BOLWELL FACTORY VISIT – Sunday 16th December

To the Australian classic car enthusiast, Bolwell is a name synonymous with home-grown fibreglass sports cars usually powered by Holden or Ford powerplants, with other major components sourced from locally-available donor vehicles. The business was started by brothers Campbell and Graeme Bolwell at a factory in Mordialloc in the mid-60s. The Bolwell Mk.4 was their first commercial model and it sold over 200 units. Bolwell Cars went on to create five different commercial models, selling around 800 cars in total and in doing so, etched a place in Australian Automotive history. From sports cars the company then diversified into other fibreglass and composite products such as truck bodies, caravans and the massive blades used on wind turbines.

Bolwell now has a production plant in Thailand as well as one in Mordialloc. The factory we visited in Seaford is called the Research and Development Facility, but it was also referred to as Campbell’s hobby shed where he gets to play with cars.

Sporting Register member Ross McConnell has worked on and off at Bolwell since the early days in Mordialloc, he owns the blue Nagari which is seen occasionally at our Breakfast Club gatherings. His invitation to the Club to visit Bolwell’s Seaford factory was taken up by around 70 members and their friends who were given an introduction to the company and its history by Ross before he handed over to Toby who unveiled the prototype Nagari 500. This is a recent development of the V6-engined Nagari 300. Whilst the 300 utilises a transverse Toyota V6 engine and gearbox assembly, the 500 has a longitudinal Chev LS3 V8 coupled up to an Audi 6-speed transaxle. Because the 500 is still in the development stages and has yet to be presented to the motoring media, we were asked not to photograph it. Although it looks similar to the 300, it is longer and wider with the windscreen being the only part shared between models.   

Club members were able to wander around the factory inspecting various moulds and jigs on display as well as a bare 500 bodyshell under construction which gave an insight into how the cars are produced and assembled.  It was surprising to discover another link to our club with Graeme Longhurst’s son, Brett, involved in the computer design of the car’s subframes and suspension components through his company Bremar Automation.

At around midday, we thanked Ross and Toby for opening up the shop and providing us with a comprehensive and frank insight into their business, as well as for their hospitality in providing morning tea for many more people than were expected. About twenty members then made their way, via a very convoluted route, to the Café Moto in Carrum for lunch. Malcolm Irwin had reserved us a couple of tables and we all enjoyed a nice meal in good company with interesting décor and excellent service.

Photos by Steve Schmidt and Ross McConnell

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DECEMBER BREAKFAST CLUB, Warragul CBD – Sunday 9th December

An overnight thunderstorm with impressive thunder and lightning left its legacy in the form of damp roads and puddles, but with it came a welcome freshness following days of high humidity and temperatures in the mid-thirties.  Linking the storm to the surprising number of early arrivals at this month’s gathering may be drawing the long bow, but it’s becoming tougher to find a prime position in the southern section of the car park unless you arrive well before 8am. Your correspondent took the easy option this month, calling on the ‘waiting-to-be-washed’ Fiat 124 Coupe to work a double shift following on from last weekend’s Christmas Social Drive to Neerim South – this way at least, there’s only the one car needing a wash! Amongst those already in place by 7:45am were several sports cars, some with their roofs stowed away, others with them erected. New Member, and regular Breakfast Club attendee, Denis Varley is seldom seen with the roof up on his Healey 100/4 and this morning was no different. Likewise, the Aitkens with their Healey 3000 and Jaime Drysdale’s Nissan 370Z, both leaving their soft-tops snuggly stowed away.

We don’t usually reserve parking spaces – it’s a very egalitarian gathering, but Ray Youlden was protecting the space beside his Mercedes E55 AMG with some vigour until Rob Coustley arrived in his recently purchased E63 AMG which is pretty much the same beast as Ray’s, but powered by a 6.3 litre normally-aspirated V8 rather than the supercharged 5.5 litre unit. Having both Mercs parked together with bonnets open was an interesting sight, although some bright spark remarked, it looked as if they had both broken down! Over recent years a trend has been developing amongst members of our club to buy superseded, high-end, performance luxury cars from manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW, on the used car market. When a well-maintained, low mileage 10-year-old AMG Benz or Bimmer M-car can be had for the price of a new Camry, the driving enthusiast doesn’t require much convincing to plant his/her backside in the European leather. Another case-in-point at this gathering was a recently acquired 2009, V-10 powered, BMW M5 in beautiful condition with less than 70,000km on clock. It was purchased for $50K – when new, this vehicle sold in Australia for around $250,000.

Old-school leather and walnut in the form of Lord and Lady Fowler’s 1965 S-type Jaguar made a welcome reappearance at this event after being garaged with valve train issues back in 2010. A full and comprehensive mechanical restoration now has the big cat purring like a kitten. Paul Montagnat sprung a surprise on us when he arrived this month in a silver, left-hand-drive Studebaker Avanti coupe which must be one of the more interesting American designs from the mid-60s and keeping with the American theme, there was a nice tidy Mustang convertible from 2002 making what I believe to be its debut appearance.

With around seventy vehicles on display this month, there was no shortage of variety or interest from participants and the passing crowd. It was good to see Alex Weymouth out and about with his dad after his recent open-heart surgery, but a bit of a shock to see the walking-wounded Ed Denovan and Phil Barnard bandaged up after coming off second best to incidents with their log-splitter and bicycle respectively. Get well soon guys.

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CHRISTMAS BREAK-UP SOCIAL DRIVE and BARBEQUE

It was meant to be Summer, but after a stormy night that delivered 30mm of rain, the temperature was struggling to reach into the teens. A stiff westerly wind maintained the chill factor way below that, whilst further showers looked to be on the cards.

It was therefore not surprising to find a dearth of roofless sports cars assembling outside the Darnum Stump Tearooms at the appointed time of departure. It looked as though the weather had influenced our numbers as well, with only ten cars participating in the run from Darnum through Shady Creek to Willow Grove, Hill End, Fumina, Noojee and Neerim North before finishing at Mike and Di Whitford’s farm at Neerim South. The drive north from Hill End through the State Forest to the Baw Baw Tourist Road has been rezoned from 100 to 80km/h in an effort to protect us from ourselves, but there are plenty of bends that can still be enjoyed without transgressing the limit. It appears as though somebody must have fallen off their bike and broken a fingernail on the Tourist Road as well, because it too is now 80km/h all the way into Noojee despite it being an excellent piece of road with wide verges and good visibility. The idiocy of these inappropriate speed limits could not have been better illustrated than was apparent when turning onto the Old Fumina Rd which is a single lane, bumpy goat-track that twists and turns its way up out of the Torongo River valley at Noojee to the ridge at Neerim North. This road is zoned at 100km/h, although you’d be pushing hard to reach it. I’m not advocating lowering the speed limit on this road, rather, we need to reinstate the 100km/h limits on the other roads and credit drivers with enough common sense (or properly educate them) to determine what would be the safe speed to travel at given the prevailing conditions and the performance of their vehicle. If our Nanny State government keeps reacting in this way to every incident that occurs on our rural roads, we’ll soon return to the days of driving behind a man walking with a red flag!!  END OF RANT 😊

Despite a lack of route directions or maps, our convoy remained intact all the way to Neerim South by following the simple rules of following the car in front and not departing from an intersection until the car behind could see which way you were turning. Two more vehicles joined us at Mike and Di’s place and we settled down on the front porch and under a hastily erected gazebo over the BBQ, to enjoy some conversation and a meal out of the wind, persistent drizzle and occasional shower. It was a shame for Mike and Di that the weather was so inclement, they have a beautiful dairy farm property backing onto the Tarago Reservoir with lovely gardens and magnificent trees surrounding the almost century-old family home. We had plans of playing croquet, darts and quoits, but that also gave in to the conditions. Nevertheless we all appreciated the warmth of the Rotary Club’s towable BBQ that Ian Holdsworth had organized, and enjoyed our meals with salads and sweets provided.

Many thanks to Mike and Di for their hospitality as well as a big thanks to all who joined us on the drive and endured the less-than ideal conditions.

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GEELONG REVIVAL, Historic Quarter-mile Sprints – Sunday November 25th

What could possibly go wrong driving fifty-year-old sports cars around a curved, quarter-mile course at the picturesque Geelong beachfront on a fine November weekend? Quite a lot it seems !

Early on the Sunday a rare Daytona Coupe rearranged its front-end styling trying to bulldoze water-filled safety barriers at the end of the 300-metre braking area, unfortunately this iconic classic took no further part in the event, save for being left in staging area as a reminder to drivers to take care when braking from warp speed at the end of the sprint. Of course, some cars and motorbikes are faster than others and braking efficiency varies with age and different makes and models. Graeme Hollingsworth’s E-type Jaguar has excellent brakes, much better than those originally fitted in the 1960s and they are capable of locking all four wheels in an emergency stop from around 100mph. How do we know? We know because Graeme’s throttle stuck open when he came off the loud pedal crossing the finishing line during his third run on Sunday. As he jumped on the brakes and threw in the clutch, the brakes locked, slewing the car towards the barriers lining the left side of the track where the front, near-side tyre took a glancing blow bouncing the car’s trajectory towards more barriers on the other side of the track. Flicking the accelerator pedal with a toe freed the throttle, and now with most of the speed washed off, the Jag was bought under control and driven gingerly into the return assembly area. Expecting to see crumpled panels and damaged suspension, Graeme was relieved to find the damage was restricted to massively flat-spotted tyres and a tiny scuff mark on the front wheel and wheel-arch. He also recorded his second fastest time on that run, but sensibly decided not to push his luck with a fourth run. Earlier in the day Graeme pushed the Jag to a 14.9 second pass – he was content to have bettered his times from last year as well as breaking into the fourteens.

We had four Sporting Register members competing at the Geelong Revival this year, as well as Mike Whitford who supported the Fiat Car Club’s display by showing his 124 Abarth Spider.

David Anderson decided to give his MGs a break whilst testing his Pontiac Firebird out over the quarter-mile; he achieved a very respectable time of 15.1 seconds on two of his four runs. The 350ci V8 drives through an automatic transmission which Dave tried in both manual and automatic modes, although it seemed to make precious little difference to the results.

Upholding the honour of MGs, Jane Vollebregt entered her hillclimb and circuit-racing MGB at this year’s event. Jane began with a 15.5 second run then followed that up with three runs all in the 15.2 second bracket. Very creditable times that would have placed Jane well in contention for the Fastest Lady trophy if there had been one to contest.

Steve Schmidt’s Mini Marcos was participating in its fourth consecutive Geelong Revival event. A quarter-mile sprint is perhaps not the Marcos’s forte, but it is one event where being unable to turn your head due to the fact that your helmet is jammed against the roof lining, is not too problematic. The little Marcos matched its times from previous years with a best of 15.7 seconds.

There is much more to the Revival than just the sprints, it truly is an all-encompassing motoring festival with car and bike displays, trade shows, a Friday night tour, free skid-pan rides with professional race drivers, great food and even a fashion parade. If you missed it this year, pencil it in your diary for 2019.

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UNSEASONAL CONDITIONS

It happens occasionally that club members organise non-official events amongst themselves; and so it was that during this week, five members and a hanger-on set off on a three-day romp up and over Victoria’s high country. Five German heavy hitters and Ian Holdsworth’s wide-bodied, turbo Mazda RX7 headed north from Warragul on Wednesday in fine conditions and enjoyed a fairly traffic-free run to Yarra Junction, but it wasn’t to last with slow traffic and roadworks spoiling the run out through Healesville and through the Kinglake National Park. Lunch at the Flowerdale Pub eased the pain, and the afternoon drive along seldom-used secondary roads that took us eventually to Euroa, Merton and Mansfield were thoroughly enjoyable. Kevin Riley had booked us accommodation at the Alzburg Resort in Mansfield which is an old Catholic Convent and Girls School that now boasts a swimming pool, sauna, tennis courts and a selection of single and family room arrangements. The cars were refuelled prior to dinner at the Delatite Hotel, and it wasn’t surprising to see Steve Schmidt’s 3-litre, twin-turbo BMW Z4 the most frugal of the pack with 9.4 L/100km. The four V8s were all around 11 or 12, with the powerful, but thirsty rotary requiring twice as many fill-ups and a wary eye on the fuel gauge.

Day Two, the cars were given a chamois down in the car park after heavy overnight rain, then it was off to breakfast in preparation for a dash over some terrific roads to Whitfield, Murtleford and Bright, then over the Tawonga Gap to Mount Beauty before a short pause and refuel for the Mazda prior to the climb up to Falls Creek and the Bogong High Plains Road. The rain was intensifying and temperature dropping as we climbed towards the ski resort. Snow began appearing by the roadside and before we knew it, flurries of snow began falling and the scenery tuned monochrome. In foggy, snowy conditions we headed on past the Alpine Village and stopped for a photo opportunity at the Rocky Valley Dam, although we couldn’t actually see it through the fog! We pressed on towards Anglers Rest, but the road was disappearing under the snow and we only had the wheel tracks from earlier vehicles to follow. Eventually the snow became too deep and Kevin’s SL55 AMG found itself stuck on the centre strip of snow between the wheel tracks. It was below zero, the icy-snow was being blasted by strong winds, the Merc was stuck fast and it was obvious we weren’t going any further in this direction. Luckily a group of people in several four-wheel-drives coming the other way assisted in towing the Merc out of trouble – they really didn’t have a choice though as we were completely blocking the road. Eventually we turned all the cars around and headed back to Falls Creek to look at our options.

We decided to regroup at Mount Beauty so that the Mazda could refuel again, the rest of us also took on fuel, coffee and warm food. Ray Youlden had rung around and discovered that despite the snow and higher elevation, the road over Mt Hotham was open and kept clear thanks to the use of a snow plough. So it was back over the Tawonga Gap towards Bright, then up and over Hotham in similar conditions to that experienced at Falls Creek, minus the 10” of snow all over the road. The snow stayed with us, however, right through Dinner Plain, but as we dropped down from the high plains the weather improved allowing us to enjoy the drive again. Steve and Glenn Campbell swapped BMWs for the diversion through Cassilis and along the Swifts Creek Road. Both cars being handed back unharmed after what could only be described as a fairly intensive road test.

Despite covering well over 100km beyond our planed route, we arrived at our lodgings in Metung at around 6pm and after settling in, headed straight to the pub for a well-earned meal.

The final day saw Ian, Glenn and Rob Morley heading home directly along the Princes Highway through Bairnsdale and Sale, whilst Kevin, Steve and Ray enjoyed a more circuitous route through Glenaladale, Briagolong, Heyfield, Glengarry and Yallourn North. We’d covered over 1200km in three days in extraordinary conditions and the cars, although now filthy, performed faultlessly.

Thank you to Kevin for bringing it all together, leading the pack and keeping us on the right path – most of the time !

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TREASURE HUNT SOCIAL DRIVE – Sunday 18th November

A favourite event amongst those usually occupying passenger seats, Mark and Sue McKibbin’s Treasure Hunts are slow paced, scenic and cryptic. With over 40 questions to answer whilst travelling the back roads around the Neerim district, the ten participating teams crossed paths, U-turned, backtracked, lied and gave false hopes – they even searched cemeteries for that elusive answer. It’s fortunate for some that no time limit was imposed as several teams were quite late arriving at the lunch venue, Jindivick’s Kydd Park Reserve & Cricket Ground.

After much debate and objections to the syntax of some answers, Pam and Glenn Campbell (BMW M3) were awarded first place with a draw for the runners-up position between Karen and Steve Austen (MGBGT) and Celia and Mal Collins in their new Hyundai i30 N. In fact there may have been other teams also sharing second place, but after the forms were shuffled and marked by the competitors, some forms weren’t handed back – the results beyond first place are therefore a bit iffy!

Thank you to Mark and Sue for organising another challenging event.

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