Norman Simon always regretted parting with the truck that made him his livelihood half a century ago.
- Norman Simon repurchased a Chevrolet truck that he had sold more than 40 years ago
- The truck had been retired to a paddock where it sat for many years collecting rust
- Mr Simon, who is in his 90s, had some help with the restoration, but oversaw every step of the project
The 1957 five-tonne Chevrolet put him and his family on the road to financial security by reliably carting grapes six days a week, for 15 years in South Australia.
“The biggest load it ever carried was 18 tonnes from the Riverland to Reynella, and I was overloaded on both the trailer and truck,” Mr Simon said.
But with prosperity came the urge to keep up with the times and the trustworthy Chev was traded in for a new truck.
“I just thought I would get something a bit different, you know, after you’ve had something for 15 or 16 years,” Mr Simon said.
“Everybody was getting new trucks and you feel you’ve got to keep up with the times.”
He quickly regretted selling the 1600 series Chev when he had trouble getting his new truck off the ferries that in those days transported vehicles across the River Murray.
A younger Norman Simon with the truck he used to cart grapes between the Riverland and Adelaide from the 1950s through to the early 1970s. (Supplied: Norman Simon)
Chevy left out in paddock after glory days
Once Mr Simon and his Chev parted ways, life was good for the truckie as he raised his family in the Riverland, a flourishing new irrigation region along the River Murray of South Australia.
But for the truck, it was the beginning of the end of the road.
After carting grapes locally, it was retired to a paddock, where it sat for many years collecting rust out in the weather.
Two years ago, Mr Simon decided to buy back the truck he had sold more than four decades ago.
Already in his nineties, he knew time was ticking and it became his obsession to bring her back to her former glory.
He said he had to rely on others to get most of the work done due to his age and health but oversaw every stage of a process.
When the project was finally complete, his family was so delighted and relieved they hosted a garden party for the Chev, which sat proudly on the lawn next to the rows of wine grapes it once carted.
“The engine has never been touched, apart from me getting the valves ground, it’s done 156,000 mile now, she runs like a bird,” Mr Simon said proudly.
The truck sat in a paddock for years but Mr Simon always believed that it could be restored to its original condition. (Supplied: Italo Vardaro)
Sentimentality over first car
The truckie was not alone in wanting to reclaim his motoring past, with talkback on ABC local radio demonstrating how attached people are to their first cars.
Helen, of Glossop, remembered inheriting her mother’s first car, a Lloyd Alexander.
“It was a German car, quite popular for sprint racing … she used to drive everywhere in second gear, when I got my licence it was quite a sporty little car and I could drag people off at the traffic lights,” Helen said.
Anthony, of Monash, said his first car was a 1978 Holden HZ ute that he found in the Trading Post.
“Being a young lad, I put a 253 four-speed in it and then my girlfriend at the time couldn’t drive a manual, so we had to get an automatic … but I still have it, it’s sitting in the garage at home.”
Prices ‘ridiculous’ as younger motorists join club
Sentimentality over cars — like this collection of 120 Holdens — is something that Gawler Car Club public officer Peter Bailey has seen a lot.
“There are a few people that go down the track of locating a car that they liked in the past, that they had, and they actually find their original car and restore it to better than when they first owned it,” Mr Bailey said.
“There’s a new lot of people coming along, who were young car owners in the 80s, and now they are buying cars they were owning in the 80s and the price of cars from the 80s have gone through the roof, it’s absolutely ridiculous some of the prices.”
Norm Simon, right, and Geoff Yard were best mates growing up and were reunited as part of a roadtrip Mr Simon took with photographer Italo Vardaro during the restoration of the truck. (Supplied: Italo Vardaro)
‘We’re in such a throwaway society’
Photographer Italo Vardaro is behind the portrait series of Norman Simon and his truck.
He heard Mr Simon talking about how his original truck was sitting out in a paddock and encouraged him to go and see it, believing it was an important to capture the story behind what looked like just another abandoned vehicle.
“I don’t think we can lose treasures and things go past the wayside, today we’re in such a throwaway society that things don’t really last and to capture something that’s got age, patina, a life, a story, that’s rare and we should hang onto those things.”