Motoring in Tasmania: A Rich Heritage

By Jarah Weinreich

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania's latest theme display is a unique and diverse celebration of the machines and events that have shaped our state's motoring history. Here you will find not only the vehicles, stunning as they are, but also the remarkable stories of the personalities behind them.

Geoff Smedley was a well-known Tasmanian racing driver in the 1950s and 1960s, but it was his mechanical and engineering prowess that earned him an international reputation. Born in Launceston in 1931, Geoff Smedley built a replica Mk. 6 Cooper racecar while working as an apprentice toolmaker. He went on to work for the late John Youl, and was later contracted to prepare cars for both Frank Matich and Leo Geoghegan. In 1972 Geoff Smedley established his own automotive tuning business in Launceston, an interest that led to the restoration of many vintage and classic cars, and, in 1987, the establishment of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. Geoff Smedley's striking blue 1953 Morgan Plus 4 takes centre stage as a tribute to the man whose original dream led to the establishment of the museum.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, countless entrepreneurs, inventors and craftsmen plied their trades across the state. John King settled in Launceston with his family in 1885 and was employed at the Champion Cycle Works. Eventually, the King family bought the business and graduated to building motorcycles. Once renowned, the company ceased manufacturing in 1919. A rare survivor from 1916 is featured in the display.

Sir James O'Grady, Governor of Tasmania from 1924 until 1930, purchased the stunning 1927 Stutz AA8 Limousine new. During his tenure, the car was used for both private and official duties. When O'Grady departed the state to serve as Governor of the Falkland Islands the Stutz stayed behind, and was used as a service car on the West Coast for many years. In 1987, a full restoration to original specification was completed. This exhibit epitomizes pre-war American luxury and sophistication.

The iconic Daimler DS420 Limousine in our display was also acquired new for use as the official car of the Governor of Tasmania. Produced from 1968 through to 1992, the Daimler DS420 was adopted by royal households and heads of state across the world and is still extensively used today.

On the evening of the fifth of January 1975, Hobart witnessed one of the worst disasters in our state's recent history, when a bulk ore carrier collided with several pylons of the Tasman Bridge. A section of the bridge collapsed onto the ship, which sunk along with several cars that had been travelling on the 60-metre structure. Frank and Sylvia Manley's 1974 Holden Monaro HQ GTS was left balancing precariously on the edge, an image that became iconic and was widely published. Still in the hands of its first owner, the fabulously original Monaro is exhibited.

The 1938 BSA WM20 represents a significant chapter in Tasmania's history of beach racing. In 1960, local rider Barry Chaplin took the specially modified BSA to 104.6 mph. at Bakers Beach, breaking the previous record of 97.8 mph. held by Jock Weston's SV Ariel in the UK.

The 1961 MRD Formula Junior car on display was the progenitor for a long line of Brabham racecars; it was later renamed as the first Brabham in the BT series, and was purchased and campaigned by Tasmanian Gavin Youl in the 1960s. This extremely important historic racecar is also featured.

Elsewhere, the state's innovators created truly unique machines. Unimpressed with the available lineup of luxury V8-powered off-roaders, Launceston engineer Arthur Hayward decided to build his own. When the first Holden Overlander emerged from Hayward's Launceston production facility in 1977, G.M.H. were suitably impressed, and publically endorsed the vehicles. The car on display is one of the last Overlanders built, and is in completely original condition.

Meanwhile, another Tasmanian was making his mark in the country's most famous motor racing event. In September 1975 Tasmanian company Roadways Pty. Ltd. was introduced to motorsport when it was announced as the successful tenderer for resealing the Baskerville Raceway. Two years later, Garth Wigston campaigned the legendary Roadways-sponsored Holden Torana A9X hatchback, which is featured in our display.

This diverse collection of vehicles promise something to satisfy all tastes, and together presents a fitting tribute to the people and events, which have contributed to our state's social and industrial heritage.