Words and pictures by Steve Lennox
One of the great things about being a Lotus enthusiast is that you get to meet all kinds of other motoring and motorsport enthusiasts. To this end a friend of mine has been pestering me to meet one of her friends on the Gold Coast who has a very interesting garage, also her friend wanted to see my Europa, as he has a black Exige.
So on the recent Ekka holiday I went for a drive to the coast to meet Gary Johns, a stalwart of Australian motorsport – having raced all his life in a variety of cars. I arrived at a very nice house with a double garage door. That was deceiving. This garage ran the whole length of the house, and contained some very interesting cars and motorsport memorabilia.
When we went in I saw four very interesting cars, 2 open wheeler race cars, a very rare Lotus Exige Type 72, and a very original Honda NSX. Looking at the walls there were posters and photos from a lifetime of motoring and motorsports. One particular example was a ‘vintage’ Jack Brabham poster signed by Jack. Photos of Healey, bug eyed sprite, MGA and many others all in action on the track.
We got talking and Gary has raced and owned many cars, but has a soft spot for Lotus having owned and raced them. He owned a 1964 Elan that he raced and sold onto his brother who raced it at Bathurst in the 60s in the Marque Sportscar class.
A very interesting Lotus I saw in one of his photos that he also owned (and lamented that he should have never sold) was a Type 59 F3 car. This car won the Gold Star series in the hands of Leo Geoghegan in 1970. Gary bought it off his brother a few years later when it was powered by a twin cam engine. He brought it back to the original racing spec with the 2.0lt Waggott engine. Gary said that was the only Type 59 in Australia.
Looking around the garage my first ogle was at the 2010 Lotus Exige Type 72 one of only three brought to Australia. This car was absolutely original and in mint condition, it just couldn’t be faulted, I checked the odometer it only had 250km on the speedo. Inside it still smelt like a new car absolutely as it left the factory.
Next was the 1994 Honda NSX, again mint condition with only 5000km on the clock. They are a true supercar even by today’s standards. Gary said he was considering a Porsche or Ferrari when he bought the NSX, but when he drove them all he ended up with the Honda. As he said, in its day it was way ahead of the other supercars.
Then onto the Team Australia Indy car (2002 Reynard). This was driven by Marcus Marshall when Indy cars were racing on the Gold Coast. It was quite badly crashed and Gary has painstakingly restored to original. It is just missing the engine; this may be installed later if Indy cars come back to the Gold Coast. Gary shared that this car did burnouts on the Story Bridge in 2006 to promote Indy Cars. Not sure if anyone remembers.
The last car was an F3 open wheeler, the latest 08/11 chassis with an unusual VW power plant. This 2.0lt engine was built by Spiess in Germany. Gary said it is very competitive, when steered by some of these fast young guys. He still runs a motorsport team “Gary Johns F3 Motorsport” and gets to the track for any F3 races in SE Queensland.
It was a great way to spend a few hours, and a big thanks to Gary for sharing his cars and enthusiasm. Gary has offered to host the Lotus Club on our next ‘Tour de Sheds’, and may even come along to check out the other sheds in and around SE Queensland.