18 September 2023

Vintage vehicle to make new home in Braidwood (once it is in working order, that is)

| Claire Sams
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hands on car parts

The car has taken a decades-long trip from Victoria to Canberra to its final home of Braidwood, but there are still a few steps to go. Photo: Braidwood Museum/Facebook.

When we get a new car, we don’t expect it to come in pieces. But that’s what happened to a vintage 1930s Dodge.

Braidwood Museum vice-president and project manager John Stahel said it all began with a phone call from the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

“In 2004, they bought the car as an old wreck from a farm in Victoria, and the idea was that there would be a volunteer program to keep the old skills around restoration of old machinery alive,” he said.

“For a variety of reasons, that program fell over and so the car parts sat there in boxes in their workshop.

“Last year, they asked us if we were interested in taking on this volunteer program.”

Some 20 years after it arrived in Canberra, the car was placed into the care of the Braidwood Museum’s volunteers.

Once the car was in Braidwood, it was set up in an unused garage.

“My immediate thought was that if we could get people interested in putting it together and getting it running, we could use it as a promotional vehicle for the Braidwood Museum and for the town,” Mr Stahel said.

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Work began on the car in December 2022.

“Six months or so in, everyone has settled into being part of a wonderful team effort where there’s a tremendous amount of respect for each other’s background and abilities,” Mr Stahel said.

The volunteers meet once or twice a week to work on the car, and have had some help from mechanics.

“The local mechanics and so forth might lend us a tool or give us a battery if we need it,” Mr Stahel said.

“There’s a core group of around a dozen people, and then there’s another 20 people or so who might be there every week, but they will lend us a hand as they can.”

Tasks have included research, removing rust, cleaning hub caps and ordering parts.

Mr Stahel said receiving the car from the national museum had come as a surprise.

“We’ve have a close relationship with a number of museums, including the National Museum, but also other places like the Australian National University,” he said.

“We’ve got connections everywhere, and we enjoy working with them.

“But you never know what sort of serendipitous stuff is going to come out of those connections.”

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Once the car was restored, Mr Stahel said, the hope was that it would become a recognised attraction in Braidwood.

“We’re not going to be entering it in competitions,” he said.

“The idea is just to get it going and we plan to drive it up and down the main street [of Braidwood].

“The plan is to take people for rides, let people rent it out for weddings and things like that.”

Mr Stahel said the restoration process was a chance for people to look back to past decades and see how cars – and life – had changed over time.

“Braidwood is a town that is pretty in touch with its heritage,” he said.

“While this car isn’t from here, it sort of fills a role that we can look at the past with it.”

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