The traditional view of classic and sports cars is that it is a bloke’s domain. But in Bendigo there is evidence that the world of polished fenders is attracting both genders.

By Linda Barrow

Or, as one wit put it: Couples who drive together thrive together.
Bendigo is home to a wide range of specialist car clubs including sports, classic, veteran and single-make car clubs and you’ll see them out and about in droves on sunny Sundays.
Take a closer look. There’s a strong chance that there’ll be a couple in the cab.
It’s turning out to be a pastime that couples can share, no matter their age or mechanical ability.
So we thought we’d step behind the scenes to chat to three Bendigo couples to find out what’s driving this movement.


Graeme and Gaye
As the owner of Ultimate Tyre and Auto in Kangaroo Flat, you’d think that Graeme Jenkins would have seen enough of cars in his day job.
But for him, cars are a lifetime passion. He is happy to work on them — and drive them to their limits — in his spare time.
Graeme has a very sporty orange 1970 Triumph TR6; an early 80s green Mazda RX7; a couple of motorbikes … and a bright purple and wonderfully quirky 1976 Kombi Van.
Graeme has always enjoyed the fast-tracked, competitive, racing side of things – as a young bloke he started with motocross and go-karts, and with his current fleet of cars, he still races now, competing at places such as Winton and Phillip Island.
It’s fair to say the Kombi was not Graeme’s first choice as a vehicle, but his wife Gaye had always wanted one.  So, one day, several years ago, he told her he would be late home from work: he had to call in to help his father who was unwell.
Instead, he secretly took a train to Swan Hill (“As far as the train went.”); then a bus to Mildura; then a taxi to the place selling the vehicle: then drove the second-hand Kombi all the way back to Bendigo.
When he finally got home he asked Gaye to get his lunchbox out of the car, but when she went to the “car” she found a cream Kombi van with “Jessie” painted on the side.
“I didn’t even know he’d left Bendigo,” says Gaye.
The Kombi is no longer cream, or called Jessie, but in its new life it still has its fair share of adventures.
Most notably, its pop-top randomly flew up and open when they were travelling at about 100kmh – apparently Kombis can do that — on the way back from a trip to Byron Bay.
The top stubbornly refused to sit back down, so they had to sling a bright orange rope from a service station around it. Gaye spent the rest of the trip sitting on an Esky in the back of the Kombi, holding on to the ropes.
“It’s always an adventure going out in an old car,” says Gaye.” You never know what’s going to happen.”
“I can’t believe how many people of our age are involved in car clubs. You meet new people, have weekends away and travel to new places. It’s great,” says Gaye.
“It’s something men and women can enjoy together.”


Rob and Wendy
Rob and Wendy Cowling came to the Bendigo Sports and Classic Car Club (BSCCC) through their lovely cream 1962 Triumph TR4.
They say the change of rules regarding car club registration has made it far more accessible for people to drive an older car.
“Several people have more than one car,” says Wendy. “It’s great that you can get out and you are not paying up to $700 in registration per car.”
They have also done six events with the RACV Fly The Flag group, and have done a couple of trips with the Castlemaine MG club. Rob is currently planning an alpine trip.
While Rob enjoys the strategy and planning (and the driving) Wendy believes it’s good for everyone.
“You get to enjoy each other’s company and other people’s company, and you see places you otherwise wouldn’t see.”


Rod and Sally
For Rod and Sally Thompson, motoring adventures are an important break from their busy jobs running the Bendigo Pottery complex.
Sally was a welded-on cyclist when she first met Rod, but she says he has now taught her a ”wonderful appreciation of classic cars”.
Rod’s love of cars started in his early 20s when he started rallying Datsun 1600s in club rallies in NSW and Victoria. In 2003 he bought his first open top Datsun Roadster … and never looked back.
They now own three 1968 Datsun 2000 Sports Roadster models (plus enough spare parts to make another one!) and a Nissan 350Z.
“I enjoyed the Roadster so much. I wanted to fix and improve it, and therefore got a second one, so I could be working on one and one could be driven. The third one is a dedicated race car,” says Rod.
Rod loves his serious racing, and his engines to the extent that he does a lot of work in his home garage — complete with hoist — and is involved in plenty of R and D with a guy known as “the Guru” in Melbourne.
“It’s a constant development and improvement with cars. It’s a quest for the most powerful engine,” says Rod.
The Roadster is so much fun to drive with its convertible top down that they try to take the top down as much as possible – well, at least until the temperature goes below eight degrees.  After that they get ice on the windscreen.
Rod and Sally are members of several different car clubs, including the Datsun Sports Roadster Club of Victoria, which attracts a wide range of drivers – mechanics, lecturers, a priest. The only thing these people have in common is their car and their willingness to be involved. And that is enough to forge a strong bond of friendship.
It was on one of these trips that the most extraordinary thing happened.
Rod and Sally were driving through relentless fog and rain over the NSW Alps, when the man driving behind them started beeping his horn and flashing his lights.
They pulled over to find that their fuel tank was virtually dragging on the ground. The tank is normally held on by two straps, but one had snapped and disappeared.
Luckily the guy behind them had a strap to help out … ironically the exact same strap that Rod had given him two years earlier when his own fuel tank had come adrift!
But it’s to Sally that the final word comes: “You get in the car, and you are all set to go and you breathe a big sigh. You leave the working day behind. It’s totally rejuvenating.”