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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A quirky look at car-based Australiana

Ford Fairlane painted in traditional Warlpiri designs. Photograph by John Broomfield / Courtesy of Museums Victoria.

While Summernats has been and gone for another year, another car-based attraction streets away from the car festival has been cruising along at the National Museum of Australia (NMA).

Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition is a showcase of the ingenuity of outback mechanics, based on the popular Australian television series Bush Mechanics.

Their clever resourcefulness sees them turn branches, spinifex and sand into tools and spare parts to get cars back on the road.

Developed by the National Motor Museum in South Australia, in collaboration with the Warlpiri community and PAW Media who produced the TV series, the exhibition is a light-hearted exploration of the importance of the car to life in the outback.

1962 EJ Holden from the first episode of Bush Mechanics. Photograph by John Broomfield / Courtesy of Museums Victoria.

Exhibition curator Michelangelo Bolognese said the TV show has flourished due to its humorous exploration of the relationship between Aboriginal Australia and motoring.

“The touring exhibition on Bush Mechanics is the latest chapter in a story that started over 20 years ago in the little community of Yuendumu.

“It has been a privilege for the National Motor Museum to show this captivating aspect of life in Central Australia to audiences around the country, and it’s wonderful to now see it in as important a venue as the National Museum of Australia,” Mr Bolognese said.

The exhibition is rich in original footage from the series and interactive experiences. Visitors can also admire clay figurines from the Bush Mechanics Claymation, as well as some beautiful Australian vehicles that have done their fair share of bush bashing, including a 1962 EJ Holden station wagon, with its roof removed and used as a makeshift trailer, and a Ford Fairlane, painted in traditional Warlpiri designs.

Filming the 1962 EJ Holden for the first episode of Bush Mechanics. Courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive.

The quirky four-part series followed five young Warlpiri men as they travelled through remote outback Australia in vehicles in various states of roadworthiness, encountering a variety of mechanical problems.

Stuck in the middle of the desert with no tools or spare parts, each breakdown required a certain inventive bush resourcefulness to fix.

Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition is on display at the NMA until 24 February; free entry; nma.gov.au

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