Tuesday 21 June 2011

Hard Start

When describing the bringer of death in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway said “Never believe any of that about a scythe and a skull. It can be two bicycle policemen as easily, or be a bird. Or it can have a wide snout like a hyena.”

Or a vinyl top and billet wheels.

Hard Start

My relationship with the Fairlane started innocuously enough. It was sitting in a classic car dealership, nestled between an 80’s Cadillac and a very worn-out ’74 LTD. The deposit changed hands moments after I first saw it. I spent the rest of the week in a state of nervous bliss, researching Holley carbs and cleaning my belongings out of the Falcon I was trading (shifting spanner, handful of zip ties, Cruel Sea CD). On Friday, I took an hour off and went out to the Bayside to pick it up.

Sliding in to the velour armchair, I knew I was home. The car felt as big as a boat as I took it out of the showroom. But like all big, fast cars, it narrowed with speed and by the time I’d made it back to my parent’s place, I knew I wasn’t getting out of it. I spent $30 I didn’t have filling the tank with Super and pointed it up the highway. I can still remember the dim headlights lighting the sweeping turns on the Gateway through Boondall. I buzzed the power window down, to be blasted with freezing air that got progressively more unpleasant as I headed further north. The window wouldn’t come back up. I was still in V8 heaven though.

By 9pm I was out on my favourite back-roads, carving down single-lane blacktop between high gum trees. I had slowed for a particularly narrow stretch and picked up a four-wheel drive behind me, who obviously knew the road as well as I did. We crested a rise well over the state speed limit and I was confronted with a jet-black Angus bull standing side-on across the road.

Ford’s first four-wheel-disc braked cars were released in the mid 70’s. It was a major step in braking technology, offering better pedal feel and safer, repeatable stops. Sadly, it was a design in its infancy, and they were known for locking the rear wheels first and burning up pads.

None of which crossed my mind as I hurtled towards 1000kgs of steak on the hoof. There was no runoff on either side, so I grabbed the wheel with both hands and stood up with both feet on the brake pedal. Two final thoughts crowded my head – first was disappointment that it was going to end like this, after only 4 hours of ownership. Second was a prayer that the LandCruiser didn’t go straight over the top of me.

The 185/70R14 Continentals locked up and the car slid to an agonisingly long, sideways halt. When the smoke cleared, the Fairlane was parked sideways across Eumundi-Kenilworth Road. The Cruiser was parallel parked beside me. The bull was still standing in the roadway staring at us. I restarted the stalled car, waved out the window to the other driver and carried on home, much chastened.

That was the first time she bit me.


Early days, on a FordForums cruise to Samford covered by Qld Street Car. That power window still wouldn't go up.


  1. I still fondly remember that evening driving it in the drizzle when it tried to swap ends on me in a straight line!

  2. I'm sure I drove that thing more than once, but the one time I remember was outside your old house in Alderley. I started her up, put her in D and tapped the throttle. no movement. Aha, hi stall... Gave it only a tad more throttle and instantly disappeared up the road leaving two black lines behind.

    It's true - it longed to kill.

  3. Tis a shame you sold it Nick........