Rare Reunion - Morley's World 459

By: Dave Morley


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If that doesn't get young 'uns rolling up their sleeves, nothing will

Got an idea to run past you. From what I can gather, one of the demographics experiencing vaccine hesitation (and I’m sure as hell not gonna offer an opinion on whether you should get vaxxed or not…don’t need that can-o-worms on my plate) are young males. But based on the notion that being vaccinated against a pandemic aint a terrible idea, I reckon I’ve come up with a way to motivate that same demographic to get the jab. Get this: My new rule is everybody double-vaxxed is subject only to the dollars, not the points, in any speeding-fine situation. If that doesn’t get young ’uns rolling up their sleeves, nothing will.

Here’s where it’s extra brilliant; the government will still get the money it budgets on from speeding tickets (and don’t start me on the morals of that, either) which means the taxpayer doesn’t cop the hit, and everybody with two jabs can relax a little when passing SUVs hidden behind trees and bus shelters. And here’s the other cunning angle; people of a certain age (that’d me me) will also benefit from the same deal because the gummint can’t afford to appear ageist in dealing with speeding, right? Yeah. I can feel a petition coming on. About time we swapped some stick for a bit of carrot, eh?

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Seeing double! Shots of these wagons are rare. That’s Uncle Chuck from back in the day – he now owns Automotive Restoration Blasting

Actually, I reckon that ought to be a bit of a theme once we’re out of Covid. The way I see it, we Aussies did a damn fine job of staying safe and doing everything the government asked of us, including in Victoria, nailing the front door shut for the thick end of two years. With that in mind, I reckon we’ve proven ourselves to be grown-ups, so it’s time for our elected leaders to adopt a similarly grown-up approach to running the show from here on in.

Included in that would be throwing all the usual bullshit in a skip. You know the stuff; the old speed kills bollocks, the habit of picking on anybody who looks like they’re having fun in a car; even the time-honored political policy of looking after old school-tie mates and splashing my money to get themselves re-elected. Oh, and telling bare-faced lies. And I’ll include ‘I don’t recall’ in that category. Yeah, I reckon it’s time there were some changes around here.

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It’s a small world, they tell me. But sometimes, it’s spookily tiny if you ask me. Random stuff happens that makes you think, wow, maybe there’s more going on in this universe than we’re aware of. And this is what happened to me recently:

I got a call from an old mate of mine, Chuck Ripplejaw (aka Uncle Chuck who, those of you old enough may recall, was one third of the team also comprising the editor of the magazine you are now holding, Guido, and my very large self, that called itself Bumper to Bumper and terrorised the community airwaves on Melbourne station Triple R many a year ago). Nothing new there; Chuck, Guido and I are all still drinking buddies. But this time, I could tell Chuck had something big to tell me. I could hear his trademark 1000-Watt smile over the phone.

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"I’ve found a car I want. Actually, the car I want," he told me. Now, Chuck is a big fan of the long-roof coupe (aka the station-wagon) but this was news because normally, he spends all his cash on race-cars, not road-cars. Turns out, he was on the trail of a VS Berlina wagon with all the HSV fruit you could order back in the day. One back from a HSV Clubsport Wagon, if you like. Then he started telling me about the car.

Jeez, I thought, that sounds like the very car a mate of mine bought brand-new back in 96. "What colour is this thing," I asked Chuck.

"That metallic black with a bit of green when the sun hits it," he said.

"Does it have a sunroof?"

"Yep".

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Morley’s zorst copies a Group C touring car

Man, this was really starting to sound like my buddy’s car from the day. Of course, I remember it so well because I played a small part in turning Johnny’s (my mate’s) dream into a reality. Johnny had just got his first big pay-day as the owner of a plate-making (printing) business, and I worked next door at a trade-magazine publishers. We were both about the same age, we were both tappet-heads. Naturally, we got along famously.

I don’t really remember why Johnny didn’t just buy a Clubby wagon, but I think his insurance broker might have put the brakes on that. So he did the next best thing. He ordered a brand-spanking Berlina wagon with a V8 engine and then I hooked him up with John Harvey at HSV and the pair of them nutted out a plan to build something pretty damn special. Harves managed to give Johnny everything he wanted bar the stroker engine option (that was reserved for fully-fledged HSV cars) and the end result was a very individual station-wagon with a full body-kit, engine upgrade to 185kW, HSV SV5000 wheels and pretty much everything you could bolt to a VS wagon. It got down the road pretty well, too.

Meanwhile, back in 2021, Chuck had organised to go and have a peek at the second-hand VS wagon he’d been telling me all about.

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Zorst pokes out neatly

"Do me a favour," I asked Chuck, "Ask the bloke selling it if he remembers the original number-plate. And if it was JD 185, go and buy a lotto ticket, because the planets have just lined up."

An hour later, Chuck was back on the phone. "You’re not gonna believe this," he started out. But I already knew what he was going to say…It was JD 185 all right. The years had taken a slight toll on the crispness of the lines, but nothing that wouldn’t buff out. And while the bloke selling the car was, indeed, just the second owner and lived within 40km of Johnny’s place, he’d added another 300,000km to the odo since he bought it back around the turn of the century (when Johnny traded up to a Caprice. Yeah, business was going okay).

A week or so later, Chuck and I drove out to pick the car up and, stood in front of it, it was seriously like looking at an old friend. Okay, so I’m a fan of wagons, too, and I don’t mind a HSV enhancement or three. But this was dead-set like standing in a time machine. It all came flooding back. I quickly phoned Johnny to tell him the news and he and Chuck have since hooked up to swap notes on the car’s history. Hopefully, Johnny will make it out to Chuck’s and we can all go to the pub in JD185.

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Polished alloy cage as safe as spaghetti

Perhaps the most amazing fact here is not that a single car has entered my consciousness twice, with 25 years in between, but rather the fact that I know two blokes who believe that a souped-up station-wagon is the best car in the world. Dunno. Could be. Anyway, I’m off to check the lotto numbers.

This week in lockdown, I have done a thing. Actually, it’s better than that; I’ve made a thing. Forget that it has no practical application and that it will add weight to my car, not make it quicker. And forget that I probably should have been doing more pressing things – like learning to speak Portuguese, or something – and just go with the lockdown vibe. Which is what I was doing when I started to look at old photos of old race cars. Golden-era Group C stuff, mainly.

Now, I dunno about you, but I reckon that 70s and 80s Bathurst gear was some of the most amazing looking race-cars from any point in time. I dig the flared guards, the polished BBS-design rims, the paint jobs and pretty much everything else. Of course, it helped that Torana hatchbacks, Chargers and Falcon Hardtops were some of the most stonking looking cars to begin with. But poring over those old photos again, I was struck by the detailing involved.

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Group C side zorst look the ducks guts according to Morley

Polished alloy roll-cages wouldn’t pass a modern tech inspection, but they looked amazing, especially against the tan interior that so many Group C cars stuck with. Then there’s the stuff like the baggy-duds alloy drop-tanks, the exquisite lock-wiring and, of course, the exhaust outlet. Now, call me a saddo, but I reckon the squashed-oval exhaust tip on a lot of Group C cars just has to be one of the visual highlights of all time. I also seem to recall that they were popular on a lot of Toranas. And Commodores. And despite the fact that Covid means I can’t drive it anywhere, I still have old Project Duckshit, my VC Commodore hill-climber, lying around.

Now, like any self-respecting race-car, the old Commo has a side-exit exhaust that I made by running a simple piece of pipe from the beautiful Pacemaker headers to the passenger’s side sill. It did the job, but it was nothing to look at. Wouldn’t it be great if I could add one of those too-cool-for-school Group C tips? Of course it would, but where on earth am I gonna find one? Especially in lockdown.

So then I started scratching around in my pile of steel offcuts and dragged out a short length of two-inch exhaust tubing. I figured that if I could split that lengthways and weld some scrap plate steel in between, I’d have more or less replicated the shape of the outlet I was after. Suddenly, it was game on. Out with the MIG and on with the welding helmet. By fiddling around, I worked out the angle I needed to have the tip poke out from under the sill, found a length of thinner steel to act as the outer edge and burned it all together.

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Because I work on the basis that you don’t need to be a great welder…just a good grinder…the end result aint as slick as a shop-bought exhaust tip. But to my way of thinking, it’s w-a-y better, because not only did I design it, I built it from a small pile of stuff that a real engineering shop would have thrown in the skip. Don’t like it? I don’t care. It’s mine, I made it and it turned what would have been just another dismal day in lockdown into a very satisfying experience. That I’ll probably turn the thing back into scrap the first time I clobber a kerb does not worry me one bit. I’ll just build another one. And in the meantime, I stay more or less sane for one more day.


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As threatened last issue, each month I’m going to pass on a pearl of wisdom that I’d give to my 16-year-old self had I the ability to time travel. This time, that advice would be to never chuck anything out. I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but trust me, when you’re stuck for a piece of tube or rubber pipe or even a split-pin, and you know full bloody well that you swept up and dumped that same thing last week without even thinking about it, you’ll wish you’d read this two weeks ago. My PB in this department involved a clagged-out master cylinder for a VH Valiant that I diced without a second thought. Who knew that the particular master cylinder was only used for two models (VG and VH) and was, therefore, as rare as an honest pollie? Not me then…but many dollars later, I now have all the facts.

 

From Unique Cars 459, Nov 2021

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