VISIT to the GEORGE HETREL COLLECTION, The Basin – Sunday 6th Oct.

A somewhat cool and overcast day greeted a small gathering at our Breakfast Club assembly point on Sunday 6th October ready for a run to ComoGardens, the home of George and Pat Hetrel. The property is situated in The Basin at the foothills of the Dandenongs, and houses George’s magnificent collection of cars.

Our plan was for David and Claire to go on ahead and take some photos enroute. However the newly fitted disc brakes on our Mini decided that the old master cylinder wasn’t good enough, and left David with a sinking brake pedal about 2 kilometres from home. They limped home and changed over to Claire’s modern Ford Fiesta.

The convoy of Graeme & Elaine Longhurst (Mini Cooper S),  Mark McKibbin (Bugatti),  Ian & Carol Mallows (MX 5),  Colin Touhill (MGB), Ed Denovan (TR 6) and Ray Murphy (Jaguar XK 8) led by Lorraine and myself in our MG Midget, set off and drove to ComoGardens via Nar Nar Goon, Pakenham Upper, Emerald, Kalista and Sassafras then down Mountain Highway to the Basin.

A few of our number missed the Mountain Highway turn off and had an extended tour before discovering the error of their ways and joining us at our destination where we met more club members, Malcolm and Ann Irwin (Subaru WRX), Victor Brandi (Mercedes Coupe),  Dennis  and Nola Brown in a modern Mazda, Ian and Mary Hodge (MG TF),  Rodger and Lorna Chapman (MGB), new member Paul Dowell in his lovely Maroon and Cream 1932 Chevrolet Tourer and another couple of fellows for whom I apologise as I didn’t get to meet, driving an early Blue and White VW Beetle looking resplendent with its chrome Porsche 356 wheels and hub caps. If there were any others present that I have not mentioned please accept my apologies.

Unfortunately George had, according to Pat, suffered a seniors moment and realized he had double booked himself and was not present which was a shame because his personal explanation of all cars in his collection is very interesting.

George’s collection numbers some 15 cars at present ranged from an 1896 Benz, 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, and a 1903 Peugeot all of which George has taken to the UK over the past decade and competed in the London to Brighton rally, and these three cars proudly display their London to Brighton competitor’s plaque. Other cars in the collection are a 1923 Vauxhall 30/98, Lou Molina’s racing MG TA, an Aston Martin DBS, a type 35 Bugatti which George had taken with him, much to the disappointment of Mark McKibbin who I’m sure would have liked to compare notes.

I think the most notable car in the collection is the magnificent 1936 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet one of only 400 built. It is said that when war broke out in 1939 many of these cars were commandeered by the Third Reich and this car is reputed to have been used by Goering.  The eagle topped flag standards on the front guards now thankfully fly the Australian flag, instead of the swastika. Just imagine if that car could talk

After lunch we were treated to a miniature train ride around the beautiful gardens, after which Pat Hetrel took some time out from her busy schedule to give us a history of the gardens which proved quite interesting.

Whilst the weather was cool and bracing for those of us in open cars, it didn’t rain, which was a bonus.

I think most people enjoyed themselves, I know I did, you see it had been some months since I have driven my Midget due to an ankle injury. It just reminded me all over again what a sweet little car it is, and how much fun it is to drive.

Allan Richards

A fabulous spring day was enjoyed by all who made the trip to the magnificent Como Gardens in The Basin to view the wonderful George Hetrel vintage and classic car collection.  This day out was certainly “one with the lot” coming complete with trains, planes, automobiles, gardens and family of resident geese set in the picturesque surrounds of Como Gardens with the added bonus of an unexpected extended tour of the Dandenong Ranges for a few GSCCR members.

Thanks from all those who attended to Allan Richards for organising the day, to our very welcoming host Pat Hetrel, whose expose into the history of Como Gardens provided us all with an insight into magnificent garden estate and of course to Andy the whistle-blowin’ train driver for putting a smile on the face of all the ‘big kids’.

If you have not yet been to Como there is an open Garden weekend on the 19th & 20th October.  It is certainly well worth a visit.

by Malcolm Irwin

Pictures 1-3 by Allan Richards
Pictures 4 – 37 by Malcolm Irwin
 

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More pictures from Claire Richards (added 21st Oct)

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