Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - Richard Black­burn

Rugby great John Eales and his first car were a com­i­cal mis­match. The for­mer Aus­tralian cap­tain didn’t get a car of his own un­til the Wal­la­bies won the 1991 World Cup.

Un­til that time he’d bor­rowed his par­ents’ cars. Then spon­sor Ford came to the party with a new con­vert­ible.

Ex­cited at the prospect of hav­ing his first set of wheels, the then 21-year-old was de­ter­mined to squeeze his two-me­tre frame into the tiny sports car. It was a struggle.

“We did a ticker-tape pa­rade on the back of th­ese Ford Capris and at the end of it they let us drive around in them for a num­ber of months,” Eales says.

“That was pretty cool but I had to duck right down to see out of the wind­screen.

“It wasn’t a car that I fit­ted in nat­u­rally but there was no way I was giv­ing up the op­por­tu­nity to be driv­ing around in it.”

Luck­ily, as one of six chil­dren that had to fit in the fam­ily car, he was ac­cus­tomed to a tight squeeze.

“We had a sta­tion wagon in the days when a cou­ple of kids would ride in the boot. That’s just what ev­ery­one did,” he says.

“Seat belts were op­tional … you have to re­strain a dog more th­ese days than you had to with kids when we grew up.

“We’re lucky to be alive re­ally. Thank­fully dad was a good driver.”

The sta­tion wagon was traded in for a long­wheel­base Toy­ota LandCruiser Troop Car­rier, a diesel in mustard yel­low with rear bench seats fac­ing each other.

“You could hear it com­ing from half a kilo­me­tre away. Ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated mus­tard­coloured Troop Car­rier four-wheel drives with the Eales fam­ily,” he says.

The Troop Car­rier cov­ered plenty of miles in its time be­cause his mother had fam­ily in Cairns, roughly 1800km from their home in Bris­bane.

“They were pretty solid road trips. We took turns sleep­ing on the floor,” he says.

He’s done a few road trips as a fa­ther be­tween his new home in Syd­ney and his par­ents in Bris­bane but th­ese days he prefers pack­ing the kids on to a plane.

“When the kids were young it was eas­ier just to pack the car and get up there, rather than hire a car, hire car seats and all of that. But we got out of that habit pretty quickly,” he says.

Th­ese days Eales, a Lexus am­bas­sador, re­gards his LS sedan as a place to ei­ther un­wind or be pro­duc­tive. He likes to lis­ten to pod­casts, au­dio books and, oc­ca­sion­ally, clas­sic FM. For fam­ily du­ties, there is an RX hy­brid SUV.

He’s not a car nut as such but ap­pre­ci­ates a well built, stylish ex­am­ple.

“To me cars are a bit like watches. They’ve got to have this bal­ance of form and func­tion,” he says.

“The No.1 rea­son you’ve got them is to get from A to B but there’s this im­por­tant bal­ance they have to strike be­tween the shape and the fea­tures of the car but also the func­tion.

“The great car com­pa­nies and the great watch­mak­ers get that bal­ance right. You can’t look beau­ti­ful and then not per­form.”

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