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Sydney show turns 90

Better late than never: A restored 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost will be displayed in Sydney this year, after missing the first Sydney motor show 90 years ago.

A local motoring historian has uncovered details of the first Sydney Motor Show

28 Aug 2001

By JUSTIN LACY in SYDNEY

THIS year's Sydney Motor Show will mark the 90th anniversary of the first motor show held in Australia.

A discovery by Sydney motoring historian, Ian Irwin, has brought to light details of the original Sydney show held in October 1911 at the Sydney Showground.

After finding a well-preserved copy of the show's catalogue at a swap meet, Irwin was inspired to research the original event.

"I recognised its importance straight away, but the seller had no idea of its value and sold it to me for just $20," Mr Irwin said.

"It may well be the only one of its kind still intact." The historian said the catalogue was notable for having colour reproduction on the cover - still a rare thing in its day.

The 1911 Sydney Motor Show and Gymkhana, as it was then called, featured more than 200 vehicles representing 89 manufacturers. The only vehicle missing from the show was the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, as the Australian distributor was based in Melbourne.

Organisers of this year's show have arranged for a restored 1911 Ghost to be on display, despite their exclusivity and value - restored Silver Ghosts now typically sell internationally for upwards of half million dollars, with some special examples selling for between two and three million dollars.

The 1911 show also included what newspapers of the day hailed as a "magnificent display of motor rubber goods and the various accessories," including "the very latest in dust coats and veils".

The event was opened by the then Governor-General, Baron Denman, who described the motor show as "a momentous event in the progress and development of Australia".

The Governor-General noted in his speech that there were more than 3450 cars in New South Wales at the time, including 150 commercial vehicles.

He said that while many of the bodies were being built in Australia, all the car and truck chassis were imported, and expressed the hope that one day soon it would "be possible to say that the whole of the car was Australian made".

The 2001 Sydney motor show will feature an estimated 55 new, upgraded and previewed production and concept vehicles when the show opens at the Sydney Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour on October 12.

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