First and Last, the latest exhibition at the Gippsland Vehicle Collection (GVC), which officially opened on Sunday, 14 March, celebrates the evolution of car manufacturing in Australia. The GVC’s first Display Day exhibition launch since last March welcomed a strong number of visitors keen to see the latest vehicles on the floor, and also to show-off their own special vehicles in the grounds.
An impressive line-up off first and last pairs, which includes a Studebaker Hawk and a Studebaker Lark; the first and last Monaro’s; a Simca Vedette and a Simca Aronde plus a Valiant R and a Valiant CM Charger, makes up the display.
There is also a strong roll-up of Fords on the floor. Ford Motor Company of Australia and Ford Manufacturing Company of Australia officially started production on 1 March, 1925, rolling out the four-cylinder Model T, which had been in production since 1908. Prior to 1925, the Model T had been built as a knock-down kit by various local distributors around Australia, with no central organisation, but soon they were rolling off a primitive assembly line in a disused Dalgety wool store in Geelong. In the first year, 12,500 Model Ts were assembled, mainly using parts shipped from Ford of Canada.
A 1926 Model T Ford, exhiited by Frank and Kerry Van Ekeren, is currently the first vehicle you will see when you walk through the GVC’s doors. The cars were powered by a 2.9 litre four-cylinder engine, rated at 22.5 horsepower, with an impressive top-speed of 72 kilometres per hour. The engine drove the rear axle through a planetary transmission with low and high gear, and reverse.
The multiple plate clutch has 25 friction-discs immersed in oil. The vehicle has three foot pedals – one to operate low and high gear, a brake and the middle pedal to operate reverse. The accelerator is operated by a hand throttle.
In Australia, one of the Model Ts big advantages was the high ground clearance,
which made it suitable for travelling over paddocks and rough ground. Despite its small engine, it was almost unstoppable and was known as The Squatter’s Joy.
Model Ts were known to capture the imaginations and hearts of their owners, and the Van Ekeren’s vehicle had been in the same family since its purchase in 1926
until they bought it in 2012. It has travelled 119,896 kms over its 95-year life and is still in original condition, other than wire wheels that replaced the wooden spoke originals.
In 1928 the Ford factory switched to the Model A, and in 1932 converted again to produce the Ford V8.
For the First and Last exhibition, the Model T has been paired with a 1993 Ford Capri XR2 SE. Apart from a brief production of a four-cylinder Ecoboost Falcon at the end of their time in Australia, the Capri was the last four-cylinder Ford assembled in Australia. This was the second model of the Capri brand in Ford’s history, and the first British-designed and Australian built.
A convertible, it was based on the front-wheel-drive Ford Laser/Mazda 323 floorplan. It was intended for big things, as it was built in both right-hand and left-hand drive for export to the North American market.
The Capri was originally launched in Australia in 1989 and the updated SC version was released as an XR2 in 1992. The final updated SE model was released in August 1993, but production ceased for the entire Capri range in mid-1994.
When the Capris were first released, they had a poor reputation for reliability, but many are still on the roads today. In particular, the Capri’s roof was prone to leaking, a problem that was quickly rectified by Ford. However, the reputation stuck, making them poor competitors for the MX-5 and probably causing their short production run.
Many of the Capri’s engine components were sourced from Mazda and similar to those used in the Ford Laser of the time. The engine is a 1.6 litre twin-cam four-cylinder with a 16-valve cylinder head. The Capris are five-speed manuals and front-wheel drive.
The GVC also has a 2016 Ford Falcon, the last model produced in Australia, on show.
The Gippsland Vehicle Collection is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and every day in school holidays, from 10am to 4pm. Entry costs $15 per adult, $10 for concession holders and is free for children 15-years-old and younger. It is located at 1A Sale Rd, Maffra. For more information you can find us at facebook.com/gippslandvehiclecollection.