Classic Revival - What Do You Reckon #4

By: Glenn Torrens

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GT Reckons the NSW historic registration scheme is a priceless lifeline for the less-celebrated old stagers

You can call me a dickhead if you want – I would! – but six years ago, I sold my 1971 HQ Holden Premier. Optioned with a 253-cube V8 and auto, air, power steer, buckets and cloth, I bought it as a slightly tatty time-warp car in NSW’s rural Wagga 20 years ago.

A year or two after I bought it, I gave it a cosmetic restoration: fresh paint in the original Windorah Beige (although I messed up and used two-pack paint rather than the era-correct acrylic) new door rubbers and carpet. It needed little else as the mighty Red 253-cube motor was fine – nothing more than a puff of blue smoke when starting cold – and the Trimatic shifted nicely.

I received what I thought was decent money when I sold it… but that was just before prices for time-warp Aussie cars started to get serious. If I owned my Premier now, it’d probably be a $25k car, nearly three-times what I sold it for. Damn!

So why did I sell it? In short, I couldn’t justify the expense of registering it each year. At that time, I had my first Karmann Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet and, every nice sunny Sunday, I’d be out driving the Cabrio with the roof down, rather than cruising the Premier with the air-con on. In my last three years of ownership of my Prem, I think I drove it about 500km and paid more than three grand in registration and insurance! A serious drain.

Sure, I’m a firm believer in ‘you wanna play, you gotta pay’ but the historic registration scheme in NSW changes that. As many car nuts know, this scheme – similar to the one introduced in Victoria a few years ago – allows classic car enthusiasts to drive a classic car anywhere for 60 days per year for less than $100.

It’s incredibly popular. Some 17,000 cars joined the scheme in its first year. That’s a lot of ‘new’ classic cars!

| GT's Sigma: Should it be on classic plates?

It’s given new life to the scene in several ways. Cars that were at risk of being chucked away – for instance, ordinary old Commodores, Falcons, Bluebirds and Sigmas – are being polished up and cruised on historic plates. As daily drivers, it didn’t make financial sense for some people to spend $1000 per year on full rego keeping a $1500 car on the road when for a couple of grand more (and the same rego costs) you could be in a safer, faster and more comfortable 8-12 year old Falcon or Commodore.

Many of these ordinary-spec cars were treated with disdain by the muscle-car wankers; turn up at a club meet with a GL rather than a ESP or an L rather than an SS and chances are, you weren’t made welcome in the often-snobby club scene. So with no club runs to attend, and no opportunity for general use, at a certain age these ordinary cars became a big steaming waste of money and space.

The scheme has also led to a whole new crowd of car enthusiasts joining the classic car lifestyle. In the past, you needed to be quite dedicated to own a car that could only be driven for official car club runs. Now, with unrestricted use, you can drive your kids to school or go shopping in a cool classic car. More and more families are getting into it. A classic car needn’t be a selfish ‘daddy’s special car’ anymore!

Okay, so I sold my lovely HQ too soon to take advantage of the scheme, but that hasn’t stopped me playing catch-up since. In the 18 months since the scheme was introduced in NSW, I’ve bought three more classic Aussie cars. Many of you know about my disgracefully beige Sigma, there’s a Commodore wagon and a Volvo, too. I wouldn’t have done that – no waaaayyy! – if I’d had to spend three grand a year on registration.

I’m not the only one. Recently, at the Shannons Sydney Classic, I met a couple of blokes who said their mates are now trying to out-do each other by turning up at Cars & Coffee mornings with their latest shed finds. They’re not buying Brockmobiles or ESP. They’re buying previously-ignored time-warp cars they’ve bought for peanuts during the week. Laugh if you like, but it’s clean, honest, simple fun and it’s keeping more old cars alive for longer.

I reckon this is the best thing to ever happen to the Aussie classic car scene and it can’t come quick enough for our mates in Qld, SA and WA. What do you reckon?


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