Casino. Thursday, 10.50am
So far, so good.
I’m taking a Subaru Outback for a test spin and it’s motoring along nicely. Sure, the engine sounds like a dozen sewing machines at full tilt, but that, apparently, is the Subaru sound.
I’ve nipped through a few Casino backstreets after leaving the car yard (all-wheel drive makes for some excellent nipping) and am now in Casino bushland. By bushland I mean brown grass, some childless old trees and a couple of humped Indian cattle shimmering in the heat haze, wondering where the garlands and Krishna chants went.
I’m looking for a hill. A hill is a good test for a car but Casino is pretty flat. (You want to clutch-start your car in Casino? Better hope you’re parked on a speed bump.)
But I remember a hill…
The steering is tight. Good.
The temperature gauge is holding steady at the halfway mark. Good. The Nissan X-Trail I tested half an hour ago had the temperature needle hit the red zone and the engine light come on after just one kilometre of driving.
Okay, I’m not looking at the high end of the used-vehicle market. But it’s not the wreckers either. I’m spending a lot more than I usually do. My mum wants me to get something legal.
In the past, I have recycled old automobiles destined to be rudely shoved into aged-car facilities by a modern world fearful of age. I like driving among the boring sameness in a car that carries a unique rust patina and no repayment plan. I like cars that don’t nag you about your seatbelt. I like cars where you can wind up the windows without your keys. I like cars where you can carry a wardrobe from the Tender Center on the roof – without roof racks. I like cars that use a mechanic, not an IT guy.
Sure, some of my bombs were lemons but for every lemon bomb there was a cool conglomeration of geriatric steel and rubber that revelled in a renewed vehicular vigour, hitting every pothole with a rockin’ relish that only a lack of shockies can generate, acknowledging every corrugation with a carefree shrug that only a loose steering assembly can facilitate. These vehicles had character. I didn’t need personalised number plates; just a Texta.
But now I’m shopping for a regular vehicle, like a regular bloke.
I like shopping in Casino. I bought a latte for under $4. And I was served by a woman who was not under 25, not studying marine biology or tourism, not wearing black, not tattooed, and did not ever, even once, say ‘awesome’.
The hill appears before me. If the Subie passes the hill test, I’m buying it. Hell, I’ve been car shopping all morning. I’m exhausted.
I know this hill because a bush poet I knew used to live in an old farmhouse at its top. She could only write poetry when she was drunk. Haven’t seen her for years. I think she died from too much writing.
I drop the Subie down a gear with a classy double de-clutch. (Hey, this is Casino.) Despite the high revs the Subie feels firm.
The first car I took for a test ride this morning was a Kia Sportage. At 4,000 rpm the headlight fell out, swung on its cable, hit the driver’s wheel and flicked back towards the windscreen. I nearly hit an oncoming Commodore.
The Subaru tackles the incline with ease.
At the top of the hill I notice two things: the old farmhouse is replaced by a sprawl of brick housing, and there are clouds of blue smoke coming from under the bonnet.
Hmm. Might see what the wreckers have got…