My First Car

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My First Car

My first car was a Toyota Corolla. Having spent plenty of time in the family Ford Falcons and Holden Kingswoods during the 1960s and 1970s, the thing I remember most about my then not-so-new Nipponese vehicle was that there was so much damn plastic in the car. Of course I could not afford a new vehicle, so the Corolla had clocked up close to 100,000 miles by the time I got behind the wheel. Looking back on it now, the Corolla had no redeeming features whatsoever – it was slow, noisy, hot in summer and wheezy when cold in winter. Those were the days of the trusty manual choke, and of course the transmission was manual too. I purchased that car from a young woman, which says a lot for how things have changed today. My wife would rather stick pins in her eyes than go out and buy a new car with a manual transmission – if such a thing even exists today.

Back then music was everything, so despite the Corolla being slow and never being able to “pull the chicks”, I did save up and get an aftermarket stereo-cassette player installed. Soon after, I added a graphic equaliser that not only bumped up the volume, it had enough lights to turn the inside of the Corolla into some kind of cheap 70’s disco hall. Those were the days of the “Blue Light Disco”, dance events held for teens by the Police. I had attended my fair share up until I got my hands on that Corolla, but I never again needed to go once I had the graphic equaliser installed. Donna Summer, the Bee-Gees, Doobie Brothers and Supertramp got me through the first few summers of driving, before I felt the need for something a bit more rugged. Something the Marlborough Man would probably drive if he weren’t perched atop a horse looking down at the windswept plains. A four-wheel-drive seemed the logical answer. In my case, I did not pick wisely.

The Un-Cool 4 Wheel Drive

I have very little experience with a 4 Wheel Drive. You could hardly call it “a love affair with the outdoors” when you have only owned two, and both of those were back in the 80s. For me, the fascination began when my father purchased an old Landy for our beach house at Sorrento. We loved that asbestos laden place, but back then we had no idea just how dangerous the stuff was. And the Land Rover? That saw duty as a launch vehicle for Dad’s boat. It only ever did the run from the holiday shack to the boat ramp – and many times I went fishing just so I could get a ride in that old Land Rover. The reward was usually a couple of sorry looking Flatheads and the resultant fried fish tails for dinner.

But back to my 4 Wheel Drive experience – or lack of it. My first 4x4 vehicle was a bright orange Subaru Brumby – not the almost cult status ute that the cool people owned – mine was the stodgy wagon version, and boy was it flimsy. Don’t let any past owners tell you just how great these original Suby’s were – they were noisy, uncomfortable, utilitarian and had very little off road ability. For me, getting it dirty simply meant driving through a couple of puddles. It probably could have handled a bush track or two – but its off road ability was severely compromised by its lack of the two “lows”, low ratio and low ground clearance. There was a third low that I should admit to, my low ability to drive in any off road environment.

Next came a Land Rover Game, a bright yellow Landy that BL Australia did up with some fancy flared guards, big Sunraysia tyres, aggressive bull bar and a few other options. Everything else about it was bog standard – but unlike the Suby it did have low ratio and plenty of ground clearance. This “new” Landy took me half way up the East Coast of Australia, from Melbourne to the bright lights of Surfers Paradise. Turns out there was very little in the way of off-roading adventures to be had on that trip – but it did get a run along the beach at Coffs Harbour. Those wide tyres sure came in handy. It was on this trip that I promised myself that, one day, I would see all that Australia had to offer – especially as I only made it around half way up the East Coast of Australia.

Love Of The Open Air

Quite a few cars came and went before I got behind the wheel of my first convertible. That car was to the be catalyst to writing the Unqiue Cars and Parts site. I had always loved cars, but this took things to a whole new level. That car was a very tired Mercedes 350SL R107 Roadster. Manual, V8, no roof. It would have been cool except it was so well worn that it was borderline wreck. After driving it around for a few months, this car was taken off the road and underwent a 3 year restoration. A complete re-spray changing the colour from white to red, new rubbers, windscreen, engine and gearbox overhaul (all removed for the process, and to allow the engine bay to be re-sprayed). All new electircs including looming the wiring in such a way as to ensure everything was as neat as possible. While my intention was to keep the car stock, some exceptions needed to be made. One was putting the battery in the boot – something that BMW drivers will be familiar with. The benefit of doing that was, when you lifted the hood, the gleaming “bead-blasted” fully overhauled engine presented beautifully.

Soundproofing was placed under the hood, behind the firewall and under the carpets, an Alpine stereo fitted, all new upholstery, bumpers re-chromed and all new rubbers fitted, right down to the little rubber grommet behind the fuel filler lid. Project complete and the car looked exceptional, and always got looks. I have never owned a car before, or after, that drew that much attention. The exhaust system had been specially imported from the USA, and sounded the bomb. It was arguably the best sounding V8 around, and people would catch me at the lights to ask what I had fitted under the hood. They were always surprised to learn that the engine was stock, and it just had a different exhaust.

Today I consider myself very lucky, as I still have a convertible in the garage. Unfortunately the Merc has gone, but now there is a Z4 with motorised roof and air-conditioning. It handles better than the 350SL ever did, is faster, more comfortable, and easier to live with. But there will always be a soft spot for that old Merc. Since selling the car I have always hoped that I will never see it again. I would be so disappointed to see it in anything but gleaming new condition. My daily drive is another BMW, a 2002 E46 325i with M-Pack. I picked up this little beauty in 2017 with only 14,000 kilometres on the clock. As daily drivers go, it is fantastic and I consider myself a very lucky man. And while my personal transportation is worth less than a new Toyota Corolla, it has taught me that, in the world of Classic Cars, something does not have to have a high value to be highly prized.

I have attended many car shows throughout the country, introducing myself and taking photo’s of other peoples “pride and joy”. It is amazing just how much pleasure an old car can give the owner. Any nonce can head into a showroom and buy the latest Hyundai. An enthusiast has to live with the foibles that an older car presents, but the effort is nearly always worth it. Finding parts is arguably the hardest part of older car ownership, and this site has been created with that in mind, offering a completely free classifieds system where you can buy and sell your old car parts, and use the “Wanted” section to find that elusive part. But, as with anything online, the site will only ever be as good the content within. That’s why I continually seek out new content to add to the site, researching automotive history, visiting car clubs and shows, and asking probably too many questions of those prepared to share information.

The site is dedicated to anyone with even a passing interest in the automobile. I sincerely hope you enjoy the articles and find the information contained within to be informative and accurate. Keep Motoring!

The Team @ Unique Cars and Parts
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