This section aims to help familiarise you with the Committee Members of the Club and let them share their story with you.
This month, the spotlight is on Chris Gallagher!
Hi everyone, I’m Chris Gallagher.
I have been retired now for some six years. Before then I was in the Commonwealth Public Service, after having accepted a position in the Department of the Treasury straight after graduating from the University of WA. Those were the days! We could afford to be “job snobs”. I didn’t want to be in the Public Service but I told myself that at least it was a job and I could move on after a couple of years. That “couple of years” stretched out to forty!
My work was always in a policy area, first in economics and then the law. Policy work is hard to describe for anyone unfamiliar with the mechanics of government. Suffice to say that policy wonks do the detailed thinking and planning for Ministers to implement the objectives of the government of the day. My last position (from which I retired) was in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the department that all public servants love to hate, unless they work there.
When I retired, I moved to Melbourne which was something I had been thinking of doing for some time. No major reason. I just wanted to try living somewhere different and I haven’t regretted the move for a moment. Melbourne has so much to offer.
I first joined the Canberra Chapter of Motafrenz which our friend Stuart Poole was instrumental in setting up. I had already known Stuart as a fellow car enthusiast for some years. Sadly, the Canberra Chapter had to close. However, I maintained my membership with Motafrenz, first as as an interstate, and now as a Melbourne member.
My current position on the Committee is alternate AOMC representative with Jeff Whitehead. The role is to attend AOMC quarterly meetings and to report back to our members.
I have owned an eclectic variety of cars. My first car that I bought in 1975 was a two-year old Mazda 929 sedan, finished in white with a metallic gold vinyl interior. Not thrilling to drive but reliable transport until a blown head gasket made me sell it.
That was followed by my first brand new car, a 1980 Honda Accord hatchback finished in pale green. Looking back, I am astounded how much smaller it was than the current “small” Honda Civic. I was also surprised at how expensive it was to maintain. So much for Japanese cars being cheap. So I sold it after three years and embarked on many years of old Italian cars as daily drivers. I thought that if a car is going to be expensive to maintain it might as well be interesting and fun.
So here’s the list:
- 1979 Alfa Alfetta 2000 sedan
- 1982 Ford Cortina sedan Mark V (an aberration – ignore that)
- 1968 Alfa Giulia GT Sprint coupé
- 1970 Alfa 1750 Berlina
- 1972 Alfa 2000 Berlina
- 1966 Alfa Giulia Super berlina
- 1970 Alfa 1750 coupé
- 1962 Fiat 500 Giardiniera (station wagon)
- 1972 Lancia 2000 Berlina (my first Flavia)
- 1969 Lancia Flavia 2000 PF coupé
- 1964 Triumph TR4 roadster
- 1962 Triumph TR4 surrey top
- 2000 Holden (Opel) Astra hatchback (my second new car and it is still a friend’s daily driver)
- 2008 Ford Focus XR5 hatchback in Electric Orange (what else? My third new car.)
I’ve probably forgotten a few, but only because they were in my hands for a short time. You can see from the list that I am partial to 105 series Alfa Giulias because they all featured the ultimate versions of the classic twin cam four. To this day I can still identify one with Weber carburettors by sound alone.
I currently have three cars, two of which are on club plates. My favourite is the 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza coupé. When I was growing up, Mum used to buy lots of magazines, one of which was the (now extinct) Saturday Evening Post from the USA. Every September there was an insert detailing the new model cars.
Corvairs appealed to me from an early age because they were so different from the usual American fare. Remember we are talking about the early sixties here. The FB/EK series Holden was what we got, which were in my eyes even more dated and dowdier rubbish than the FC series it replaced. By comparison, even run-of-the-mill Chevys in the USA were impossibly glamourous.
How did I get my Corvair? Well a good friend of mine in Canberra liked to buy and import US classics and flip them. I casually mentioned that I would rather like a Corvair someday, not expecting any reaction. Two days later he has found one in Houston and negotiated a good price for me. I bought it on the basis of photos (brave, or foolhardy?)
Fast forward three months and there it was on the back of a truck in my driveway. In my excitement to get it off the truck, I tried to start it up. First mistake. That spread stale US petrol right through the fuel system, wreaking havoc. It took a lot of work to get it running. A new fuel tank, gauge sender unit, fuel lines, all the rubber components in the suspension and other hidden but important parts that Americans ALWAYS overlook, and too many other things to remember.
I got to know Clark’s Corvair Parts in Massachusetts really well, but it was worth it. The Corvair runs beautifully and is a total pleasure to drive, being totally unlike the wallowing land yachts of its era, apart from the 5,000 or so turns of the steering wheel from lock top lock. Well, some Americana has to stay present.
My other club car is a 1969 Rover 3.5 Litre (P5B) saloon. These stately conveyances appealed to me again from a young age. The father of my best friend at school had a 3.5 Coupé as his company car for a couple of years. I have vivid memories of being ferried around in the leather armchairs in the back, so I wanted one someday. Collecting classic cars is all about nostalgia, isn’t it? Again, I found my car through a friend. I attended the estate auction of the John Flynn Rover collection in Canberra a couple of years ago but no car really suited despite most being unbelievably cheap.
Anyhow, my friend pointed me in the direction of another estate sale in Katoomba in NSW. This is the car was in excellent overall condition, unlike the Flynn cars, and it is the car I now own. I collected it from Sydney and intended to drive back to Melbourne, with an overnight stop in Canberra. January 2017 was extremely hot in NSW and I just made it to Canberra. I then arranged to have it trucked the rest of the way because of the heat. The car coped fine, but the driver didn’t!
It needed a little bit of work to make it really good, but nothing too outrageous. I had to go through the drive train to try and locate a vibration at highway speed and as a matter of course rebushed the suspension. It now runs well. There is nothing like wafting around in leather upholstered luxury in a Rover P5B. But not in hot weather.
My daily driver is a Renault Mégane RS 265, which I bought new in 2013. It is massive fun to drive unless the road is very bumpy in which case the hard ride palls very fast. It is my usual transport for the occasions when you want air conditioning, music, wipers that wipe, headlights that light the way, a heater that heats and, most importantly, heated seats in winter.