Wednesday 19th October 1927
Australian adventurer Francis Birtles, driving a 14-bhp Bean, left London and eventually arrived in Sydney on 15 July the following year – the first overland trip from England to Australia by car. He departed from Australia House in London, farewelled by a crowd of well-wishers including the 1927 Miss Australia. In an era when there were few roads and gasoline supplies sparse, the epic eight-month journey carried him across mountains, deserts and through tropical jungles and included a number of sea voyages – the last being from Singapore to Darwin. He travelled via Europe, Egypt, Persia (now Iran), India, Burma and Malaya. On arrival in Darwin, his car was seized by customs officials demanding import duty, until direct intervention by the Prime Minister Stanley Bruce averted the situation. He continued south via Brisbane and Sydney to the official finishing point of the journey at the General Post Office on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne on 25 July 1928. He was promptly asked to move on by a policeman for obstructing traffic. The journey was not repeated until 1955. Birtles had completed more than 70 transcontinental crossings of Australia by mid-1927, details of which were described in his book Battlefronts of Outback (1955). In 1929, the Bean car was presented to the Australian Government on condition that it be placed in the national museum. As there was no such museum at the time, the car disappeared for many years before being recovered in the 1960s and placed into the National Motor Museum in Adelaide in 1980 before moving to the National Historical Collection in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra in 2001.