Club History

Bugatti Club Australia (BCA)

In the 1920s the Bugatti motor car dominated the race tracks of Australia. Building on the successes of the Brescia in earlier days, most notably on the difficult and dangerous Maroubra banked track in Sydney, Grand Prix Bugattis were to win the Australian Grand Prix in 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932.

As the cars got older there developed something of a community spirit between their owners, possibly arising from the idiosyncrasies of their cars. This spirit continued into the postwar years; by then the main influence was the continued use of aging Bugattis in vintage racing, an activity which started in Victoria during the early 1950s.

In Victoria Bugatti activities centred on Peter Menere’s workshop in Brighton, a Melbourne bayside suburb, where Peter Dale’s and ‘Puss’ Catlin’s Type 51A’s and the Leech brother’s 37 and 37A was fettled for racing. In Sydney the Bugatti community were less oriented towards racing; the focus for New South Wales Bugattistes being Eric Pengilley’s workshop in Cammeray, an inner Sydney suburb, which regularly hosted gatherings of the clan, including long-term Bugatti drivers, the Newton Brothers and Jim Perry.

A new generation of Bugatti owners appeared during the 1950s and 1960s and their perception was different from those who had grown up with the cars when new; they were the vintage car enthusiasts who were more attuned to using the cars in events arranged by car clubs. One of the new breed was a Type 57 owner, Cameron Macmillan, who first considered forming ‘a loose association of Australian owners’ in the early 60s. He contacted the Bugatti Owners Club in England requesting details of that Club’s members living in Australia and received a short list of between 12 and 15 names. A letter was sent to those on the list and Cameron came into contact with Bob King who had a list of Victorian owners. From this beginning a combined list was created, complemented by information on Bugattis in other states received from Cyril Poole in WA, Bob Burnett-Read in SA, Geoff Hine in Tasmania and ‘PG’ Woodhouse in Queensland.

Cameron then published a Register of Australian Bugattis in early 1964. In June 1965 he arranged a meeting of owners in Melbourne to discuss the idea of forming a club; and it was followed by a similar meeting in Sydney a month later, also hosted by Cameron. The Australian Bugatti Register was announced via letter to owners on July 5, 1965. By the end of the year, the Register consisted of 29 members who owned 38 Bugattis between them. The first newsletter, the Register Bulletin, was produced in 1966 and that year also saw the first of the biennial Great Australian Bugatti Rallies. The inaugural event was held at Wagga Wagga in NSW and was a rousing success with 10 Bugattis in attendance, consisting of Types 22, 23, 37 x2, 39, 40, 44 x2, 57 and 57C models.

From there the club has gone from strength to strength, with a membership now exceeding 100 [including overseas members] with about 65 Australian cars registered. In 1974 Bob King compiled a self published Register of all Australian and New Zealand the Bugattis, past or present, and this was expanded into a full sized, coffee table book, ‘Bugattis in Australasia’ [Turton and Armstrong, 1992]. It listed about 125 cars known to be or have been in Australia and New Zealand. In December 1991 the club was incorporated as a Bugatti Club Australia Inc. In 2005 it hosted an International Rally through southern New South Wales and Victoria which attracted 35 cars, including 18 from overseas.

– Bob King