Today we do our first ever road test (well maybe it’s the second or third but it’s still big), we preview Winton Historics and Targa Tasmania and answer this weekend’s big question, what’s a Toron? Actually, all this sounds much more exciting than it really is, but read on.
“Sound your sirens, ring your bells,” as Leanne Cutler says in her press release. Leanne is touting the 42nd Historic Winton, to be run on May 26 and 27 at Winton Motor Raceway, near Benalla in northern Victoria. Who doesn’t want to see heritage emergency vehicles and 2000 other cars, bikes and trucks? Who doesn’t want to stare in wonder as 400 historic racing cars and motorbikes engage in non-stop racing at Winton?
But I’m going only to see Elwood’s own, rookie Soren Luckins, take his late uncle Kerry Luckins’ 1963 Toron round the track.
You all remember the Toron. Like most young people of his age whose immature minds had not been polluted by the evils of laptops, iPhones, iPads, iPods and books, Uncle Kerry was a racer and mechanical person who spent his spare time building race cars, studying particle theory with Michael McMichael (hence the name Toron) and probably ripping songs off the radio by recording them on his cassette recorder and playing them to young ladies while under the influence of the lava lamp.
Uncle Kerry built his own two-seat sports racer using an ultralight space frame chassis, a supercharged rear mounted Hillman 1500cc and fibreglass and aluminium for the body. Kezza successfully raced the Toron at Sandown Park, Tarrawingee, Winton, Templestowe and Rob Roy.
Just as he took the under 1500cc sports car record at the Lakeland hill climb, he was overcome with marriage and, dear readers, you know the rest. The mighty Toron, Australia’s own symbol of the nuclear age, was left, covered in lantana, parked under a tarp at the bottom of his garden.
Kezza’s nephew Soren rescued the car, brought it back to life and will be showing all and sundry just what Australia was like in the 60s at Winton.
Like any Australian patriot, I will be at the track in the bellbottom jeans, the tight T-shirt, the winklepickers, waving the “Go Kezza and Soren” sign. Brings tears to your eyes doesn’t it? The tight jeans, I mean. (Just before someone springs me for conflict of interest, can I report that I am a member in good standing of the Benalla Auto Club, operator of the Winton track, and have contributed to the sellout edition of the club magazine Pitstop).
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Yes friends, we have taken notice of your emails and defamation threats. You ask why we don’t do road tests like real motoring journalists like Phil King. I think you have your first clue in the word “real”.
Also, no car maker has ever offered us a car to test and only two car companies have ever agreed to our requests to lend us some metal. Ford said yes then thought better of it. Honda said yes to a Civic R but this paper’s Bill McKinnon beat us to it and did an excellent review of a great little hottie. So, last weekend we hired a Mercedes C300 from Europcar in Launceston.
Europcar has been given a hard time in the Fairfax press and this very column for alleged dodgy practices.
They have a tie-up with Porker collector and Virgin airline runner John Borghetti, who is an excellent chap despite his connections.
I understand why, when the Europcar operative at Lonnie airport saw a dodgy old codger like me appear at his counter in the used Weekend Australian Rally Team (WART) T-shirt, he asked for two credit cards. The Merc was $120 a day plus a collision damage waiver of $203, premium location fee of $160, Amex surcharge of $10.68, vehicle registration recovery fee of $22, admin fee of $32 and GST of $102. There was no surcharge for the Visa card. Banks look like saints.
The C Class is a $75,000 car. And it looks like it on the outside and inside. It looks like sedan sex on wheels. The interior, with more extras than the New York production of Les Miserables, is very luscious but the extras are so complex they require a brain surgeon to operate them.
Luckily, we had WART member, Adelaide renaissance figure, neurosurgeon, nude faith healer, BMW technologist and Coopers taster Michael McMichael (so good they named him twice) on board. After 87 agonising minutes he gave up trying to operate the cruise control, aircon, radio and said words to the effect of “if you want air on your face buy a fan and …” well, I can’t repeat the rest.
Now, like many auto companies of the German persuasion, Mercedes has succumbed to the turbocharged four-cylinder answer to government and emissions controls. Remember this is the company that allows Andrew Forrest to drive a V12 (while Nicola Forrest lets the side down by driving a Tesla) and produced a V20. Anyway, the C300 is a bit slow off the mark but it gets better as you go up the nine gears.
It handles pretty well but for some reason it feels like you are steering a front wheel drive.
Scrooge Michael’s (his kids are still waiting for the tooth fairy) view is that the C300 “did nothing for him but it’s OK for driving around the city but you would be better buying an Hyundai 130N and saving $35,000”.
Next weekend we’ll be back in Tassie for Targa Tasmania. Please come up to the Weekend Australian 1990 Beemer and have a chat to us. We have some T-shirts, pens that don’t work and free selfies. And Michael has a special offer on Tantric workshops