Great names all – including Paddins
He has the face of a boxer, the lilt of a Celt and the heart of an historic racing man.
He’s Paddins Dowling, and that exotic-sounding name sits well in the history of the beautiful Maserati 4CL which he is driving in the Shannons Historic Demonstration and Parade this weekend.
The stunning-looking car is actually the first of the 17 4CL’s built in Bologna just before the Second World War. “1564 – it’s the first-ever, the prototype they made for Luigi Villoresi and Felice Trossi to race,” says Paddins proudly.
The 4CL was intended to combat the speed of the Alfa Romeo 158 but never quite reached the heights it was intended for. One of the 17 – previously driven by great French competitor Raymond Sommer – took part in the first Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in 1953. But back to #1564…
“It wasn’t used that much even after the war so it’s a really original car,” he told us. “All the bodywork is original, the panels have all got the original factory stamp. I love it!”
We were keen to find out how Dowling’s obvious love of historic racing began. “A long time ago, when I was 11 or 12, my uncle in Dublin was involved in the historic car scene over there,” he explained.
“I used to go and work in his butcher’s shop every Saturday morning, and Saturday nights we’d get his little Austin 7 prepared and we’d head on down to Mondello or some hill-climb over there and I got the bug.”
Paddins has been in America for 25 years and now has dual citizenship – and some spare time. “Early on business life didn’t leave much room for this,” he told us, “because when you’re getting established you have to focus. But over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get more time off than normal and I’m able to play with these old cars.” The story of how the Maserati came into his possession is a sad one with a happier ending.
“A friend of mine in America, Rodney Smith, had a lovely collection,” he explained. “Unfortunately he was killed a few years ago in a bicycle accident. I used to race a couple of cars for him and subsequently for his wife, and then after Rodney’s death she kept a lot of the cars. I was lucky enough to be driving for her; she decided to sell a couple of them; this is one that I had a real yen for and she kindly sold it to me.
“I’ve raced it three times, once in Laguna Seca, once in Sonoma; we won those races and then Phillip Island last weekend was the third race for me so I’m still getting used to it.”
That Phillip Island meeting left him with a brake circuit problem, but that was quickly fixed. “The smaller stuff I can easily do myself and actually love doing myself,” he enthused.
“We were able to do that repair with the help of some great guys here. We got the master cylinder seals, we came up on Tuesday, popped it back in, bled the brakes, put the panels back on and she’s ready to go!”
As for Albert Park, like all his fellow-competitors Paddins is keenly aware of his surroundings this weekend. “Lovely and smooth for a road circuit,” he said. “It flows nicely. It’s a real treat to be on a historic track like this and we’re very lucky.”