Event date: 29 November 2020
Unfortunately, the NSW BMW Drivers Club did not organise a car show this year. To my delight however, BMW Drivers Club Melbourne did! Not only was it a car show, but a weekend stay at the Park Hyatt! As soon as I saw the email notification of the event I thought to myself “right! I’m going to make this happen!” I really wanted to catch up with all my Victorian friends and make this a jolly good time, especially after they had been through such a tough lockdown.
Ironically I had just purchased a 135i from Victoria, and had it freighted up to Sydney by truck because at the time it looked as if the border would not open until close to Christmas. So the plan was hatched – get the 135i registered and drive it down to enter in the car show. Being a one-owner car that was meticulously cared for, I thought I would have a good shot at the car being competitive. Unfortunately the car had a vibration in the rear end, which turned out to be a bad wheel bearing. Replacing the rear wheel bearings on these cars is not an easy job, and unfortunately the rear half shafts were damaged when removed. This meant that the car would not be fixed by Friday when we wanted to leave. Luckily, we have car club buddies. I was driving down with my best friend Edward Forgacs, and he kindly offered that we take his reliable and trusty stead, the E39 M5. As it turned out, it is much more comfortable and thus a better choice for the long drive than the 135i anyway!
So after a rather frantic last minute packing and planning what to take, we headed off in the peak hour Friday afternoon traffic leaving Sydney in the M5 down the M5.
The traffic all but vanished at the Canberra exit, and we had a fast and easy cruise down the Hume to our overnight stop in Albury. The temperature was still over 30 degrees after sunset, and the windscreen was splattered with a constant stream of bugs, some exploding on impact! They were probably having their Friday night get-togethers and bug boogie woogies, and we were suddenly slamming into them at high speed with the M5. Oh the carnage!
Albury was a pleasant surprise. We found one of the few restaurants that would take a booking after 9pm – Level One Wine Bar. They very helpfully took our order over the phone so that it would be ready upon arrival. This place seemed to be the best in town, and it seemed as half the town was there! They have a proper stock of very fine wines from all around the world, and fantastic cocktails too. The food was superb, and we had a table overlooking the main street below. This was like a time warp back to 1999! The main street on a Friday night served as a thoroughfare for the almost constant parade of local car enthusiasts showing off their metal. Amongst the many commodores and falcons, there were skylines, supras, some BMWs (including a few M2s), old 80’s Australiana and many, many lifted and loud 4x4s.
After a Saturday morning stroll around the shops of Albury, where it seemed that half the town was about, we hit the Hume again. The change in weather was dramatic – on our non-stop journey it went from 40 degrees in Albury at 11:30am to 22 degrees on arrival in Melbourne within the 3 hour drive. When we arrived we greeted by the valet staff and helped with the luggage. We happened to arrive at exactly the same time as Jo and Graeme.
The room was amazing, and even had a full walk-in robe, and dual sinks with a huge corner bath. A steal at only $315 for the night! After checking in it was straight to the nearest self-serve carwash, where we spent the next four hours or so working as a team to remove the remains of those boogie bugs that reveled no more. I had honestly never seen so many bugs on a car! Thank goodness for the bottle of ‘bugger off’ spray in the bucket of detailing products we brought. It was a really good feeling to roll back onto the hotel forecourt with a freshly detailed M5. It helped that Edward keeps his car in ‘almost ready for car show’ clean condition in his garage. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant with around 20 people in attendance.
We arrived to find many of the Victorians sporting Espresso Martinis, the very ‘in’ thing these days. It was so nice to catch up with everyone at dinner, and meet some new friends and have a great old chat about all things car related (and also funny anecdotes). Our revelry continued late into the night with many jokes and stories being told, and great banter as always. It’s so great to have friends like this!
On Sunday morning we were greeted in the morning by typical Melbourne weather, windy and light rain. At least it wasn’t the 40 degrees that Sydney was experiencing. I even had to borrow a DCM official weatherproof jacket as I hadn’t packed for the cool rainy weather.
There were 29 cars in attendance, and quite a range indeed. From E9s to M2 Competitions. There were three categories – pre 1990, 1990-2000, and 2000 on. Lawrence approached me and surprised me by asking if I could judge the 2000 on category, to which I agreed. I had been a judge at five or so BMW car shows in NSW before, and the criteria was almost exactly the same, which made it straight forward.
After a couple of hours of very carefully and methodically going over the nine cars in my category, the results were submitted for tallying. I was outside taking some last minute photos of the cars whilst everyone had gone inside to hear the results. I was then called to come inside for the presentation. There was a pretty clear winner in the category that I judged, and also for the pre 1990 class. However, Jo announced that there had been a three-way tie for the 1990-2000 class.
This was quite unheard of in BMW car shows. Jo went on to say that after seeing the amount of bugs on one of the cars, and knowing how far it had come to attend, they had decided to award it to the M5! Edward and I were both surprised and humbled at this decision. I want to thank everyone who brought their car for display. It was a joy to meet and chat with each and everyone of you about your car. I am of the firm belief that it is the stories behind the car, the stories of the owners and their adventures with the car, that is of the greatest interest.
The drive back.
After lunch we again packed all our gear into the M5 and after saying our goodbyes we headed out of Melbourne. It was an easy drive along the Princes Highway to our overnight stop in Bairnesdale, where we enjoyed Tequilla margaritas at the local Mexican restaurant, of all places! In the morning we headed in the direction of Jindabyne. I had never driven this road across the border, and wanted to check it out. We drove through large areas of bushfire damaged forest, though there was a lot of recent regrowth.
We drove up the scenic Galantipy road, passing through high country grazing country and then into the Snowy River National Park. We were wondering why there was so very little traffic, even for a Monday morning. Then we found our answer. The tarmac abruptly ended at the fork in the road at Wulgulmerang East, where it became the Snowy River road to Jindabyne. Luckily we still had phone coverage and could check how long the unsealed bit was! Unfortunately it is unsealed from there almost all the way to Jindabyne, over 100kms away!
The other fork led to Bombala, but was also unsealed for the first 84km and looked quite sketchy, so we made the frustrating but inevitable decision to drive back the way we came, and head east to the Monaro highway to Bombala. Knowing that we had to be back in Sydney that night, let me just say that it was a lot quicker driving back down the road than on the way up!!
We stopped for lunch in Orbost, which was really pretty and leafy. The snowy river was almost completely full of water, totally different to when we last saw it on the Zundschlussel drive in October 2015.
During the day we saw three distinct types of scenery;
the coastal forests of east Gippsland between Orbost and Cann River
rolling high country steep grazing hills that could almost look like the hills district in Scotland
the inland section from Bombala to Cooma, which started off with rolling hills and trees, then became high treeless plains exceptionally good for driving visibility
The Monaro highway driving to the NSW border on the Victorian side was pretty out of shape and was narrow with many blind corners and craggy rocks hanging near the side of the road. As soon as we were greeted by the giant sandstone NSW border sign, the road immediately widened, smoothed and the corners widened up. The difference was so dramatic that I actually could not even come close to doing the speed limit safely on the Victorian side because of all the ruts in the road, but the NSW side would be perfectly safe to cruise along at 130. This is one of the best roads I’ve driven in Australia, and absolutely perfect tarmac for the M5.
We decided to stop in Canberra for dinner on the way back, and after finding a table at a very swanky new Italian restaurant about 5 mins from Parliament house, I turned around and was surprised to see none other than the deputy Prime Minister stood behind me. He went to join his QLD buddies down the back – George Christensen, Warren Entsch & Andrew Laming. Well didn’t this trip turn out to be full of unexpected surprises.
A huge thank you to Jo, Graeme, Lawrence, Shaaron and the Drivers Club Melbourne committee and members for making this event so enjoyable.
Until the next drive…
Josh Davis & Edward Forgacs
BMW Drivers Club NSW