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Francis Birtles' Bean 14 car, which he named 'The Sundowner'

Object type
Motor cars

Object number
1988.0121.0001

Description
A four cylinder 14hp motor car with a long engine cowling and boat tail. The car seats two and is righthand drive. It has a low two-panel glass windscreen. The side covers of the engine cowling are missing and there is a large diameter exhaust pipe without muffler running along the left side of the vehicle. It has a full steel channel chassis, which has been drilled for lightness, leaf sprung suspension, and four wheel drum brakes. It does not have mudguards or running boards so its wheels are exposed. The headlights have also been removed. With the exception of the lefthand rear wheel which has cast metal spokes, the wheels are wire spoked. The car has an impressive patina. There are only minimal traces remaining of red and green paint, and many people have scratched their details into it. 'Bean' is handpainted in white on both sides of the engine cowling. 'ENGLAND TO AUSTRALIA', a map of the globe indicating an overland route, and 'SMITHS INSTRUMENTS' are engraved in a rectangular brass plaque, which is attached to the left side of the passenger's compartment. It commemorates a famous transcontinental journey made by the vehicle in 1927. 'HOLDER ACROSS AUSTRALIA / RECORD' [in 1926] is painted in white on the upper left side adjacent to the windscreen. Sponsor's advertisements for Shell Spirit and Dunlop Tyres are painted on both sides, and so is an Arabic symbol and text in yellow, which translates as 'Shell Benzene and Oils'.

Collection name
Francis Birtles collection

Collection statement of significance
The 'Francis Birtles collection' collection consists of a 1925 Bean 14hp two-seater racing car known as 'The Sundowner' and several pieces of associated ephemera. The era of this car's construction witnessed the rise of the automobile industry and the growing use of increasingly sophisticated vehicles for recreational and practical purposes. Australian, British and American manufacturers competed to produce a car especially suited to the rough Australian terrain. Fabricated by the Bean Car Company of Staffordshire, England, this car was imported for promotional purposes by Bean's Australian agents, Barlow Motors of Melbourne. It was driven by overland explorer Francis Birtles (1881-1941) on two sponsored record-breaking journeys between Darwin and Melbourne (1926) and London and Melbourne (1927-1928).

This collection has strong relevance of several areas of Australian history including the growth of the early motor car industry, the use of cars for recreation and exploration of the continent and the promotional opportunities such journeys offered. The Museum's motor car-related collections are one of its greatest strengths and this collection lends particular insight into the extraordinary achievements of Francis Birtles and early motor cars. Foreshadowing the importance cars would assume in later popular culture, in 1929 the car was presented to the Australian government on condition that it be placed in a National Museum. The collection offers significant research potential in an examination of the social, economic and engineering context of the 1920s.

Manufacturer
Bean Car Company

Restorer
Transport Branch, Department of the Interior
Garth Fisher and Des Rees

Place made
Dudley, Staffordshire, England

Place of restoration
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Date made
1925

Date of restoration
1962 - 1963

User
Mr Francis Birtles
Driver

User
Alec Barlow
Co-driver on Darwin to Melbourne trip

Associated organisation
Barlow Motors
Sponsor of Darwin to Melbourne trip

Associated organisation
Government of Australia
Recipient of the car in January 1929

Associated organisation
Birdwood Mill National Motor Museum
On display from 1974-1977

Associated organisation
National Museum of Australia
Became part of the collections of the NMA in 1980

User
Percy Stollery
Co-driver on London to Melbourne trip, between India and Australia

Place used
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
22/10/1926 departed Darwin

Place used
Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia

Place used
Dajarra, Queensland, Australia

Place used
Cunnamulla, Queensland, Australia

Place used
Bourke, New South Wales, Australia

Place used
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Place used
Albury, New South Wales, Australia

Place used
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
30/10/1926 arrived Melbourne

Place used
London, England
19/10/1927 departed for Melbourne

Place used
Europe
1927

Place used
Middle East
1927

Place used
Iraq
1927

Place used
Iran
1927

Place used
India
1927

Place used
Burma
1927

Place used
Malaysia
1927

Place used
Singapore
1927

Place used
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
1928

Place used
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
1928

Place used
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
1928

Date of event
22/10/1926 - 30/10/1926
Sets record for Darwin to Melbourne of 8 days, 13 hours

Date of event
19/10/1927 - 25/07/1928
England to Australia in 281-days

Date of event
1929
Presented to the Government of Australia by Bean Cars Ltd

Date of event
13/03/1963
Driven in the first Canberra Day procession

Period of use
1974 - 1977
On display at the Birdwood Mill Pioneer, Art and Motor Museum in South Australia

Date of event
17/10/1977 - 22/10/1977
Displayed at Woden Plaza, Canberra, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bean's expedition from England to Australia

Date of event
1980
Became part of the collections of the NMA

Materials
Steel, Rubber, Wood, Leather, Paint - non specific, Brass, Petrol, Mineral oil, Water

Dimensions
Length: 4300mm
Width: 1600mm
Height: 1400mm



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