Rare beast on the move

Bob Gill with his Lola T610 HU2, which goes under the hammer this weekend. 375031_25 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

With slick lines and in a bright nautical yellow, a rare racing gem has been sitting idle in a Dandenong garage for nearly 30 years.

Its owner Bob Gill, 80, has never even been able to squeeze behind the wheel of his truly unique 1982 Lola 610 HU2 – one of just two built.

In an online auction this coming weekend, Gill is emptying his factory of the Lola and all of its other treasures, equipment, tools, components and parts.

Some stunning cars are listed like a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro Nascar with a 850 horsepower engine and a 1969 Ford Mustang Cobra coupe left-hand drive. There’s wonderful old bikes, a vintage motorcycle and a 1963 EJ Holden.

“I can’t take it with me. They don’t fit in the box,” Gill jokes of his 60-year collection.

“Have you ever seen a Hearse with a tow bar?”

Now gathering dust on a hoist, the luminous Lola is part of an iconic UK racing brand and collecting worldwide interest.

It raced in the Le Mans 24-hour event in 1982, 1983 and 1984 – the only car to do so three years in a row.

The car’s last race was in the World Sports Car Championship at Sandown in 1984 when its English driver John Bartlett offered to sell it to Gill.

“He put his arm around me … and said: ‘You could own this.’”

“I said: ‘All right, what do you want for it?’”

At the time, Gill had no idea how rare the car was. He was building a Mustang racing sedan and needed some of the Lola’s parts.

But when he went to collect it, he found the driver had flown home with the leased Cosworth engine.

The Lola was piled in pieces in a corner, with Customs taxes and duties to be paid.

Gill reassembled it, put a dummy Ford engine under the bonnet, and thought “Gee it looks good”.

The Lola owes him a small fortune, but has no regrets that he’s never driven the prize.

“I’m six foot one and they’re built for dwarfs,” he says. “I never thought about it. The cabin is too small for me – I would get claustrophobia.”

Gill has tried his hand at a lot of things. He played half-a-dozen VFL senior games for Richmond in the 1960s just before Tom Hafey assembled a dynastic four-premiership side.

Won the Victorian Sports Car Sedan championships in 1964, 1965 and 1966, as well as drove a safety car to attend crashes at Sandown.

The former plumber became an accidental councillor and then mayor for City of Prahran.

He stood for election on the urging of locals whose homes and factories were set to be demolished by the council.

“I said I don’t care – I’ll shift somewhere else. They said you should get on council and tell them not to do it. We’ll support you and shoved a nomination form in front of me.

“I had no idea. I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”

Well-known as a Prahran footballer and tradie, Gill “romped it in”. He doubled everyone else’s vote but the straight-talker soon found himself ostracized in the council chamber.

“When I’m there in my overalls, I’m thinking what am I doing here?”

Though councillors tried to get rid of him, he was installed as mayor in 1993-’94. He doesn’t miss the 3am phone calls from constituents to “get rid of a dead dog in a back lane”.

When it was done, he’d ring them back at 3am the next day.

“It was five minutes later then when you rang me,” he told them.

His massive 60-year collection is ready in lots for online sale by Martin Evan Auctions.

Gill is keeping little. Just a forklift in order to pack off the Lola as well as a Mustang for his partner Rebecca to race.

“Will I be sad when it all goes?

“I’ll be happy if it goes to a good home.”