My first really vivid memory of New Car Smell™ was in 1970 when my parents acquired a spanking new Ford Falcon 500 XW sedan. It was Australian assembled too. In those days that was an attribute highly prized, given the slap-dash way New Zealand’s CKD car assemblers did what they did. Particularly on Mondays or Fridays.
The Falcon had a full-rubber interior floor, rather than the more common carpeted fare in other cars, including New Zealand assembled Falcons. In the interior even the white bits were black. Boy, could it get hot in there when it was parked in the sun. Best of all it had a factory-fitted radio. I still remember sitting in the driver’s seat the day Dad brought it home, barely able to reach the pedals as Joni Mitchell paved paradise and put up a parking lot. I was intoxicated by its New Car Smell as I read the instruction manual that even had photographs in it!
It was a manual transmission -- three forward gears with the shifter on the steering column. A neighbour got a new Falcon at the same time. He wanted an automatic transmission. To get one he needed to get a note from his doctor attesting that he had a bung leg. No shit.
The family’s previous ride had been a 1963 Vauxhall Velox PB. It’s colour was “silver sage” which, in reality, was a dull sort of beige shade which didn’t do a great deal to enhance a car that was already singularly unexciting to look at. Bench seats front and rear. A full-circle chrome horn ring, and a speedo where a line appeared on a linear display, changing colour as the speed (in miles per hour way back then) increased. Power brakes were not standard kit. Dad had had a set of those fitted as an aftermarket addition. Nor did disc brakes figure anywhere. Drums back and front were all that were available to halt it, not that a 2.6 litre six-cylinder engine got it that excited. From memory I think Mr Vauxhall’s speedo display didn’t envisage these things going any faster than 120mph.
A bench seat in the front, with lap-diagonal seat belts for a driver and left-hand side passenger. No inertia reels, nothing for a centre front passenger nor occupants of the rear seat.
External rear view mirrors were not standard. Nor was a dipping interior mirror. Nor was a heated rear window. Neither was a radio. There were controls for a device that was supposed to heat the interior, and it sort of did. But the demisting fan was more than a little asthmatic.
But this beast was pretty reliable and ferried us hither and yon around Taranaki and towed all manner of stuff home in the farm’s trailer.
In those days six-cylinder Veloxes and Holdens were the staple rides of dairy farmers. Sheep farmers had V8s like Chevy Impalas, Studebaker Larks, and Ford Fairlaines. Things have changed a bit on that score.
My sister, brother and I went to the local primary school, a sole-charge-teacher affair about a mile up the road from the farm and about 300 feet higher in altitude, being that much closer to Egmont National Park.
One of the things that a school of about 20 pupils across Primmer 1 to Form 2 struggled to do was to provide sufficient numbers for age-group sports teams. This meant that primary school rugby involved collusion with about six or seven other primary schools in the vicinity. Our team was called “United” and we wore black-and-white hoops, just like the grown-up teams in Eltham and, as I discovered during a trip to Rugby Park in New Plymouth, just the same as Hawke’s Bay. Back in those days the Ranfurly Shield was something other teams played Taranaki for.
So Saturday sport involved “transport” duty for parents with kids in different teams that needed to be delivered to grounds anywhere from Eltham in the south, to Tariki in the north and every possible country school in between. There were quite a few of those back then. Early age grades were played barefoot, usually on frosty grounds, as rugby is a winter sport. Some playing fields were sheltered behind hedges or rows of trees on the sunny side, and frost may not have thawed until at least midday, if at all. Ouch.
The town schools were very civilised. Most had fields that were uniformly flat and had markings on them. All fields, irrespective of location, had goal posts but some of the country schools required a bit of extrapolation to figure out where the edges and things were.
One Saturday at Pukengahu School, our usual pre-game activity of stepping out distances to put up corner posts also required us to remove of a mob of dairy heifers that a local farmer had put into the paddock a few days earlier to chew the grass down. Thanks for that. Dairy cattle chew grass at one end, and shit it out at the other. When the pasture is fresh and lush, as Pukengahu International Stadium’s had been earlier in the week, the resulting shit is also lush and green. So too are the young chaps who then play for 40 minutes each way upon it. The numbers and colours of hoops on playing jerseys became somewhat irrelevant soon into the first half.
There were no such things as changing rooms and showers at the ground. It happened to be Dad’s turn on transport duties. So after the match six cow-shit-encrusted young lads were stripped down to their jocks and made to sit on a tarpaulin that had been stretched across the Velox’s back seat to minimise further damage until the tarnished occupants could be delivered safely home to their mums. That sort of behaviour would not be acceptable in this modern age of airbags and Mummy Wagons (whoops, SUVs).
The car smelt a bit after that. Not a New Car Smell either.