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10 Oct 2017


1990 Subaru Brumby

In human years, 27 is rather youthful and still regarded as a young adult.

But in the motoring world, 27 years old is geriatric and well past your automotive use-by-date.

The average age of our Australian automotive fleet is 10.1 years.

Our Tasmanian cousins obviously take better care of their cars with their fleet averaging 12.6 years.

The rougher roads and longer distances of the Northern Territory shorten the life of their vehicles which on average last only 9.1 years.

So what was I doing driving another ageing Subaru that left the Ōta Japanese production line in 1990.

Well a hint of what was happening was contained in my recent column about the iconic Subaru Brumby.

Readers may remember that the collectability of this model was 'on trend' following my last column.

A colleague has just snapped up another Brumby (his third) and it was my pleasure to drive it to its final resting place on a remote Central Queensland cattle property.

As it was unregistered and 400 kilometres away from its new home there was that small problem of: “How do you get it there?”

Transporting it on the back of a flat-bed truck would have cost more than my colleague had paid for the car.

But with an $85 Queensland Transport 'Permit to Move' certificate we were off and running.

One of the conditions of that permit is that the car must travel directly to the new address and I was just a bit worried when I over-shot a rendezvous with the support vehicle and briefly headed back a kilometre or so towards where I had just come from.

I’ve got to say that driving 400 kilometres without number plates was a very un-nerving experience.

I expected to be stopped by every police officer who passed, but they all seemed glued to their Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) screens which meant that without registration plates my vehicle glided past like a ghost in the night.

ANPR is designed to detect licence plates that have been cancelled, reported as stolen, or whose owners are wanted in connection with a crime or have a history of drink or drug-driving.

Without any number plates I could apparently rest assured that I would remain anonymous and go un-noticed.

Spending six hours in the Subaru’s cabin did give me plenty of time for reflection and exploration.

I noticed that there were quite a few knobs missing from the dashboard, but I found every one of them conveniently rolling past my feet on the floor or under the seat.

The only thing that didn’t work in the Subaru was the air conditioning which would never be used on the farm anyway.

The old Subaru could still comfortably cruise at 110 km/h and still returned 7.6 l/100km, or 37 mpg in the old money.

Not bad for a motor that had done 282,000 kilometres.

As I drove off the tarmac for the very last time it was just a little like saying goodbye to a child leaving home.

From now on there would be no more road rules, RACQ or road-side assistance.

But once I was through the farm gate I felt the little Subaru surging ahead as if it had found a new lease on life.

It was, after all, not really the end of the road.

But just the start of another journey.

Safe motoring
Doctor Clive Fraser


Published: 10 Oct 2017