Nice drop, next time hold the ice
By JURIS GRANEY
A GROUP of Bentley owners from as far away as the United Kingdom, Thailand and Western Australia were lucky to escape major damage to their historic vehicles from a freak storm that bombed the Lower Clarence with golf ball-sized hailstones yesterday.
The small collection of vehicles had stopped in Maclean on their way to Byron Bay when the storm hit about 2pm.
They were part of a 20-car fleet that had left Western Australia on October 1 for the annual Bentley Down Under Tour.
With most of the historic cars worth close to, and in some cases more than, $1 million each, the grimaces and pensive looks on their faces when the storm hit were understandable.
Once the storm had finished, one of the owners, West Australian Peter Graham, inspected his 1939 Bentley with a discerning eye.
"I think we got away extremely well," he said as he inspected every panel on his beloved car.
"I don't think there was any damage to my car, but some of the other cars have already left ... I hope they are okay."
His wife Jenny, who helped pick branches and leaves off the polished bonnet, was surprised at the force and suddenness of the storm.
"I haven't seen anything like that, well, ever," she said.
"It was amazing.
"It just came in and look at it now, the skies are clear."
Only minutes before the storm hit, five Bentleys, ranging in years from 1924 right up to this year's top of the line GT Continental, valued at around $400,000, were parked opposite the Boulevard, a popular section of Maclean's main street.
Stopping for a brief cup of coffee, the drivers watched the storm rolling in. The owners of the older convertible model cars were forced to sit out the storm in Maclean while the owners of newer models, the ones with roofs, saw the monstrous storm coming and high-tailed it out of town before it hit. And although the multi-million dollar collection of cars escaped any major damage from the 10-minute blast, others in town were not quite as lucky.
It is understood several cars in the main street had severe hail damage to most panels with reports of some cars suffering smashed windscreens.
Maclean SES volunteer Ron Rushton said a house in McCowans Street had a smashed skylight. Mr Rushton said the full extent of the damage would not be known until people arrived home from work.