWrigley CIPP
Clintons Motors at 16 Argyle Street Camden in 1983. The business was the Holden dealership for the Camden area. The premises opened in 1948. (Camden Images)

The former car showroom is just one of several Interwar buildings visitors can find in the charming town centre. There is the former Bank of New South Wales (Westpac) building, the brick front of the show hall pavilion, the Dunk building car showroom, the former Rural Bank building, the former Stuckey Bakery building, and the milk depot. The former Paramount Movie Palace and the Presbyterian church are tucked around the corner. Several Californian bungalows are scattered in and around the town centre, adding to the atmospherics of the former country town.

The Clinton Group has a long history

The Clinton group has a long history in the Macarthur region, starting as a mobile theatre and moving into the Burragorang coalfields. In the 1930s, they had a transport business moving coal from the valley to the Camden and Narellan railhead. The family formed Clinton Distributions, which became an agent for General Motors Holden on 8 March 1945. Trading at Clinton Motors on the Hume Highway at Narellan, the business sold Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Vauxhalls, Bedfords and Maple Leaf trucks. The family incorporated the business in 1946 (Clinton Motor Group) and moved into Camden in February (Camden News, 21 February 1946), opening the new showroom in 1948. The business operated on this site until 1992, then moved to the former site of Frank Brooking car yard and motor dealership at the corner of Cawdor Road and Murray Streets.

Camden Clintons Motors GMH Dealer CN1945Mar8
Clintons Motors opened for business at its Narellan Hume Highway site in 1945. (Camden News, 8 March 1945)

Updated on 25 May 2023. Originally posted on 23 March 2019 as ‘Motoring, modernism and a new car showroom’