ALL ROADS LEAD TO MILDURA: Members of the Bristol Owners Club of Australia made Mildura their home this week as the Club enjoyed their bi-annual national rally in the city. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

A GATHERING of motoring enthusiasts descended on Mildura this week, as the Bristol Owners Club of Australia (BOCA) arrived for a four-night stay as part of their week-long ‘Mildura Mungo Wedgie’ national rally.

The gathering involved 28 cars and 60 people.

The BOCA was formed in Victoria and has 175 members Australia-wide. Sixty of those are from Victoria, and a further 39 from NSW.

The balance of membership comes from the rest of the country, except the Northern Territory. 

To be a full member of BOCA you must be a Bristol owner, but there are many enthusiastic, non-Bristol owning associate members. 

The club boasts a well-supported social program, with regular one and two-day runs and a week-long national rally, bringing together members from all States every two years.

Bob Dunk, and his wife Jenny, travelled from Tahmoor (near Picton) more than 100kms west of Sydney for the rally. The Mildura Weekly caught up with Bob in the circular driveway of Rio Vista on Tuesday morning, where he, and the group, gathered for photos and a tour of the historic house. 

“I’m the lucky one to get in front of the house,” Bob said.

Bob is the proud owner of a ‘volcanic red’ 1953 Bristol 403 which he acquired in 1974.

“I ran it for 10 years, then it sat in the garage for 20 years and I started rebuilding it in 1995. I got it back on the road in 2003, and I’ve done over 100,000kms since,” he said.

The car still travels beautifully courtesy of its two-litre, six-cylinder engine.

“I bought it off the local doctor in Picton and he was the second person to own it, the original owner was John Snow who took delivery in England and toured the UK and Europe in it, including a mountain rally, before he brought it to Australia,” Bob said.

“Since I put the car back on the road I haven’t missed a national rally or any of the State rallies.”

The Bristol is a beautiful vehicle, right up there with the Jaguar, and the collection visiting Mildura was first class. 

After World War 2, the Bristol Aeroplane Company, which built the Blenheim, Beaufort and Beaufighter aircraft, had unused factory space and a skilled, but idle workforce. 

As war reparation it received the rights to the pre-war BMW car designs. These were developed, improved and re-engineered to become the first Bristol – the 400 – that was built to the Bristol Aeroplane Company aviation standards. 

The two-litre Bristol engine was used to power many other makes to sporting success, including Frazer Nash, AC, Cooper, Lotus, Lister and others. Six-cylinder Bristols continued to be produced until  1961 when Chrysler V8s were introduced in all models, and recently with the eight-litre V10 Bristol Fighter, a 300km/h GT supercar.

The Bristol 400 was announced in 1946, and was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1947. It went on sale that year for £2724. 

BOCA national committee member and South Australian delegate, Peter Forrester, co-organised the Mildura national rally, and it isn’t the first time the club has held an event in Mildura.

“BOCA actually celebrated its first national rally ever in Mildura in 1976, and so we are revisiting the city for another national event 42 years later,” Peter said. “In 1976, 13 Bristols attended the rally. This year we have 28.

“It’s wonderful to be here, and whenever we hold a big event within a State, and we go to a country town, the injection of funds into the local economy is fantastic, and it makes a big difference to small businesses and it’s something we enjoy doing.”

Another NSW member, Geoff Dowdle, made the journey from Sydney, staying in Narrandera overnight before completing the drive to Mildura on Monday afternoon.

“The old car travels along quite nicely. It’s got a two-litre six, developing 100 horsepower, which on the open road really moves along. These engines were based on the 1937 BMW motor,” he said. “You could cruise well over the 110km/h limit if you were game, but of course we wouldn’t do that!”

While in Mildura the group took part in a number of planned activities, including a visit to Buronga’s Holden Museum, lunch at Trentham Estate winery, a day trip to Mungo National Park and a dinner cruise aboard the Paddle Steamer Mundoo.