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FOR SOME chauffeurs, a good uniform is the ant’s pants. For Pro Hart’s chauffeur, it was ants all over.

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Australia’s most colourful and beloved bush painter, Pro Hart, had already completely covered his classic Rolls Royce car with bush landscapes and mining scenes when he realised his chauffeur really needed to be arted up to match.

And so it came to pass that South Australia’s Tony Reade became the chauffeur who wore ants to work.

While the glorious Aussie Roller has been on display at the Pro Hart Gallery in Broken Hill, the illustrated chauffeur’s jacket has been hidden away in very safekeeping in suburban Adelaide – until now.

Tony Reade has decided it is time the unique Pro Hart fashion item gained a spot in the public eye to mark the 10th anniversary of the artist’s death.

Reade is not any old chauffeur.

Tony Reade OAM is former Mayor of Walkerville, a suburb of Adelaide. He is also an author who has written about Pro Hart and his fellow “Brushmen of the Bush”. He gained his OAM for services to the community, through Toc H and Rotary, and he has a history of loving and driving classic cars. He once photographed every last vehicle at the huge National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia.

“You should have seen the faces on the people in the street when Pro went by in that painted Rolls Royce,” says Reade.

“Some people were shocked that Pro had dared to paint on such a prestige car. They thought it was a desecration. One fellow actually mooned us.”

Pro Hart painted the Roller in honour of the Year 2000 and used it to make a number of appearances around Australia, chauffeured by Reade.

“He thought I needed chauffeur’s uniform in the spirit of the car,” recalls Reade.

“He told me to go out and buy something good quality and send it up to him In Broken Hill to decorate.  It came back covered in ants and dragonflies and heavily autographed. 

“It is quite an attention-grabber. It is one of a kind. Pro never did anything else in that vein.”

Adelaide art authority Jim Elder concurs that the jacket is a one-off.

“It is not only unique, but it is a crucial piece of Australian art and cultural history,” he adds.

“Already it is attracting interest from potential buyers. Tony's hope, however, is that it will end up in a place where the public can view it.”

While Pro’s Rolls Royce was painted in specific acrylic paints which, on consultation with experts, was chosen to be compatible with the limousine’s duco, the jacket was illustrated with felt-tip pens. The motifs go front and back, up and down the sleeves and all around the collar. 

Reade says he loved the art get-up and the whole experience of driving and working with the beloved Australian artist.

“Pro was a very religious man but he had a great sense of mischief and was full of outrageous ideas,” says Reade. “He once, in jest, threatened to colour bomb Ayers Rock.  He set loose helium balloons carrying tinsel so they would fool people that there were UFOs. He liked to go through fast food drive-thru’s in the Roller. There are many stories about Pro.”

The famous painted Rolls Royce was originally purchased with the proceeds of sales of Pro’s work at Elder Fine Arts from Australian Motors in Adelaide whence Tony Reade drove to Pro in Broken Hill for its traffic-stopping paint job.

Now the jacket is heading to the Elder Fine Arts auction room in Melbourne Street, Adelaide  for a May 15 auction – and who knows what colourful future.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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