All posts by Patrick Kukla

The Beast of Turin vs. Brutus Sinsheim. Who says size doesn’t matter?

Possibly the least Sprite related posting ever to this website, but Garry Beaton and I feel that these two “vehicles” are well worth your time seeing.

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The first is the Beast of Turin – the 1911 Fiat 28.5 (twenty eight and a half!) litre, four cylinder behemoth built to have a crack at the Land Speed Record. 290hp and 116mph in this thing is fast enough to make anyone want to put a nappy on before getting on board..

Click on the link below and turn your speakers up to painful. I am quite sure that halfway up the hill, the normally composed Earl of All That He Surveys During March lets out a sneaky “farken hell!!”. And, they almost had roast pheasant for lunch…

The Beast of Turin

Contrast that with the efforts of the Teutonic madness that is Brutus, 47 litres of Heinkel bomber engined apocalypse-mobile.


This should get your achtung!

Brutus video

Now my German isn’t flash, but I reckon the bloke at the end is describing how the torque of the engine caused his bollocks to twist into a very tight knot indeed…

The Schlumpf Collection – Cite de l’Automobile – What? No Bugeyes??

The internet has wrecked most new discoveries. At the swipe of an index finger, or a few well placed key strokes, arguments are settled, knowledge is instantly gained, and facts can be quoted by the instant expert. Just add Google. Notwithstanding my Luddite rant, I am nonetheless grateful that I live in an age where research is easier, but there is a part of me that craves those new experiences, revelations and stumbling upon new things.

As a youngster I had read the story of the Schumpf brothers and their amazing car collection. That infernal idiot Google tried to be helpful by letting me know that the word Schlumpf is the German word for Smurf. Go home Google, you’re drunk….


In a nutshell, Hans and Fritz Smurf were a pair of Swiss brothers who amassed a bloody big fortune in the textile industry in the war years and immediately after it. With that wealth, these two hoovered up every Bugatti, Edwardian car, vintage cars, prototypes, one offs, racers, and just about anything interesting on four wheels. They wrote to Bugatti owners everywhere and bought up everything they could get their hands on.

Apparently, Fritz was a good bloke, treating the workers in his factory well, and Hans was a bit of a Scrooge. That came back to bite them on the arse later. Between them they acquired and traded up cars throughout the post war era up to the mid sixties, factories sold them spares, Jochen Rindt sold them Lotus racers, somehow they got an entire collection of Gordinis, and many of Ettore Bugatti’s personal cars. But the big focus was Bugatti – at one point it got to over 100 of them.


The cars were squirrelled away in Mulhouse (pronounced Mooloose – like stray cattle) in a wing of their factory site, where mechanics and restorers were covertly employed to build a museum the likes of which had never been seen. In the days before paparazzi, the ‘barn find’, social media and ubiquitous hype, this was a genuine secret that was planned to be unveiled to a bedazzled public in the mid seventies. Unfortunately, this was going to be a case of flying too close to the sun, and with a prolonged downturn in the textile industry forcing the brothers Schlumpf to sell up factories, lay off workers and sell assets to stave off bankruptcy. Well, this being France, this was not a workforce that played that game in resigned defeat. In 1977 it all came to a head and a big stand off between the creditors, unions and the brothers ensued, which was never going to end well. After some more layoffs, a strike broke out, more tension and eventually the riled up workers broke in to the factory site where this Aladdin’s cave left them all slack jawed.

Eventually, with the brothers fleeing to their native Switzerland, a conglomerate of local and state government, and car club interests bought the collection for a song and sort of finished the job. The museum opened in 1982.


You drive through the back of a pretty nondescript part of Mulhouse, into a large car park (another fight with a foreign vending machine), walk cross a high bridge and past the life size stack of suspended cars jutting out of the glass fronted building. Weird but really cool too. Inside, you pay your entry, and wander expectantly across another footbridge and are greeted with a sit down screening of the story of the collection…in French. Not that this is a problem for a bloke whose French starts and ends with one swear word, please, thank you, and the assumption that saying “le” before every word kind of makes it French anyway. “Where’s the Le Dunny maaate”? Got real far with that one.

You are then lead past Fritz’s personal blown Type 35 Bugatti, a mid 70’s Ferrari F1 car, and into a huge hall filled with chronologically ordered cars dating back to the earliest of horseless carriages. I can’t adequately describe how overwhelming this experience is. It depends on what kind of a person you are – do you savour every moment or do you gorge yourself in the experience? In this case I was definitely the former. Armed with my trusty lanyard earpiece information thingy, I typed in the number of the display and was given an aural description of what I was looking at – mercifully in English. I needed it.




The above shot is some Aussie lout trying to impersonate pioneering motoring. I have been fending off calls from modelling agencies since. Eventually, you get through the tiller phase, chain drive cars, lots of early Fiats, Peugeots, Renaults, and lots of long extinct car makers, and onto the more immediately recognisable forms of the twenties and thirties.



That folks, is a genuine SSK Mercedes.


This Bugatti Type 35C is about as close to perfect as it gets for automotive styling in 1927. Next to what Ford was producing at the same time, this car has looks that would stop a clock.



This is Pinin Farina’s take on the 8C Alfa in 1936. Its something out of a Jules Verne novel, with twin superchargers, evoking images of Captain Nemo leaping from it to fight off a kraken with his rapier…or something like that. Almost 80 years later, seeing this car in the flesh seems no less impactful as when it first broke daylight three years before war broke out. Makes you wonder what would have happened to car design if these craftsmen weren’t drawn into making machines of war. Maybe we could have dodged that particularly dark period where lots of cars looked like the North end of a Southbound cow…..


An artist grabbed a Buick in 1938 and turned it into this, affectionately called “The Whale” – in French “Le Whale”. It’s seven meters long, and probably impractical for anything other than scaring small children, or not looking out of place in an LSD trip.



Who says that an engine can’t be a thing of beauty? Seems a shame to cover these up with a louvered bonnet.


I would like to have written a description for this Bugatti Type 57 variant but the batteries went dead on my lanyard thingy and telling the the guide that “me le lanyard voice thingy is sans juice mate” wasn’t cutting it. By now however, the cars became more familiar to me and I felt more confident about what was in front of me.


That’s a set of Rudge knock offs on the Gullwing. Nice touch Fritz.


And that’s a customer Ferrari 250 LM, like the one that won LeMans for Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt in 1965.


Just as I got to the end of the ‘civilian’ cars, there was a Bugatti Veyron spinning slowly around in its own little room. Yawn…. every other cashed up gold Rolex wearing Hollywood producer type has one of those.

Turn another corner and I am in a long hall filled with the greats. Blood pressure goes up, slight intake of breath, and walking slowly up and down a long room of Grand Prix Bugatti’s, Gordini’s, Silver Arrows, Lotuses, Maserati 250F’s, Maserati 4CLT’s, and a 300SLR Merc just to top it all off.









The urge to jump the velvet rope and climb into a car or two was rather strong, and in some ways I felt a great pity that in all probability, I would never see these cars being whipped around Monaco, Spa, through Brescia at 100mph, or blasting down the long straights of Reims past the Raymond Sommer stand. Still, there are small pockets of hope as can be seen in this video


This Ferrari 500 TRC once belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s…son. That is until it was flogged off to Hans. It’s pretty in the flesh too.




I had never expected to see this car in the flesh. It’s possibly the most evocative car in the collection for me. In 1923, Ettore Bugatti embarked on one of the first aerodynamic experiments on a car and entered four of these in the French GP held in Lyon that year. One finished third, but they handled poorly and were never seen again. This is one of the survivors, left in it’s post race condition and pretty much priceless. A side note – when you won a GP at Lyon, you didn’t get an outlandish blingy sculpture to wave around while you wore a cap from another sport, you got an enormous pork sausage, a huge bottle of booze and a laurel wreath. And you definitely didn’t spray the bubbly around like a drunken fireman.



Once through the racing collection, you found yourself in a darkened moody display of the Bugatti Royale range. These cars were the standard choice of the plutocrat, aristocrat, industrialist, and for those who could afford to have servants quarters for their servants who looked after their hunting rifles. You know, the kinds of people who had more titles than Muhammad Ali, and in all likelihood weren’t prone to shyness.


Even if you hate cars, and don’t get why a sane person would get excited about a car that doesn’t have an iPod input, this is a museum with everything. It’s got a dramatic back story, it’s lavish in its presentation, eclectic, random, and reflects the best of the eccentricity that the automotive world has had to offer since its birth some 120 years ago. For car lovers, give the Louvre a wide berth (only so many Rubenesque statues and bowls of fruit you can take anyway), and head East. You won’t regret it.

6 Hours of Spa…and no one got wet.

In planning my journey through Europe earlier this year, I had made a commitment to several museums, the Goodwood Revival, and the Spa 6 Hour, a historic motorsport event held in that legendary, albeit shortened track that has seen so many great moments in motorsport history. In 1920, the public road circuit triangulated the towns of Francochamps, Malmedy and Stavelot, within the heart of the Ardennes forest. By the sixties, this track was 4 minutes of unrelenting high speed, 180mph was not an uncommon cornering speed. Also not uncommon were fatalities – 10 in the sixties alone, and this was after the pre war great Richard Seaman died in a Silver Arrow, and the remarkable Archie Scott-Brown lost his life there in a Lister Jaguar, among others. Stirling Moss had a big off there as well. Perhaps the most infamous section was the Masta Kink, where Jackie Stewart had an enormous shunt in 1966, ending up wrong side up in the cellar of a barn with broken ribs, and fuel gushing everywhere. Unsurprisingly, Jackie began a safety crusade soon afterward that divided the motorsport community.


This is Spa in 1948, looking down the start line toward Eau Rouge. Note the distinct lack of armcos, pit protection, crowd safety measures, merchandise stands, and corporate boxes. Also, no ridiculous Hollywood stars parading around trying to cross promote their newly released mediocrity. A few ad banners up though…


The Ardennes is notorious for sporadic rain, adding to the element of danger and unpredictability, which I think is what the poor mime is trying to deal with in the background. Note the gendarme looking rather casually on. In it’s current form, Spa retains a lot of its charm, speed and status as one of the great tracks. God only help us if we lose this track to another ridiculous street circuit in some far flung outpost that has no connection to motorsport at all. Like Azerbaijan. Or Wales….just kidding!

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I was able to book a bed and breakfast near Malmedy for four days during the event, a brief drive to the circuit. Belgians know how to fatten you up. Enough said.

I got out of my little rental Peugeot in the packed car park and wandered through the gates to pay a very reasonable EU30 for the 3 day event. Got my wristband and slipped through the gate to the rear paddock and caught a glimpse of Eau Rouge, and a pack of Lotuses (Lotii?) screaming through. It was all a bit exciting when you come all the way from the Antipodes. Patience. I still had acres of paddock to see and historic racing memorabilia stands to wade through. I could have spent my superannuation on this alone. Instead I got a decent price for one of the kids – hope that slavery thing works out for ya son! The Masten Gregory print was well worth it.



One of the more familiar sights were the rather heavily modified Midgets and Sprites tucked away in the rear paddocks, well away from the glory hounds. The Underdog was well represented here, with some real characters fettling as they awaited their turn after the gajillion dollar race cars had their turn. By the way if you have to ask how much a gajillion is…..


If Nelson Rockefeller raced a Sprite… This fully equipped barge stopped just short of being equipped with its own casino.





As you can see, some non standard modifications here. I chatted with some of the owners as they waited their turn, asking them what it was like to take on Eau Rouge, and Pouhon in a Sprite. Most responses took the form of apprehensive grins, and what I imagine were estimations of speeds which might have been generous. Still, these blokes have bigger kajones than I do.


How many Heuvelklim’s does a Dutchman have to compete in before he gets taken seriously? Clearly this many.


As I wandered through the paddock, I ran into Chris Harris of Chris Harris on Cars fame

And just as I could think of nothing relevant to talk to Chris about, Mark Hales came out of the Drivers Club tent.

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Couldn’t pass up an opportunity to have a friendly chat. Now, if you have no idea who Mark Hales is, then you should correct that. Mark was a former BTCC runner up and is a renown historic racer, scribbler, and tester for Evo and Octane magazines, a regular at Goodwood, and an instructor. I asked him for some advice on some upcoming laps that I had booked to drive at the Nurburgring Nordscheife. Mark’s sagely advice? Don’t bin it mate! Fair enough. Asked to expand on this, Mark offered that I should drive it conservatively, and that the experience would make me want to do it again and again. How right he was.



Clearly, the GFC didn’t hit some as hard as others. Nonetheless, I was dumbstruck by the standard of cars littered throughout the paddock area. I hadn’t even made it into the pits yet. The best aspects of historic racing is represented at this event. Full access, no minders ushering you away because you are distracting them from their precious visualisation routines, and full grandstand access.


So, off to the track. These hardcore fans are determined to get an elevated view from the start line to the Kemmel straight. No looking through chicken wire for these guys. The problem is that you have to climb like Edmund Hillary to get to the top of the circuit. Fortunately, there are hot dog and beer stands at every major point of the track, giving much needed fuel for the next part of the track walk.



The view from the top of Eau Rouge. What you can’t see is me with my bonce stuffed with a gourmet sausage in a baguette, and a Jupiter beer in the other. And a big grin on my face. It’s not every day that you see a TR Ferrari chase down an Aston DB2 now is it?


You cant appreciate the sheer elevation of this track until you have walked it. It’s a coronary waiting to happen – nothing at all to do with the track side menu of beer and sausage. And the scenery is amazing. Not that I travelled all this way to admire a bunch of trees, although it was difficult to avoid given how many of them I had to stand under to make room for more of them Jupiters.


This is looking down on to the double apex left known as Pouhon. I reckon if I was in that Mini, there would be a lot of Pouhon filling the seat…





Then there were the pit garages. This was quite simply jaw dropping. So many cars that I had only read about or seen in magazines or books as a kid, now casually parked where I could wander through. Again, nobody looking irritated at you because you weren’t wearing the right lanyard, and at times offering to chat with you about how their day was going.


Except this bloke. He wasn’t much in the mood for a chin wag about his day. Brings a tear to a grown mans eyes. Apparently this was a LaSource braking issue. Either way, its a hole in his manners.


The showcase event of the weekend is the Six Hour race held on the Saturday, scheduled to end at 10pm. Neighbourhood noise complaints? These are Belgians – they don’t do feedback surveys…. This crew were practicing their driver changes.



Cockpit views. The Maserati 250F pedal box demonstrates the need to straddle the tunnel to get at the clutch. Italians and ergonomics. Not the happiest couple.




For this Aussie based fan of historic motorsport, this was a new peak. I’m definitely going back.

Brooklands. An Aussie on The Banking

Brooklands was the first stop on my ‘Bucket List’ trip earlier this year. Actually I had to Google what a Bucket List was – although I assumed that it was a list of things to do before you ‘kick the bucket’, I was still curious. Turns out the expression is linked to kicking the bucket that you stand on when you hang yourself. Seeing as that isn’t on my list of things to do, I’ll stick to my trip to Brooklands.

I had just got off the plane after a 14 hour flight from Singapore overnight, and by 9am I had driven the half hour to Weybridge, Surrey, crossing about fifty roundabouts on the way. Oddly, the museum is located next to the enormous Mercedes World dealership, which has a huge skidpan and a handling course on it. As I headed inside there were some hapless customers trying out their best Ken Block impressions with their new C Class coupes. Yawn…I moved on.
The whole place has a ‘time has stopped’ feel to it, and is not at all over presented. The longer you spend here the more you realise how carefully the place has been preserved. Walking past the rudimentary pits, you read names like Seagrave, Railton, Capt George Eyston, Earl Howe, Malcolm Campbell, John Cobb, Woolf Barnato, Prince Bira, and so on. Quite the company to be keeping.
Inside the various buildings, it is hard to absorb the full collection that is stored here. Eclectic is not the word. In one glass cabinet in one corner is a display of Innes Ireland paraphernalia, and just as venerated is the curcuits longest serving timekeeper. For hours I stared at programmes and intricately filled out time sheets, read race reports, and gazed at the trophies of the twenties. They were proper pieces of silverware, not some postmodern abstract shape glued to a plinth with the sponsors logo cynically printed on the base to “maximise exposure” as it is today.
This is Yours Truly next to a life size Denis Jenkinson. Needs no introduction. If you think he does, well, he won the World Sidecar Champion as a passenger with Eric Oliver, rode with Sir Stirling Moss in the 1955 Mille Miglia, and was hands down the best motorsport writer ever, and a world class curmudgeon. Fearless? This little bloke who looks like something out of a movie about Middle Earth had more courage in his left pinkie than I had as a mad teenager. I was more than happy to be in his company. Even if it was a cardboard cut out. Oh, and that’s a Duesenberg crank he’s standing on.
Never been so tempted to break in to a cabinet as I was that day….
Not at all in keeping with the rest of the place, a McLaren simulator was set up, pre loaded with the original Brooklands track as it was run in the 20’s. A couple of brash Germans had set a 46 second time before this overweight Aussie slipped his shoes off and dropped in and beat that by 4 seconds. Take that Hans und Karl!
The museum is littered with Specials – crazy concoctions that only those with loony tendencies would dare to put on the banking. This one, the ‘Nanette Special’ is typical. One Felix Scriven decided to commission this two seater from a Yorkeshireman, who put a 6 cylinder Sage engine in it. Hence the Mother Goose moniker – get it? Mother Goose…stuffed with Sage. Anyway, it went bang, so Mother Goose got a Hooker engine in it, and it was renamed the Nanette Special. I don’t think I want to try to understand that one…. Anyway, it won the 90mph long distance race, but had an unhelpful habit of spraying hot oil all over the driver and catching fire. Damned inconvenient. The last time it did this, only the front wheels and engine was serviceable. No worries, it was rebuilt and had a supercharger fitted to it. Nutcases, the lot of them. You have to admire these pioneering gentlemen racers. I can’t see a Rick Kelly doing this….
I don’t know much about bikes, but I can sure appreciate this Brough Superior.
This is the John Cobb, Napier Railton Special. This aero engined car broke 47 speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, at Montlhery, and at Brooklands. It is the car that Darth Vader would drive around the Death Star. It didn’t catch fire and try to kill anyone, but at 24 litres and 12 cylinders, and with rear brakes only, it doesn’t need to. It would scare you to death well before anything else. As it sat there, I asked for a sneaky sit inside the car. Denied. And looked scornfully upon. Almost asked to leave. Drooled on it instead.
It’s not all cars and bikes here. Brooklands is also the home of some serious aviation history. The curators in this section of the museum are rather more nutty than the car boys. Probably frustrated that they can’t scramble before breakfast and have a crack at the Hun before a cup of cha and a soft boiled egg I suppose.
This big green keg is one of the Barnes Wallis bouncing bombs that 617 Squadron used to turn the Ruhr Valley into a surf beach in 1943.
This was always going to be as close as I would get to a flight on Concorde. Lot smaller than you might imagine, but the whole idea was not to make you hang around.
Nowhere around here somewhere is the famous bump on the Banking where all of those famed shots are taken by brave souls with all four wheels in the air at 120mph. I couldn’t find it for the life of me.
Just as I had finished the descent from the top of the surprisingly steep banking (you get a gentle warning about this beforehand from the polite little man who sells you the entry ticket), a cloth capped lady chunters past on the banking.
This is what is left of the banking. Despite the sadness of this image, it is nonetheless understandable that in these modern safety obsessed risk managed times, we really couldn’t faithfully re create the Brooklands of old. You can’t have an aero engined fire breathing missile thundering through the banking, overtaking some petrified bloke in an E.R.A, where there are no fences at the top, no run off areas, and certainly no telemetry and pit radio to tell you that you are 2 psi down on your right front. Still, it would be quite tempting….
So, if you go the land of Curry, Beefeaters, Cornish Pasties, and roundabouts, get yourself to Brooklands. Leave the gawkers behind at Buckinghuge Palace, and get some motorsport history into you.

And P.S – the curators are all mad historians of the place and are more than happy to regale you with all sorts of tales (in the Queen’s English of course)!

1275 Flywheels and backing plates

Hi to our South Aussie friends,

Is anyone in need of a lightweight aluminium flywheel to suit a 1275 engine? These will have a steel friction surface and a new ring gear.
A Qld company is willing to produce these so long as there are definite orders for at least 5 of them.
The cost will be $385 each if only 5 are ordered, but cheaper again if there is a larger initial production run.

The same company is also pricing the production of aluminium engine back plates for 1275 and late 1100 engines.
I’ll let you know the pricing for these in the next day or so.

Please let me know in the next week or so if there’s a need for these in SA.

Cheers from Alex Robertson
SCCQ president
Phone 0420 858 386

Sprite Club (member) wins 2014 Australian International Concours d’Elegance !

True Story.

Gerard Miller has taken out Australia’s most prestigious Concours event held in Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building this year. More importantly, Gerard is a long standing member of the Sprite Club of S.A, and is the proprietor of Marque Restorations in Kilkenny, S.A.


This 1952 Aston Martin DB2 is currently owned by Dr Mal Hemmerling. Shortly after acquiring it in 2011, Mal dropped it off at Marque Restorations, where it spent a very long time in the care of Gerard and his workers as they tore it down and put it back together as probably the best DB2 in the world. LML /50/114 was sold new to Irish motor racing enthusiast, Geoff McRae, who after 102,000 miles and an engine rebuild, drove it around for another 16,500 miles before it got parked with cancer in its chassis and rear trailing arms, and with a bit of work commenced, it sat idle until it was sold on to Dr Hemmerling.

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This is how it looked when it was brought in. Looks OK from first glance, but as always, it’s the disassembly process that uncovers the full truth. Nothing is hidden, and it’s probably when for most of us, the despondency sets in. As the body was removed, it became clear the chassis and the aluminium body had been worked over, and not particularly well at that. This usually adds a lot of work to a lot of work, undoing the bad work and redoing it right.


Details, details…too many to mention to do this restoration report any true justice.


Matching up the fan blade paint colour with the original. Cadmium plating and gun blueing the original bolts to get that original factory look. The grille bars were stripped one by one, filed, and resoldered before chroming. Even the number plate is exceptionally restored. And then there are the things you will never see – a collapsible steering column, and chrome moly door intrusion bars.



I was at the workshop one afternoon when the car was at this stage of the restoration. This is Gerard, making it all look a bit too easy.


And this is Nicholas, a major contributor to the body work, among many others.


More details. As the various bits made their way back to the DB2, the complete picture begin to take shape.

One of the pleasures of spending time with classic cars, especially at this level, is to soak up all of the little details that add up to an impressive sight. Even if the marque is not your ‘cup of tea’, you owe it to yourself to spend the time in trying to understand just how bloody hard it is to win something like this event. Concours judges pick on every little thing, in this case, points were deducted for plastic valve caps. Personally, I’m not sure that this is a Federal case, and I would be would be tempted to tell the judges where they could stick their authentic valve caps, but that’s exactly the point. The highest uncompromising standards are set and aspirations to meet them are fostered by the owners and restorers. True enough, this endeavour isn’t cheap. Actually, relatively speaking, this restoration was probably not as expensive as some I have read about. Maybe you get what you pay for. In this case, Mal paid to have the best in the country for the cost of a house where I live.

db2 marque

Next time you go to a car show, don’t just wander past like I used to. Get a hold of the owner, (usually fretting nearby with a polishing rag and a hopeful look on their face) and ask lots of questions about the car. Especially if it’s not a Sprite.

So, well done to the cast and crew at Marque Restorations!

Restoration of the Year

1952 Aston Martin DB2, Marque Restorations – SA

Best in Show – 2014

1952 Aston Martin DB2, Mal Hemmerling – SA

December meeting – Inspections from 6pm

While you are all gnawing away at your BBQ meal and quaffing at the December meeting, please note that Gordon will be available to inspect your Sprite / Midget for historic rego from 6pm. Please remember to bring all that other paperwork (listed in previous post) and your jalopy / mint condition / rust bucket / barn find / original and join in for the meeting.


I see no reason why this shouldn’t pass…

Because you all need reminding that Christmas is coming!

December’s club meeting begins at 6pm on Monday the 1st at Fullarton Park Centre with a BBQ. please bring a chair and something to drink. If you drink too much you will likely confuse the two, which could prove rather painful. Because you are all Sprite and Clubman drivers, you won’t be prone to these difficulties!


See you there!

PS – Scroll down to the 14/11 post about renewing your historic rego eligibility at this meeting.

Christmas. Don’t miss out.

Apart from the previous post about the December 1st BBQ meeting at the Fullarton Park Centre, you are also invited to

A Xmas party at Paul Doube’s,

SATURDAY 6th December 6.30pm

where you will need to bring the following….

BYO meat,
salad or sweet to share and…
a Kris Kringle present to the value of $10.