Rod Graydon reflects on cars and the influence of his father Bob, a resident at Maranatha Aged Care in Kallangur, Queensland.
As the only boy out of the 4 kids I naturally followed my father Bob around the garage tinkering on cars. I remember the blue Willys tourer that was replaced by the green Austin Somerset in 1968. Dad collected me from a short stay in hospital in a blue 1966 Holden HR station wagon. That was the family car as we travelled to Sydney and from Brisbane to the Gold and Sunshine coasts. At least two hours travel each way on the single lane highways leading out of Brisbane.
In 1970 the HR was traded in for a new 1970 Falcon station wagon. It was a great car for touring but with my two eldest sisters now mobile themselves, the Falcon was downsized to a 1971 Cortina sedan, which my mother Mabel started driving. In 1975 this was traded in for a 1975 Cortina, which I subsequently bought.
In 1980 Bob purchased a new Ford Cortina 6 cylinder to tow the larger caravan. He had that car for many years. His last cars were a Toyota Corolla and a Mitsubishi Lancer. There was also the Morris 1100 and Morris Marina as extra cars, plus the Government cars Dad brought home for his employment in the Main Roads Department. Dad also spoke of the motorcycles he had including a 1948 Matchless.
I started with a 1970 Cortina and then two Hillman Hunters (swore I’d never own another) then many others followed as I changed cars a bit along with a few motorcycles (generally Honda trail bikes). Owning the cars was one thing but working on them with my Dad was another, and Bob’s patience in teaching me basic mechanics and general maintenance, also handyman work around the house, which helped me later in life. As a police officer, my knowledge of car models assisted in many investigations.
Later on I moved into the tyre industry and am also currently involved with several different car clubs and adviser to the Queensland Historic Motoring Council.
Over the years, I had an interest in racing and subsequently competed in State and National off-road racing around Queensland. I later turned my interest to classic cars including those Hillman Hunters I had so eagerly ditched so many years earlier. So many of those trusty Hunters have since moved through my yard, including one I built to participate in the 2008 Variety Bash from Toowoomba to Bathurst. Raising money for Variety – Children’s Charity. My interest in Hunters steered me to the Sunbeam Rapier Fastback which was essentially a Hunter coupe.
I purchased my first Sunbeam in New Zealand and then found several others in Australia, one of which I raced in historic sprint events including Leyburn, Noosa Hill Climb and Speed on Tweed at Murwillumbah. Another 1969 Sunbeam is in the shed awaiting restoration so it is a ‘one day I’ll get to it’ project.
My interest in classic cars also led me to driving classic wedding cars on weekends, and I have been lucky enough to drive a Jaguar Mark 5 and 9, a 1936 Dodge and 1962 Austin Princess Vanden Plas Limousines. My motto was that old fashioned cars come with old fashion service so it was a privilege to chauffeur around newlyweds on their special day. Whenever I had the chance I would take the cars to my Dad’s and he was always chatty about the cars.
One of my favourite cars was a very rare 1973 Morris Marina Suntor Camper that was privately imported into Australia. It was unique and quirky but I enjoyed fielding questions about the car whenever I displayed it, complete with retro camping accessories.
As a member of Brisbane Vintage Auto Club (BVAC). I get to see many historic cars and members of the club have provided vehicles for Bob on his birthday in December each year. In 2016, for Dad’s first birthday at Maranatha (age 93) we took him for a ride in a 1930 Graham-Paige tourer. In 2017, Bob enjoyed a ride in a 1928 Chrysler around Old Petrie town and then on his actual birthday a 1924 Model T Ford that was 6 months younger than him. In 2018 I took Dad and two of my sisters for a drive in a 1959 Jaguar, and in 2019 for Dad’s 96th birthday, my neighbour took him for a drive in a 1971 Ford Fairlane that he had recently inherited from his own father.Dad has always enjoyed the old vehicles. He fascinated me with his recollection of the specifications of these old cars and motorcycles. Despite dementia clouding his memory on some things the details he has quoted about these vehicles is astounding.
On Australia Day, I photographed some vintage motorcycles on display and later that day showed Bob the photos. We shared a really enjoyable conversation with him reminiscing his motorcycling memories and he was able to quote the specifications of a 1955 Matchless motorcycle in one of the photos.
I have found this with other people as they wander around the historic vehicles and remember their own memories of cars they have had in very great detail. The classic cars and motorcycles act as a stimulus for the mind and allow people to go back in time and remember the cars and places they drove in their younger years.
During the visits and trips with my Dad in the old cars, I have seen him brighten up and share his knowledge and memories of these vehicles but the days are also special times I get to share with him and those are the memories I will always cherish in the future.
There are many historic and vintage car clubs around Australia that are willing to visit Aged Care Homes and meet with the residents. A Google search on the internet is a great way to find these clubs and hopefully arrange a visit of the classic cars where many residents can relive their own motoring memories.