Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Percy Markham Collection

Updated Post

Shelly and I first visited the Whiteman Park Motor Museum in April 2010 and saw several of the remaining vehicles of the Percy Markham Collection on display ( I set out to find out what happened to the rest of the collection and that search led me to the Nazarro ( and Percy's son, John Markham.

John kindly provided me a list of the cars in the Percy Markham Collection and some details about them and I had the grand idea to create a little virtual online museum. This proved a little harder than I thought as some of cars are quite obscure. I remembered with some regret that my brother Craig and I were in our early teens we'd bought a set of postcards from the West Australian Museum for all the cars in the collection. Although I am inveterate hoarder, my parents are not, and those postcards disappeared long gone. Many years later I was delighted to discover the entire set of postcards in an old shoebox. What a shock! I had saved them after all, along with sets of black and white photos I'd taken at the York Flying 50 races in 1980. My dad was something of an amateur photographer back then we used to develop and print our own photos at home.

Thanks to this freakish accident of preservation I am able to present here a 'virtual museum' of the Percy Markham Collection. Where appropriate I've attached the text of the postcard and credits in italics and also some of John's comments and memories.

John's list was 43 cars. I had believed the majority of the cars were sold to the West Australian museum and a selection were later sold in a controversial sale in the 1980s.Details of the sale and controversy have been documented by Dr Pauline Joseph of Curtin University in a research paper published here: Dr Joseph's valuable research has addressed a great many myths and misunderstandings about the collection and the sale controversy. Although the total Markham collection may have been 43 cars, Percy Markham only sold 22 of the rarest cars and 5 motorcycles to the museum. The balance of the collection were either retained by the Markham family or sold separately. The museum then auctioned 10 of the most valuable cars. 9 were sold at auction while the sale of the oldest car in the collection, the 1898 Star, fell through. The Star is now on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum. Several other Markham Collection cars are on display at Whiteman Park while the other cars remain in storage with the West Australian museum.

A multimedia presentation has been prepared by Dr Joseph's PHD student, Beata Dawson, which takes the viewer on a virtual reality tour of the Markham Collection. The presentation is here: Please click on the link in the presentation to provide feedback.

Thanks also to Paul Blank for sharing a copy of the original auction catalogue

The Percy Markham Collection

1898 Star 3 1/2 hp 'vis-a-vis' (Britain)

Early motor cars clearly show the influence of horse drawn vehicle design; this car is obviously a 'horselesss carriage'. The car, built in 1898, was one of the first ten built by the Star Motor Co., an offshoot of the Star Cycle Co.

The oldest vehicle in the Collection was purchased from a famous collection of veteran cars from Scotland called the Sword Collection. The Star was one of the cars put up for auction. John Markham was determined to buy the Star back for the family and bid on the car, however, a local Perth 'high flyer' outbid him with an offer way over the reserve. John couldn't match the offer and retired from the bidding. The buyer however wasn't serious and defaulted on his offer so Christies approached John directly. John was happy to buy the car for his last bid but Christies insisted he pay the defaulted wining bid. John declined and the car was returned to the museum. It is now on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum. It is the oldest motor vehicle in Western Australia.

1902 Oldsmobile 10 h.p. Curved-dash Runabout (USA)

"This was one of the first cars to reach Western Australia;it was owned originally by Mr Claude Deane. This car, like the "Star"shows clearly the influence of the horse-drawn carriage. Note the steering tiller, which is mounted on springing that acts both as a shock absorber and as a stabiliser."

This car is NOT a part of the Percy Markham collection. It was donated by the Deane family but was incorrectly ascribed to the Percy Markham in the postcar. It is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum after a controversial restoration.

1905 De Dion-Boulton 8 h.p. Two Seater (France)

"Count de Dion, a Parisian aristocrat, employed Messrs Boulton and Trepardoux in 1882 to build light carriages. After producing a bewildering variety of steamers, de Dion switched to the petrol engine. By 1895 the first 1/2 h.p engines were in production, followed soon after by more powerful types."
This car is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1904 Rover 8 h.p. Two-seater (Britain)

1904 Rover 8 h.p. Two-seater (Britain)
"Built only five years after the Star, this car shows the early development of conventional car layout, and little influence of the horse-drawn carriage."
This car is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1909 Renault 15/22 kw Limousine (France)

"An original example of a classic car made by one of the oldest established car manufacturers. It is fitted with a compressed air starter." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This car was sold at auction.

1909/10 Minerva 22 kw Tourer (Belgium)

"Minerva was one of the best known Belgian makes, renowned for quality. This model was a sensation when first shown in 1908, as it incorporated a double sleeve-valve engine designed by C.Y. Knight." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This car was sold auction.

1909 Sizaire-Naudin 9 kw Two-seater (France)

"A rare vehicle of the pioneering firm of the brothers Sizaire. M Sizaire has certified this care as a Type F Series 09 No. 153" Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This car was sold at auction.

1910 BSA (Britain)
This car is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1910 Model T Ford (USA)

I believe this car may be in storage.

1910 Hupmobile

The Hupmobile (on the left) was an American company that was later taken over by Chevrolet. On the right is the Sizaire-Naudin. This photo was taken in Percy's Antique Auto Museum in Wembley in 1968 by Andrew Brownell.

1911 Peugeot 22 kw Type 135 Tourer (France)

"Peugeot is one of the oldest French car manufacturers. This original car was purchased in Switzerland in 1966." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This car was sold at auction.

1911 Rolls Royce 30/37 kw Landaulet "Silver Ghost" (Britain)

"The first six-cylinder Rolls Royce of 1906 was nickle plated and has silver and grey bodywork, leading to the popular name 'Silver Ghost'. This model - one of the great classic cars - continued in production with minor modifications until 1925." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This Rolls was once owned by an Indian Maharaja. This car was sold at auction.

1913 Delage 15 kw HB Series 7 Tourer (France)

"Delage cars had a reputation for reliability, ease of handling and for being light on tyres. This car was purchased in Switzerland in 1966." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This car was sold at auction.

1913 Nazarro (Italy)

One of only three surviving examples in the world. John Markham retained ownership of the car until it was sold at auction shortly before he passed away.

1914 Detroit Electic Brougham (USA)

"The present-day widespread alarm about pollution of the environment has re-awakened interest in electric cars. It is interesting therefore to recall that from 1900 to 1915 at least twenty-five well known electric car companies advertised vehicles powered by batteries."
Ironically, this was written in 1980 - 31 years ago!! This car was owned by a little old lady in Perth who drove it from new until she died. It is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1920 Studebaker

This car is in storage with the West Australian museum.

1921 Stanley Steamer 20/60 h.p/ Tourer (USA)

"The present-day widespread alarm about pollution of the environment has re-awakened interest in steam as well as in electric cars. Steam is produed in steam cars by heating the boiler with an oil-burner. The Stanley Steamer had the longest production run of any steam car."
This car is in storage with the West Australian museum.

1923 Vauxhall 30/98

The 98 reference was the car's advertised top speed. The car is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum and is apparently one of the most valuable cars remaining in the collection.

1924 Rolls Royce 20hp light 6 ladies chauffeur driver car

This car is still on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1926/27 Morris Cowley 'Bull-nose' Two-seater (Britain)

"One of the most popular vehicles of its day which helped William Morris outsell its competitors." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.
This was Percy's first vintage vehicle. He bought the car as family project to teach his son's mechanical skills. It is still on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1927 Ford T 16.7 kw Roadster (USA)

"This was one of the last of the various Fort T models which were produced from 1908 to 1927. This vehicle has travelled only about 8000 km and is in original condition." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.

A photo of the car at West Australian museum storage facility. This photo was taken by Dr Joseph in 2014 at a presentation in honour of the Markham family's substantial contribution to the museum. Percy's son's, Barry (on the left) and Roger (on the right in the check shirt) inspect the car. 

1927 Ford A

The first of the A model Fords. This example is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1927 Austin 7

One of several Austin's Percy owned. This one is still on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1927/8 Packard straight 8

This example is not Percy's car but it is on display at the Whiteman Park motor museum.

1928 Bentley 15 kw Sports Tourer (Britain)

"The Bentley had the reputation of being the best British sports car between World Wars I and II. In their famous 'British racing green' they dominated the Le Mans races in the 1920s." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.

This car may be on display at Whiteman Park motor museum.

Here is a comment from Dean B, who worked on the restoration of this car as an apprentice.
Dear Paul,
Something sparked my memory of the Percy Markham collection, and through Google, found your excellent blog. I have a very distant connection with one of the cars from Percy's collection from around 1976 and you might find it faintly interesting. Allow me to explain...

I was an instrument making apprentice with a small business in Subiaco called 'Tisco 74 Pty Ltd' from 1975 to 1980. The owner (and my boss) was Stanley Tough who also had an interest in classic cars. Tisco was for many years one of the few businesses in Perth that could calibrate automotive instruments and became very well known as the place to have your car speedo checked - often as a result of a disputed speeding fine! We also made special parts where possible for just about any mechanical instrument.

In 1976, as a 16 year old apprentice, I remember being asked to make a some special parts for an old Bentley. They were the connector grips fitted to the ends of the spark plug leads and, in order to stay as close to the original parts as possible, we obtained some special black plastic rod which was the same stuff used back when this Bentley was made. Strange as it sounds, this plastic was actually made from sour milk and had been developed during World War One as a substitute for 'Bakelite' which was too brittle for some uses. I think this plastic was known as 'Casein'.

I wondered why I was being trusted to make parts like these for such a valuable car. As I started cutting the first piece of this special plastic in the lathe, the answer came to me. This stuff STANK! It smelled like milk that was very 'off' except many times stronger. Up until then, I had doubted that it really was made from milk - thinking it was one of those stories told to apprentices to see how gullible they are. Anyway, apart from the stench it actually machined quite nicely. I also made some brass inserts which went into these grips and these were like a miniature spear tip with a slot cut into the end to allow it to be slid onto the screw terminal of the old style spark plugs.

Percy Markham came into the workshop to pick them up and was impressed with how close to the originals they looked. I felt really proud that I'd made some parts for a classic car that were "as good as the originals".

Years later, when I heard that the collection had been purchased by the State Government and was to be sold off I felt quite sad that such a valuable collection was being broken up. But I had the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere out there is an old Bentley with some spark plug connectors made by me.

Cheers, Deano.
1933 Rolls Royce 30/37 kw Continental Sports Sedan (Phantom II) (Britain)

"This particular car was manufactured on 3 October 1933 and is authentic in every detail, including the original and elaborate tool kit." Photographed by Brian Stevenson. Printed by Crusader Press.

This car was restored by Jack Jefferies of Sydney.  This car was sold at auction.

Leyland Double decker bus ex-London

This is a photo of the bus outside the York town hall. Details about the vehicle are contained in the link below:

Link to the auction catalogue -

The Markham's Aeronautical Legacy
Percy's sons, John and Barry Markham were both had an interest in aviation as well as classic cars. John Markham was the first person to fly a plane from the USA to Australia 'the long way round', flying over the North Pole to Perth. Unfortunately the book of his travels is out of print now.

John owned and restored the original Royal Flying Doctor Services' first aeroplane, a De Havilland Fox Moth.

Barry Markham recreated a pioneering solo flight from England to Australia in a De Havilland Tiger Moth in 1930. Barry's trip proved to somewhat more challenging as he was flying against the prevailing air currents. His adventures are published here: 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Zeithaus Museum, Wolfsburg

Volkswagen's second museum in Wolfsburg is the Zeithaus in the Autostadt. The Autostadt is not a museum, not an exhibition centre, and not the Volkswagen Group's corporate headquarters, but an immersive automotive experience. Set in beautiful landscaped gardens are modernist pavilions, each dedicated to one of the Volkswagen Group's brands. Two glass tower blocks hold cars waiting for collection by their new owners. Customers can book a room at the Ritz while they wait for their car to be customized. There is a also a driving track and across the canal stands the enormous Volkswagen factory.

Entry hall interior

Looking towards the Audi pavilion and the greenhouse tunnel.

The Seat pavilion

The Autostadt Ritz Hotel

Ducati exhibit

Premium Clubhouse overshadowed by the smokestacks of the factory.

Porsche pavilion

Display inside the Porsche pavilion

The Zeithaus Museum

The Zeithaus Museum is organized into two collections. The Design Icons collection showcases historically important vehicles in a contemporary art setting spread over three floors. Each car is extensively documented, explaining its importance and its place in history. It is, in my opinion, probably the best auto museum in the world.

1912 Bugatti Landau. A typical of example of early cars with a coach-like body. Additionally, cars like this were intended to be driven by a chauffeur.

1924 Lancia Lambda. The Lancia Lambda pioneered the low slung chassis and load bearing body. It also featured independent suspension and four-wheel brakes. Its long, low look in an era when bigger was better, didn't do any favours.

1924 Hanomag 2/10PS 'Kommisbrot' reintroduced the idea of the rear engine and the budget 'people's' car. It would soon be copied and improved on, most famously by Volkswagen themselves.

1931 MG M-Type Midget. A British classic sportscar that was small and cheap enough for a well-to-do young man.

1932 Hispanio-Suiza cabriolet. A luxury style icon of the Great Gatsby era.

1938 BMW 327. The streamlining era of the 1930s is epitomized by the beautiful BMW 327 roadster. BMW had grown from very humble beginnings manufacturing Austin 7's under license to become a premium sportscar maker by this time.

1939 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. THE pinnacle of the pre-war French streamline movement. Only four examples were built with this luxury, custom bodywork. This is a replica body fitted over a Type 57 chassis.

1950 Borgward Hansa 1500. Carl Borgward introduced Germany to the ponton body style in 1949. Within a decade the ponton body would become the standard.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado. The epitome of American post-war styling - wings, fins, huge size. A whale on wheels.

The archetypical Porsche 911. Taking Volkswagen's budget car heritage to sportscar luxury.

1960s and 70s sports performance for the people. The Jaguar E-Type and the Opel Capri.

1967 Lamborghini Miura


Bentley and Volkswagen

Volkswagen Beetle in gold and diamonds

1964 Volkswagen T2 Transport and Beach Buggy.

Icons of streamlining. The unlucky Chrysler Airflow was too advanced for customers when introduced in 1934, which led to its restyling to a more conventional appearance. This it the 1937 model.

Perfection on wheels. Ferry Porsche's immortal 1952 Porsche 356A.

1956 Citroen DS. Possibly the most amazing car ever built. Unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 1955, the DS was so far ahead of its time it could have been designed by aliens (or the French).

The Car Collection

The Zeithaus museum collection is displayed across from the Design Icons in a three story glass pavilion. Like the Design Icons, the cars are thoughtfully selected and displayed with appropriate background and context.

1888 Benz Patentwagen. The starting point for the invention that took over the world.

1905 Laurin and Klement. The Laurin and Klement company were a pioneering Czech automobile company who would later be absorbed into the Skoda industrial conglomerate. Skoda became a nationalized auto company in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War but are now part of the Volkswagen Group.

1914 Model T Ford. The first mass produced car.

1938 Volkswagen Beetle

The classic Volkswagen Kombi

1962 Volkswagen Type 3.

1970 Volkswagen Type 412

Volkswagen outdoors - Manx beach buggy and the "Thing"

Borgward Isabella. Probably Carl Borgward's crowning achievement.

1963 BMW 1500. When the German government and banks forced Borgward into bankruptcy, Mercedes-Benz swooped in and gobbled up what it could for a song. Some employees went across to BMW however where they applied their knowledge to BMW's rather unsatisfactory auto division. The result was the revolutionary BMW 1500, the car that saved BMW. People joked that the car was Borgward reborn.

Two mini cars of the 1960s, the Austin Mini and the Fiat 600.

American luxury. 1930 Cadillac.

Versus American austerity. 1927 Chevrolet.

1931 DKW F1. DKW's pioneering front wheel drive F1. It is from this car that all modern Audis and Volkswagens evolved from, while Ferdinand Porsche's revolutionary rear-engined design has fallen by the wayside.

1937 Cord 812. An art deco styling gem from America. The Cord featured front wheel drive, which was something of a novelty in the US.

1928 Alvis FWD. Alvis introduced the world's first front wheel drive production car in 1928. 150 cars were built until the car was withdrawn in 1931. Unlike DKW, which introduced the Front 1 in 1931 the Alvis was designed and built specifically as sportscar (building on contemporary racing experience), but it was not a success and was too />
1951 Borgward Hansa 1500 cabriolet.

The cabriolet was bodied by Hebmuller.

1949 Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet (bodied by Karmann).

These two cars featured in a Deutsche Weld report.

1972 NSU Ro80. NSU's pioneering rotary engined car.

Tatra's contribution to automotive history, the 1945 Tatra T87

1964 Chevrolet Corvair, the car Ralph Nader slandered as 'unsafe at any speed' (actually that is not true. Nader's book was critical of the poor safety record of ALL American cars but people only remembered the Corvair).

1954 Chevrolet Corvette.

Another People's Car - the East German Trabant

Matra Murena

1931 Bugatti Royale

Cars for the super rich

1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

The Volkswagen factory and the canal