Friends and readers, you know it’s true. Our great country is in a mess. Download speeds on the NBN are slower than chiselling out a letter in ancient Mesopotamia. Reading literacy among kiddies is lower than Moldova and electric car sales are shockingly high (sorry).
Our once great economy is in the toilet and pestilence is everywhere. A Roy Morgan survey this week found Australia is one of the least confident countries in the world. In fact, we are only saved from getting the wooden spoon in gloominess by Lebanon. Now some of my best friends are from Lebanon but you’d have to say things in what was the Paris of the Middle East are a bit crooker than here, although clearly Renault’s Carlos Ghosn doesn’t think so.
So a typical week in Beirut goes like this: Monday, 500 citizens fight with riot police; Tuesday, 352 anti-bank protesters are arrested for attacking ATMs and bank branches (they should count themselves lucky they have bank branches in Lebanon as we don’t have many here); Wednesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives South African bikini model Candice van der Merwe $20m as a sporting grant and ... anyway you get what I mean.
All the while our politicians behave as though they are lost in the supermarket of life believing, because they live and work in the Seahaven of Australia, that the average punter happily exists in a Country Road store.
But, as history shows, out of great turmoil leaders emerge.
Yes, friends and readers, last Wednesday, the Sultan of Stepney, the King of Kensi, the Official Nude Portrait Painter to the royal family (except two), the Baron of Beemers, rang me to say he had the answer. “Get down here to Global HQ in Regent Street ASAP,” the old bloke muttered from his landline.
Normally, I would have been on the next plane but the boss has us all on an austerity program, so it was the 7pm Firefly bus from Sydney’s Central Station arriving near the Kensi Hotel 24 hours later. For $120 with on-board toilet and Wi-Fi, it was a snip.
Anyway, there was Mick looking very pleased with himself taking advantage of Corner Bar Fridays with a few $10 Expresso Martinis, two for one sparkling wines and sipping a Coopers Sparkling Ale in the new red tin.
“What this country needs is a big event to take everyone’s mind off the pestilence and pollies. You and I need to take our mighty 1989 Beemer 3 series and break the round Australia record.”
Readers, you may remember I nearly bought the 1980 Commodore L sedan at last year’s Manheim auction that Evan Green and Matt Whelan took 10 days and two hours to drive around the mainland. Then they took a Falcon around in six days, 16 hours. A Motor magazine team took eight hours off that and then three years ago, the Highway 1 to Hell team in a Toyota LandCruiser killed it in five days and 13 hours. Having explained to Mr McMichael that we would only stop for refuelling and toilet breaks, and not be overnighting with a few cold bevvies in rustic pubs, he cooled on the idea.
Finally, we passed a motion to contact organisers of the Red Dust Revival race on the Lake Perkolli claypan outside Kalgoorlie about entering this year’s event in a very special way. We were inspired by competitor Stephen ‘‘Waldo’’ Alexander who shipped his 1936 Lagonda Rapier from the old country last year. ABC journalist Rhiannon Stevens reliably informs us that instead of a business card, Waldo carries a “retirement card” which reads: “Drinking, smoking, joking and poking.”
Things have certainly changed at Aunty. And we were inspired by the original racers, who in the 20s broke car and bike records in the nude. We await a reply on our proposal of a recreation of that.
Anyway, here’s some other pestilence and pollies distractors.
In March things will look better after a visit to the most exclusive, rare and valuable showcase of automobiles ever curated in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sydney Harbour Concours D’Elegance sponsored by the Fezza company.
Held in the grounds of Shane Moran’s Swifts (the largest Victorian Gothic Revival house in Australia and home to Sydney beer families and Sydney Catholic Cardinals), the metal line-up includes a 1964 Fezza 250 GT, a 1982 Lancia Rally 037 Stradale (my favourite) and one you haven’t seen before, a 1954 Muntz Jet. I love this car. Built and marketed by Earl “Madman” Muntz, the Jet was a real American supercar that was luxurious, fast and handled well. Unfortunately, Madman sold the cars for $5500 even though they cost $6500 to make. A bit like many modern car companies.
We need a person like Muntz to run this place. Earl appeared on billboards in red flannel underwear and a three-cornered hat. He made fortunes in car sales, electronics and car stereos. His last car was a Lincoln Continental. Earl had a TV installed on the dashboard because he said it helped him “drive better”.
Finally, if the pestilence has got too much, fly to Paris for this week’s Retromobile and RM Sotheby’s auctions. The Retromobile catalogue (you can read online) is the best car and boat porn I’ve ever seen. Go straight to lots 62 and 64 and look at the pics of the 1908 15m J boat Mariska and the 1911 Marquita. I’d pay $4m for the double. Light on? The 1972 Cujo by Baglietto is the ultimate floating gin palace. Owned by Dodi Al-Fayed, it was a very special rendezvous for he and Lady Di. Who mentioned toe sucking? It’s a steal at $500k.
Then RM have the most beautiful 1955 Jag D-Type I’ve ever seen for a lazy $10m. First owner was Australia’s own Bib Stillwell, then it went to radio announcer Jack Davey, then Frank Gardner. It kept winning, was retired but raced again in the Goodwood Revival in the Lavant Cup in 2014. This really needs to come back to Australia.