Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous To­rana

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Maniac -


most fa­mous To­rana in his­tory doesn’t wear #05. Nonethe­less, Aus­tralia’s most recog­nis­able To­rana, to the gen­eral pub­lic, at least, is a LX hatch­back. It’s also now a mu­seum piece. The Na­tional Mu­seum in Can­berra has ac­quired the fa­mous Ab­sinth Yel­low 1977 hatch­back which fea­tured at the orig­i­nal trial of Lindy and Michael Cham­ber­lain fol­low­ing the dis­ap­pear­ance of their baby Azaria at Ay­ers Rock in 1980.

Usu­ally de­scribed as a Sun­bird, this is in fact the SL ver­sion, fit­ted with the 253ci V8 mo­tor. Michael Cham­ber­lain, then a min­is­ter of re­li­gion, jok­ingly de­scribes him­self as “a bit of a revhead”.

Parts of this car were sub­mit­ted as foren­sic ev­i­dence when it was claimed that hu­man blood had been found in the in­te­rior. Sub­se­quently, this was found to be a mix­ture of bi­tu­men, sound dead­ener, milk­shake and cop­per dust.

The To­rana has since been re­stored by Dr Cham­ber­lain and was re­cently used at his son’s wed­ding. It now fea­tures the num­ber­plates 4ENSIC.

His im­age from 1980 shows Lindy hold­ing Azaria, with Ai­dan and Rea­gan Cham­ber­lain, stand­ing on Stu­art High­way with the sign to ‘Ay­ers Rock’, along­side their To­rana. This was 16 Au­gust, 1980, when they were just another un­known Aussie fam­ily on hol­i­day. The next day that all changed.

The is­sue of how Azaria died was only set­tled two years ago by coro­ner El­iz­a­beth Mor­ris’s find­ing that a dingo had, in fact, snatched the 11-week-old from the fam­ily tent.

The To­rana is one of the 250 re­lated arte­facts col­lected by the mu­seum, which in­cludes cloth­ing, let­ters, photographs and film about the story. While there are no cur­rent plans to ex­hibit the car, the Mu­seum is ex­plor­ing op­tions for dis­play in the near fu­ture.

“The case rep­re­sents a gross in­jus­tice, but also free­dom of foren­sic sci­ence, which even­tu­ally saw Lindy and I ex­on­er­ated in 1988,” Dr Cham­ber­lain ex­plained. “It was one of the worst per­ver­sions of jus­tice and foren­sic sci­ence in Aus­tralian his­tory. We had lived by the credo that if you have done noth­ing wrong, you have noth­ing to fear. It was dead wrong.”

The case also stands as a worst case ex­am­ple of trial-by-me­dia, in how the Cham­ber­lains were por­trayed in re­portage prior to the jury’s orig­i­nal guilty ver­dict.

Dr Ray Wat­ter­son, a jus­tice cam­paigner from New­cas­tle Univer­sity, said the dingo was now recog­nised as the apex preda­tor that it had al­ways been. His stu­dents had found 200 cases of dingo-hu­man in­ci­dents, some fa­tal, in the 20 years since Azaria dis­ap­peared.

Mu­seum di­rec­tor Dr Mathew Trinca said: “This story should never be for­got­ten by Aus­tralians. I think that this col­lec­tion will help the process.”

Michael Cham­ber­lain next to his To­rana, re­cently ac­quired by the Na­tional Mu­seum of Aus­tralia. The car played a cen­tral role in the con­vic­tion and later ex­on­er­a­tion of Michael and Lindy.

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