MARCH MONTHLY MEETING, Drouin Golf Club – Thursday 12th March

Last month’s mention of the protocols for parking outside the Clubrooms seems to have been heeded this month, even though a closer look at the badges on some of the sedans may have been required to establish their sporting or classic car credentials. We certainly had an eclectic selection this month, more in keeping with the Club’s ethos.

The vehicle taking pride of place on the green carpet inside, was a 2004 BMW 645 convertible belonging to John Hogbin’s friend, Bruce Cake. Powered by a 4.4 litre V8 driving through a 6-speed auto, this luxury 2-door cruiser is very-well equipped and has been religiously serviced every 12 months even though it has covered only 132,000km. Bruce still has a few minor bugs to sort out with the electric mirrors, Bluetooth connection and a recalcitrant key fob, but nothing insurmountable I’m sure.

Our second guest speaker for the night was Greg Walker, a Gippslander who gave up football after breaking his wrist in 1977 and took up rally driving. To begin his career, Greg, with no experience,  brought the ex-Bob Watson Renault 8 Gordini, but totalled it on his third event! In 1978 he brought a Renault 12 Virage and decided to enter it in the 1979 Repco Reliability Trial. The car was stripped and seam welded, a roll cage and long-range fuel tanks were fitted. Renault Australia pitched in with competition clutch and drive shafts. A bank of Cibie Oscars were spread across the front and skid pans protected the underneath. The event covered 19,500km in 13 days. Of the 167 starters, 92 finished with only 32 completing the whole course. Greg’s team came home in 55th outright position and 8th in their class. The Renault was sold after the event, but Greg bought it back and did a few more rallies in it until destroying the engine in 1983. The car was then sold again and Greg withdrew from motorsport until 2018 when he by chance heard of the plans to run a 40-year Reunion Re-run of the Reliability Trial. This was to be a somewhat saner event than the original rally due to the implications of speed limits and health and safety concerns, but Greg and his team were hooked. They purchased a 1976 1.4-litre Renault 12 Virage from the President of the NSW Renault Car Club and poured $25,000 into it trying to recreate the specifications of the original car they used in 1979.

This re-run event covered 15,000km in 15 days and competing in a 43-year-old car was certainly a challenge. Greg detailed the problems encountered enroute which included a broken speedo cable (no speedo, tripmeter or Halda), electrical issues with light switches, gearbox, clutch, drive-shaft and exhaust problems, and a rear brake calliper that fell off. Nevertheless, with massive support from the Renault Clubs and supporters around the country, the car made it to the end to be classified as a finisher. A remarkable effort and an interesting story. The Club thanks Greg for sharing his experience of both events with us and hopes he gets the car back on the road again soon.

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