Monday, April 5, 2010
It was something of a quiet Easter Monday so Shelly and I headed up to Whiteman Park to visit the Western Australian Motor Museum. The museum hosts the biggest collection of vintage motor vehicles in Western Australia, although not all of the collection is on display. It doesn't compare with Sinshiem in Germany for scale but it made a nice outing.
Of particular interest to me was the Percy Markham Collection of vintage cars. Percy Markham is my father's uncle and once owned one of the most important private collections of vintage cars in Australia. He had made his fortune in real estate in the post war years and began collecting old cars and motorbikes from around the world. Eventually he established the Antique Auto Museum in Wembley. When he retired he found maintaining the museum a little impractical so in 1969 he sold 22 of the most important cars in the collection to the WA Museum on the understanding that they would maintain the collection. I can remember going to the Perth Museum as a kid and seeing the whole collection spread out on the ground floor. Then, in the wheeler dealer 1980s, our state government decided to sell off the collection. Publicly they said it was because none of the cars had a specifically West Australian connection, but in reality it was because they realized they were sitting on a gold mine of rare vehicles that they'd paid virtually nothing for. The government of that time was nothing if not greedy (the premier and a number of his cronies would later spend some years behind bars for corruption) and in the face of public outcry and protests sold 10 of the cars at auction in 1980. Nine of the cars were sold and most have left the country, never to return. The remaining twelve cars were removed from public display and placed in storage where they could be safely forgotten.
The sale remains a controversial issue even today. Nearly forty years after the event the WA Museum still refuses to discuss the matter. The sale continues to get occasional airplay in parliament. http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/hansard/hans35.nsf/c02fad1ff7f00ecbc82572e4002d0af9/b07dbf1d9e3a2d9448256746001c98dc?OpenDocument
One of the side effects of this event was that the motoring community of Western Australia came together and created the foundation that would become the Motor Museum of Western Australia. The government granted land and permitted the establishment of museum at Whiteman Park. The WA Museum has loaned several surviving Markham collection cars to the Motor Museum. Hopefully these photos give a good impression of the collection as it was in 2010.
The Veteran and Vintage Collection
A row of vintage cars
1932 Rockne, a shortlived budget marque by Studebaker.
Morris Cowley 'bull nose.' Although this is not the Markham car, the Morris Cowley was the first vintage car that Percy Markham bought. He bought it as a family project to give his sons some mechanical experience. Percy's son John remembers sitting around the kitchen table with his brothers as kids polishing panels. This was a time when vintage cars didn't really have much value and soon after they'd finished that project people in the neighborhood were asking Percy if he was interested in taking their grandparents old rust buckets off them. Percy took on a Dodge for the second project and the rest was history.
The Model T Ford on the left is from the Markham collection. This was was Percy's youngest son, Barry's, favourite vehicle.
The Moon is one of those obscure marques that few people remember.
A 1920's Detroit Electric car and an Austin 7 Baby. The extraordinary Detroit electric car must have seemed quite anachronistic for its time with its distinctly Edwardian styling and vis-a-vis (face to face) seating and tiller steering. This was part of the Percy Markham collection and used to be one of my favorites as kid.
This car was owned by a little old lady who lived in Claremont (or was it Nedlands?) who'd owned it since new.
Detroit interior showing the face to face seating and tiller steering.
A Model T ambulance (one for my dad, who used to work for St John).
A 1924 Bentley with a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost in the background. The Rolls was part of the Percy Markham Collection and was always my favorite.
This 1924 Vauxhall was part of the Markham collection.
Another Packard (I think?)
The oldest car in the collection, the 1898 Star and a 1905 De Dion Bouton. Both were part of the Percy Markham Collection.
The Star was originally bought by Percy Markham from a famous Scottish veteran car collection called the Sword Collection. The Sword collection was sold off in the 1970s after the owner died. The collection was considered to be of outstanding value and importance, but no museum was prepared to purchase the lot. Eventually the collection was auctioned and distributed around the world. A decade later people began to realize that the country (UK) had lost something that could never be recovered.
I love the distinctive shovel nose bonnet of the De Dion Bouton.
This Benz chassis is the oldest vehicle in Western Australia (update 2019 - the Benz is currently displayed at the York Motor Museum).
1908 Rover. This was part of the Markham collection.
1910 BSA. This unfinished restoration project was part of the Markham collection.
The 1950s and 60's
A 1950's Hudson
A very cool DeSoto Airflow. This was the little brother of the famous Chrysler Airflow. This is a very early model from 1934 as the backlash against the Airflow's styling lead to a complete restyling of the grill the following year.
The iconic Fiat bambino
Two peoples' cars - the VW and the Mini
An Austin A40. My parents once owned one of these.
The Motorcycle Collection
The 1947 Salsbury Super scooter
Two BMWs, a Honda Dream and a Calthorpe. Unfortunately the display is a little bit cramped and it's difficult to appreciate the bikes properly.
A very rare 1948 Swallow Gadabout. The English Swallow company build motorcycle side cars and in 1946 ventured into scooters. The design closely resembles an American Cushman (probably copied from military versions used during the war). Construction was very simple -the chassis was a modified industrial ladder frame with a ubiquitous Villiers motorcycle engine. About 2000 were built and very few survive. Here's a link to some more information about these rare scooters provided by enthusiast Michael Nangreave. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=gadabout+scooter&s=0 and www.doretti.co.uk
The 1950 Corgi folding scooter was another British wartime design. Originally designed as a military transport that could be carried by troops or dropped by parachute, but it proved too unreliable for actual use. After the war Corgi improved the engine and released it for civilian use. Many thousands were built and there are a surprisingly large number still in existence.
A beautiful 1927 Indian with a 1935 Calthorpe behind. The Indian was part of the Markham collection.
The charming BSA Bantam. After the Second World War BSA received the designs of DKW's advanced two stroke engine as part of war reparations, but the tiny engine was only 125ccs and no one in England could see much use for it. In 1948 however BSA decided to use it in a light-weight, cheap motorcycle. It was an absolute winner and became one of the best selling British motorcycles of all time, remaining in production until 1973. BSA also received DKW's designs for a 250cc two stroke engine and passed that along to their subsidiary, Ariel, but that's another story...
Behind the Bantam is a Royal Enfield Bullet. Royal Enfield introduced the Bullet in the early 1950s. The design and tooling was sold to Madras Motors in India in 1955 and they have been producing the same motorbike ever since, more or less.
1928 Excelsior X four cylinder. One of the few American bikes in the display.
1927 Levis. This was part of the Markham collection.
Ariel sidecar racer. This championship winning bike has been so modified that it barely resembles the Ariel it was built from.
A row of Velocettes
The Holden Display
The Holden 48-215, otherwise known as the FX. The design was copied from a Chevrolet design as the original Holden design was a little too.. English.
Holden EH Premier
Aussie muscle - Holden Monaro GTS
Back end of the Holden display
The Tractor Museum
Trams run around Whiteman Park
Bill the Steam Shovel
Steam Traction engine