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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Royal Daimler restored back to life

Meticulous conservation work by the National Museum of Australia (NMA) has revived a rare 1948 Daimler Landaulette used by Queen Elizabeth II during her historic 1954 Royal Tour of Australia.

Following the royal tour, the Daimler, now in the NMA’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.

Since then, the Daimler has been the focus of one of the most complex conservation projects ever undertaken by NMA conservators.

A luxury vehicle of its time, the Daimler is an impressive object – almost six 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.

Automotive engineer Ian Stewart played a pivotal role in the restoration of the Daimler from start to finish, and told Canberra Weekly he was on hand to inspect the vehicle when it was found in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

“We went over to have a look at the car, the person who owned it at the time knew exactly what he had … The engine had had a major fail, so he pushed it into the barn and left it.”

Importantly, on that inspection he noticed they were dealing with a complete vehicle.

“Everything was there that you could do restoration work on, and that’s what it’s about with the Museum, not making a hot rod out of it.

“There’s been a lot of people involved with paintwork, bodywork and material work. The mechanical side of things … but it’s all still within the specifications of the original design,” Mr Stewart said.

The conservation involved assessing more than 30,000 components, carefully deconstructing much of the car and then rebuilding it piece by piece. Mr Stewart estimated approximately 90% of the restored vehicle is original.

“It’s just been treated, repainted, repaired … the roof, for instance, is all still the original paint, it’s just been polished.

“I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out. It’s probably better than I thought it would be to be honest.”

The Daimler is on display in the Gandel Atrium at the NMA until 5 September.

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