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My cars Fred Bitneris


The second is the four double-door garages.  Then he opens the doors to reveal cars stacked on top of each other on hoists. Jags, Mercs, a Porsche, Bentley and even a VW Karmann Cabriolet, plus five 1980s-'90s BMW motorcycles.

Bitneris is a serious motoring nut.  But he almost wasn't, thanks to bad experiences with his first car, a "1950s-something" Standard 8.  "What a piece of crap that was. Even the floor fell out," he laughs.

"I was studying engineering _ it's tough being poor _ and I bought it in total ignorance because the guy that sold it to me left the country and it was still under finance.  They repossessed it and I went through a lot of heartache.  Then I bought a 1947 Fiat. What a piece of crap that was, too."

Then came his motoring epiphany.  "The highlight of my life was working for the Ford Motor Company back in the late '60s, early '70s when they were developing the GTHO," he says.

"My job as a young engineer was to build the plant expansion to make the new models. I built all the assembly lines.  A GTHO cost about $4800 at the time and now they're fetching more than 100 times that. I should have stolen a couple of them.  I used to get to drive them on the weekends after working 80-100 hour weeks. They were great days for motoring."

His career took him overseas for the next 30-odd years, living in 21 countries and learning to speak six languages.  Bitneris says his first "collector" car was a 1960 Jaguar XK 150 he bought in 1976 in Canada.  "It didn't cost a lot of money. It was the first one I could afford to buy," he says.

He won't talk about how much he paid for any of his cars _ he has mostly forgotten _ and he won't talk about what they are worth now.  "People squander their money. I squander it on cars," he says. "I'd like to think that they could be my superannuation."  Bitneris has owned several different marques, all European.

"After the Jaguar it's a bit of a liar's contest," he says.  "I've bought a lot of cars I don't have anymore such as Series I and II Rolls-Royce Shadows."  He currently owns a 1961 Bentley Continental Park Ward Cabriolet which is number 68 of only 125 handbuilt at Crewe. It features a 6.25-litre V8 with about 150kW of power and four-calliper brake pistons.

"I paid a lot of money for that but it's worth a lot of money now," he says.  He also has two Mercedes-Benz 220S models.  One is a 1958 220S Cabriolet like the one Princess Grace died in. He bought it from a "crook" in Western Australia. The other is a 1959 Coupe he bought off a restorer who now wants it back.

But Bitneris won't sell it to him. Instead he has flown to Russia to negotiate selling the two Mercs and Bentley to a collector.  He also owns a 1971 Jaguar E-Type Roadster which is one of the first with a V12 engine.  "I love Jags. They were the ants pants in my day. You could pick up women with them," he says.

He also tends to favour cabriolets because "that's where the money is".  Sitting on top of one of the Mercs is a 1965 Porsche 356 SC, one of only 12 brought into Australia.  "I bought it from a guy whose wife ran off with the boss and he didn't want her to have it so he sold it to me cheap," he says.

"It was in totally original condition with a spare engine.  "The gods favoured me that day."  He boasts it has such a good drag co-efficient you can slip it into neutral at 160km/h and it will coast for more than 1.5km before stopping.

There is also a 1979 VW Karmann Cabriolet in his garage that he admits is "a piece of crap, but mechanically perfect".  He's thinking of putting a Subaru engine in it.

Bitneris is also planning to convert a four-door 1959 Jaguar Mk IX to two doors and right-hand drive with a bonnet that hinges forward like on the E-Type.  "My next project will be a Series 1 E-Type; I'll pull out the engine, gearbox and brakes and strip it down to about 900kg and put in a four-litre modern Jag engine," he says.

"At 900kg it's lighter than my Porsche 356.  I'll use it as a run-around."  He even has plans to start building replica Porsche RS 61 Spyders using the original drawings.  "It's a tiny car with only has a 1.6-litre engine, but boy is it quick," he says.

Bitneris used to drive all of his cars, but now claims he can't afford to register them.  "I mainly drive the E-Type which has been converted to fuel injection using a Skyline GT-R system and injectors," he says.  "The car was quick as it was, but it's quicker now with about 50 per cent extra power.

"They are all my favourites."  Bitneris says that even as a dedicated revhead, he still has concern for the environment.  "I've got a couple of stills and I'm going to make my own ethanol so I can drive all of these around without having to worry about the cost to the environment or the cost of fuel."

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