Our club includes people with a wealth of knowledgethat we wish to preserve. This is the first in a series about these
This is Frank’s story, as told to me one sunny day sitting on his front porch in the sun.
Frank was born in Melbourne in 1933. He married Moira in 1954 andthey had five children, with one passing away.
In Frank’s words when asked how many grandchildren - “Lots”
His interest in cars started at 14 years old, when he became
interested in board track racing with a bike he paid for while working part time in a plastic factory.
As a young boy Frank and his mate would ride their push bikes from Preston to Glenburvie crossing in Essendon to see
The Spirit of Progress train speed down the hill at 80mph. He said they rode all that way and it was gone in about one minute.
This he said was the highlight of his youth and where his interest in trains began.
His other love is steam engines. He started to collectmodel trains, which he showed me, and let me tell you they are beautifully made and very heavy.
His first motor bikewas a Velocette at age 18.
Now not many people, when asked: “What was your first car?” can respond: “A Buggatti Brescia.” Notbad for a young fella!
Frank worked all over the state for the railways as a civil engineer.
He learnt his restoration skills at the Noble Tech and took about 10 years to restore each car.
Over the years Frank has owned a Bugatti Brescia; a Model A Ford; a Jaguar Mark 7; a VW Beetle;
a Mercedes 280 CE; and four Alfa Romeos (these were for the kids.)
He still owns three Rileys: a 1927 Riley 9; a Kestrel Sprite; and a Riley MPH.
He told me that when he was learning at the tech he bought a sheet of aluminium 10ft long by 2ft wide
and transported it on the top of the VW to Noble Park and back because you couldn’t leave it there.
He never saw a policeman the whole journey.
He started restoring because his daily drives were boring (in his words). He built the Riley 9 from scratch
as he only had three door handles to start with. He told me that he has his dream car and that is the Riley MPH.
It also his favourite. It is very rare as only 14 were made. One was owned by the President of GMH. Frank corresponded
with people in the UK when he was building it and when some of them came out here they couldn’t tell the
difference from the original car. It has been displayed in the
National Automotive Museum of Tasmania.
Frank was a founding member of the Riley Car Club and an early member in the WDHVC.
He has driven his Riley 9 all over Australia and camped everywhere.
He tells me a Riley 9 held the record from Perth to Sydney in 1923 and they re-enacted the journey
about 20 years ago. By the time they got to Melbourne, Moira got out and she said:” l have had enough!”
I had a thoroughly wonderful day with Frank and learnt about a Club Legend.
- Sharyn Harris
Velocettes & Bugatti's
In 1952 or thereabouts my mates and I were riding Velocette motorbikes, one of which had a bevel gear
driven overhead cam engine (KSS). We heard of an old car for sale which sounded interesting and which
we could afford, so we bought it between us.
It was a Type 13 Bugatti (Brescia) mainly because it had a bevel gear driven, overhead cam engine. Being
an early car it had no front brakes and the general condition was poor. The engine ran all right, but
the clutch, which consisted of an alternate series of steel plates, had welded itself solid. After freeing this
up with kerosene and litharge it worked okay, so the next thing was the gearbox.
On taking off the top cover we found all the gear teeth of the gears were missing, thanks to the nonfunctioning
clutch. We wrote a letter to the manufacturer in France and received a polite reply that they
could supply a set of gears for about £80. Unfortunately we were only getting paid about 30 shillings a
week as electrical apprentices, so were unable to avail ourselves of Molsheim’s offer. We did however
manage to travel around the block in Newport a couple of times in top (direct) gear.
The enclosed photo was taken on arrival home. That’s me on the left and my mate Eric W Clarke on the
right. The Bugatti was sold on after this. I bought a Riley Nine and Eric bought a straight eight Bugatti
later on. I wonder if the car or parts still exist? - Frank McKenzie
Our club includes people with a wealth of knowledge and experience that we wish to preserve.
Western District Historic Vehicle Club