Aussie Icon Aunger Celebrates 50 Years
23 Jan, 2020
Today, Aunger produces a range of automotive parts and accessories sold through specialist suppliers and retailers across the country, but few would know or remember how this business started.
It was the heyday of the ‘muscle car’, the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and a young Adelaide entrepreneur with experience in plastic injection moulding called Kim Aunger saw a gap in the booming car accessories market. Kim designed and patented the first rear window louvre for cars, a practical and stylish accessory that quickly became a ‘must-have’ with car enthusiasts in the ‘70s.
To make it, Kim founded his car accessories business under his name in 1969 and went on to launch a range of ‘dress up’ accessories to fit most of the popular Australian-made cars. A former Australian champion swimmer who represented his country in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Kim Aunger soon added a range of spoilers and body kits to his accessories offering.
Another Aunger party piece was cast-aluminium ‘mag’ wheels, which were specially designed to fit a myriad of models both local and from Japan. Aunger's ‘Hot Wire’ wheel design became one of the most recognised and successful Australian-made wheels of all time.
To help promote these wheels and accessories Kim took to the track, racing some notable muscle machines in Series Production and Touring Cars. He owned and raced an XW-model Falcon GTHO Phase II in the 1970 Bathurst 500, sharing with fellow South Australian and later F5000 hero John Walker, and in Touring Cars raced a Ford Mustang alongside Peter Finch, another Adelaide driver who went on to be better known for his exploits in Sports Sedans.
For a period in the ‘70s and into the ‘80s, Aunger dominated the car accessory market in Australia and today, these iconic accessories and wheels are highly sought-after among restorers and enthusiasts of cars from this era.
Kim Aunger and the Australian Automotive Industry
Kim Aunger was a major player not only in the Australian automotive market but also the industry behind it and was one of the founders and former Presidents of the AAAA National Council.
Sadly though, his life was cut tragically short in a helicopter accident in Victoria in 1989, aged just 47.
Kim’s contribution to the Australian automotive industry was then recognised in 1992 with the inaugural presentation of the Kim Aunger Young Achievers Award as part of the annual Australian Auto Aftermarket Awards.
Won by some of the best and brightest of the industry, the Award fittingly recognises inspiring young achievers who have demonstrated leadership, vision and innovation, and remains one of the industry’s most prestigious accolades. Aunger’s story didn’t end with the devastating death of the business’ founder, however, with its most recent chapter written by the purchase in 2017 of the Aunger brand by CoolDrive.
One of Australasia’s largest automotive parts distributors, CoolDrive Auto Parts is an industry leader in automotive air conditioning, rotating electrical, electrical accessories, engine cooling, engine management, underbody, braking and suspension products.
A 100 per cent family-owned and operated business, CoolDrive was keen to see the iconic Aunger brand remains in Australian hands. “Aunger is an iconic brand name in Australia and in recent times was under-utilised, it almost disappeared. So we felt there was some currency in the brand if someone rejuvenated it,” CoolDrive Auto Parts Chief Executive Officer, John Blanchard said.
“There is a generation of car enthusiasts who respect and in some cases revere the brand, it has quite a bit of heritage, so it made sense to us to honour that by producing a range of modern automotive accessories and parts to suit the Australian market.
“Growing up I remember the brand fondly, and it’s a great honour to count it among the CoolDrive family now.
“It’s a great fit for the CoolDrive culture, as we share a joint history of motorsport, and we’re also very pleased to be able to celebrate 50 years of the Aunger brand in 2019.”
Aunger’s range currently includes around 120 individual products, headlined by a range of car care products and its catalogue of affordable shock absorbers and suspension components.
There’s also some brake parts coming too, with exciting plans for further expansion. “I expect we will have something like 450- 500 items in the Aunger range within a year,” John said.
CoolDrive is also keen to locate the original moulds for Aunger’s legendary rear window louvre, confident that there would be a strong market for this iconic accessory.
CoolDrive is currently developing the Aunger range so that it can offer it exclusively to independents and small workshops.
Importantly though, it is being rejuvenated as a stand-alone brand, with the Aunger packaging not featuring any CoolDrive branding.
“We are positioning the Aunger brand as a good-better range … offering something for the independents and smaller workshops to sell and have some ownership of,” John explained.
Introduced by CoolDrive earlier this year was a range of Aunger shock absorbers, developed and manufactured to original-equipment specifications with an affordable price point, aimed at popular older model cars.
CoolDrive says its commitment to the Aunger brand has ensured that an iconic name is returned to its rightful place in the Australian market; and that this respected position is truly reflected in the Aunger brand tagline: “Aussie Legend.”