Loved the chal­lenge to bits

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - COVER STORY - NICK DAL­TON

JEFF Love has been one of the steady hands at the tiller of Ire­land’s spare parts depart­ment for 40 years.

But last week he pulled the pin on one of the long­est ca­reers at the 93-year-old au­to­mo­tive icon in Cairns.

The spare parts in­ter­preter, for­mer ware­house man­ager and as­sis­tant parts man­ager turned 65 and said it was time to go.

Since 1976 he has dis­trib­uted tens of thou­sands of mo­tor parts, from EH Holden fend­ers to the lat­est VF Calais com­puter chips.

Mr Love was born in Cairns and ed­u­cated at Bal­a­clava state and Trin­ity Bay state high schools. In 1964 he joined McDon­alds Mo­tors in Ab­bott St as a mes­sen­ger boy, us­ing a bike to de­liver parts around Cairns.

“The pay was 20 pounds a week,” Mr Love said.

He also spent time at Au­to­mo­tive Com­po­nents, a sub­sidiary of Repco and El­phin­stones bulk store, but in 1976 joined Ire­land’s, first in Lake St and then to Mul­grave Rd.

Mr Love re­tired af­ter eye prob­lems, ex­ac­er­bated by spend­ing too much time on com­put­ers.

“I stayed with Ire­land’s be­cause it was a se­cure job and the busi­ness was fam­ily owned,” he said. “I’ve re­ally en­joyed work­ing here. I’ve been through seven man­agers and was as­sis­tant man­ager at one stage.

“Over the years we have gone from books to mi­cro­fiche and then to com­put­ers.

“When I first started we used to de­liver a lot of panel parts. I could fit three EH fend­ers in the bas­ket on the front of the bike. The back wheel was nearly off the ground.”

He said over the years he had seen many trends.

“In the HQ-HZ Kingswood era many young fel­las, af­ter smash­ing the front end, would swap the Kingswood front for the two-head­light grille of the States­man. They paid the ex­cess on their in­sur­ance to cover it.

“We used to keep half a dozen sets up­stairs.”

Mr Love said in re­cent years they sup­plied a lot of elec­tronic and com­puter parts as well as fil­ters and elec­tri­cal parts.

“I used to know part num­bers off the top of my head as they never changed but now it’s a dif­fer­ent story.”

Mr Love said he had worked for all three gen­er­a­tions of Ire­lands, in­clud­ing the late founder Fran­cis, cur­rent chair­man Ron and joint man­ag­ing direc­tors Richard and David.

“Fran­cis and Ron were of the old school. You did as you were told,” he said.

“Richard and David are more le­nient, but are look­ing ahead, more pro­gres­sive. It was not as quick in the old days as it is to­day.”

Richard Ire­land said Mr Love was one of their longest­serv­ing em­ploy­ees.

“He’s not the long­est, but up in the list of long­est serv­ing of 165 staff. There would only be a hand­ful 40 years or more. Dad’s been here since 1942,” he said.

“He is a like­able, happy guy, who would do any­thing for you.”

Mr Love said the fun­ni­est thing to hap­pen was when an ap­pren­tice su­per­glued his glasses to the stain­less counter.

“It wasn’t funny at the time and lucky for him they were an old pair,” he said.

Mr Love said the fire that de­stroyed the parts, ser­vice, Holden sales and ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing in 1993 made for chal­leng­ing times.

“It was very stress­ful. We lost all the stock, all the books, the com­put­ers. Other deal­ers helped out. We worked out of don­gas but it took six to 10 months to re­build and re­stock,” he said.

The fa­ther of four, who has 13 grand­chil­dren, said young peo­ple could make a ca­reer out of spare parts.

“You have to be switched on, com­puter literate, pay at­ten­tion, lis­ten and do as you are told,” he said.

“And for good­ness sake, an­swer the phone. The bosses want the phone an­swered and peo­ple hate voice­mail mes­sages.”

COLOUR­FUL CA­REER: Jeff Love has re­tired af­ter 40 years work­ing at Ire­land's spare parts depart­ment. Pic­ture: MARC McCOR­MACK

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