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
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