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by Karl Peskett

Most pieces of veneration in Australia’s National Museum in Canberra relate to paying a role in the development of Australia during the past 100 years.

Cars have obviously made their place in history, too. So when a little yellow Citroen was inducted into the main hall of the museum, it surprised a few people.

Citroen’s place in Australian history is assured thanks to Neville Westwood, a West Australian who used the little Citroen in 1925 to become the first person to drive right around Australia.

Fully restored to working condition by the museum’s experts, Westwood’s Citroën 5CV is in a special display in the Museum’s main hall.

Westwood, a 22-year-old Seventh Day Adventist missionary, bought the car secondhand in Perth. It had already traveled 48,000 kilometres in and around Perth up to that point. Westwood left Perth in the Citroen on 4 August 1925, and with passenger Greg Davies, set off to the Eastern states. No easy feat, even today, the car suffered punctured tyres which were filled with grass and cowhide. The car was carried across the Fitzroy River by local Aboriginal people.

Davies quit the car at Albury on the New South Wales and Victoria border. Westwood went on to Melbourne and Adelaide. He returned to Perth, escorted by a welcoming convoy of motorists on 30 December 1925. At the journey’s end Neville put the Citroen into storage while he continued travelling on church business.

The car was then sold, but bought back, and then passed onto his son Ron, in 1969 when Neville died. Ron initiated restoration work by collecting spare parts, after which he commissioned work by a West Australian firm. The car’s chassis and body were largely retained, with some repair to the rear panels, doors and bonnet.

The engine block was discarded and the engine were rebuilt, with some original parts re-used and the original radiator maintained. In 2000, the car underwent a second modest reconditioning.

The National Museum acquired the Citroen from Ron Westwood in 2005. Museum conservators have worked to retain its form and function, including the 1975 restoration work which is now part of its history.

The Citroen’s chassis and body work suffered extensive chloride corrosion after 1975, requiring treatment and partial restoration. Over a year, the National Museum’s conservators and expert contractors completely disassembled all components of the body, chassis, engine and transmission, and chemically stabilised the chassis and body. The engine and transmission were also meticulously treated and reconditioned to functional condition.

The 5CV of Neville Westwood remains in the main hall, until the 3rd of February.