13 February 2024

Nearly a century after it left the lot, 'Bert' returns home to Cooma

| James Coleman
Join the conversation
Vintage car on trailer

Cooma Car Club president Rogan Corbett and the Chrysler’s owner Neville Marsden preparing to unload the car. Photo: Tony Nassar.

When Bertie Churchill bought himself a brand new Chrysler in 1927, little did he know it would wind up back in his hometown nearly 100 years later.

The grey and black vintage car, complete with its ‘Bert’ numberplate and wooden wheels, has rolled back into Cooma and its now-permanent home at the Cooma Car Museum. Maybe not under its own steam (it was on a trailer), but it could have been.

“It’s all original and in pretty good condition,” Cooma Car Club president Rogan Corbett says.

“We’re keen to have it pride of place in our museum.”

READ ALSO Could this be the Ford ‘Crown car’ that ferried Sir John Kerr around Canberra in 1975?

According to Rogan, Bertie was born and bred in Cooma and was a “lovely chap and very authentic car dealer”. He bought the car as a business partner in the local Burke and Churchill dealership, which sold Morris and Austin cars in the early 20th century.

“He had it all his years, and when he passed away in the late 1970s, a friend by the name of Neville Marsden bought the car off the family and stored it in a shed in Braidwood,” Rogan explains.

After a visit to the museum late last year, Neville decided to donate the car for permanent safekeeping.

“He rang up about a month ago and said, ‘Look, I want this car to come back to Cooma’,” Rogan says.

“He came and visited, was pretty impressed with what we’ve got here, and asked if we’d like to have the car on permanent display.”

Car museum

‘Bert’ feeling right at home in the Cooma Car Museum. Photo: Tony Nassar.

Outside its historic connection to Cooma, the car is impressive in its own right. Not only is it in remarkably original condition, but Chrysler was also the first carmaker to fit hydraulic brakes as standard to passenger cars in 1924, despite mass scepticism from other brands.

“Hydraulic brakes were a very new-fangled idea in 1927. Ford said it was never going to work. But Chrysler did it anyway, and now they’re obviously on every car we drive.”

The same straight-six engine under the bonnet was also used in Chrysler’s Le Mans cars in 1925, 1928 and 1929, so there’s some degree of motorsport pedigree, too.

READ ALSO Ford v Ferrari? Relive it live at the Canberra Festival of Speed

The Cooma Car Museum – located on the old site of an indoor gymnasium and cricket stadium on 11 Bolaro Street – is the result of a grant from the NSW Government’s Regional Tourism Activation Fund and three years of hard work by the Cooma Car Club.

It opened in February 2020 with 38 cars, “everything from a tiny BMW Isetta bubble car to a football-pitch-sized Cadillac Fleetwood”. Other noteworthy entries included a 1942 Dodge Flying Four converted to run on charcoal, a D-Type Jaguar, plenty of Ferraris, and “one of the better Model-T Fords in Australia … complete with vases of flowers and doctors bags in it.”

Since then, the collection has grown slightly to 42 cars and attracted more than 10,000 visitors.

Cooma Car Club

The museum even includes a replica 1950s diner. Photo: Cooma Car Club.

“We’ve had a lot of car clubs from Sydney, Melbourne – all over the place – come to visit us,” Rogan says.

“Not only that, busloads of people turn up as well. It’s become a major tourist attraction in our area.”

Rogan says the club members are “pretty excited” to welcome the 1927 Chrysler.

“We’ve got all sorts of cars here, including an old truck that was sold new here in Cooma in 1956 – still with the original signwriting on the door … It’s an honour to have something like this.”

The Cooma Car Museum is open by appointment only. Contact the Cooma Visitor Centre on 1800 636 525 to arrange a booking.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Great story, I will look at paying the place a visit next trip up that way.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.