FEATURE: RUSTON ROSES PRIVATE COLLECTION

A couple hours drive out of Adelaide central lies this small but elite collection of classic motorcars. So far we haven’t featured anything from South Australia, but this group was so charming I had to snap a few photos for this article.

My mother’s father and mother live in a little South Australian town out in the famous Riverland region. I’ve been down here for the last couple of days to celebrate my Grandad’s 80th. Today we ducked out to take a look at these legends of racing history and the other cars alongside them in the corrugated iron shed.

They’re found at a spot called Ruston’s Roses in Renmark. The main attraction drawing to tourists this place is their rose garden (which happens to be Australia’s largest), but inside the main building is where you’ll find these fantastic machines. The core selection is a spread of Lotus’, but there’s a changing parade of other makes including MGs, a Citroen, Amilcar, Ford, Zeta, Bradford and other marques to make up the numbers.

This 1955 built Lotus Mk VI took my eye first. The polished aluminium panels cover a tubular, triangular space frame which was especially advanced in it’s day compared to the beam type normally used. The car was lightweight and nimble as a result.

As for the rest of the features in your Mark 6 it was largely down to you as the buyer since it was sold as a kit car to avoid purchase tax. This particular vehicle has an extensive and highly successful Australian racing history. The car created a stir when it first arrived in the country appearing on the front cover of Wheels Magazine and several other motorsport publications.

Probably my favourite feature of the collection was this Lotus Eleven. The Lotus Eleven was a racing/sports car produced from 1956 to 1958 by Lotus Engineering in London, England. A synthesis of ideas and proven concepts from earlier Lotus competition cars, it incorporated the latest in aerodynamic theory, engine, suspension and brake technology. They became the most prolific racing car of their time, and for several years dominated their class throughout the world.

Over two hundred Elevens have survived and are prized by their owners as examples of the ultimate lightweight, front-engine, road-going race car. This car is fitted with a full race Coventry Climax FWA engine and close ratio 4 speed BMC gearbox. The car has an extensive racing history. Originally fitted with a Ford-Wilment overhead valve conversion engine, the car blitzed its class during its early Australian racing career.

This beautiful MG was a sight to behold. With period correct luggage carrier fitted to the rear, and vintage ‘Just Married’ signage pinned to it, it wasn’t hard to imagine a summer drive through tree lined backroads aboard this gorgeous automobile.

The superb craftsmanship that goes into these vintage cars is something seldomn seen today outside of the world’s most prestigious marques. Each dashboard would have been hand crafted from especially selected timber for the perfect fit and finish.

This bright yellow roadster is unusual as it is rare. One of only 28 made, even the most die-hard car enthusiast would be forgiven for a clueless expression upon first sight of it. Lightburn industries had, until 1963, manufactured tools, cement mixers, washing machines and fiberglass boats – the latter would be significant in providing the fibreglass body for the Zeta pictured below.

The car featured a tiny 494cc two cylinder motor mounted in the back of the car. It made only 20BHP but apparently had a top speed of 125km/h. Technically, the Zeta was an oddity. The gearbox setup meant that the car could go as fast in reverse as it could forward. But to prove to the public that the Zeta was indeed a reliable and well manufactured car, it was entered into the 1964 Ampol 7000 mile cross-country trial. Many assumed the little car would fall apart after a few hundred miles, however it would win over many critics by putting in a stellar performance.

If you happen to be in the Riverland region of South Australia for a wining and dining holiday, get into Ruston’s Roses and check out these beauties and the gardens that surround them. Great coffee shop to drop in on as well.

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