DESTINATIONS - BUSH CHARACTERS, YARNS & POETRY
The first Around-Australia drive was done in a 1923 5CV Type C Torpedo 2WD Citroen, driven by Neville Westwood and Greg Davies in 1925.
The first widely publicised motor trial was between Melbourne and Sydney in 1905 organised by Dunlop tyres. In 1908 Murray Aunger and Harry Dutton managed to drive a Talbot between Adelaide and Darwin.
Adventurer Francis Birtles changed his mode of transport from bicycle to motor car and became the first person to drive across the continent from Fremantle to Sydney in 1912.
These treks placed the reliability, tenacity and possibilities provided by the motor car at the forefront of many Australians’ imaginations.
In an attempt to encourage local manufacturing of motor bodies, the Government banned motor body imports in 1917. This was changed a year later to allow one imported car for every two locally-built bodies. The first Citroen was imported to Australian in 1923.
The 1920s was a boom time in car ownership, allowing people to travel further for work and leisure. The Westwood trip is an important example of the way people used the car to explore the land and the intense interest there was in the capabilities of the car in the undeveloped Australian landscape.
The Westwood-Davies car has been restored and is an important exhibit at the National Museum of Australia, in Canberra. We’re indebted to the NMA for the use of the history and photographs of the vehicle.
The rugged little Citroen is a right-hand
drive, two-seat, boat-tail roadster; painted bright yellow, with black mudguards and black metal disc wheels.
The folding black canvas roof is on a metal frame and it has a small oval window in the back. The spare wheel is mounted vertically on the right-hand side of the body alongside the driver’s seat, so the only door is on its left-hand side. (Originally, it was designed primarily for LHD manufacture.)
The vehicle’s chassis number is 38646 and the serial number of its 856cc, four-cylinder, side-valve, petrol engine is VA80524. It carries West Australian vehicle registration number plate 5013 and tips the scales at 580kg.
Neville Westwood was a 22-year-old
Seventh Day Adventist missionary, who bought the Citroen 5CV second- hand in Perth. It had already travelled 48,000 kilometres, mainly in the Perth
Westwood and Davies left Perth on August 4, 1925 on a missionary tour and also they hoped to gain information that could be used to improve medical services in remote Indigenous communities.
The two men didn’t originally intend to drive all the way around Australia, but having reached the Northern Territory, they pushed on; aided by encouragement of Citroen dealers and their own sense of adventure.
Westwood and Davies’ adventures included passing the burnt wreckage of a car abandoned by adventurer Francis Birtles on an earlier trip to the Northern Territory.
Along the way punctured tyres were filled with grass and cowhide and the car was carried across the Fitzroy River by local Aboriginal people.
Davies quit the car at Albury on the New South Wales and Victoria border, while Westwood went on to Melbourne and Adelaide.
He returned to Perth, escorted by a welcoming convoy of motorists on December 30, 1925. At the journey’s end Westwood put the Citroen into storage.
From 1925 onwards, a series of well-publicised long distance journeys undertaken in motor vehicles changed people’s understanding of, and relationship to, the Australian environment. The motor car, the epitome of modern technology, allowed Australians to conquer the environment, but also discover and explore it.
These tours were not undertaken on the comfort of bitumen roads, but covered some of the most isolated and intractable landscapes in the country, using less than reliable maps. In many senses these early motor tourists were continuing a well established tradition of pioneering but were also establishing the beginnings of modern 4WD tourism.
For more details and historic photos on the Westwood-Davies trek, check out the following link: