James Nicholls from Mossgreen Auctions and Peter Briggs the owner of the 1979 Touring Car Championship winning Holden Torana driven by Bob Morris, talks to Ross about an upcoming multi-million dollar classic car auction, and Peter’s cars and life
Peter Briggs to auction his ex-Bob Morris 1979 Touring car Championship winning
Ross Greenwood Greenwood: Welcome back to Work Life Money, right around Australia. It is great to have your company today. I can tell you there are different ways that people save for their long term. They can save through stocks and shares. They can save through their super fund. They can save through the property markets. They can save through different collectibles, and some people make their hobby their collectible.
In this particular case, cars are quite astonishing. Cars hold their value, particularly some of the historic Australian cars, they hold their value as well as just about any other investment out there. If you’ve got a passion for cars and, in particular, some of the old Muscle cars that Australia has got, but even going further back than that, there is some reasonable money in there.
Now, in Sydney on May the 28th, in the next week or so, Mossgreen Auctions House is hosting a multi million dollar car auction. Now, there are some fantastic examples. But to take me through that, let’s go to the car specialist with Mossgreen Auctions: James Nicholls is on the line right now. Hello, James. How are you?
James Nicholls: I am very well indeed, thank you. Thanks for having us on. We’ve got some wonderful cars as you say: an Aston Martin DB5, James Bond’s favourite; an Aston Martin DB6 Mark 11, which is very rare indeed; and some lovely Alvises. But one of the most exciting cars that we’ve got is the Ex-Bob Morris 1977 Torana A9X Hatchback, which is part of Australian motor sport history.
Billion dollar classic car market
Ross Greenwood: Just tell me, in regards to collectors who want to come in and buy these types of vehicles, is there a real marketplace? Is there an appetite for them?
James: Yes, there is. It’s a billion dollar marketplace worldwide, now. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen incredible growth potential in the classic car marketplace.
Ross Greenwood: All right. Even in this auction, there was one that jumped out to me, and that is, I couldn’t have even imagine it was as relatively cheap as it is: A 1913 Model T Ford, but the estimates on this are between 32 and $36,000. To me, that seems reasonably affordable for a person if they could keep it in that mint condition.
James: Well, it’s a car that can be used and driven. But it’s the same as everything, it needs looking after. And even though it’s over 100 years old, it is relatively cheap. Of course, driving a car like that is not easy and not as easy as just jumping into a modern car, for sure. One has to remember that there were an awful lot of Model T Fords. Going back to my earlier point, rarity is an important factor in collectible cars and which will drive the price of a vehicle up.
Ross Greenwood: Okay. Now, I want to play for people, you mentioned it earlier on. I just want to play one of the most iconic little parts of Australian motor sport history. Just have a listen to this. [vehicles revving]
For anybody who understands that, that is the exhaust tone of the Holden Torana. Now, the Holden Torana, remember, was what Peter Brock drove. But it was Bob Morris who took the Torana to victory over Peter Brock in 1979. That is the car that is coming up for auction at Mossgreen Auctions that is so special. Now, I’ve got to tell you, in 1979, when he was at the top of his game, it was purchased by a man in Western Australia called Peter Briggs. He is on the line right now. Hello, Peter. How are you?
Peter Briggs: Good, how are you? I’m fine.
Ross Greenwood: Very good. It is so good to see you. I should explain to people, it is a bit of background here. Peter Briggs was one of the great entrepreneurs of Australia. Now, he’s had the ups and downs during his life, there’s no doubt. In fact, I think was about 1984 when he was flying in Western Australia that I went to a hospital where he’s having a knee operation and took half a dozen Emu lagers in and sat down with my notepad. I would have been about 24 years old, and interviewed him at that time. I guess I haven’t spoken to you probably since then Peter, but it’s great to have on the program. This car is special. Isn’t it?
Peter: Yes, it’s very special. It’s arguably the most special Holden ever raced in Australia.
Ross Greenwood: Why did you buy this car in 1979? Explain the circumstances under which you bought it.
Peter: Well, I used to race cars. I used to race the Norm Beechey Holden Monaro which in fact the Touring Car champion of Western Australia. But I’d given up motor racing essentially until this car came along which attracted my attention naturally with its provenance, its history. Early motoring by Bob Morris and having races Bathurst and done all the things that the great touring cars in Australia, which we all had admired. I had raced Norm Beechey’s Holden Monaro, so It was attractive to me. I wanted to have a drive and I raced it at one of the race track on a few occasions, and having all those horsepowers in a very fairly car which was much more exciting car to drive than the Monaro.
Ross Greenwood: I got to tell people one other thing and that is you came back to motor racing. In fact, in 1994 as I read, you were nearly killed in a smash at Phillip Island in Victoria. In other words, you had the the bug. You went back to it and that nearly claimed your life.
Peter: Well, it’s the ultimate excitement for me, anyway. But the ultimate excitement, of course, the element is you can kill yourself if you do something wrong with an 100 miles an hour, 160 kilometers an hour in the Maybach at Phillip Island the brakes failed. And I looked up ahead and I thought, “Well, I’m coming into a 30 kilometer an hour hair pin bend, so what do I do?” I can’t go around the corner. This is an escape road. Of course, the escape road is supposed to have sand in it, but this didn’t have sand in it. I looked up ahead; there was 5,000 people in the pits. I though, “I wonder how many people I’d kill at about 80 mile an hour before I stop”. I looked left and there was a barbed wire fencing.
I’d have read somewhere that this all happen in split seconds in your mind, that you go through a wire fence in an open car because this was Alan Jones’ dad car, Stan Jones, who build it for racing in Australia. You get decapitated and I thought, “Decapitation is not a good way to go”.
I looked at the other side and there was another wall, and I thought, “Well, I’ll just rub off some speed”. Well, 24 hours later I did rub off some speed, but I was upside down and broke my ankle in 14 places and they want to cut my foot off and a few minor problems like that. After that I decided, “That’s the end of motor racing for me”.
Ross Greenwood: It’s just astonishing. I should also give a little bit more history, when you were flying — Peter Briggs, a mining entrepreneur. In the early 1980s, late 1970s, there were perhaps four great mining entrepreneurs out of Western Australia: there was Peter Angle Brick, there was Denny Hill, there was Peter Briggs and there was Alan Bond. The four of them known collectively as the High Street Boyos and that’s really where you got your money to indulge in your passion for collecting cars and create the motoring museums you did create. Wasn’t it, Peter?
Peter: Well, we started off with a whole lot of Shell exploration companies. I said to my guys, “What do we do with these companies? We don’t want to sell them; we want to do something with them”. I decided that uranium was the way to go. We had a little company called Hill 50 Controller and turned it into Hill 50 Uranium, and Pan-Continental was flying in the Northern Territory. We said, “Well, how do we get any Uranium or go and pig some”. We pig some, and the shares went to $3. Well, all of a sudden I found this new game to play, and it was very exciting. We became the fourth biggest gold miner in Western Australia after few years, so that was a lot of fun.
Ross Greenwood: I got to say it’s a great story the whole thing. Tell me this, long term, would you prefer to be a mining shares or you would prefer to be in historic cars better? Which is a safer game to be in?
Peter: Well, my number one passion would be my family. I’ve been married for 54 years to my lovely wife Robyn. But after that would be maybe cars, should be my ultimate passion. Yatching, of course, as you know I sailed for Australia in the Admiral’s Cup and a few other exciting events in yatching. But motor cars has always been my passion. My father bought me a pedal car when I was age six, and from that day on I fell in love with everything to do with motoring and motor cars.
Ross Greenwood: Well, I got to say, it’s great to have you on the program to catch up after all these years, and also to James Nicholls, car specialist at Mossgreen Auctions and that auction will take place in Sydney on May 28. To Peter Briggs and James Nichols, we appreciate your time on the program today.
Peter: Thank you.
James: Thank you.
Ross Greenwood: First class guys. That’s a lovely story. Thank you so much for telling it to me.
Peter: Thank you Ross. No worries. Anytime.
Ross Greenwood: Thanks James, I appreciate it.
James: Thanks a lot.
Ross: Bye bye.