1969 Brennan-Mays Enigma Electric from Australia and New Zealand


This is why Australia will never be a major contender in the electric car market!


The chain drive broke.

Reverse gear was inoperable.

The electrics were terminally unreliable.

The vehicle would stop for no apparent reason, refuse to proceed for up to 3hrs, and then start again without reason.

The doors would lock by themselves (electric), I found this out the first time with the keys still inside.

The windscreen leaked.

The body was very prone to corrosion.

Servicing or working on the vehicle was a nightmare.

The vehicle caught fire (this was the end of this particular car!).

General Comments:

I bought the Brennan-Mays, as it was an unusual, early example of electric powered motoring. The "Enigma" was the "flagship" of the range, with the base model known as the "Motion". My friends laughed at the name of the vehicle initially, and I later discovered what was so "enigmatic" about the vehicle.

Each individual wheel had its own electric motor, which was regulated by a potentiometer (the equivalent of a petrol throttle). This was a really good setup, until a contactor failed on the near side front wheel whilst cornering, throwing the vehicle into massive oversteer.

I should have learned from that incident and sold the vehicle then.

The chain drive from the off side front motor to the drive sprocket broke on the way from Hornsby to Greenacre, and due to the unusual nature of the chain, the replacement took 3 days to arrive.

The interior of the vehicle was extremely hot, and, surprisingly, there was no fresh air ventilation system apart from the pneumatic! windows. That's right, a small electric motor ran a compressor, located in the boot.

The pneumatic system was prone to leaks and the windows were spring loaded in the "up" position. As you drive along, the air would slowly bleed off out of the window cylinder and push it up!

The batteries were very expensive and heavy. Once again they had to be custom made.

The vehicle was difficult to keep clean, and would accumulate water in parts of the inner panels. The drain holes were small and easily blocked. I didn't find this out until a foul smell of stagnant water in the boot drove me to find pools of water in the rear quarter panels!

There is little or no documentation on the vehicle, and the few schematics that I had, were inaccurate, which made electrical diagnosis difficult.

In all I had a fairly unsatisfactory foray into the "vintage electric" automotive scene. The Americans were way ahead of the Australian built Brennan-Mays in their electric technology.

A serious fire on the Hume Highway destroyed one of the last Enigmas still on the road. I think I will stick to fossil fuels!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 26th July, 2004

27th Jul 2004, 07:59

Interesting review.

If it is any consolation, the American counterpart for electric vehicles of that era, the Citicar, was also slow, uncomfortable and had limited range.

Unless there is some great advance in battery technology, it seems that future electric vehicles would most likely be hybrids like the Prius and Insight available now, rather than straight electrics.

28th Jul 2004, 00:20

I also had the "pleasure" of owning an enigma and found a lot of the problems that were mentioned in this review to be true. The "only" other thing that I found probably a little more dangerous than the norm was the L.E.S.S (Limited Entry Security System) Which I found to be almost deadly due to the unusual way my car met its end. I really should have thought about it a little more before a purchased this "vehicle". Not the greatest piece of engineering Australia has put out.

10th Jan 2005, 18:52

I owned the base model "Motion" for about 2 years and I have to contribute the following; the vehicle spent more time in the garage than out on the road. The servo drives for the steering are notoriously unreliable. The car leaked like a sieve and rusted quicker than a Fiat. I found parts support and technical information virtually non-existent. The manufacturer was as helpful as a candle in a blizzard. The car was a complete lemon. It burst into flame sitting in a car park on a hot day, eventually one of the batteries was found to be the cause, however, no spares meant no rebuild. I got $10 for scrap. In case the author of the last review thinks I am being picky considering the age of the vehicle, I bought it brand new and 2 years later it was all, but a (bad) memory.

13th Mar 2023, 18:26

Interesting review indeed.

14th Mar 2023, 11:05

Appropriate name for an obscure vehicle. Google this car and all that shows up is some swimmer dude, a dopey-looking "SUV for superheroes" from Oman, and an ancient, never-answered question posted on priuschat.com seeking information.