A Brief History of the Pakenham Auto Club:
In 1972 a group of young men had an idea. With hindsight we can describe their idea as visionary, but when you speak to any of our foundation members here tonight you realize that they weren’t motivated by a vision. Their motivation was simply to share their interest in motoring and motor sport with other enthusiasts.
More than 40 years on that’s still the predominant motivation to join Pakenham Auto Club. Since member number one, Steve Cornwall, joined in May 1972 we have had nearly 2,000 people with an interest in motorsport or motoring join our club to take part in a variety of activities. Beginning with Motorkhanas down at Convent School Road, in early 1973.
Our first Hillclimb was run at Morwell in Oct 1974 with over 80 entries. In 1976 we ran a successful motor show at the Racecourse which raised over $500 for the Peninsular Air Ambulance (a significant amount of money back then). All this early activity did come at a cost as people became burnt out and membership declined from a peak of 72 in 1975 to what can be considered to be the lowest point in the club’s history- December 1977 when just 3 people, John Hill, Ray Chalkley and Leon Cochrane attended the Annual General Meeting. They didn’t even bother unlocking the hall but they did form a Committee of three people, if you were there you got elected! It was all very unconstitutional but the fact that the club exists today with more than 300 members is testimony to its effectiveness. John Hill, who’d taken on the roll of president, then got on the phone and rounded up a few more members, John Carney amongst them. John spoke to his father about using the back paddock. Jim thought that would be O.K. He probably didn’t really know what he was letting himself in for.
By July 1978 we ran our first Autocross at Carney’s on grass. I know that probably sounds strange to those members who are currently running in the VCAS events using exclusively gravel tracks, but you can actually run Autocross’s on grass, we’ve done it again recently, although by the end of the day there isn’t really much grass left. We ran the track like that for 7 years when Ian Studd suggested he could bring the grader up and improve it a bit. So he and Peter Dutneall, who was operating Landy Norrie’s excavator at the time, came up one Saturday morning and formed and drained the track in a day. In 1985 it was still possible to achieve something in a day!
All this was happening at a time when the predominant activity of members was circuit racing. If you pick up a programme for a race meeting in the early 80’s from Winton, Calder, Sandown or Phillip Island don’t be surprised if you see 7 or 8 drivers entered under the name of Pakenham Auto Club.
It was around the early 80’s that Nick Wright and Glad Fish joined our club. Nick’s keen interest in Rallying, and I think the escalating cost of racing, tended to drive the focus of the club towards that branch of the sport, to the extent, that in the early 90’s we moved back into organizing rallies (not having done any since the mid 70’s) and running our first Yakkerboo Rally in 1993. All this activity in rallies lead to a new group of successful competitors coming up through our club including National champions, Simon and Sue Evans, Eli Evans and Scott Peddar.
At around the same time as Nick and Glad joined we were also lucky enough to pick up Mick Kelly . Mick was instrumental in our club affiliating with the A.O.M.C. to allow our members to benefit from the club plate permit scheme. In 1997 when John Carney (that name keeps cropping up) pursued and received a grant of $550 from Vicsport and Recreation to fund a Junior development programme. With this programme getting the message out into the local secondary schools our membership finally went past the then 1975 record of 72 and began rapidly heading towards the all time high of 330 achieved at the end of 2004. T
his kind of rapid success did not of course go unnoticed by CAMS and the PAC Junior Programme was adopted as the blue print for the National model. Ironically at a time when we were unable to operate a Junior programme ourselves due to the lack of any where suitable to run events.
By 1999 after 21years of service the track at Carney’s farm was no longer able to handle the number of entries our Autocross meetings were generating and the decision was made to move to land set aside for the freeway bypass on Koo-wee-rup Rd. Again Ian Studd came to our assistance with heavy equipment to build a completely new facility and in July 2000 the first Autocross meeting was held with 85 competitors. Unfortunately the demand for better traffic flows within Cardinia Shire meant the construction of the freeway was brought forward a couple of years so we ran our last event at that location in January 2005.
Our efforts in conjunction with Cardinia Shire to find a suitable permanent replacement site led to the offer by the shire in 2008 of the current temporary site on the McGregor Rd. property. We are continuing a conversation with the Shire regarding permanent facilities.
Since 1972 nearly 2,000 members, who have passed through the club, have contributed to the rich history that I’ve just very briefly outlined. Those of us that have stayed for the full journey have had to adapt to changes in focus from Motorkhanas to Autocross to circuit racing and now to rallying. There will be more change to come in the future, of that we can be certain. We don’t know what that change will be but we go forward knowing that we will adapt as we always have. What hasn’t changed, and will not change, is the desire that people have to share there interest in motoring and motorsport with other enthusiasts. That remains constant, remains the reason we exist and remains the reason people continue to join our club.