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
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.