YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE LOOK…
Barry pulled the doona up around his shoulders as the morning chill made itself felt. Beside him in the bed lay his wife, able to sleep despite her excitement at what was waiting for him in the garage that morning. She hoped, despite the expense, that he would be delighted.
He had told her the story of what it had meant to him, when, after two years of hard work, he had been able to go to the caryard that Saturday morning to ask about the GT 351 that he had seen advertised. It was dark, almost a British racing green, with black stripes and GT-351 written on the front mud guards in gold. How proud he had been to drive it in to his work the following Monday morning.
Be it the exuberance of youth or the convenience factor, owning a car was soon to find that he had many friends, and not all because they liked him. It was also to have him subjected to dares, such as the one that ensured that he would not keep it for very long, either.
It was on the night of a workmate of his 21st Birthday that he had driven the car to the party. His mother had warned him not to drink if he planned to drive, but like many young men, he believed himself to be invincible and these things only happened to other people. So, after he'd had a few drinks too many, another guest at the party and a Holden fan, dared him that his GT-351 could not defeat a Holden Monaro of the same age. Feeling his masculine pride on the line, he took this person up on the dare, and they sat, side by side on the narrow country road, engines revving loudly as they smirked at each other and exchanged banter. A friend stood before them, illuminated in the headlights of both cars, a rag in his hand. As he waved his arm, both vehicles took off, their tyres sending plumes of dark grey smoke in their wake. Barry reached towards the floor and shifted the gear lever up as he came tearing along. He inched in front of the Monaro, whose driver glared at him, unwilling to have his car beaten. Louder they both went, fishtailing slightly. Neither side was to win the race, however, as a pair of bright white lights appeared in their rear view mirrors, along with flashing red and blue ones higher up. Reluctantly, they slowed their vehicles, before pulling over to the left-hand side.
"Out you both get," came a gruff voice of a police officer over the bullhorn, whereupon they both stepped out of their vehicles.
The police officer, a man who looked old enough to be Barry's father, with his grey hair swept back, donned his cap and faced them with an angry countenance.
"What the hell do you think you were doing?" he barked.
"Well, we were just having a bit of fun."
"A bit of fun, eh? Well, let's see how much fun you can have in front the magistrate, shall we? Can I see your licences, please?"
Barry reached into his pocket for his wallet.
"Firstly," began the officer, "my in car speed device showed you both driving at speeds in excess of 110km/h. Add to that, this road doesn't have any lighting. And now, we'll begin with a breath test." He returned to the car and came back to Barry with the breathalyser. "Right, seal your lips around this straw, and keep blowing until I tell you to stop." Barry blew hard and steadily. He looked at the dark sky as he waited for the device to come up with a reading. "0.12, which is over twice the legal limit." The officer then went to the Monaro driver, who returned a similar reading. "You are both under arrest," replied the officer. "And you needn't think about going home tonight."
"Really?" asked Barry.
"Yes, your licence is automatically suspended for 24 hours. "As your speed was also well in excess of the posted limit, you will receive a further disqualification and you will also be fined for hooning."
The next night, Barry returned to his parents place, and they were none to pleased. "You might actually find that you have to sell your GT-351 to pay the fine you'll incur. And you might even find that your disqualification period is quite lengthy," his father replied unsympathetically.
It was to be around three and a half weeks later that he appeared before the magistrate, still having his GT-351, but knowing it would be sitting at his parents place for quite some time, in fact, he drove it tenderly, savouring every minute he spent with it.
He heard his name mentioned and walked, head bowed, into the court, where the magistrate, a matronly figure with greying dark brown hair and silver rimmed spectacles, asked him to state his name and address and then read out, "The charges are that on the evening of September 12, you were caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12, driving in excess of the posted speed limit by 50kms and hooning. How do you plead?"
"I didn't hear that."
"To all three charges?"
"Yes, Your Worship."
"Have you anything to say before I pass sentence?"
"That I am very sorry for what I did and that it was foolish of me."
"For your drink-driving offence, you are fined $600 and disqualified from driving for six months, for speeding, you are fined $1000 and disqualified for a further six months and for hooning, you are fined $500 and disqualified for a further three months. You have 28 days in which to pay these fines."
Reluctantly, Barry's father drove his GT-351 to the dealer where it was sold, with Barry's signature on the documents. With such a long disqualification period, he had to rely upon the bus to reach work. The fifteen months passed by almost like fifteen years, and then he was finally able to have his licence returned and this time, he only had the funds to buy a Toyota Corolla, which he kept for several years.
During this time, he met the woman he would later marry and over the years, as he progressed in the company, he often thought about his GT-351 and how he wished he had been able to keep it. As it was, he now had a company car, but it was not the same.
At 47, he attended the 30 year school reunion and many of his colleagues talked of families and friends and their satisfaction, or lack of it, with their employment situations. He reconnected with some old friends, and they decided that they would have an annual catch-up, not over beers at the pub, but on a camping and fishing trip.
It was on a recent weekend, after Barry had talked to his wife about seeing a GT-351 like that one, that she decided she wanted to do something special for him for his upcoming 50th Birthday. What would she do, throw him a party?
The following weekend, Barry and his mates packed up their tents and fishing gear and prepared for their annual weekend away and his wife was home by herself. She was looking through the newspaper on the Saturday after breakfast when she saw the advertisement, "GT-351. Green. Immaculate condition throughout. Reluctant sale at $20,000." She decided to call the number and asked if she could have a look at it.
That afternoon, she drove to the address on the other side of town, to find it parked on the driveway. The owner came out to greet her. "She's a beauty, isn't she?"
"Indeed, she is. It's not for me, though, it's for my husband."
There were a few scratches on the side, and despite what was said, there appeared to be a little rust.
"Do you want it?"
"Have you got a REVS Certificate for it, please?"
"Do you owe money on it?"
"All the same, I'll take the registration and VIN and run a few checks."
She called the number and keyed in the VIN and engine numbers to find that it was not financially encumbered and asked if she could leave a holding deposit on it. The seller agreed.
The next day, she brought a friend of hers, who was a mechanic, to have a look at it, who could find very little in the way of fault with it, or nothing that couldn't be easily fixed, anyway, and then on the Monday, withdrew the rest of the money to purchase it. The first stop was to the mechanic, the second to the panel shop to have the rust removed and the paintwork cut and polished.
The night before Barry's birthday, which incidentally was a Friday, her friend, the mechanic, brought it over and it was parked in their garage. There was a secret about it that only she knew, but when he saw the certificate, he would be amazed.
She rose that morning and prepared Barry a breakfast of cereal, fruit, bacon, sausages, eggs and toast and a pot of coffee.
"Barry, breakfast is ready," she called out up the stairs.
Barry rose and donned his dressing gown, before joining her downstairs.
"After breakfast, I'll get you to look in the garage. I've got something for you to do," she said.
"You haven't forgotten, have you?"
"No, but you'll like this."
He took a shower and changed into cleans and a jumper and walked out to the garage. His mouth dropped open but he couldn't find the words, as he stared at the green object sitting there. The paintwork was shiny, the tyres were new and glossy black.
Finally finding his voice, he said, "Where did this come from?"
"Yes, Sweetheart. Just for you, Happy 50th."
"This is just like-"
"That IS the one you used to have."
"It can't be."
"It is. It was advertised as a reluctant sale a few weeks ago. I remembered the one you had. When I checked it wasn't encumbered, I saw that the VIN was the same."
"You little beauty!"
He threw his arms around her.
"I've finally got her back. I didn't think I ever would."