Leafy Streets, But Mean - Blackbourn 436

By: Rob Blackbourn

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toyota hilux steering hub toyota hilux steering hub

Rob's finding the 'tree-change' lifestyle offers more benefits than freedom from traffic issues and fresh air

When I told the story of my 1934 V8 Ford in a recent column I explained it was prompted by my move from an inner-city location in a desirable, ‘leafy’ eastern suburb of Melbourne to the wilds of the old Central Victorian goldfields. While I’ve enjoyed living in the inner-city, I’ve had many great stays in old gold mining towns over the years, so setting up house where all the colour and movement of the gold-rush era actually unfolded in the 1850s was part of the appeal; the surprising fact that several mates had also decamped to the area added another incentive. The real clincher though, as my wife was falling in love with the light and spacious house during our inspection, was the four-car garage behind it. A proper shed… Finally!

Space had been very tight in the 2½-car shed in town with household stuff and tools and equipment jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with too many projects. Consequently our daily drives had to park on the street and the rate of progress on projects was glacial. Things had improved before we packed up – the FJ40 ’Cruiser had departed (sans intended V8 transplant) and thanks to young Ang, this esteemed mag’s designer, the basket-case MGB found a new home in Melbourne.


While on-street parking was convenient – ‘Out the front door, jump in your car, and you’re away’ – there were downsides. One of the lesser issues was that finding a spot in front of your place wasn’t always guaranteed. Discovering that local yoof occasionally raised the windscreen wipers of all of the cars on your side of the road overnight into a silent salute to the skies was more irritating. Way more annoying was having police ringing the bell in the early shoulderhours more than once, asking why my wife’s pocket-rocket 205 GTi Peugeot wasn’t parked in the preferred manner. The little Pug had been dragged and bounced, rear-end first, half-way out into the road. "Not guilty, Officer. I’ll pull on some strides and re-park it." As well, someone whose need was apparently greater than ours nicked the 205’s wide reflective moulding that ran full-width between the taillights. Almost unobtainium that bit, but one turned up eventually.

Another of my wife’s previous cars that attracted attention was her nice, lowkays, yellow, 4.2-litre, VB SL/E Commodore. One morning one of its 15" factory alloys had gone. At least the axle was propped up on a brand-new Kmart jack, not just a stack of bricks. Another morning the entire front-bumper assembly, complete with optional overriders, was missing.

A major disappointment, covered in a previous column, was the theft of my old Hilux from the street one night. It was as much a surprise as a disappointment to learn that someone other than me would want my old 1987 Hilux. Anyway I got it back more or less intact.


Now the real surprise: the aggravation and petty crime that was part of street life in a prestigious part of Melbourne populated generally by the better off, enjoying café-culture ‘lifestyle advantages’ and access to numerous prestigious private schools for their offspring, doesn’t seem to happen in this old town, a place with a lawless history during the gold rush when the area’s population was largely opportunistic ragamuffins, scallywags and miscellaneous adventurers.

Consequently against expectation I don’t necessarily garage the cars all the time. And I no longer take the Hilux’s steering wheel into the house when I park in the street at night. So the shed has more than enough room to lay stuff out to let me work efficiently and comfortably. And my tools are properly organised for the first time in decades. I think I can feel a project coming on…


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