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Australian museum project helps preserve Royal Daimler

Until recently, on a rural property in South Australia sat a 1948 Daimler landaulette. It had long since fallen into disrepair, with rusted panels and a torn and tattered interior. To any regular person who witnessed this car they would simply see this as an old, rusty wreck waiting for the scrapyard to be recycled into washing machines.

However, although spending much of its life in a workhouse, this particular car has a rich history; a history that can be traced back to its most famous passenger, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. With such Royal significance behind it, the National Museum of Australia is now running a project in order to preserve this vital piece of Royal Australian history.

In 1948, the Chifley Government received news of an historic moment; the first ever reigning Monarch was to set foot on Australian soil, as King George VI planned to tour down under with his wife Queen Elizabeth. Prior to television being readily available to every Australian, the Government had to find the best way to showcase the Royal couple to the people. A grand Royal motorcade was ultimately the best way for the people to see the King, so six vehicles were commissioned for the tour and they were to be made by Daimler in England.

However, the tour was ultimately postponed due to the King’s declining health. This left the Australian Government with six brand new Daimlers sitting finished, crated and waiting on the docks for transport to Australia. The Australian High Commissioner was able to arrange the sale of two of the six cars, yet the other four had to be paid for and were shipped to Australia to sit idle.

With the death of George VI, many saw this as a dawn of a new ‘Elizabethan Age’. Queen Elizabeth II now reigned and the tour of the Commonwealth was scheduled. The Daimler fleet was prepared to transport The Queen during her duties in Australia. Her Majesty was greeted to crowds of astronomical sizes; Australia was smitten with its new Monarch. It is estimated that 75% of the population saw Her Majesty at least once during the tour. The tour was a resounding success and a pivotal moment in Australia’s Royal history as Queen Elizabeth became the first reigning Monarch to set foot on Australian soil.

The Queen and Prince Philip Riding in the daimler

The Queen and Prince Philip riding in the Daimler during their tour of Australia.

The particular car that is now being conserved by the Royal Daimler project served The Queen and Prince Philip before it was sent to the South Australian Governor Sir Robert George, The Queen’s representative, for use as a state official vehicle. In the 1960s the car was eventually sold off where it exchanged hands multiple times before it ended up sitting to rust on a rural property in South Australia, before being saved by the National Museum in 2009.

The National Museum of Australia who saved the vehicle from its farm life has started the lengthy process to conserve the vehicle. “The car has been completely taken apart”, said Catrina Vignando from the National Museum. “We plan to conserve the car, not restore it, we want to show and embrace that it has had this hard life”, Vignando went on to say.

The vehicle was found with all its original parts, making it an ideal specimen to work with. Ms Vignando said this showed that at the time it was built “things weren’t built with obsolescence and were made to last”, which is good news for conservators at the museum.

The Museum plans to have a ‘rolling chassis’ on display by June, where visitors will be able to see the mechanics of the vehicle and hear it roar into life. The Museum has set the deadline to coincide within the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s tour of Australia. The body and upholstery will be conserved as the second phase of the Royal Daimler project. Most of the preservation is being undertaken in Canberra, with only few items going off for specialist attention; a completely new crankshaft is being created in Melbourne as the original had snapped.

The Museum have currently raised $32,000 in donations from generous members of the community, yet it still needs to raise a further $28,000 by the end of July to reach their target. The conservation of such an important historical item is paramount to ensure we can continue to tell the story of Australia and its ties to the Crown.

Donations can be made online here to help conserve the Daimler Landaulette.

Photo credit: Mosman Library via photopin cc

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