APRIL MONTHLY MEETING, Drouin Golf Club – Thursday 11th April

It’s dark now at 7pm, so the practice of displaying our special vehicles outside the clubrooms on meeting nights is fairly pointless, but it does mean that more attention is focused on the vehicle inside. This month we invited Jim McNiven to bring along his recently acquired 1967 Bolwell Mk.7 and tell us a little about it. However, on the way from Leongatha Jim hit what must have been a massive pothole, destroying a tyre and damaging one of the wheels so badly it wouldn’t rotate past the brake caliper. Luckily for Jim, his Bolwell carries a space-saver spare wheel rather than a tyre repair kit, so he was able to change the wheel and continue on his journey. Hopefully the damaged rim will soon be re-rolled and the wheel refurbished, enabling it to resume position on the front left corner of this classic Bolwell.

This particular Mk.7 Bolwell is fairly unique. Like many kit cars, owners are able to personalise their build to a certain degree and with this example a previous owner has fitted doors from a later model Bolwell Nagari. These doors, as well as being ADR compliant with intrusion bars and burst-proof locks, allow easier entry and egress from the car because of the opening which extends into the roof panel. The rear window has also been turned into an opening hatch like on the Nagari, which gives easier access to the luggage area. Mechanically, the Bolwell is powered by a well-developed 202 cubic inch Holden 6-cylinder engine breathing through a brace of three side-draught Webers. Power is then transferred through a Celica 5-speed gearbox to a Holden rear axle running a 308 final drive ratio, wider track and 17” wheels. Steering is courtesy of an Austin 1800 steering rack and the brakes came from a VR Commodore.

Jim bought the car in a “cash only” sale from the Gosford Motor Museum which are liquidating assets after an investigation into their affairs by the Taxation Office. After languishing as a display piece for many years Jim recently took the car to Bolwell’s 50th Anniversary gathering at Philip Island where it received the people’s Choice Award. On the road, Jim says the car drives very well – surprisingly well for a 50 year-old car. Let’s hope the wheel repair goes well, allowing Jim to continue his enjoyment of this iconic Australian classic. Thanks for bringing it to our meeting Jim.

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BREAKFAST CLUB, Warragul CBD – Sunday 14th April

Reverting back to Eastern Standard Time as summer slowly fades and the leaves begin to turn makes it easier to be out and about early in the morning. The local dog walkers certainly appreciate the early dawn and it appears that our Breakfast Club regulars do likewise. Arriving well before the designated hour is now customary and it’s not unusual to find the southern section of the car park filled to capacity before 8am.

This month was a special occasion for Mini owners. Using the iconic marque’s 60th anniversary as an excuse, Cooper S devotee Graeme Longhurst, had contacted each Sporting Register Mini owner and invited them to gather at the Breakfast Club in preparation for his aptly-named Mini Mob Run out to Mirboo North for lunch. Six or seven Minis managed to arrive early and park together with Graeme’s car whilst additional Bricks continued to roll in during the morning, eventually bringing the total to 13 – easily topping the attendance tables this month ahead of the ever-present Mustangs and MX5s.

Another early arrival drawing a crowd this month was a stunning, electric blue Mercedes AMG GT-C. This exquisite late model coupe is powered by a twin-turbo 4-litre V8 developing 550bhp – capable of sprinting to 100km/h in under 4 seconds and nudging 200mph top speed. At the other extreme, also making its debut appearance this month, was Brodie Bishop’s 1920’s Fiat 501 Tourer which had recently won a restoration award at the prestigious Autobella Italian Concours in Melbourne. Performance figures for the 501 are unavailable at this time, but given time the old timer could possibly reach 100km/h.

It was a very diverse gathering as usual. Mort FitzGerald brought along his MGB racer known as the ‘Spa Car’ which was one of two specially prepared historic racers built here and taken over to Europe by members of the MGCC where it was raced in a historic meeting at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. This month there was also quite a selection of utes on display, ranging from the pristine Austin A70 belonging to Bill and Judy Aitken to a V8 Commodore, an EH Holden and a massive Ford F350 with dualies on the rear, recently acquired by Vinnie and Sharon Vorkapic.

Sports cars are always the focus of this event, whether they be classic British and European roadsters from the fifties, sixties and seventies, rotary coupes from Japan or more modern offerings from the likes of Mercedes, Porsche and Audi, these selfish, impractical and enjoyable drivers’ cars never fail to impress. A couple of fibreglass models, a Bolwell Mk.7 and an SS Jaguar replica joined the likes of Mike Whitford’s Fiat Dino, the E-types of Shane Slatter and Paul Mogensen, several Porsche Boxsters and a tidy, black 911 as head-turners this month.

Over eighty special cars gathered at the April Breakfast Club, it could easily have been over 90, but with constant comings and goings, accuracy is impossible. The Mini Mob, which included your correspondent, departed the venue at around 9:30 vacating some sought after parking for use by late arrivals.

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MINI MOB RUN, Sunday 14th April

Following on from Sunday’s Breakfast Club in Warragul where 13 Minis were gathered, the group set off on a drive to Mirboo North for a picnic lunch, taking in some spectacular driving roads along the way, well suited to the Brick’s nimble handling. Graeme Longhurst organised the outing as a means of bringing together the dozen or so Sporting Register Mini owners to help celebrate the iconic marque’s 60th anniversary.

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Philip Island Show n Shine – Sunday 7th April

It was a great day with perfect weather. I’d never heard of Caldermeade before (the meeting spot, which happens to be just out of Koo Wee Rup) but it turned out to be a handy spot to assemble the 35 or so cars participating .

PIARC (Philip Island Auto Racing Club) organiser, David Bellenger corralled us at Caldermeade and then led us to the circuit, where we parked up in a designated space behind the pit garages. I was driving my Triumph 2000 on the day and really enjoyed the parade laps around the track. The speed limit might have been 80 kph, but the drivers didn’t slow down a whole lot for the corners which made it a fun outing. There were plenty of show and shine prizes at the end of the day and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

David Bellenger mentioned that PIARC are hoping to make this an annual event, to again run in conjunction with a PIARC sprint meeting. The organisers put a lot of effort into making the Show and Shine a success, and hope to develop things next year, for example, by possibly providing opportunities to passenger in a race car on the day. 

Words and pictures by Fraser Faithful

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ALPENSCHLEIFE 2019

To paraphrase T.S.Eliot, “It’s the journey, not the destination that matters most.”

Had he not died in 1965 Thomas Stearns Eliot would have appreciated the efforts of Kevin Riley, Glenn Campbell and others to pack a 4-day road journey, stretching from the coast to Kosciuszko and beyond, with as many enjoyable driving roads as possible.

It began outside Frankies in Warragul on a Tuesday morning. Ian Holdsworth, who was part of the team that became snowbound at Falls Creek on the last road-trip, presented Kevin with a set of snow chains to help him through this coming adventure. Ian was unable to participate in this year’s event due to family commitments, but his place, in what was otherwise the same gang, was taken by Rob Coustley in his Mercedes E63 AMG. That meant we had four Mercedes (Kevin’s SL55 AMG, Rob Morley’s SL350, Ray Youlden’s E55 AMG and the E63) and two BMWs (Glenn’s M3 and Steve Schmidt’s Z4). A logo combining the three-pointed star with the spinning propeller of BMW over Alpine peaks and the word Alpenschleife (Alpine Loop) was turned into a bumper sticker and presented to each participant prior to the gleaming silver and black convoy easing their way out of town.

Major roads are avoided wherever possible, so the first day’s route headed out through Westbury, Yallourn Nth, Glengarry, Glenaladale and on to Bruthen for lunch. The afternoon began with a worthwhile diversion to Buchan and then south on the magnificent Buchan-Orbost Road before a run along the Princes Highway to Cann River where we turned north and headed for the NSW border. Unfortunately, along the route we encountered just about every form of roadworks possible. The once spotless paintwork and polished wheels were now covered with a layer of mud, spots of soft bitumen and road grime. Rob Morley’s recently replaced windscreen was also damaged by a stone thrown up by a passing truck, an unfortunate occurrence that was to be repeated a couple of days later. Just north of the NSW border we turned east onto the Imlay Road for the run to the coast at Eden. This road was constructed primarily to assist with the transportation of forest timbers to the mills at Eden, so it is a fast, flowing road with few surprises except for the odd massive pothole or area of subsidence which from low-slung sportscars are quite hard to pick amongst the shadows of the surrounding forests. From Eden we joined the coastal traffic flow north until reaching our overnight stop at Merimbula. After checking in, the first item on the agenda was a car wash. A couple of us had noticed a 5-bay commercial car wash on our way into town, so we headed back down the highway a couple of kilometres to remove evidence of the day’s turmoil.

Glenn is a regular visitor to Merimbula and knows the town and hinterland very well. On his recommendation, we all enjoyed a delicious dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, so he was the obvious one to lead us out of the traffic and back into hills on our second day. The morning weather was perfect for top-down driving and the three convertibles made the best of it. Glenn’s scenic route took us to Wyndham and on to Bombala past a massive stand of wind turbines and granite boulder strewn paddocks. The roads were almost deserted, but any traffic we came across was easily overtaken thanks to courteous drivers and good visibility of the road conditions ahead. From Bombala we traversed the high plains, stopping for morning tea at a café in Dalgety adjacent to a derelict service station which showed evidence of being a Shell, Mobil and Golden Fleece outlet at various times in the past.

From there we headed to a schnapps distillery at Jindabyne for lunch before climbing towards the Kosciuszko National Park, where we talked our way out of paying the $16 visitor fee by insisting that we were not stopping at Thredbo, just passing through on our way to Khancoban and our overnight destination, Corryong. The Alpine Way from Crackenback to Khancoban is a spectacular road in excellent condition with the road passing through some magnificent vertical rock cuttings that amplified the music from our exhausts. We encountered several motorbikes, campervans, utes and service vehicles along the route, but most moved over graciously and made overtaking easier.

Day three dawned fine and clear in the high country, but clouds soon began moving in and most of the morning was spent playing with the roof up and roof down buttons as we followed the sweeping bends along the Murray River flood plains through the small settlements of Tintaldra, Walwa and Thologolong on the way to Tallangatta. Now on the flat lands we took a secondary road up the Kiewa Valley before crossing over a ridge into the Ovens Valley near Murtleford, where lunch was enjoyed at a café out of the rain. The afternoon run began gently with straight and empty roads leading us southwards up the King Valley towards Whitfield. Anticipation was building for the steep, tight and twisty hillclimb out of Whitfield, but the damp conditions ensured a gentle, delicate approach up the hill, across the top and down the other side into Mansfield for our final overnight stay.

The highlight of the fourth and shortest day was the 50km run along the Jamieson-Eildon Road which has become a must-do for driving and riding enthusiasts since it was sealed in 2010. The road unravels along the southern boundary of the Lake Eildon National Park and delivers a never-ending series of tight bends and switchbacks as the road rises and falls through heavily forested gullies and rocky cuttings. Nothing is constant. Apart from a more open section of road at around the mid-way point there is little chance to rest as the road continues to uncoil over the mountains. Ray’s E55 AMG takes most things in its powerful stride, but this was the only road we’d driven which triggered a brake temperature warning on the heavy-hitting Panzerwagon. After regrouping and catching our breath, the convoy continued on to Eildon where we followed the scenic Skyline Road into Alexandra. The original plan was to head to Taggerty then Marysville and take the Reefton Spur Road to Warburton, but with this road closed due to the recent bushfires, an alternative route saw us driving over the Black Spur into Healesville for lunch and then home via Yarra Junction, Powelltown and the Neerims.

We had pushed the cars fairly hard at times, added around 1700 kilometres to the odometers, refuelled three times, washed them at least that many times, and enjoyed a fault-free run from each vehicle. The Z4 Bimmer was the least thirsty of the group averaging 10.1 L/100km for the entire trip; the V8 AMGs were at the other end of the spectrum recording up to around 14 L/100km on some days, but also dropping into the twelves on less demanding sections. Many thanks to Kevin for his planning and organisation, and to our fellow travellers for their companionship and good-humoured banter. We must do it again some time.

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MID-WEEK-RUN to KooWeeRup – Thursday 21st March

We all met at the Darnum Stump Tearooms where many had coffee and cake etc. and all enjoyed a social chat beforehand. This month’s Mid-Week-Run was to the Royal Hotel at Koo Wee Rup, and at 11 o’clock we set off in our varied mixture of cars – a couple of Jags and Mustangs, an SLR 5000, Porsche, SAAB, MX5’s and  few of most other makes, through the very dry hills of  Darnum and Lardner, along the Torwood-Topiram ridge-top road and through Ripplebrook, before emerging on the Lang Lang Road for a little while. We turned off the Lang Lang Road onto Heads Rd and then headed towards Bayles and onto Koo Wee Rup taking about an hour and a quarter to complete the journey without losing anyone. It was a great line-up of cars in the hotel’s car-park.
Some members drove down from Melbourne and Phillip Island meeting us at the Hotel where we ended up with 34 people and 17 special cars. Prompt meals contributed to a very social lunch and a lot of chatter afterward in the car-park before we all headed for home at around 2 o’clock to beat the traffic.

Congratulations to John Fowler on his well-deserved Life Membership of the Club and many thanks to him and Jan for organising this month’s Mid-Week-Run.

See you on next month’s Mid-Week-Run.
Geoff Miller.

Photos by John Fowler

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