Shifting Gear Exhibition (NGV)

For the first time ever an Australian art gallery is presenting an exhibition celebrating Australian car design.

Exclusive to the National Gallery of Victoria, Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car highlights Australia’s rich history of innovative automotive design and engineering, from the earliest steam-powered ‘horseless carriages’ to the present day.

According to Tony Ellwood, Director of the NGV, “As part of the NGV’s commitment to showcasing design, this exhibition uncovers how the modern automobile is far more than simply a means of transport; it is a sophisticated design object that reflects contemporary aesthetics and social values.”

As the title suggests, the exhibition marks a significant and bittersweet point in the history of the Australian automotive industry. While Ford, Holden and Toyota will all cease manufacturing in Australia within the next few years, the design studios will remain, and the impact Australian designers are having internationally is stronger than ever. This was clearly shown at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where three of the most significant cars revealed at the show (Including the dramatic Ford GT supercar and stylish Buick Avenir, which was awarded concept car of the year) were designed by Australians.

23 of Australia’s most iconic vehicles are on display within Shifting Gear, including the distinctive 1969 Holden Hurricane, 1970 GTR-X & 2005 EFIJY concept cars, and the 2011 FR-1 concept from Brian Tanti’s AutoHorizon Foundation. Appropriately the 2015 Buick Avenir concept car takes pride of place outside the entrance to the exhibition; both the exterior design and full scale model were created by GMH’s design studio in Port Melbourne.


Shifting Gear guest curator Harriet Edquist, Director of the RMIT Design Archives, points out, “The exhibition shows the diversity and ingenuity of Australian automobile design in the variety of cars it has brought together – not only the family car but also racing cars and sports cars, high-performance production cars and concept vehicles never intended for production, demonstrating Australia’s significant past and future role in research and development”.

Also on display within the exhibition are sketches, illustrations and various samples from the design process, including the original “Holden Lion” plaster model, which provide an interesting insight into the development of these vehicles. I particularly found the background to the 1929 Chamberlain Special racing car quite impressive; apart from the wheels everything was designed by Alan ‘Bob’ Chamberlain. And he was only 21 at the time!!

Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square until July 12. Open 10am-5pm, closed Mondays. Tickets can be purchased from

Tarmac Toys® would like to thank to Elisabeth Alexander & the rest of the staff at NGV for their fantastic help!

Stuart Kortekaas

About the author: Stuart Kortekaas

Stuart Kortekaas is an Australian industrial designer & photographer. Since completing a masters degree in Sweden he has travelled the world, photographing glamorous locations, exotic sports cars, and some of the world's most beautiful models. For more information, please visit

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