APRIL MONTHLY DINNER MEETING, Thursday 15th April

With daylight saving now but a memory, it was already dark and too cold, wet and miserable to take much notice of those sports and classics parked outside the Clubrooms – so no outside photographs this month.

Inside, about 50 club members enjoyed the usual banter before settling down to soup and main course, after which Ian Maud introduced Ian Hodge to tell us about his 1974 Citroen DS which was on display in the dining room.

The DS and its less expensive variant, the ID, are avant-garde, front-engined, front-wheel drive  executive cars manufactured and marketed by Citroen from 1955 to 1975 in sedan, wagon and convertible body configurations, across three series. Ian’s is a Series 3, introduced in 1967 and recognisable by the double headlights beneath a plastic fairing. Amongst the many innovations introduced by Citroen with this car, the inner pair of high-beam lights are linked to the steering and turn with the car.

Powered by a 4-cylinder, 1900cc pushrod engine the big Citroen doesn’t offer sports car performance, but when matched to its 4-speed, column-shift gearbox, it cruises effortlessly at the speed limit whilst its occupants enjoy lounge-chair seating and a smooth ride thanks to the self-levelling, hydropneumatic suspension. You can even change a wheel using the suspension system to jack the car up.

Ian had long hankered after a DS and was ‘encouraged’ by both his son and Sporting Register friend John Moore to outbid a Japanese collector at one of Shannons classic car auctions a few years ago. The car’s original owner was a Maffra publican, it was then sold to a Bendigo enthusiast before going to auction at Shannons. Ian loves driving the car and we thank him and Mary for driving down in the rain from Melbourne to share his enthusiasm for Citroen with us.

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MID-WEEK RUN to WILLOW GROVE, Wednesday 14th April

50 BIG SMILES AND A DIFFERENT LONG LUNCH

It was just another fine Wednesday morning for The Stump Tearooms in Darnum on the 14th April. Then change began to stir as the unusual cars began to arrive outside and their drivers shuffled inside. More and more and more turned up, all keen to enjoy another good day put on by the Club.

As they downed coffee with cream & jam scones, so the level of chatter noise began to escalate. By the time 10.30 arrived all tables & chairs were taken and the friendly conversation began to get louder, louder and louder. By the time John Fowler summoned them “all outside” for the drivers’ briefing, the mid-week drivers were full of The Stump’s fine cooking and looking forward to some fine motoring.

Within minutes, Commander Fowler had them all filed in behind his impressive classic Jaguar 3.8 S-type. They totalled nearly 30 cars with nearly 50 people all looking forward to enjoying the Gippsland scenery, hills, curves and farm stock.

Little happened ’til the group had covered over 10kms northward to break free of the mundane flat lands around the freeway and we turned west at Crossover. At that point began what Gippsland touring is all about.

We weaved out way through Rokeby and onto the Jindivik – Neerim South Road. The curves, the views, the variety of farms continued as did the interesting quality of the drive. Heaps of it. Great stuff.

By the time we were rolling along the Old Sale Road the sun came out the drive got even better. This mid-week outing proved excellent with only the one slow farm vehicle briefly reducing our progress. But like all good Gippy farmers he pulled over as soon as he realised what was following: so it was back on the throttle and on with the sports-type drive.

Our group had the lot: late Porsches, classic Brits, convertibles, sun roofs, Jap turbos, Australian muscle, German 4WD sports and of course Asian SUVs. Not two cars alike in our group.

And then all too soon it came to an end. The small town of Willow Grove came into view marking the destination. We all had enjoyed over an hour’s top motoring. Great cars, top roads, superb views.

We parked at the back of the Willow Grove pub and walked in for lunch. We were all there by 12.15 midday.

The menu offered the usual pub food at friendly prices so we put in our orders and waited. Waited and waited.

Time passes slowly for hungry drivers, and time began to drag when the first hour slipped by. Eventually, a few of us did get food and at the second hour the kitchen produced the final lunches. By then everyone was so hungry anything would have been appreciated. And pub food is pub food, made even better by a long wait. Whoopie – we gulped it down.

Here’s to the next run, the scones at The Stump, the empty flowing farmland roads and Gippsland’s approach to a longggggg lunch.

Derek Pickard MX5

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BREAKFAST CLUB, Warragul – Sunday 11th April

The coldest April day in 25 years, persistent showers, snow on the ranges and a stiff breeze did not entice a great many sports and classic car owners to gather in Warragul for our most recent monthly Breakfast Club. However, it was great to see about 25 cars assembled in our usual spot, together with a small group of hardy souls huddled together under the shop verandas trying to stay warm and dry.

Nobody was silly enough to come roofless – not even your correspondent, but there were several convertibles testing out their wet-weather gear.  Dennis Varley has gone to considerable lengths to make his Healey 100/4 weather tight and seems to have succeeded, the only problem now is trying to get some air flow into the cabin without the opening side windows. A problem seemingly overcome by John Moore with the use of a factory hardtop fitted to his Healey 3000. New members, Graeme & Patricia Martin of Moe kept dry inside their Daimler SP250 Dart which is also fitted with a factory hardtop for just such conditions.

Jaguars were the most popular marque this month with four different models spanning five decades. It was nice to see a small clutch of Alfas as well, one with L-plates having been driven from Carrum Downs by Chris Evans’ 16 year-old daughter Sabina. Other cars of note included a classic, hot-hatch Peugeot 205, a rather massive 2-door Volvo coupe and Ian Hodge’s Citroen DS sedan enjoying a run up from Melbourne. Despite the lack of numbers, there was plenty of variety and as always, a great opportunity to catch up with the latest goings on.

Let’s hope that we see a little sunshine next month.

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DINNER MEETING / AGM, Drouin Golf Club, Thurs 18th March

Thanks to Covid-19, it had been over twelve months since our Club was able to come together at what had been our regular monthly dinner meetings at the Drouin Golf Club. But with restrictions now easing, we have made a tentative move back to normality.

There was an impressive row of sporting and classic cars parked out front of the clubrooms and Steve Austen’s Triumph Stag was on display in the dining room. Around fifty members had pre-booked for dinner and they enjoyed a two-course meal of roast pork and a dessert. The Annual General Meeting was chaired by our Vice-President, Ray Youlden with the assistance of Secretary, Glenn Campbell. The Annual Reports and membership fees for 2021 were accepted, we thanked Ron Brooks, our retiring President, for his leadership over the last two years, and also acknowledged the committee work that Dave Anderson, who is also stepping down, had done throughout his time on Committee. Ian Maud was duly elected as Club President for 2021 and Mike Whitford has joined the Committee, which apart from those changes remains the same. In keeping with our philosophy of keeping things simple, the AGM was dispensed with in 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Following the AGM, Ian relieved Ray as chair of the meeting and conducted some general business before introducing Steve Austen to speak about his Triumph Stag.

Production of the Stag was between from 1970 and 1977, with 26,000 units being built. It is a Michelotti designed 2+2 sports-tourer with hardtop and soft-top options, it is powered by a 3-litre Triumph V8 which drove through either a 3-speed auto or 4-speed manual transmission with overdrive to an independent rear end. The Stag was not one of Leyland’s glowing success stories, it soon developed an appalling reputation for engine reliability thanks to some inherent problems associated with water pumps, timing chains, head gaskets, poor casting quality control and an inefficient cooling system. This stigma remains with most people today unfortunately remembering the Stag for its faults. Fifty years down the track, the problems have been rectified and the car is no worse than any other 50-year-old classic – in fact, of the 18,000 cars built for the UK home market, 7500 are still driving on British roads. There is good availability of spare parts in the UK and the cars are now becoming quite sought after.

Steve has owned his Stag for 7 months. It is one of only 112 manuals exported in the final year of production. Because of the Covid situation, Steve bought the car from the seller in Adelaide, without having driven it, or even seeing it. However, it was an honest car which had seen little use in the past nine years and had been restored about 20 years ago. There was plenty of work required to bring it up to scratch – it needed a new radiator core, new tyres, the overdrive wasn’t working and the interior and bodywork needed a general clean up. Steve would like to have it resprayed, but apart from a couple of small marks, the paint and bodywork are in very good condition.

After seven months Steve is still happy with his purchase. The car drives very nicely and he believes they are under-rated as a classic. Perhaps his presentation to the Club will help to make them more recognised as the capable open-topped tourer they were designed to be.

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HAUNTED HILLS HILLCLIMB, Sunday 14th March

This was the Gippsland Car Club’s first hillclimb hosting event in over twelve months and they were rewarded by perfect weather and a healthy turnout of competitors. From the Sporting Register we had Jim McNiven in the Mazda RX2 (Historic Touring Cars over 2-litre), Ian Maud with his Fiat X1/9 (Sports Cars up to 2-lire) and yours truly giving the old Fiat 124 Coupe tarmac rally car an outing in the same class as Ian.

This event used the popular, long clockwise figure-eight track which is about 1600 metres in length. Jim had been racing the RX2 at the Phillip Island Historics the previous weekend and was pleased with the way the car had been performing. Ian had decided, prior to the cancelled round of the Victorian Championship a month ago, to open his wallet wide and purchase a set of Avon hillclimb tyres on a new set of rims. He was keen to see what type of improvement some good rubber would make to his times. Your correspondent left the Cooper S at home and was interested in comparing its times with that of his Fiat.

Drivers’ Briefing went well and we were told to expect seven timed runs for the day following a number of earlier practice runs. During the first runs Jim was unhappy about his brakes, but his time was quite respectable, the 124 coupe surprised its driver with a time only a few seconds shy of the best the Cooper S can do, but Ian only made it half way around before shattering the X1/9’s bellhousing and spewing gearbox oil all over the track. At this stage we what don’t know what let go, but a postmortem will be carried out soon. Ian’s day was over and the car was pushed onto its trailer. Jim recorded a similar time on his second run, but broke either an axle or a diff on his third run – retiring his car to its trailer too. The 124 ran well all day, getting faster on each run as the driver came to grips again with rear-wheel-drive. By the close of play the Fiat’s time was only 1.4 seconds slower than what the Cooper S had managed previously.

Obviously mixed fortunes for our members, but a very successful event for the GCC. Many thanks to all those involved in managing this event under the Covid regulations still in force, and a special thanks to the track marshals, timekeepers and BBQ chefs who donated their time to ensure we have a good one.

Steve Schmidt

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MINI MOB RUN, Sunday 14th March

Unfortunately, only four people rocked up for our run this year. Perhaps the early morning showers at the Breakfast Club discouraged people, but it turned out to be a nice day for a drive. Our tour went via Noojee to Hill End and finished at the Blue Rock Dam for a picnic lunch. Apart from some road resurfacing all went well.

Tim Wilkinson turned up in his beautiful Cooper S, Graeme Longhurst was in his earlier Cooper S and your correspondent drove the Mini Deluxe. Robert Hoff joined us in his Nissan Micra, to help make up numbers.

Thank you to Graeme for organising the event, hopefully our next trip may entice a larger crowd. 

Cheers, Mal Collins

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