In 1966, John Stanley was a university student with a holiday job sampling bore water on farms for the Mines Department. He also had a plan to find and restore a vintage car, so long as it was something unusual.
“I visited a lot of farms, drank lots of tea and ate lots of fruit cake,” John recalls. “And on each of those farms I checked for any cars in the shed.”
The journey begins
One day, on a farm near Minyip in the Wimmera region, he found what he’d been seeking. It was a dilapidated 1923 D3A Stoewer sports model, a German make the farmer had owned since new.
“I recalled having seen a Stoewer competing in the Kalorama Rally that went past our house in Heathmont when I was growing up,” John says, “so I recognised the name when I saw it in the shed.”
The Minyip farmer agreed to sell the car and mentioned another Stoewer, a 1922 D5 coupe, had been sold from a nearby farm two weeks earlier. “It had been owned by a farmer from Nhill, who had lost his farm during the Depression. To save the car from repossession, he took it to his brother’s farm, where it was walled in on the verandah, staying there for 36 years until the brother died and it was sold with his estate.
“In 1967, soon after buying my Stoewer, I wrote to the fellow who’d just bought that D5, as I wanted to contact anyone with information about Stoewer cars. But I didn’t get a reply.”
Then, one day in 1983, John received a letter. “Sorry to have been so long in replying,” it read. “The car is now at the Gold Coast in pieces. Do you want it?”
The 16-year gap hadn’t diminished John’s interest and he bought his second Stoewer. His collection has since grown to five, as he’s also acquired a 1911 B1, a 1913 C1 and a high-performance 1924 D5/78. Four of his cars are sole survivors of their type, while the 1913 C1 is one of only five left in the world.