Third generation family business propels towards 80th anniversary

Austral Propellers is proud to achieve its 80th anniversary in mid 2020. This third generation family business, owned and operated by the Vincent family, has grown to be a globally respected marine propeller manufacturer, repairer, distributor and exporter.  

Proudly Australian, Galvin Charles Vincent opened Austral in 1940, as the shadow of World War 2 loomed. Galvin (Gal) was a pattern-maker by trade and in the early years Austral Pattern Making Co. (as it was then known) supported the war effort with specialised wooden patterns for a large variety of small, complex engineering parts. Gal was an industrious, young sole-trader who initially worked from his home garage and made deliveries on his bicycle to the many local Sydney foundries, so his patterns could form the basis of many raw cast products.

Following the war, the company had grown to a few employees and commenced an in-house foundry operation in its first small factory located in Botany. This vertical integration allowed Gal to also commence machining services, thereby producing cast items from initial drawing right through to completed parts. In this period the small company began to see specific opportunities for parts required within the domestic marine industry.

Gal’s only son Kevin then joined the business as a 15-year-old apprentice pattern-maker in 1955 and the company continued to grow. In his late teenage years, Kevin and his friends were keen to get involved in the “new” sport of social water-skiing and it wasn’t long before their only three blade propeller soon suffered some major damage (and became a two blade). All eyes turned to Kevin to try and use the remnants of the old propeller to make a new casting and get their ski boat operational again. Kevin managed to manufacture a new propeller that from all reports “worked better than the original” and within 5 years marine propellers were all Austral made and the company name changed to Austral Propeller Co.

Business boomed, a new purpose built factory was built in Peakhurst (then the semi-rural outskirts of suburban Sydney), as both Gal and Kevin travelled the world establishing a sales distributor network. The product mix expanded into low-drag propellers for sailing vessels, skiboat and cruiser style bronze propellers, as well as a focus on aluminium propellers for the many, newly established, outboard and sterndrive brands then being assembled in Australia; including Volvo, Mercury and Johnson/Evinrude.

The 1970’s saw Austral enter a technology exchange merger with Michigan Wheel Inc. (the largest propeller manufacturer in the USA), to ensure the Australian operations were using the most current bronze propeller manufacturing techniques. This merger worked well for both entities until Michigan Wheel was un-expectedly taken over by a significantly larger corporate concern – The Dana Corporation. Luckily for Kevin, in the eyes of the new Dana owners, Austral became a somewhat forgotten, relatively small subsidiary, operating in a far-away land, of which they only had 50% control. Kevin quickly saw an opportunity to solve Dana’s issues and negotiated to buy-back their share of the Austral business.

Once again Austral had become 100% owned by the Vincent family and in 1980 the third generation commenced with Kevin’s son David joining as a young Production Engineer. Production capacity grew as Austral transformed itself away from the low-margin, repetition style production of outboard propellers into the manufacture of more customised bronze inboard propellers used on larger vessels. Austral then focused on OEM sales to all the established Australian, New Zealand and Asian leisure boat -builders, particularly in Taiwan and Hong Kong; but also to many smaller worldwide builders.

Unfortunately, in the mid 90’s Kevin unexpectedly contracted Melanoma skin cancer and passed way suddenly in 1995, at only 55 years of age. All four of the Vincent children then returned to the business full-time to decide and implement a new strategic direction. Gal had already retired at this stage and also soon passed on, but not before seeing all his grandchildren decide to re-invest in the company he had founded over 50 years earlier. Capital investments were made in new natural gas furnaces, CNC machining centres, dynamic balancers and propeller scanning equipment (PropScan), as the company grew rapidly and renewed export sales of now higher accuracy propellers, mainly into the USA, Asia and the Pacific.

Always keen to supply customers the best possible product selections, by 2010, Austral had also established sales distribution arrangements for VEEM Interceptor fully CNC machined propellers, MaxProp feathering propellers, AutoStream & SlipStream low-drag sailing styles, Radice geared folders & Saildrive propellers, and of course Mercury Marine outboard propellers.

Today, Austral continues to cast high quality, smaller diameter propellers in-house, from CNC machined aluminium patterns. It is also an established, world-class “emergency supplier” of robust, modern design propellers, made quickly. With David and Stephen Vincent as directors, sister Sharyn (Administration) and brother Scott (Quality Control), export sales continue to over 50 countries; in many cases to other multi-generational marine businesses that value the true personal service a long-established family business can always provide.