Monday, April 5, 2010

Whiteman Park Motor Museum

It was something of a quiet easter Monday so Shelly and I headed up to Whiteman Park to visit the Western Australian Motor Museum. It's apparently the second biggest collection of vintage motor vehicles in Australia, although not all of the collection is on display. It certainly 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 his own private museum in Wembley (now the Herdsman Growers Market). When he retired he found maintaining the museum a little impractical so in the 1970s he sold the collection to the WA Museum on the understanding that they would maintain the collection. I can always 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 attempted 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 had realised that the collection had a number of valuable rarities and our government was nothing if not greedy (the premier and a number of his cronies would later spend some years behind bars for corruption). Public outcry prevented the sale at that time but the 28 cars were then 'put in storage' far from the public eye. In 1990 nine of the most important cars were then discretely sold off. The balance are now on display at Whiteman Park.

The sale remains a controvesial issue even today, twenty years after the event, that continues to get occasional airplay in parliament.

Although the museum is housed in an enormous building, the displays are unfortunately very cramped, especially the motorcycle collection which are tightly packed together like bicycles in a bicycle rack. Hopefully these photos give a good impression of the collection.

The Veteran and Vintage Collection

A row of vintage cars

Morris Cowley 'bull nose.' This was the first vintage car that Percy Markham bought. He apparently bought it as a family project to give his sons some experience of mechanics. The car had been rusting in a shed for sometime but wasn't a total wreck. 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 neighbourhood were asking Percy if he was interested in their grandparents old rust buckets off them. Percy took on a Dodge for the second project and the rest was history.

Model T Ford and Morris Cowley

Another obscure car - the Moon.

A 1920's Detroit Electric car and an Austin 7 Baby. The extraordinary Detroit electric car must have seemed quite anachronistic for its time. Its styling was distinctly Edwardian, featuring 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 favourites 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 favourite.

One of my favourites. A 1920's Vauxhall

Parkard. Part of the Percy Markham Collection.

Another Packard (I think?)

The Veterans

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 deceased estate auction in Scotland, called the Sword Collection in the 1970s.

I love the distinctive shovel nose bonnet of the De Dion Bouton.

This Benz chassis is one of the oldest vehicles in Western Australia.

1908 Rover

1910 BSA. Yes, they also made cars.

The 1950s & 60's

A 1950's Hudson


A very cool DeSoto

The iconic Fiat bambino

Two peoples' cars - the VW and the Mini

A Austin A40. My parents once owned one of these.

The Motorcycle Collection

1925 Bradshaw

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 abot these rare scooters provided by enthusiast Michael Nangreave.

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 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 subsidary, Ariel, but that's another story...

Behind the Bantum 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

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

Velocette Venom

The Holden Display

Fj Holden

The Holden stand

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 FB

Holden EH Premier

Aussie muscle - Holden Monaro GTS

Back end of the Holden display

The Tractor Museum


  1. Paul: What a FANTASTIC collection. I wish I were able to get "Down Under" to see it in person. But your photos and blog are the next best thing. Thanks for sharing!!!!

    John D.

  2. Here are a couple of links with the few sparse details I've managed to track down about the 1913 Nazzaro. In 1970 the car was valued at A$36,000.

    Some nice photos of a Nazzaro and other veterans here:
    Some contemporary photos here:

  3. Paul

    I have picked up a picture of a Swallow Gadabout in the museum there with your contact details.

    I have extensive knowledge of this scooter and its history but always interested in learning more.

    Just thought you may like a copy of a marketing brochure produced from an English newspaper article and used to sell Gadabouts in Australia

    I have endless other information if you are interested, You may also wish to visit a colleagues web site

    This has all the Rainbow designed vehicles listed

    Let me know if you would like further details


    Mike Nangreave

  4. Paul

    I have attached the article from which the Australian sales document was taken so you can compare the two.

    The following link has a number of Australian adverts for Gadabouts between 1949 and 1954. Interesting to note the geographical distribution.

    There is also a Gadabout in another museum in Australia. See Attachment

    The one in the museum pictured with you has been modified with a gear change lever, new top end handlebars and a grill to keep the engine cooler.

    The original MkI had an scoop under the floor to catch air and direct it up at the engine. Later models had a fan fitted to improve cooling.

    The model shown was superseded by a MkII in April 1949 so it can be dated before that.

    I will endeavour to get the web site updated soon, so everyone can see the large amount of history available.

    Any further Australian contacts or information welcome.

    Many thanks

    Mike Nangreave