I wrote a little piece about the various cars I’ve owned over the years, way down here in this land of Oz.
Car: 1991 Ford Falcon EB Series II (a.k.a. White Fear)
Engine: 4.0L Straight Six, EFI
Years owned: 2007-2013
Final odo reading: ~400,000km
The story: This was my first car - my parents handed me the keys to the family sedan for a combined Christmas/17th birthday present. Named “White Fear” for its paint & a university ritual of drinking milk until vomiting. I crashed it twice in the first year I owned it. The first time was while flying through the hills around here at night, The Offspring blaring on the stereo because I was sad about girls and stuff. The second was on my first roadtrip to Melbourne, in the pouring rain. Survived a smashed differential, dead ignition system, and ever-balding tyres. Eventually forced off the road and into the crusher - the police defected me after I was caught sliding it around a roundabout in teenage angst.
Car: 1999 Ford Falcon AU (a.k.a. White Fear II)
Engine: 4.0L Straight Six, EFI
Years owned: 2013-2013
The story: I wanted a car that was as reliable as my first, so why not stick with what you know? Australian Falcons regularly do 600,000+ km as taxis, and my first ride had never let me down. I dropped $3000 on a tidy AU Falcon that had only done 160,000 km, but it was a mistake - the AU was hideously ugly and was denounced by my friends as a grandpa car. I’d gone for the safe option and regretted it almost immediately after purchase. I did modify it with a home-built MPG gauge in an attempt to hypermile the thirsty motor but I couldn’t bring myself to love it like I had its brother.
Car: 1989 Mazda 121 Hatch (a.k.a. Turquoise Terror)
Engine: 1.3L Straight Four, Carburetted (Mazda B3)
Years owned: 2013-2014
The story: I had an abnormally large tax return in 2013, and I was desperate to own a car I could get excited about. My ‘99 Falcon was boring as hell, and I realised I was 22 now and had never owned a manual. My cousin and I wanted to buy a cheap car each to thrash on hills runs (think canyon driving), and we’d noticed an abundance of cheap 121s for sale on Gumtree (think Craigslist). I dropped $1300 on the 121, which had been given the full P-plater (think 18 year old driver) treatment - cheap knockoff race seat, steering wheel, lowered springs, rear seat removed for weight reduction, straight pipe exhaust, and of course, the monster tach. Sounded amazing, handled like an 800kg hatchback should, and with the lowered suspension and tiny wheels, would both bottom out on speed bumps and the roof would buckle if you hit a dip in the road fast enough. Sounded like popping the lid on a jar of pasta sauce but at a bigger scale. One of the funnest cars I ever owned, plus the front lip spoiler was made out of garden edging. Sold because I wanted something with MORE POWER.
Car: 1992 Ford Falcon EB II (a.k.a. White Fear the Third)
Engine: 4.0L Straight Six, EFI
Years owned: 2014-2015
The story: Now I was comfortable with a manual transmission, I went after the enthusiast’s holy grail - manual, with rear wheel drive. The only problem was, all the traditional enthusiast cars were outside my price range - even the dodgiest non-turbo Silvias and Skylines were $4000 and up. What was a boy to do? But then, I decided to look locally - an Australian built sedan, 200hp at the flywheel, manual, rear wheel drive - and an LSD! All for the princely sum of $1050. I snapped it up, planning to restore it to its former factory glory and eventually build a race car. The body as I received it was in poor shape - plenty of dents and the owner had “colour matched” the touch up paint by picking the closest-looking Gloss White spray can at the hardware store. The interior was even worse, and when I realised I was never going to find decent replacement pieces to bring it into shape, I sold it and its cigarette-stained self to a country hoon. It also didn’t help that it handled like the local library in corners - no steering feel, and 3200 lbs of body roll.
Car: 1991 Daihatsu Feroza (a.k.a Ferozi)
Engine: 1.6 L Straight Four, EFI (Daihatsu HD-E)
Years owned: 2015-2017
The story: My first 4x4 - and a real one too, with the low range and everything ! I was idly browsing the classifieds one day and saw this beast come up. I’d dug these ever since I saw them on the roads in the 90s. When I saw one for under $2000 I jumped at the chance, scoring it for $1600 in the end. Tearing up the beach in one of these is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. It’s even better when you bury the front end into the crashing waves and get an cold, refreshing bath for your troubles. I had an absolute blast in this thing, and was heartbroken when it died after a torturous trip from Melbourne to Adelaide, towing a trailer that was always going to be too big. Cause of death? The camshaft seized in the head, seemingly due to low oil pressure. After three weeks of the most difficult wrenching of my life, I resurrected the ailing 1.6L with a second-hand head from the junkyard. After getting the timing dialed by the local mechanic (it had knocked badly the entire time I had it because I never had a timing light), it was now driving better than it ever had in its entire life. I was ecstatic. I rang my Dad.
“It’s driving better than ever, it’s amazing!”
“That’s great, we did it!”
I hung up and got another kilometer down the road when it died, again.
By this point I was over pouring money into it and had no idea what had gone wrong. Clogged oil gallery? Snapped head bolts? Poorly sealed head gasket? We weren’t sure what we’d messed up but the fact was it wasn’t running anymore and I was no longer in a position to work on it. Sold on the classifieds for less than the price of the new tyres I’d just had fitted.
The full story’s over on Hackaday.
Car: 1991 Mazda MX-5 (currently known as the Junkbox MX-5)
Engine: 1.6L Straight Four, EFI
Years owned: 2016-Now
The story: I woke up one day and realised I was 25, and that I’d never owned a sports car. This was ridiculous because cars are pretty much my favourite thing in the whole world. I decided it was about time I lived my dreams already, and set about hunting for the right vehicle. The S13 Silvia might be the car of my dreams but good examples are impossible to find at anything less than a king’s ransom. Next to that, the MX-5 seemed like a great substitute - manual, rear wheel drive, great handling, and hey, convertible too! I checked out the cheapest one I could find, for just $3000 - the paint was flaking off, but mechanically it felt solid! All the more amazing considering the odo was reading 375,000 km.
Everything was great until the drive home - a horrible scraping sound started coming from the gearbox. To say I was devastated is a total understatement. Thankfully, after scouring the forums and asking the local gurus, this is apparently a common problem indicating the diff is on its way out. I’ve been told it will probably be fine for another 50,000 km.
In the meantime, I’ve had to deal with the following:
-Radiator replacement due to overheating
-Brake upgrade to 1.8L brakes when I found the rear calipers were completely non-functional
-Idle problems all over the place
-Paint flaking off here, there, everywhere
-fifty other problems
That said, it handles great and I’m keen to mod it something chronic. Need that boost in my life. This one’s a forever car.