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Record-setting Renault Twingo retires to Aus

Speaking Frank Lee: At the completion of a milestone 25,000km trip, Australian artist Frank Lee decorated this 1994 Renault Twingo as a lasting memento of its Australian adventure.

National Museum of Australia acquires Renault Twingo ‘Balarinji’


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14 Dec 2016

IT MIGHT have been built in France more than 20 years ago and never offered for sale Down Under, but this “true-blue” Renault Twingo has been acquired by the National Museum of Australia (NMA) as its latest automotive treasure.

In 1994, French journalist Jean Dulon took the tiny Twingo on a 25,000km tour of Australia, despite having no all-terrain modifications for the trip that included 8000km of unsealed roads, including a detour to Cape York Peninsula.

At the hands of Mr Dulon, the Twingo was claimed to be the first two-wheel drive vehicle to reach the northernmost tip of Australia, securing its place in Australia’s automotive history.

At the conclusion of the two-month Australian tour, Mr Dulon had it painted in a custom paint job courtesy of Australian clothing design company Balarinji and renowned artists John Moriarty and Frank Lee. The aboriginal decoration is unique, but similar designs by the company have graced Qantas aeroplanes and the Sydney Opera House.

Mr Dulon then took the Twingo back to France where it went on to clock-up 250,000km before finding its way to the Renault museum in Paris.

There it was tracked down by NMA which negotiated its return to Australia for display in Canberra.

The Twingo will be in good company at the NMA, alongside a collection of more than 300 Balarinji gouache paintings that have been amassed over previous years.

Renault provided the car for the trip with no modifications other than a roo-bar, and Mr Dulon completed the 25,000km without GPS or roadside assistance. Service stations were frequently many hundreds of kilometres apart.

The original Twingo was powered by a modest 45kW 1.2-litre engine, and despite its vintage had some innovative features including a digital instrument display, sliding second-row seat and seating that could be folded flat for an impromptu double bed.

The Twingo Balarinji will not be the first automotive addition to the National Museum of Australia, with a number of unusual and significant vehicle already calling the Canberra exhibition home.

Also housed at the NMA is the first car to have driven around Australia, a 1922 Citroen 5CV, which completed the momentous journey in 1925.

A heavily modified and hard-worked 40 Series Toyota LandCruiser known as the “Buff Catcher” also resides in the collection.

Renault Australia has always said no to Twingo for sale Down Under, but the latest, third-generation version has a better chance of making it into local showrooms, with the car-maker holding out for a sportier variant.

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