Category: Clunker

“Cut and shut”: crash repairs in days gone by

I just found a photo at Mum’s place, showing the driveway of my parents’ former home, around 1989.

It shows my Dad’s ’82 Mazda 323 (which I talked about in this article about my own) plus my brother’s ’82 XD Falcon, his ’77 HX Holden Kingswood and Mum’s ’85 Mitsubishi Magna. My own vehicle at the time isn’t seen – perhaps it’s in the garage.

Every one of these cars would visit the smash repairer, for some major repairs. With my brother at the wheel, the Kingswood hit a kerb at speed while cornering, and the front of the chassis was left quite bent.

The Falcon would be rolled on a back road. Yep, overturned.. with all four wheels pointing to the sky. The roof sported a slight peak in the middle until the repairs were finished.

Both were back on the road within a reasonable time.

The Magna was hit while parked in a street, by a car coming around the corner. It needed a new rear bumper and some minor bodywork.

Then there was Dad’s 323:

In late 1990, Dad stopped in traffic and a 4WD with a bullbar slammed into the back of the car – you can see the imprint of the bullbar uprights in the hatchback. The impact sent the Mazda into the back of the car in front, but thankfully only minor damage was caused there.

Here’s the kicker: Dad was driving the 323 after having signed a dealer contract to buy a used Land Cruiser, with the 323 as his trade-in. They told him to come back in a day or so, to pick up the new vehicle. So with the trade now an insurance matter, Dad somehow rustled up the funds to complete the deal.

Even with its bent rear quarter panel, squashed towbar and flattened hatch, the 323 was fully repaired (looking better than ever with new lights, paint and plastics) and was soon sold to a family friend.

These photos got me thinking about smash repair standards today, and in days gone by. Would a 12-year-old sedan with a visibly bent chassis be straightened out? Would a 7-year-old sedan, that had been found crashed and upside down, be brought back to life?

In 1989, at least, the answer was ‘yes’. I think today these cars would be written off.

Around this time, I was introduced to the body repair term “cut and shut”. That’s because my friend’s early 80s Honda Prelude was left in such a state after being hit while parked, that nearly half of another car was welded to what remained of his.

A similar Honda. Source Reddit: Either-West-711

He’d left the car parked on the front lawn at his parents’ house, in a quiet street about 4 houses from the corner. One night someone took that corner too fast, and ran into the back of his Prelude. Unfortunately the impact pushed the car forward – into the power pole that also stood on the lawn.

So this Honda was a candle that had been burnt at both ends. The insurance company arranged for the repair, and the body shop gave him an awful, beaten up early 70s Toyota Corona to drive, for the months it took to fix the car.

After a very long wait, the car was returned, with the shop saying they’d “cut and shut” a new rear section on the car. The Prelude looked great, but never drove the same – and the sunroof often refused to open or close.

So much for “cut and shut”. It wasn’t long before the Honda was an open and shut case, and traded in.


Test driving, but never buying

Carl Benz’s wife Bertha is credited with the world’s first test drive. Without the “father of the automobile” knowing, she and their 2 sons drove to see her mother.

As reports, the journey was to prove to Carl the car could be commercially viable. And we can also thank Bertha for standard brake pads!

I’ve owned dozens of cars, but I’ve test driven dozens more. There are many reasons why I didn’t buy a particular car.

Nissan Micra

In the mid-90s, Hey Hey it’s Saturday was still playing and the show made a big deal of the new Nissan Micra. I think Pluckaduck might have driven one around the studio. I was in the market for a new car (BK, or “before kids”) so I went to the Moorooka Nissan dealer and asked to test drive the poverty pack 3-door.

The test drive began with the salesman driving and literally throwing the car through turns, to demonstrate its similarity to the Mini “wheel at each corner” philosophy. When it came time for me to take the wheel, I was a bit more reserved. However, I didn’t buy – the trade-in may have been the problem.

Mitsubishi Lancer with unpainted bumpers

Also in the 90s, the late 90s after I’d bought a SEAT Ibiza, I looked at trading it in on a just-released Mitsubishi Lancer 3-door. This model had vinyl seats, plastic door trims, unpainted bumpers and not much else. The salesman at the Mt Gravatt dealer directed me to drive up Mt Gravatt itself, which I did as he extolled the virtues of the “anti-submarining” seats and drop-away engine mounts in an accident – things I’m 99% sure the SEAT already had.

The car did drive reasonably well, but the trade-in on my SEAT was truly awful. This was the first time I’d heard a salesman say my car didn’t “book well”, which I’m now presuming was a reference to car value guide Redbook. So, the SEAT stayed with me and got a canvas sunroof.

Proton Waja

In 2008, as Beijing hosted the Olympics, I test drove a car I’d always wanted to experience, purely based on the chutzpah of the Proton chief who said it would sell well (at an inexplicably high price). The Proton’s problems were admittedly bigger than the model name – Waja – but it was fitted with leather seats and Lotus fettling, so I thought it was worth a look, especially at the rock bottom prices the circa 2000 models were fetching.

I turned up at the Moorooka dealer (the place with cars on dirt/road base that sold all the penny dreadfuls) and they got the Waja out for me. I’d only gone a few hundred metres up the road when I was stopped by a police roadside breath testing unit.

I was as sober as a judge (of cars) so I had no worries there. But just as I was about to drive off, an older copper stepped forward to issue me a ticket for driving with the windscreen view “obscured”: I’d allowed the car yard to leave the $5,990 price and features written on the glass. No amount of assurances that I could easily see enough to drive would persuade him. I called the yard and they sent a guy up to scrape off the paint texta. There was no offer from the yard to pay my fine. The test drive ended there.

Holden Barina Spark

In 2011, the opportunity/need to buy a new-ish car surfaced on a change of job, so I test drove a new Nissan Micra and a Holden Barina Spark – both around a $15,000 purchase, on-road. I also test drove a Chinese-made Chery J1, but the less said about that, the better.

The Micra drove well for a 3-cylinder light vehicle, however my wife said it was an “old lady’s car” – even in the gold colour I liked, with a roof spoiler – so that option went out the window. Then I went to the local Holden dealer to try out the new model I’d seen launched: the Barina Spark. At the time I didn’t realise it was the modern version of the Daewoo Matiz, sold by Holden under their dubious reselling of Korean cars. With its Italian styling and quirky engine I didn’t mind the Matiz – and with a motorcycle-inspired dash on the Spark, it also looked like a fun car to own (and you know I like micro-cars).

However a test drive soon showed up its shortcomings: in the engine and the driver’s seat. I didn’t expect the Spark to be a bright spark in performance, but it didn’t have much to work with at all, much like the Chery had seemed all-noise-and-no-action. The Micra had been a much better drive. Plus, my long legs were left hanging off the Spark’s seat, unsupported like sitting on a ledge. So that purchase didn’t happen and I bought a 5-year-old Citroen C4 which had huge amounts of leather trim and had seen huge depreciation.

A similar LeBaron

I often look for cars via price, rather than model. That’s how eBay informed me around 2017 that a Chrysler LeBaron convertible was for sale, unregistered, at a Nambour dealer, for around $1500. This car wasn’t just interesting because it was American – someone had spent a small fortune on it, converting it to right-hand-drive. The roof worked and it ran just fine.

One strange result of the drive-side conversion was that the passenger now had heaps of controls for their electric seat plus bonus buttons for the power windows, while the (non-factory side) “driver” had very few controls to play with. The dealer said they just wanted enough to cover what they’d paid at auction, hence the keen price. Due to it being so rare, I chickened out on buying it – even though an internet search showed it was worth 2 or 3 times as much. Regrets, I’ve had a few.

Daihatsu Sirion

There are 8 million stories in the naked city – these have been some of them. In used cars sold privately, you can add in test drives of an 80s Ford Meteor, Mazda 121, 90s Volkswagen Passat, Daihatsu Sirion, Mercedes A-class, Holden Astra convertible, Land Rover Freelander and even an early 90s Holden Commodore (long before they were collectible).. plus fresh checks on cars I’ve (previously or subsequently) owned, like the Suzuki Mighty Boy, FSM Niki, Daihatsu Copen, Ford Ka, Range Rover and Toyota Corolla Seca.

Bertha Benz took the first test drive – I don’t think I’ve had my last.

You Always Remember Your First… Number Plate

My own very unscientific survey, spanning many years and workplaces, reveals plenty of people do, even if they have trouble remembering what’s on the car they own now. 

Granted, remembering personalised plates (or “vanity plates”) that you choose yourself won’t get you very far with my argument here — although according to Netflix’s The Good Place, they will get you into The Bad Place.

After decades of driving, I can still remember the number plate on my first car in the late 80s: a 1977 Toyota Corolla sedan. The Toyota was bright yellow, and Queensland number plates for much of the 70s were black and white. So there was a bit of a bumblebee vibe going on with my ride.

As a car-mad teenager, at 3pm I would walk out of high school to my yellow freedom machine, parked on the street, and see that black-and-white plate beckoning me.

The rego was OZL-766. Yep, I couldn’t make a word out of it either. Still, it was better than an old Falcon a friend owned, which had the unfortunate number plate letter grouping: POO. “Here’s the poo!” we would say on his arrival. To make matters worse, that Falcon ‘might’ have been brown.

By the mid-70s, plates changed to the “Queensland — Sunshine State” slogan, and started with numbers instead of letters. And perhaps a transport bureaucrat decided to skip POO on the plates, this time around.

These days, plenty of plate combinations are skipped because they might be rude. Buying a personalised plate can sometimes be tricky if you own a 1969 model, or you were born in ’69. However, I can personally report that just a few years ago they were handing out regular number plates with the lettering “SAD”.

In an automotive tragedy, my first plate would end up lasting a lot longer than the Corolla. Within months of buying the car, much of the yellow paint bubbled up with “bog” filler and fresh rust spots. So it turned out, a rusty Corolla had been bodgied up to sell (for a little too much) to an unsuspecting first-time buyer. 

I tried to repair the rust holes myself on my days off from uni, but after wrestling with one panel and not making a very good job of it, the Corolla was taken down to the local car yard to be traded in. My dad took pity on me, and helped pay for a slightly newer Mazda on the lot.

And I still remember the rego number of that one too.

These days I do my best to remember the plates on our cars, by making words out of them — whether they like it or not. So sometimes I drive BIB-ZIFFER, or even T-BITS-EYO.

If I really wanted to, today I could buy a black-and-white OZL-766 personalised number plate for hundreds of dollars.

But as they say: nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

WD-40: well driven, 40 attempts

In 1953, US missiles needed protection from rust. At the same time, Rocket Chemical Company staff came up with a product that’s probably in your cupboard right now, and very protective of weapons of mass destruction: WD-40.

It wasn’t until their 40th attempt that they got the water displacement formula right. So, the name WD-40 stands for “water displacement, formulation successful in 40th attempt.”

Its formulation was never patented, so it would never be revealed publicly. WD-40 was sent to soldiers in Vietnam, to look after their weapons, and has even been used to free a tongue stuck to cold metal.

With my cars, I’ve also had experience with rust, water displacement spray, and the number 40. In late 2020, I brought home the 40th vehicle (in 33 years of driving) that I’ve bought for my own use. Cars bought with the wife only add to this list!

The 40th purchase: a 1995 Land Rover Discovery 3-door V8

Number 40 is a familiar 4WD. I have owned a Land Rover Discovery (diesel) before, but this one has the V8 burble of my recently sold Range Rover, without the fussy electronics. It’s also a 3-door, which I’m told is rare these days – especially in the 90s series 1 update that I have. The paint is much, much better than my last Disco, but still not as good as the Rangie’s royal sheen.

But back to those 40 cars over 33 years. You can read here about how I was in a big rush to get my licence in January 1987 and how my first car was a rusted-out, bogged-up disappointment.

You might think, at more than a car a year, that I constantly bought cars – but I did keep one for around 10 years. In recent times, the internet certainly made it easier to be tempted to purchase (and sell) more often. Those search terms now make it easy to find a mostly unknown Niki, Grandeur or Copen. Back in the “olden days”, you had to use newspaper classifieds, spy cars for sale on the roadside or rely on word-of-mouth to find those “penny dreadful” cars that no-one else wants. That was the case for the first 7 cars I bought, until eBay and Gumtree tempted me for dozens more.

Do I have a favourite? No, I like all sorts of things about all sorts of cars I’ve owned. However, this post reveals the car I most regret selling, even now that I own one very similar in looks and features.

So, just in case you’ve never been to the ‘about‘ page, here is the list of 40 cars.. and counting. Unlike WD-40’s formulation, you can read all the details on my fleet below. Bring on WD-50!

2. 1981 MAZDA 323 WHITE (BOUGHT 1989)
6. 1989 FSM NIKI – WHITE (BOUGHT 1996)
8. 1990 FSM NIKI – RED (BOUGHT 2004)
10. 2001 FORD KA MAROON (BOUGHT 2007)
14. 1994 DAEWOO 1.5 SILVER (BOUGHT 2009)
29. 2003 PEUGEOT 206 WHITE (BOUGHT 2016)
34. 2004 SAAB 9-3 LINEAR SPORT 1.8T SILVER (BOUGHT 2019)
36. 2003 SAAB 9-3 ARC SPORT 2.0T SILVER (BOUGHT 2019)
37. 1999 HONDA HR-V 1.6 WHITE (BOUGHT 2019)

..and more since this post.

My WD-40

Daewoo a dog’s breakfast

Toto the dog’s appearance in “The Wizard of Oz” wasn’t her first film – the Cairn Terrier had already appeared in half a dozen movies by 1939, as “Terry”. Her name was changed to Toto because of the success of the Oz movie. She died 6 years later, and was buried on her owner’s LA ranch.. only to have her grave destroyed during the construction of a freeway in the late 50s.

However in 1994, it was a win for dogs over cars, with South Korean brand Daewoo using a cattle dog in their advertising campaign, as they set up in Australia. Cane the dog appeared in cheeky newspaper and TV spots for a few years, until Daewoo ads became more upmarket.

Daewoo ad 1997

A drop in sales before the brand’s shutdown has been blamed on campaigns without Cane.

Cattledog eva holderegger walser

Wikimedia photo: Eva Holderegger Walser

I wasn’t thinking of Cane when I bought a grey 1994 Daewoo 1.5i off eBay in 2009 – I was marvelling at the price of this 15-year-old car with under 100,000 kilometres. It was up for auction by a Gold Coast dealer, starting at $950, including the roadworthy and remaining registration. So I put in the first bid (sight unseen), and the auction finished without any competition. I’d been looking for a cheap runaround car that carried more people than my Smart car, and even my local mechanic was surprised at the clean condition and price of it.

daewoo back corner

A similar Daewoo 1.5i

It wasn’t exciting to drive, its seats were flat and it had a strange smell from the air vents (dead gecko, maybe?) but it did the job. The 1.5i was Daewoo’s version of the 1980s GM-Opel Kadett, so it was already an ‘old’ car when new in Australia. A look at the dashboard plastics would easily confirm this. After only a year or so, an updated model (now known as a Cielo) was released around the world, including in Australia. By the late 90s Daewoo was a popular brand, selling over 20,000 cars a year in Australia.

daewoo int

Strange seat fabric design

However the Asian Economic Crisis was the end of the “original” Daewoo. The struggling company was taken over by GM and Holden in 2002, and then – with falling sales – shut down as a car brand here in 2004. It went on to supply a conga line of forgettable Holden cars like the Viva, Epica and Malibu.. as well as replace the Barina and supply the quality-plagued Captiva.

With constant complaints from the kids about trips in the “smelly” car with no air conditioning, when the registration came due, I chose not to renew it. In selling it, a couple of things would need to be done for the roadworthy (a new windscreen among them) so I put it back on eBay as an unregistered car. A buyer agreed to the $750 asking price, and lived half an hour away. He drove down to inspect it and pay me, then followed me as I drove it to his place, and drove me home again.

daewoo front

A similar Daewoo 1.5i

So in the end, with rego included in the initial sale to me, this Daewoo hadn’t really cost me anything to own. It was in and out of my life in a matter of months. And in terms of discovering new country in memorable cars – as Dorothy said to Toto in “The Wizard of Oz”, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Little Pug became White Elephant

The term “white elephant” – meaning something you can’t get rid of, even though it’s costing you money – comes from the tradition of kings in southeast Asia keeping white elephants as a show of power and prosperity.

They occasionally gave a gift of a white elephant, which was seen as both a blessing and a curse. While it was an honour to receive the gift, the sacred animals couldn’t be put to work and were expensive to maintain.

Even circus legend and “The Greatest Showman” P.T. Barnum ended up with his own white elephant – literally and figuratively. After spending a huge amount of money to get one from the King of Siam, he discovered his “white elephant” was in fact grey, with pink spots.

And in mid-2016 I ended up with one on my driveway – in the form of a 2003 Peugeot 206.

peugeot front edit

My daughter was after a more modern car to replace her first ride, and (unfortunately) I spotted this unregistered French hatchback on Gumtree, for $800. So we went to Caloundra to look at it.

A number of internal alarm bells went off for me during the inspection – starting with the man selling it (“Pat” the laid-back muso was a bit vague on the history of the car, saying his son had been driving it, and he assured me its bad clutch was a characteristic of Peugeots). The Pug needed plenty more work: it had a damaged front passenger panel from a “minor” bingle, worn tyres, plus no spare tyre – or even a gearstick top. Despite my repeated warnings about the cost of repair, my (adult) daughter maintained her interest in buying it. My wife (who later dubbed it the white elephant) says she would have simply dragged her away from the place!

Just before we handed over the cash, I asked my daughter to do a federal government PPSR search on the car with her phone: this would check whether the car was stolen or written-off. After spending $3 and waiting a minute, the website came back, saying the Pug wasn’t stolen. So money was exchanged and she drove the car home on a permit.

The next day we took a closer look at the PPSR certificate, seeing this:


This was the bit she hadn’t seen, further down her phone screen – that the Pug had been written off 2 years earlier following an accident, but it was “repairable” damage. However after any repairs, the car would still need a “written-off vehicle inspection” (WOVI), costing close to $450.

I rang Pat, and accused him of selling a dodgy car. He claimed he didn’t know about it being written-off, and he’d been given the Pug to settle a debt. However he couldn’t remember the name of the person who’d handed it over. I told him he should refund my daughter, but he said the money had already been spent on “music equipment”. In the end, it was our word against his, and I would spell out what happened in a Statutory Declaration at the written-off inspection.

A mechanic took a look at the car and said while it ran well, the chassis crash repair looked like a backyard job, and the clutch was too far gone – so both would need to be sorted before getting the Pug registered.

My daughter now didn’t want the car, and planned to sell it – as a write-off – for a few hundred dollars. However I foolishly told her I’d pay her a few hundred for it, and get it fixed for myself.

peugeot rear edit

After $450 chassis work at the panel beaters, 4 new tyres, a spare wheel found at the wreckers and a whopping $2,000 on a new clutch and front suspension, the Pug was ready for the written-off WOVI inspection – which it easily passed in early 2017.

It drove very well and spritely with the 1.6 litre engine, plus it sat securely on the road like the VW-based cars I’d owned in the past. The air conditioning worked a treat. It even featured automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.


However, it wasn’t a car I’d wanted to own – and it had caused me hip pocket pain.

So after driving it for a while, it went on the net for sale – initially for what it owed me, then at a more realistic price. Once the price was lowered just before Christmas, I had more than a dozen buyers asking about it. A couple looking for a spare car made an offer, and I accepted.

I wasn’t sad to see the Pug drive off: like P.T. Barnum’s own white elephant, mine was also a dirty grey colour from sitting out in the weather, and just as much of a money pit.

Colt of old regret

Sam Colt founded a firearms company in the mid-1800s, and nearly 30 years later released his most famous revolver for the US Army: known as the .45 or, incredibly, the “Peacemaker”.

A little over a century on from that, Mitsubishi Motors Australia used its newly-acquired Chrysler plant in South Australia to produce a local version of the Japanese Mirage, as a Colt. It had a 1.4 or 1.6 litre 4-cylinder engine, with a bonnet that hinged at the front, not near the windscreen. Even when new, the Colt was a little ‘old skool’: it didn’t have fuel injection – it still had a carburetor – and this feature would come back to bite me.

My introduction to the car came in 2003, when a radio colleague was selling her 1988 manual brownie-bronzie one.

colt side

By Jeremy from Sydney, Australia – Mitsubishi Colt RB GL, CC BY 2.0,

It had been her grandmother’s – then hers – but with a newer vehicle on the way, she offered it to me, unregistered, at the trade-in price she’d been offered: $500. Gran had sideswiped a garage door, so there was a minor dent on one wheel arch and some surface rust spots on the bonnet. Interestingly, the Colt had rotating “satellite” buttons on either side of the steering wheel, for the lights and wipers.

colt dash

At the time I was driving a SEAT and my wife owned a big late-90s Mitsubishi Magna wagon, which would soon be needing some major engine repairs. So a plan was hatched: sell the Magna, give her the SEAT, and I would drive the Colt.

With the Colt registered, I cleaned the Magna engine and took it to a local caryard, which paid me a little over $2,000 for it. So I was already ahead by a grand or so!

About the same time, I was offered a TV job in Sydney. I’d move down there, rent a room, and fly home on weekends (these were the days of $29 Virgin Blue flights, which I bought in bulk).

So at dawn sometime around mid-May 2003, I packed some clothes, bedding, a plastic table and a stereo into the Colt, and drove south to new opportunities.

colt front

By Jeremy from Sydney, Australia – Mitsubishi Colt RB GL, CC BY 2.0,

I arrived in Sydney at dusk, then bought some milk and cereal at a supermarket, and checked into a room – at an upmarket outer suburbs hotel – that had been arranged by my new employer, until I found a place to rent. The Colt was parked underground in the carpark.

The next morning, I ate my cereal out of a coffee cup with a teaspoon, and went down to the Colt. I turned the key, and the engine turned over, but wouldn’t fire up. I tried again and again. Eventually I called the NRMA, hoping that they would cover an RACQ member – which they did.

After just a couple of minutes, the mechanic had the car going, and asked “before you start the car, do you kick the accelerator pedal?”. With a fuel injected car like the SEAT, you didn’t even need to hit the pedal as it started, let alone before. I said “no, why would I?” The mechanic then told me that the butterfly valve in the carby had to be freed up before you turn the key, otherwise it would get stuck fast by a vacuum as you started the car. I think he said the cooler weather in Sydney might have also had something to do with that valve getting stuck (I’d had no problems in Brisbane).

He pointed out that in the owner’s manual, it does say to fully push the accelerator, before turning the key. I don’t think my Colt had the owner’s manual.

colt interior

The Colt was fine to drive around Sydney, and leave at the airport every weekend. Although one Sunday, driving back from the airport – through the uphill section of the Harbour Tunnel – the car starting “ticking” or “pinging” badly (pre-igniting fuel), and losing power. I made it out OK, but then had some repair work done.

Before too long, the Colt was gone. My wife had been driving the SEAT, but with 2 young kids in tow she longed for rear doors on a car, instead of just 2 doors and front seats that had to be folded forward to put kids in the back. So during some holiday time I drove the Colt back to Brisbane, prepared the SEAT for the trip to Sydney, and traded the Colt in on a big 1990s Saab 9000 CS for the wife. With the Colt gone, I was the peacemaker.

The Monster Mash

If you tell someone to think of Frankenstein, they might visualise a large, murky-skinned body made up of parts, with a couple of bolts hanging off it. The classic Hollywood version is easy to imagine – even if it’s not factually correct. Mary Shelley never named the creature in her story – Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created him.

It’s a similar process to how the Land Rover Discovery I used to own became known as “The Monster” – and it was also a body made up of parts, with the odd bolt hanging off it.


I’d been looking for a Land Rover 4WD when a mechanic friend found this 1996 7-seater Discovery 1, via eBay, in Bundaberg. One Saturday, late in 2013, we drove 4 hours north to look at it. The Disco had a worn manual gearbox, that protested loudly as we took it for a test drive. It also had some rust spots, but great air conditioning and a good 300 Tdi diesel engine, that had had some work done to the head recently. With a promise that the gearbox would be replaced with a reconditioned one at cost, I bought the Disco for $1600.

It still had a couple of days’ Victorian registration on it, and the owner was happy for us to drive it home. So the long trip south began – I drove the mechanic’s Disco home, and he drove mine – keeping the gearbox in 4th gear as much as possible, as it produced the least noise (due to a 1:1 drive ratio in 4th).

On arrival at home, my wife dubbed it “The Monster”, thinking I’d find it a derogatory term. I didn’t think it was monstrous at all – I loved the name and it stuck.

With “The Monster” now at home, plans were hatched to change the 1000kg gearbox ourselves, in my garage. The mechanic would do the work, and I would “assist” (i.e. grab spanners for him). It wasn’t long before we started this monumental job, one weekend.

After many, many bolts were undone, the old gearbox was freed from the vehicle, and hit the floor with a gigantic thud. The reconditioned gearbox was then moved underneath, but was too heavy for us to move up and into place, using jacks, bricks and firewood logs. So, on another day we borrowed a workshop crane, to do the job properly.

2013-12-14 09.23.52

Crane pulling the gearbox up from within the cabin

After only a little swearing over the unwillingness of the new gearbox to move into place, the job was done and the truck could drive quietly.

However it did wait quite a few months to be finished off enough to pass a roadworthy. Now, I had my own off-road transport- and it was quite capable.


Land Cruiser Park river crossing

Underneath, the Discovery is very similar to the Land Rover Defender, has constant all-wheel-drive and a centre differential lock to make those low range gears even more grabby with the wheels. The diesel is very economical – while the V8 engine is only economical when compared to, say, a jumbo jet. That’s why they’re even more of a bargain.


Mine suffered all the usual problems of a nearly 20-year-old Disco – rust around the Alpine windows in the roof, peeling clear coat from the bonnet paint, sagging roof lining, sagging seats – even the digital clock barely worked. However the engine kept clattering away happily, and it wasn’t my everyday drive.

After a couple years of ownership, with my wife driving my car each day, I decided that I now wanted a 4WD as my everyday drive, and a more luxurious one at that. So I decided to sell “The Monster” and bought a Range Rover.

It took 10 months, and a lot of price falls, before I found a buyer. I initially thought that a reliable – albeit rusty, ugly and old – diesel 4WD would fetch a lot more than it did. It sold, for slightly more than I paid, to a local man, who was going to take the engine out of it to fix up his own Discovery.

So just like Frankenstein’s monster, my Monster was ending up in pieces.. Although my experience had been more of a Monster Mash, than a graveyard smash.


Disco died, and so did this Corolla


1977 was the time before disco “sucked”. That would come in mid-1979, with a radio promotion in the US where a DJ blew up a pile of disco vinyl in a packed Chicago baseball stadium, caused a riot and ruined the field for the next baseball game.

In ’77 the Toyota Corolla was “Stayin’ Alive” with a slightly updated model released, like a tepid dance floor remix. Translation: I think they changed the grille.

Unfortunately, rust was also alive in these models – in the welds either side of the back windscreen where it meets the boot, on the rear wheel arch welds and often in the front panels, where the mudflaps were screwed in behind the wheels.

Or, in my case, there was rust EVERYWHERE.

Enough bodyfiller putty to keep a daycare centre going for a year

I saw the yellow Corolla on the side of the road one Saturday, while being driven home from my casual supermarket job. To me, it had the looks: complete with Cheviot Turbo mag wheels. I was looking to buy my first car and I’d saved my pennies, with around $3,000 in the bank (a lot for a teenager in 1987). Wouldn’t you know it, the Corolla was about that amount.

I can still remember the name of the guy who sold it to me, with that lovely coat of yellow paint covering enough bodyfiller PUTTY to keep a DAYCARE CENTRE going for a YEAR. I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE, PETER! Or lived, in 1987 when I bought it, at least..


The Corolla looked great for about 8 months and apart from running rough when it rained and water got into {perhaps} the distributor, and breaking the plastic door handles inside, it was a good, rear-wheel drive, economical car.

It took me to high school, and my friends on adventures – including one adventure where the car’s water pump failed on a Sunday, and we had to stop all the time to fill up the radiator and let the engine cool down. I didn’t have roadside assistance. But we had a good time, stopping at various service stations (which weren’t always open in those heady days of 1980s weekends) to use the tap.


But soon, bubbles started coming up around said back windscreen, around said mudflaps, wheel arches, on the bonnet above the battery, around the fuel cap, and in the bottom of ALL doors.. So in the end after trying (failing) to fix the holes myself, the car was taken (with holey panels very loosely screwed back on) to a local dealer to trade in on a newer Mazda 323.

Split up, like a pair of satin pants on an overweight dancer

The Corolla was probably split up, like a pair of satin pants on an overweight dancer. Disco was well and truly dead by 1988, and so was my 11-year-old Corolla. Rust sucks.