This pioneer of the motor vehicle industry in South Australia was a mainstay of the South Australian economy during much of the twentieth century. It originated as a family business in the 1880s when Tobins Richards began trading as a carriage-maker at suburban Unley, becoming a limited company, T.J. Richards and Sons Ltd, in 1916. Building its first motor bodies in 1913, by 1920 the company concentrated on wholesale construction of motor bodies for imported chassis, opening new premises at Keswick. The business expanded rapidly during the 1920s, building bodies for a variety of British, American and French models, and became a public company in 1924. Unlike its local competitor, Holden’s Motor Body Builders, it remained solvent during the Great Depression; indeed, in 1930 it bought the large premises of the defunct motor body builder Duncan and Fraser Ltd. The first all-steel bodies were built in 1935. While Richards continued to secure contracts from several overseas vehicle makers, its fortunes became ever more closely tied to Chrysler–Dodge. In 1937 Chrysler–Dodge Distributors (Australia) Pty Ltd (owned by Australian importers and distributors) secured a controlling interest. World War II ended imports of British chassis and introduced progressive conversion to war production (particularly manufacture of aircraft components). After the war, Australian Chrysler interests acquired all company assets; it became Chrysler Australia Ltd in 1951 when bought by the American Chrysler Corporation, paving the way for the eventual manufacture of complete motor vehicles. In 1980, after a further takeover, the firm became Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd.
Adelaide Advertiser, 29 July 1939
Coach and Motor Builder for Australia and New Zealand, 30–60, 1919–20 to 1949–50
Keeley, R W, Politics and the Motor Industry in South Australia from Depression to War (BA Honours thesis, Flinders University, 1979)