The cars that got away - What Do You Reckon? 449

By: Glenn Torrens

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Like many people, Glenn Torrens has a list of cars he wishes he'd bought...and wishes he'd kept

Apparently, A 1988 VL Holden Commodore SS Group A is now a $200k car. Did I ever tell you about the one I didn’t buy for $18,000?

How about a 1989 VN HSV SV5000 – HSV’s first Euro-style premium product in that glorious Malachite green paint with that grunty 200kW iron lion V8 up front and those great big brakes and that sumptuous leather-and-velour interior – for the same money? Or the 1981 VC Commodore HDT, racer Peter Brock’s first road car model, a trade-in at my local Holden dealer where a mate worked, that I said ‘no thanks’ to for $8800?

Yeah. Bummer. Crikey. Ouch. And with the exploding interest in Aussie performance cars over the past 10 years or so – and the growing respect for the more mundane but more numerous Aussie family cars – there are plenty of us who will, over a beer or two, tell true tales of The Ones That Got Away.

I missed those special Holdens – and yes, Ford fans, I’ve chased a couple of Falcons such as an XE Fairmont Ghia ESP 4.9 for $2k that I missed by minutes – but the people that I drink beer with (or who read my regular ramblings here in Unique Cars) know I have an active interest in the old air-cooled VWs, too.

I’ve bought, built, restored, refreshed, wrecked, raced and sold a few VWs including my hill climb/tarmac sprint and salt-lake speed trial Bugs and, more recently, a Super Bug I restored that is now being converted to electric power by its new owner.

All good fun, but the one I really wish I still owned is my 1971 Kombi pop-top camper.

Thanks to a mate, Stuart, who rescued it from behind an abandoned petrol station, I scored that destitute dak-dak camper for free. Free! All I had to do was collect it from Wagga and pay-back Stuey for the cost of the trailer he’d hired to save the Kombi from the bulldozer’s blade.

I got stuck into rebuilding that Kombi, writing about it for a caravanning/camping magazine, something like I do for Our Cars in Unique Cars magazine: I fixed the pop-top roof mechanism, welded the rust, replaced the worn-out engine and rebuilt the suspension and brakes. I stripped-out the disintegrated old kitchen with plans for new including a 12V fridge for food and fizzy bevvies and a snazzy ‘rock-n-roll’ rear seat that converts to a bed.

But for reasons that remain a mystery, one of those ‘true-blue-dinki-di’ Aussie camp-kitchen companies said ‘No’ to building a new interior for the Kombi camper, despite promoting itself as a custom-builder of interiors and kitchens for camper vans. As I recall, that meant I missed writing a chapter – so the magazine used that as an excuse for cancelling. Around the same time, I had to move to a new house. Demoralised by this trifecta of tribulation – and despite the Kombi being just days away from being rego-ready – I cracked the shits and sold it, struggling to get $5k.

Today, that cruisy Kombi would be worth $25k-plus and although I now have my 1989 Mitsubishi Pajero for fun local camping trips, not completing that classic Kombi pop-top project and therefore not enjoying just one day driving it, or one evening sipping sunset drinks from it, or one restful night sleeping in it, makes my blood boil to this day!


From Unique Cars #449, February 2021

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