Bristol Owners Club of Australia National Rally in Noosa

In 2007 at the National Rally of the Bristol Owners Club of Australia, was held in NSW. At this biannual event the decision was made to hold the subsequent National Rally in Noosa in QLD in September 2009. Noosa is a holiday/resort area about 150 kms North of Brisbane on the coast. This was controversial because it implied most members would need to travel significant distances to attend. From Sydney this meant travelling 782 Miles up, and 800 Miles back and whatever mileage was added for the 6 Days of Rallying. For an attendee from Melbourne, add another 1200 Miles to the Sydney distance and from South Australia, add another 1600 Miles. One member even attended in a 405 from Tasmania. Very substantial distances in elderly motor cars and some thought a little too ambitious. The September date was chosen as a compromise between the onset of summer and the wet.

Bob Leffler, NSW Branch Secretary/Treasurer laid out a route to Noosa which involved the convergence of smaller squadrons from each of Sydney (16) , Melbourne (3), Adelaide (2) and Tasmania (1) which joined in the first night’s Motel in Coonabarabran (NSW) and then continued on to the second overnight in Dalby (QLD) where Ron and Ann Thorpe met from North Western NSW and Rob and Pamela Mann who had temporarily imported his freshly restored Bristol 403 from England, especially for the event. On the third day we continued on to Noosa and met up with the Queensland contingent. The actual journey to Noosa was amongst the largest events the Club has organised in its own right, independent of the actual Rally. A total of 23 cars including 18 Bristols made this journey which was memorable and was only topped by subsequent Events in Noosa. On the whole, Bob Leffler’s navigation was impeccable. However there was one significant misdirection round the QLD Border when we headed off to St. George. Even this has the benefit of initiating us to the gentle art of the formation U turn which would come in handy later in the Rally. From Coonabarabran onward we go used to being “zoomed” for photos by Susan Burns in the 402. Susan is making a book of the Rally which will be available from her by special order.

So, we all met up at Resort style accommodation in Noosa which gave us the opportunity to count heads and see exactly how many starters actually made it. Most epic story was from Ozi Osmond who trailed a freshly restored 405 Drop head from Adelaide behind a hired Toyota Landcruiser. It was to be year of the 405 with an amazing 6 x Bristol 405s including the drop head The other Bristol tally ran as follows: 8 x Bristol 400, 8 x Bristol 403, 3 x Bristol 401, a Frazer Nash L.M Replica (Rob VanWegen) and 3 various Bristol V8s. With moderns, a total of 39 vehicles participated. The organisers and hosts, Chris and Peggy Stafford Rob and Marilyn Van Wegen, Kevin and Susan Bowe were generous and anxious to help everybody have a good time. It certainly worked for me. A comprehensive Rally pack of maps, hats, T-shirts and local information was provided to each car.

The 6 Days of Rallying were based firmly on the formula of Drive then Eat, Drive then Eat. The Noosa accommodation acted as a hub and was returned to each night. Several Ferry trips were also interspersed to the local waterways.

The fist active driving day was noteworthy for a trip to Caboolture Aerodrome where a volunteer group is restoring a Bristol Beaufort of 1941 vintage to flying status. This aeroplane was one of several 100 built in Australia during the war. With the nose section on a mobile trolley, the temptation for a mass Bristol photo shoot around the Beaufort was too great to be denied. The results are in the accompanying Photos. Several other Warbirds including a P51 Mustang were included in the associated Flying Museum.

A subsequent core of the Wednesday driving was a visit to the Bowden Collection of historic Australian racing cars. About every significant touring car and some sports cars active in Australia over the last 30 years have been collected with the number of vehicles now ranging into the 100s. Peak here was the display of a totally original (down to its Halibrand Mags) 289 AC Cobra. This car had been bought new and subsequently raced for about 6 years by long time Club Member Ron Thorpe. Ron sold it to stalwart of the Club, Geoff Dowdle who had it for another 10 years or so. It then retired to various Museums and is totally original. Ron subsequently signed the dashboard and described to Club Members his thrill of knocking open a large wooden crate it which it was delivered. He also gave a brief version of its racing history.

Another great day was a trip to an old Queenslander restored pub, the Appolonian in the Mary River region. Here a spit roast pig was served as one the gastronomic highlights of the trip. The Saturday was a free day with the Pinewood Derby being the main event of the evening. This consisted of a series of Bristol related models which had to incorporate a set of wheels that had been circulated by post some weeks earlier and constructed in isolation at home. Weight restrictions and construction materials of Pinewood only evolved into a formula that started to look a little like the regulations for the early days of formula 1. The racing consisted of running the models in tandem down a custom built ramp. Subsequent scrutineering and rule bending added to the fun.

The final day was a full and very enjoyable one. The Noosa Rotary and other clubs around town sponsor an annual car Display and this year’s featured make was the Bristol. All 29 Bristols were lined up and made presentable with the previous day’s free time being dedicated to vehicle preparation by some. Hand bills describing Bristol history and the various models were handed out throughout the day. The variety of other vehicles on Display and the proximity to Noosa Beaches and shops made this a very pleasant day. Fellow Bristol 403 owner Vic Smiley managed to make off with car of the show which added to the significant Trophy tally this car has already racked up.

The final event of the rally was the Sunday night Dinner/Dance. This was held in a Sailing Club and a 5kms Ferry ride there and back added to the atmosphere and removed the risk of driving. 50s fancy dress was encouraged and folk certainly rose to the occasion. Apart from the predictable slew of would be James Deans and Elviss there was a very passable LJK Setright and a certain Mr. A. Crook……………

All good things must end. With the close of the Rally we realised how amazingly well organised it had been and how much we had enjoyed ourselves, mostly due to the 6 core organisers. The next morning saw a not so disciplined departure for the South with several Golf stops planned on the way down for some members. The group mostly broke up after the first overnighter in Lismore. To the absolute surprise of many, mechanical failures amongst the predominantly 6 Cylinder Bristol fleet were minimal. Several radiator flushes, a leaking head Gasket cured for the trip to Adelaide with “Chemiweld”. One of the V8s did not fair well with fuel pump leaks. The only really serious problem was for Bob Leffler who holed a piston in his Bristol 403 100 kms from home on the way back.

Amongst the many standouts were the attendance of Rob and Pamela Mann who imported their freshly restored 403 from the UK to join the rally. John Cooper’s fabulous Photographs which grace this article Geoff Dowdle who helped a few discretely with the few mechanical problems, given the heat and the distances involved. The trailing of the freshly completed 405 Drop head which had only done 10 Miles testing when it arrived in Noosa was a tribute to Ozi & Lyn Osman’s determination. David Flynn added a touch of class on the upward journey by joining us with “Lady Docker” his early 1950’s Daimler Convertible. He had his 400 already stowed in Noosa.

The next National Rally will be in Victoria. The general organisation, sense of fun, and the good time had by all at the Noosa event make it a hard act for the organisers in 2011 to follow.