Tale of Five (Proper Motor) Cars
by Terry Walker
BACK IN 1962 I was a university
student, buzzing off to Uni on my scooter every day. And every day I rode past
Performance Cars, in Mounts Bay Road. The patron of Performance Cars was Jim
Harwood, classic car enthusiast and occasional racing driver (he raced at Caversham)
and an early member of, gosh, R-ROC WA.
ONE DAY I spotted something
large and yellow in Performance Cars and stopped to have a look. It was my first
Rolls-Royce; at least the first I got up close and personal with. I still remember
it well. I had a fair smattering of Vintage knowledge, so I knew it was a Silver
Ghost, and from the general look of it I knew it was pre-1920s possibly
around WW1. It was an open front limousine, with the unhappy driver sitting
out in the rain, and carried a vast enclosed compartment behind him. The price
was £450, or $900. I rather fancied turning up at Uni each day in this
flamboyant yellow monster but there was the usual problem. There were too many
noughts in the price tag. Almost literally, because the scooter I was sitting
on cost me £50, and that had been a bit of a financial stretch.
STILL AT UNI, the following
year, I got a summer job in a used car yard in Hay Street, Perth, on the stretch
past Milligan street. (I think the Freeway now passes through the site). The
yard proprieter owned a Wolseley 4/44, very smart and well kept; and the salesman
had a WW2 jeep in very original condition. Next door was TISCO, with the lane
running down beside our car yard. One day, as I was industriously cleaning cars,
a car was parked in the lane right behind me, the bonnet opened, and the car
left. After a while I noticed a faint murmur, and realised the engine was running.
Leaning on the fence, I could just make out the tips of the fan blades rotating
slowly. The quietness of the engine astounded me. It turned out that the car
was a Bentley Mk 6, and it belonged to Mr Tough, who owned TISCO. (Tough Instrument
Service Co); and I now know that Stan Tough was a member of RROC WA.
MOVING ON several years
to when I was a hopeful but vastly unsuccessful competitor in car trials, I
took part in the Geraldton Sunshine Trial. It may have been 1968 or 1969, I
can't recall. The trial started in Perth on Friday evening, went on all through
the night, and ended up in Geraldton around noon. Coming back on Sunday, flogging
along the Brand Highway at a dizzy 55 mph in the Renault 4L (750 cc of throbbing
power), I spotted something bearing down on me from behind; my little car was
buffeted in the shock-wave, and a dark coloured Silver Shadow rocketed past
and vanished over the horizon. At the time I thought it must have been doing
over 100 mph, but looking back more clearly I guess it was just sitting on 80
mph or so, a comfortable cruise for a Shadow.
WIND the clock forward a few more years. It was now in the late 1970s, and I was living in Canberra. One day, buzzing around the countryside nearby taking landscape photos, I passed through the village of Gundaroo, which comprised a pub, a general store, a wine bar, a disused church, and several houses. The pub was no longer licenced as a pub, but operated as a function centre. I was justifiably very pleased with my own car at that time, a 1970 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV coupe, a baby Ferrari with incomparable slyling by Bertone. (I wish I still had it). As I cruised through the village I spotted a car outside the pub: a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. Well, naturally, I parked my car next to the Rolls-Royce, and took a couple of photos. And that was my fourth up-close encounter with a Crewe product.
Above: My Alfa Romeo GTV Bertone coupe at Gundaroo (it's the white one...)
FINALLY, still more years
later, retired early and thinking of a part time "hobby" occupation,
I thought of a Rolls-Royce wedding car. Not knowing where to start, I tracked
down an established wedding car business operator specialising in Rolls-Royce,
who proved to be Frits Verbunt. A little later, somewhat dazed, I found myself
driving home very nervously in a vast (it seemed to me) white Silver Shadow.
It was now about 2001, and I have owned that Silver Shadow ever since. Since
then of course I have had many encounters with Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars,
and have driven most postwar models from Bentley Mk 6 to Silver Spirit (though
never yet a pre-war car).
But the memories of those first encounters are still remarkably vivid.
Proud owner, Day 1. The dazed look on my face no doubt reflects the dazed feeling inside my head.