A look inside the Fox Classic Car Collection
Open two days a week in the historic Queen’s Warehouse in Docklands, the evolution of trucking billionaire Lindsay Fox’s classic car collection remains somewhat of a mystery to many in the community.
Docklands News visited on a Saturday in November to get a sense of what’s on offer. Along with Thursdays, Saturdays are the only other day of the week the museum opens to the public, from 10am to 2pm on both days.
The Fox Family Trust, which manages the warehouse and the collection, has been known to rotate the many cars within Mr Fox’s collection since it gained control of the heritage-listed warehouse on the corner of Collins St and Batman’s Hill Drive in 1996.
The trust pays just $1 a year in rent for the building and surrounding land, under a special 99-year lease granted by former Prime Minister Paul Keating and then-Premier Jeff Kennett in 1995.
The lease was issued for the purposes of establishing a public car museum and promoting uses consistent with those purposes. The Kangan Institute has run an automotive TAFE next to Queen’s Warehouse since 1996, which was provided by the trust for a peppercorn sum.
But since those days, the precinct, which extends to the neighbouring site at the corner of Harbour Esplanade and Collins St, has seen very little activity. In 2019, the trust moved the cars out of the warehouse in preparation to remediate the adjacent site ahead of development, but no plans have been revealed since.
The new development has long been understood to house stage three of Kangan’s Docklands campus, as well as an expanded “world-class” car museum managed by the trust. But for now, the collection is made available to the public to view for a total of 8 hours a week.
Upon entering the Queen’s Warehouse, you can’t help but be struck by a rare sense of Docklands’ working-class history, much of which has been diminished or demolished across the rest of the suburb.
The warehouse, which was built as a Customs Bonded Store in 1890, was designed by the Victorian Public Works architect Alexander James Macdonald in the American Romanesque style.
Between 1908 to 1924, it was Australia’s first banknote and stamp printing works. The “Strong Room”, which you can still peer inside today, was built to secure contraband, printed notes, and gold.
During World War Two it became a major goods and warehouse distribution point for wharf and rail.
If you’re a car enthusiast, Fox’s Car Collection naturally provides a fair bit of intrigue. The volunteers who work there are very accommodating, and there are some truly stunning cars, both vintage and modern.
Among the current display, which is largely made up of Porsche, Ferrari and Mercedes, notable features include the Mercedes 280SL – the same model driven by former Beatle John Lennon – and the Porsche 1955 Spyder, the car in which James Dean famously died in while driving.
While there are many memorable cars to see and some interesting gems of automotive history that come along with them, even for an avid petrol head, the current museum offers a fairly static experience.
With 70-odd years left to run on the current dollar-a-year lease arrangement, the Fox Family Trust would understandably be in no hurry to get on with revitalising the museum and the adjoining site, particularly in today’s economy.
But with the lease agreement signed before a single resident called Docklands home, it’s existence should call into sharp focus whether the automotive theme still holds water in the community.
The opportunities for more parklands, community facilities or even affordable housing at the adjoining site, are but a smattering of more valuable uses one could think of for what is publicly owned land.
Not to mention the heritage Queen’s Warehouse itself, which screams of opportunities for an arts and cultural institution that Docklands is sorely lacking at present, and one which connects its users back to Docklands’ past.
But it would appear any talk of a change in use remains an impossibility given the existing long-term lease arrangement that is in place – something reiterated by Development Victoria’s Group Head Precincts, Niall Cunningham.
“There have been no changes or extension to the current lease agreement for the Queen’s Warehouse building,” Mr Cunningham said.
“We’re continuing to work with the Fox Family Trust to consider options to develop the site adjacent to the Queen’s Warehouse to supports the urban renewal of Docklands.” •