Saved from the wrecker’s ball

Written by Veronica Kooyman | September 30th, 2013

Visitors to the National Motor Museum are greeted just inside the entrance by a full size service station – The Regent Garage. This ‘building within a building’ often provides an interesting talking point amongst our visitors. Ironically it is best viewed once it is dark, often after the Museum closes, as the lights of the bowsers give off bright colours from the petrol brands, and light globes on top of the roof light up the Museum’s interior. What a sight this must have been for early motorists travelling late at night.

Some may recognise this building, once standing on the corner of Anzac Highway and South Road, Adelaide, between 1928 and 1992. It was originally imported from the United States by William Tregilgas as a prefabricated flat pack building. Manufactured by Wayne Industries (see ) , The Regent was one of the first purpose built service stations in Adelaide. This type of construction was utilized for a number of reasons. By the 1920s cars were becoming more common and were no longer just the expensive toys of the very wealthy. As a result a high number of service stations were required and prefabricated buildings were a quick solution. Using this type of prefabrication also allowed the fuel company to regulate the way that their product was presented to the market.

The Regent Garage was also the first service station in Adelaide to have a hydraulic hoist, making it much easier and quicker for mechanics to do the work on the underside of the car. It was such a novelty that a billboard out the front of this garage used to tell people you could “watch your car rise in the air”.

For much of its operating life the Regent Garage was a multi-brand petrol outlet, though around 1930 it seems to have become a Shell-branded service station. The longest serving proprietor was Alf Meathrel, who ran the service station from 1931-1959, closing only during the war years of 1942-45 when petrol was rationed. In 1977 the station gained a new life, firstly as MP Steele Hall’s political headquarters and later in a variety of different uses. In 1992 the building was to be demolished for road widening and the National Motor Museum staff carefully disassembled the building and put it into storage as a collection item. In 1998 the Museum was preparing to open a new pavilion and The Regent was to take pride of place at the entry. It was restored to its former glory, replacing some minor elements such as broken glass panes, and is now a unique venue for the Museum’s souvenir shop.


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