Cars We Used to Drive by Don Loffler

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

Picking up this book was like receiving an invitation to relive the past. Don Loffler’s pictorial assembly of cars owned and driven between 1946 and 1966 brought back many memories. The vehicles that are highlighted were on the go during my childhood and teenage years. I found myself looking to see if any of the makes and models similar to the ones my parents owned were included in the photos that made the final cut for publication.

Loffler not only shows his great interest in cars but also the desire to demonstrate the wide variety of makes and models that adorned our streets and roads for many years. In 1946, the variety was not great because of the restrictions placed on everyone due to the Second World War. After 1948 though, as Loffler shows, things began to improve. English, European and American makes were the mainstays and, after 1948, the homegrown Holden made its appearance to an adoring public. The Asian makes and models that dominate the car scene today were not yet on the horizon.

Loffler restricts his collection and the stories that accompany the photos to his home state of South Australia with the occasional mention of cars whose owners lived in Victoria and New South Wales. Even so, there is something to capture the hearts and minds of any car enthusiast no matter where they live in Australia or even overseas.

The secret is that Loffler focuses on the makes and models that were readily available to everyone. While cars were and still are expensive, they were becoming very affordable especially when bought second-hand. The result is that there is something for everyone and more as well when time is taken to examine the photos more closely and look beyond the cars themselves.

Covid-19 has revived the great Australian road trip. Back in the period covered by Cars We Used to Drive, it was the norm. Cars and their owners often covered long distances for their holidays. Many towed a caravan as the photos on offer show. Along the way, they had to stop and have some refreshments, so they brought a picnic morning tea or lunch to enjoy on the side of the road. I don’t think too many people these days would just stop on the roadside to spread out a rug in the long grass and open the thermos to pour a cup of tea.

Social historians will enjoy looking at how post-war society in South Australia went about their business and leisure through this wonderful collection that Loffler has assembled. What has been produced is a real snapshot of Australian life during the period.

Our growing dependence on the car to get around is very much on display in this book. After World War 2, Australians, as war time restrictions were eased and society was becoming more affluent, clearly enjoyed the freedom to travel more easily. The cars of that era made a contribution that is still enjoyed to this day. While not as numerous as they are now, the various makes and models highlighted by Don Loffler show that the car was going to be the centrepiece of every family’s desire to cut loose and hit the road.

Cars We Used to Drive

Don Loffler


Wakefield Press

ISBN 9781743058565

$54.95; 254pp

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