JOHN EALES CUT THE MUSTARD
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.”