As I gathered my last signature and submitted my exchange application paperwork, my priorities were less scholastic and more centered on how I would scrape together enough money for an all-Aussie, ‘tyre' burning crap can and maybe some ramen.
Faced with a myriad of possible expenditures, I was forced to gather money from the sale of basically everything car-related that I owned. Tallying up what Citroen parts I could sell on eBay, the $250 AMC Javelin donor hulk, $500 in parts from my beloved Corolla, and some Studebaker bits from my parents' crawlspace, I was able to locate just enough for something Aussie and rear wheel drive. It's like going to Harbor Freight in search of something that's going to break.
Four days after my jetlagged ride home from the airport on the wrong side of a Holden Statesman, I picked up a copy of The Trading Post, which is essentially a printed copy of craigslist in its entirety with similar levels of proofreading. My eyes went immediately to the ad that read "Ford Falcon S pac 1989 RWD navy blue, sedan, 3.9ltr 5sp manual, Lowered, sports exhaust, alloy wheels, 3mnths reg $1200". My fingers read the number right into my phone, punctuating it with ‘Send' before the gears of logic had even started to move. The phone rang several times and a gruff, very rural sounding voice answered the phone. It was difficult to talk over The Price is Right and not much useful information was exchanged but we agreed on a time to meet anyway.
Sitting in the glass breezeway of the sketchiest train station in the greater Melbourne metro area, Dandenong, with $1,200 cash in my pocket while watching local heroin addicts spray each other with aerosol cans of unknown contents, I couldn't help but feel a little uneasy. The fact that the owner suggested we meet in such a place made me wonder whether this car even existed, but all doubts were erased when I saw the faded blue paint and heard the lopey rumble of that semi-foreign foreign straight-six. Too nervous try out my right-hand-drive motoring skills in a car that currently belonged to a large, mulletted gentleman wearing a muscle shirt full of various Falcons amongst florescent squiggles, likely designed by the same people who penned my 2nd grade Trapper Keeper, I suggested that a ride-along might be the best way to feel it out. Twenty minutes later, we were met by his son in a Cleveland-equipped, lime green XB Falcon who kindly dropped me off at VicRoads, the Aussie equivalent of the DMV. In a sendoff only true bogans could perfect, they wished me the best of luck by performing a power brake burnout visible as clearly from space as from behind the administrative desks of VicRoads. An hour later I was the registered owner of an EA Ford Falcon - the Fox Box of the South Seas.
Aside from being used for practical purposes to the point of boredom, the Falcon was also subject to track abuse in the name of several CAMS time trials, being whored out to car-less and possibly license-less friends, and being a victim to my occasional right-hand-driving ‘learning experiences' for close to six months, only needing only a used alternator. I had passed my classes by slim margins and by now - a couple weeks after my lease expired - I was couch surfing my way around the dorm rooms and homes of local friends, spending the occasional night in the Falcon. Tiring of stagnation, my best friend from Raleigh showed up for what was to be the greatest road trips since the passing of the dinosaurs. Only one rule held true: no planning allowed.
We left Melbourne with everything that you would take on a month-and-a-half jaunt across a place you had never been to and had no expectations of. Stinky, used sleeping bags from ‘The Salvos', canned goods, and an assortment of warm beers filled the car to the line of sight. GVW is a suggestion that we were taking lightly. Unfortunately, that suggestion was taken too lightly and the mild clunk that spoke softly from just above the right rear wheel turned into a wallop that would heave the car to the right side of the road, followed by some illegal suspension geometry that would bind and shoot the vehicle the other direction. The faster you went, the greater the risk of filling your pants. We stopped for fours days at a deer farm (apparently they want more variety to their roadkill) and worked off our keep until an new upper control arm bushing and transmission mount arrived.
The rest of the trip went smoothly from the car side - about 5,000 miles in total. Bombing down Outback dirt highways and dodging the road trains was not a problem, neither were the two frontal and side impacts suffered from kangaroos. It was used as a tent in sugar cane fields until farmers started yelling, served as a parking lot refuge after the Three Rivers Pub shut for the night, and was subjected to offroad duty while lost in the bush. The stories from that car are pretty much endless and worth every penny that I never got back. I couldn't the car before I left and as far as I know, it's still at the university.
In February, four years after leaving, I talked to a friend at my former school. "Yeah, mate, she's still here but barely and maybe not for long. Three flat tires, stolen license plates, sun-bleached paint, and we've all lost the keys." . I'm going back in December and plan to do it all again, but I'll bring my portable air compressor and 12 volts to see if it's ready for another go. If not, I know this great magazine called The Trading Post, maybe someone's up for a trade.
This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"