Motor museum to revive Fletcher Jones site

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dean montgomery
The new owner of the Fletcher Jones site, Dean Montgomery, is in Warrnambool for a couple of days to check out his purchase and to chat with locals about their ideas.  He has also arrived with a few of his own.


[dropcap style=”color: #a5cecd;”] I [/dropcap]t has been a long time since there has been a feeling of genuine excitement around a project in Warrnambool, but the new owner of the former Fletcher Jones factory, Dean Montgomery,  is about to change all that.

Dean, who is based in China but who grew up in a working class family in Geelong, took some time out today (26/5) to have lunch with Bluestone Magazine and the two key players in the grassroots campaign to save the best of the FJ site, Tonia Wilcox and Julie Eagles.

Although it was not planned as an official interview, and hence I am writing this as an Opinion piece rather than a story with quotes from Dean, he was quite happy to sketch out his very broad brush plans for the derelict factory and revealed that a key component will be setting up a classy motor museum in the eastern end.

Did you hear that? A museum. How absolutely magnificent and not only is this just the sort of usage that Bluestone has always argued would be perfect for such a large and high-profile site, it will provide a much-needed shot in the arm to Warrnambool’s tourism appeal.

Dean is a self-confessed motor enthusiast – and so why wouldn’t he take this opportunity to create his own giant garage in an industrial space? – but don’t be fearful that this will be a museum full of bogan cars and hot rods. Having spent a couple of hours chatting with him today, it is clear that he has much more class than that.

car museum
Plans for a classic car motor museum in the former Fletcher Jones site has the potential to open up a new tourism market for Warrnambool, just as the National Motor Museum in Birdwood has done in the Adelaide Hills (pictured above).

[dropcap style=”color: #a5cecd;”] W [/dropcap]hile it is very early days, with so much to be done, such a museum has the capacity to again put Warrnambool on the map as a must-visit destination, just like the Birdwood National Motor Museum has done in the Adelaide Hills.

It will provide an incentive for tourists on the Great Ocean Road to keep driving beyond Port Campbell rather than cutting up through Timboon, as so many now do, to reconnect with the Princes Highway back to Melbourne.

My head is already running away with ideas, as it tends to do, for an annual classic car rally along the Great Ocean Road that would start at the T&G building in Geelong (which Dean and his brother own and have restored), and finish at the Fletcher Jones site in Warrnambool.

Warrnambool has a strong classic car culture (I can still remember the customised panel van shows held at the Warrnambool Drive-In in the 70s) and, from what I can see, there is no large-scale, up-market, classy car museum anywhere else in Victoria.

What a fantastic opportunity and even though I can’t tell the difference between an EH and EJ Holden, I would much rather see a car museum on the site than a hardware store.

silver ball stars
The stars have aligned for the Fletcher Jones silver ball and the future is again looking bright. Image courtesy of Andrew Kirkham, A&E Photography.

[dropcap style=”color: #a5cecd;”] D [/dropcap]ean, who is a self-made millionaire from manufacturing commercial kitchen equipment (everything from stainless steel benches to chef aprons, glassware and crockery), also has plans for a cafe within the FJ site and has made a very public commitment to keeping (and restoring) the iconic silver ball and gardens.

Indeed from how Dean was talking today, he is not planning to pull down anything, but rather to repair and restore what is there – including removing the asbestos that has, for some strange reason, always been held up as an insurmountable obstacle.

Dean doesn’t talk about obstacles: he talks about opportunities. He doesn’t appear to fret about “red tape”, but talks about finding a way through it.

This is how he has, to date, been able to take on projects such as the T&G building in Geelong and the Leura Hotel in Camperdown (be sure to stop and take a peek in the window next time you are passing through).

For those who had written the FJ site off, it is a reminder of what positive, creative thinking can do. For those who always believed in its potential – like the 600-plus people in the Save the Silver Ball and Fletchers Gardens group – it is a dream come true.

Warrnambool has a beating heart again, and it is round, silver and sitting on top of three red legs.

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Stones Smile newsletter Read the background stories on our Fletcher Jones campaign here…


A different way of doing things

Imagine the skyline without Fletcher Jones

Don’t drop the ball on Fletcher Jones

Close Flagstaff Hill; save Fletcher Jones

Who will step up for Fletcher Jones?

Fletcher Jones site taken off the market

Keeping the spirit of Fletcher Jones alive

19 thoughts on “Motor museum to revive Fletcher Jones site”

  1. We have only just been to the Motor Museum at Bathurst yesterday and LOVED IT and so many car clubs arriving over the 3 days we overlooked it…
    A fantastic idea and one that will bring lots of extra tourists/clubs to our town.
    Total thumbs up!!

  2. As a “supporter” of the FJ site and as a seasoned car enthusiast, I can’t begin to express how pleased I am to read this.
    Dean is the regions newest local hero!

  3. This story just brought a tear to my eye. What a breath of fresh air to have Dean taking such a positive view to the site, and all the possibilities that it holds. A car museum is a great way to start. Thank-you Dean. This is just what Warrnambool needs.

  4. So wish my Dad (Classic Chev collector) was alive – he would LOVE this idea. It is a perfect link between these two iconic coastal cities of Victoria. Great thinking

  5. Sounds like a welcome win for all. While I’d never visit a motor museum, enthusiasts will and people like me will simply be pleased to see a fading monument to industry and an icon of Australian clothing, restored to its former glory.

    1. The great news, Marilyn, is that this is just one of several key elements that Dean has planned for the site. There are thoughts of refreshing the market space, adding a funky cafe, plus an assortment of other things which will no doubt be revealed in time. He has also just begun the process of asking others what they might like to do with the space, so there is some room for creativity there. At the end of the day, it sounds like it will be a wonderful mix of a museum, a classy market, cafe, artists studios and smaller tenancies. All very exciting and SO much better than ‘big box’ retail which was pretty much the other alternative put forward by other potential buyers.

  6. Great to hear of the ideas, plans and thinking outside the box. My son builds hot rods , I’m sure he will be excited.

  7. Fantastic idea and perfect for some of the space at the Fletcher Jones site.
    I took the opportunity today to go to Fletcher Jones and shake Deans hand and pat him on the back and thanked him for what he is doing.
    He was so humble and friendly and willing to listen to ideas and I am so excited for what the future holds for this site and what it will bring to Warrnambool and the legacy of Fletcher Jones will live on. Wow two men who both had vision!

  8. You know Trudy, I said exactly the same thing to Dean today – that he reminded me of a 2014 version of Fletcher Jones. A self-made person with humility and a generosity of spirit that can lift communities up – rather than press them down in pursuit of sheer profit. What a perfect person to be taking on this challenge.

  9. Great idea ! it was only a few weeks ago I was talking about having a car museum in Warrnambool as we have a huge number of pristine vehicles in sheds about the district , I have a few Holden treasures and some very rare Holden items I would be only to happy to loan for display purposes

  10. That just warms my heart….what a breath of fresh air our wonderful city needs.

  11. Ohhh best idea ever. Actually a good idea and use of the vast space. Open it up for car clubs etc to have a constant change of displays, plus there is still plenty of room for other initiatives.

  12. What a visionary idea, Dean. Perhaps a fully restored fj holden could be the centrepiece, as a tribute to the great man? And the fact that Dean and his brother want to restore the whole site, or as much as possible, is wonderful to hear. Congratulations to the stalwarts who kept this story in the public eye.

  13. G’day
    I enjoy the silver ball and do plan to walk around the fj gardens one day.
    I am pleased to hear of the plans to keep the ball.
    Your comments regarding tourism injection and the beating heart of the city remind me of when the standard told me that if there was no horse jumping in May four years ago that Warrnambool would implode.
    Love your work.

  14. As a member of the FX FJ Holden Club of Australia I say……
    “Build it and they shall come”

  15. What a great idea!! As Holden enthusiasts, this is a great opportunity to share the passion.

  16. Great news to know Victoria will have a motoring museum. I am in a Panel Van Club, well 2 actually and the van scene is once again growing in a big way so be assured there will be a convoy of VANS cruising down the Great Ocean Road when it opens. Can’t wait….

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