By ERWIN CHLANDA
A Rolls Royce highlighting the unique character of The Centre is being moved from its prominent location in Alice Springs, a town with great stories and known for motoring events such as the Finke.
On November 23, 1918 Col. H. R. Lloyd of St James Park, London SWI, placed a £50 deposit on an Alpine Eagle Rolls Royce four passenger open touring car. It was completed at a cost of £1575 in 1920.
It was soon sold to Commander J. Biddlecombe of Golf Hill, Shelford, England, who for reasons not entirely clear shipped the Roller to Australia where in 1926/27 it became a roosting place for poultry.
It was another 10 years before the vehicle became a significant asset in the development of pastoralism and aviation in the Northern Territory.
Pioneer Eddie Connellan used it for purposes ranging from bore runs to transporting tourists, general cattle station work at Narwietooma and – most significantly – grading airstrips.
The late Mr Connellan was the founder of the NT airline Connair which started with mail runs and medical patient transport, key to the commercial development of the Territory, servicing Ayers Rock and other Territory centres and establishing a sophisticated aircraft maintenance and upgrading facility in Alice Springs.
The glass enclosure housing the Roller.
Tomorrow the historic modified Silver Ghost, restored by Dave Simpson, will be removed from the Alice Springs airport where it has been on display opened by Bernie Kilgariff on September 27, 2001.
The car, now owned by Mr Connellan’s son Chris, will be taken to the Aviation Museum, a popular tourist attraction but with a visitor number of about 8900 before Covid, well short of the airport’s 617,186 a year.
Tourism Central Australia Danial Rochford says the vehicle is an “important part of our history” but its display in the museum is “appropriate”.
Joseph Dhollande, Facilities Manager of the airport, wrote to Mr Connellan: “It is no longer viable to have the vehicle located here at the airport, as it is causing significant congestion with the new security screening area.”
Mr Connellan suggested to move the display to the large baggage area: “It may entertain passengers arriving in town while they wait and advertise the amazing Araluen Precinct which houses the most unique aviation museum in Australia.”
Mr Connellan received no reply to that.
He says the airport offered to assist with the removal of the Rolls Royce but declined to obtain insurance for it.
Enough room in the baggage section, argues Mr Connellan. No answer from the airport.
We have requested comment from the Airport Development Group.
PHOTO of the engine: Cubic capacity 7428 cc; 40/50 horsepower. The vehicle was restored for Chris Connellan by Dave Simpson. It was driven for the first time since 1954 on April 19, 1997.
UPDATE 3.20pm: The museum’s Franca Frederiksen says she and Jim Thomas were advised by Mr Dhollande that the transportation of the car is covered by the transporter: “Nothing to do with the airport once it leaves the premises.”
UPDATE August 26, 2.20pm: An airport spokeswoman provided a statement but evaded answering some questions from the News.
In written replies she said: “The current placement of the Rolls Royce at Alice Springs airport is causing significant congestion due to the new security screening area.”
We asked: There seem to be other interior spaces that could be suitable. Chris Connellan mentioned the baggage area, and there appears to be little use of the western end of the entrance hall.
The spokeswoman said: “A risk assessment has shown there is not an alternative space for the vehicle. Congestion is considered a risk factor and it has been determined that the vehicle needs to be removed from the terminal as there is no other suitable location.”
We asked: Who carried out the risk assessment? What was it based on? What did it find? What did it say? Is there a formula for required space per person? If so what is it, and would the presence of the display – 20 square meters? – be a problem if moved elsewhere?
The spokeswoman did not respond to this.
She said: “I’ve been advised that Central Australian Aviation Museum (CAAM) are happy to take the vehicle and have the availability to display it at the museum.
“The Alice Springs Airport has advised that we are happy to assist with the cost of relocation of the vehicle to a location within Alice Springs, and to facilitate the removal and relocation of the glass cabinet.”
The car was moved to the CAAM this morning.