Wednesday, May 28, 2008


B8/5 was the first Nagari I had ever seen. It appeared in Adelaide early in 1970. At the time there were 3 Mark 5s and at least twice as many Mk.7s. Just about all of these cars were built by their owners and a factory built car was unimaginable. The SA Bolwell club didn't come until 2 years later. By then we were quite familiar with the Nagari because a dealer was established and our early meetings were held at the dealership, which happned to be Daryl Siggs' Shell Service Station on Grange Road. Meetings were conducted in the lube bay, often with a Nagari on the hoist and we sat around on oil drums underneath.

Anyway, in 1970, I was working for the Motor Vehicles Department and its one and only office (no branches had been established then I'm pretty sure) was in the Railway Building next to Parliament House. (When we moved out of there the tenancy was taken over by another den of iniquity - The Adelaide Casino). Part of my job as an assessor was to establish standards for new vehicles to enable subsequent similar vehicles to sail through the registration process with a minimum of fuss. I can assure you that my bosses didn't think this Nagari thing would catch on and I'm sure they couldn't erase the mind-set that associated Bolwell with one-off kit cars, so it took a second one to appear in SA before we got around to weighing one and establishing all the other criteria. Incidentally, RAC horsepower ratings were some strange calculations that took into account bore diameter and number of cylinders and divide by the number you first thought of but the length of the stroke was not considered. Well, to cut a long story short, which I don't seem to be good at, one day this orangeish-red Nagari coupe turned up out the front for its Police inspection. This inspection was required because the car had come from Victoria on a permit and involved looking at the engine number and seeing if it appeared on a list of not yet recovered stolen vehicles, nothing more, nothing less. You can't be too sure about those crooks over the border. As I am very good at digressing, I'll do it one more time. I had a police inspection for one of my own Nagaris a few years later. The policeman assigned to this job had been in the force for a long time and he hadn't caught too many bank robbers lately so they gave him a clipboard and a pencil and a white lab coat (he looked just like a goal umpire before they tricked them up with colourful shirts) and off he set to demand visitors to the MVD (it became MRD later) to raise their bonnets so that he could do his stuff, i.e. look for engine numbers. His other tools of trade were a torch and a magnifying glass. Anyhow, I had bought this nice deep yellow Nagari in Melbourne (no.26) and of course it needed to have its inspection. Now the Ford Motor Company issued a special set of numbers (with the prefix A1E) to all of the engines that were off the shelf and supplied to outside customers, e.g. not destined for their own vehicles. For some reason they stamped this number underneath, on the lip where the bell housing bolts on. I explained this to our friendly policeman who wasn't prepared to believe me. Besides, he wasn't getting down on the ground to get his white dustcoat dirty for anybody. So I lifted the bonnet and he went about his work poking his torch into all the nooks and crannies, but to no avail. This one had him really stumped. His decision was that I should go away and find the engine number in my own time instead of wasting his and come back when I had found it. Tony Cullen had an engraving tool at his workshop in Blackwood so I went up there and we engraved the appropriate engine number in about eight different places. Back I went for my second inspection and this time he found one of the eight or so engine numbers. His comment was "I can't believe I missed that last time, I'm usually pretty good at finding them". I just remembered his first name was Russell. My son had little Jack Russell called Russell and he was an angry little terrier too. I must remember to ask John Davies if the car still has the original engine whether he has seen the engine number in more than one place. Getting back to B8/5, it turned up out the front as I said, and when I heard about it I raced downstairs with this crappy old camera that I kept in my top drawer for such an occasion and snapped off a picture.
It was an amazing site and you can see the driver of the Valiant taxi is amazed too. The car was so new that the side windows were fixed one piece jobs like the ones on the drag car in a recent post. You can also see te early Nagari mags that had alloy centres but steel rims. The car was purchased new from Bolwell Cars, Seaford, Victoria by Michael Kuhn, a builder from Plympton.
A year later, in 1971, Michael and the Bolwell moved to Darwin as the building industry was booming there by then. By 1979 it had found its way to Melbourne and in that year it was purchased from a Melbourne car yard by Bob and Kerryn Hampton of Emerald. They used this car for many years, only selling it to buy the Howard Ellis yellow sports. Later, Bob and Kerryn moved to the Gold Coast taking the yellow convertible with them. I really don't know much about the ownership of B8/5 after the Hamptons but it did go to NSW and a subsequent owner was Craig Wade. It is now owned by NSW member, Gordon Ross and here are a few pictures of it at a club event up there.

As you can see, it has a very distinctive bonnet bulge. I'm not sure I've seen another one like it.
It has also gained some new wheels. Most people would say thank goodness because those very early Nagari wheels were a bit of a worry. However, if anyone has any of them laying around, I might be interested in purchasing them, especially if the price was something like what an old pensioner like myself could afford. Talking about Nagari wheels, I remember Peter G saying the other day that the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory made them for Bolwell. Well, a long time ago, I was at a place called J. Swift Diecasters Pty. Ltd. on Ferntree Gully Road, Clayton North who offered me the dies for the one piece Nagari wheels. They were way down the back, out in the weather, and had been for many years. Unfortunately they were beyond redemption, otherwise I would have bought them on the spot.

Monday, May 19, 2008


This car started life as a drag car. It was powered by a 426 cu. in. Chrysler Hemi (check the number plate). Also check the rear wheels and wheel arches. While you are at it note the door windows. They are fixed perspex units with no quarter windows. Actually the very first Nagaris produced had fixed one piece windows while they developed their winder mechanism but not as late as no. 27. This is the John Hartney dragster. John is the first owner and the present owner with Graeme Lang owning it in between.

This black and white picture is from a Custom Rodder magazine showing the car at the 1972 Melbourne Hot Rod Show.

These last pictures were taken at the 1989 Victorian branch Show 'n' Tell and as you can see they show the car reverting back to something standard. The Hemi has gone too. I shouldn't say "reverting back" because the car started life in that radical form. From my own point of view, if I wanted to wake up that debate on the integrity of standard cars, I think that the car has a history of its own in that drag car format and that history has now been lost. It's the same as the 3 six-cylinder Nagaris and the four-cylinder one, they have all been changed to 302 V8s. Anyway it is good to see John reunited with his old car. Did you get that Mk.7, John?

Friday, May 16, 2008

More Mark 4s.

Well, we've talked about the Mk.4A and the Mk.4B, here's a more unusual one, the Mk.4C. There's only one of these and its most significant difference is that it's rear engined, Hillman Imp in fact. The Hillman Imp engine and gearbox was a great little set-up even in Hillman Imps. Norm Beechey used to hillclimb one when they were new and it was a rocketship. So think how it would go in a Mk.4 Bolwell. Click on comments to comment on this great little car.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Laro sees sun for the first time.

Off To AusComposites for a Digital Examination. Spycam!!

The body will be digitally recorded into "Rhino" program and smoothed/made symmetrical on computer before final shaping on their machining centre.

They have just installed the machine and the Laro is their first job.

AusComposites will be machining bucks/moulds straight off computer images for outside customers. Anything is possible - 10m boats, planes, CARS, widgets etc.

I think it's very exciting that such a progressive company is local. Anyone who wants to find out what's possible should call Serge or Sarah on (08)8329 9900. They are keen to show what they can do.

We wish they were up and running 12 months ago! Better late than never and anyway, others can benefit from knowing an Adelaide company has this capacity.

I can think of a few MK.7 builders that could have done with this. Imagine the right hand side being symmetrical with the left hand side!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It must be Mark 4 week!

Everybody knows that Mark 4s were designed for 4 cylinder engines. In their day, the 4 cyl. Ford (Cortina type) was the most popular (although I can think of 2 or 3 Peugeot examples) followed later by the trusty Corolla powerplant. Here's a couple powered with something near and dear to my heart, the good old Holden grey motor. Just look at the power bulges necessary to fit them in.This one is the famous Mark 4 of Peter Mahoney, one of the very first Bolwells to take to the racetrack. It is still racing in Historic events even now although mainly driven by Peter's son.

This red one was powered by a 6-cylinder grey motor too and at the time was owned by Roger Boylan. Subsequent owners were Ken Stratton and Roger Trethewey and it is now being rebuilt by hill-climber Alan Foster although the six cylinder is long gone.

The opposite extreme is the fitting of a rotary. You've really got to look hard to find the engine, yet this is the way to get the most power of all.

Getting back to the grey motor, that's what lived in my Mark 5. For a very short period in its life it had a Repco cross-flow head fitted that I had picked up from Dean Qualmann who used to build grey motors for speedway. Apart from the power it produced, I used to like just lifting the bonnet and looking at it. One of my deepest regrets is my impulsiveness in sending it over to the Bendigo Swap Meet when I had a touch of the shorts. Naturally it was snapped up. I'll never see one of those again I'm willing to bet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Laro news

This is how the Laro looks after this weekend just gone.

What does everybody think?

Victorian Historic Racing Register

You might notice a new entry in the links column - the VHRR. It is certainly worth a look from time to time. Especially the photo pages. Right now there are some excellent shots of club members Trevor Lambert and Ken Messenger competing at the Mallala Easter historic meeting in their Elfin and DB3S replica respectively. Also in the pictures of the recent Phillip Island historic racing extravaganza is a great one of Mark Wells in his Mk.7 convertible as well as the Veskanda and the Lambert Elfin.


Remember Dinky? Dinky started life as one of the rare Mk.4 coupes. There were a few of them, I remember a Peugeot powered one getting around Sydney. Anyway, this one lived in Northcote, Melbourne and in the hands of Peter and Judith Jones attended everything Bolwell that was going in the seventies. Funny looking things the coupes with their gull-wing doors. This is what happens when you make a hardtop out of what was designed as a roadster. Garrie Cooper did the same thing with a one-off coupe version of the Elfin Mallala which became a rather famous racer and I'm sure was at the recent Phillip Island historic meeting. Peter used Dinky in this guise in competition and on the road for a very long time.
From where I don't know, he acquired a Mk.4B body and below is how Dinky turned out to be in the end.
This photo below is that very body sitting on a trailer in a backyard in suburban Adelaide where it was taken to flop a mould before the Dinky rebuild took place. Lots of procrastination eventuated and eventually the body was called back to Melbourne before the moulds were made.
Peter did get to use Dinky in its new form but died at an age too young to be fair quite a few years back now.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mk.4A vs. Mk.4B

About a month ago I happened to mention here that I preferred the look of the 4B to the 4A. A few people have asked me why, so here's a couple of shots, one of each, tell me which you prefer. I guess it's a matter of taste. This is Ray Johnstone racing his Mk.4A at Calder way back in the 60s, maybe early 70s. I've heard it said that a 4A looks like a blanket thrown over four wheels. I've got a shot of "Dinky" (remember her?) which exemplifies that more and I'll show it to you in my next post.
This is a body out of the Mk.4B mould. This is the car that the late Werner Rodkin used for hillclimbs and now resides in Europe. Do you know how it got to be over there? Well, a German couple entered their exotic sports car (I forget now what it was) in the Targa Tasmania one year and when they arrived to compete found that their car was still on the high seas so they bought this little car which just happened to be on the market at the time so that they didn't waste their entry. After the Targa they decided they liked the car so much they took it home with them.

Anyway, the 4A and the 4B do look different. Which do you prefer?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cookie Coaches

Remember the Cookie Coach? Bolwell made a batch of them (funny word "batch" - sounds like they made a batch of cookies) for the "Cookie Coach Company". This was a franchise operation that had people buying these vans and access to daily baked cookies and they had to go around the streets flogging them. The idea finally disappeared up its own bum, just like Mr. Whippy vans, and the second-hand vans turned up in all sorts of places around the country mainly as promotional vehicles. The one in the first three photos is on Hamilton Island and the other one used to be a means of selling jewellery at Royal Shows.

Smiths Potato Chips have one and Pete Garvin sent me some photos of a couple that are used for home deliveries of Big Macs and owned by a Melbourne suburban McDonalds outlet. I once knew of a radio station that had one. Sportscar lovers say they are not real Bolwells but there is an oval shaped, brass coloured "Bolwell" badge on the front for all to see. The purists then say that they are still not Bolwells because they only built the body and not the chassis. These bodies were mounted on commercial versions of Suzuki or Daihatsu chassis. Anyway I think they are Bolwells and I've always wanted one. Pete calls them the Mark Nine-and-a-half. They appeared between the Mk.9 Ikara and the Mk.10 Nagari. I know of one languishing in a warehouse but I've never had the available funds to make them a decent offer. I did respond to an ad. for one in Unique Cars once. It turned out to be a pirate job. Ther's one for the original vs. replica debate.

Friday, May 9, 2008

"Spy Cam" - Laro

Well, here it is.....
You can get some idea of how it is going to look. These are getting to be old photos really as it has progressed relatively fast of late and looks even better now. Basically these are photos of the buck. The buck and sub-frame are about to come off the chassis to be detailed for moulds. The chassis is complete under there somewhere(!), ready for finish/weld/seal/paint and assembly.

Whilst it is still a relatively small car (4.15m long X 1.86m wide X 1.27m high) the cabin is large. Simon's human test dummy @ 6 ft 3" & 135 kg. can get in and out easily and the seat is not adjusted all the way back for his driving position. I must say that it is the easiest car for me to get into and out of as well and I feel very comfortable in the driver's seat.

In Simon's words it is not a race car on the road. e.g. it will ride smoothly, have provision for "thickshake drink holders", secure storage in cab for laptop, handbag(s), camera etc. Also 2 full size golf bags and 2 medium suitcases, 2 toilet bags and some miscellaneous soft stuff in the boot, plus a full size spare and 75 litres of fuel.

With LS2 etc. it will be a useful split-personality, ie 0-100 in sub 5s for 20% of its life but will take off in 2nd, shift to 6th and keep up with the traffic for the (realistically) largest part of its life (without alarming any of the faint-hearted who may be present!).

Chassis torsional rigidity is over 30,000Nm per degree.
Simon reckons if it rattles, knocks, squeeks, shimmies or bump steers in any way he will burn it to the ground! I don't think there will be any fear of that.
We'll see soon enough.
Comments are encouraged. Just click on the word "comments".

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wide Bodied Sports Cars

Remember a couple of months ago we talked about the wide bodied Austin Healey? Well here's some pictures of a wide bodied Bolwell.

The history of the car goes back some time. Where the body and chassis came from originally I have no idea. Perhaps Gary Williamson, the current owner, may know. Anyway, it turned up in California where the owner widened it to accommodate an RX7 windscreen. Really, the plan was to go into production over there and widening it was part of getting around copyright problems (at least that's what I've been told). Anyway, before much progress was made in that direction the bloke died. His beneficiaries brought the car back to Australia and eventually it was acquired by Gary. My understanding is that Gary bought it at a good price because it had no integrity as an original Nagari, which should please the protectors of the values of credentialed vehicles. Gary had begun the narrowing process but I think I might have chucked a spanner in the works by suggesting that it looks better wider. From my point of view, the long job of taking the four or so inches out of it is not going to make it into an original car as it has no chassis number and would still be a special or hybrid no matter what. I think it has historical interest as it is in its own right and a wider car, apart from being visually pleasing, is more practical as it gives a bit more elbow room inside and maybe (dare I say it?) the provision for wider seats.

All this leads me to something not altogether different. For some time there have been these questions floating around, especially from the Eastern states along the lines of "what's John Low up to over there?". It's time to come clean. I have been involved in a project to build a "modern day" Nagari and part of the plan was for it to be not a lot different in concept to the original Nagari, e.g. front engined, V8 powered etc. (how the new Nagari should really be). But it needed to be wider to accommodate ageing baby boomers and with ease of entry suitable for half cripples such as myself. It is coming along nicely and it's not just wider, but all the dimensions have increased out of necessity and as time goes on it is looking less like an original Nagari. An approach was made to Bolwell to officially call the car a Nagari "Tribute" as that was the intention - a tribute to the original design. The response was that we must not have any reference to "Nagari" as they were down the track with their own new Nagari. It's now unofficially called a "Laro" which is a reference to the designer and builder, Simon Aram. In the words of Patrick Conlon, "watch this space". Some spy shots are on the way.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

P3 Alfa

I really enjoyed reading about the Alfa Romeo P3 in the latest Victorian club's Slipstream. I think it is part of the Giddings collection and was in Australia for the Phillip Island historic meeting this year. I can appreciate Wayne's awe at sitting in the car with the realization that it is a 3 or 5 million dollar (or whatever it would be valued at these days) vehicle. Memories came flooding back because I've had a bit of a drive in one (minimal as it was, a push start and a short trip to the scrutineering area). I do remember, though, the twin tailshafts disappearing below the seat and groping around between your legs to change gears. The picture below is the car in question. It is in the pits at Mallala and the event was a race meeting in 1964 I reckon. It was a touring car meeting and the main attraction was Norm Beechey's Holden S4 doing battle with Clem Smith's Valiant etc. etc., etc., but in those days they had formidable fields in the supporting historic events. The Alfa may very likely be the same one as there are only 3 surviving in the world I'm told. There were 2 in Australia once. At the AGP in Lobethal in 1939 the 2 top entries were the P3s of Jack Saywell and Alf Barrett. This particular car was the Barrett one, I'm sure. Alf Barrett campaigned the car in Australian Grands Prix in the thirties and forties and it was taken over by Lex Davison in the early fifties. In the sixties, South Australian, Doug Jarvis drove it in historic events. There were lots of nice ex-AGP cars running then. Lately, except for the V8 specials, quite a few have disappeared overseas. The old blokes of historic racing in SA were really good with us young guys, always free with info and we could help out with assembly of all sorts of Bentleys etc. and even get to go away to hillclimbs intersate. Some of them are still around, like Gavin Sandford-Morgan. Some of us were able to go out to his place, Drumminor, on the Golden Grove Road and mess about in his workshop. I remember looking at a Bugatti front axle on the bench and thinking what a work of art it was. There was a bloke who had a reasonable inheritance who seemed determined to blow it all on racing specials like the Bugatti-Dodge and the Alfa-Ford and some of us were able to pick up the remains and turn them into something after he had discarded them. Tony Cullen, in particular, did a good job on the AlfaV8 and then went on his honeymoon in it. All this in a car that had competed in more than one AGP. Tony has made a replica of that car, at great expense, that appears so authentic that he's been invited to bring it along to the Lobethal re-enactment later this year.

The other car pictured was at the same race meeting and is the Maserati of Colin Hyams. Colin didn't seem a lot older than us but he must have had a few bob and I mention him because he had a genuine LeMans GT40 that I managed to drive around the Adelaide Showgrounds. The Sporting Car Club had a car show in Centennial Hall called the Cavalcade of Cars and the GT40 was one of the attractions. This was in the days before security companies and the young members were the overnight guards and helped with putting the cars in their places and so on.
On my night to be on duty I remember having a comfortable sleep in the back of a huge Packard limousine that was originally the chauffered mayoral car for the Nuriootpa council in the days before amalgamations and when Mayors had flash cars. This was later to be my wedding car and was also used in the film "On The Beach" so Ava Gardiner and Gregory Peck had parked their bums on my comfortable bed.

While on the subject of AGPs, my dad, when I was in primary school, took me to the AGP at Port Wakefield, so I was a witness to former Bolwell Club member, Keith Rilstone coming 5th in the Rilstone Special. When I was even younger, dad took me to Adelaide Oval to see the great Don Bradman play in his last test match against England. He was out for a duck!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mark 7 rear ends

I don't consider myself a connoisseur of rear ends (or someone that can spell that word I just typed) but here's a selection of Mk. 7 convertibles' tail sections while the Mk.7 convertible is on the agenda.The first one is the subject of our recent articles and looks very smart with its Fairlane tail lights and relatively flat rear deck.
This one is Dino's and retains the original Mk.7/Toyoya tail lights and blacked out rear section which emphasizes the rear lip.
The third one is Mark's and I like this particular photo of it because you can see the late model Nagari boot seal and guard flares and different tail lights yet again.
This one is Tony's (or was ). It was once a black coupe and almost overnight just appeared as a Fosters blue convertible. The photo was taken through the windscreen of the Pantera on the way home from Renmark way back then. The car was particularly memorable that Easter for its giant burnouts. Unfortunately it is no more as it was completely destroyed in a bushfire at Kangarilla last year.
This last one is Roger's and notice that Roger has chosen to retain the coupe's original shape at the rear and looks great.
Five different Mk.7 convertibles and five different approaches.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

3 more photos - same car

Dino sent me some pictures of the black convertible that he had taken at the 1993 National meet in Braidwood. The first two are significant because they show up that very unique bonnet bulge very well. Ted Middleton owned the car then. Dino relates a story he heard from Deidre:- Shortly after that Easter he had a bingle, got it repaired and then took it to Qld. where he apparently traded it in for something bigger. The guy who owned the car yard couldn't sell it so he decided to keep it. After a while his wife wanted him to sell it and although he advertised it (it was on the BCCA website for over 12 months) he decided to tell her he couldn't even though he had some pretty good offers.

The last we people down South have heard is that it was up for sale again about 12 months ago and it apparently was sold to a different car yard.

Jim's creation

Here's a couple of photos I happened to have of the car taken about ten years ago when it was owned by Ted Middleton including one of the dash.