Car manufacturers will know we’re at their mercy and forced to swallow any old rubbish they roll on to a boat

Skid marks

David Morley

SPENT A few years as a kid in the Snowy Mountains, just as the construction of what was then the world’s biggest civil engineering project was coming to an end. So, instead of sharing a classroom with a mob of white-bread snot-noses who thought a bad day was a flat tyre on their Malvern Star, I went to school with kids whose parents had fairly recently fled post-war Europe and had a slightly different take on what constituted hardship.

One of those kids was a Hungarian nipper named Tamas (which quickly became Tommy) who’d been pestering his dad for a colour TV like (some of) the other families had. Now, Tommy’s old man was new to the whole TV thing, not just the colour angle. Fact was, Tamas Senior hadn’t had a dream run of things generally. Back in Hungary in the ’40s, a good day was one when the Germans weren’t parking a tank on his grandad. And things didn’t improve dramatically once the Russians marched in and started making the Krauts look like comedians.

So you can understand why Big Tamas didn’t put an especially high priority on a TV set with more than black, white and grey on board. But like most dads, he wanted little Tommy to be happy, he just went about it in a Russian-occupied, Eastern-Bloc kind of way. Figuring colour telly was just black and white telly with more, um, colour, Tamas taped a piece of green cellophane over the top half of the screen and a blue piece of the same stuff I over the bottom half. As a kid, it never occurred to me that he might have been taking the piss. I’m still not sure. Hell, maybe he wasn’t.

To be honest, if you were watching a documentary about lakes surrounded by mountains, old Tamas kind of nailed it. But for every other kind of TV show, it blew.

Newsreaders looked like muppets, the weather girl looked like she must have been seasick and standing in a bucket of ice and, if you were watching a show about farming in the outback, it looked like the world had gone teacups-up.

Little Tamas wasn’t impressed and foolishly expressed as much.

“Okay,” says Big Tamas, “is TV, yes?”

“Y-e-s,” Tommy replied, sensing a trap.

“And has colours, yes?”

“Yes,” Tommy reluctantly agreed.

“Zen iss colour TV. Haff you chopped wood yet?”

End of.

It’s an argument that’s right up there with “… and if your auntie had balls, she’d be your uncle” (which was once an irrefutable statement in the pre-transgender– revolution era I’m talking about).

Funny thing is, I’ve seen plenty of car companies pull the same stroke. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen a plodder of a four-door sedan grow a rear spoiler followed by a badge that says `Sports’. And what about the `GT’ badge? How many Clydesdales have suddenly been dubbed a GT with the addition of a set of alloys and a leather-wrapped shifter (and it’ll be an auto)?

It’s getting worse, too. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, a Falcon GT was not a 500 with a few tack-ons. Nope, they were up on power, had firmer suspension, a range of cosmetic stunts and, in extreme cases, a goddam air intake poking through the bonnet. Can’t imagine Toyota bolting a shaker onto a Camry to make a Sportivo, can you?

And now that we’re on the verge of not making cars here at all, I reckon it’ll get even worse. Car manufacturers will know that we’re at their mercy and forced to swallow any old rubbish they see fit to roll on to a boat. Without a local industry to keep the imports honest, we’ll all be driving bland-burgers, despite what the badge wants you to believe.

Big Tamas would disagree with me, of course: “Is car, yes?”.

“Um, y-e-s.”

“And has GT betch, yes?”