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National Museum brings Queen’s rare Daimler back to life

August 15, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email


Meticulous conservation work by the National Museum of Australia has revived a rare 1948 Daimler landaulette used by Queen Elizabeth II during her historic 1954 Royal Tour of Australia – a task which involved rebuilding the car piece by piece, creating what promises to be quite an attraction for Canberra.

Since being acquired in 2009, the Daimler has been the focus of one of the most complex conservation projects ever undertaken by National Museum conservators. The conservation involved assessing more than 30,000 components, carefully deconstructing much of the car and then rebuilding it.

The Queen’s 58-day tour covered seven states and territories and Australians flocked to see her – an estimated 75% of the population witnessed the Royal Progress at least once.

National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said the Daimler 36HP Hooper Bodied landaulette was used extensively by the Queen during the Royal Tour and became synonymous with this significant event in Australian history.

Photograph of the newly refurbished Daimler landaulette used by The Queen for the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia. Photographer: Jason McCarthy. Courtesy: National Museum of Australia

“The 1954 Royal Tour is important to the history of Australia as it was the first time a reigning monarch had visited this country. The Museum is proud to have in our collection one of only two surviving Daimlers that transported the Queen through capital cities and rural towns around the country,” Trinca said.

“It is my great pleasure to announce the completion of the Royal Daimler conservation project. The vehicle has been revived to a state that reflects its proud royal history and is a testament to the immense skills of the Museum’s conservators and the passionate support from donors and car lovers.”

British High Commissioner to Australia, Her Excellency Vicki Treadell CMG MVO and National Museum of Australia Large Object Conservator, Mr Nathan Pharaoh look under the hood of the Daimler landaulette. Photographer: Jason McCarthy. Courtesy: National Museum of Australia

A luxury vehicle of its time, the Daimler is an impressive object – at almost 6 metres long and weighing four tonnes. It is 1.8 metres high and powered by an eight-cylinder engine. Its internal fit-out included electric sunroof and windows, an intercom, airbag lumbar supports, and a radio housed beneath a walnut dashboard. All have been restored and are once again operational.

Senior Large Technology Conservator, Nathan Pharaoh, said the royal vehicle has tested and challenged the conservation team at the National Museum.

“The conservation project involved combining a range of innovative techniques, matching traditional trade skills with modern technologies and materials. Our approach has established a new benchmark for hybrid automotive museum practice,” Pharaoh said.

“Some of the more challenging components were recreated using techniques such as 3D printing of parts and reverse-engineering the vehicle’s intercom system.”

The Daimler is one of six originally commissioned by Prime Minster Ben Chiefly for a scheduled tour of Australia by King George VI in 1949, which was cancelled at the last minute due to the King’s ill health.

Photograph showing Daimler landaulette in Royal Progress during the Royal Visit in 1954. Courtesy:National Museum of Australia.

With the vehicles already paid for, two were sold on to the Maharajah of Mysore in India and the remaining four became part of the Government’s car pool. They were refurbished for the Queen’s later 1954 Australian tour.

Following the Royal Tour, the Daimler now in the National Museum’s collection was sold to the Governor of South Australia. It was then owned by several private collectors before being purchased by the Museum in 2009.

The conservation of the Daimler would not have been possible without the generous support of donors and the Museum’s dedicated and experienced staff.

The Daimler will join 11 other vehicles from the Museum’s collection at Wakefield Park in Goulburn, New South Wales on Saturday 17 August 2019. It will be a rare opportunity for the public to see the vehicles in action. The Daimler will do a regal lap of the track and be on show throughout the day.

The Daimler will then be displayed in the Gandel Atrium at the National Museum in Canberra from next Tuesday (20 August 2019) until Thursday 5 September 2019.

Edited by Peter Needham

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