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Original photograph of the Bean support truck and crew, Melbourne, 1926


Original photograph of the Bean support truck and crew, Melbourne, 1926

Object information


Photograph of the Bean support truck taken at Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne, 1926, prior to departure on record-breaking return journey between Melbourne/Darwin. From l-r: Mr A.L Le Grice (Manager of Dalgety & Co. Ltd, Sydney - a pastoral agent), Francis Birtles (who drove the racing car), John James (Jack) Coughlan (mechanic), Shelton Smith (reporter, Argus), Alec Barlow (co-driver/mechanic), Milton Napthine, (mechanical assistant).

Physical description

A faded black and white photograph of six men standing in front of a 1920s era truck. Words printed on the tarpaulin at the back of the truck read, 'BARLOW MOTORS / MELBOURNE'. Handwritten notes annotated in blue pen on the verso read 'RETURN TO G. Shandles 84.1%'. Notes written in pencil read, 'Left to right / Mr Le Grise manager Dalgettys Sydney, / Francis Birtles who drove the racing car / yours truly. / Alex Barlow - Birtles mechanic / Shelton Smith reporter / Milton Napthine my assistant'.

Statement of significance

This collection comprises three black and white photographs and a letter associated with John James 'Jack' Coughlan, a mechanic who drove the Bean support truck which accompanied the Museum's Bean car on its first return journey from Melbourne to Darwin in 1926. Overlander Francis Birtles and his co-driver, Alec Barlow, completed the 5500km trip in a record-breaking eight days and 13 hours. This paper-based collection is in a good state of conservation with the exception of the letter which is fragile.

The value of this collection lies in its strong provenance to this expedition and its demonstration of the significant contribution of the Bean support truck in facilitating the journey. In exploring a route for the Bean car and laying down supplies throughout northern Queensland and Northern Territory, the truck is thought to have been the first commercial vehicle to cross the continent. The Museum's motor car-related collections are one of its greatest strengths and this collection lends particular insight into the promotion of the motor industry during the pre-Depression era.

Object information

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