LYNDA HALLINAN

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

gives her barn a man-cave makeover to ac­com­mo­date a trea­sured fam­ily heir­loom

Fun fact: ac­cord­ing to a study by an­thro­pol­ogy pro­fes­sors at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, three-quar­ters of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies can’t ac­tu­ally park their cars in the garage. Not be­cause they lack the driv­ing skills to par­al­lel park a hu­mon­gous Hum­mer be­tween the chest freezer and the clothes dryer, but be­cause most car­ports are al­ready packed to the gun­nels with do­mes­tic clut­ter.

Own­ing too much stuff is symp­to­matic of the modern malaise. Un­like our an­ces­tors, who bought very lit­tle (by to­day’s stan­dards, at least) and ex­pected those things to last a life­time, these days many of us be­have like ham­sters on a home­wares tread­mill. Given how cheap it is to up­date not just the cush­ions on our so­fas, but the couch it­self, is it any won­der our garages dou­ble as stor­age units for every­thing from shoes and sea­sonal sports equip­ment to un­fin­ished craft projects, miss­ing bits from flat-pack pieces of fur­ni­ture and op-shop bar­gains in need of up­cy­cling?

I can hon­estly say it’s not an is­sue at our place. Not be­cause my hus­band and I are min­i­mal­ists – far from it – but be­cause we don’t ac­tu­ally own a garage. Ours burned down in an elec­tri­cal fire in 2009, send­ing all of our clut­ter co­nun­drums up in flames, and we’ve never got around to re­build­ing it. We sim­ply park our cars on the drive­way and, on wet, win­try days, make a mad dash for the front door.

This sans-garage state suf­ficed un­til this month, when my hus­band Ja­son ar­rived home in his grand­fa­ther Her­bert Joseph Fred­er­ick Hin­ton’s 1966 Chrysler VC Valiant Sa­fari sta­tion wagon, a fam­ily heir­loom that has been “in restora­tion” for al­most 25 years.

As far as clas­sic cars go, the Valiant Sa­fari’s aes­thetic ap­peal is rather more bo­gan than bour­geois; Fred’s ve­hi­cle came com­plete with his orig­i­nal cowboy bolo boot­lace tie dan­gling down from the rearview mir­ror.

Like many men of his era, my hus­band’s grand­fa­ther was mighty proud of his car, which was kept in as mint a con­di­tion as the day it rolled off the pro­duc­tion line. Fred al­ways drove slowly in the fast lane, and no one else was al­lowed be­hind the wheel un­til the day of his death in 1991.

Just be­tween us, my hus­band’s fam­ily are born-and-bred West­ies and, in what sounds like an episode of Out­ra­geous For­tune, when Fred passed away they didn’t think to call a fu­neral di­rec­tor. In­stead, Un­cle Lance sat

Fred’s still-warm body in the pas­sen­ger seat of his Valiant Sa­fari for one last blast up the mo­tor­way, de­liv­er­ing him di­rect to the un­der­tak­ers in Hen­der­son. But as a makeshift hearse, the Valiant Sa­fari had a no­table draw­back – namely no seat­belts – and ev­ery time Un­cle Lance rounded a cor­ner, Fred’s corpse slid side­ways to thwack him on the shoul­der.

My hus­band was a teenage hoon when he in­her­ited his grand­fa­ther’s car. His sur­fie mates were suit­ably im­pressed, largely be­cause they could fit 10 crates of Big Horn beer in the back on road trips to Piha. How­ever, less than a year later, while work­ing the night shift as a road­ing con­trac­tor on Auck­land’s north­west­ern mo­tor­way, he spun out of con­trol and pranged head-on into the con­crete me­dian bar­rier they’d only just fin­ished in­stalling.

The wrecked wagon was trans­ported to his father’s work­shop, where it sat gath­er­ing dust for the next 20

“The Valiant Sa­fari’s aes­thetic ap­peal is rather more bo­gan than bour­geois.”

years. But more re­cently, my father-in­law Rex took it to bits, pan­el­beated the dents and put it back to­gether, so that now all that’s needed to get it road­wor­thy again is a tune-up, new door locks, some shiny chrome trims and a horn that ac­tu­ally honks.

Nat­u­rally, my hus­band also needs some­where to park his clas­sic car dur­ing the un­told af­ter­noons of pol­ish­ing and tin­ker­ing that lie ahead.

“What you need,” I told him, “is a man cave.”

Like a gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned gar­den shed, a de­cent man cave should com­bine com­fort and prac­ti­cal­ity with plenty of stor­age. And, for­give this shame­less bout of gen­der stereo­typ­ing, but a mas­cu­line space should also of­fer safe refuge for the man of your house to peace­fully pot­ter away on his DIY projects, or sink a few cold bevvies watch­ing sport in­stead of car­toons and Coro­na­tion Street.

This is not the first time I’ve sug­gested a man cave to my hus­band. Seven years ago, I had plans to pimp out the foal­ing bay in our sta­ble block with a beer fridge, bar lean­ers and a big-screen TV, but my in­te­rior de­sign in­ten­tions were thwarted by a pair of blue lines on a preg­nancy test. When we found out we were ex­pect­ing our first child, I fig­ured a fam­ily rum­pus room was some­what higher on the pri­or­ity list than a blokes-only zone, so I carted my hus­band’s power tools off to our hay­barn in­stead.

This time around, I heaved the hay bales aside to clear a cor­ner of the barn for a petrol­head heaven dec­o­rated with road­ing signs and pa­per bunt­ing cut from the pages of a men’s mag­a­zine (no, not Pent­house or Play­boy, but the high-brow Smith Jour­nal). The space is fur­nished with in­dus­trial cab­i­nets, taxi­dermy, a col­lec­tion of beer bot­tle la­bels from Fred’s own shed, my hus­band’s retro spa­cies ma­chine (game Pac-Man, any­one?) and a retro vinyl couch of a sim­i­lar vin­tage to the car.

That mus­tard-coloured couch is nei­ther snug nor soft be­cause, as a rule, a man cave should be com­fort­able, but not so com­fort­able that you never see your fella again at the week­end.

The Chrysler Valiant Sa­fari now re­sides in its own manly shel­ter, com­plete with dec­o­ra­tive bunt­ing, beer coast­ers, old pots… and a few pretty flow­ers.

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