BREAKFAST CLUB, Warragul CBD – Sunday 13th Jan

Sunday mornings are usually fairly peaceful out our way.  A few regular dog walkers can be found being led around the block, others enjoy the opportunity to sleep in, or even take a stroll around the garden prior to breakfast on the patio. Once a month, however, the tranquillity is disturbed as sports and classic cars awaken to the twist of a key or press of a button and make their way towards the gathering point in Warragul. The early-birds begin arriving before 7:30 and usually grab a bite at Frankies Cafe or Maccas over the road. By 8am if the weather is fine, finding a space in the southern section of the car park is nigh on impossible. This month we enjoyed perfect weather and the event attracted somewhere in the vicinity of 90 vehicles.

The British contingent easily outnumbered marques from continental Europe, Asia, the US or Australia this month. Mark Sanford’s recently imported GT6 swelled the Triumph ranks, but there were MGs a plenty, a couple of Healeys with many other classic and modern sports cars supported by half a dozen Minis (including a very tidy 1275LS brought along by Frank and Kate Columbine), several Jaguar sedans, Bill Formby’s Roller, a similarly proportioned Bentley and even a 1955 Hillman Minx belonging to John Boland, which was making its debut appearance on very recent Club Permit plates which now number in the 99 thousands.

The popularity of the new Mustang is becoming such that they often now outnumber the classic versions at our gatherings. This month it was interesting to see a red 2019 model which can easily be identified by the pair of rearward-facing vents in the bonnet. A little birdie tells me that there’s another couple of 2019 Mustangs out there that have recently been purchased by members of the Sporting Register – we wait with anticipation for their debut appearances.

There can’t be too many Type 35B Bugattis in Australia, so Des Dillon’s 1927 example always creates a lot of interest when he brings it out. From the same era, we had Mark McKibbin’s Austin Seven Special as well as a 1929 Chevrolet International Coupe making what I believe was a debut appearance at our gathering this month.

As usual, there’s always a couple of odd-ball vehicles on display, sometimes we’ll have a dune buggy, a Mighty Boy or a kit-car turn up, this month we had a couple of interesting utes – Vinnie and Sharon Vorkapic’s classic Ranchero, and a customised Subaru Brumby. Variety is the spice of life 🙂

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A little over twelve months ago we lost one of our club’s very good mates and long-time member Graham Longmore. It was thought appropriate to honour Graham’s memory with a drive, even though Marg believes Graham would have been terribly embarrassed by the idea.

John Cobbledick brought the idea to fruition with a scenic tour out to the Thompson Dam with a picnic lunch upon arrival. Twenty cars formed up at the departure point in Warragul behind Steve Schmidt (BMW Z4) and Kevin Riley (Mercedes SL55) who kept to pedestrian speeds until letting loose on the final stretch of twisties after turning off onto the Thomson Dam Road north of Erica. John Cobbledick (Jaguar XJS cabriolet) as tail-end-Charlie made sure nobody missed a turning and all made it to the picnic ground on schedule. All that is, apart from Alan and Lorraine Richards (Cooper S) and John and Marlene Moss (MGB?) who left Warragul well after everybody else and missed the turn-off to the picnic ground.

The overhanging trees and sheltered BBQ pavilion provided much-appreciated shade for a picnic on what was turning out to be a rather hot afternoon. After lunch quite a few drivers ventured out onto the road crossing the dam wall to admire the view of Melbourne’s largest water reservoir, and took the opportunity for a group photo before making their own way home.

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MID-WEEK RUN to NOOJEE PUB – Wednesday 12th December

Six convertibles and about 18 cars in total assembled at the Stump Tea Rooms for the Mid-Week Run to the Noojee Pub. The weather was as Rex Hunt would say, “Magnificent”, and it was great to see some of the locally made cars out to enjoy the run.

Lord and Lady Fowler led off regally in the 1965 S-Type Jaguar, but they knew that if it broke down, there would be someone behind them to the rescue. I even thought that I might have seen a “mechanic” in the back seat, but maybe it was just a pair of overalls.

At one stage of the journey we got behind a low loader and we were surprised that none of the British cars over-heated (this being a trait) but I’m sure that the temperature gauges would have been glanced at. Thankfully, the Brits produced some of the most distinguishable classic car shapes ever.

On our way through to Neerim North, if you were lucky enough to have the hood down, you could hear the Bellbirds, it was such an ideal day for a convertible. Further along, someone wasn’t quite so lucky, we passed a 4WD ute or truck over the side of the road in the bushes, maybe it is true that these utes don’t handle or brake so well.

The route taken through farmland and treed areas was very scenic with the countryside looking in excellent condition and everyone having a good time in the cars that we all enjoy driving.

An enjoyable meal was had at the Noojee Pub in equally enjoyable surroundings. The weather not being too hot to have lunch undercover on the deck with views over to the river.

It was good to see such a terrific turn-out of cars and people, and to see a different array of vehicles which are obviously our members’ pride and joys (and liabilities!) As most of the men were wearing hats of some description, I thought that it might be a good idea to follow Joy’s lead, for the ladies to wear a hat on the next run – might be a bit of fun!!

On our way back from Noojee, we (Jen & I) decided to take a look at the Historic Trestle Bridge, and whilst we were there, we were surrounded by about 20 or so motorbike riders. Luckily, they were oldies like us and friendly, so we took a few photos and went on our way.

As always, a big thank you to John and Jan (sorry, Lord & Lady Fowler) for planning another successful Mid-Week Run. I am sure we are all looking forward to the next one.

Words by John Rooke, photos at Trestle Bridge by Jenny Rooke, other photos by John Fowler.

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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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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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