Automobiles have always been like insurance in my life, a necessary evil, originally of course I had been carted around in cars and trucks as a “little tacker” while growing up and even went to the drive-in with my parents in a 1948 Dodge Truck with a 22 foot tray as my father was a cartage contractor, of course we all sat up the back last rows otherwise cars couldn’t see the screen the advantage was when it was time to leave we always got out first being bigger than your average FB Holden. My Dad eventually could afford a 1938 Plymouth coupe then after a 1956 Plymouth sedan, a 1946 Buick Straight 8, followed by a FC Holden station wagon, eventually onto a EH Holden Station wagon. The Buick was shedded till I got it some 11 years later.
I was determined that I didn’t need a car initially and got a bike licence at the 17 and 9 month period to the day by law and that’s all I thought I would ever need, interesting theory as a apprentice car mechanic my boss said one day after I had turned 18 and was eligible to sit for a car licence, about going for it, I replied in my wisdom that I never needed one, he wisely advised me to get it as it may help to roadtest vehicles I had fixed! Hard to argue that point so I booked in after 6 months and got it in a HR Holden Premier sedan and as it was illegal to go in a auto of course this vehicle was a manual, the driving instructor was great at teaching me to park the rest he assured me I would fail on because I drove to fast & confidently I knew I would pass as the copper taking me for the test had seen me already driving his car as I used to repair it! For me 4 wheelers were a status symbol a mate had a side-valve Hillman Minx this was what the local granny’s drove and that or a Morris Major Elite were to be avoided at all costs, in a pinch a Mini would do but Valiant’s (Wog Cars) Holden’s V8s or Falcons were the stepping stone to manhood, so imagine a 1946 Buick Straight 8 with Olympic Winter Tread tyres fitted all round, not really a “chick puller” but great to go to the drive-in with 6 or 7 mates. I really wanted a ex-SEC (State electricity Commission) HT Holden Ute but at $1450-$1650 at the car yard dealers they were unaffordable, a bloke in a FJ Holden crashed into the Buick and after hunting around I bought a wreck for $100 and repaired it back to perfect, the other guys FJ was junked. Crawford Productions came into my workplace one day and wanted to borrow the “works” FX Ute for a episode of Division 4 part of the agreement was a substantial sum for the week and they gave us a Ford F100 pick-up, it was fantastic the floorchange was good and it “would “smoke the bags” from 1st to 2nd and “chirp” into 3rd grouse, so such better than the FX but even after everyone loving it my tight arse boss wouldn’t buy one, this got me wanting a Ute so I bought the ex-Pampas Pastry FX Holden but sold it to register the Buick and the FX had lots of factory standard rust.
Working on all brands made me aware of Chrysler”s Bullet proof engines so I wanted a Valiant V8 shame they didn’t make a V8 Ute in that period as I would have bought one of those, anyway a AP6 at $2,250 seemed a good price and white with a black vinyl roof and brown interior, bucket seats and a floor shift auto what more could one ask for? Stupidity I accepted $350 for my Buick but in those days newer was better or so I thought, the Valiant was ideal although only 273 cu it was still a better handling car than a Ford Customline that was by now getting old and was heaps cooler, a first year apprentice Glen lusted after it and after a couple of years I traded his good condition FC Holden and a cash adjustment my way for $1,500 so I could buy a Triumph Bonnie.
This FC was a really good car with extractors and 6” widie’s all around especially after the vacuum wipers were replaced with the following models electric wiper motor and switch, going uphill in the rain no longer meant the dreaded wipers stopping and the opposite effect going down hill, sometimes you have to just love technology, when I got it somebody had replaced the fibre timing gear after it had shredded(common on grey motors) and fitted it on one tooth out which made it gutless, I realised this after fitting extractors and it didn’t go much better, after that though it was vastly improved.
A few years passed and eventually I bought a VC Valiant Wayfarer Ute from a car yard for $1600 it was in my option there best model and this was a rare manual model on the tree, it had a bowed tailgate as the previous owner a carpet merchant had loaded carpets on the centre of the tailgate, I bought a new one had it painted and got a new tonneau cover I looked fantastic with a clean, and unbeknown to me would give me 19 years faithful service. Eventually and unfortunately I sold it to a mate and bought a XB Falcon 351 four speed Ute and the petrol restrictions came in virtually that same day and it drank fuel even when stopped, I wanted to buy the Valiant back off my mate but he refused to sell, I was desperate so the Falcon was sold and I was without 4 wheels for the first time in 20 years.
Eventually after 3 or four months I bought a XA Falcon Ute rust bucket, and realised Ford and me were “Not a going Thing” as their ad on TV at the time was, I flogged it and decided a Holden was the the way to go I found a yellow HZ Holden Ute 202 with a four speed Commodore manual floor change gearbox and drove it like this for a couple of years with a Yellow Terra head and extractors until I was offered a wrecked HZ premier sedan with a 4.2 V8 air-con and power steering it took about a month and I transferred the drive train and cabin interior over, wow this was great. This Ute was then converted to dual fuel and it was perfect till I foolishly changed the engine over for a 5 litre, a lot of work for little gain, 1998 I sold it and bought my first new car a VS Commodore S pack with 5 litre V8 5 speed, aircon, power steering and I ordered “slow glass”( manual window winders) it was also converted to dual fuel and the only thing I regretted was the really dark green metallic paint as although it looked black constantly needed washing a it showed every spot of dust. I didn’t like the two bucket seats and converted it over to the police spec bucket/bench and the centre console, it turned out looking factory and people often commented about that. Carting motorcycles in a Ute is problematic your tools and gear are exposed for theft, so I sold my last Ute to a customer and went and bought Mercedes Vito diesel van it was a 2.2 and produced 8 horsepower less than my 5 litre and fitted two motorcycles undercover with all my gear and a car fridge to boot! I was ecstatic especially 900 klms on a 75 litre tank of diesel, it pulled up hills like a shire horse and had every safety feature I ever wanted, if the rear seat was lifted out the bikes fitted and the rest of the time it was a people mover, sure it was dearer than a KIA but it was quite and rode like a car and handled which the Korean didn’t.
It was a long wheelbase version and it was a pig to park, after 4 years I bought the station wagon version all trimmed out and shorter, it fits two Indian Chiefs and is perfect for me at this time in my life, but gee I still miss my Valiant Ute.