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Shacks: 100 Years

After World War 1, Andrew “Andy” Charles Shack, returned to the building trade.  Closer to home he happened to be installing a skin press at the Anchorage Butchering Co in Coogee when he noticed one of the firms’ trucks struggling to fire up one morning. Andy volunteered to have a look and quickly identified the problem – caused by salt in the air entering the magneto.  In no time Andy cleaned the salt deposits and the truck got going.  Anchorage’s Manager George Atkinson was impressed and offered Andy the position of Fleet Maintenance Manager.


Aware the automobile world could well be his future, an ambitious Andy decided to open a small automotive repair shop, Shacks Garage in Adelaide St, Fremantle.


With help of a single assistant, he supplied petrol from the first electric S.F. Bowser Co, kerb side petrol pump to be installed in Fremantle.  Petrol supplies were purchased in four-gallon tins, the standard of the day and emptied by hand into a safe underground storage tank. The forerunner of today’s storage and delivery of fuel to a vehicle.


It was not long before the Fremantle Council complained Andy was doing too much repair work in the street, so he moved to 59 Queen Victoria St, (the opposite corner to where we are now).   Shortly afterwards he obtained the agency for Overland and Willys-Knight vehicles from Perth’s Adams Motors Ltd.

It was at this time Andy earned the nickname “Knight of the Blue Dungarees” – a courteous Mr Fixit who could overcome even the toughest problems.


With the advent of the 1930s depression Andy realised the need to develop a customer base of large fleet owners from theFremantle commercial and transport area.


As the Willys-Knight and Overland were not doing so well in the US Andy become the Fremantle sub-dealer for Chevrolet and in the few years following showed signs of improvement.


In 1934 came a formal written Dealer Agreement between Shacks Garage and General Motors Ltd.

Also that year Pat Kerr joined Andy as a mechanic. Pat was destined to become both partner and director. Over the years he took on the roles of mechanic, service manager, sales manager and finally dealer principal.

1939 – 1940

The post-depression years saw improvements, but the war in 1939 created another set of problems.   The business was declared a Protected Industry and the early 1940s became an extremely busy time because of staff shortages and a severe lack of automotive parts. Shacks picked up the maintenance on large fleets of essential service trucks.


 In 1941 Drew Shack joined his father as a trainee mechanic and in 1943 his brother Don began working variously in spare parts, as bowser attendant and in the office. In later years Don Shack took on vital roles in accounting, as company secretary and then in used and new car sales and finally dealer principal when Pat Kerr retired in 1975.

A ruling in the early ‘40s by the Fremantle Council that curb side petrol pumps had to be removed prompted a rethink by Shacks and at the war’s end they purchased a more suitable block in Queen Victoria St, our current location.

1946 - 1948

The three Shacks and Pat Kerr formally became partners in 1946 when the company name was changed to Shack Motors, still operating as Agents for Perth’s Sydney Atkinson Motors with a small number of Chevrolet cars and trucks becoming available. Andy continued the running of the workshop and left Pat Kerr to sales.

After the war Shack Motors became a participant in the greatest developments in the history of the motor industry in Australia – the introduction and production of the Holden “the first car wholly made in Australia”.  Sydney Atkinson Motors became WA’s distributors for the Holden and Shacks obtained the Fremantle franchise, becoming Shacks Holden in 1948 with Pat Kerr as the dealer principal. As the supply of the Holden increased and the popularity picked up, ‘Customer Service’ formed an important message then, and has been ever since then.  Pat Kerr amplified this point, “The service had to be top level because most of our customers were also important local Fremantle business proprietors”.


In 1951 Andy, as a skilled carpenter, constructed a new showroom on the site of the original 1924 facility, and the workshop behind became a dedicated Holden service and delivery centre with a big new workshop built behind the service station for trucks and other makes of cars.


General Motors took over the state distribution of Holden and in 1956 Shacks Holden was appointed metropolitan dealers. Shacks earned a reputation as an integrated workplace where loyalty counted. Still to this day staff are treated like family, and many have worked at Shacks for most of their working life.


In 1969 Doug Kerr joined his father Pat and the Shacks in the family business as assistant sales manager, after obtaining his business qualifications as a CPA Accountant.


In 1972 Shacks bought Nottle Churack, the Holden dealership at Naval Base, renaming it Shacks Cockburn with Doug Kerr as dealer principal and Drew as new vehicle sales manager.

1975 - 1978

Pat Kerr retires from an active role in the business in 1975 to spend more of his time hand restoring a growing collection of old vehicles. Until his death in 2001, Pat tinkered in his workshop, restoring five veteran cars and two vintage cars and a motorcycle.   Andy Shack died in 1978.


With the launch of the Holden World Car, Shacks rebuilt their new car showroom on the present site at 64 Queen St, Fremantle which combined with the Service department to make Fremantle’s largest automotive outlet.

As Howard Porter Motors had relinquished the Mitsubishi franchise in Fremantle and Shacks new showroom would leave the old showrooms empty, an approach was made to Mitsubishi Motors for the Fremantle Mitsubishi franchise. Drew Shack left Shacks Cockburn to become dealer principal for Fremantle Mitsubishi.  This franchise was relinquished in 1987 and Drew retired from day-to-day work but continued as a director of the Shacks Motor Group.

Doug Kerr, Shack Motors Cockburn, was awarded the Time Magazine Quality Dealer of the year in 1984 for “outstanding performance as an automobile dealer and a valued citizen of his community”


Don Shack passed away in 1984 at 56 years of age, and Doug Kerr took over as dealer principal of Shacks Holden, managing director and chairman of the Shacks Motor Group. Andrew Shack, Drew’s son, becomes a third-generation family member to join the business. Andrew started in the service department, before moving to new car sales and fleet sales.


Shacks commenced selling Peter Brocks Holden Dealer Team modified Holden HDT V8’s


Shacks were appointed HSV Dealers and that was the beginning of their relationship with performance vehicles. Shacks HSV grew to become Australia’s largest volume seller of HSV’s followed by Silverado and Camaro vehicles


Shacks Holden wins a prestigious “Master Level Service Award”, one of the first Holden dealers nationally to earn this prestigious honour. Doug Kerr was invited as Shacks Holden’s dealer principal, to join a very distinguished group of dealers from all corners of the world, Europe, United Kingdom, and the USA and Canada who had made it onto the Board, for a celebration at the GM Headquarters in Detroit. Shacks Holden won the award by over exceeding exceptionally high standards set by the GM corporation and assessed on a regular basis by GM.


Shacks Holden is the first to achieve General Motors Quality Assurance Accreditation, compliant stringent with policies and procedures.

Doug Kerr, Shack & Kerr Motors Fremantle, was awarded the Time Magazine Quality Dealer of the year in 1994 for “outstanding performance as an automobile dealer and a valued citizen of his community”


Doug Kerr purchased 12,987 sm of real estate at 20 Smeaton Way, with the plan to relocate Shacks Cockburn to Rockingham, increasing and preserving the longevity of Shacks and Holden business in the Perth metropolitan southern corridor.


Shacks Fremantle were appointed GM Suburban dealers selling the Suburban range becoming Australia’s largest volume seller of Suburbans


In 2002 building commenced in readiness for the relocation of Shacks Cockburn Naval Base to Rockingham.


A new Holden dealership was designed and built at 20 Smeaton Way Rockingham and the relocation was completed 22nd May 2003 with the grand opening by the local Rockingham MLA, Mark McGown. The dealership changed the name from Shacks Cockburn to Rockingham Holden


Shacks Fremantle, who had previously been a state reseller of an another competing automotive paint product, switched to distributing PPG automotive paint products and moving their 53 paint & panel wholesale accounts across to PPG and the range of PPG products


Doug Kerr acquired a further 6,127 sm of adjoining real estate to the rear of the existing Rockingham Holden facility and extended the used car yard, making it the largest Holden dealership south of the Swan River.


The Shacks Motor Group successfully applied to Mazda Australia for a “green field” Mazda franchise to be located on the corner of Beale and Smeaton Way Rockingham. Thus, adding Rockingham Mazda to its motoring portfolio and quickly establishing a major motoring footprint south of Perth. An additional 3,679 sm of real estate was acquired and developed for vehicle storage on Carlston Road, Adjacent to Rockingham Mazda


General Motors announces on Monday 17th February 2020 the end of the Holden brand in Australia. Shacks Fremantle continues to sell General Motors and GMSV cars, and the service department continues to specialise in servicing GM, Holden cars and other makes.


The Shacks Motor Group acquired Mandurah Volkswagen and made application to Volkswagen Australia for permission to re locate the Volkswagen franchise from Mandurah into the Rockingham Holden facility. Rockingham Volkswagen was born on the 1st August 2020, combining with Rockingham GMSV and Shacks Used Cars onto one prime site at 20 Smeaton Way. Extensive refurbishment was required to comply with Volkswagen’s corporate image requirements and GMSV completed with a grand opening by the Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGown on the 13th August 2021. 


Shacks Fremantle adds ACDelco to their car servicing portfolio, combining Shacks customer service and attention to detail with ACDelco’s value for money parts.  

2022 marks 100 years the continual servicing by the Shacks Motor Group of Fremantle and Rockingham customers automotive needs with Mazda, Volkswagen and GMSV vehicle sales along with the servicing of Holden vehicles and ACDelco servicing. Distributing Holden spare parts, PPG automotive paint products and the 3M range throughout the state of Western Australia.