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Historic cars visit Parliament House

13 OCTOBER 2006

The Prime Minister today inspected two treasures of Australia's motoring history which have been conserved and preserved by the National Museum of Australia.

After three years conservation work, a Series 3 Bentley purchased by the Australian Government in 1964 and used by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, until his death in 1978, is back on the road. The Holden Prototype No 1 was the definitive model for millions of Holden cars.

Both cars are functional and today were driven into the Prime Minister's courtyard at Parliament House in Canberra and inspected by the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard.

"By undertaking conservation and preservation work, the National Museum is helping to retain rare trade skills which are not often required by the modern industry," said Craddock Morton, Director of the National Museum of Australia.

"The National Museum is pioneering new methods of preserving vehicles in a functional condition so we can preserve the historical integrity of the vehicles but also have the ability to demonstrate these important cars in public."

Bentley Series 3: After long service in Canberra, the Bentley was used by Sir Robert Menzies in Melbourne. When his health deteriorated, Sir Robert sat in the car to watch football matches on a specially built platform.

The Bentley came to the National Museum in 1985 in need of a complete engine overhaul. Parts were sourced around the world, an exact copy of the radiator core was made in New Zealand and a National Museum conservator manufactured piston sleeves, by hand, to an accuracy of a quarter of the thickness of human hair.

Holden Prototype No 1: The Prototype was the first test car for the 48-215, popularly known as the FX, the model before the FJ Holden. It was designed by Australian and American engineers, manufactured by hand in Detroit and shipped to Australian in 1946 and said to have been driven to Victoria under cover of darkness. The purchase was made with the assistance of the National Cultural Heritage Account.

For more information please contact Dennis Grant, Director of Public Affairs, 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481; Leanda Kitchen, Public Affairs, 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au