In less than a month Bendigo's CBD will be transformed into a car lover's oasis. A peak motoring body will celebrate a milestone that TOM O'CALLAGHAN discovers is owed to three early 20th century businessmen who wanted to protect an industry.
In three weeks theCalder Highway will become a mobile museum.
One hundred vehicles, each representing a year the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce has existed, roar into Central Victoria.
The cavalcade of iconic cars, trucks, ambulances, hearses and motorbikes will be waved away from the Calder Park Raceway near Melbourne by celebrity and event patron Shane Jacobson.
From there it will wind its way to the VACC’s birthplace in Bendigo.
Such is the scale of the event the VACC believes nothing like it will have been attempted before.
The cavalcade will come on the last of three days of events in Bendigo, which will include a VACC board meeting at Town Hall on Thursday. The board will meet again on Friday in town to map out a strategy for the next 100 years of VACC work before a gala dinner Saturday.
Yet Saturday afternoon will see the high profile celebrations, with the Centennial Cavalcade rolling into the CBD lead by a 1918 Buick Roadster, the VACC’s David Dowsey said.
“There will be over 60 brands, including exotic cars like Ferraris, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Aston Martins,” he said.
Then enthusiasts will be able to settle in for an afternoon Show ’n Shine in the Town Hall precinct featuring 200 cars, commercial vehicles, trucks and motorcycles. Cars will literally take centre-stage, withMr Jacobson interviewing their drivers, sharing stories and celebrating histories.
The festivities are intended as a way of saying thank-you to Bendigo, because without it and three businessmen who banded together to protect industry members, the VACC would not now represent thousands across the state.
To understand why Bendigo played such an important role in the early Victorian motor industry you have to understand how it made its mark in 1900s Australia.
The motor car was invented in Germany in the late 1800s century. “As you can imagine, Bendigo’s about as far away from Germany as you can imagine,” Mr Dowsey said.
The first cars did not appear on Australian roads until about 1900 and, even then, they were a rarity.
Yet by 1918 things were changing, with about 15,000 vehicles on Victorian roads.
“If you think about our population back in 1900, you are talking about maybe four million people,” Mr Dowsey said.
“So to have 15,000 vehicles in Victoria (by 1918) meant the industry grew up very quickly. Australians were very keen adopters of the motor vehicle because it solved a lot of the problems we faced in terms of distance.”
People could now expect to get from Bendigo to Melbourne, for example, in one day, rather than the overnight trip with a horse and cart.
All over Australia businesses were starting up to sell and service cars and to trade in parts.
In Bendigo a group of car dealers started to ask themselves what would happen if big international companies started to establish in Australia and threaten local operators.
The answer they came up with was to unite.
“Two brothers by the name of Henry and Percy Rickards and a gentleman by the name of Montague Simes, all Bendigo car dealers, called a meeting at the Bendigo Chamber of Commerce rooms,” Mr Dowsey said.
“Back in the days before the internet this was the way people were able to come together … by either physically getting in a room with one another or become part of a collective united by things like … magazines and letters, you know.
“So somebody in Horsham, or Warrnambool, or Swan Hill or Bendigo could be part of something bigger than themselves.”
The group initially dedicated itself to representing car dealers, but soon expanded to cover employers across the automotive industry in a bid bolster influence with with governments.
Mr Dowsey said it was an ambitious plan and he was sure founding members had little inkling the group would become what it was today.
Of the approximately 5200 current members, 50 per cent are based in regional Victoria.
“Hence, again, why we were so determined to come to Bendigo for our celebrations,” Mr Dowsey said.
Most VACC members owned small businesses. Many ran mum and dad operations.
Bendigo’s Innes Motors has the distinction of being the VACC’s oldest continuously owned family business.
The business is over 40 years old but can trace its origins back four generations.
Owner Scott Innes said the VACC’s value was in the support it offered.
“There’s a lot of chaps there you can get a lot of advice from,” he said.
Mr Innes said he most valued the legal advice the VACC offered, as well as help navigating changes in the industry around employment contracts.
“At the end of the day we still are a family business and we work on staff being with us long term. If you do the wrong thing you are not just going to lose one staff member, you are going to lose a lot more,” he said.
“We are lucky in that we have a good team here currently, but if we do need any support from VACC they are always there.”
As well as assisting businesses, the VACC also lobbies governments and has racked up 100 years worth of wins for the industry including, recently, reforming how police dealt with fuel theft.
Mr Dowsey said that until recently service station owners were compelled to pursue those who stole their fuel through the courts, because Victoria Police considered the crime to be a civil matter.
“It was a totally ridiculous situation. We’ve been fighting and fighting for this cause for a long time. Just in the last two months Victoria Police made the announcement they would be prosecuting fuel theft as a crime,” he said.
“We do this sort of work all the time.”
The VACC Centennial Cavalcade and Show ’n Shine from 12pm until 4pm on Saturday 22 September in the Bendigo Town Hall precinct. The free event will showcase up to 200 cars, commercial vehicles, trucks and motorcycles.
The 100 cars taking part VACC Centennial Cavalcade will leave the Calder Park Raceway at 8.30am and arrive in Bendigo at about 11am.
Camping enthusiast to drive distinctive motorhome
NO MATTER where Alan Stevens travels, it always feels like home.
That’s because the camping enthusiast from Eaglehawk has an impressive collection of vintage camping vehicles, but none more distinctive than his 1952 Austin Loadmaster motorhome.
The vehicle is certain to catch the crowd’s attention when it appears at the VACC Centennial Cavalcade and Show ‘n Shine in Bendigo later this month, an event that will celebrate the formation of VACC in Bendigo in September 1918.
Vintage work vehicles to make the Calder cavalcade
George Dawson has been surrounded by commercial vehicles all his life.
The Bendigo resident obtained his first truck in 1950, running it twice weekly between Raywood and Bendigo as a general carrier. Three years later, Mr Dawson and his father successfully tendered for a school bus contract at Raywood.
With help from retired panel beater Ian Rye, Mr Dawson has lovingly restored two vehicles to participate in the VACC Centennial Cavalcade and Show ’n Shine in Bendigo later this month.
‘Legendary’ Alvis 12/50 roadster to go on show for cavalcade
AS A QANTAS pilot, Peter Miller is used to operating modern, sophisticated machinery, but since retiring nine years ago he’s found more time to pursue one of his other great passions, vintage cars.
Mr Miller, of New Gisborne, is the proud owner of a rare 1925 Alvis 12/50 roadster and is looking forward to participating in the VACC Centennial Cavalcade and Show ’n Shine.
“I’ve owned Alvis cars for quite some time but the 12/50 is legendary, it’s just an absolutely fabulous motor car and I’ve always wanted one. They are very hard to find so when it came on the market I didn’t hesitate,” he said.
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