Australian Muscle Car - - Guest Column -

Toast­ing Aussie clas­sics

Iam writ­ing to face­tiously thank you for your ef­forts in killing what was once an at­tain­able dream for many. That is hyp­ing old Aus­tralian cars – not even nec­es­sar­ily mus­cle cars – to the point where they are no longer af­ford­able for AV­ER­AGE peo­ple,” wrote an ag­grieved reader in 2010 as I neared the end of my decade-long stint as found­ing ed­i­tor of AMC.

“When I can’t even get a Valiant sta­tion wagon now at sen­si­ble money, my thoughts turn to this mag­a­zine; the pre­tence and char­ac­ters now with an al­most ex­clu­sive ten­ure upon what was once within reach of any­body. I cer­tainly don’t weep when I hear of some­body’s mus­cle car be­ing thieved. In­stead, my thoughts turn to you and your le­gion of uber-rich so called ‘en­thu­si­asts’ and the en­vi­ron­ment you’ve helped fer­ment.”

I’ve only high­lighted two para­graphs here from a much longer let­ter. The reader sounded like he would have taken great de­light in see­ing me hang for com­mit­ting the heinous crime of help­ing Aus­tralian-made mus­cle cars to fi­nally com­mand the ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect they de­served af­ter decades of in­dif­fer­ence and ne­glect. If that was a crime then I am guilty, your hon­our.

I well re­mem­ber grow­ing up in the 1970s and 1980s when what are now con­sid­ered ‘clas­sic’ Aus­tralian mus­cle cars did not en­joy the rev­er­ence they do now. Back then a Valiant was gen­er­ally dis­missed as a ‘wog box’ or ‘Ro­man char­iot’ be­cause the lo­cally-made pen­tas­tar had be­come a favourite amongst post-war Greek and Ital­ian mi­grant fam­i­lies. Even more unimag­in­able to­day was that Hemi Pac­ers and Charg­ers, even the hot R/T mod­els, were of­ten tarred with the same dis­re­spect­ful brush.

I also worked in the build­ing game in the early 1980s when many tradies still drove cars to work, as op­posed to to­day’s plethora of dual cab utes. And lots of them were older Aussie cars.

I par­tic­u­larly re­mem­ber one guy, a brickie, had an HT Monaro GTS 350. He car­ried ev­ery­thing in that filthy Monaro, which he treated more like a truck. Its rear sus­pen­sion groaned un­der the com­bined weight of his tools of trade, a boot loaded with bags of ce­ment and four of his brickie mates piled in­side. It used to ‘clink’ on ap­proach from all the empty long necks rolling around the rear floor.

Its tatty black vinyl in­te­rior was split and faded af­ter years of be­ing parked in the scorch­ing Aussie sun. Its equally faded ex­te­rior was a pa­tri­otic metal­lic green with gold stripes. A very de­sir­able com­bi­na­tion to­day, but no-one cared back then be­cause those early Monaros were also the sub­ject of de­ri­sion, for so long liv­ing in the for­mi­da­ble shadow of their Fal­con GT and GT-HO ri­vals.

I also re­mem­ber, still much to my dis­may, an XA GT Hard­top at a B&S Ball be­ing used for pig and roo shoot­ing, with the boot lid re­moved and a crude steel frame welded into the open boot space for up to three shoot­ers to hang on to. It had no win­dow glass and ev­ery panel was dented, but the boys loved it be­cause it had plenty of 351 V8 grunt for charg­ing through the scrub and they just couldn’t kill it.

Any Aussie mus­cle car which had been raced was al­most worth­less back then, be­cause they were con­sid­ered to be worn-out. A com­pe­ti­tion his­tory and au­then­tic scars of bat­tle were things used car sales­men tried to hide. In the clas­si­fieds you couldn’t give them away. These days a proven com­pe­ti­tion his­tory, par­tic­u­larly if it in­cluded Bathurst, is highly prized. And who knows how many were lost dur­ing the 1980s street ma­chin­ing craze, sac­ri­ficed for the ProStreet drag car look with huge rear-wheel tubs and steam­roller tyres.

For­tu­nately, there is now a wide­spread re­spect­ful ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their his­tory and a res­o­lute com­mit­ment among gen­uine en­thu­si­asts to pre­serve the orig­i­nal ex­am­ples that re­main. And to re­store other less for­tu­nate sur­vivors (which hope­fully in­cluded that brickie’s Monaro) to their orig­i­nal show­room spec­i­fi­ca­tions. If AMC has played a role in all of that, then it’s a legacy of which I’ll al­ways be proud.

So as AMC cel­e­brates its 100th is­sue I would like to pro­pose a toast, not only to ed­i­tor Luke West, art di­rec­tor Chris Cur­rie and a tal­ented team of con­trib­u­tors, but also our re­cently de­parted car man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try which cre­ated all the fan­tas­tic mus­cle cars that are the back­bone of this mag­a­zine.

Up un­til 2017, Aus­tralia was one of only a hand­ful of coun­tries in the world that could de­sign and mass-pro­duce its own cars from scratch. Sadly, it isn’t any­more. So it has never been more im­por­tant to pre­serve as many Aussie-made cars as we can (and not just mus­cle cars) to main­tain a tan­gi­ble link to a by­gone era when this coun­try was very good at mak­ing things. And to keep sup­port­ing AMC with your cars, sto­ries and thought­ful in­sights, for the next 100 is­sues.

AMC found­ing ed­i­tor Mark Oastler steered the ship from is­sue #1 in 2001 to 2010’s is­sue #53. Tell us some­one more ap­pro­pri­ate as guest colum­nist for our mile­stone 100th edi­tion?

Turn to page 42 for Mark Oastler’s rec­ol­lec­tions of bring­ing is­sue #1 to life. To­day ‘MarkO’ writes and presents for the Shan­nons Club. See his cur­rent work, which in­cludes giv­ing Aussie clas­sics the cov­er­age they de­serve, by vis­it­ing www.shan­nons.com.au/club

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