WARREN BROWN, as well as being Australia’s top cartoonist and a celebrated TV presenter, is also a petrolhead who presented Top Gear Australia. Imagine, therefore , his joy at this recent encounter. . .
IT WAS ONE of those bizarre moments I still have trouble believing. I was stalking the Brooklands Museum stand at the recent Silverstone Classic – the world’s largest historic motor racing event – when I spied this old chap standing alongside a flash French veteran car fitted with an extraordinary engine.
I asked the old-timer about the car and he explained it was a 1907 Berlet fitted with a WWI Curtis aero engine. He fired it up and it sure was an ear-splitter!
I told him about the 1907 Itala I once owned which, I explained proudly, I once drove from Peking to Paris. In full, boastful flow, I then told him that back home in Australia I owned a 1925 Bean roadster.
“Too modern for me” the old man laughed. “They have four wheel brakes.”
“I know what you mean ” I replied ” I have a Dennis fire engine from the Twenties with brakes on the rear wheels only. . .”
His face dropped. “Did you say ‘a Dennis fire engine’?”
“Yes,” I replied. His face lit up.
“My name’s John Dennis – I’m the grandson of the founder of Dennis motor vehicles!”
He handed me his card: he was, indeed, John Dennis OBE. And a nicer chap you couldn’t meet!
I couldn’t believe it, I told him. My earliest memory is of standing on the running board of a rusty old Dennis on the New South Wales Central Coast as a three-year-old.
I scrabbled in my shoulder-bag for my iPad. “Here’s the photo of my brother and me from 1968!” I shouted, pointing at the cherished family memory which sits in pride of place on the internet.
“And here’s my Dennis nowadays,” I said, pulling up a more recent shot.
And an honest-to-goodness member of the Dennis family had the good grace toadmire it and be impressed at the vehicle his granddad has created.
How about that?