Lightburn Zeta

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Zeta Lightburn

Lightburn Zeta

 1963 - 1966
Country:
Australia
Engine:
2 cyl.
Capacity:
324 cc
Power:
16 bhp
Transmission:
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
105 km/h
Number Built:
363
Collectability:
3 star
During the 1980's you could be forgiven for thinking many car manufacturers were turning their products into mere appliances - but if you were to wind the clock back even further (to the 1960's), you would find the Lightburn whitegoods manufacturer turning the appliance into a car!

Lightburn industries had, until 1963, manufactured tools, cement mixers, washing machines and fiberglass boats - the latter would be significant in providing the fiberglass body for the Zeta.

And so it was that Harold Lightburn, the companies owner and founder, was convinced that many Australian's would like the convenience of a 2nd car, but found the cost prohibitive. To get things started, he purchased the rights to the British Anzani mini car; and then created a new fiberglass 'Station Sedan' body shell.

The Zeta was far from attractive, and the fiberglass shell prohibited the use of a tailgate despite the car looking very much as though it in fact had one! The familiar Villiers 324cc twin powered the front wheels.

The advertising campaign ensured Harold's message was conveyed, when the Zeta was marketed as "Australia's own second car". The Zeta was to employ a lightweight, simple and cost effective design - something so simple that a whitegoods manufacturer operating out of Camden Park in suburban Adelaide would be able to manufacture.

The problem for Harold was that other manufacturers had also seen the need to bring smaller, cost efficient models to market - and they already had design engineers at the ready, and ample parts bins from which to source material.

One such manufacturer was BMC, who released Alexander Issigonis masterpiece Mini around the same time as the humble Zeta. It comes as little surprise that the Australian public did not take to the Zeta, and a mere 363 were able to find a place in the Aussie garage.

Technically, the Zeta was an oddity. The gearbox setup meant that the car could go as fast in reverse as it could forward, at a death-defying 60 mph! But to prove to the public that the Zeta was indeed a reliable and well manufactured car, it was entered into the 1964 Ampol 7000 mile cross-country trial. Many assumed the little car would fall apart after a few hundred miles, however it would win over many critics by putting in a stellar performance.

Nevertheless, the public simply did not warm to the idea of a tiny, 2 cylinder car with virtually no boot space and an interior featuring a dashboard made out of a cardboard like material.

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