By AMANDA BOWES
Cars, trucks, tractors, farm machinery – they hold a fascination that can’t be genetically explained.
Growing up in a family who viewed cars as a means of transport and nothing more, it mystifies where the attraction for anything on wheels, or not, comes from.
Modern vehicles don’t do it for me the same as older ones. Most new cars and trucks look the same and with increasing technology seem to be “dumbing down” the driver – or are they just keeping up with “dumb drivers?”
Looking back at where our family used to travel to and in what, it amazes me we all got to the age we are today.
Trips to Mt Ruapehu in an ordinary sedan, no 4WD, AWD, or any other kind of assistance (apart from chains) up the mountain roads, camping trips with a boat on the roof, bow poking out over the windscreen and miles of dusty roads to get to the final destination, or long journeys in summer that would test today’s engines just like they did then.
In some ways, cars in the 70s and 80s at least were easy to fix when things went wrong. No computers to defy the inner workings under the bonnet, which meant the No. 8 wire mentality could come to the fore with a temporary fix when needed.
Living in Wellington, on a steep hill, bush and hair pin bends, meant garaging for cars was not the norm. If people did have them, they would jut out precariously over a steep slope, usually built on poles with a gnarly drop underneath.
Not having a garage must have been a boon for the car assembly plants as Wellington’s cars had a habit of rusting out thanks to the constant salt laden air and lack of protection. One car we had succumbed not only to rust but also a large ants’ nest, by the time it was discovered, the damage had been done.
With no child seats, lap belts or any belts in the back, the favourite place to be in one three door station wagon we had was in the “boo boo” or boot.
One trip on the Desert Road necessitated crouching on the floor behind the front seats after a rock shattered the windscreen. Today’s car manufacturers would shudder at the idea.
So back to the fascination with cars, engines etc where did it come from? I don’t know. I do know I’d rather be watching Ice Road Truckers, Outback Truckers or World’s Most Dangerous Roads than Survivor or Masterchef.
If I was rich, I would be a car and truck collector for sure.
Friends often laugh at our collection already – five vehicles for one family. The thing is they all do a different job.
There’s his and hers “good cars” for travelling in comfort on town trips or longer, a trusty 1992 Toyota Surf – nearly half a million kilometres and still the original gear box and engine. It gets up the hill paddocks, transports stock at times and acts as the tow vehicle for farm jobs. Then there is the battered old 1980 Mazda flat deck used for carting hay (the old fashioned small bales) carting water to new shelter belts and transporting firewood.
To save the paintwork and dignity of one of the “good cars” there is an older station wagon to take the other half to work and it doesn’t matter if it gets filled with the aroma of livestock or covered in dust or mud.
With the increase in Japanese imports, I got more frustrated buying vehicles that talked Japanese and had Japanese wording on everything which didn’t give me a clue. The most recent vehicle I bought (a year ago) is made in Australia, has a hand book in English and is easy to understand. Once everyone would have had a car they could understand, assembled in God’s Own, but sadly for the automotive industry and the jobs it provided, that is no longer the case.
For our final Motor Torque of the year, may I thank those who have shared their passion for cars, trucks and machinery over the past 12 months with North Canterbury readers, it never ceases to amaze me what is stacked in sheds, behind hedges and under trees in our part of the world.