ROB BLACKBOURN – GOTAWAYS BLUES
THE “ONES that Got Away” articles in Unique Cars are must-reads for me. Their charms include reminding you of the power of the passing of time to change your perceptions about stuff that has crossed your path. The 1993 ad for a tired but original $7000 XR Falcon GT that Cliff Chambers unearthed for last month’s issue had me shaking my head (there’s usually at least one…). Gold XR GTs, first in the proud line of Fomoco’s hot V8 four-doors, have always been my sentimental favourites. At the GT’s launch months before its convincing 1-2 victory at Bathurst, the fact that an everyman Australian car was finally available with a healthy V8 hooked up to a factory four speed gearbox was an exciting enough development in itself. While there was no chance I could afford an XR GT in 1967, with our first baby on the way and the fridge and washing machine still to be paid off, when I undoubtedly read the XR GT project ad in 1993 I could have afforded to take it on. What was I thinking in letting it go? It must be the benefit of hindsight speaking now, a neat link with the sentiment of the intro to “Ones That Got Away” referring to “The cars we should have bought…”
Then there’s the rest of the intro: “…or are just glad we didn’t.” There have been some of those over the years as well. A standout one comes to mind that wasn’t actually advertised in Unique Cars. And to be fair it wasn’t even a car. Interestingly though, like the GT it was powered by a Ford V8 coupled to a four-speeder. It popped up during my baby-on-theway-and-whitegoods-on-HPperiod, in the old print version of the Trading Post. Remember that? Two things intersected to grab my attention: my fondness since toddlerhood for V8 engines and the pressing need to excavate a driveway and a site for a garage on our sloping half-acre in the foothills of the Dandenongs to Melbourne’s east. While I could get the family wagon up the slippery slope to the house most days, with heaps of wheelspin and, it must be said, one or two opposite-lock moments, my wife’s interest in acquiring the essential off-road driving skills waned as her pregnancy advanced. The potential answer to my prayers came in the form of an advertisement for an LP2 Bren gun carrier…
These quirky little trackedvehicles were built here during WWII around Ford truck mechanicals (many at Ford’s Homebush plant) – hence the flathead V8 motor and four-speed crash-box. As well as wanting an unusual V8 toy for my pleasure, I intended to follow the example of many farmers after the war by converting the LP2 to a half-decent little dozer and then sort out my earthmoving needs in no time.
Fate said otherwise: during the hour that passed between my phone call and my arrival at the seller’s place another bloke turned up and snaffled it.
The fact that I did the driveway efficiently, but joylessly, with a backhoe borrowed from a contractor I had worked for in my student days was cold comfort. As was the view from naysayers that my yet-to-be-born-child would have grown up and left home by the time I finished building my little flathead-powered dozer. Some people…
Despite everything, the fondness for Bren gun carriers still lurks in the back of my mind alongside my thing for ‘Grey Fergie’ tractors. To be honest, though, reality gave me a decent kick in the backside as I was doing some fact checking for this column – I discovered LP2s weighed in at 3.5 tonnesplus. Dragging one home back in the day on a tandem-trailer behind my trusty FC wagon might have been a pretty big ask.