Simon gets into a spot of bother with a rather miffed fellow in a Honda, and his little Hillman isn't helping the situation
ROAD rage has long been an unfortunate part of our everyday road-going life. But instances of it seem to have ramped up lately – or maybe it’s just the advent of dash cams, smartphone video and social media spreading it to the masses that makes it feel that way. Either way, the intensity of such encounters seems to have progressed at times to physical violence and the willingness to use cars as weapons in lieu of fisticuffs.
I’ve had a few road rage experiences in my time – never anything serious mind you, usually just situations solved with a combination of choice words, finger signs and relay-melting use of the car horn.
In recent years I’ve decided it’s best to live and let live; supposed maturity on my part and near-epidemic drug use in our society makes me think twice before engaging in horn-blowing or offering up a spirited opinion on someone else’s ‘driving’ – just in case that someone may not be playing their A-game mentally and is ready to totally lose their shit at the drop of a hat. It’s just not worth it over something that is so minor in the scheme of things.
There is, however, one experience I remember fondly, mainly because there was no harm done. My mates and I refer to it as ‘The World’s Slowest Car Chase’.
About 20 years ago I was studying full-time and working as a mechanic part-time. Money was tight, so I’d parked up my VG hardtop and was punting around in an el cheapo HC Hillman Hunter. It was a snotter, but was super-reliable, pulled mean peg-legger burnouts and the 1725cc four-pot was bulletproof, which made it lots of fun to drive. Strangely though it would always understeer when trying to throw doughnuts on wet grass – but that’s another story.
The only real grief I ever got from this car was that the CD Stromberg carby would vaporise the fuel on a stinking hot day, causing it to miss while sitting in traffic or when loading the engine up a hill. You’d have to stop every now and then to pour water over the carb; then it’d be as good as gold.
It did jobs and hauled stuff that shouldn’t have been possible, and one of these trips included picking up a 308 Holden donk for my best mate, Paul. It was in pieces, but still bloody heavy; however we managed to jam it all in the boot and then stood back to admire the Hillman’s serious gasser-spec reverse rake.
It was a typical hot Queensland summer Saturday, and the Hillman’s carb had already played up a couple of times, and was clearly struggling to haul this V8 around.
Anyone familiar with Brisbane may know Settlement Road, which joins The Gap and Keperra. We were heading outbound on this particular day towards the windy side of the mountain section that separates these two suburbs, and we got stuck behind an old 70s Honda Accord hatchback towing the world’s largest and heaviest load of rubbish on a box trailer. Suddenly, a huge piece of cardboard flew off the back of the trailer and landed smack bang on the windscreen of my Hillman.
I couldn’t see jack-shit, and hung my head out of the window like Ace Ventura to save from crashing, while Paul was hanging out of the passenger side trying his hardest to peel this cardboard off the screen. He wrangled it free and we started cursing this knob in front of us for his crappy load restraint.
We arrived at the bottom of the Settlement Road mountain where it divides into two lanes, and immediately hooked the right lane to get past this clown. As we pulled up alongside Honda-man, Paul stuck his head out the window and yelled: “Tie your load down you dumb f**k!”
Of course this guy in the Honda had to be a huge steroid-munching type of bloke who went off his brain. He started beeping the horn, yelling out and waving his fist, and his equally ’roided mate in the passenger seat started waving around the Club steering lock and carrying on. We thought we better motor, so I got back into the left lane and tried to pull away. We got about two car lengths ahead of the Honda before the carb started to play up and the engine started missing its head off. Of course.
I laboured on, back to second gear on about three cylinders; then two cylinders; then jammed it back into first on two cylinders up this hill – with a 308 in the boot, remember – doing about 10km/h, if that. I thought we were screwed.
Luckily, Honda-man was having troubles trying to get his pus-bag up the hill with an overloaded trailer, so he wasn’t gaining on us, but was still yelling like a maniac. We could hear him clear as day due to the low speed; cars full of conservative old people passing us at the 60km/h speed limit were all peering over wondering what the hell was going on.
We just made it to the top of the hill, and thankfully old Hilda Hillman started to pick up some pace coming down the other side. The engine found its lost cylinders now that it wasn’t working so hard and we were back in business!
My street was the first on the left at the bottom of the hill, and I told Paul to hang on, because once we got there I was going to turn in hot to try and shake this guy. By this stage we were caught behind some slowpoke doing 50km/h, with Honda-man about 2cm off my rear bumper.
So we came to the turn and the plan was to brake as late as possible and hook it with no indicator. It was good in theory – until I jammed on the picks and the skinny discs just shuddered, washing off probably 2km/h from this bum-heavy Hunter. But I was committed to the turn so around we went with some serious boat-like body roll, the front left wheel barely touching the ground and with way too much speed.
Do you remember that scene in Mad Max where the black HQ Monaro skips around the crash site with the rocket attached to the back? Well that was us trying to make this turn, but looking far less cool. All I remember was hearing the squeal of skipping tyres, an ear-piercing scraping sound and a big ‘dong’ noise. The right rear wheel kerb-bashed the traffic island in the middle of my street, but this thankfully just straightened us up and we hugged that kerb like an Olympic bobsled.
We’d made it safely, and Honda-man kept on going straight – crisis averted. The car was all good apart from some tyre sidewall scuffing and a 308 cylinder head impression in the right rear quarter panel. The ‘dong’ noise was the right rear hubcap coming adrift, and it turned out that the scraping sound was the right rear rim rolling on the tyres so far that it gouged the bitumen and scratched the crap out of the rim lip. Thank goodness that tyre stayed on!
I guess with the hindsight that comes with age, it was a stupid action on my part and we were damn lucky to come out of it okay. But what is a misspent youth without a few memories?