YORK MO­TOR MU­SEUM

The sleepy town of York in West­ern Aus­tralia is home to one of the coun­try’s most in­ter­est­ing au­to­mo­tive col­lec­tions, started by lo­cal en­thu­si­ast Peter Briggs

Classic Sports Car - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MARTIN PORT

Head­ing Down Un­der for a tour of one Aussie en­thu­si­ast’s var­ied col­lec­tion

York, sit­u­ated 100km east of Perth in West­ern Aus­tralia, is re­puted to be the old­est in­land town in the re­gion and, as such, of­fers vis­i­tors a true time­warp ex­pe­ri­ence thanks to the stretch of his­toric build­ings that line the main street. Sand­wiched be­tween the Court House and the bank is a 19th-cen­tury ed­i­fice with an im­pres­sive frontage that, since 1979, has housed the York Mo­tor Mu­seum, which presents a fas­ci­nat­ing se­lec­tion of ve­hi­cles from the col­lec­tion of mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­ast Peter Briggs.

Briggs’ pas­sion for clas­sic cars is re­vealed not only though the col­lec­tion, but also via his love of mo­tor­sport – he won the MG Car Club An­nual Cham­pi­onship three times dur­ing the 1960s, and be­came the West­ern Aus­tralia Tour­ing Car Cham­pion in 1970.

His col­lect­ing days be­gan in 1968, how­ever, with the pur­chase of a 1925 Rugby Tourer, fol­lowed by a Cooper-cli­max. A J1 Al­lard, Tri­umph Glo­ria and In­victa were added later, and soon premises were needed to house the grow­ing list, at which point the ex-com­mer­cial build­ing was picked as a base; it has now been the home of the mu­seum for nearly 40 years.

At just 90 min­utes away from Perth, and of­fer­ing a stun­ning drive through the wheat­belt area of West­ern Aus­tralia, the town of York draws tourists and day-trip­pers alike. For those with a pas­sion for mo­tor­ing his­tory, a look around Briggs’ col­lec­tion is a must.

The ex­hi­bi­tion was pur­chased by the Avon Val­ley Mo­tor Mu­seum As­so­ci­a­tion in 2017 and is now a not-for-profit com­mu­nity ven­ture, a move that has se­cured its fu­ture.

As soon as you walk off the main street and in through the door, you’re greeted by a whole­some Aus­tralian scene: a ‘ute’ guarded by a croc­o­dile (al­beit a stuffed one). This isn’t any or­di­nary ute, ei­ther: the ’66 Valiant Way­farer ap­peared in Croc­o­dile Dundee, and Paul Ho­gan’s sig­na­ture graces its dash­board.

This light-hearted in­tro­duc­tion shouldn’t de­tract from what lies be­yond the re­cep­tion area, and once the mod­est fee has been paid the build­ing opens up into sev­eral size­able rooms dis­play­ing just a por­tion of the col­lec­tion – the rest of the ma­chin­ery is stored lo­cally in the mu­seum’s work­shop fa­cil­ity.

The main gallery houses an eclec­tic se­lec­tion, the first of which is a 1919 Aus­tralian Six Tourer. It’s one of four sur­viv­ing ex­am­ples and is fit­ted with a 3.7-litre, six-cylin­der side­valve en­gine. The Six was the brain­child of Fred­er­ick Hugh Gor­don, who de­cided to pro­duce an Aus­tralian­built al­ter­na­tive to the lo­cally as­sem­bled ‘Com­pletely Knocked Down’ (CKD) kits, which raised is­sues with the im­port process.

Next to the Tourer is a beau­ti­ful MG PA Air­line Coupé, with its trade­mark roof de­sign. This 1934 ex­am­ple is la­belled as a pro­to­type, and was used as a fac­tory demon­stra­tor be­fore be­ing sold to its first owner in Septem­ber ’34.

The line con­tin­ues with the 1946 J1 Al­lard, the fourth built and one of three ‘Can­didi Provo­ca­tores’ cars, the works team sup­ported by Syd­ney Al­lard. In the hands of Jim Ap­ple­ton, this J1 won many tri­als and races – all with its orig­i­nal Mer­cury flat­head V8 en­gine fit­ted.

A Porsche 356, ‘low­light’ Mor­ris Mi­nor and Messer­schmitt add to the va­ri­ety, but on the other side of the main hall are clas­sics that were once fa­mil­iar sights on Aus­tralia’s roads.

‘As soon as you walk in the door, you’re greeted by a whole­some Aus­tralian scene: a “ute” guarded by a stuffed croc­o­dile’

A 1972 Holden To­rana, 1967 Toy­ota Corona RT40, 1964 Vaux­hall Viva HA and 1951 Holden FX all sit proudly on show. The early ‘Humpy’ Holden was bought by the mu­seum in 1975 as a restora­tion project, which was un­der­taken with help from the staff and stu­dents at Carlisle Tech­ni­cal Col­lege and com­pleted in 1980.

Briggs’ pas­sion for mo­tor­sport is cel­e­brated with a fine col­lec­tion of com­pe­ti­tion ma­chines, in­clud­ing a 1954 Of­fen­hauser-pow­ered In­di­anapo­lis road­ster built by Ernie Ca­sole and a 1946 flat­head V8-pow­ered ‘mid­get’ racer built by US driver Levon ‘Fred’ Agabashian.

The mu­seum also owns Aus­tralia’s old­est Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle – one of the ear­li­est sur­viv­ing orig­i­nal ex­am­ples in the world. The 1946 Type 1 model was pur­chased from a British lieu­tenant by a Ger­man woman in 1951, and brought to Aus­tralia be­fore VW ran a cam­paign to find the old­est ex­am­ple in the coun­try. The firm swapped a brand-new model for this one and used the Type 1 for mar­ket­ing pur­poses.

In the same vein, the mu­seum is home to West­ern Aus­tralia’s old­est car: an 1898 Benz 10.5hp sin­gle-cylin­der. It was im­ported from Guernsey in the Chan­nel Is­lands in 1903, and owner Wil­liam De Lisle was re­port­edly fined £7 for ‘fu­ri­ous driv­ing’ at a speed of 18mph!

A def­i­nite star, how­ever, has to be the 1904 Napier, built at the re­quest of Aus­tralian-born Sel­wyn Edge in or­der to com­pete in the Gor­don Ben­nett Cup. Sam­son, as it was nick­named, be­came the first British car to ex­ceed 100mph and broke speed records at Day­tona at a recorded 104.65mph (C&SC, Novem­ber 2000). The car’s dis­tinc­tive ra­di­a­tor fea­tures 242ft of smart cop­per tub­ing that ex­tends along the sides of the ve­hi­cle – ap­par­ently not for stream­lin­ing, but be­cause Edge thought it would make the car look more im­pres­sive. It cer­tainly does.

With the re­main­ing space oc­cu­pied by ev­ery­thing from a 1961 Subaru Maia to a Stutz, the York Mo­tor Mu­seum re­ally is a nugget of gold, just wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.

Above: 1904 Rover 8hp was used as an ad­ver­tis­ing tool in Bris­bane be­fore chang­ing hands in 1958

Clock­wise from top left: Ley­land P76 an ob­vi­ous in­clu­sion; im­pos­ing Stutz is in fine con­di­tion; ex-sf Edge Napier record car; mid­get racer cel­e­brates sport­ing achieve­ments

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