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1923 5CV 'Type C' torpedo' Citroen motor car, driven around Australia by Nevill Westwood in 1925


1923 5CV 'Type C' torpedo' Citroen motor car, driven around Australia by Nevill Westwood in 1925

Object information

Physical description

1923 Citroen 5CV 'Type C 'torpedo'. The car is a right-hand drive two-seat boat-tail roadster, which is painted bright yellow, with black mudguards and black metal disc wheels. The collapsible black canvas roof is on a black 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 to the car is on its left-hand side. Technical specifications include: a 4-cylinder, 856cc engine; a 50mm bore, 90mm stroke cylinder block; a 3-speed manual gearbox; and foot-operated drum brakes on the transmission shaft with hand-operated brakes on the rear wheels.

Statement of significance

The Ron Westwood Collection comprises a 1923 5CV Citroen, a collection of lantern slides with a lantern slide projector and a collection of newspaper articles, letters, photographs and other paperwork. The car underwent some restoration in the 1970s and is in reasonable condition.

The Citroen was the first car to be driven around Australia. The journey was undertaken by Nevill Westwood, a Seventh day Adventist missionary, between August and December 1925. While each item, the car, lantern slides and ephemera resonate on their own, as a collection they represent an important moment in Australia's motoring and tourism heritage. The 1920s was a boom time in car ownership and the motor allowed people to travel further for work and leisure. The Westwood trip is an important example of the way people utilised the car to explore the land and the intense interest there was in the capabilities of the car when pitted against the Australian landscape. The fact that Westwood undertook the trip as a missionary also provides an insight to the activities of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in the 1920s.

Educational significance

This is a 1923 model Citroen 5CV motor car - the first car to be driven around Australia. The journey was undertaken by Neville Westwood, a Seventh day Adventist missionary, between August and December 1925. It is a 856cc four cylinder, two-seat, boat-tail roadster car, painted pale yellow with black mudguards.

Neville Westwood was a 22-year-old Seventh Day Adventist missionary. Westwood bought the Citroen 5CV second-hand in Perth. It had already travelled 48,000 km in and around Perth. Westwood left Perth with Greg L Davies in the Citroen on 4 August 1925 on a missionary tour hoping to gain information which would help improve medical services to remote Indigenous communities. They did not intend to drive all the way around Australia on departure, but having reached the Northern territory, and with the encouragement of Citroen dealers (and eager for more adventure), they continued their circumnavigation.

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. Westwood went on to Melbourne and Adelaide. He returned to Perth, escorted by a welcoming convoy of motorists on 30 December 1925. At the journey's end Westwood put the Citroen into storage while he continued travelling on church business.

The car allowed people who could afford the time and money to transcend the 'tyranny of distance' that had previously circumscribed their everyday and leisure activities. One of the ways in which the boundaries of distance were pushed was in extended motor tours across, around and through Australia. 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. 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.

From 1925 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 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 drive tourism.

While there had been attempts at developing an Australian built car during the inter-war period, the industry relied heavily on imported parts, resulting in a large number of marques available reflecting the interest and boom in the motor industry. 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.

Along with providing evidence of early motor touring, the trip also gives an important insight into some of the activities of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Australia and in all the contemporary accounts there is mention of Westwood's missionary work. Further, in 1926 Westwood set out on another missionary round Australia trip.

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