18 May 2022

Cars are serious business for Canberra furniture designer turned rally driver

| James Coleman
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Car on a trailer

Barry Faux’s rally weapon, a Mazda RX-7 Series 4. Photos: James Coleman.

His mother must have been showing a little concern. Here Barry was, all of 14 years old, at the helm of her little Fiat 500 hatchback, making it dance along a dirt road in Tuggeranong, pebbles spitting from its saucer-sized wheels as it scrambled for grip.

“She didn’t care,” Barry says.

Barry Faux is an ex-antiques dealer turned furniture designer, but judging by his cavernous underground garage laden with covered cars, jerry cans and motorsport trophies, that Fiat was far from his last. He is also an avid car collector and professional rally driver.

Man with two cars

Barry Faux with his Porsche Boxster Spyder and Mazda Eunos Cosmo. Photo: James Coleman.

A Mazda coupe sits atop a trailer by the roller door, kitted out with the stickers, bucket seats and towering gear lever that instantly sets it apart as purpose-built for rallying, or the art of going very fast on dirt.

“The first trophy I won was in 1978 in an E-Type Jaguar at the Sutton Road hill climb circuit,” he says. “I didn’t really drive that fast; it was just that everyone was slower.”

Since then, Barry has competed in car races across Australia, most prominently, the world-famous Targa Tasmania.

“Anyone who wants to make it in rallying will join the Targa Tasmania. It’s one of the most successful rally events in the world.”

READ ALSO Is Canberra as good at rallying as the nation thinks we are?

He met his wife Therezia Mihalovic while buying antique dining chairs over 20 years ago. She has sat by his side ever since, filling the important role of co-driver and reading out pace notes as they fly along country roads, often at speeds well over 150 km/h.

Barry’s father wasn’t really into cars, but when “a mate pumped my father up and made him think of himself as a hero who could afford to buy a Jaguar”. From then, petrol entered the family bloodline.

“The butcher’s son is often the butcher – I think it’s hereditary,” he says.

“Because I was on the spectrum and couldn’t read properly while my sister was really academically clever, my parents didn’t really have much time for me.”

However, his father did get him his first job as a panel beater at a service station on Lonsdale Street in Braddon before financing him into his first car, an Austin-Healey Sprite.

A few other British sports cars followed, including the E-Type Jaguar, before a friend steered him in the direction of the Japanese.

The cloth cover falls from his first proper collector car, none other than the dark red Nissan GT-R given to Australian racing driver Mark Skaife after winning Bathurst 1000. A hand-signed plaque in the engine bay bears the signature of the man himself. Inside, it even still smells like new.

“I bought this in 2007 for $75,000,” Barry says. “I tracked it down and managed to talk the owner at Gibson Motorsport into coming to me first when he knew what price he wanted.”

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After an initial drive through the Snowy Mountains, it dawned on Barry that it was simply too good to drive.

“It’s a collector’s car,” he says.

“As I got on in life and business, and had leftover money, I just bought cars. They’re not an investment; they’re a hedge against inflation. After all, money in the bank today is going to be worth less in a year.”

He says the collector’s market in Australia is interesting to get to grips with, seeming to treat special cars with relative disinterest.

“In England, the first car or the last car ever made are worth infinitely more than any other car. They don’t seem to care in Australia. Even when it comes to low mileage, they don’t seem to really care.”

Many of his other cars are limited-edition ‘homologation specials’. To enter the world’s major rally events, car manufacturers must also make road-going versions of the vehicle for the general public. The rules vary on the specific number but typically range between 100 and 1000.

The rest of Barry’s collection includes two more Nissan GT-Rs, two Mazda RX-7s, two Toyota GR Yarises, a Datsun 240Z, and a Porsche Boxster Spyder his wife and co-driver told him to buy. His favourite, though, is a dark green 1990s Mazda Eunos Cosmo.

“It’s not particularly fast and it doesn’t handle particularly well, but the way it just smoothly whooshes away is beautiful,” he says.

Besides, a word of advice from the master, speed isn’t everything: “a good driver is a smooth driver.”

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