My first, my best and my worst cars

I snapped it up. That turned out to be a no-brain decision.

One night, a girl I was driving around with dropped an earring and lifted the passenger-side mat to search for it. I can’t remember if she found the lobe-ware, but I’ll never forget the look of horror on her face when she glimpsed the road through the filigree of rust on the floor. Moral of the story: don’t lift floor mats on a first date.

I had my own bitumen glimpse when one day I was stopped at the traffic lights. As they changed to green, I shoved the gear stick into first, only to have it come out in my hand. Holding it midair, I briefly stared at it like an idiot before noticing the zigzag metal pattern in the hole in the floor, shoving it back in, and driving off – all before the lights had changed.

This LC Torana, spotted in Melbourne in 2017, appears to be in roughly the same shape as the writer’s was 30 years ago. Credit:Paul Jeffers

Apart from the rust, the dodgy gear stick, windows that opened themselves, and the inevitable leaks, the biggest issue was the throttle cable. It had a nasty habit of getting stuck while I was driving. I’d be tootling along some road when all of a sudden the car would start screaming because the cable had dislodged from its guide, though thankfully it also lost power.

Pull over. Pop bonnet. Reattach cable. Close bonnet. Carry on.

The Torana lost power even under normal conditions, though. To get to uni I had to take a short stretch of freeway with an 80km/h speed limit and a very slight incline. I’d floor it and reach top speed at the bottom of the “hill”, but by the time I got to the top about a kilometre later, I was doing a sluggish 40.

I’d say that car was a total waste of money except that would be a lie. When the rego ran out I didn’t bother trying to renew it (how it got a roadworthy in the first place was a mystery to me, though I suspect the answer was Sid The Mechanic). Instead, I sold it to some guy for parts, for $200. So technically, it turned a profit.

A metallic blue 1965 Mk I Cortina, very similar to the one the writer used to own.

A metallic blue 1965 Mk I Cortina, very similar to the one the writer used to

The best car I ever owned was my third, a glorious 1965 Mk I Cortina in metallic blue. With its inverted peace-sign tail lights and the subtle fins on the boot, it looked like a dinky micro-Batmobile, and I loved it.

The beautiful rear end of the author’s Mk I Cortina was, sadly, rear-ended.

The beautiful rear end of the author’s Mk I Cortina was, sadly,

Embarrassingly, I drove it for a very long time convinced it was a three-on-the-tree when in fact it had a fourth gear just waiting to be discovered (oh my goodness, the buzz I got from that extra gear, the relief the engine got from my using it!), but that car was a gem.


Sadly, like my first Cortina, it too came to a premature end. It was parked outside a police station when some bozo rear-ended its beautifully styled tail, writing it off. I was in the cop shop at the time (don’t ask). At least filing the accident report was a breeze.

I’ve owned many cars since, but I’ve never thought of them as anything but useful and instantly depreciating objects. For better or worse, the thrill of driving my first car (elbows in the breeze), the frustrations of owning a rust bucket prone to breakdown, and the joy of cruising around in a minor piece of art have all been confined to the scrapheap of memory. Rather like the cars themselves.

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