National Museum to host exhibition of the popular television series Bush Mechanics

SOME bashed up old cars built last century – one used as a trailer – are the star exhibits at a National Museum exhibit about the hit television series Bush Mechanics.

FIX IT: The EJ Holden with roof cut off.

FIX IT: The EJ Holden with roof cut off.

The series focused on the extraordinary talents and ingenuity displayed by Murri outback mechanics who do imaginative mechanical repairs and conversions with the most rudimentary gear.

Some of their work includes making flat tyres usable by stuffing them with grass and replacing brake pads with home made spares made from steel-hard native timbers.  

A 1962 EJ Holden station wagon, with its roof removed and used as a makeshift trailer, and a Ford Fairlane, painted in traditional Warlpiri designs and traded for pearl shells, are two of the star objects at the exhibition.

The bush mechanics clever resourcefulness can turn branches, spinifex and sand into tools and spare parts to get cars back on the road.

Developed by the National Motor Museum in South Australia, in collaboration with the Warlpiri community and PAW Media, the exhibition is a light-hearted exploration of the importance of the car to life in the outback.

ART WORK: The Ford Fairlaine with traditional paint scheme.

ART WORK: The Ford Fairlaine with traditional paint scheme.

Margo Neale, head of the Indigenous Knowledges Centre and senior indigenous curator, said the bush mechanics’ ingenious solutions to broken down cars defied western systems of thought and attest to the importance of mobility at any cost.

“Mobility has always been important for Aboriginal people who are always on the move for family, ceremony, hunting and gathering. New ways for old practices,” Ms Neale said.

The 1962 EJ Holden from the first episode encapsulates the spirit of the show. Its roof famously caved in while transporting band equipment but this setback was resolved by hacking the roof off and attaching it to the back of the car as a makeshift trailer.

The National Museum acquired it in 2003 from Francis Jupurrurla Kelly, the owner of the car and co-director of the television series.

TOUGH REPAIRS: A little problem is filmed as the bush mechanics resolve a mechanical issue in the middle of nowhere.

TOUGH REPAIRS: A little problem is filmed as the bush mechanics resolve a mechanical issue in the middle of nowhere.

Michelangelo Bolognese, curator of Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition, said the television series captured the imagination of many Australians with its humorous exploration of the relationship between Aboriginal Australia and motoring.

“The touring exhibition on Bush Mechanics is the latest chapter in a story that started over 20 years ago in the little community of Yuendumu,” he said.

“It has been a privilege for the National Motor Museum to show this captivating aspect of life in Central Australia to audiences around the country.”

The quirky four-part series followed five young Warlpiri men as they travel through remote outback Australia in vehicles in various states of roadworthiness, encountering a variety of mechanical problems. The show first went to air in the early 2000s on ABC TV and reached more than three million viewers.