The Road Ahead : August 2013
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 15 QLD INTERVIEW | LIFESTYLE AUG/SEP 2013 THE ROAD AHEAD 'HAVING A GO' is something David Bowden knows well. In his 70 years, the long-time RACQ member has, among many other things, started and run several successful businesses (including the Bowden's Own premium car care products), made his fortune trading and forecasting the share market, developed and maintained a loving family relationship and built up the quintessential Australian motor sport car collection. But it wasn't always flat stick in top gear. Along the way, he lost the afore- said fortune and, later in life, was afflicted with Parkinson's disease, both of which were life-changing moments. "I went broke in 1986," he told me in the study of his Buderim property. "I could have traded my way out, but the banks wouldn't give me the chance. But it was an opportunity to ponder (life). You don't do that when the going's good." He built things up again -- something he never doubted he could do. Then came the debilitating onset of Parkinson's disease. "Trading has been a huge thing in my life," he said. "When I got crook, I had to give it away. In 2000, I retired. It was like giving up my identity." But, nearly three years ago, things once again took a turn for the better when he underwent brain surgery to address his condition. This has improved his quality of life markedly, though "I run out of steam after a while," he confided. On the day I was privileged to be given a personally-guided tour of the workshops and garages that litter the family's sprawling, beautifully-terraced hillside property, David Bowden's steam capacity was running just fine. The very first thing he wanted to show me was the late Ian 'Pete' Geoghegan's Ford Mustang that won the 1965 Australian Touring Car Championships, one of the 'most heralded' competition cars of all time. Or, more specifically, the 289 cubic inch V8 that powers it. "We had it dyno-tuned yesterday," he said, with the enthusiasm of a small boy that's just found a ticket to the fun park. "(It's putting out) 443 horsepower (326kW). Shelby (legendary American Ford performance house) got 393hp (289kW) out of it (nearly 50 years ago, in the car's hey-day)." With a glint in his eye, he added, "I'm driving it at Queensland Raceway this weekend." We move on. Along the way, David tells me about the marvellous motorcade that has been -- still is -- his life. "My first car was a 1934 Ford Coupe with cycle guards. I was a hot-rodder by heart, right from the start. I built one when I was 19, down in the shed. (That) was as good a time as I've ever had in my life." So how many cars has he owned? "Hundreds. I was a car and caravan dealer and had yards in Townsville and Mackay. I would drive them up from Brisbane, towed behind a Phase III GTHO Falcon. I would have owned 20 or so Phase II and IIIs," he said of the iconic Australian muscle car. You can add rare Phase I and Phase IV models to that, too. In fact, David has gleaming examples of all four parked in a row in one of his garages. Now, you won't see that anywhere else. But lest you think he's got blue oval eyes only for Ford, look around the 80+ stunners (50+ at Buderim) that make up the collection and you will also see many a product that rolled off the Holden production line. There are assorted other makes, too; competition racers driven by legends of the sport such as Peter Brock, Ian Geoghegan, Norm Beechey, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards, etc, and road cars from some of the world's most aspirational marques -- Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc. All of which begs the question: If he could keep just one car, what would it be? "I couldn't answer that," he said, a look of concern on his face that such an Armageddon might ever happen. Then, after a moment or two: "There's the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, of course (a sentimental favourite)." And the competition cars? "Moffat's Trans Am Mustang, Geoghegan's GTHO Super Falcon, Beechey's Monaro GTS 350 ... oh, and Brockie's A9X Torana he won Bathurst in by six laps back in '79." No one can read the future, not even an astute market dealer and forecaster, but David Bowden knows this priceless collection (he calls it a "living thing") is in good hands. "I couldn't ask for better people to look after it than the boys (his sons Dan and Chris)," the family patriarch said. My first car was a 1934 Ford Coupe with cycle guards. I was a hot-rodder by heart, right from the start. I built one when I was 19, down in the shed. (That) was as good a time as I've ever had in my life. BOWDEN'S ULTIMATE MEMBER EVENT Selected Sunshine Coast RACQ Ultimate members were invited to a special event at Bowden's in 2012. Each member and a guest (some 140 in total) experienced a guided, three- hour tour which finished just in time for a free barbecue lunch and dessert. The event proved to be extremely popular and will be held again later in the year. For information on Ultimate membership, visit racq.com/ultimate. For details of other opportunities to see the Bowden collection first- hand, go to bowdensown.com.au.