At Appleby and Ward and York Motors.
Barbara Fogerty, Bert Ward’s Secretary, was contacted. She was very sad to hear the news of John’s passing. She was there the day John and his mother came for an interview with Bert re becoming an apprentice. Ann and Barry Sparks Barry Sparks also wanted to remind us that John went as a repairer/observer in a 1914 Silver Ghost,6TB, driven by George Harris, on George’s successful attempt to break the record for the drive “Sydney to Perth”. In a small town they were pulled up by the Police for speeding. When they explained what they were doing the Policeman escorted them through the town and forgot all about the fine
Below: 6TB (Angus) George Harris 1914 Ghost that has twice demonstrated the speed, strength and stamina of a good veteran 40/50 by being driven from Sydney to Perth and return ( in amazing fast 46 6hours 57 minutes, inclusive of stops, on the second occasion).
The drive to Bathurst for this year's Federal Rally must have seemed very mundane in comparison with both car and driver no doubt feeling the urge to continue Westward!.They'll get their chance again next year! Here George Harris (left), Jim Redman (center) and John Vawser pause in Adelaide for liquid refreshment before continuing the record-braking 1979 run to Perth. It is understood that John left George and Jim to it all this stage of th ejourney. For an action packed account of this now famous run, see Praeclarum 79-5 page 500. Photo courtesy Adelaide Advertiser.
Photos: Fred Engish Justin Hutchinson B.Gillings David MarshallMartin David Neely
John with Bryan Inder at the 1972 Federal Rally on the Gold Coast
I was very fortunate to meet John at Appleby and Ward just as John was completing his apprenticeship to Bert Ward. I’d just purchased GPK-42 and with Bert’s permission John guided me in the reassembly of the engine and gear-box. John was very generous with his time and we became good friends for a lifetime. We visited Bert Ward at his home on many occasions, Bert’s wife and son had died and Bert really looked on John as a son. I will always remember John as a generous, thoughtful and extremely capable friend, totally honest and with a delightful sense of humour. He lived a good life. Geoff Harrison
At the Federal Rally in 1977
At the Federal Rally held in Surfers Paradise in 1972 Barry Sparks towed John “driving” in a Silver Wraith just on dusk with an Austin 1800 Ute - as the Wraith had ‘failed to proceed’. Barry Sparks
Still good friends at a 20-G Club Tour to Victor Harbor in 1999.
Barry Sparks had an association with John over many years. John actually sent up a speedometer for Barry’s retirement. David Sheppard created a box for the Speedometer which he also lined with mirrors and set up a couple of model cars inside as part of the Display. Beautifully done – David set the Speedometer with the date of Barry’s retirement. Barry still has the box on display in one of his Memorabilia cupboards. Ann and Barry Sparks
The first time I met John was in 1969 when we were on our way to Vaucluse House in my newly restored 20HP. I had to stop for a pedestrian crossing at North Sydney and the car came to an abrupt stop. My father and I, with Les Sproule, who had helped with most of the restoration work and was following in his Phantom, were going through all the things that could have been wrong when another member said that they would send someone to help when they arrived at Vaucluse House. That person was John. He quickly assessed the situation and found that it had plenty of petrol but no spark. He lifted up the battery box and called out that he had found the problem and that it would be easy to make a temporary repair. It turned out that the earth wire from the battery had caught around the tail shaft and snapped. He was able to splice the cable together and we were on our way. I always remember his advice that you should always look for the simplest thing first. Judith Beaufoy-Merlin At the Federal Rally at Hunter Valley I played golf with John and Bryan Inder. John enjoyed the fun and challenge even though at that time he was not 100% healthy.He always gave good advice, freely given and it always in a friendly manner. Bruce Duncan
Dressing Up for Social Occasions
RIGHT: John, dressed as Sam Rolls, Lawrence of Arabia’s driver, with Malcolm Johns. In 1984 the Concours was held at Randwick Racecoure and was memorable for having AX201 in attendance. Members were encouraged to dress in the fashion of the period of their car. BELOW: He changed out of his desert clothes and got into mufti for lunch at Oatlands House
John with Jim Kelso, also once a Chief Judge.
I was privileged to spend many enjoyable hours judging our cars with two great and extremely knowledgeable judges, Jim Kelso and John Vawser. It was always educational and entertaining to be under a car with John. His eye for detail was extraordinary and his quick wit meant there were often guffaws emanating from beneath our cars. I often wonder what the Concours entrants thought of our mirth
John and Kim Stapleton who both took on being Chief Judge at various times. They lost count of how many times they judged together
John and I would regularly walk around the field of entrants at a Federal Concours discussing the entries and he would often tell me which cars he believed would take out the major trophies and why. Personally, I prefer to rely on an empirical method of determining the Concours results and depend on our well-tried scoring system to provide the answers. I have to admit though that John was usually spot on with his view of the result
Always thorough, John spent much of his time under our cars either fixing them or judging them.
When reviewing the final results, especially if the result was close, as it often is at Federal Concours, I would always discuss the results with John and when necessary we would review the top contenders. His knowledge and common sense were invaluable to the judging in our Club and I treasure the times we spent judging together
John and Jim doing the final tallying in an appropriate place
It was a true delight to see John at our Branch Concours last year as he surveyed the scene of much activity from the window of his office, glass of wine in hand and that enigmatic smile on his face. Darren and Tim moving cars onto hoists and raising them for the judges; teams of judges under and around cars both inside and in the forecourt; and Marienne and Shannon preparing the lunch for all entrants, judges and visitors. He looked very contented with this scene and rightly so. Kim Stapleton
In 1997 we were preparing the Phantom V for the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. We knew we had to manage the effects of high altitude when crossing the Himalayas. John and his team were preparing our car. One Saturday morning, John gave up a couple of hours and patiently explained to us how to tune the carburettors to lean off the fuel at higher altitudes. So we took apart and reassembled an SU carburettor and changed the needles several times. ‘Need fatter needle for higher altitude’ was seared onto my brain. Also to remember to change the needle again when descending into oxygen rich air. The worst scenario was that I might have had to do this alone with numb fingers, in a blizzard with a sick husband. John was always generous in his time and knowledge. Jeanne Eve
My first meeting of John Vawser was when I had to get my Silver Cloud II serviced at his workshop behind a Shell service station at Ultimo. Stewart Begg It’s impossible to remember how many times John gave us sage advice about our various vehicles. We first met him on the three-week long 1970 International Rally from Sydney to Melbourne so it’s not surprising. There were many rallies and tours over the intervening years where he always offered assistance. A good friend with a great smile, he will be greatly missed. The Gillings Family John inspected a SCII for me and seemed sceptical. ‘Look it blows smoke!’ said John with a grin. He didn’t tell me not to buy it and so I went ahead! I suggested we try valve stem seals. “You think that will fix it?’’ “Let’s try” he said. That afternoon John said with a big cheeky grin, “No smoke!” Steve McDonald “It’s all right!” was John’s description when I rang him enquiring about my soon to be purchased 1952 Silver Dawn in June 1972. I now understand many people rang John about an impending purchase and he had to be very careful of his liability for any unforeseen future problems! The Silver Dawn was delivered to me the day I was stock-taking in June 1972, by John Joynes, who was the NSW Branch Secretary and selling it on behalf of Owen Bourke. I joined the Club the next month.
The car was taken to John Vawser for service on the way to my home. The service cost was $19.17 which included new spark plugs, fit a new fan belt, change the engine oil and adjust the points. Thems were the days! This vehicle gave me faithful service for the next seventeen years never failing to proceed, bringing each of my three children home from Royal North Shore Hospital. It was then stored behind my work in Manly for the next twenty-three years. Then the flat tyres were pumped up and it was sent to John on a truck in 2014. John rang me the next day saying he had started it! Darren and John then did a total rebuild of the engine and it is now running like a new vehicle. The car was then repainted the original colour ‘Moss Green’. Bryan Inder
ABOVE: Jeanne Eve shared a joke with John at the 2018 Concours judging at Vawser Motors
I have known of John Vawser for many years but only got to really know him over the last few years. I think if he recognised genuine passion in a customer for their car it brought back his own passion and generosity of knowledge. His determination to solve a problem and see a job done after so many years dealing with cars and their “issues” is to be commended. I wish I had got to know him years earlier. Martin Kass Whilst I had met John at Club Meetings and Events, my fondest memory of him and Marienne was not long after I joined the Club and, being sans a Rolls-Royce, John offered to take me to an event in his car. It was a thoughtful and kind gesture. It was a delight to travel with them and get to know each other, and they were very thoughtful throughout the day. Old age beats me to remember the event but it was most memorable if only to be seated in the back … John and I got on well ever since and John and Darren looked after my first Silver Spur (1989) before I moved to the Southern Highlands. Nick Illek
Copied from the January 1995 L&D
From 1978 to 2002, back when we only had the Club Plate, Permit to Move system, John, along with John Lockeridge, used to give up a Saturday to inspect our cars. Note the three digit phone number
John is a man I will never forget and I’m so glad to have had him as a good friend He was great to be with on the Fridays I went there. Darren and John would be working on my Shadow and Marienne would set the table for lunch while I cooked the snags. But the thing was that, while they worked, John would explain to me what they were doing. He was a man very proud of what he and Darren could do and tell funny stories about other cars he had worked on over the years. On Fridays, apart from me cooking snags, John would give me run down on all the cars that were in the workshop. He was just amazing. His knowledge of the cars blew me away. No wonder they called him Dr. John. I will always remember him as John Vawser - mechanic. Bob Doyle John’s workshop was on Harris St, (my memory says in the late 60’s) I had just returned from Canada with a 25/30 Thrupp and Maberly tourer. John expertly fixed the shock absorbers without fuss and at a modest price. He maintained the car until I sold it around 1973 to start my own business. Geoff Holt . From 1978 to 2002, back when we only had the Club Plate, Permit to Move system, John, along with John Lockeridge, used to give up a Saturday to inspect our cars. Note the three digit phone numbers. Copied from the January 1995 L&D When I bought my Mk VI Bentley from Frank Meek in 1971, Frank took me to Campbell & Vawser at Ultimo, to introduce me to John Vawser, so that I’d know where to take the car when it needed attention. I continued to go to John for expert help and advice until I had to sell the Bentley in 1981 when I moved and bought my present house. I went back to John when I bought the 20/25 H.P. in 2007. The car had not been used for over ten years and needed some re-commissioning. At first I couldn’t get it to run properly. Sometimes it was perfect and at other times it would backfire, have no power, stall at traffic lights and so on. I went to John with a list of what the car was doing, and a list of things people had suggested (including, facetiously, “put a Holden engine in it”). John said that he thought the problem was electrical, and that he would put on a new coil, plugs etc . I told him that I had already replaced those, but he was sure he was right. Of course, he was. After his attention, the car has always run beautifully. Ken Swinbourn
Dame Doris, John’s ex-Silver Shadow II, who wore a mourning ribbon to the Bentley lunch in Bowral and to the funeral D2M2
I bought my R-Type Bentley in 1983. I lived on Windsor Road near the Bull & Bush in Baulkham Hills. The Bentley was garaged in a carport visible from the street. My service was done by Bruce Ross. One day there was a business card under the wiper for John Vawser Motors. Although located a fair distance from me, I decided to pay a visit and Vawser Motors became my service mechanic. It wasn’t long before I discovered that John and Marienne lived a short distance up the road from me. I was invited for dinner one Friday night. This became a fairly regular activity. With the kids in bed, we adults enjoyed good food, lots of gossip and several bottles of wine. Occasionally I went down to the workshop with John on a Saturday to potter around and do a few simple things. One of the great memories is the time a group of us gathered at the workshop to help install some I-beams for the upper level that John needed. Through the 25 years I owned my Bentley, John was the guru I went to for everything. One time, when the Bentley was giving me some grief, John stated a truism that I have always observed and told to others: Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars need to be driven. He often stated that many problems were due to cars not being driven regularly. John often seemed an old grump but he was a lovely, sincere person whose fount of knowledge about Rolls-Royce & Bentley was simply amazing. And he loved a bit of gossip. David Marshall-Martin PS: The Silver Shadow II that I am now driving was in the custodianship of the Vawsers for many years. It is a privilege to carry on the tradition. From my perspective from my early days of travelling with Frank Meek in the 60’s in his 1920 Silver Ghost “Harriet”, I had always observed John making himself available to help if someone got into trouble on the road. Much later, in 2001 when I owned the 1924 Hooper Landaulette 125AU, I was coming back from Melbourne after attending the Federal Rally in Mount Gambier and struck trouble on the Hume Highway near Wagga Wagga one afternoon. The very front valve spring broke coming up a steep climb. With no valve tool and no spare spring, what to do? I checked with Rex Vincent and they had a 6pm flight coming out of Sydney so I rang John knowing he was close to Mascot and asked if he could drop a spring over to them to send it down to me. The answer was immediate - “ no trouble at all David, I’ll run a spring over straight away.” And that was our good Samaritan John, always willing to help and I was ever so grateful. I crawled into Wagga Wagga on a light throttle running on 51/2 cylinders and picked up the valve spring at the Airport. I remembered the ex-Mayor of Wagga, Pat Brassil, was a member with a Ghost so I rang him and asked if I could borrow his valve lifter. I was back on the road the next morning. I am sure many other members like me have similar stories of John’s help along the way. He was always generous of time with enthusiasts and he will be sadly missed by the Club. David Berthon
John and Darren looked after my Bentley Turbo R from the time that I bought it some 7 years ago, for which I am very grateful. My lasting memory is of always finding John in the office relaxing with breakfast when I would drop the car off. There were always cars everywhere, most of which he had moved around the garage and surrounding streets already by 7 a.m., and what looked like a lifetime’s work ahead of him. We would chat, Darren and others would appear and there would be a huge amount of work to do. The strange thing was that at 4 p.m., when I returned, John would be in the office exactly where I last saw him.....and all that day’s work was done. Often there were others from the RROCA sharing a few stories. I thought that he and Darren must have elves who were mechanically minded helping them, an idea which he never denied. I will miss him - always a cheerful smile alternating with a gloomy shake of the head when he looked at the car! Some other classics were “Truck tyres?!!” and pointing to a collection of work in progress “your engine is somewhere over there...” Paul Thomas