Of course preparation is everything and I’m notoriously slack on that front. I had however treated it to a new battery and topped up all the fluids. Hardly a comprehensive effort, but with a basic toolkit in the boot and el deluxo roadside cover, we’d be right.
With New South Wales declared completely in drought, we of course copped rain pretty much the whole way from Melbourne through to Bowral. Sadly our acceptance as rain gods was delayed, as it was nowhere near enough water and seemed mainly concentrated on the Hume Highway.
For those of you haven’t yet made it to the Sydney Classic, can we suggest you fix that next year? It was well worth the drive up from Melb. With well over 1000 cars on show, the event had a huge amount of energy. Clubs got to do cruise laps of the track, and there was really interesting tackle from just about every corner of the globe. Angelo and I spent most of our time spotting future feature cars, including a couple of dead certs for cover stories.
The organisers of the Sydney event deserve a major pat on the back for it. Entry costs are modest and there was plenty to do and see. Plus, it’s a great venue for this style of show.
Next day was the northern-most goal for the trip – Newcastle. Our host Glen was clearly in love with his toys. For a couple of hours he pulled us from one end of the building to the other, taking the wraps off cars (the place was closed) and enthusiastically relating their history and why he liked them. It’s not hard to imagine that auction weekend will be a tough one for him.
Unlike children, you’re allowed to have favourites when it comes to cars, so which ones are his? “If I was only allowed to keep one, it would be the 1958 Bonneville hardtop. For me it’s the heart and soul of what my collection is all about. It was a long process for me to get it and it will be with me a long long time.
“In addition to that, I have a 1961 Chrysler Imperial coupe. It was never really a question with those cars. I always knew they would stay with me.
“And if I was going to keep four or five cars, why not vary the theme a bit? I have a beautiful 1963 Corvette split window, so then I have the sports car as well as the two cruisers.
“Next, most likely it would be the big old 1957 Cadillac Biarritz, for a convertible.
“And last of all is an odd choice, a 1963 Chevy Corvair Greenbrier wagon, which is like a little surf wagon – it looks like a lunch box on wheels. That’s the one I’m going to put the kids’ seats in, throw the Malibu on the roof and just go and have fun with.
“That’s it. Everything else is going to end up in someone else’s garage, and that would be a good thing.”
Driving over the mountains (well, hills, really) to Bathurst is always a treat. For Angelo, it was his first opportunity to drive a lap of the track, so he was tasked with setting the inaugural 1979 Kingswood lap record. I think it can be measured with a sundial, but we sped up the video a little, which gave the Facebook cohort (see #kingswoodcountrytour) something to chew over.
Have you scoped the National Motor Racing Museum yet? You must. The collection of course turns over from time to time, but it has remarkable variety to it. Maybe we walked in expecting to see a few nice race cars, but there is in fact a wealth of audio visual material and a strong story line behind several of the displays. There are even one or two surprises for motorcycle nuts, such as Wayne Gardner’s 1987 Honda NSR500. Yep, that bike.
It was a solid day’s drive down to Echuca – our final overnight stop – and the run partly down the Newell highlighted the country out that way really is as dry as the proverbial chip. The road itself really needs some money thrown at it. And have you noticed the number of caravans and camper trailers out there? Jeez, it seems like no one has a house anymore!
The plain looks on the outside of the National Holden Museum are deceptive. It may not be the Smithsonian when it comes to presentation, but this is a place with real depth and resources. You can in fact discover much of the Holden story by walking through the place and watching some of the vids. We also liked the odd ‘Easter egg’ here and there such as a Commodore styling buck or Marilyn the soft-top Monaro concept.
Of course Graeme and crew at Shepparton Motoring Museum had been following our Facebook antics, so it would have been a bit embarrassing if we’d burbled past and not dropped in to say hello. As always, there was a bunch of cars there that we hadn’t eyeballed before, including a pretty nice line-up of Brit iron.
What really got out attention though is the funding being raised to put a giant truck museum behind the existing car building. It’s seen as a local employment generator and should be bigger than the proverbial Ben Hur.
Naturally Melbourne welcomed us back with a drift of rain – always good to be home.
Here’s the thing: it was proof (if you needed it) that undertaking a big trip in a car that’s over 40 years old is not only possible, but great fun. The Kingswood has had a bit of effort put it into it over time, so the 253 V8 hummed along, the Trimatic was fine for the highway and overall it was a comfortable and reliable ride.
Sure, some old car stuff happened. We had to tighten up a couple of wheel nuts, and tighten down the top of the carburettor at one stage. Neither job took more than 15 minutes. The thing about doing it in an old car is you do actually have to drive the thing and you’re somehow more engaged with what’s going on around you.
Plus, you meet instant friends, like Mark the owner of the old Statesman who was also visiting Bathurst. Or the nameless folk at coffee stops along the way who want to chat about the Holden/Falcon/Valiant/whatever they used to have back in the day.
Really, if you’ve got an old car that’s sitting semi-retired in the shed, think about firing it up and heading for the horizon. It’s a hell of a way to travel…
It’s all Angelo’s fault. Our graphic artist and resident train-spotter had heard that the Lost in the 50s American car museum in Newcastle was about to shut down for good and sell off its collection. This was big news.
Not only was the collection probably the largest of its kind in the country, with over 100 cars in the fleet, but it was very high quality. Any time you wandered in, it had at least 60 absolute gems on display as the owner slowly rotated through the fleet.
Owner Glen Jennings is a long-term collector who became a museum owner when he decided he had to find a purpose-built shed for his cars, which at the time were scattered across several different sites. The former brewery which now houses the collection was perfect, but he’s reached a point in his life where it’s time to move on.
So that set the timeline – we had to get there before the place changed and was set up for the October auction. One thing led to another. Perhaps we could drop in on the Gosford museum on the way through. Oh, and then there was the huge Shannons Sydney Classic run at Eastern Creek raceway (sorry, Sydney Motorsport Park…) by the Council of Motor Clubs.
Well, that nailed down the starting point: the weekend of August 12. So where else? Bathurst’s motor racing centre at Mount Panorama was an obvious choice. And why not drop into the Holden museum at Echuca, on the NSW/Vic border? Then, on the final scoot home, we could drop by the Shepparton Motor Museum and see what they were up to. We had a plan.
And the wheels? The mighty Kingswood of course – a chrome bumper car was essential equipment for this sort of trip and the old girl was perfectly capable of hacking the 2300km round trip.