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Why a Mercedes was given to a Qbn man by a Prime Minister (and how you can buy it)

Why a Mercedes was given to a Qbn man by a Prime Minister (and how you can buy it)

The sale of a rare Mercedes Benz by Queanbeyan resident Simon Warner has attracted the attention of local and national news due to the incredible story of an unlikely friendship behind the car. The Mercedes was gifted by Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1996 to Simon’s uncle James Warner, known as Jimmy or Chook, for his friendship and loyalty during his time as a Commonwealth driver. 

“He (Jimmy Warner) picked up Keating first as a Treasurer when Labor got in in ’83, and I think Keating was living in Red Hill. Keating started giving him directions and my uncle was a forthright kind of man so he said, ‘Listen, I’ll worry about driving the car and you worry about the economy’ but it was in more colourful words than that!” nephew Simon Warner says. 

Jimmy Warner with wife Kathy.

Jimmy and Keating’s relationship would continue from this point to be one of not just business but of close companionship. The Queanbeyan driver would stay on with Keating for his duration as Treasurer and then his Prime Ministership, driving him not only to official meetings but also picking up his children from the hospital when they were born and becoming close with the entire Keating family. 


“He was his driver and they became friends, Jimmy did a lot for them, he took the kids to school, all of that sort of stuff, there was so much more that he did other than driving to Parliament House and back, all the other stuff behind the scenes,” Simon says. 

Jimmy Warner with his much-loved Mercedes Benz at a wedding in 1999.

On the very first page of the biography Keating: The Inside Story, by John Edwards, is a tribute to the man that meant so much to Keating – Jimmy Warner. It reads:

“Still sometimes called Chookie Warner in his hometown of Queanbeyan where his parents had run a chicken farm, Jimmy had become almost a more familiar figure and constant presence to the Keating girls than their own father-sufficiently so at least to sometimes brush Katherine’s hair or to sign Caroline into Brownie camp and feel a parental pang as she trotted happily off. A kindly, sardonic, irreverent man who loved golf and horses, Jimmy would  comment, when it was observed to him that Queanbeyan was really very pleasant compared to other towns, that he wouldn’t know, as he hadn’t lived in any other.”

Page 1 of “Keating: The Inside Story” by John Edwards.

Keating attended many Warner family events in Queanbeyan, including two weddings and a 16th birthday party. His attendance at his friend Jimmy’s funeral in 2016 made national news, after he wrote and delivered a four page eulogy about his beloved larrikin driver and their unique mateship.

“He loved Queanbeyan, he had a lot of connections in Queanbeyan and in Jimmy’s eulogy he mentioned that … We grew up in Cooma Street and Jimmy lived up the road and we would come up, he was like a second Dad to me, his kids were roughly our ages, and we’d just go up there and sometimes Keating would just be there at the house, at a nondescript house on Cooma Street.”

The 1972 silver/blue Mercedes Benz is listed on online auction house Allbids with a reserve of $80,000 and is open to bids until 7pm tomorrow, Wednesday 12 October 2022. The exact same colour and make Mercedes in a limousine model was also once owned by Elvis Presley. 


Elvis’ strikingly similar silver/blue Mercedes Benz.

“I’ve had a few auction houses, well more than a few, contact me to get the car, because a apart from the Keating prominence, it’s a striking looking car and its over 50 years old,” Simon says.

“Back in its day, the car was top of the range, it’s got power steering, air conditioning, sunroof, power windows, leather seats, all that stuff and the basic Australian car at that time was just the old Holden or Ford, it was just ahead of it time.”

While the Mercedes Benz was not the official car of the Prime Minister but the personal car of Keating, it symbolises what became a lifelong friendship and many stories along the way. Including the time Keating had to drive Jimmy home from an official event at Parliament House because Jimmy had had a few too many bevvies while he was waiting for his boss )just like any good mate would). 

The car at a Queanbeyan school formal with the original PJK number plates.

“He was a good friend, and they were both family men and they were both loyal … They were like chalk and cheese, but Jimmy called a spade and spade and I think Keating would have liked that,” Simon says.

“When you’re in power I think it’s probably good to keep some ordinary men around to keep you in check.” 

The sale has been an extremely hard decision for Simon and the Warner family, after Keating politely declined the car being returned to his ownership. The original plates that were on the vehicle, PJK 002  (Paul John Keating and the number 2 because it was his second Mercedes) were removed from the car some years ago and will stay in the family as a keepsake.

“It’s just time to sell, time to wind down not up … it’s been a gut-wrenching decision, it’s with a heavy heart that we’ve decided it’s time for a new owner.”

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About the Author: Holly Winchester

Part Jennifer Coolidge, part Jennifer Garner (gaudy and geeky), Holly idolises Dolly Parton and Princess Di and loves NRL. When she's not creating killer content, you’ll find Holly at the Maccas drive thru getting her chai latte fix or buying 1990s memorabilia for the walls of her Googong home. Specialist subject: the Woolies carpark.