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In search of Classic 60's cars at the Birdwood Motor Museum.

September is all about classic cars!

This year's 'Bay to Birdwood'  event (B2B) on Sunday 29th September features 'Classic' cars, that is, vehicles that have been manufactured between 1956 and 1986. Whether you are participating or spectating, keep an eye out for our Carol, the 1965 Lobethal Bed and Breakfast company car. She's an original 1965 Chrysler Valiant Safari Wagon, and she will be joining the other 1750 classic vehicles making their merry way from West Beach to the National Motor Museum in Birdwood.

Carol was manufactured at the Chrysler assembly plant at Clovelly park (named Tonsley at the time) which was established in 1964 and purchased by Mitsubishi in 1980. Chrysler Aust 

First sold out of Austral Motors, Rockhampton, Queensland to her first owner who she lived with for 40 years. She then moved to Manly, NSW. Carol finally made the journey home to South Australia with Mr 1965 behind the wheel earlier this year. The plan is for her to wear Chauffeur plates whilst touring people from their Adelaide Hills Accommodation to local cellar doors and other great Adelaide Hills destinations.

In anticipation of the Bay to Birdwood rally, the 1965 family took Carol on a drive recently to the Birdwood Motor Museum. Heading out from Lobethal, the views from her wind down windows alternated between rich, rolling grazing lands to symmetrical vineyards hovering on the brink of bud burst. Travelling in Carol is a nostalgic experience. Her vinyl bench seats are as comfy as a well sprung sofa, the faint odour of car polish reaches my nostrils as I listen to  the gentle thrum of her still powerful engine.

Carol is a pretty thing and she causes hearts to flutter wherever she goes. Arriving at the car park of the motor museum results in the obligatory conversation with an interested passerby about her pedigree and specs. Then a  short stroll across the paved boulevard and we enter the imposing glass frontage of Australia's largest motor museum, with almost 400 vehicles on display.  Originally housed in the 1850's Randall Mill building and operated privately, the museum was purchased by the State Government in 1976 and the modern pavilion opened to the public in 1998.

We return the smile from the welcoming volunteer on the front counter, resist the shiny things in the well stocked retail space and move on to the reason for our visit - 1960's cars. We are on a mission to determine how many cars from the 1960's are on show at our National Motor Museum.  

The 1960's Cars

How many cars from the 1960's reside at the Birdwood National Motor Museum? We located a total of 22 , some stylish, some iconic and some just downright odd!

The cars we found are as follows. Did we miss any?? 

1960       Goggomobile : Dodge  

1961       E - Type Jag  

1962       Chrysler Valiant : Ford Anglia : Morris Major Elite II

1963       Austin Freeway : Zeta Runabout   

1964       EH Holden [best selling model ever] : Toyota Tiara : Zeta Utility

1965       Ford Falcon Squire Wagon ['the Woody' - it is thought that less than 10 still survive today!] Austin Princess : Volvo P 1800 S [who knew the word Volvo derived from the Latin for 'I am rolling' ]: Vice Regal Rolls Royce Phantom V : Zeta Sport   

1966       Fiat 1500 Station Wagon : Toyota Crown Special Station Wagon : Ford Falcon 500

1968       Aston Martin [think the James Bond car] : Austin 1800 [ with the advertising slogan of 'travel first class' ] Holden HR Brougham 

Meet the Zeta!

We mentioned cars from the 1960's which appear a little odd. The Zeta is definitely a standout in this category. The Zeta was the mechanical lovechild of Harold Lightburn, whose company at Camden near Adelaide also made cement mixers, washing machines and fibreglass boats. Lightburn was one of many who saw the need for a locally made, low cost small car.

Being a manufacturer of fibreglass boats, he chose fibreglass as the material from which to build Zeta car bodies. The Zeta had an unusual shape, and was powered by a Villiers 325cc twin cylinder two stroke engine which drove the front wheels. A novel feature was that it could go as fast in reverse as it could travelling forward due to the simple design of the drive train. It has four gears in each direction. Unfortunately the engine needed to be switched off and started backwards to reverse.  

There was also no a fuel gauge - just a clear glass section of the fuel line. The Zeta offered a top speed of around 95 km/hr. A Sports version was manufactured, with a production run of 28.  The rarest of all was the Ute, with only 12 produced. A man before his time, Harold also had plans for electric and 4 wheel drive versions. Outcompeted by the BMC Mini, history's best selling micro car, less than 400 of these quirky cars were sold before production ceased in 1965. Shame.  

ZETA - Adelaide Remembers


Another life, another time ....

Mission accomplished, we reluctantly head for home. Posing Carol for a final photo outside the museum we meet a museum volunteer whose face glows & eyes light up as she shares the story of her much loved father who worked for many years at the Chrysler plant. Returning Carol to her garage, an unknown car pulls up and out hops another car enthusiast keen to share his story. For Mr 1965, it's memories from childhood where the daily drive to school was often taken in a classic car, elegantly dressed mum behind the wheel.

That's what we love about classic cars. They may look like metal boxes on wheels but they are actually repositories of the past. Shadows of people long gone rest their elbows on the steering wheel and peer intently from the windscreen. Driving around in a classic enables us to pause the everyday with its stresses and commitments and indulge in the whimsy of living another life in another time. 

Classic cars connect people to our shared stories and bring memories & fantasy alive. What memories do you associate with a classic??