Interview with David Bell
The Molina MG Special
David Bell discusses his ex-Molina MG Special
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Lou Molina was one of the patrons of the present Rob Roy Hillclimb, and a legend of local motorsport culture.
He first started in motor racing in 1938, and was the Alpine Rally Champion in 1957 and competed in the Australian Grand Prix in 1953 and 1958, and the NZ Grand Prix in 1954. Molina also competed in three Armstrong 500s at Phillip Island, managing to finish third in one event despite rolling his vehicle five laps before the finish.
He built and owned a large number of well-known cars, one of which, an MG Special, features in this short interview with David Bell, the car’s present owner, interviewed at the Victorian Historic Racing Register event at the Rob Roy Hillclimb April 22nd, 2012.
Lou Molina’s parents arrived from Italy and settled in Melbourne in 1910, introducing Italian food to Melbourne and eventually establishing a flourishing food empire. Lou joined the family business, and began his apprenticeship at Molina’s Restaurant at 55 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. He is probably best known as the co-proprietor, with his brother Joe, of the Imperial Hotel opposite Parliament House in Spring Street, and later, for the Molina Hotels.
The Rob Roy Hillclimb, Australia’s oldest purpose-built Hillclimb, was established in 1937 at Christmas Hills, about 30 kilometres from the centre of Melbourne. Hillclimbing, in which cars are driven uphill one at a time against the clock, is one of motorsport’s oldest events and was first held in 1897 in France.
Cut out of the bush, the Rob Roy course included an uphill, half-mile, graded dirt road. In 1939, the track was sealed and became one of only three bitumen-surfaced purpose-built hillclimbs in the world, the other two being the Shelsley Walsh and Prescott courses in the UK.
The Rob Roy Hillclimb attracted professionals, enthusiasts and amateurs, along with their often specially modified Bugattis, Elfins, MGs and Holdens, and has a special place in Australia’s motoring history. Drivers who competed here include Jack Brabham, Harry Firth, Stirling Moss, Jean Behra, Reg Parnell, Stan Jones, Lex Davison, Bill Patterson, Doug Whiteford, Peter Whitehead, Reg Hunt and Len Lukey, drivers who also tackled and in some cases vanquished the Formula One circuit.
In 1962, bushfires ravaged the Rob Roy course, and it lay in disuse for 30 years until the MG Car Club of Victoria secured a lease on the property and faithfully restored the track to host a bustling schedule of Hillclimb events every year.
Sources: Leon Sims, A history of Rob Roy Hillclimb - 1937 to 1961 - The Hill, The Drivers, The Cars
DAVID BELL: The car has had a motor-racing history since about 1950, when it was one of the first privately imported MGs into Australia in about 1937. Most recently owned for about the last 30 years by the Molina family, which were friends of my family.
Lou Molina came out as an early Italian immigrant and the Molina family were known as the spaghetti mafia. They brought pasta to Melbourne and were very successful. Yeah, and so Dad and Lou were very good friends, and I've seen this car competing in racing over many years and an opportunity came up quite recently to acquire it and I was very lucky enough to sell my soul and purchase it.
It epitomizes the typical Australian special racing car where, Australians being the resourceful people that they were in the '40s and '50s, basically got what started off as a road car, and reduced the weight by drilling everything and modifying everything, and making light body shells and shortening the wheel-base, and putting as much power in, and then taking on a lot of the continental cars.
There was so many very successful racing specials and this is, historically, one of those sorts of cars. It's extraordinary-- the performance that it has; and yet it's a car that is extensively a 1937 sort of car, so it's incredible.