Cartoonist and author Warren Brown looked the part on Saturday as he warmed up to the 1925 Sundowner Bean.
Appropriately dressed in period driving garb, Brown was effusive in his praise for the man who drove the vehicle from London to Melbourne in 1927/28. Australian adventurer Francis Birtles' 26,000km trip took a record-breaking nine months and covered some of the harshest overland environments.
"What this car hasn't gone through," Brown quipped.
Next year he will re-enact that journey in a replica Sundowner Bean he's built over the last 15 years. Like Birtles, he'll be taking a producer to make a documentary of the journey.
Brown is an avid fan. In 2012 he wrote Francis Birtles: Australian Adventurer.
Birtles donated the vehicle, including trapped sand in the chassis, to a future National Museum of Australia in 1929.
It was one of 12 iconic cars the Museum displayed at a special Wakefield Park event on Saturday. Some were shown publicly for the first time and the day was a rare opportunity to see them driven around a track.
More than 3000 people flocked through the gates, many driving their own veteran and vintage cars.
The Museum's Lifelong Learning manager, Heidi Pritchard, said the collection was insured by the federal government and it took some convincing to bring 12 of the 19 cars to Wakefield Park.
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"The best thing is the vehicles are a lens to Australia's social and automotive history and an incredible record of innovation," she said.
The cars are kept in working order but Saturday was a chance to truly "exercise them."
The Museum's large objects conservator, Nathan Pharaoh, was doing just that in the 1967 Brabham Repco BT23A-1 V8 racing car, built and raced by Sir Jack Brabham.
Pharaoh, from Braidwood, is the only person allowed to drive the vehicle. He said the aim was to exercise the car, not "flog it."
"(Driving it) is euphoric but it's a huge weight to take a multi-million dollar car belonging to the nation and run it around a track," he said.
Also there on Saturday was Malcolm Compton, whose father Bob, a former ANU academic, donated his 1959 Wolseley 1500 Saloon to the museum in 2010.
The Wolseley was a common sight around the university.
"Dad bought it in Adelaide and owned it for 50 years," Mr Compton said.
"It was a the family car and then a secondary vehicle and was later used as a security car," he said.
"Over 50 years it was in daily use and was always in brand new condition."
He fondly remembered family holidays to Adelaide in the car, with three children piled in the back as the temperature soared to "100 degrees Fahrenheit" inside.
Former Goulburn man Ian Stewart was also on hand, overseeing the 1948 Daimler DE 36hp landaulette he played a major role in restoring. The vehicle transported Queen Elizabeth II during her 1954 Australian tour.
Features include electric windows, microphone system enabling the Queen to talk to the driver, radio, a centre glass divide and silk blinds.
Following its official duties, the vehicle was used as a Commonwealth car in South Australia, before being sold to a funeral director. A SA winery owner then bought it for private use.
Mr Stewart said by the time the Museum acquired the Daimler in 2009, it had deteriorated from weather had major engine problems.
"It had been left in a big barn and there were 32 rat carcasses in it," he said.
"The NMA decided to get it back fit for a queen and a team of people has spent eight years restoring it...It's been a big job."
Mr Stewart said the vehicle was very good to drive but with no power steering, "a bit like an old truck."
He was educated at Bourke Street Primary (now Goulburn Public) and Goulburn High Schools before completing an apprenticeship with Repco in automotive work. Repco then transferred him to Canberra where he's lived ever since.
Wakefield Park operations manager Dean Chapman said Saturday's event was something different.
"Bringing something like this to Wakefield Park is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said.
"...These cars are priceless items viewed in a museum throughout time but here they're in a setting being used."
Mr Chapman said the NMA approached him with an initial plan to display the Brabham but the idea "snowballed."
The event brought people from Sydney, Canberra, Goulburn, Orange, Cooma and many other regional NSW areas, and attracted national media attention.
"The exposure for Wakefield Park on a national level is priceless," Mr Chapman said.
It also fits with plans to broaden the types of events the facility hosts.
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