IT WAS 1982 and I was working in a job that demanded a reliable car and preferably something fairly recent, which ruled out my usual choices for transport. At this stage partner Ms M snr and I were shacked up together, so we decided to pool resources on a car.

That meant trading in her comprehensively shagged Renault 12. At the time we were fed up with it costing a bomb every time it needed repairs, which seemed to be often, and its list of current complaints was getting long. Think CV joints on the way out, again, suspect clutch, dodgy electrics, utterly rooted suspension, seats desperately in need of rebuilding… the list went on. (Funny thing is, I would now love another 12.)

We knew someone in the used car trade and I strolled in with the tattered remains of the Renault, demanding something big, boofy and indestructible. Bob said, “Go and have a look at that Kingswood over there,” while he strolled into the office to work out some sort of deal. A 1979 HZ SL with a 253 and auto, it had all of 40,000km on it, was just on three years old and in perfect condition.

After a little number crunching, we did the deal. It didn’t feel like a bargain at the time – in fact it seemed expensive at around $6000. Then again, it was an $8500-ish car when new. That was 36 years and about 300,000km ago, so I guess you could argue we got our money’s worth.

It was effectively a work car for the first couple of years, in between being driven from Canberra up to Brisbane a few times to see family. It loved fuel around town – which wasn’t a drama in the days of cheap petrol – but was surprisingly good on the highway. It certainly met the brief. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, it handled acceptably, had enough power to hold its own and was comfortable.

More importantly, it was cheap to maintain. Essentially unburstable, it rarely demanded more than fresh lubricants – that is after we put an oil cooler on the transmission.

Then the kids came along and the useful size of the thing took on a whole new dimension. It got the usual grief. Left outside in the weather for years, used as a giant pram or camper on the holidays, it was the last thing that got any attention when money was tight. Nevertheless, it happily carried hordes of kids and towed motorcycle trailers whenever asked.

It was starting to show and feel its age at some point – maybe 20 years ago – and I was losing patience with it. Was it time for a new car? Ms M was dead against the idea and, fortunately, turned out to be the Kingswood’s saviour. When it had a little heart attack, she was the one bolting down to the mechanic flourishing a chequebook. (Remember them?)

Over time, it was replaced as the main means of transport and developed semi-retired status. That was an opportunity to slowly do it up a little – paint, upholstery, mechanical freshenup, everything.

Meanwhile it quietly changed status from workhorse to treasured family pet. How do cars do that? These days it spends most of its time slumbering under a cover, reserved for special trips or the odd gallop to the shops to keep it exercised. Much to my discomfort, the kids long ago sorted out what its fate would be after Ms M and I croak it. There are even ground rules for their kids.

How did that happen? It doesn’t seem that long ago when I wandered into the car lot, looking for transport…

Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

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