The Beginning of AROCA (Qld)

The year 2000 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Queensland Club. President Ken Percival invited two of the early members, Bernie Campbell and Robert Grant, to share their memories of the beginnings. Their tales were published in the December 2000 25th Anniversary issue of Per Sempre Alfa.

Bernie Campbell:

In 1971, I bought a Fiat 125. This began my association with Italian cars. I had a number of Holdens, a Vauxhall, Ford Zephyr, VW Beetle and a Mercedes-Benz 220SE prior to this. As a lot of us do, I browsed through the "Cars For Sale" section one morning in November 1974. There was a 2000 GTV advertised at a very good price. The car was silver with black trim, 5,000 miles on the speedo and not a mark on it. It was only after a test drive and thinking that the performance was not as good as I had expected from a 2000, that I noticed the "G.T. Junior" badges. I still bought the car. "Junior" was built 1972, first registered November 1973, repossessed and bought by me November 1974.

Back in the dim dark days of the late sixties and early seventies there was a motor racing series known as "The Tasman Series". This was a class unique to Australia and New Zeeland. The cars were 2.5 litre open wheelers, usually the then current F1 cars fitted with a 2.5L Coventry Climax or similar motor. Brabham, Moss, Surtees, Hill McLaren and other F1 drivers as well as locals Matich, Stillwell, Geoghegan, etc competed in an excellent series at various circuits in Australia and NZ during February and March.

Jo-Anne and I were on our way to the now derelict Surfers Paradise International Raceway when we were joined in a somewhat illegal high-speed slalom by a dark blue 1750 GTV. When we pulled up in the queue outside the circuit the driver of the 1750 approached me. He told me his name was Barry Harding and that he and his wife Lorraine were from Toowoomba and were members of the newly formed AROCA (Qld). He gave me a contact number and urged me to become a member. As so often happens, I misplaced the note.

Some months later I found the note and phoned. I spoke with Tony Poulos and we organised that I would attend the meeting. I can't remember if it was September or October 1976 (and the club records don't show it) that I attended my first meeting. At that time the meetings were held in a corner of one the bars of the Melbourne Hotel at West End. As I walked in, a short well-padded young fellow came up to me, offered his hand and said: "G'day. I'm Wayne Kanofski and I drive a Sud." (Wayne and I are still good friends - he recently attended the club night at John Briggs as my guest.)

At that first meeting there was much discussion about the forthcoming Alfesta that was being organised by Laurie Jones and the event was to be held at the Broadbeach International Hotel on the Queen's Birthday weekend 1977. The dates are hazy but early 1977 the club started to hold its monthly meetings at the Italo-Australian Club at Newmarket. By that time I had got to know most of the other members as the membership was small and the majority of numbers attended every event. Peter Lewis (Krespanis) was the president. Peter now lives at Tambourine Mountain.

Tony Poulos was Vice President and he and Peter Krespanis raced a 1750 GTV with Alfa Romeo Owners Club signs on it. Tony later raced the ex McDonald/Alf Grant 105 Series 20000 GTV. He and his wife Dianne still live at Rochedale. Robert and Shirley Grant were Secretary and Assistant Secretary. They were also editing and printing the magazine. Laurie Jones was busy in his position of Alfesta Coordinator.

In the early days of the club it was recognised that some form of communication with the members other than the monthly meetings was necessary. Initially a foolscap newsletter was sent when there was something to put in it. The first magazine, Vol 1 No 1, was published October 1975. The cover was a line drawing by Laurie Jones. Vol 1 No 2 was the first magazine to be named "Per Sempre Alfa" and featured on the cover a photo of "Millie", an Alfa Romeo G1 which had just been restored by members Ross and Linda FIewell-Smith. The magazine continued to be published on a sporadic basis (approximately every quarter) until August 1977 when the first monthly edition was printed. To help the struggling club Robert and Shirley bought a Gestetner copying machine. For many years it was a regular occurrence to go to the Grant's to print and collate the magazine. The pages were laid out in order around the kitchen table. Each helper had to walk around the table, pick up the pages in order, place them in the cover and hand them on to be stapled, addressed and posted.

Our "Junior" had initially been sold by Alfa City at Lutwyche. It had sat on the showroom floor with another dark blue 1600 GT Junior and a silver 2000 GTV. Robert and Shirley Grant bought the Junior and Laurie Jones the 2000 GTV. For many years, the owners and the cars were active in the club. Robert and Shirley held numerous executive positions on the committee over many years. They were made our first Life Members in appreciation of their work. Laurie Jones and his wife Mary-Alice were also awarded life membership. I should also mention that Peter Krespanis, Robert and Shirley Grant and Laurie Jones were foundation members of the club and still actively attend events.

I have not said much the involvement of my wife Jo-Anne and myself with the committee. I became a member of the general committee and then held other positions - President, Vice President, Secretary C.S.C.C.A. delegate and back to general committee. Jo-Anne was secretary for three years and was Alfesta Coordinator for two Alfestas. For a period of thirteen years Jo-Anne and I were involved with the committee. It was a great honour for Jo-Anne and I when we were awarded Life Membership to the club. We have many great memories of our involvement with the club. Most of them focus on members and the good times we had at any number of event over the years. The benefits that you will get from a club such as ours are directly proportional to the effort that you are prepared to make!

Robert Grant:

I purchased my first Alfa, a 1600 Junior, from Alfa City, a small dealership at Lutwyche at the time. In 1974, Shirley and I were married and the following year we were asked by Allan Bloss (the mechanic at Alfa City) if we were interested in forming an Alfa Romeo Owners Club. Allan had been speaking with other Alfa owners who were keen on the idea. From here, some get togethers were held to toss the idea around. We found there were enough interested Alfa owners to form a club, so an outing-cum-meeting was planned.

We went to Mt Coot-tha on the Queens Birthday weekend (1975) and it was there that the first committee was formed and the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia (Queensland) officially began Even though we planned this as the beginning of the Club, Shirley and I didn't take any photographs - other members present may have done so, but I can't remember. Maybe I didn't have the vision to see it lasting twenty-five years. Seems hard to imagine something that started with so few is going so strong

Following the first meeting, a letter was sent to Alfa Romeo Australia requesting permission to use "Alfa" in the title of the magazine (Per Sempre Alfa) and Alfa Romeo in the title of the Club. This is why the first magazine in October 1975 was untitled - we were waiting for official approval.

Some of the events held or attended in the first year were monthly meetings, motorkhanas, lap dash, day run, Alfesta 76, race meetings at Lakeside and social gatherings. From one year to twenty five - quite an achievement. Shirley and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the committees and members during the past twenty five years who have kept the spirit of the Club alive, and may it continue.