NT is trialling a No Speed Limited section on the Stuart Highway, north of Alice Springs, for a period of one year. Good on the NT government. When I worked for Shell, Alice Springs was my base and I remember this piece of highway well. The tyranny of distance experienced by people who live in the Alice and any other satellite town where people need to drive for hours makes this trial a winner in my books. I remember marvelling at the mileage clocked up by the people I worked with. For them it was nothing to go to Adelaide for the weekend, which is a 3,000-km trip. I get all excited when I go to Wakefield and manage over 1,000kms in one month. The average person from Alice does this by Wednesday, as the saying goes. Needless to say, we will have the usual panic merchants making predictions of mass mayhem and thousands of deaths before the year is out. I just hope that this trial is not carte blanche for idiots wanting a drag race track. The NT police have a fairly short fuse when it comes to morons. Just because you are really, truly brilliant on Xbox sitting on your lounge with a toy steering wheel in your hand does not mean you know what to do when you run into trouble in a real car.
I remember one trip traveling to Yuendumu, late afternoon, brilliant clear day with the sun shining on the red sand and sky so blue it looked photo-shopped. I spotted a black kite flying very low, heading straight for the front windscreen of my car. He looked so majestic and beautiful. I am a city dweller, so common sense when driving in the country is not second nature to me. The kite was so low I could see his claws. It never occurred to me to slow down. Thankfully the bird had more sense than I did and just before bird met windscreen, he gracefully glided on the slipstream and left me in awe of his beauty and flying skills. When I relayed the story to the road train drivers back in Alice they pointed out to me that if I had hit him, the force would have driven both me and the bird into the back seat of my rental car. I stress yet again that the bird had more brains than I did. I just imagined the kite’s conversation at the next lizard lunch on the side of the road: “You should have seen this dumb blonde, eye big as plates, as I glided over her car.”
Reading the weekend Financial Review, I nearly choked on my coffee. Extremely well-hidden was a rehash of Bloomberg article headlined “Ferraris race off lot.” Hagerty, a US-based classical car price database, was reporting that rare Ferraris surged by 62% in 2013. Apparently a dilapidated 1956 Gullwing estimated as being worth $1.2 million fetched $1.9 million. The new owner will need another $500K to make it roadworthy.
After a quick search on the Hagerty website, I found that a Tatra 603 circa 1960, the favoured official car of the old communist plutocrats will now fetch between $70,000 and $80,000. My now very much ex-boyfriend restored one of these ages ago. When the time came to have it registered and get new number plates, the guys at the RTA office proved they had a sense of humour. As he was waiting for the number plates to be allocated to him (this was back in the early 1980s, before IT truly hit its stride), he realised that it was taking an extraordinarily long time. He walked up to the counter and enquired what was taking so long. The supervisor could not help him, but promised that the people involved were not out the back having a smoko. Everything became clear when two very dust-covered customer service guys emerged from what must have been the bottom of the stock pile of available number plates, and proudly handed my ex this number plate in the old yellow background and black alphanumeric: “KGB 009”.
So, on the occasional slow day when the Financial Review runs out of superannuation, corporate governance and the usual doom and gloom and everything else to do with our economy, they may actually print the occasional story about what great investments classical cars truly are. This does not, however, mean that the Toyota Kluger my neighbour purchased all those years ago washed once in 2009, will be worth millions in 50 years’ time. But then again, what do I know?
My own faulty really. I told my friends about ordering the new CLA45 AMG and the subsequent “waiting period of 12 months.” Needless to say, they are all milking it for what it’s worth. Promises and threats of sending me emails with a daily countdown became reality, so the delete button is now my most trusted ally.
One friend who shares my birth place pointed out that in the old Eastern Block when it was under the Communist regime, you had to bribe officials to only have to wait seven years for your new car. We are not talking about custom- made cars here; this is how long it took for delivery of a new Trabant or Skoda Octavia, and this is before Skoda was brought out by VW. We are talking about cars that would fall apart before they left the factory. Spare parts had the value of saffron spice and were just as readily available. My Teutonic grandfather’s favourite joke went like this: Mr Novak saves the required 50% deposit for his Trabant, plus supplies the required under- the-table bribe to assorted communist party officials to secure his place in the queue. The following month he receives an official letter advising him of the date he can collect his new car, say 28th February, seven years in the future. In panic, he runs to the official’s home to ask if he can delay the pick-up by a day. The official looks at him sternly and reminds him of the trouble it took to secure this date and asks what is so important that he cannot pick up his new car on the allocated day? Mr Novak nervously replies that he cannot be available on the 28th February seven years in the future because the plumber is booked on the same day.
Did I mention that you did not even get to select the colour of your new car and the only extra was a radio that was usually stuck on the government propaganda station? Think George Orwell’s 1984.
For me this whole thing is not exactly any heartache. I have a beautiful car anyway, so about 307 days until the new one arrives is not going to kill me. Plus, my plumber is available whenever I need him. However, I see that the delete button on my keyboard may wear out before long.