Me and my motor
THIS retired baker has worked hard to raise the dough to feed his motoring addiction.
Robert van Wegen’s passion began in 1965 with a black Mini Cooper he bought for $1000.
He has owned a host of Mercedes-Benz cars and at one time owned three SL sporstcars. He also once owned a 1934 D Back Rolls-Royce limousine.
But his current collection has a definite BMW theme.
One is his fifth BMW 2002 race car, two are classic British Bristols and the other is a $200,000 1952 Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica in British Racing Green that is signed by GP legend Stirling Moss.
The BMW theme is that the Bristols and Frazer Nash all feature the same 1933 BMW straight-six two-litre engines but in various states of tune up to 170hp and a top speed of 120mph (193km/h).
‘‘I’ve always had a love for BMWs,’’ says the campaigner of five BMW 2002s that have collected more than 30 Targa Tasmania trophies, competed in five Classic Adelaide rallies and spun the wheels in numerous other historic tarmac rallies and hillclimbs.
‘‘My first recollection of a Bristol was in my dad’s Jaguar Mark II and he was doing about 80mph (129km/h) when this green flash went past us.
‘‘It was a Bristol 403. From then on that picture stayed in my mind.’’
In 1997 he had the chance to realise his dream when he found a black 1947 Bristol 400 – the first of the Bristol line.
‘‘It was sitting in a dusty corner in a boat shed in Coomera and had been there for oneand-a-half years,’’ he says.
It was originally owned by GP bike and car racer Frank Pratt in Geelong.
It was then bought by a couple who kept a meticulously detailed log book until 1975.
‘‘For 24 years it wasn’t driven.Yet it still had the gloves and a hat on the seat that hadn’t been chewed by rats,’’ he says. Van Wegen paid $13,500 for it and reckons it’s now worth about $80,000.
‘‘It had to have a full body restoration after I rolled it. My mates say I just bent the aerial, which is a joke because the aerial is on the roof.’’
He continued his Bristol love affair with a 1945 Bristol 405 that features a distinctive ‘‘flame thrower’’ middle headlight in the air intake.
‘‘It looks like a Brabazon bomber,’’ says van Wegen.
He and a mate bought two from a Bendigo farmer who wouldn’t split them.
They paid $40,000 for the pair but van Wegen says his car is worth much more today.
The 405 is an unusual car, being the only Bristol with four doors, a spare tyre under the front fender, theatre-style rear seats, front disc brakes and made of aluminium.
The 1933 BMW straight-six two-litre engine looks like a twin cam but actually has two sets of pushrods. It features triple Solex carburettors and power is claimed to be 105hp, but can be tuned up to 170hp.
The engine has been used by Lotus, Bristol, Tajeiro, Cooper, Arnolt, Frazer Nash, Lister and others.
‘‘When it was new it was worth as much as a Bentley and about two-and-a-half times as much as a Jag,’’ he says.
‘‘This one was owned by the company owner of the time, Tony Crook. It’s number 11 of 380 built. ’’
Van Wegen will show his Bristols along with 31 others in the Bi-Annual Bristol Owners Club of Australia Rally from September 15. The following weekend the cars will be honoured as the Marque of the Year at the annual Noosa Beach Classic Car Show.