Home » What It Was Like Road-Tripping David Tracy’s ‘Project Cactus’ Ute To Australia’s Premier Chrysler Show

What It Was Like Road-Tripping David Tracy’s ‘Project Cactus’ Ute To Australia’s Premier Chrysler Show

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A dull click rang out, followed by silence. “You just turned over a second ago!” I yelled to the 53-year-old dashboard with torn padding that looked like the rocks at the bottom of the Sydney Heads. I looked over to my friends in their shiny Valiants and shook my head.

Welcome back, Autopians. As mentioned in my last article, Project Cactus was entered into one of the largest single-make car shows in Australia. It’s one of the few places you can see such rarities outdoors as ex-Bathurst racing Pacers and Chargers, factory oddballs and even American muscle-car royalty such as 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles. That’s prestigious company for a ute that was slammed together in 23 days and has a grille mostly held in with zip ties and an exhaust supported with fencing wire.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

But first we had to make it the 330+ miles to the New South Wales – Victorian border. 

[Editor’s Note: WARNING: This article was written in Australian, which is not as English-related as you might think! -DT]. 

Preparing For Possible Failure

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In the week prior to the trip I got to packing everything and anything I thought might fail on Cactus. Spare ignition points (two of), spare ignition leads (full set), spare ignition coil, spare starter motor (looked like it came from the bottom of a creek but works perfectly), timing light in case I replace the points, zip ties AND tie wire, spare tyre and jack (forgotten last trip by David, jack this time a better example that could hold full lift more than a nanosecond), tyre inflator, cordless impact wrench, impact sockets, spanners, ball-peen hammer (never leave home without one!), side cutters (wire cutters in USA-speak), fencing pliers, needle-nose pliers and finally jumper cables.

I took out the bench seat and removed most of the bedroll-foam that David Tracy had installed as it ended up too thick and made my head just about scrape the filthy headlining. Reducing the foam to a single layer meant that the torn edges of the vinyl were just noticeable, but not having to worry about knocking Cactus out of gear in 1st gear with my knee was a plus.

I had a fresh wheel alignment performed on Cactus two days before we left. The mechanic, after he had stated his surprise at the all-new suspension underneath, pointed out that part of our issues with high-speed stability was due to the strut rods being at an uneven tension on either side. Turns out it’s not recommended in the service manual to perform such tasks on a cumulative six-hour’s sleep in the proceeding forty-eight.

Tension evened-up and some adjustment to the alignment, Cactus now drove with excellent stability, and turn-in had also improved markedly. Money well spent.

Thursday morning came, time to leave for Albury. Four cars including Cactus were to meet at a local park and head down in a convoy for the border towns. Yours truly and my partner Bek in Cactus, Kyle in my ‘Green Go’ VJ Charger, ‘Loges’ in his ‘Hemi Orange’ VH Charger and Matt in his “maybe Vintage Red?’ CM Regal SE (the car was originally Topaz Gold as per the ID plate, now it’s anyone’s guess). 

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Kyle turned up on time, as I was getting the garage opened for him to start loading his gear into my Charger. Cactus was turning over but didn’t seem to want to fire up, and text messages were starting to come in from Loges saying that he and Matt were waiting for us. I looked over to Lenny, my faithful farm-rescue ute and wondered if I should just take this matching-paint (what paint remained) example of Tonsley Park engineering instead.

I decided to push Cactus out of the shed to see what was going on in daylight. The battery was beginning to weaken, each rotation of the starter a little more labored. We decided to hook up jumper cables to Kyle’s Nissan Navara as the voltage was under thirteen by this point. It was then that Kyle noticed the positive lead on the coil was arcing. A quick tightening with an adjustable spanner and Cactus finally kicked into life with us now being ten minutes late.

We arrived at the meeting point, Cactus was given the usual salutary laugh by all present, UHF radios were set to Channel 79 and we hit the road for breakfast in the nearby town of Wellington.

‘Fire Up Ya Bastard’

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Bacon-and-egg rolls consumed, discussions of mechanical maladies had (my Charger needs a fine-tune of the triple 45mm DCOE Webers, Matt’s Regal burns oil at a remarkable rate, Loges’ Charger is rapidly losing synchros on third-gear, Cactus has a list written on a brown-paper bag) it was time to set off again. I wanted to top off Cactus as the fuel gauge is non-functional like the rest of the dash cluster obtained from the ‘Tottenham” ute (the one David had initially planned to fix prior to realizing that it was toast), so it was agreed I would meet the others on the outskirts of town.

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Immediately after that was said, I turned the key and was met with a click instead of the desired Hemi-six starter whine that once rang out across this vast continent. That click was followed by a string of unprintable Australian slang.

Bonnet lifted, Matt gave the solenoid a “love-tap” with a big pair of pliers. Cactus once again roared to life, the $200 245-cubic-inch Hemi six with a paddock-sourced Holley 350cfm carburetor purring away amongst its brethren of 265ci fellow-travelers.

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Fuel topped off, Cactus decided against more antics at this juncture and fired up easily.

The Bonnet Nearly Flew Off

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Back on the highway, I noticed one of the lynch-pins keeping the bonnet from reaching the roof at speed didn’t appear to be sitting quite right. Before I had a chance to think about this, some roadworks appeared and we slowed down to a crawl.

Just as the road was about to return to posted speed-limits, I heard a “ping,” and the lynch-pin appeared to exit stage-right. At these lower speeds the remaining pin seemed to be doing a fine job keeping the lichen-coated panel horizontal, but once we hit full-speed again the front-left corner started to rise, and reached a good few inches above the hold-down post.

My girlfriend Bek communicated this situation on the radio to the other three cars, and agreement was made to stop at a long-abandoned roadside cafe to find an alternative fastening method.

As I was slowing down, Matt was already out of his Regal and pointing excitedly at the front of Cactus. When I stopped he reached onto the front-left indicator and produced the missing lynch-pin. In our haste to get moving at the prior stop, the pin appears to have been installed with the spring-tension ring upside down. This matter was dealt with, and it was time to press on.

The kilometres rolled on, and we were soon in Cowra, famous for a breakout of Japanese POWs in 1944, the largest mass-breakout attempt of the war.

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Not intending to be interned here long either, we hit the local “servo” (‘gas station’ if you have fifty stars on your flag) for a quick splash ‘n go. 

Cactus was continuing the trend from the Deni trip in getting quite remarkable fuel economy for the sum of the parts involved, an estimated 11L/100km, or 21 MPG in American. 

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Some fellow Chryslers made their way through town on the same road we were about to embark upon. A late-30s Plymouth Business Coupe, a few Valiant Chargers, a Canadian-bodied but Aussie-sold AP5 Station Wagon.

A dull click rang out, followed by silence. “You just turned over a second ago!” I yelled to the 53-year-old dashboard with torn padding that looked like the rocks at the bottom of the Sydney Heads. I looked over to my friends in their shiny Valiants and shook my head.

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Bonnet raised again, Matt observed that there was some sparking going on with a terminal on the starter and he tightened this as far as it would go with his fingers. Electrical connection restored, four-litres of displacement spun over rapidly and the distributor delivered some lightning from the coil to allow the NGK BP5ES plugs to arc in a prescribed order again.

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Gundagai, our lunch destination, arrived quickly and heralded the end of country highways and the beginning of the journey via the Hume, a dual-lane divided-road which is the closest this country has to the Interstate system.

Prime parking was acquired for Cactus out the front of the Criterion Hotel, or the ‘Crit’ in ‘Strayan. There’s a joke in there somewhere about four blokes managing to find a hotel with such a nickname unassisted, but I won’t go there. Cactus appeared to be healing, as there was no hesitation to get the six-in-a-row on-the-go again.

It’s Getting Hot

With the fuel consumption of the 265ci trio decidedly not 21mpg, it was decided to throw some more guzzoline into the tanks at Holbrook. Litres of 98-RON into the big-bores and cheaper 91 (still non-ethanol) into Cactus we returned to the Hume for the final leg down to the border.

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A few kms in, it seemed all the larger-displacement cars were suffering from poor running in one form or another and the fuel purchased at the last spot appeared the culprit. Cactus took point as I knew where the motel was from prior attendances, four-litres of fury humming away under a bonnet bedecked in biomass.

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Vital signs now measurable via a pair of Bosch gauges, all looked well with a good 40 psi of oil pressure at highway speeds and temperature sitting around 185 to 190 Fahrenheit.

Fellow highway travelers pointed, some took photos and some smiles were observed as this convoy of red, green, orange and ‘rough’ burned its way south.

Pulling off the highway just short of the Murray River, border between ‘The First State’ and ‘The Education State’ (really, Victoria?) Cactus’ temperature shot like an arrow to 220F in stopped traffic. Mercifully, this was a brief spike and once moving again the temperature quickly moved below 200F. Thoughts of finding a campaign-sign (State election for NSW the following weekend had these in plague proportions) and cutting it into a suitable fan shroud were considered.

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Boomerang reached, it was time to work out what was really going on with Cactus. Sockets borrowed from Matt (the behind-seat storage in a Valiant ute is great, but reaching individual items very tricky) it was realised that not just the ring-terminal was loose but the other terminal-nut was flopping about like a Murray Cod on a riverboat deck. Tension set to “bloody tight” saw the arcing stop and the starter act upon one-hundred-percent of instructions sent.

Chatting Up Some Chargers

Friday morning was a relaxed start, the first time in my fifteen-or-so years of attending CotM as this was usually the day I would travel down and meet up with friends at various places along the way and we would all converge upon a pub in Wagga Wagga for lunch before the final southern leg. After meeting up with the others who traveled down with me the day before, we made our way over to the small racetrack in an industrial park, just over the border into Victoria. I left Cactus at the motel and took my Charger with Bek riding shotgun. Kyle was likewise a passenger in Loges’ Charger and Matt’s partner Tiff had driven over from Echuca yesterday afternoon and accompanied him in the big, red Regal.

The tainted fuel made a sudden appearance the moment I entered the road, the big 265 cutting out twice before I got to the first set of traffic lights. The triple-carbed engine fired back into life and I held a lower gear to keep the revs up and hopefully clear the six venturis enough to continue progress.

Radio chatter punctuated the drive until we hit the interstate highway and Kyle spotted two VH-model Chargers up ahead. Matt and I shared a laugh over the radio as we saw Loges stay next to that pair for kilometres. 

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Our quiet, young spray-painter no doubt was talking the ears off these random Charger drivers over the wind noise and engine roar. To say Kyle is obsessed with Chargers is an understatement, having bought his first at thirteen and later achieving the goal of locating and buying back his uncle’s rare example that had disappeared for nearly twenty years after said-relative passed away.

The Racetrack

Racetrack reached and parking spots made, we didn’t see Kyle for a good hour as he continued to pore over the red VH that was in our impromptu convoy. It was of the same scarce one-of-one-hundred-and-twenty-five of that model equipped with a 340-cube V8 that includes that of Kyle’s deceased uncle, in the same color no less.

The variety of Chrysler Corp products in the pits was incredible. Everything from an angry-sounding, Slant-powered 1962 ‘S’ Series to an SRT-10 Ram, full-race Valiant Chargers, a few rampant Gallic-Aussie-hybrid Centuras, sinister modern Challengers, a rather subdued but very rapid fourth-gen Viper, luxo-barge Regals and even a Chrysler by Chrysler with a very grumpy stroker-crank small-block.

It was great to see and hear these machines at full-noise, with only a few “offs,” some unexpected and one very-much anticipated in the case of high-horsepower V8 CL Regal that had taken off its usual 275mm+ wide rear rubber for a pair of Falcon steelies barely wider than the original ‘cheese-cutters’ it rolled out of the factory with at likely one-third the power.

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Every lap saw this turquoise slab get cheekier on the throttle after the last corner onto the main straight, until it drifted much wider than the last time and ended up in the sand not far from a tyre barrier at the end of pit lane.

Having seen a good fill of trackside action and the mercury threatening to reach human internal-body temperature we decided to head for the nearby historic town of Beechworth for lunch.

Beers and gins sampled and lunch consumed, we set off for the return leg back to the accommodation. Our route took us through the Victorian border town of Wodonga, the location of tomorrow’s event and a good chance for me to point out to the newbies the lay of the land for the morning.

A Failure, But Somehow Not Cactus’s

Cruising through traffic in downtown, I heard Matt suddenly call out over UHF. I circled the block and came back to find that his accelerator cable had broken, the Regal having just made it past a set of lights and came to a halt at the end of a bus stop. Thoughts of raising the idle and shifting the automatic between neutral and drive to control speed was considered, but the Borg Warner 35 auto doesn’t have the same granite-tough reputation of the Torqueflite predecessors so this idea was dropped.

Unable to get enough length to temporarily re-secure the cable end onto the pedal, I ran around and spoke to four of my close Chrysler mates who I knew would be in Albury by now and might have a spare cable. Three of them asked why Matt had no spare: “Is he a city fella or something?” was the common refrain. Asking them to locate a spare in the boot of their car revealed that none of these three wisecrackers had one either.

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Another mate offered to pull the accelerator cable off Cactus and bring it down. Not keen to invite another possible tantrum from this late-night-built ute, I passed and said I would call one more person.

Ringing my mate Dave (one of the three Chrysler-circle Daves I knew would be selling parts at the show), he said he didn’t have a cable, but one of the reproduction parts suppliers had already set up their tent and were likely selling brand-new cables right now.

Matt’s tilt-tray had arrived and the Regal was relocated back to the motel as downtown traffic was making it impossible to perform work on the car without risking life and limb.

Dave rang to say cables were available, and he was happy to buy one so that we could get it from him once the car was secured.

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Kyle and Matt got into my Charger and we left the motel to meet Dave at the event space. By now vintage Chryslers had been reaching Albury in large numbers and so their eyes were wide and mouths agape at the variety and rarity of some of the metal rolling by as we made our way down to the Murray.

Cable acquired, we got back to the motel carpark just as darkness descended. A fellow motel guest with an absolutely stunning ‘65 Dart drag car lent us a mobile worklight and we had the cable swapped over in record time thanks to Kyle, Matt and myself working under the bonnet and under the dashboard at the same time to get the fix completed.

Celebratory beers and dinner had, we went to bed early to get to the carwash before the show to make the shiny-paint vehicles presentable. The vending machine at the carwash had everything you could imagine needed for a quick detail of the car, including prophylactics.

The Show

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Once the cars were dried off and we stopped sniggering at the vendable items, Cactus took the lead and we went to the show. Some comments and stares from the firefighter volunteers (profits from the show go to local ‘firies’) and the usual disbelief that Cactus ran so smoothly for such a derelict-looking utility came through the open windows as we made our way to our parking spot, somewhat ironically next to a freshly-imported Hellcat Charger.

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I set some of the Project Cactus stickers that were produced in Dubbo under the wiper and went for a wander over to talk to the boys from the Backyard Builds Youtube channel. Kyle and I poured over the details of the 1967 ‘VC’ Valiant Safari Station Wagon that the team had brought down and shared stories of late-night, last-minute wrenching.

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Our group split up to take in the show at our own pace and to seek out parts at the swap meet. Wandering around, I saw Kyle staring at a set of VH series front panels. I looked over them with him to spot any blemishes and they all appeared quite good. I decided to keep going to see if I could find a radiator shroud that could be adapted to Cactus’ C-body, big-block radiator.

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I wasn’t gone long before I received a call from Kyle. He asked if it was okay if he drove Cactus home on Monday. To nobody’s surprise, he had decided to buy the entire front clip (bonnet, guards, nosecone) from the vendor I left him at and now needed a way to transport these back to Dubbo.

Whilst the thought of taking Cactus to Sydney and seeing the gasps of inner-city workers was entertaining, Cactus now had a new mission. Kyle paid the vendor and agreed to pick the parts up later that afternoon, we then heard an incredible tale about the Valiant Station Wagon they were restoring.

The story goes that their ‘VK’ series station wagon was bought brand-new in 1976 by a British Navy helicopter pilot in Sydney. He then drove it non-stop with his wife to Perth, a nearly 2.500-mile drive. Knowing he was being recalled to serve again in England, he had the wagon shipped to Mumbai, India and then drove it from there through South Asia and Europe to London, having done around 11,000 miles in three months. He continued to serve for two years before retiring from duty and returning to live in Australia with the wagon accompanying him back Down Under.

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I bumped into another YouTuber, Wasteland Firebird. An American living Down Under for work, his channel documents the joy of cars and his mission to see all the unusual and rare Australian vehicles he can. I took him to see Cactus which vibed well with his outlook and we had a brief chat about the build, Deni and key-banging which he wasn’t so keen on as ‘vehicular destruction’ is not in his creed.

After taking in some more of the show, admiring the AMCs and their extremely well-organised swap meet vendors and having some lunch it was nearly time for the annual cruise north to the village of Table Top and their Ettamogah Pub. Kyle and I took Cactus down to load the panels and met Bek with the Charger at the front gate.

Project Cactus Meets Its Former Owner, ‘Fingers’

We got to the motel, unloaded the parts from Cactus straight into Kyle’s room and decided with the heat still rising to adjourn to our rooms for a shower and a break before deciding if we would go to the Ettamogah or head to an unofficial Chargers-only meetup at a local dam.

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The run to Ettamogah is a great thing to experience. Hundreds of classic cars, coloured like Skittles stretching to the horizon in a big convoy.

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What felt like a quick break turned out to be hours, and before I knew it I had a call coming in from the previous owner of Cactus. Known to all in the scene simply as ‘Fingers’, this car-collector par excellence was leaning on the bullbar and sinking a can of Reschs Pilsner by the time I got downstairs to the carpark to show him the handiwork the small team DT and I had assembled six-months ago. His brother, known as ‘Toes’ and his brother’s wife were also standing by Cactus and Finger’s current chariot, a Sigma station wagon with the mighty 2.6L ‘Astron’ four-cylinder.

Sharing some stories and laughs as I pointed out what we did and how we press-ganged Cactus back into life, Fingers produced from the back of his Sigma a set of appropriately mangled VF series dog-dish hubcaps and a dash cluster for Cactus. The hubcaps were until recently doing service as water bowls for his dogs, now replaced with a manky set of VG series ‘caps that are a slight upgrade for the dogs due to greater capacity.

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Toes, his wife and Bek piled into the Sigma and I handed the keys to Cactus over to Fingers for him to drive me to his motel bar while we waited for dinnertime. With a finely-tuned ability to drive utter shitboxes, Fingers was surprised by the handling and sheer grunt the former parts-car had to offer and gave the build his seal of approval.

 

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Parking on a busy street out the front of the bar, everyone had their eyes on the multi-coloured utility. 

After the de riguer meal of Saturday night at CotM in our friend group, ‘Curry on the Murray’, Bek went back to the room and Kyle and I went downtown in Cactus to take in the night-time cruise scene.

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The variety of cars on the main drag, not just those of the Chrysler fraternity, was a great sight. JDM Silvias and Skylines mixing it up with 1960s Holdens and Fords plus the odd classic Cadillac and even an Edsel Ranger hit the street in a rolling display of beloved whips.

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There was the odd confrontation with local police, usually in the form of a late-model Commodore or Falcon getting too exuberant with their take-off at the traffic lights, overall the mood was jovial and the pavement was packed with onlookers.

Taking back-streets in case a frustrated cop decided to put a magnifying glass on our beloved yard-find, we got back to the motel just before midnight to see Loges and the owner of the Dart looking concerned based on a report of some dodgy-looking people having driven slowly through the carpark, possibly casing the cars present.

After some circular conversations, I decided to be proactive and take the ignition coil leads from both of my Valiants to my room in a bid to at least add a lengthy delay to anyone trying to pinch my rides.

Morning arrived quickly, and all cars were still present and correct. Ignition leads re-installed, we bid farewell to Tiff and set off for the show once more.

This time Cactus had much more prominent parking and attracted a crowd. Guiding people through how we built this contraption and meeting some fans of the series was a fantastic feeling.

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I had some time to go through the swap meet once more, acquiring some hard-to-find ignition parts. With three Hemi-sixes in regular service and with Bosch discontinuing several lines three years ago when the world shut down, it’s prudent to keep some stocks of the good stuff.

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Deciding that we had seen all we needed to see at the show, I parked Cactus next to a fully-restored ‘Pacer’ tribute VG series ute for some humorous comparison photos and then our small crew made tracks for a small town in the Victorian Highlands, Mitta Mitta.

It was agreed that Kyle would ‘live his best life’ for a while longer and drive my Charger on the 90-odd minute trip to the destination, and drive Cactus on the return trip to get used to driving him ahead of his 385-mile run the next morning to get his parts back to his parent’s workshop and then drop the ute off at my place.

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The drive out to Mitta Mitta was spectacular, with stunning views of the Great Dividing Range and some engaging twisty pieces of tarmac. I can see why Targa High Country is held nearby!

Matt took lead in the big Regal, giving it some stick and howling the 14-inch tyres through some of the bends.

I took it pretty easy in Cactus on the downhills, four-wheel non-assisted drums give a man some pause. I relied on downshifting to second and a quick stab of the anchors to get to the appropriate speed for the twists and turns, the handling was remarkably neutral with a hint of oversteer, quite manageable in spite of the car lacking any sway bars.

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The Laurel Hotel is a great venue, backing onto the Snowy Creek whose icy waters run from the Snowy Mountains.

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Quick rundown on driving Cactus given to Kyle, we set off to make it back to Albury in time for Sunday’s dinner plans, the annual “Mexican on the Murray”.

My Charger took the lead, and I was setting a cracking pace through the uphill section. A hairpin came up quicker than anticipated, and I had some impromptu trail-braking to make the turn with tyres screaming. Lesson learned, I picked some earlier braking and gearing-down points and kept going. The others remained at a close gap, Kyle the exception as he was treating the ancient braking setup with great reverence.

We freshened up at the rooms and jumped into Matt’s red machine for a cruise down to Taco Bill’s (not Bell).

Fellow Chrysler-nut Guy had booked seating for twenty-four, by the time everyone had arrived we were closer to forty in number.

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One of Bek’s university friends and her partner joined us and were quickly offered five Citroens CX by Fingers, a running joke and albatross for their current owner.

Chryslers aren’t the only obsession, talk amongst some guests turned to pinball machines. One of the cohort now in the possession of a dozen, and most of them installed in his house.

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Another after-dinner discussion yielded a set of well-used extractors (exhaust-headers) for a dirt-cheap price for Cactus, detouring our party to their motel carpark to purchase said pipes and receive a ‘roadie’ can of Reschs from Fingers. Saying our goodbyes, some for another year we went back to the rooms for the final night.

Off To Sydney

By the time I awoke at 6 am, Kyle, Matt and Loges had already loaded Cactus and were on the road. Bek and I met up with ‘Vandal’, another important contributor to the Deni mission last year and convoyed from there to Gundagai where we parted ways and continued toward Sydney for Bek’s concert that night.

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A miscommunication over distances to the next servo saw me nearly run out of fuel, every hill an agony and the not-entirely-smooth running of the Charger a cause for concern.

We made it with bated breath to Yass, filling to overflow with the 98-octane fightin’ juice the six-pack needed to keep on swinging and filling ourselves with some of the Colonel’s greasiest poultry-centric nutrition.

From there the trip to Sydney went off without a hitch. The pops and bangs of the Charger on decel made for a few stares as we made our way closer to the western fringes of the city.

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Bek and friend off to see My Chemical Romance, I made my way over to Paddy’s Brewery for dinner and to hopefully meet some Autopian readers. The venue was a ‘Brewery’ by technicality, more of a regional pub with wall-to-wall pokie machines and some lonely-looking brewing vats and a handful of craft beers on tap that I was doubtful of any having been produced here.

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The security guard was looking over my Charger as I parked, so I stuck up a conversation. In heavily Eastern-European accented English, he told me it was a great car. I said I rebuilt it with my uncle and would never sell, to which he replied ‘why would you sell, and buy this shit?’, motioning to the anonymous sea of white and gray vehicles.

I Met An Autopian Reader!

I purchased a schooner of XPA and took a seat near the Bistro, placing a Project Cactus sticker on the table as a signal should anyone actually be seeking an audience.

About fifteen minutes later, someone did approach, low and behold an Australian Autopian reader! I won’t say too much about this person since I don’t want to intrude on their privacy (sing out in the comments if you’re happy to chat with fellow Autopians!), but it was fantastic to have a conversation about the “old lighting site,” sticking around for the wrenching articles, the crazy prices of JDM vehicles, owning a classic car in the big city and as a younger person and a myriad of other topics. 

Before we parted ways, I took a look at the ride they brought to the meet, a modified XK Falcon sedan they had owned for years. They had bought it on the basis of it being an affordable classic and building their enthusiasm from there, to the extent it now had been swapped from a lowly 144ci inline-six to a mild 289ci V8 with suspension and brake upgrades to match.

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The drive back the next day to Dubbo in the Charger was uneventful, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that Cactus had triumphed once again,’the car scene remains a powerful and unifying force that can be one for good and a long road trip is great for the soul.

Photo Credit: Kyle

 

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ChrisGT
ChrisGT
11 months ago

Great article Laurence! Sounds like an excellent trip. Your detail is so good!

I’ve been meaning to ask this since the inception of the site, but can you (or anyone else) please explain the “old lighting site” term? I know the old site well and admittedly still visit (even though the content is mostly inferior to The Autopian). I guess I just miss the reference. Help!

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
11 months ago
Reply to  ChrisGT

Early Autopia reference to former employment, which has a similar website name to this: https://www.jenoptik.us/

Started here.
https://www.theautopian.com/my-diesel-manual-chrysler-minivan-has-died-and-left-my-dad-stranded-i-am-concerned/

Stephen Walter Gossin
Stephen Walter Gossin
11 months ago

Oi mate, great read! Cheers bud!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago

Oi yeah nah, cheers bruz!

NDPilot
NDPilot
11 months ago

Thank you for this article. Makes me wish it were feasible to bring one of my Mopars down under and road trip it there.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
11 months ago

“Thoughts of finding a campaign-sign (State election for NSW the following weekend had these in plague proportions) and cutting it into a suitable fan shroud were considered.“

You should still do this! It’d be a great addition to Cactus’ engine bay. Quick, get outside and check your local power poles, see if any corflutes are still up!

Parsko
Parsko
11 months ago

Great read Lawrence! Keep ’em coming. Please keep us up-to-date on the manifold install on Cactus.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Thanks, I’m planning on replacing most of the exhaust as it’s falling apart – pipes you pull out of a paddock tend to do that!

I’ve got some unconventional ideas on what to replace it with and will be sure to cover it here!

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
11 months ago

Probably won’t be as unconventional as I’m planning for my ute – a 6 into 6 exhaust (taking advantage of it being a ute, so the pipes don’t have to pass over the diff). It won’t be the best for power, but I’ve experimented with 1 pipe per cylinder before, and it’s the closet you can get to having a road car that sounds like a Top Fuel dragster (only quieter!)

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
11 months ago
Reply to  Morgan Thomas

Oh, and it’s a long time since I’ve seen Fingers!

Fourmotioneer
Fourmotioneer
11 months ago

Laurence has such a great and unique writing voice. Would love to see more from him here!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Fourmotioneer

Thank you for the kind words!

I’ve got a few more in the can, and a few ideas thanks to Mikan I need to research before writing.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
11 months ago

Great to have another update on Cactus — and a reminder of the joys of car culture. Thanks, Laurence!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Thanks, I firmly believe that car culture has helped me be able to relate to people from different walks of life easier as there’s always something we have in common, even if it’s not cars.

Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
11 months ago

I very much enjoyed the procession of Valiants coming down the Newell, north of Dubbo…all of them were much shinier than Cactus. The best thing though was the sheer variety of the cars on show. They might have all been a Chrysler but every damn one of them was different.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago

I too enjoy seeing the groups start to filter through Dubbo earlier in the week, always something unusual to see on the road!

Cactus is low-glare, like how the racing models had flat black bonnets and reduced chrome…

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
11 months ago

What a great story. Thank you very much!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Iwannadrive637

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
11 months ago

Excellent read! Almost like being there. Except for the heat! I toast you all with a large mug of Fosters!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

Thanks, you can have the Foster’s and I’ll raise a Reschs or a Coopers!

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
11 months ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

Mate, no self respecting Aussie drinks Fosters. The only place I’ve ever seen Fosters consumed is the UK. When I was living there (getting on for a decade and a half ago now) it was commonly on tap in sports bars and chain owned pubs. It was often offered as a £2 pint and I’m pretty sure then it was a hard sell.

Good choice with the Coopers, Laurence!

Phuzz
Phuzz
11 months ago
Reply to  PajeroPilot

As a Brit, the only reason I used to buy Fosters, was that I knew none of my flatmates would steal it out of the fridge.
(I’d usually have a few bottles of nice beer, then switch to the Fosters once I was too drunk to care).
The best cheap lager is Red Stripe imo.

MSB
MSB
11 months ago

Great read. Thank you!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  MSB

Thanks, glad you enjoyed the read!

Mikan
Mikan
11 months ago

Hey, I was the latte-sipping city-dweller in the black Falcon, and it was great to meet you and hear your stories!

Reading this I’m amazed at just how much you got up to in not much more than a weekend, and one of these days I really should do some big drives in the countryside and check out these events too.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Mikan

Thank you again for coming to see this dishevelled-looking Valiant owner at a dodgier venue than anticipated!

It really was great to meet you, it was really enlightening hear the perspective of a reader that’s not one of my friends or family.

Next time I’ll organise an Aussie Autopian meetup with more than 4 hours notice!

Shane Australasian
Shane Australasian
11 months ago

Please do Lawrence, there are more Aussie Autopians than you might believe. Gutted I missed the chance to meet Cactus!!!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago

Will do, I’m thinking somewhere like Lithgow or the Mountains to give a fairly equal distance for people. Open to suggestions!

You didn’t miss Cactus, I brought the Charger to Sydney aa Kyle had Cactus loaded with panels to take back to Dubbo!

Last edited 11 months ago by Laurence Rogers
A. Barth
A. Barth
11 months ago

Thanks for this, Laurence – really good stuff! Road trip stories are enjoyable reads.

“side cutters (wire cutters in USA-speak)”

We call them that here, too. 🙂 Or diagonal cutters.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Thank you, it was fun to write!

I never quite know what terms are cross-cultural due to the volume of US media we get over here.

Badroadrash
Badroadrash
11 months ago

Love your stories. Your Ute reminds me of my 63 Ford Falcon Ranchero. Had to keep a supply of parts and tools as it seemed to be random moments that the Ranchero would test my patience. Keep up the stories!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Badroadrash

Thanks, the old adage ‘what I take it won’t break’!

Dagger21
Dagger21
11 months ago

Wonderful stories Lawrence. You are a true Autopian!!!

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Dagger21

Thank you, I firmly believe that cars should be shared!

Slower Louder
Slower Louder
11 months ago

Nice work. Send more.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Slower Louder

Thanks, there’s more to come!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago

Thanks, Laurence, for bringing us along on the further adventures of The Ute Who Wouldn’t Be (But Was Persuaded). You reminded me that it’s time to get back out and mingle with gearheads in person again.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Thank you, I find it helps keep me engaged in the scene and from getting too stagnant with my own cars when I can talk to others and see how they built their vehicles.

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