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Museum Automobilia

The museum houses some 16 odd cars, many of early historic significance as they played a major role in pioneering what we enjoy today in modern motoring.

In referring to few of these, it is appropriate that we commence with the earliest example, an 1896 Benz Velo. This car was purchased by phone hook-up in 1982 to a London auction house, after its return from the Netherlands Motor Museum, on loan to them for approximately 20 years.

The car was complete, which to some extent simplified its ground up restoration over a three year period. Karl Benz, its maker, widely recognised as the father of the automotive industry, mass produced these from 1893 to 1900 and from the beginning his challenge was to design and build a car, as there were no forerunners, this was the beginning of our restoration as has always been the policy, totally sympathetic to its originality, right down to painting by brush and horse hair backed upholstery.
Its single cylinder open crank motor is of 3.5 HP lubricated by dead loss oil drips at the rate of 8 drops per minute, electrics are trembler coil to spark plug. Being pre crank handle times, the means of starting is by way of spinning the flywheel, loose pulleys onto fixed pulleys, through a differential to chain drive on rear wheels, 2 forward speeds, no reverse.

Steering is by tiller and its limited braking is provided by foot brake to rear brake drums and by hand, spoon brakes to rear wheels. A reasonably safe speed is 15-20kph. This car has competed in the famous London – Brighton event in the 1996 centenary celebrations and successfully in 1998. The event is restricted to type 1905 cars of proven authenticity.

The museum houses another two London – Brighton runners, a 1903 curved dash Oldsmobile and a 1903 type 56 Peugeot. Only 16 of these 56's were ever built and this, the only survivor in private ownership, the remaining two are displayed in the Peugeot museum in Paris and the French national motor museum. I bought this car in England and carried out a ground up restoration and used it successfully in five London – Brighton events. Ironically enough, the previous owner had never entered it in any of these events, though it resided at its door step.

Few would agree to dispute that the motor car wasn’t born in Germany and France its nursery. This Peugeot, most conventional in design as we have it today, carries four people and is propelled by a single cylinder 6.5 HP through a three speed gearbox. Its wheels are “Sankey” and in the event of a puncture, the spare is simply clamped onto the damaged wheel. Its chassis is tubular steel.

In the depression years, Warren Owen Bentley, the owner of the original Bentleys, like many other car manufacturers, suffered liquidity problems and in a last ditch stand, produced in 1931 – 50, 4 Litre engines, put them into 8 Litre chassis, then produced and marketed the rolling chassis to be completed by a variety of coach builders at the time in whatever form the client required. This exercise did not save his company and he was subsequently taken over by Rolls Royce in 1932, so from that time, badge engineering as we know it, took place to become Rolls Bentley. The version we have is a delightful handcrafted body in the form of a sports sedan by Freestone & Webb, number 1,000, with prescience.

From 1936-39 precisely 406 Mercedes Benz 540K’s were produced and eagerly sought by Hollywood jetsetters and global dignitaries, and selling for three times of a Rolls Royce. We are aware Adolph Hitler gifted these cars to Joseph Stalin and many others of international standing who enjoyed the very advanced features and handcrafted bodywork and thrilled to its 108mph by way of a straight eight supercharged 5.4 litre engine in overdrive. This car was brought into Sydney in 1989 and became embroiled in legalities regarding its declared value and was taken into custody by customs. Finally in 1994 the courts ruled that the car owner was in default and it was declared customs property. They in turn, called for tenders to auction the car in Sydney. Since I had mechanical reports on the cars condition, I arranged a phone bid from home in Melbourne with success. Onsite audience to the event assumed the successful bid was overseas, but a subsequent press release stated the car was purchased by a Melbourne confectionery manufacturer. This followed a ground up restoration through to 1999 at much expense.

Ettore Bugatti produced the most successful racing cars ever built and here we have an authentic 1927 type 35 C straight eight supercharged grand prix car, capable of a top speed of 220kph. Engine capacity 1910cc developing 130BHP at 5200rpm, single overhead cam shaft through a four speed box and the exciting note of a straight out exhaust that only Bugatti can produce. This car is a regular competitor in historic events nationally. These then, are some of the examples to be enjoyed on a visit not to be missed.

The museum comprises a wide range of baked enamel signs, many illuminated, oil cans and tins, car jacks, pumps, radiators, French lithographs on canvass, scale model aircraft including a WW1 Sopwith Camel fighter Bi-plane, two Mr. Mulligans as designed by wealthy recluse Howard Hughes, petrol bowsers, early pushbikes including a 1880 Penny Farthing, early tools, significant photos and posters of historic racing and their drivers, early fire fighting equipment, early spark plugs and many other items relative to early motoring.

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