Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Car is Sulking

The MX5 is sulking because it was parked out in the pouring rain all day on boxing day. 
It is unaccustomed to this treatment, as it is always garaged, but yesterday was different. I had to make room for a rained-out BBQ.

It's as well that the little Japanese assemblers in Hiroshima made such a good job of sealing the ragtop - not a drop got in after all day in the downpour.
The deluge we're going through at the moment reminds me of 1974.

For those of you devoid of wisdom as a consequence of lack of age, 1974 was the year when South East Queensland in general and Brisbane in particular was visited by catastrophic floods.

Back then the cyclone that did the business was called Wanda. The one meandering down the coast this time is Tasha. Perhaps two-syllable girls' names ending in "a" should be avoided by the boffins responsible for cyclone nomenclature.

So far, we haven't had a situation anything like 1974, mainly because this depression is taking a different track, but it's bloody wet.

There is a family tradition of inviting all my siblings (I'm the eldest of six) to a Boxing Day BBQ. It's grown out of a mixture of nostalgia (my parents, when they were alive originated the idea) and the necessity to create a bit of refrigerator space. The family fridges are crammed with Christmas Day leftovers, and the deal is - bring a selection of leftovers, steaks or snags for the BBQ, and your favourite tipple.

Given the dreaded breathalyser, the tipple has taken a bit of a hiding, unless those from afar crash overnight (not literally) or book a motel. There's always the "designated driver" deal which also works well once the short straw is drawn.

Over the years we've got it down to a fine art, even to the extent of designating different areas of the house for the different generations. Despite this segregation, the whole crew always get together when food is available.

It was our turn to host this year, and my bride and I got busy and set up a BBQ. Our four offspring, home for Christmas, were conscripted in roles as diverse as untangling party lights, buttering bread rolls, and removing their junk from public areas in the house.

Given the weather forecast, I took the precaution of setting the BBQ up under a very large outdoor umbrella, and I covered our Hills hoist and pergola with tarps. This would have worked had the rain been vertical, but it was, in fact, semi-horizontal, so in the end, the cars had to be banished, and the garage set up with TV (for the cricket), eskies, and party lights.

We had a couple of no-shows as some roads were cut, but in the end it was a good day. I proved that you can BBQ in the rain. First the accumulated water on the hot plate had to be burnt off, but this was accomplished easily in clouds of steam.

After that, I needed an assistant to shuttle the cooked meat and sausages inside, and that assistant needed a second assistant with a brolly. Carrying a plate full of sausages one-handed and an umbrella cannot be achieved with stubby in hand. The assistant was OK - he had stubby in one hand and brolly in the other.

The rigged-up umbrella worked fine, and any drops were evaporated by the heat of the BBQ before they landed on the food.
After the first session of play, we stopped watching the cricket….

Now I have to drive to Brisbane this morning to return two offspring to the big smoke because they're going back to work - every dollar is precious to impecunious students.

I'm not looking forward to the journey. It's still raining cats and dogs. Needless to say, I won't be driving the MX5 - not because it doesn't perform well in the wet - it does. You can't fit a driver and two large young adults in an MX5.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Economy Run

Roadsters are not generally noted for their fuel economy, but the Mazda MX5 may well be the exception that proves the rule.

This week I went on a brief overnight jaunt interstate across a range of roads, and without driving with any consideration for economy.

The MX5 averaged 6.93 litres/100km, with a best of 6.7 litres/100km from Glen Innes to Tamworth. Much of this road is characterised by long climbs, during which I downshifted to fifth to maintain momentum.

The fuel I was using was a mixture of 95 and 98RON. You can't buy 95RON (which is what I run it on) in NSW without ethanol. I prefer to avoid the blends, as the car wasn't built for them. It likes 98RON and seems more responsive (and more economical) using this fuel. You do pay through the nose for it.

The most enjoyable aspect of long distance motoring in this car is that it can be driven in two different modes.

You can put the top and the windows up, turn on the air and the stereo, and drive it much in the same way as you would a sedan. In this mode it's comfortable, not too noisy, and relaxing.

Or you can put the top and the windows down, leave the radio off, and take in all the smells and sounds this liberates. This was the way to go through the wine country on the granite belt.

With the wind in the right direction, you could smell the vintage.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Grey Porridge

This week She Who Must be Obeyed (the fleet manager) set me up in a Toyota Camry.

Again, this car needed to get kilometres up in a hurry because it was brand new, and was due its first (1000km) service. My trip was about this length - a bit more as it turned out - so I picked it up just after it had been delivered with 30km on the clock.

Typical Toyota - it smelt funny, had all the ambiance of an Electrolux, and behaved exactly as the brochures described.

It also had Bluetooth, but after driving myself nuts, I gave up on trying to get it to work. I had better and less time-consuming things to do. As a rule of thumb I never read instruction manuals. They're for dropkicks who can't work stuff out by themselves - but in the end out of exasperation I was forced to. I've set up pleny of Bluetooth programs before (in Hyundais, Volkswagens and Fords) without hassles and without handbooks..

Using the handbook just made it worse, as the instructions read as if they'd been translated badly from Japanese into Russian, and then back into English.

What I finished up with was a kind of lottery. Sometimes the audio would pick up the phone part of the iPhone, sometimes the iPod part. It was entirely unpredictable as to which was operating at any given time, so I had to take the precaution of having my Blueant set up as a back-up. I tend to get lots of calls on the road.

Funny thing is, no matter what mode it was working in, it always muted the audio when a call came through.

Driving this thing reminded me of my son's 1996 Camry. Not much has changed.

It was as dull as grey porridge. The duco was actually white - hence the refrigerator reference.

I can't imagine anything less like an MX5 than this car.

Friday, October 29, 2010


One of the most entertaining aspects of my job is the unpredictable variety of the cars I get to drive.

The organisation I work for accesses a very large fleet of leased vehicles, which is in a constant state of flux. The fleet manager has to juggle usage so that at the end of the 24 month lease period, the kilometres travelled match, as closely as possible, the lease prediction.

I'm not sure what happens if this isn't managed properly, but I presume there is a financial penalty. Those of you who have salary packaged cars (as I did when I was working full time) will understand what I'm on about.

Because I cover more distance than just about anyone else in this region, I often get allocated vehicles which need to clock up lots of kilometres in a short time near the end of the lease period.

This happened last week when I was slotted into a Volkswagen Jetta Diesel to travel to St George, Roma and Injune.

This Jetta is the only one I've ever come across, and it was originally part of a salary package for a senior executive. This same head honcho became very ill, and had to relinquish the position, so the car was returned to the fleet to be put to economical use until its lease expired.

Because it was an executive's car, it was the top of the range version, with all the bells and whistles. By the time I'd covered the 1500 km which comprised the week's work, I'd just about sussed them out (the bells and whistles - I mean).

It is a very pleasant car, and being a diesel, very economical on such a journey. It used about 5 litres for every 100 kms, although cruising at 100kmh used less than that - about 4.7 lit/100km. This parsimony with the go-juice didn't come at the cost of performance. When called on to overtake the various grades of grain trucks, mining machinery and cattle crates that infest the Warrego highway, it responded with verve. It actually outperforms your average six (Holden or Falcon) in a typical overtaking manoeuvre because of the vast amount of torque available between 2000 and 3000 rpm. The super efficient DSG six-speed gearbox helps, as it masks the small amount of turbo lag that is occasionally evident.

It also cruises at 100kph with the diesel ghosting along at 2000rpm, which is the main reason for its low fuel consumption. Diesel may well be the way of the future, although it often costs a few cents per litre more than unleaded.

Strangely enough, diesel was actually cheaper than 91 RON at Roma, but this may have been an anomaly - it's always a few cents dearer in Toowoomba and Brisbane.

The fleet manager is a very grounded person (you'd have to be in her job) but she does tend to get a bit rattled when people misfuel the diesels. It happens fairly regularly.

Despite the fact that the cars are emblazoned with stickers shouting "diesel fuel only", some of the dozier members of the organisation entertain a belief that only 4WDs use diesel.

These are usually the same people who return vehicles with melted chocolate, chips and spilled coffee all over the interior. It drives me nuts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Plains, Planes and a Pub

On Sunday 17th October, intrepid members of the Darling Downs Chapter set out to explore country backroads, aviation history, country pub hospitality and exercise their brain cells on a run to Brooksead via Oakey and Pittsworth.

I say "intrepid" because winter had returned with a vengeance and some members wimped it and travelled with tops up. Those who didn't are probably by now nursing various levels of hypothermia.

The convoy (mostly silver NBs with a sprinkling of NCs) left Toowoomba at three minute intervals, armed with a carefully crafted set of questions to be answered, in the first instance, on the way to the Museum of Australian Army Flying at Oakey and then on to Brookstead via Pittsworth.

These same questions were the cause of many domestics and plenty of colourful language for the rest of the day. We discovered, for instance, that odometers in MX5s record distance travelled irrespective of direction (forward or reverse) and this served to confuse and confound, given the amount of backing-up required to catch up on missed signs, and the fact that accurate odometers readings were vital to avoid getting lost.

Remember, we weren't in convoy - it's amazing how thoroughly you can get lost in three minutes.

The Aviation museum provided a dose of nostalgia for the ex-Nashos in our group. The aircraft have aged better than these same ex-Nashos. It's worth noting that if you have a spare $40000 you can buy one of the nine Caribou transport aircraft mothballed beside the museum.

After a warming coffee at the museum, and a queue at the toilets (there was a seniors tour bus there at the same time) we set off for Brookstead via Pittsworth.

More bad language and backing-up followed, involving a junkyard with Datsun 120Ys, a mysterious mural and badly-positioned road signs. Nothing daunted, we arrived at the Brookstead pub where the beer was cold and the hospitality country-friendly.

Over lunch, the questionnaire was scored. The winners were from Brisbane - so much for "local knowledge". The planners did a good job, and we all know a lot more about that particular neck of the woods.

As we left the pub one of the locals drinking on the patio out front requested a wheelie. Someone should have explained to him that MX5 owners are people of taste and refinement.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keys n Things.

I've been skiting about how reliable the MX5 is.

Big mistake. After I'd said something like - "Nothing ever goes wrong with this thing" - something did. I have an excuse for my big mouth. After owning many Peugeots, the Mazda's reliability is a constant source of amazement.

What did go wrong was merely inconvenient. The car continued, as they say in the classics, to proceed.

It proceeded, however without benefit of radio or remote locking. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the battery. Both things failed at about the same time. This battery is original. As a 2003 model, it's getting on for seven years old. I don't drive the car every day, and when I'm working west, or travelling interstate, as I have been lately,it can sit for days (and over the last few months - weeks) without being started.

There is therefore a good reason why the radio started flashing "code" at about the same time the remote locking device also lost its memory. According to the techies at Mazda, if the voltage drops below a certain point, it can confuse the in-car computer which remembers stuff like codes. The strange thing is - the car continues to start first time every time, and it cranks over enthusiastically.

Because I'm not the original owner, I didn't have the radio code. It was necessary to take the car to an authorised Mazda dealer to have both radio and remote re-programmed. Apparently they plug a laptop into the system somewhere and mutter incantations as they reset everything.

I can't complain - it cost all of $21. I can't remember the last time I parted with such a small amount of dosh at a garage where something had actually been fixed.

The battery will cark it eventually, of course.

But now I have the magic code.

(Both these shots were taken with an iPhone).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Zen and the Art of Camry Maintenance

This is what I've written to help my son maintain his Toyota Camry -

You are now the proud owner of a Toyota Camry - built by Japanese technicians who are schooled in the art of Toyota Zen. The word "Camry" has no meaning in English. It was invented by Toyota's marketing department because they liked the way it looked and sounded.

Principles of Toyota Zen -

1. This machine is not a motor car - rather it is a household appliance.
2. You must please it - otherwise it may become suicidal.
3. Like all machines it runs on smoke.
4. You must not let the smoke escape.

Household appliancism

The machine will not need extensive maintenance, but it is programmed to accept a level of respect. Gaijin who ignore this do so at their peril. The machine will not allow itself to be used without the entry ceremony. The entry ceremony consists of pressing the button on the remote twice before entering the machine. Once is not sufficient. Once will let you enter the machine, but will not allow it to be started. No amount of bad language will change this simple fact. The machine demands respect*.

Upon leaving the machine press the button on the remote once. This will lock the machine and prevent disrespectful Gaijin from entering it. Do not use the key to open the boot. In most situations, the machine regards this as disrespectful and the alarm will sound which annoys your neighbours. Use the lever beside the driver's seat to open the boot.

Pleasing the Machine

Always put the machine in "Park" and engage the handbrake when you leave the machine to its own devices. This is especially important on sloping ground. Never rely only on the handbrake to secure the machine. Should the machine become depressed, it may roll away and destroy itself on a solid object - or worse still, some Gaijin's valued solid object. Conversely, always disengage the handbrake before driving off. Neglecting to do this will allow the smoke to escape.

Running on smoke

The smoke can be contained in the following manner. Observe the temperature gauge from time to time and learn its habits. Generally it should remain out of the "Hot" zone. Should it venture into the Red zone, cease to proceed immediately. On the other side of the speedometer from the temperature gauge is the fuel gauge. Confusingly, unlike the temperature gauge, it is better to keep the needle towards the top of the dial to ensure continued procession. This will cost money.

Not letting the smoke escape

This is best achieved by checking vital fluids routinely. In order to do that you will need to find the motor. It is located under the bonnet at the front of the machine. These fluids are the engine oil, (black) the transmission oil, (cherry red) and the coolant level (green). The transmission oil is best checked when the machine is running, but ensure you are not wearing a scarf, or that you have had your hair cut before opening the bonnet. It is also prudent to check the tyre pressures, if only by looking at all four tyres before driving the machine and ensuring that they are round - the recommended shape to ensure successful forward procession.

* Read page 1 - 144 of the Instruction Manual if all else fails.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Last week I had some fun looking at clunkers.

In my day, we used the word "bomb" - but since 9/11 etc, that word has accrued a much more sinister range of associations, and "clunker", like many other descriptive nouns, has been linguistically dragged across the Pacific

By definition, a clunker is a car that is nearing the end of its life, and they're mostly used by those who are not blessed with bulk dollars, and/or regard the motor vehicle simply as a means of getting from A to B. Generally these people are not at all concerned by less pragmatic issues such as prestige, appearances and the effect said car has on the ego.

This purchaser's description fits my second son very well. Unlike his father, he has absolutely no interest in, or obsession with, motor vehicles. This is probably a virtue, but when it comes to buying cars, it can present problems.

Because of this disregard of matters motoring, he has no idea of what terrors lie in wait for those buying at the bottom of the market, which he is forced to do as an impecunious student. Simple solution - commission dad to find the car! After all, I've owned over thirty at last count, and have fallen for every possible car-buying trap in the course of this history.

Choosing a car for someone else concentrates the mind. In this case, my son's criteria were that it should cost less than $5000, be able to pull up the hill to Adelaide's Flinders University with ease, and be cheap to run. He was keen on six cylinders until he released how much such a vehicle would cost to register.

I had a different agenda. As far as I was concerned, the main factors should be safety, engineering integrity, and reliability. Knowing my son's approach to motoring, the thing would also have to thrive on neglect.

I did the rounds of the wholesale yards at Moorooka. Anything at that money, with driver's airbag, automatic (he doesn't have a manual licence) and four cylinders was fair game. I also armed my self with a copy of the excellent Dog and Lemon Guide.  This is a useful publication, spoiled only by the fact that it is written in New Zealand, which means that some references are irrelevant here. Strangely enough, there is actually a wider variety of makes and models available across the Tasman.

Some real horrors lurked there. Some of them were cars. Some were the people selling the cars. I found one yard which had hundreds of cars, but very few sales personnel. The salesman I did eventually track down had no idea of the asking price of any of the vehicles. He was, as he explained to me, selling finance, not motor cars. The car was simply the lever used to sign punters up to dodgy finance schemes so that they could part with the maximum amount of dosh across a sustained period of time. When he found that my son was paying cash, he lost interest.

After looking at over thirty cars, identified by computer searches over a period of three weeks, I narrowed it down to a couple of Toyota Camrys, a Hyundai or two, and a Kia Shuma. I'm no great lover of Korean cars, but after 150000 kilometres, they compare well with what else is around.

Korean cars aren't much fun to drive, but that wasn't one of the criteria.

I eventually settled for a 1996 4 cylinder Camry. I know - that's Japanese, not Korean, although this one was actually made in Oz. The ask was $6999, but they took my first offer of $5500. I probably should have offered less. I subsidised the purchase, as it was very hard to find anything advertised for less than $5000 that didn't look like trouble.

I drove from Brisbane and it pulled up the mountain (the notorious range crossing), smoothly and without drama. A wheel alignment and balance has sweetened up the steering, and it has very efficient air conditioning. A few longer trips here and there will show up any major issues, before I take my courage in both hands and drive it to Adelaide to meet its new owner.

Hopefully my Premium RACQ membership won't be needed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Laundry Run

It's possible to blog about almost anything. Whether anyone wants to read the results is another matter entirely.

I note that BOAB neglected his blog for a bit because he didn't have anything to write about. I have no such reservations.  Anyhow, if he can write about taking pics of drivers behaving badly from a pushie, I feel that it's OK to do the same from a Mazda MX5.

Continue to read at your own risk.

Today I had intended to drive about 300km to visit a sick mate, but a brief phone conversation revealed he wasn't really up to visitors, so I abandoned the original plan to restore some laundry (and a wiimote*) to number one son after he left it behind last visit. It also gave me an opportunity to have a coffee with number two daughter.

* Google it.

The Mazda's boot is entirely the wrong shape for a conventional laundry basket, so a different arrangement was necessary. Note that it's wearing its seatbelt. (Incidentially, whilst taking safety, all shots in the car where taken with both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel).

It was not the day to drive with the top down. In fact it was downright mucky. The road surface had a dry line from the morning's traffic.

Heading off the escarpment, down what those of my generation call the Toll Bar, the usual phalanx of trucks was present. Maybe in my lifetime we'll see a bypass. Maybe not.

The section called the "saddle " where trucks come to geief regularly was congested, but traffic thinned out after that.

This little car cruises comfortably at about 120kph, but this is Queensland, so 100kph (give or take) is the go. At this speed it sits just under 3000rpm. For years I'd driven big Aussie sixes which aided by tall gearing tooled along at about 1600rpm at 100kph. The relatively high rev rate of the MX5 took some getting used to. It seems unflustered at this speed, and returns in the high sevens (lit/100km) when cruising.

Once on the flat, the trucks encountered followed their usual practice of monstering from a position about 2 metres from the rear bumper. I wasn't prepared to take a shot with the camera facing to the rear, so had to content myself with this pic of a prime mover that had just overtaken me and was intimidating another driver. If I had taken the shot a fraction of a second earlier, you would have been able to see how close he was to this car (silver Falcon). The sedan had just ducked to the left. At the 105kph the truckie was travelling, there was little margin for error. You'll be sprung without mercy for exceeding the limit by 3kph, but apparently tailgating is OK, even if you're piloting a 40 tonne rig. Admittedly this was a prime mover only, but often I've seen exactly the same behaviour from drivers of fully laden rigs.

Driving such a diminutive machine concentrates the mind wonderfully, especially when they're in close proximity. I've never ridden a bike in traffic, but I guess the feeling's the same. I guess that riding a pushbike, you lack air-bags and seatbelts, so in reality, there's no comparison.

Gatton loomed out of the murk, and I needed to make some phone calls, so I broke the journey at the BP service station, bought a paper, and got on the dog n bone. The paper (The Oz - The Fart of the Nation) was notable for publishing a front page story, which if analysed closely, apparently reveals that Wayne Swan, Andrew Robb, and the mining industry are all telling porkies about the super profits tax. George Megalogenis' piece was interesting. He reports that the miners are actually paying about 27.81% at the moment. Unless my memory's playing tricks, for about thirty years of the forty-five I was employed full-time, I was paying tax at the top marginal rate - a bloody sight more than 27.81%.

The most interesting thing I saw at this stop was the caterpillar-like prison van. It was empty. I doubt that there'd be much change from 150 grand after this monstrosity was converted from an Isuzu chassis. The drivers were having a quick Maccas. Everybody's gotta eat.

The Mazda has a good quality sound system, and I'd loaded a couple of Django Reinhardt CDs. This was a better alternative to the doom  and gloom I've got sick of hearing on the radio about my investment portfolio.

In short order, I was on the Ipswich Motorway -

This road has been under construction for yonks, so It's different from week to week, and my poor old GPS has a nervous breakdown when I negotiate it because the roads aren't yet loaded into its tiny brain.

The kids were fine, lunch was great, but the weather stayed pretty poor. By the time I got back to Toowoomba, the gloomy skies had enveloped the city.

Storms are forecast.

Maybe Gibbo will be up to a visit in a day or two.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

David Hack Classic Meet 2010

On Sunday 2nd May, Harry Rickards and I entered our two silver NBs in the Classic Car display at the Rotary David Hack Classic meet at Toowoomba airport.
They looked a trifle lonely, heavily outnumbered as they were by a plethora of Minis, Fiats, and other vehicles of all shapes sizes and vintages, as well as aircraft, motor cycles, and almost every form of powered conveyance known to man with the possible exception of boats.
There have been displays of MX5s at this meet in the past, but I understand Toowoomba club members were put off a few years ago when it was very dry, and the cars displayed came home covered in copious quantities of dust. This didn't happen this year. We've had a good wet season.

In fact, this display is not only supporting some excellent causes (Leukaemia Foundation, Blue Care and many other local charities) but it is probably one of the best Classic Car meets in the country. I've seen the Birdwood Classic near Adelaide, and whilst it features more cars, it can't rival the local meet for variety and quality.

Besides, I didn't see any MX5s at Birdwood.

There were military vehicles - 

Aircraft (On the ground) -

(And in the air) -

Harry is fond of Fiats -

Although this one is really an Arbarth. (Maybe that's how it got to be so small - shrunk after too long in the Ar Bath???).

There was other exotic Italian machinery, of the bovine kind - 

And some other noisy stuff from across the Pacific -

My favourite was this Vauxhall ute. Why? Because you could use it to help your kids shift house -

The competition was there -
There were aircraft made of dope and wood -

And beautiful cars from the same era -

But the best looking cars stood out -

How about we attend as a club in 2011, and put on a real show?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wet Weather Driving

Given the current once-in-a-century floods occurring in the country where I work, I've done heaps of wet-weather driving this week.

Some of the driving behaviour I've observed makes me wonder about my fellow motorists' skill level and common sense.

On Tuesday I did a round trip of about 550km in conditions which could only be described as diabolical. The rain was torrential, and it simply didn't stop.

As a consequence, the surface water wasn't draining and there seemed always to be a centimetre or two on the road. If you look at the pic, you'll notice that the road surface has been damaged (principally by grain trucks) leaving depressions in the wheel tracks on both lanes where water pools.

The trick is to keep out of these depressions to avoid aquaplaning, which is easy when there's no other traffic, but is not always possible. It also helps to slow down (the road illustrated is 110km/hr limited) and to disengage the cruise control. Even taking these precautions, you could feel the grab at the wheel caused by the tyres shedding litres of water every second, and occasionally the unsettling twitch through the steering characteristic of aquaplaning.

Years ago, whilst driving in the rain near Emerald, I was overtaken by a couple of young blokes in a Falcon wagon, which aquaplaned and fishtailed as they were getting back on the correct side of the road. I had a grandstand view of the consequences, and they weren't pretty. The car left the road and flipped three times, shedding bits and pieces as it went. The battery flew out, and missed my car (a Renault R12) by centimetres and the wreck finished right way up fifty metres off the road.

I had to provide first aid, and flag down a car which was on the way to Emerald to alert the ambulance which arrived twenty minutes later. I had twenty minutes to consider the consequences of aquaplaning whilst looking after these two. Fortunately, they weren't badly hurt as their seat belts kept them in the car.

Maybe this experience effects how I drive in the rain these days.

On Tuesday's trip the car I was driving had power assisted rack and pinion steering, which is almost universal these days, and steering sensitivity is of high quality. Understanding how much grip is available is a no-brainer with this setup.

It also has a selectable four-wheel-drive transmission which helps, although engaging 4WD in these conditions seemed to have a marginal effect.

What horrified me was the number of drivers who were acting as if the sun was shining and the road was dry. By this I mean that they were travelling at high speed, and apparently paying no attention to the water on the road. They were also inclined to drive two metres from my rear bumper - not preparing to overtake - just sitting there for reasons beyond my understanding.

It's no wonder that the towies park their trucks at strategic locations on the highway at the first sign of rain.

Sometimes I wonder if the design of the modern car is part of the problem. Motorists are so insulated from the environment these days that they forget (or never learn if they're young drivers) that conditions are a factor. Many drive their cars as if they were involved in a simulation. Unfortunately, the consequences of a mistake or a bad decision in real life differ from what happens in a simulation.

That's one of the advantages of my MX5. Driving it brings you into immediate and total physical involvement with the environment.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wheels – A Brief History

If there are any petrol heads out there in blog land, this slice of motoring nostalga is for you.
I have owned twenty-three motor vehicles since 1964 (the year I got my licence on my 17th birthday). I 'd like to share my recollections, good bad and ugly. Where I have photos, they're included.
1966 – Volkswagen 1200 beetle (1956 model - Ivory). It taught me about oversteer. I survived. It put a valve through a piston in 1968. I installed a motor out of a Kombi. It still went OK, but top speed dropped from 110kph to 105kph.

1968 – 1962 Volkswagen beetle (Dark Grey). It also put a valve through a piston on the way from Texas to 3RTB at Singleton. I bought another short motor, installed it, and sold it to my cousin when I went to Vietnam. I don't have pics of this one.
1971 – I bought my dad’s 1969 HR Holden (white) when I was RTA’d. It took me on many epic journeys. It’s pictured here between Alice Springs and Darwin rescuing my friend in his brand new Corolla which broke a fan belt. The HR never missed a beat.

1973 – A 1968 Renault R12 (white). My first French car. This was the beginning of an enduring obsession with products from Froggy land.

1975 – My first new car, a Renault R12 (Dayglo Orange) bought from John French Motors. It is fondly remembered. I courted my bride in this.

1977 – We traded my wife’s cut and shut Mitsubishi Galant for a new Chevrolet LUV (Yellow – Isuzu by another name). I fitted bucket seats and a canopy and we (new bride and I) did much camping.

1978 – We swapped the R12 manual for an R12 Auto (Dayglo Orange). We took it to Townsville with us. The transmission packed in the day after we traded it on the Subaru (see below). The dealer was not happy. I knew nothing, being distracted by looming fatherhood.

1981 – After the mandatory six months in Europe and British Isles (in a Bedford Camper) we settled down and bought a new Subaru 4WD Wagon (Yellow). It took us on many canoeing trips up and down the Burdekin, and was driven along the beach quite often.

1984 – Children were arriving – the Subaru was too small. We traded it on a Commodore 4 cylinder wagon (5 speed – brown). These cars were much-maligned, but it never gave us a spot of bother. It came to a bad end, however. My bride lost control on a wet corner in Townsville and hit a light pole with children aboard. The car folded up as it was supposed to, the kids were properly harnessed, and injuries were minor. The Commodore, however, was a write-off.

1985 – I bought a “bomb” – a white 1968 Peugeot 404 sedan with rust. The rust was repaired and it became my work car. We are now a two-car family again.

1986 – Our next car was a Falcon XD Wagon (white – 1983 model – ex Townsville City Council) which I purchased with the insurance payout on the Commodore. I fitted an air-conditioner obtained from a wrecker. It took me two weeks to get the dashboard back in, but it worked! Air is a must in Townsville. No photos survive.
1987 – Pug 1 died - the camshaft broke. A friend had a 1970 404 slowly rusting under his house. I offered him $400 for it and made a roadworthy car from combination of Pugs 1 & 2. There was less rust in this one because it's dry in Mt Isa. We are a two-car family again.

1988 – Mitsubishi Magna TN wagon (1987 - blue – manual with air). We took it and Pug 2 out to Mt Isa when we moved in 1992.

1994 – We sold the Magna (with an extra row of seats necessitated by the arrival of child 4) and bought a blue1992 Falcon EB wagon at a Q-Fleet auction. It had covered only 29000 kms. We fitted an extra row of seats, and moved to Toowoomba with the Falcon and Peugeot in 1996. The pic is about kids (mine and my many rellies'), but the car is in the background.

1999 – I acquired a new Kia Carnival (bronze) as part of a salary package. Again, a much-maligned car, but it proved reliable, roomy and economical. I was booked for speeding (116kph) on Brandon on way North to Herberton. We fitted a cruise control to avoid further episodes. I was too busy to take pics of this car.
2001 – Bought 1985 Peugeot 505 wagon – silver - eight seater. I took it and sons on an epic southbound journey to reunite with old army mates. It overheated at Canberra, so I drove it home very carefully. The radiator needed a clean. I relegated the 404 to the shed (restoration project). No pics!

2003 – I traded the 505 wagon on a 1987 version of same – also silver. It was fuel-injected and auto, and a beautiful car. It would carry half a tonne or eight people in total comfort.

2004 – I Salary packaged a silver Falcon SR AU111.

2005 – I bought another 505. This was a 1983 sedan (beige). One offspring learned to drive in it and used it for his first job delivering pizza whilst at Uni. I now owned 3 Peugeots. How did this happen?

2005 – I bought new silver Falcon BA SR and converted it to sequential vapour injection LPG. This was very cheap to run and had a touring range of 1100kms. Consequently, I took it on many very long trips (Adelaide etc).

2008 – I have disposed of all Peugeots. For the first time in over 20 years I am Pugless.

2008 – I bought silver 2003 Mazda MX5 roadster. I've been waiting 44 years to own a sportscar. It made up for the dearth of Peugeots.

2009 – We downsized from the Falcon to a specced-up 2006 Ford Focus (silver). It had only 18000km – was owned by an elderly couple. My bride loves it.

My favourite? It’s a toss-up between the Mazda and the second 505 eight seater. One is entirely for fun and the other was entirely functional. The 505 wagon is the only car I regret selling.

And I’ve never owned a household appliance (Toyota).