Awesome cars are under wraps, writes Mark Hinchliffe
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.