Correct Weight - Blackbourn 434

By: Rob Blackbourn

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blackbourn blackbourn

A docket that originally cost Rob the princely sum of sixpence has now yielded a rich harvest of memories

An ancient scrap of paper fluttered to the floor at the weekend when I was unpacking files after our recent move from Melbourne to country Victoria. It turned out to be an old weighbridge ticket. Instead of binning it I was curious enough to flatten it out and check the details.

It reminded me that over 50 years ago the young me had turned up at Melbourne’s Motor Registration Branch (MRB) at the Exhibition Buildings in Carlton to make my newly purchased but long-unregistered 1934 Ford V8 sedan street legal. (The MRB was the forerunner of Vicroads as the registration and licensing authority – it was run by Victoria Police.)

First thing that morning I had taken it to Wally Martin’s Watsonia Garage in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs for a roadworthy certificate. Wally was a serious early-Ford enthusiast and his Ford knowledge and stocks of early spares were second to none.


Fast-forwarding for a moment, I need to say Wally is a special kind of bloke all round. He was well into his retirement, aged in his mid-80s and living at Kinglake, Vic, when the tragic Black Saturday bushfires hit in 2009. Wally courageously saved his house by fighting the fire, as I understand it, from the back of his classic Ford Freighter ute using a petrol powered pump and tanker set-up he had on hand for that purpose. While Wally’s gallant efforts saved his house his collection of over 20 classic cars on the property was lost. Last I heard Wally and his wife Joyce are continuing to enjoy their old age together, a little more calmly than on that fateful day.

But back again to my lovely ’34 at Wally’s garage that morning – his thoroughly professional chief mechanic granted no favours as he put the car under scrutiny. He used a Tapley meter (rarely used for roadworthy tests) to measure brake efficiency. Despite my thorough preparation with new linings, machined drums and much time spent optimising and equalising all the mechanical-brake crank-angles and shoe-clearances, it failed – as you’d expect of a 1934 car with mechanical brakes.

What to do now? I was committed, having already taken the day off work to get the car registered. I decided to press on and take my chances at getting back on track at the Motor Registration Branch.

Feigning ignorance I explained that I had come to register the car and asked what I needed to do. I was helpfully advised that I needed to go first to the weighbridge to weigh the car and then to the garage down the road in Exhibition Street to obtain a roadworthy certificate.

At the time each car’s weight was used in calculating the registration fee. The surviving weighbridge ticket shows my old Henry weighed in at 28 hundredweight (about 1428kg).

Next the roadworthy test. As soon as he saw my old Ford the mechanic was all smiles and full of questions. It was the first early-30s Ford he’d seen up close. He continued to be impressed with what he saw with the car up on the hoist. And more questions…

With it back at ground level he reversed it across the garage floor and hit the brake pedal producing a satisfying squeal from the front tyres. His next words were music to my ears: "The brakes are pretty good, son."

As I drove off with a fresh roadworthy, God was in his heaven and all was right with my world.

After miles of happy experiences with the ’34 I sold her when putting together a deposit for a house. Because it was a nice example Wally Martin was happy to take it off my hands.

It was one of the cars in Wally’s collection at Kinglake…

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