BEIGE to BI RDWOOD

SOUTH AUSTRALIA HOSTS THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE’S BIGGEST ROLLING CLASSIC EVENT

WORDS DAVE CAREY PHOTOS DARREN GERLACH

“BLEARY EYES WERE RUBBED AND COFFEES PROCURED AS ADELAIDE SHORES BEGAN TO GLEAM WITH COLOURS AND CHROME”

The biennial Bay to Birdwood Classic was held in late September, with a leisurely 70km cruise from Adelaide Shores to the National Motor Museum at Birdwood. The event, capped at 1750 entries, remains the largest rolling display of classic metal in the Southern Hemisphere.

Spring weather can be notoriously fickle, but as the auburn sun peeked tentatively over the Adelaide Hills into a cloudless dawn, fears were allayed, bleary eyes were rubbed and coffees procured as Adelaide Shores began to gleam with colours and chrome.

Family heirlooms, prized investments and long-serving daily drivers were all fuelled up and Autosoled. And while a significant turnout by our venerable Big Three was both expected and welcome, familiarity breeds contempt; our eyes turned to the eclectic and esoteric, paraded before us in all manner of shapes and hues.

Hundreds of cars poured into the form-up area from 6:00am, with friends and club members congregating to ensure safety in numbers. Goggomobil aficionados celebrated their brand’s 60th birthday with nang-nang noises and plumes of burnt blue two-stroke smoke. The 80th anniversary of Simca included stumpy Arondes and stately Vedettes, while the Holden Club of WA baffled all by repeatedly explaining that they’d arrived from Perth on just one tank of fuel.

Our faction, comprising a Gemini van, Mark 1 Escort, BMW 2002 and a 1963 Cadillac Coupe DeVille, shared no obvious theme on paper; but in an event wrought with traditional two-tones and marvellous metallics, we were brought together by the colour of latte; beige was our order of the day. We had even sought the event be renamed Beige to Birdwood in our honour.

The request was declined.

As a reward for arriving early we were flagged off by the immortal Glen Dix, whose

IAN POWELL

1976 MATRA-SIMCA BAGHEERA S

The McLaren F1 isn’t the only exotic, mid-engined car to seat three abreast. There’s an earlier, more Gallic entrant in that very tight field.

Forging an early alliance with Simca for use of its mechanical technology, Ian Powell’s Bagheera S was branded a Matra-Simca, making it very welcome at the Simca Car Club of Australia’s AGM held in Adelaide in conjuction with the Bay to Birdwood Classic.

“The Australian Cheviot mags make me think it was an early import,” Ian tells us.

The polyester glass body of Ian’s Bagheera wears mostly original paint, although as a daily driver, it has experienced its share of scrapes.

“I had a 4WD come across me recently; just a few scratches and a busted mirror; I think the ‘glass had a bit more give than a normal metal panel,” said Ian.

The 1442cc Simca four sports twin Webers, has a four-speed transmission and is stopped by four-wheel discs.

With electric windows and sculpted foam seating, it was more than comfortable for the journey from Sydney, “Plenty of interest and plenty of waves, although not many have picked what it is!” Ian laughs.

CRAIG & FIONA POOLE

1977 NZ-BUILT HOLDEN LX TORANA SL HATCH

People come from all over the place to take part in the Bay to Birdwood, but none further than the Holden Club of WA’s contingent which arrived, cars in tow, earlier in the week via the Indian Pacific.

For club president Jim Fitzgerald, himself the owner of a very tidy HK Premier, it is the culmination of a plan germinated over 12 months ago. “We’ve taken the train over and will drive back; it will take more than one tank of petrol to get home, however!” quips Jim. We notice the train is re-stocking and ask if the WA boys drank the train dry. “We didn’t, but it wasn’t for lack of trying!”

Craig and Fiona Poole also had their Holden on the train, but wisely flew kids Fraser and Heidi in separately. “I don’t think I could have taken three days of ‘are we there yet?’” laughs Craig.

More widely travelled than the Leyland Brothers, Craig’s Torana has lived in every mainland state in Australia, but started life in New Zealand. Craig explains, “It’s a factory bitza, so I reckon it was built there; it’s got no ADR compliance plate for a start, runs an LH fuel tank and is fed by an LC-spec Rochester carburettor. It was one of only a handful of SL hatches sold in NZ and I’ve still got the original NZ numberplates; they’re heavy as hell,” he laughs.

wrist strength and energy levels are almost cosmological constants. As we headed two-wide up West Beach Road, crowds were already ensconced on both sides of the street. And not just this street, but every street.

To truly understand the public’s enthusiasm for this event is to imagine yourself to be a rockstar; or perhaps if you’d prefer, the Queen.

Adults and children alike require horns to be tooted and waves to be returned. People hoot, holler and yell; every intersection harbours a conversation about who in their personal history had one just like yours.

Elsewhere will you rarely smell breakfast being barbequed on the median strip; nowhere else will the irascible sound of Weber carburettors, bolted in triplicate to a hoard of Prince Skylines, punctuate the normally quiet avenues.

Yet the journey is merely half the fun; the grounds of the National Motor Museum, celebrating 50 years in 2015, are ample enough to hold all participants who wish to stay and celebrate the classic era of motoring.

As live rock music rolled over the hills, cars continued to stream into the grounds until late morning; a Saab Sonett III settling near a halfmillion- dollar Aston DB6 and an Brock/Richards A9X replica sharing driveway space with a Volkswagen Country Buggy.

With stories swapped and photos taken the sun begun to hang low. And then it was over. The event, as always a stunning success, will make way for the Vintage and Veteran Run next year, but will return in 2017. In the meantime, there are 24 months to finish that restoration and plan your trip to Adelaide; you’ll not regret it, beige or otherwise; and a seventy kilometre-long cheer squad will be your reward.

“AS LIVE MUSIC ROLLED OVER THE HILLS, CARS CONTINUED TO STREAM INTO THE GROUNDS UNTIL LATE MORNING”

SIMON & SANDY TOTHILL’S

1966 MORRIS 1100

“I inherited the Morris about 20 years ago. I actually learned to drive in the car and it’s been in the family ever since. My brother learned to drive in it too, and eventually it became a project.

“I turned 18 and was on my Ps when I first got the car from my brother. I’ve always enjoyed classic cars and have long dreamed of having a lovingly restored car.

When I got it, I fell in love with it and just had to restore it. It’s a member of the family and there are photos at home of Dad with a Morris 1100, there’s a photo of me with one when I was little, it’s like a family pet.

“Ironically, the restoration story started when I stopped driving it.

I started driving something newer, but I came back to it and had that all-important decision to make: restore it or get rid of it? I just couldn’t get rid of it.

“So I picked up the tools, it began with a flurry, ‘I’m going to tear this thing down and do it!’ I said. I ripped everything off it... I started with the interior and realised it was the last thing to do!

It was then that I realised that I had started the project at the wrong end!

“It’s taken the best part of thirteen years, but the bulk has been the last few months. It helped to have a deadline for Birdwood and I’ve done a lot of the work myself. In fact at 11:30pm last night we were putting that same interior I started with back in the car!”