While it started out as the Victorian Governor’s official limousine, the 1959 Austin Princess that Paul O’Halloran drives to weddings and other special events has had a far more significant brush with royalty. For one week in June 1964, it was the car that ferried the Fab Four around Melbourne.
By the time The Beatles landed at Essendon airport, the car had finished its vice-regal duties and was owned by Frank Dennis, a well-known businessman in the hotel and catering industry. O’Halloran (pictured below) has been a friend of Frank’s son Chris since they were at school.
“The Dennis family told me the car came home after the Beatles tour with lots of dents from the crowds rushing the car,” O’Halloran says. “Chris’ older teenage sisters collected the cigarette butts from the ashtrays as mementos.”
On its trips to the Melbourne Town Hall, Southern Cross Hotel and Festival Hall, the crowds got close-up views of John, Paul, George and Ringo sitting in the spacious rear-passenger section. Manager Brian Epstein sat up front with the driver and a police officer.
“The Princess is a parade car,” reflects O’Halloran. “The occupants can be easily seen and with its folding seats it can accommodate up to nine people. It fits somewhere between a London taxi and a Rolls Royce in size and style and was coachbuilt by Vanden Plas in England to a very high standard.”
Though he was too young to attend the Melbourne concerts himself, O’Halloran has always been an avid Beatles fan. He felt strongly that this link with the band should be preserved, so about 20 years ago he and Chris bought the Princess from Frank Dennis.
“These days it’s mainly used for weddings, though recently it took a woman and her son to My Fair Lady to celebrate her 88th birthday. It’s the older generations that are fascinated with the Beatles connection. The younger ones just like the look of it.”