Motoring Years


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grandfather, Thomas O’Brien, was 6’4” and liked big cars like this 1939 Chev Sloper in photo 1. “This 1951 photo stop was seemingly in the middle of nowhere,” Paul says, “it was for my grandparents to give my mother some privacy breastfeeding my three-month-old sister in the back, near Corowa, NSW.”

Three years later, Thomas, changed to a Standard Vanguard Spacemaster, not content with the

acres of space in the last roomy ride. The Vanguard was “a magnificent car when it was going,” according to Paul, “The hammed-up crank-shake (in photo 2.) tells the story better than I ever could,” By 1956, the O’Brien Vanguard can be seen shuttling the family on plenty of picnic and camping adventures, accompanied by a Ford Prefect, owned by Thomas’ son, Paul’s old man. In 1955 photo 4 was taken of Paul’s mother with the Prefect. Earlier, during the war years however, it had been a different story for Thomas O’Brien’s motoring exploits. He was the Footscray Deer Park, Vic, bus driver (photo 5), where, Paul says, “He used to pick up chicks, literally.” “Taller than most ruckmen of the day, he was by all accounts popular with the female passengers. In 1967, Thomas O’Brien was still hooked on Vanguards and can be seen in photo 3 with his cousins, and in the car is the grinning younger version of Paul.

Photo 6 is from 1963 in New Zealand. “A Kiwi-issue Austin 8 with wafer-thin tyres belonging to Tom’s son, my uncle Len.”

The 1970s saw a dramatic change in ownership for Thomas, illustrated here in colour. He traded up (or down depending which camp you’re in) to a Holden Gemini in September 1978 (photo 7). “We couldn’t believe it,” says Paul, “He just about had to sit in the back seat to drive it! The lady in the shot was also the latest model; he married her within a year of my grandmother dying in 1963.”

“My brother started buying up British machinery that was going for a song in 1974,” Paul recalls. “He paid $500 for this always-garaged Jaguar Mk IX (in photo 8) in brand new condition in November 1973 from the wife of a retired company director who only drove it on Sundays to golf. The director died of heart failure on the 17th hole. The FC ute behind was my brother-in-law’s, who was more down-to-earth like the neighbours, in respective driveways with an obscured HJ and LJ.