Club Lotus Australia is full of interesting people doing interesting things with interesting cars.
We want to tell their stories, and through this develop and preserve a written history of the club, its members and their cars. So once a month we’re going to share one person’s story with you right here on the Club website!
Trevor Simpson is relatively new to the club, but he’s brought with him an interesting story, some incredible expertise and experience and, of course, some beautiful cars.
Trevor Simpson. I’ve been involved in car clubs since back in the ‘60s. I joined the Falcon Car Club, based in Northbridge in Sydney, which eventually became the Pacific Auto Club. Since then I’ve been involved in the HSRCA as well.
I joined Club Lotus Australia only about six months ago. I had been going to the website over the years looking for Lotus for sale, so I knew the club quite well. When I was fortunate enough to buy the Geoghegan Works Lotus Cortina I thought it was time to finally join and get involved, because the car’s been hidden away for almost thirty years.
Now that I’ve joined I’ve been impressed with all of the members I’ve met, and with how the club is run.
CLA. Tell us a little about your journey and how you came to find cars and motor racing.
I left school at the age of fifteen to do an apprenticeship at Seymours of Roseville working as a motor mechanic. We did everything – Rolls Royce to Goggomobil!
In 1962 I was asked by one of the mechanics if I would help work on a race car. It was an MGA owned by an Englishman, Derrick Netting, who worked at BMC in the Special Projects Division. My first motor race was in May ’62 at Catalina Park in Katoomba and that racing experience fuelled my love for cars and motor racing.
I have very fond memories of motor racing in the ’60s and ‘70s. In particular the Tasman Series round at Warwick Farm when Jochen Rindt drove his Lotus 49 in torrential rain and won by almost a lap. I also have good memories of the late Frank Matich driving for Leaton Motors in a D-Type Jaguar and the Lotus 11.
Those truly were magic days, and I wish racing today could earn back some of that magic!
In 1970 I undertook a change of direction, as my work and hobby were at that point the same. I went into property, but kept up my involvement with cars and motor racing.
A school friend, David Booth, had just purchased a Birrana 374 Formula 3 car. My business partner and I decided to sponsor David, which led to us meeting Gary Scott and also Leo Geoghegan, who was coaching Gary at the time.
Over the years I have owned a variety of cars, however around 2005 I had an urge to buy a Repco Brabham car, something which had always been a dream of mine. It took some time to find the right car, as it does, but I eventually sourced a BT23-B-3 from a collection in England.
I set to work restoring it with the help of a friend. It’s a Tasman car, although it never ran in the series, powered by a 2.5-litre Climax motor. The combination results in a 170-mile-per-hour plus car, which is serious speed in an open wheeler from the ’60s!
I asked John Bowe to drive it for me – the cars I have are too quick for me to drive (the way they should be at least!) John drove the car with great success. He’s a great driver, and just as great a guy.
This experience led to me purchasing my workshop and a number of additional road and race cars, some of which I have also restored. I now spend two or three days a week maintaining my cars and helping friends with theirs.
In 2003 I retired, and am very blessed in that I’m now able to spend my time with my wife, Kerrie and son, Andrew, travelling, sailing and playing with my cars!
Tell us about that stunning Cortina.
I’ve wanted to buy a Lotus for thirty years. I first tried to buy a Lotus Elan back about thirty years ago, but unfortunately someone else bought it before we were able to.
Since then I’ve looked at a number of cars, but that love for Lotuses; the design of the cars, hasn’t dulled.
Getting closer to the present I actually tried to buy the Dawson-Damer Lotus 49 a few years ago after the Tasman Revival, but unfortunately that fell through as well.
There were 97 factory Lotus Cortinas made. When the factory made them, they sent them out in batches of three. Jim Clark got three; Alan Mann Racing also got three, and so did other teams around the world.
Three of those cars came to Australia. They left the United Kingdom in November of 1963 and arrived in early ’64. We’ve done a lot of research, but we don’t yet know where the other two cars went.
Graham Mein of Ballina originally purchased the Geoghegan Cortina in 1988 and I’ve known about the car for six to eight years. In period it raced for about two years. It won a number of races and was often on the podium.
Graham commented to me that when he first encountered the Geoghegan car he didn’t realise that it was a Works car. It wasn’t until we spoke to Andy Middlehurst of the UK, who has the original papers from Lotus, that we worked that out.
Back in 1965 it was badly rolled at Catalina Park. It was.. sort-of.. repaired and then sold to Blair Sheppard Cars in Brisbane. Geoff Digby bought it, road registered it and used it for some years.
Graham Mein ended up buying it in 1988 and began restoring it. This became a twenty-five-year, no-bolt-overlooked restoration and he’s done a perfect job with it. There’s nothing that needs doing on it – all I’ve done is put historic plates on it and installed seat belts!
When Graham agreed to sell me the car, I think he did so because he knew that I was passionate about the car and wanted to preserve it and to keep it in Australia.
As my wife Kerrie said – it’s a very pretty car. Being a factory car, it’s come quite a long way from the standard Lotus Cortina.
It’s a racing car; sparse and purposeful, but undeniably beautiful. It’s painted black because Leo’s dad ran a taxi fleet back in the 1960s and all of the taxis were black. So, all of his racing cars were black too! In later years the Geoghegans painted all their cars white.
With the historic plates organised I’m thinking about doing some of the Club’s plate runs. I don’t have any plans to race it, but I want to get it out so that people can take a look at it and enjoy it!
Your journey into the driver’s seat of a Lotus has been a long time coming. What other cars have you enjoyed along the way, and are there any you’d like to get to in the future?
I love race cars and, in particular, Repco-Brabhams! I have the honour of owning a Repco-Brabham BT5 sports car, which is exceedingly rare. There were only two of them made. It was driven by Paul Hawkins (Hawkeye) and Frank Gardner in its time, and undoubtedly driven by Sir Jack himself.
It was first raced in the United Kingdom and found great success there. It then passed between a few owners and came to Australia in the ‘90s. I was able to buy it in about 2012, and I’ve since restored it to as it was when it raced under Ian Walker Racing in the UK in 1965.
I’d still love to buy an Elan! That’s something I’d like to do for my wife – a car for her to drive and one in which we can do club events and things like that. I also dream of owning a Le Mans Porsche 962.
Derek Bennett driving the BT 14 on his way victory at Oulton Park in 12 June 1965. Photo by Frank Hall, from Chevron – The Derek Bennet Story
I also own a Repco-Brabham BT14. This car was built as an F1 car and first raced in the Sunday Mirror Trophy (Goodwood) on 19 April 1965. It was owned by Robert Ashcroft Racing and driven by John Cardwell to finish 11th outright against Clark, Rindt, Brabham, Hulme and co.
Robert Ashcroft Racing then asked Derick Bennet, owner of Chevron Cars, to drive the car. He did, to great success, for almost 12 months.
In 1986 Mike Freeman of the UK bought this car and in 1987 won the FIA European Historic Championship. Mike followed it up in 1988 by coming second in the Championship.
It was then sold to Bob Hollander of the US. I found the car in a race car workshop just outside Atlanta GA under a cover. It had not been driven for over 10 years. I brought the car to Australia and am now restoring it to as it raced back in 1965.
You’re an accomplished engineer and mechanic, and the work you’ve done on your cars is stunning. Tell us a little about your interest in working on the cars.
Engineering is one of the most powerful draws cars have for me. I’m much more interested in the engineering work in the car than the marque itself.
Being able to look at engineering at a point in history is fascinating as well. If you look at a 246 Ferrari, which was designed in ’67 or ’68, even by today’s standards they’re magnificent motorcars in what they’re bringing to the world stage.
Modern cars can get too complex with their computerization. If you look at the Repco-Brabhams they were designed in the early ‘60s and are beautiful things to work on. It’s the same with the little Lotuses – lovely things to work on and I get a lot of satisfaction from the work.
In fact, that’s probably two thirds of the satisfaction I get out of playing with cars. Firstly, I’m incredibly blessed to own the cars in the first place, then it’s very rewarding working on them and preserving them. I have a great appreciation for original cars; just the way they came out of the factory, and being able to take historic machines back to that state is incredibly rewarding.
I’ve also been very lucky to find like minds to help with work on certain aspects of the cars. I’m supported by PPG the paint manufacturer; I have a friend to do all the fibreglass; and I work with a fantastic spray painter.
Working with like minds is a really wonderful thing. I love how much you can learn by talking to people and sharing ideas.
Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us Trevor!