Lifestyle

The Owner

By Riverine Herald

THE OWNER

Mick Farrant is someone who has always wanted to have fun with cars and motorbikes since he was a boy.

That is clearly borne out by the tale surrounding his first car.

‘‘My uncle gave me an AP5 Valiant and I wrote it off in Mackay when I was 18,’’ Mick said.

‘‘It was a beautiful car. I loved it.’’

He and a mate travelled up through the Red Centre and according to Mick everything from the glovebox to the doors threatened to rattle off as they ventured from Alice Springs to Queensland.

He crashed the car in the Sunshine State (though he maintains it wasn’t his fault). ‘‘So it was motorbikes from then on for a while,’’ he said.

‘‘Boys have got to have written something off in their life.’’

Mick helped run Northvic Transport and Trading in Cohuna where he performed the majority of the mechanical work.

‘‘You grow up on farms and around machinery and you learn things,’’ he said.

‘‘I was always tinkering. I’ve been into motorbikes all my life and still own six or seven bikes.’’

THE CARS

The 1930 Chevrolet Sports Roadster and 1925 Chevrolet Ute may be housed at Mick’s place but he is technically not the owner of either car.

The Roadster — dubbed ‘Miss Daisy’ — is his wife Melissa’s car and the ute was saved and restored by his brother Wayne.

The Roadster has a six-cylinder splash-fed motor, which Mick believes is a prelude to the grey motor.

The ute’s four-cylinder motor is a lot more primitive, as is its steering.

‘‘It’s five years difference (between the two vehicles) but from 1925 to 1930 (the development of) cars really moved ahead,’’ Mick said.

‘‘They have three-speed gearboxes and it’s a big jump from second to third.

‘‘The ute sits on about 35km/h while the Sports at 85km/h is comfortable. It’s a cruisy little car.’’

The Farrants bought the Roadster fully restored.

‘‘The old fellow who owned it had done an excellent job on it,’’ Mick said. ‘‘This is all because of TLC (tender loving care).

The ute was a different story. It was derelict — ‘‘the front axle was in two pieces,’’ says Mick — and sitting in a paddock until Mick’s brother Wayne salvaged it.

‘‘It’s because of guys like him that these things won’t go away,’’ Mick said of his brother and the 1925 ute.

‘‘Anyone else, they’d get a frontend loader, pick it up, dump it in a tip and bury it. He (Wayne) looks at it and sees the value in it.’’

From the wreck, Wayne rolled the metal and made the moulds to build the doors, guards, running boards — pretty much the entire bodywork.

‘‘There was enough left of the timber back tub for him to use as a guide to put it back together,’’ Mick said.

‘‘He got it about 10 years ago, built it over a period of 12 months and varnished the woodwork but then let it sit out in the weather.’’

This time it was Mick who rescued the ute and sat it in his shed while he worked on its car mechanics.

‘‘I converted the motor from six-volt and made it 12 volts so we could have all the electrics in it we wanted,’’ he said.

Both cars have their original headlights but LED lights and indicators have been added for safety reasons.

‘‘They were necessary upgrades,’’ Mick said.

‘‘The original headlights had a high and low beam function but they’re both dim by today’s standards.

‘‘You want to be able to drive them. The fun in having the car is using it.’’

Mick said they tried to keep the ute as close to its original look as possible and while some modern seals were used the original wheel bearings could surprisingly still be bought in Echuca.

The dash is original, the horn is original and the electric start is as original.

Starting both vehicles is by pressing your foot down on an ignition pedal in the middle of the floor.

Underneath the steering wheel, the accelerator is located between the clutch and the brake which was common until the standardisation of automobile pedal configuration in 1930.

‘‘It’s very basic but it goes,’’ Mick said of the ute.

‘‘You hit the starter and it goes straight away. Doesn’t miss a beat.’’

‘‘We had to clean out 100 years of gunk in the sump but it’s 100 per cent mechanically sound.

‘‘There’s no reason it can’t be driven for another 100 years.

‘‘The ute, you can run this on sump oil,’’ he said, only half-jokingly, ‘‘but the Roadster you need to take a fair bit of care and we use an additive for the motor.

Mick admits the ute’s upholstery might need a bit of work and some lining on the doors but otherwise it is the complete package.

‘‘I just like it the way it is. It’s not perfect but I’ll keep driving it.

‘‘It’s a user. I went around the farm in it to check the irrigation and got bogged. We had to push it out.’’

WHERE DID YOUR

CARS COME FROM?

The Farrants bought the Roadster 10 years ago after it was on display with a ‘‘for sale’’ sign on it at the Echuca Steam Rally.

‘‘A retired farmer at Murchison had done it up,’’ Mick said.

‘‘My wife was looking at it while I was looking at motorbikes and she kept telling me I had to come and look at this car.

‘‘The third time she told me to look at it I did and I said ‘ok, call him’ because his number was on the sign.

‘‘She said ‘I already have and you’ve got a meeting with him tomorrow’.’’

The car was built in South Australia in 1930 by Holden’s Motor Body Builders.

From 1924, HMBB became the exclusive supplier of car bodies for the American automobile giant General Motors in Australia, with manufacturing taking place at the new Woodville plant.

These bodies were made to suit a number of chassis imported from manufacturers, such as Chevrolet.

‘‘They brought the chassis out and bodied it here,’’ Mick said.

As proof, he points to the Holden badge stamped on the side of the Roadster.

The ute was found abandoned in a paddock on a farm at the back of Cohuna.

It was formerly owned by Ted Jones of Jones’ Grocer and Cafe.

‘‘I can just vaguely remember Teddy Jones,’’ Mick said.

‘‘He was a big robust man with a big cigar hanging out of his mouth.

‘‘He used the ute to deliver fruit and vegies so we had a sign made up to put on the back with his name on it.’’

WHAT DO YOU LIKE

MOST ABOUT THE CARS?

‘‘One thing I don’t like is there’s not much room in them,’’ Mick said.

With that out of the way, the appeal of the vehicles is their age.

‘‘They’re just classics,’’ Mick said. ‘‘I just love the old stuff.’’

By way of affirmation, he points to an old army jeep in his shed that rumbles out on Anzac Day.

The fact the cars are old and can still be driven is just heaven for Mick.

‘‘Recently, a group of us went cruising round the back roads,’’ he said.

‘‘We took the Roadster, the ute, which had only been round the block a couple of times, there was also a 1924 Dodge ute that hadn’t been going for 17 years and a 1930 Chrysler sedan.

‘‘We got off the main roads and went out to historic Mologa and Mitiamo Forest.

‘‘We took the esky, chainsaw and had a barbecue.

‘‘It was foggy when we left so we all rugged up, but then the sun came out and the cloaks came off and we had an absolute ball.’’

The motorcade covered about 100km and another trip is already planned.

‘‘Getting there is half the fun of it.

‘‘You get in a Nissan ute, you’re going to work. You get in the Chev ute, you’re going to have fun.

‘‘You’ve got it, so you’ve got to enjoy it.

‘‘In the summer, we just drive the Roadster as our everyday car. We go to Pyramid Hill, Bendigo and into Echuca for lunch.

‘‘The beauty of these cars is if anything goes wrong, we can just fix it.’’

SO WHAT’S YOUR

PERFECT CAR?

‘‘Are we talking modern or old?’’

For Mick, anything old like a 1930 Packard Roadster or Duesenberg would be perfect.

‘‘The shape of those early 1930 cars is unbelievable,’’ he said.

‘‘The workmanship is phenomenal.

‘‘Cars like that don’t date, like the early GT Falcons. Any big type of classy looking cars.’’

Any big car such as a 1930 Chrysler Super Eight his brother is building at the moment.

‘‘Now that’s a beautiful piece of machinery,’’ Mick said.

AND WHAT’S NEXT?

Mick’s brother Wayne — a mechanic and welder by trade — just loves building things.

‘‘He is building this 1930 Chrysler Roadster Super Eight at the moment from the ground up,’’ Mick said.

‘‘He moulds and bends the metal to fit the shape. He is using pictures of a Chrysler Roadster and building it to scale off that.’’

But this is not your typical 1930 car.

Outwardly, it will have the appearance of a 1930 Chrysler Roadster but it will be classed as a rebodied Nissan Patrol.

‘‘It’s got a 146-inch wheel base and will be 4WD so it can tow a caravan,’’ Mick said.

‘‘It’s caused a front diff problem but I said to Wayne ‘you’re up to this, you can do it’.

‘‘It will have a V8 motor for sheer power, airconditioning, demisters, padded dash and side intrusion panels.

‘‘We got what we believe was the back end of a Chrysler at a swap meet.

‘‘I can’t wait to get it on the road. It looks mean now. It’s a sleek, beautiful thing.’’

The vehicle has already created an ‘‘amazing amount of interest’’, according to Mick.

It briefly went on public display half-finished and stunned onlookers.

‘‘A woman came up to us and said ‘this is my car’,’’ Mick said.

‘‘He’s three years into it (the build) and hopes to finish it by Christmas.’’

And what a Christmas that would be for Mick.

—David Chapman