In­side the

Awe­some cars are un­der wraps, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

IT’S a rac­ing car en­thu­si­ast’s par­adise set on the Sun­shine Coast. But it’s ex­act lo­ca­tion is a se­cret and don’t call it a mo­tor­ing mu­seum.

It’s Bow­den’s Own, the largest col­lec­tion of his­toric rac­ing cars in Aus­tralia. As Dan Bow­den, 35, says: ‘‘This is a col­lec­tion, not a mu­seum.

‘‘A mu­seum is for things that are dead or dy­ing. We are proud of the fact that all these cars are run­ning and go­ing.’’

The col­lec­tion has about 80 ve­hi­cles, from a 1932 Ford road­ster to a 2007 Dick John­son Rac­ing BA V8 Su­per­car.

The only way to see the col­lec­tion is to buy a Bow­den’s Own big car-care kit, the su­per size or mother bucket kit. The tick­ets are free in­side.

Even then, you can’t walk up to the doors with your ticket and de­mand en­try. In a covert op­er­a­tion, Guests gather at a nearby ser­vice sta­tion and are taken to the large shed set back in a huge sub­ur­ban lot shel­tered from the road by thick rain­for­est.

‘‘We have to shut the doors when we turn the cars on for our Sound Tour be­cause our neigh­bours com­plain,’’ Bow­den says.

No won­der. The col­lec­tion fea­tures Norm Beechey’s 1970 350 GTS Monaro, cred­ited as the loud­est car to race on Aus­tralian tracks.

They took it to Eng­land last year for the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed and won the tro­phy for best-sound­ing car. ‘‘It scared the Poms,’’ Bow­den says.

They get about 1000 peo­ple through the col­lec­tion in a year, with a tour ev­ery sec­ond Sun­day and some evening cor­po­rate shows.

They’ve had vis­i­tors from the UK,

US, Ger­many and New Zealand as well as around Aus­tralia.

‘‘We get about 30 to 40 calls a week want­ing to come through,’’ he says.

The col­lec­tion and car-care busi­ness are run by Dan and his brother, Chris, who also spe­cialises in find­ing rare race cars for buy­ers.

‘‘I’ve al­ways been into cars,’’ he says. ‘‘Dad (David) was a hot rod­der and he in­stilled that love of cars into us.

‘‘Dad’s a stock­mar­ket trader and he’s done well, so he’s put his own money into old race cars be­cause he saw them rust­ing and be­ing wasted.’’

His first his­toric race car buy was Pete Geoghe­gan’s 600bhp Su­per Fal­con in 1982.

‘‘It was in a mil­lion pieces and Dad just about cried,’’ Bow­den says.

‘‘He then got to won­der­ing where all the great race cars were and so he started a quest to find them and re­store them.

‘‘When he started he was the only one do­ing it, but now a lot of peo­ple are into it. Race cars are a mas­sive part of our his­tory and we need to pre­serve them.’’

Bow­den has about 20 staff work­ing on the car-care busi­ness and the col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing four me­chan­ics who re­store the rac­ing cars to work­ing or­der.

‘‘We don’t re­store cars bet­ter than they were made for rac­ing.

‘‘We take them back to what they were, not show-car stan­dard,’’ he says.

Bow­den’s Own came to the res­cue of the Gold Coast event last year af­ter the A1GP went bust.

They sent sev­eral his­toric cars to the event to be driven in demon­stra­tion laps by their orig­i­nal own­ers, though Bow­den ad­mits Dick John­son and Jim Richards got a bit ‘‘en­thu­si­as­tic’’.

He plans to send more cars down this year.

‘‘We have to be very care­ful about what driv­ers we get in them be­cause we have a lot to lose,’’ he says.

‘‘We do a lot of speed events, his­toric meets and car shows, but there’s just too much go­ing on to get around to ev­ery­thing.’’

As for the col­lec­tion, Bow­den says they have enough.

‘‘We’re try­ing to cull the col­lec­tion a bit now be­cause it’s so hard to look af­ter, but there’s al­ways some­thing else out there,’’ he says.

It’s not only the great col­lec­tion of Aus­tralia’s motorsport his­tory on show that makes the tour in­ter­est­ing, it’s also the sto­ries. Among the best are those about the lengths teams would go to cheat.

At one West Aus­tralian tour­ing car meet­ing the cheat­ing was ram­pant be­cause CAMS couldn’t af­ford to send proper scru­ti­neers.

Bow­den says the lo­cal scru­ti­neers were so in awe of their he­roes they over­looked the rene­gade en­gines that were shoe­horned in.

There are also the sto­ries about sup­pos­edly non-ad­justable tur­bos that were hooked up to diff cooler switches, air vent slides and even ash­trays so the driver could ad­just the boost on the run.

Show of power: Dick John­son race cars, which David Bow­den bought sev­eral years ago when John­son’s team was in fi­nan­cial strife.

The works: the col­lec­tion in­cludes rac­ing Fal­con hard­tops and clas­sic Fords which have fought it out on Aus­tralian tracks.

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