Francis Birtles collection
The 'Francis Birtles collection' collection consists of a 1925 Bean 14hp two-seater racing car known as 'The Sundowner' and several pieces of associated ephemera. The era of this car's construction witnessed the rise of the automobile industry and the growing use of increasingly sophisticated vehicles for recreational and practical purposes.
Australian, British and American manufacturers competed to produce a car especially suited to the rough Australian terrain. Fabricated by the Bean Car Company of Staffordshire, England, this car was imported for promotional purposes by Bean's Australian agents, Barlow Motors of Melbourne. It was driven by overland explorer Francis Birtles (1881-1941) on two sponsored record-breaking journeys between Darwin and Melbourne (1926) and London and Melbourne (1927-1928).
This collection has strong relevance of several areas of Australian history including the growth of the early motor car industry, the use of cars for recreation and exploration of the continent and the promotional opportunities such journeys offered. The Museum's motor car-related collections are one of its greatest strengths and this collection lends particular insight into the extraordinary achievements of Francis Birtles and early motor cars. Foreshadowing the importance cars would assume in later popular culture, in 1929 the car was presented to the Australian government on condition that it be placed in a National Museum. The collection offers significant research potential in an examination of the social, economic and engineering context of the 1920s.
Copyright National Museum of Australia
Physical access to the collection by appointment only