Australia’s most famous Torana
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.