Me and my mo­tor

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE - Mark Hinch­liffe

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.

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