For 25 years the Harrex father and son team have worked alongside each other with a shared passion for BMWs.
There are few things stronger than the bond between father and son, but it’s a stern test to work alongside each other for quarter of a century. Simon Harrex and son Pierz have been sharing spanners and workshop space since 1994, when the younger joined his dad’s RX Automotive business after leaving school. All these years later ownership has been handed down to Pierz, but the two still work beside each other at the BMW specialist.
“I get to boss him around now,” Pierz says of his 71-year-old dad at the BMW-filled workshop. Combined, the pair has decades of experience working on road and race BMWs, ensuring RX is the go-to garage for enthusiasts of the German brand in Brisbane and beyond.
Based in the suburb of Coopers Plains, the business now operates across two workshops. One site for general servicing and repair – accounting for roughly 75 per cent of their work – and a separate workshop for race car build. And being a one-marquee specialist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the brand, they’re as comfortable working on models from the 1960s as they are doing logbook servicing for the latest incredibly complex BMWs.
It’s been a long journey. Keen to move on from being an employee mechanic, Simon branched out on his own in 1975. “I packed up my tool box and started underneath my house,” he said. “The council eventually told me I needed to get a workshop, so I took a lease at the Golden Fleece service station in Toowong.”
It’s a bold move setting up on your own, but Simon insists it beats being unhappy working for others. “Everybody has the same chance if you want to make it and are passionate about what you do. I started with $500 holiday pay and nothing else. I bought a compressor and from that day on haven’t looked back.”
With business going well Simon indulged his passion for motor sports. In 1976 he raced a Lotus twin cam-powered Mk 1 Ford Escort in Sports Sedans, and by 1984 competed at the Bathurst 1000 in an ex-Dick Johnson XD Falcon; the very car Johnson memorably wrecked at the 1980 Bathurst 1000 after hitting a rock.
Simon steered a Group A V8 Rover Vitesse in the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship, then returned to Sport Sedans with a modified 550hp Holden VL Commodore weighing just 800kg, before a couple of nasty accidents made him reconsider his racing career.
It was at the 1984 Bathurst 1000 that Simon’s head was turned by the achingly pretty and tough black and gold JPS BMW 635 CSI racers. “We had the Falcon and, on the start grid, Jim Richards and Denny Hulme were in the lane adjacent to us with the BMWs,” Simon said. “Of course, I wanted one.”
As for son Pierz, he was destined to follow dad’s suit. “He’s been in the workshop since he was a baby, he was always watching, and at nine years old was pulling apart twin cam Alfa motors,” Simon said. “We’ve worked together since 1994; it’s a solid working relationship, and the only time we take off is to go motor racing.”
Pierz took over the business three years ago, and has not only inherited his dad’s skills and work ethic, but also an enviable ability behind the wheel of a racing car. His weapon of choice has always been the classic boxy BMW E30, and he’s campaigned a number of these iconic rear-drive specials in modified form. Highlights include being Australian and Queensland Hill Climb Champion in the Improved Production (2000-3000cc) class.
Being a one-marquee man his whole life, Pierz said being so specialist had not been a hindrance. Quite the opposite actually. “We’re always busy,” he said from the workshop reception with walls covered in racing photos. “We can do 1960s BMW 2002s right through to moderns as we have the full Auto logic diagnostic equipment. We do general service and repairs day to day, but farm out electrical, air con and transmission internals; everything else we do.”
That includes ground-up rebuilds, and, of course, creating some of the most potent racing BMWs in Australia, including their own E36 M3 ready for Production Touring Car racing. “The best thing about being a specialist is we can quickly recognize problems; it’s always the same things that go wrong,” Pierz said. “All BMWs have common engines and gearboxes through the ranges.”
As for Simon, he’d champion becoming a one-marquee specialist on one condition. “You have to love the marquee,” he said. “I was a mad Jaguar fanatic until I bought my first BMW. I soon appreciated the build quality difference.”
RX Automotive could one day be a third generation business. Both Pierz’s sons, 13-year-old Damon and Jackson (12 years old) have just been bought their first tool kit, and much like their dad, have been brought up around the workshop. “If it happens it would be excellent,” Simon said. “It makes me feel I’ve left a legacy.”
For more information visit www.rxautomotive.com.au