TO MOST people, Bean and cars mean a rubber-faced comic driving a bashed-up Mini, but to one pensioner living in Australia they mean a 10,000-mile journey to Britain, and a trip down memory lane, to ride in his grandfather’s old British-built car.
Graeme French (77) had always wondered what had become of his grandfather’s 1925 Bean 14, a 2.3-litre saloon that was made in the West Midlands. The model was launched in 1923 and quickly became very popular, especially in Australia where one example completed an endurance run from Sydney to Darwin.
French’s grandfather, Thomas Woodall, paid £375 (around £20,000 in today’s money) for his Bean in 1934. French remembered riding in it as a young boy. He imagined the car had been scrapped long ago, but little did he know that after his grandfather died, his widow discovered it in a garage he had rented in Smethwick, Birmingham. Having no use for it, she sold it to a classic car enthusiast.
In 1971 the car was bought, fully restored, by the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, in the West Midlands. Around the same time, Graeme French emigrated to Australia but still thought of the old car from time to time. It was while he was looking online that he discovered the museum had a Bean dating from his grandfather’s era. He contacted it and it soon emerged that it was his grandfather’s old car.
French quickly made plans to visit Britain, with his son Timothy, to see it for himself, and repeat that long-cherished ride. Last week, he did exactly that as museum staff rolled the car out of the exhibition hall and fired it up.
“I had always wondered what had become of it,” said French. “It means a lot to be able to ride around in the car. I had very much hoped I’d be able to see it one last time.”
His son, Timothy, said: “I never met my great-grandfather but it’s just been brilliant to ride around in his very first car at the museum, as I’ve only ever seen it in photographs.”