Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Francis Philip Delandro (1889–1982)

by John Knott

This article was published:

Francis Philip Delandro (1889-1982), motorcar retailer, was born on 6 October 1889 at Millers Point, Sydney, son of an Italian immigrant Francisco D’Landro, labourer, and his English-born wife Ellen, née Smith. Frank later modified his name to Delandro. After spending his early childhood near Brooklyn at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, where his father farmed oysters, he completed his education at Fort Street Superior Public School. In May 1900 he witnessed the unloading of the first motorcar (a De Dion Bouton) in Sydney. Fascinated, he spent much of his spare time washing and repairing early imports. In 1904 the Columbia Cycle & Motor Agency hired him as an apprentice motor mechanic. Advancement came quickly in the fledgling motor trade. Before he was 20, he was manager of Empson’s motor works.

In 1912, with £28 capital, Delandro opened his own garage in North Sydney, a propitious location. He proved an astute businessman, establishing another branch at Manly. The modern service station that he built in 1938, near the northern end of Sydney Harbour Bridge, was reputed to have the greatest volume of passing traffic of any in Australia. He was best known as a motor retailer, however; in 1921 he established his own motor company, which included the first suburban Ford dealership in Australia. The company was later registered as Frank Delandro Motor Services Pty Ltd and he became managing director.

Involved in many activities related to the motor industry, Delandro was chairman (1930-32) of a State government apprenticeship committee and a long-term chairman of the North Sydney Technical Education District Committee. He was president of the Motor Traders’ Association of New South Wales in 1931 and 1955-57. During his second term, he fought unsuccessfully to limit the growth of `single-brand’ service stations. For some years he served on the council of management of the Road Safety Council of New South Wales; he chaired its first congress in 1959. He helped to found, and was an executive member of, the Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce.

Delandro had married Nina Enid Wilson on 2 March 1916 at St Stephen’s Church of England, Newtown. Financial security enabled him to buy a large home overlooking Middle Harbour, and later one at Roseville. He enjoyed racing both motorcycles and cars. Active in community and civic affairs, in 1930 he joined the Rotary Club of North Sydney (president 1935; district governor 1952-53). In 1932-41 he was an alderman of the North Sydney Municipal Council. During World War II he served in the Volunteer Defence Corps, and, using his own motor cruiser, took part in organised patrols of Sydney Harbour. He was appointed MBE in 1959.

After fifty years as a dealer, Delandro retired in 1971. In retirement he fished and continued to work for Rotary. He died on 28 August 1982 at Chatswood and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery. Predeceased by his wife and a daughter, he was survived by another daughter and three sons.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Maitland (compiler), The Presidents 1910-1982 (1983)
  • M.T.A. Official Journal, Jan 1955, p 7, Mar 1962, p 9
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Apr 1971, p 16, 3 Sept 1982, p 8
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 2 May 1971, p 29
  • series A463, item 1958/2095 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

John Knott, 'Delandro, Francis Philip (1889–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • D'Landro, Francis Philip

6 October, 1889
Millers Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


28 August, 1982 (aged 92)
Chatswood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.