Editor’s letter

I BLAME STEPHEN KING, WHO TAUGHT ME MORE ABOUT THE POWER OF EVOCATIVE LANGUAGE THAN MY HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER – PARTLY BECAUSE I SKIPPED HER CLASSES TO READ THE LATEST KING NOVEL ON THE SCHOOL LAWN, AND PARTLY BECAUSE SHE WAS A LOUSY TEACHER.

GLENN BUTLER

Mr King had a thing for cars, and I don’t just mean Christine. His writing made it clear he knew and admired cars, particularly those from the 1950s and ’60s. This, his enthusiasm for Aussie rockers AC/DC (whose lyrics his novels often quoted) and his ability to spin a Bloody Good Yarn made me believe that Stephen King was writing just for me.

And inspired me to write.

Fast-forward a few decades to October 15 and I’m standing stage-left at a Wheels/Ford celebration of the mighty Falcon at Avalon Airport. On stage, Ford Oz engineering boss David French is regaling the crowd with stories of Falcon’s highlights over the past six decades.

It’s a sad day, but a great day, with thousands of fans and almost 100 Falcons of all eras and genres.

Later today the last Falcon sedan, ute and Territory will raise more than $350,000 at auction for charity.

I’m up after David, ostensibly to eulogise the Falcon’s many successes as seen through the pages of Wheels. But my mind is not on the task at hand. It’s occupied with Stephen King’s book 11.22.63 – the one about going back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination, and theoretically right an historic wrong.

If I could go back in time, could I save the Falcon? What changes in policy, planning or product could have staved off this fate? Would an export plan have kept Falcon going? Possibly, but probably not. Labour costs don’t come down just because the plant is building more cars. And if the Falcon had become globally important to Ford, the company probably would have found a more cost-effective location to continue assembling it.

The permutations fly through my mind, but none of them end in Falcon’s continued assembly in Australia.

Falcon’s demise was not due to a single ailment. It was attacked on many fronts, and no rewriting of history can combat them all. Its day was done. We’ve enjoyed the highs – and there have been many – and we’ve covered the lows. In the end, we’re much richer for having known the Ford Falcon.

This time next year, the same will be said about the Australian-made Commodore. But it won’t be by me. Like Falcon, my day is done. This is my last column as editor of Wheels. After three years and 36 issues, I’m off to pursue other opportunities.

While I’m incredibly sad to leave this brilliant and resilient publication, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past three years, evolving Wheels to stave off the supposed demise of magazines.

We’ve arrested the sales decline – thanks to you, loyal reader – and the WheelsMag.com.au website grows larger every month on the back of engaging and unique editorial content. Our videos in particular are second to none in Australia, and proof that Wheels’ passion for cars has never been stronger.

On stage, David French finishes, and the MC throws to me with, “Wheels and Ford fans haven’t always seen eye to eye…” He’s right, we haven’t. But on this day, in a drafty Avalon hangar, we’re united by our passion and admiration for a wonderful car that gave us 56 fabulous years. And I’m proud to have been there as a journalist for 24 of those years, and at the helm of Wheels for the past three.

If I could go back in time, could I save the Falcon? Possibly, but probably not

The son rises

At the Wheels/Ford day at Avalon in October, an enthusiast named Nick came up to me with his 14-year old son.

“We’re not here for the Falcon,” Nick said. “We’re here so my son can meet the people from Wheels. We fl ew down from Sydney to be here.

He’s been reading Wheels all his life and he dreams of one day working there.”

When you’re ready mate, Wheels will be waiting.