WA’s oldest surviving car moved from Welshpool to York

WA’s oldest surviving car moved from Welshpool to York
WA’s oldest surviving car moved from Welshpool to York

THE oldest surviving car of Western Australian provenance left its Welshpool home last week and returned to York for the first time in 115 years.

The Benz, on loan from the Western Australian Museum, will go on display at the York Motor Museum from March 15.

The museum’s collections and research facility in Welshpool housed the rare vehicle prior to its move last Wednesday.

WA Museum chief executive officer Alec Coles said he was pleased the car would spend the next two years in York and that the Motor Museum would be able to share the car’s colourful history with its visitors.

“We believe the Benz was only the third motor car imported into Western Australia and is the oldest survivor of those early imports. That would make it WA’s oldest car,” Mr Coles said.

“It was actually imported by a resident of the York area, William De Lisle, so it is wonderful to see it return to the Avon Valley after more than a century.”

Mr De Lisle was caught driving the vehicle at 18 miles per hour (almost 29 km/h) on the causeway in Victoria Park.

He was fined more than £7 (more than $6000 in today’s terms) and labelled a “furious driver”, a “plutocratic motor-hog” and a “bloated motor-car owning gold bug” in the newspapers.

“The drive belts in the Benz used to constantly overheat due to friction so its next owner, Dr House of Katanning, used to drive around with a big tin of molasses so he could stop and apply it to the drive belt every few kilometres!” Mr Coles said.

It is believed the historic Benz was built in 1901 and was difficult to control on the poor roads at the time, so it eventually became a stationary engine driving a chaff cutter for a Katanning farmer in the 1920s.

When the farm was sold in 1928, the Benz was donated to an automobile club.

By the time it was donated to the Western Australian Museum circa 1950 it was in a poor state as it hadn’t been protected from the elements.

Today its body, upholstery and fittings are missing but the car represents a significant chapter in WA motoring history.