‘If it doesn’t have an engine, it’s not a sport.’
That’s my family’s motto. It’s short, succinct, and seems to offend just about any foofball loving Australian that hears it.
It also sums up nicely why I am here today, writing these words, as part of what is, without argument, the best job in the world.
There are many things you need to make a good motoring journalist, but perhaps at its core is an unbridled passion for all things motoring. Ride assessment and feature structures can be taught to anyone, but no amount of coaching will allow you to truly love your work with the same joy as a true motoring enthusiast.
When people ask me how long I have been into cars it seems like a redundant question – forever, is the simple answer. Why I am into cars would be the better line of inquiry, and my father is the only truthful response.
My father was a sugar cane farmer growing up. He worked hard, with his calloused hands and numerous scars silent witnesses to decades toiling the rich burgundy soil up in Bundaberg. He taught me all the things a good father does, from hard work, to proper manners.
Engines have always just been a part of the background of my relationship with my Dad, from my earliest memories of sitting in his John Deere tractor as he ploughed fields as a small child. Then as I grew older, he would teach my brother and I how to ride motorbikes, which we promptly crashed into the nearest fence or field of cane.
I can still hear the wail of his Honda Fireblade’s engine as it approached redline, my grip on his chest growing tighter with every rpm as we flew down a country back road like the immortal heroes we would watch on television together late at night.
The engines weren’t relegated to terra firma either. I’m of the staunch belief that the 351 Cleveland is the best V8 in the whole world, simply because one is nestled under a fibreglass cowl in the family ski boat.
The long-winded point here is that I wouldn’t have my job if it wasn’t for my father passing on a love-slash-addiction to anything with a motor. So, I hatched a plan to give him something back.
For as long as online classifieds have been a thing, I’ve known my Father to have a saved search for classic Ford Mustangs. It’s at this point that you might be noticing a Blue Oval-shaped trend. He long talked of a dream to own a Mustang, but it was always mentioned with somewhat fanciful tones.
Then, late last year, fantasy became reality. With retirement officially upon him, he bit the bullet, and added a red ’65 to the garage. Dressed up as a ’66 Shelby GT350, with a 289 Windsor under the bonnet, and five-speed manual, it’d make a purist wince – but it makes my father grin from ear to ear, so screw what the puritans think.
My dad didn’t know it, but for my most recent trip interstate to visit I had organised a 2019 Ford Mustang GT for the weekend. Needless to say, it was a smash success, with his neighbours immediately treated to a full display of the Coyote engine’s sonorous capabilities.
Taking both ‘Stangs for a drive on the hinterland roads of south east Queensland is just another addition to the series of memories with my dad that I cherish dearly, this time with a V8 duet on backing vocals.
After we had posed for a few photos, and then started to head home, I was transported back to flipping through one of my father’s photo albums as a child. Inside it were pages of sepia-toned shots of the antics he and his mates would get up to.
There’s one image of my father sitting shirtless astride a Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle, his gold XR Falcon GT perfectly positioned in the background. It remains a personal measure of effortless cool that I’m unlikely to replicate.
On a subsequent page is a local newspaper clipping reporting a story of how my old man had stoved his latest piece of Aussie muscle into a power pole.
“Police believe speed may have been a factor,” I remember reading aloud as a kid.
“Speed was definitely a factor,” came the reply from over my shoulder, Dad flashing me a devilish grin.
A genetic willingness, nay eagerness, to lean into the throttle just a little harder and longer is something that polite society frowns upon. But who needs polite society when your old man is escaping down a farm road in his dream car, and you have a 5.0-litre V8 at your disposal to chase him down?