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Aussie Invader III put up for sale as Australia’s largest car museum closes

Published in blog.hemmings.com

McGlashan with the Aussie Invader III. Photos courtesy Lloyds.

When collector-car dealer Tony Denny set up shop in Australia five years ago, he aimed to build the country’s largest car museum-slash-dealership, and went on a buying spree to meet that goal. However, with the abrupt closing of his Gosford Classic Car Museum last month, more than 150 of the museum’s vehicles have been sent to auction, including Rosco McGlashan’s 637-mph Aussie Invader III rocket-powered land-speed racer.

Denny’s decision to close the New South Wales museum came after what he called “an ongoing and unresolved dispute” with the Australian Taxation Office. The dispute started in 2016, a year after Denny bought a former hardware store warehouse to house his personal collection alongside the former Rambler Museum of Western Australia collection and a growing inventory of Australian, American, and European cars and motorcycles.

According to Denny, he moved forward with his plan to display his collector-car inventory as a museum open to the public “after receiving indications from the ATO itself that the structure and entity fully complied with Australian taxation rules.”

He’d amassed as many as 300 cars when, during a 2016 audit, the ATO objected to the use of the word “museum” to describe the operations of Denny’s business, which indicated it operated as a dual-purpose venture. The ATO thus decided to rescind the business’ luxury car tax and goods and services tax exemptions, and forced it to remove “museum” from its name.

As a result, Denny said overall sales dropped from as many as 59 cars per month to as low as five cars per month, and museum attendance plummeted, amounting to losses of AUS $2 million per year. While Denny fought the ATO’s ruling, and even started planning a seven-story addition to the museum “to act as the Australian base for specialist international auction houses” last year, he said he didn’t see any resolution to the dispute and threw in the towel late last month. “Given the expected lengthy timeframes for resolving disputes via litigation, the dealership cannot continue to sustain these trading losses and has decided to close its doors,” he wrote on his site.

While media reports at the time stated that the museum’s entire collection would go up for auction at no reserve, only about half of it is currently listed with Lloyds Auctioneers. Included in the auction are a number of American Motors vehicles (including a one-off Rambler Rebel SST hearse bodied by Australian Motor Industries, the Australian assembler of AMC vehicles), a pair of GAZ limousines, both an E38 and an E49 Chrysler Charger R/T, and the aforementioned Aussie Invader III.

After McGlashan set the Australian land-speed record in 1994 in his jet-powered Aussie Invader II, he set his sights on the world land-speed record, aiming to drive the same car past the then-11-year-old record, which stood at 633.468 mph (or 1,019.468 kph). The Aussie Invader II never made it. While traveling at about 580 mph on a run in February 1995 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia, McGlashan in the Aussie Invader II hit a wet and slushy portion of the track; the crash that resulted destroyed the Aussie Invader II and obliterated the timing equipment.

McGlashan, however, walked away from the crash undeterred and immediately began work on Aussie Invader III, which featured a one-piece Kevlar body and a SNECMA 9K-50 ATAR axial-flow turbojet engine good for 18,000 pounds of thrust, the same type of engine he used in the Aussie Invader II.

Completed and back on the salt at Lake Gairdner in 1996, Aussie Invader posted a top speed of 1,026 kph (about 638 mph), which did exceed the Richard Noble’s average speed in the 1983 record (but not Noble’s top speed of 1,047.49 kph while setting the record). Poor weather reportedly kept McGlashan from backing that top speed with a record run, and he wasn’t able to return to the salt before Andy Green bumped the record to 763.035 mph (1,229.051 kph) in October 1997.

“This increase in speed made Aussie Invader III redundant,” McGlashan wrote on his site. Regardless, he held on to Aussie Invader III until 2012, when he put it up for sale with an AUS $350,000 asking price, with the proceeds earmarked for the development and construction of Aussie Invader 5R, the rocket-powered land-speed racer with which he intends to best Green’s record on the way to 1,000 mph.

Notably, the ATO nearly derailed that effort as well in 2017 when it rescinded a research and development tax incentive worth AUS $450,000 and demanded McGlashan pay back AUS $180,000 of that amount, plus interest, or else forfeit the Aussie Invader 5R itself. McGlashan was able to resolve the issue a few months later and still plans to make a run for the record, though he has yet to announce a timeline for doing so.

Current bid for the Aussie Invader III stands at $30,150 (about USD $21,400) ahead of the April 6-7 auction of the Gosford collection in New South Wales. For more information on the auction, visit LloydsOnline.com.au, and for more information on McGlashan’s Aussie Invader land-speed record effort, visit AussieInvader.com.