Tuesday, July 2, 2019
A tale of two Bollies.
It was noisy, rough, raw , uncomfortable , poorly built & finished ! None of this mattered to me . What mattered was that it was blisteringly fast ( for the day ) looked fantastic,& was exciting to drive . For a poor uni student , this was as good as it gets !
I thrashed the daylights out of it for a few months , then comprehensively pranged it in a poorly executed display of youthful exuberance / stupidity !
The car looked un repairable to me . (It would later be repaired & still exists )
I knew of a partially built kit in a Blackburn back yard , so I fronted up with some dosh& bought the makings of what would become the reincarnation of KTK 760 .
Having dragged this project home to Harcourt , work commenced putting all the good stuff from the damaged car into the “new” kit . With the help of my late father we got the beast going in record time . The end result was noisier , more uncomfortable, faster & more exciting ! There was no paint , no trim , no door handles ,no window winders , nothing really , except a hot 192 , Datsun 4 speed, & a 2.78 lsd . We got this car going in 1977 & it was to be my daily driver until 1981. I covered a lot of miles in those few short years with some truly memorable drives, she would cruise effortlessly at the ton , & take on all comers at the traffic light drags !. I also ran the car in sprint meetings at Winton , Calder , & did a few hillclimbs at Lakeland & Morwell. Paint was eventually applied over Xmas 1979 ,& I fronted up to my new job as an articled clerk in 1980 with a sparkling dark blue Bolly .
Over the next 18 months or so I started to find that getting into the Bolly with a suit on after a shower of rain was not all it was cracked up to be ! Arriving at work with a wet arse didn’t seem to meet with my employer’s expectations either !
Anyway , a mate got me in a weak moment & a deal was struck to sell her .
At the time I had visions of building a Nagari sports , & didn’t expect to be without a Bolly for long .
The Nagari , never materialised,& I moved through a succession of other cars : Jags , Bentley’s , a V8 MGA , Jensen Interceptor , Falcon GtT , V8 utes etc etc .
Working in the country , I lost touch with the Bolwell Car Club , & dropped off the scene .
I did buy another Mk 7 in 1985 , & lopped the roof off with an angle grinder as convertibles were my thing at the time . However that idea was short lived when some fool took me flying in a Tiger Moth & the aviation die was cast ! Cars were sold & money was shovelled into that black hole for some years .
However , I always harboured fond memories of KTK760 , & regretted selling her , particularly after my father passed away in 1996 .
The mate who’d bought her had moved her on shortly thereafter & that was it .
Fast forward to about 3 or so years ago , & a chance comment by a mutual friend as to who may have bought her years ago reignited a spark of interest .
I purchased a copy of the Bolwell book & read it from cover to cover thinking perhaps I’d see my old car in there .
Sadly , I learned that a couple of old Bolwell friends had passed away in the intervening years . Royce Marion & Russell Tipping we’re both good guys who had given me a lot of inspiration all those years ago .
Anyway , there was no sign of my old Bolly , so I eventually contacted the club , initially via Peter Garvin & Ken Williams . It turned out that although a few club members remembered me , & KTK760 , no one had seen her , or knew what happened to her in the intervening years . No one had heard of Grant Hill , the person I sold her to , nor John Suhr , the person he sold it on to .
A Vic Rds check revealed that the plate was no longer in use, & stuff all else . The car had seemingly vanished .
The only thing I knew about John Suhr , was that he had been in the film industry , had moved to the Gold Coast , & had been killed in a motorcycle accident some years ago .
Interstate enquiries wth other Bolwell clubs yielded nothing .
Searches of the white pages , & cold calling all the Suhr’s I could locate revealed nothing . There were a few distant relations , but no one who could give me a clue as to the whereabouts of any immediate family . Even his headstone revealed no clues !
I did come across a couple of people I knew who coincidentally knew John Suhr back in the day in the Bendigo & Skipton areas , but no one remembered that car .
The trail was going stone cold .
Peter Garvin & Ken Williams put an article in Slipstream seeking info , & John Lowe did the same in his Bolly blog .
Suddenly , there seemed that there may be a breakthrough. John Lowe saw the name John Suhr on a lost medals blog !
Enquiries of that blogger revealed nothing , however there was a lady in the serpentine area who answered an email post of mine . This lady was John Suhr’s sister !
I called her & had a long discussion about what I was after . She could not remember her brother having a Bolwell or anything like it , nor could her husband .
She put me in touch with a couple of John’s old friends , but no one could ever remember him having this car . The trail had gone stone cold & that’s where it ended for about nine months .
I put a couple of ads in Slipstream ,& in Just Cars , but nothing really came of that until earlier this year when I was sent a couple of photos of a Mk7 by Ross McConnell .
Ross had seen these photos on some obscure Facebook site , & noticed a couple of body mods that sounded like some I’d made to KTK760 .
I checked out the photos , & sure enough , it looked like my old car , I was about 75% certain it was .
The Facebook site yielded the name of the owner , a Phil Walmsley, but no clue as to where he was ! Here we go again , I thought . Enquiries with club members yielded nothing , John Lowe went one better & indicated he thought Phil was into Brock commodores & lived up north somewhere !
A quick google by my partner Adele yielded a Phil Walmsley that was into Brock commodores & lived in Bowral NSW .
I cold called Phil one evening , not knowing what to expect .
I was pleasantly surprised , he was a terrific bloke , & we had a long conversation about Bollies & other stuff .
He had no real history on his car , but a couple of answers to my questions left me in no doubt , this was KTK 760 !
The bad news was , of course , he didn’t want to sell it . Ciest la vie .
However , he was happy for me to visit at some time & have a look .
We corresponded over the next couple of months by email , & I got the sense that although he wanted a Mk7 in his collection , (he’d had one when he was younger too !)
that he may not be particularly married to this car as he’d bought it as a project some years ago, & had never driven it . I had a magic thought bubble ,& suggested that I might be able to find him another one & do a swap ! He wasn’t really interested in that , but I did send him some photos of a car I’d been offered which was languishing in a shed near Warrnambool. I hadn’t seen the car , & the photos looked pretty good.
Still not much interest . Another magic thought bubble , Phil was going to Philip Island, & keen to have a look at the Bollies there . I hatched a plan to go to Warrnambool, buy the other Mk7 if it was any good & take it to the Island & show it to him . What could go wrong ? The car was cheap & I figured I could sell it on if things didn’t go my way !
I arrived in Warrnambool only to find that the car was buried in a shed full of stuff ,& had 20 years worth of dust& crap on it !. It had four flat tyres & would take a bit of liberating, she certainly wasn’t going to the island the following day !
So , as is the rule : if you go to look , you better be ready to walk away.
The good news was the car wasn’t too bad, was pretty original ,& was in one piece .
The vendor reckoned if you threw some petrol & a battery at it she would go !
Perhaps so , I replied. but it was hardly going to be driven straight to the roadworthy joint was it !
Anyway , I filed all this away for future reference .
A few weeks later , an opportunity presented itself to fly up to Bowral & have a look at my old car.
A good friend , the Groper , flew me up there on ANZAC day.
Sure enough , there was the old girl , needing a bit of TLC , but basically all there except for the 192 ,
After kicking the tyres for a while, I ventured the suggestion that The Warrnambool car would be an easier prospect to resurrect.
To my great surprise Phil said “ , OK , if you reckon that’s the case I’ll swap you !”
I couldn’t believe it , after so many dead ends , & with the knowledge that if I ever found her , the owner probably wouldn’t want to sell ,here it was within my grasp !
The following weekend , another road trip to purchase & pick up the other car .
A week or so later , up to Bowral to do the swap.
A great trip & a great result . I’m hoping Phil will have his car up & running soon , I look forward to seeing it on the road .
As for KTK760 , she’s in my garage awaiting a spring assault . There’s a bet on foot , so I’m determined to make it happen .
So , not quite full circle after 38 years, but soon !
Did John Suhr ever own it ?
Well Phil Walmsley bought it from a dealer on the Gold Coast around about the time of Johns death , so probably .
Many thanks to the people who helped me find this car , and particularly to Phil Walmsley, a true enthusiast who has let me relive a little bit of the past !
As a postscript, my partner Adele took one look & said “what did you want that for ?”
Well memories are sometimes worth pursuing ,& if you’re reading this & have owned a Mk 7 you’ll know why !
New kit arrives at Harcourt 1977
New paint January 1980