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ANTARCTICA 1

Cont.

A Melbourne man had, for sale to the highest bidder, a numberplate which he believes is an original from VW 'Antarctica 1'.  The 'plate is being promoted on the world market, in particular the United States, where it was on offer for $US5000 through enthusiast car magazines.  Graham Vickery, who lives at Frankston, on the Mornington Peninsula outside Melbourne, "inherited" the curio about 15 years ago from a friend, who claimed some kind of direct association with the car some time after it was returned to Australia in 1964. Only recently did Graham decide to exploit its value as a collectible.  He believes the 'Antarctica 1' licence plate to be authentic, although he acknowledges it would be difficult to establish conclusively.  For the truly curious, it is made of aluminium sheet, rather than mild steel.  He has supplied a photograph of the plate, and on comparison with available literature it appears to have too many holes, but that may have been at the hands of previous unsympathetic owners.  His plate is a black numeral '1' on a white background, with a black pinstripe outline, as per the cover photograph of 'VW Of Australia Review', June 1963.  It is faded, as might be expected if it is genuine, but in generally good, straight condition.  Volkswagen factory publicity shows the plate as white on black, which may have been simply a more graphic effect for newspaper advertising.  Asked why he has just the one 'Antarctica I' licence plate, when there originally would have been a pair, Graham Vickery remarked that the previous owner said he had two, but deliberately destroyed one to make the survivor more valuable!  Not wanting to inhibit Graham's chances of a big-time sale, and it may be that his is 'The Real McCoy', but there were suspicions of forgeries after far too many of these specimens turned up at auctions in the late 1960s and 70s.  A certified bona fide 'Antarctica 2' licence plate is known to exist in the possession of Professor Gunter Weller, a glaciologist at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska.  Gunter was part of the 1965 ANARE expedition to the Australian Antarctic, and used as transportation the orange #2 car during the year, journeying regularly to his scientific station at GWAM, behind the Mawson station. He was also posted there in 1961.  On his return to Australia at the next changeover, he 'souvenired' the licence plate from the engine lid. It now sits on the wall of his office at the University Of Alaska, Fairbanks.

The first VW, Antarctica 1, spent a year at Mawson, competing with dog teams and larger tracked vehicles, such as the Snowtrac.  Subjected to smothering snows, bitter cold (-52C) and knifing 200 km/h winds, it turned out to be excellent for running around the station and short traverses of the ice-bound country.  Air-cooled, it never froze; tightly sealed, it was immune from drifting snow, which at Mawson was so fine it could blow through tack holes!  Scientists called it their 'Red Terror' while VW proudly named it Antarctica 1 - "The first production car to visit Antarctica". 

On its return to Australia after the year was up, it was replaced by a similar orange 1964 VW named "Antarctica 2" which served there through 1964 and into 1969, at the end of which it was returned to Australia.  This second Antarctic-dwelling Beetle, upon landing back home, was circulated to various dealerships for display.  In 1969, one of those outlets was Smith's of Ringwood, Melbourne.  Kevin Edwards, then car sales manager of this establishment, remembers the Ringwood showroom was particularly suitable for such a role.  He recalls, in addition, that that year Volkswagen Australia issued them with two unusual all-purpose VW utility vehicles for display, of a type not seen previously.  One of the pair was sold through a sub agent in the Mansfield district of Eastern Victoria.  Antarctica 2 was 'international orange', and like the red sister car had ANARE labels on the doors, as well as the special number plates.  If it had been available for sale after that adventure, it should have attracted a premium to market value because of its history.  Five years of concerted abuse must have depreciated it somewhat; the snow chains for instance, are reported to have flogged the mudguards to within a micron of their lives.  Characters of the early 1960's ANARE fraternity, who either operated or performed mechanical service on Car #1 or #2, confirmed both cars received a most vigorous workout.  

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