The National Motor Museum, Australia, is an automobile museum in the Adelaide Hills in the township of Birdwood, South Australia. Established in 1964 and opened to the public soon afterwards, it is Australia’s largest motor museum, with close to 400 vehicles on display.
The Museum was started by Jack Kaines and Len Vigar in 1964, and was purchased by the South Australian Government in 1976. It holds a large and historically important collection of cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles. The Museum is housed in a modern complex adjacent to its original home, the “Old Mill” on Shannon Street, Birdwood.
It is the endpoint of the annual Bay to Birdwood, in which veteran, vintage and classic motor vehicles (motorcars and motorbikes) are driven by their owners from the foreshore area of Adelaide through to the Adelaide Hills to finish at the Museum where a festival is held.
National Motor Museum in Australia’s contemporary exhibition halls explore the stories of people and vehicles that have shaped Australia’s motoring history.
Discover how motor vehicles have opened up Australia, linking some of the most isolated communities in the world. From the stately to the absurd, from the hand-built to the mass-produced, see the vehicles people loved and loathed, thrashed and pampered, in the pursuit of their motoring dreams!
As an international centre for the collection, research, preservation, education and display of Australian road transport history, the National Motor Museum is much more than a collection of vehicles. It is a social history of the way we were, the way we are now and the way of the future.
The Museum defines antique vehicles as those built before 1904. The vehicles in this collection are typically imported from Europe as complete cars.
These vehicles are defined as those built between 1905 and 1918. This collection includes vehicles that demonstrate the rise in the Australian motor body building industry.
The Museum defines these vehicles as those built between 1919 and 1930. The collection features some early Australian assembled marques.
Post-vintage is defined as vehicles built between 1931 and 1946.
These vehicles are defined by the Museum as those built between 1946 and 1969. This collection documents the age of the family car and a period known for its unique styling.
Modern vehicles are those manufactured from 1970 to the present. The collection reflects a period that represents the emergence of the Japanese automotive industry as a major competitor in the western market.
This collection comprises of vehicles dating back to 1909 that are specifically designed or adapted for use in a commercial capacity.
Comprising of around 100 motorcycles this collection covers most aspects of motorcycling in Australia.
The image collection includes approximately 30,000 images covering a variety of motoring themes, including historic images, images of collection vehicles and some related advertising.
Toys And Models
This collection has significant appeal to both children and serious collectors. Included are die-cast models, tin toys, the more recent plastic models and pedal cars.
Includes examples of vehicle components that demonstrate the development of vehicles over time.
The term ‘automobilia’ can be used to describe any historical artefact, memorabilia or collectible linked with motor vehicles and related themes.
Bugatti Veyron Eb 16.4
One of the world’s most expensive and fastest cars is now on display: a 2008 Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4.
The Bugatti Veyron is an extraordinary feat of automotive engineering. Complete with seven gears and special run-flat tyres that cost up to $20,000 each it is designed specifically to handle top speeds. The Veyron can reach 100 km/h in 2.46 seconds and has a special spoiler that deploys to lower the vehicle when it hits 220 km/h.
Only 71 were sold in 2008 so having one on display at the Museum is a rare treat.
Other facts about the car:
The brakes use carbon fibre reinforced composite discs, not metal.
At full speed, it consumes 78 litres of fuel per 100kms travelled.
The vehicle’s handbrake has an ABS antilock braking system.
Around 450 Veyron’s were produced before production ceased in 2015.
The car has all-wheel-drive (permanent drive to all four wheels).
It has an 8-litre engine capable of producing 987bhp/736Kw.
The weight of the vehicle is 1,888 kilograms.
Its top speed is believed to be 408.47 km/h (race performance). However, its regular top speed is 343 km/h.
Sunburnt Country: Icons Of Australian Motoring
Sunburnt Country honours Australia’s iconic vehicles, legendary people, innovation and adventurous journeys.
From the novelty of a horseless carriage in 1899 to the 1948 release of Holden’s ‘Australia’s own car’, Sunburnt Country celebrates Australia’s unique love affair with all things motoring.
Australians have embraced motoring as a fundamental part of our lives, and for many, it is an obsession. The exhibit includes the hand-built 1899 Shearer Steam Carriage, the 1908 Talbot that crossed from Adelaide to Darwin and the faithful 1936 Leyland Badger that enabled the legendary South Australian Mailman of the Outback, Tom Kruse, to deliver mail to rural communities. Other vehicles and objects on display capture significant moments of Australian motoring history.
Assembled: Australia’S Automotive Manufacturing Journey
assembled explores and celebrates the last century of Australia’s motor manufacturing history.
As the factory doors closed at GM Holden’s Elizabeth plant late 2017 Australia saw the end of automotive manufacturing in this country. This exhibition looks back over the history of automobiles in Australia from the hand-built invention of a South Australian jeweler, to the first Australian car the Holden 48-215, to the beloved family cars of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.
An assembly line from Holden’s Elizabeth factory hangs above the exhibition and demonstrates the different stages of construction. The final car of the assembly line is the renowned signature car, which Holden staff have signed over the last few years.
The exhibition is full of digital interactives that visitors can explore to learn more about Australia’s automotive manufacturing history.
From Boomeroo to Barbie, for some people, the joy of childhood toys never fades.
Model Behaviour showcases the collections of three South Australians who had a passion for toy and model cars. If you remember Corgi models (‘the ones with the windows’) or you’ve ever wanted a pedal car, Model Behaviour is sure to delight.
Before the automobile age, children explored the world from the back of a rocking-horse. It was a natural progression to a model car, as cars replaced horses as the way to get around. As with real cars, early pedal cars had a price tag that only the wealthy could afford. They were custom made, and often accurate replicas of motor cars, featuring opening boots and bonnets, inflatable tyres and leaf-spring suspension.
The exhibition features a number of pedal cars which came to life in the workshop of Adelaide grandfather Bob Phillips, and an impressive collection of Corgi model cars, the life-long passion of Eric Hauschild.
Travelling Emporiums: Hawker Vans And The Mobile Salesman Of Rural Australia
In the early twentieth century hawkers had an important role in sustaining rural Australian communities. This exhibit features two South Australian hawker vehicles from the National Motor Museum collection.
The hawker vans once belonged to Syd Graeber and Hassan Monsoor. Syd and Hassan traveled with their vans to outback towns, farmhouses, and cattle stations selling an assortment of wares such as cigarettes, seeds and fabrics.
Interwoven with the stories of the two vehicles Travelling Emporiums explores the wider history of hawkers in Australia. Experience the hawker story by discovering the unusual treasures in their vans and smelling the fragrances of their wares.
Alice Anderson’S Motor Service
Alice Anderson was Australia’s first female garage proprietor.
In 1919 Alice purchased a block of land on Cotham Road in Kew, Victoria and opened ‘Alice Anderson’s Motor Service’. The garage offered petrol sales, vehicle repairs, a driving school, 24 hour chauffeur service and organised chauffeured tourist parties on interstate trips. It was an all-women business, and Alice employed approximately nine chauffeurs and mechanics. Her ambition was to turn garage work into a suitable profession for women.
Her death in 1926 remains a mystery; one night she was cleaning an automatic pistol and shot herself in the head. It is still speculated whether the shot was accidental. Alice is a significant figure in Australian motoring history and her story demonstrates the experience of being a woman in the motor industry in the early twentieth century. This exhibition explores the life of Alice and her ‘garage girls’.
Game Engine : Digital Legends
Award winning exhibition – Game Engine : Digital Legends is an exhibition that looks at the relationship between and history of motoring and video gaming.
The exhibition allows you to explore the changes in gaming technology in the most fun way: by playing some of history’s most influential motoring games. It includes a giant joystick to play one of the first motor-influenced video games, Night Driver (1976) on a giant screen. Eight more ‘digital legends’ are playable, including Forza Motor Sport 7 (2017), Forza Horizon 3 (2016), Rocket League (2015), Crazy Taxi (1999), Crash Team Racing (1999), Wipeout 2097 (1996), Road Rash (1991), Out Run (1986), Daytona and Sprint 4 (1977). The exhibition also uncovers the game engine itself – the framework upon which modern games are built. Play a bespoke driving game and see how altering the parameters of the game engine affects the game itself.
Game Engine: Digital Legends is a great introduction to the world of motoring video games, and great fun for anyone who is nostalgic of the great games of the past or excited about the games of the present and the future.
Come and see what the interior of a typical mechanical workshop looked like in the 1920s.
Museum volunteers have created a replica 1920s garage using tin signs, petrol pumps, original tools, advertising images, a fire extinguisher, and even a vintage typewriter and small office. The main feature is a rolling Ford Model T chassis, designed to show the various components of a chassis, running gear and how they fit together. All parts of the Ford Model T were kindly donated.
Other vehicles of the period also feature, such as a 1927 Nash Light Six Tourer, a 1929 Harley-Davidson and a 1927 Triumph Model W motorcycle. Visitors can see a great display of vintage and veteran hub caps and car badges, a selection of cut-away steering boxes and small engines, and a selection of spark plugs.
Solid Ground: A History Of The Birdwood Mill
Until 1998, the National Motor Museum’s collection was housed in the old Birdwood Mill. This exhibition journeys through the history of the site.
Solid Ground explores the history of the Museum site from its origins before German settlers established the town and built the first flour mill to its abandonment and new life as a museum.
Step into the basement of the beautiful heritage mill to see original milling equipment as well as the luxurious Brough Superior motorbike owned by museum founder Jack Kaines, one of the first objects in the collection. The exhibition was launched on 20 November 2015, exactly 50 years after the museum first opened.
Vision & Values
The National Motor Museum is a social space where visitors of all ages, backgrounds and abilities know their community is included and their stories valued. Since 1965 millions of visitors have enjoyed discovering Australia’s motoring heritage at the Museum.
As an international centre for the collection, research, preservation, education and display of Australian road transport history, the National Motor Museum is much more than a collection of vehicles. It is a social history of the way we were, the way we are now and the way of the future. It is the ride of our lives!