Unique Cars - - CONTENTS - Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

IT WAS 1982 and I was work­ing in a job that de­manded a re­li­able car and prefer­ably some­thing fairly re­cent, which ruled out my usual choices for trans­port. At this stage part­ner Ms

M snr and I were shacked up to­gether, so we de­cided to pool re­sources on a car.

That meant trad­ing in her com­pre­hen­sively shagged Re­nault 12. At the time we were fed up with it cost­ing a bomb ev­ery time it needed re­pairs, which seemed to be of­ten, and its list of cur­rent com­plaints was get­ting long. Think CV joints on the way out, again, sus­pect clutch, dodgy electrics, ut­terly rooted sus­pen­sion, seats des­per­ately in need of re­build­ing… the list went on. (Funny thing is, I would now love an­other 12.)

We knew some­one in the used car trade and I strolled in with the tat­tered re­mains of the Re­nault, de­mand­ing some­thing big, boofy and in­de­struc­tible. Bob said, “Go and have a look at that Kingswood over there,” while he strolled into the of­fice to work out some sort of deal. A 1979 HZ SL with a 253 and auto, it had all of 40,000km on it, was just on three years old and in per­fect con­di­tion.

Af­ter a lit­tle num­ber crunch­ing, we did the deal. It didn’t feel like a bar­gain at the time – in fact it seemed ex­pen­sive at around $6000. Then again, it was an $8500-ish car when new. That was 36 years and about 300,000km ago, so I guess you could ar­gue we got our money’s worth.

It was ef­fec­tively a work car for the first cou­ple of years, in be­tween be­ing driven from Can­berra up to Bris­bane a few times to see fam­ily. It loved fuel around town – which wasn’t a drama in the days of cheap petrol – but was sur­pris­ingly good on the high­way. It cer­tainly met the brief. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, it han­dled ac­cept­ably, had enough power to hold its own and was com­fort­able.

More im­por­tantly, it was cheap to main­tain. Es­sen­tially un­burstable, it rarely de­manded more than fresh lu­bri­cants – that is af­ter we put an oil cooler on the trans­mis­sion.

Then the kids came along and the use­ful size of the thing took on a whole new di­men­sion. It got the usual grief. Left out­side in the weather for years, used as a gi­ant pram or camper on the hol­i­days, it was the last thing that got any at­ten­tion when money was tight. Nev­er­the­less, it hap­pily car­ried hordes of kids and towed mo­tor­cy­cle trail­ers when­ever asked.

It was start­ing to show and feel its age at some point – maybe 20 years ago – and I was los­ing pa­tience with it. Was it time for a new car? Ms M was dead against the idea and, for­tu­nately, turned out to be the Kingswood’s saviour. When it had a lit­tle heart at­tack, she was the one bolt­ing down to the me­chanic f lour­ish­ing a cheque­book. (Re­mem­ber them?)

Over time, it was re­placed as the main means of trans­port and de­vel­oped semi-re­tired sta­tus. That was an op­por­tu­nity to slowly do it up a lit­tle – paint, up­hol­stery, me­chan­i­cal fresh­enup, ever ything.

Mean­while it qui­etly changed sta­tus from work­horse to trea­sured fam­ily pet. How do cars do that? These days it spends most of its time slum­ber­ing un­der a cover, re­served for spe­cial trips or the odd gal­lop to the shops to keep it ex­er­cised. Much to my dis­com­fort, the kids long ago sorted out what its fate would be af­ter Ms M and I croak it. There are even ground rules for their kids.

How did that hap­pen? It doesn’t seem that long ago when I wan­dered into the car lot, look­ing for trans­port…

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