Back in the Hey-Day of Motorsport during the 1970’s when sideburns, moustaches and Chiko Rolls were the main stay of the automotive scene in Australia, kids and adults where fascinated with the drivers whose carefree attitudes, outspoken brashness and cavalier behavior both on and off the track were seen as a badge of honor.
There was one pioneer who made it his mission to bring a little style and sophistication to the race track… well he tried to anyway! The part time race driver, showman and always wheeler and dealer, Captain (Percy) Peter Janson also known as “NGK Janson” or “Rev Rev Janson” just to name a few, was a famous face on the racing scene mostly due to his cheeky live TV interviews and numerous media stunts.
Hailing from atop of the Windsor Hotel’s rooftop in Melbourne, Janson lived in a lavish bachelor pad Hugh Hefner would have been jealous of, until being famously being thrown out for allegedly shooting off a canon. But that’s another story…
During the early 1970’s, “The Captain” had assisted Harry Firth in putting together the newly formed Holden Dealer Team (HDT) team by bringing in sponsors, Marlboro, TAA Airlines, Levis and a handful of others to the table, this also helped Janson’s privateer team with some kickbacks from these sponsors.
The Captain loved car racing along with Polo and other adrenalin fueled activities, but Bathurst was his favourite event of the year.
“I used to stop drinking for 1 month a year just to get in shape, toughest month of the year… for scotch sales in Australia that was!”, but in order to be eligible to race at Bathurst you had to race Sandown and that took money.”
Never one to spend his own when someone else could pay for it the Captain hatched a plan that involved three big red Double Decker Buses being shipped over from England and being used as promotional vehicles.
Before long, the buses arrived in Melbourne and were immediately put into service. With his existing sponsors in TAA Airlines, along with food “borrowed” from the Windsor kitchen (via a key Janson had found), Schweppes soft drinks and a new champagne sponsor, the Captain had put together the ultimate mobile hospitality suite.
His new promotional ‘Janson Party Buses’ were an instant hit at the racetrack, usually parked at SHELL corner or Red Hill if the bus got stuck. When asked about the benefits of these promotional buses, The Captain has said, “It’s easier to get support when there’s good champagne flowing and pretty girls about, plus who doesn’t want to see Janson out there on the track showing all those professionals how it’s done.”
Janson’s Buses would be fondly remembered for hosting corporate high flyers, actors, movie stars and even the odd royal family member whilst parked trackside at Sandown. But they were also used heavily in and around Melbourne, often being hired to sponsors or corporate guest of the Captains; unfortunately this resulted in the buses getting stuck under a bridge plenty of times.
The buses even made the trek to Bathurst on a few occasions in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Ian Tate who was the Captain's chief mechanic after leaving the Peter Brock camp remembers these adventures to Bathurst.
“Towing that up to Bathurst was a job everyone avoided, it was an absolute bastard, it had a low ratio diff and could only get up to about 35 miles on the freeway especially when it was fully loaded with Janson’s giveaways, including Schweppes soft drinks and boxes of nudge bars, then you’d have to tow Janson’s 20 ton porta loo behind it, which someone always forgot to empty“
To help celebrate of the upcoming retro themed Sandown 500, Australian owned and made Penrite Oil have revived this once great tradition of the Big Red London Bus and will be commuting their invited corporate guests to and from the track on a vintage Double Decker Bus. It will also feature as a static display across the weekend. Be sure to stop past the Penrite Retro Janson Party Bus at Red Hill or visit the Penrite Erebus Motorsport garage, as we will be having a number of special guests across the weekend joining us in the retro themed fun.
- Shane Gabel
Posted on: 7 Sep, 2017