The exact date of origin of Maltese motoring varies by a few years, depending on who you ask, but it ranges somewhere between 1904 and 1907, but the car which kicked it all off is something of a celebrity.
The car in question is a 1904 Siddeley, which was apparently bought by three sisters and became the very first car registered in the Maltese Islands. What’s even more interesting is that this vehicle was actually used in Gozo rather than Malta’s main island.
In use for just a short time after it was purchased, apparently because the three sisters’ brother, who was a priest, thought it drew them too much attention, the car was mothballed and placed in a barn circa 1908. It remained undiscovered for some 60 years, when a man called David Arrigo rediscovered it in 1968.
It then spent the next 44 years in the UK, before being returned to its rightful place in Gozo. It is now in a fully-restored state and is adorned with its original “1” number plate, indicative of it initiating Maltese motoring.
By the time buses came on the Maltese motoring scene in 1905, mechanised public transport had already been in place for some 50 years, namely through railroads and trams.
An Englishman who went by the name Mr. Spiller was the first individual to be granted permission to import buses from the UK. They initially ran between St. Andrew’s and Valletta, before further buses were imported in the interim between the initial imports and the first semblance of a bona-fide transport company being formed in 1921.
It seems quite odd to consider that, in the history of Maltese motoring, there was a 15-year gap between the first car being registered and the Malta Police Force receiving its first car. The first record of a Maltese police car dates back to 1920, when a Crossley was imported for Police Commissioner Henry Bamford and his senior staff to use. The Crossley became known as the Flag Car, only being used on special occasions.
It’s quite amusing to think of policemen chasing Maltese motorists with horses as they awaited their first vehicle to arrive!