NORM Cook caught the collecting bug from his dad.

After filling his first box, the next boxes were bigger and bigger - until they became shed-sized.

With an eye to his retirement, Norm has bought two Goomeri properties to create the Country Way Museum to showcase his 1927 Pontiac and restored military aircraft engines to the public.

Norm's first aircraft engine - a 1937 Mark V Kestrel V-12 Rolls Royce - was found in Upper Daradgee, north Queensland.

"This motor was sitting in an old fallen-down shed on a property on a cane field," Norm said.

"We traded a set of Japanese First World War army boots for it.

"It took me another 12 years to get it home - I was almost 30-years-old."

The super-charged engine turned out to be "incredibly rare" as it was designed for towing targets, Norm said.

"I've got the letters here from Rolls Royce. They only ever made 10 of them."

After turning down requests from would-be buyers, the engine was donated to the Australian War Memorial in exchange for expenses and a behind-the-scenes tour for his family, which included sitting in restored Messerschmitts and other planes.

With the aid of the Aircraft Museum in Caloundra, Norm went on to restore an Armstrong Siddeley Mark X Cheetah engine to full working condition, and a Whitley bomber engine sourced in America.

The Whitley bombers flew too slowly and were shot down easily by the Germans.

"There's none left in the world that I know of - at all," he said.

His military memorabilia focuses on the two world wars as these were the "greatest conflicts".

"I try to collect a bit of German, Japanese, American and Australia," he said.

Among the unusual items on display are pieces of trench art fashioned from discarded ammunition casings.

"That shell there says AIF - Australian Infantry Force - 1942, 1943, 1944, New Guinea," he said.

"But the shell itself is Japanese. It has become highly collectable."

The display includes medals earned in Gallipoli by wife Kerry's great-great-grandfather Sergeant William Weldon, wartime coins and Japanese occupation money.

"If they were going to occupy a country, say the Philippines for example, they had all the currency already printed, so they go in there and overrun the joint and had all their own currency so they could trade."

Norm's collection has continued to grow and it received a boost when he lived in the north Queensland gulf country.

"They had a lot of good dumps and I went there multiple times," he said.


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