CAR ownership is a concept that can mature along with our lives. What we aspire to own at an early age can deviate as our tastes and personal circumstances change with ever-increasing family, time and work commitments. Simon Cole has travelled far and wide across our great country, but has always managed to own one or three sweet rides at any given time, adapting their form and function to match whatever adventures his life has in store.
This article on Simon's cars was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Street Machine
1. Here's a sight bound to tug at a few Gen-X heartstrings. “I bought this Datsun 1600 as my first car back in 1985,” Simon says. “It was a low-mileage thing in pretty good nick and was great fun to fang around. Even with suspension that high, I’m sure it saved me from killing myself, and you couldn’t break it. As for those pants and that hair – well, I only wish I knew how to explain them!”
2. This 1965 Chevrolet was the beginning of Simon’s love affair with the American automobile. “I bought the Bel Air in Adelaide back in 1989, and when work took me to Brisbane and Darwin for the next four years it came along too,” he says. “This pic is of me flogging it around Hidden Valley race track around 1993. I have lots of awesome memories with that car; one impromptu late-night trip involved me and a mate hauling arse from Brisbane to Byron Bay in under two hours – on the old highway, mind you. That was highly reckless behaviour, of course, and there’s a bunch of other stories I could tell you about this car. Sadly, I don’t really think they’re publishable.”
3. Simon hung onto the Bel Air until 1995, when the spirit of adventure took hold and it was sold to purchase this HZ Holden panel van. He left Darwin and spent the next six months living in the van while exploring Australia’s east coast. The 202 and Trimatic powerhouse didn’t miss a beat as it tackled all manner of terrain, and he soon learnt that if a Kingswood couldn’t make it then you weren’t meant to be there!
4. After settling back into the daily grind, in 1997 Simon bought this pearler of a 1963 Pontiac Laurentian from a mate in Geelong who was relocating to the UK. “It drove really well, and we had many miles of fun with it,” he says. “This car introduced me to the cruising scene, and I think I drove everywhere doing about 45km/h! I held onto it for a number of years while other cars came and went, then sold it to my good mate George back in 2005, who still owns it today.”
5. Once Simon sold the Laurentian, he searched Australia-wide for a replacement, but nothing took his fancy. “Everything was either overpriced or a piece of garbage or both,” he says. “So where do you look for an American car? America of course! This 1968 Chevy Caprice Custom coupe was the very first thing I bought off eBay. It came from Los Angeles, but was a Massachusetts car originally so needed some minor rust repairs to the floor. Otherwise it was as described, and only needed minimal work for South Australian LHD drive rego. It ran a 327 small-block backed by a Turbo 400 and LSD. The bucket-seat interior was super-cool, too, with an aircraft-style floor shift. I loved it.”
6. Simon had just finished the ’68 Caprice when this ’64 Chevy wagon came up for sale locally – always the way. “I wasn’t financial enough to keep both cars, so the Caprice was sold to a bloke in Melbourne and I pulled this car out of an Adelaide shed where it had sat for nine years; it really was love at first sight.” A right-hand-drive, factory nine-seater cruiser with a 350 and a bunch of other cool stuff sounds like the ultimate truckster to me, and Simon and family still drive the wheels off it. Would you believe it was restored 25 years ago? It still looks mint!
7. An XM Falcon coupe had long been a bucket-list car for Simon, but this one popped up, as always, at the least opportune moment. “Off to the bank I went for a cash injection, then dragged this home from a driveway where it had sat for some time,” he says. “Having owned a sedan with the same 170-cube six-cylinder and two-speed Fordomatic driveline, I was familiar with this woeful combination, but surely it couldn’t be as bad as I remembered, could it? Sadly, it was, and because it had lain dormant for ages the coupe was unreliable, too. I fixed that problem with a 302 Windsor, tricked-up C4, disc brakes and a Centura diff. Man, it hauled arse!”
8. Temptation raised its head again back in 2014 in the form of a 1957 Chrysler Windsor. A mate had already sorted the paint and panel and rebuilt most of the driveline, but was selling it as an unfinished project. “My wife Emily had restitched the interior as a swap for the paintjob on her AP6 Regal, so we knew it was a good thing. Emily and her family are responsible for me becoming a diehard Mopar convert, so I couldn’t say no to this.
The XM was sold and we jammed this behemoth into its old car space. It runs a semi-Hemi 354 Spitfire donk with power steer, and was the first year of the Torqueflite trans and torsion-bar front suspension. It’s another family car we take everywhere. I’m not sure what wires us to become car people, but it’s always been in my blood and looks to have passed down to our three-year-old son, Phoenix, who walks around with various cars in his hands at all times. He even says ‘Mopar or no car’ – unless it’s an Impala wagon of course!”