Tom Manton says he’s about seventy-eight but he’s vain that way and we think he’s about eighty. He’s a wiry little bloke, long-armed short-winded and rarely seen hatless.
Tom’s been driving a Ford Side Valve V8 ute bought second hand in 1942 but rust and wood-rot has put him on the road to Eden today with the intention of visiting Vic Morris the second-hand car dealer. Tom had been told that Vic has a 1951 second hand Holden FX ute in his yard.
Tom spotted the FX six down in the front row as he pulled into the yard. He parked by the fence, got out of the V8 and headed towards the dealer’s shack. Vic met him at the door, all smiles and handshakes.
‘Wouldn’t mind a look at the FX,’ said Tom.
Down the row they went, Vic in the lead, waving his arms about and yapping like a cattle-dog.
Tom walked around the ute once, then he did it again but this time he pushed down each corner and watched it come back.
‘Mind popping the bonnet?’
Vic obliged and stood back. Tom peered in. Took a slow look around the sides, front and back. Pulled out the dipstick, smeared a little oil on his finger then slid it back. Wiped the finger carefully on his shorts.
‘Can you give it a start?’
Vic lent through the driver’s window and turned on the ignition. Tom listened for a bit then unscrewed the radiator cap, gave the inside a good look, screwed it back on and stood back, waved at Vic.
Vic turned the engine off.
‘Haven’t got a box of matches have you?’
Tom took a match from Vic and fitted it into the gap between the driver-side door and body panel, then he walked around the car and did the same thing on the other side. Flicked the match into the weeds.
‘You want to uncover the tray for us?’
Vic walked around the back of the ute, popped all the studs and pulled back the tarp. Tom lent over and peered in and all around.
‘Whaddya reckon’ asked Vic, ‘seen enough?’
‘Maybe,’ said Tom, straightening up. ‘How much do you want for it?’
‘Sixty-five quid, rounded down from one hundred.’
Tom lifted his hat and scratched his old head.
‘I’ll give you five.’
Vic laughed. Shook his head at the idiocy of it.
‘Howabout a Ford Prefect, got one in the back row.’
‘I’m after a Holden.’
Vic shook his head again.
‘I’m not taking five.’
Tom lifted his hat brim and looked up at the sun. An hour after midday. Vic might have wondered why a man wearing a watch would do that.
‘She’s got a few problems.’
Vic a little pissed off now, thinking the whole deal a waste of time.
‘Suspension’s buggered, fore and aft.’
‘Bearings sound like marbles in a tin.’
‘Bodywork’s not factory, demo was it?’
‘Head gasket needs lookin’ at. I suppose you knew that?’
Vic is not liking this day.
‘What did the last bloke haul around, boulders?’
A small brown dog trotted into the yard and pissed on the driver side wheel of the car nearest the gate then turned and trotted out.
‘Haven’t looked at the suspension bumps yet, should I?’