When we moved to Hobart in 2001 it was the middle of a mini boom (the state population had actually increased for the first time since 1969) and there was a chronic housing shortage. We needed to buy a house, and to scrape together the deposit sold a perfectly good Mercedes 190E 2.6 (what a sleeper) and a cross continent trailer towing Suzuki Vitara. With exactly $2000 to buy a car, always having had a secret fascination with the counter culture, ugliness and utility of Volvo 245 station wagons, and away from the prying eyes of status anxious friends back home in Queensland ended up with a mint condition example. It looked like a white hearse and was the last of the models with all the beautiful chrome work, including shaped roof racks.
When friends visited I loved their looks of wonder when we picked them up in the airport, and piled all their luggage onto the roof, folded out the “2 plus” seats from the boot floor for the extra kids, and off we went …. slowly…. but certainly adding to the wonderful “lost in time” atmosphere of southern Tasmania.
No long after we bought the car, pre dementia Dad came down for a holiday and we set off to Cradle Mountain. After looking at a map, he wisely assured me would arrive by lunchtime, to which I replied, “things happen” which unless you have ever lived in Tasmania you won’t know what I mean. Just up the Midland Highway there was a logging accident closing the highway. So the only option was via the Central Lakes and some of the most remote, unsealed, slippery and rutted roads in the state. At Bothwell, the home of golf in Australia, there was a vintage car rally from Western Australia, my Dad, having a 1926 Rugby (yes look it up there is a car called Rugby) spent a jolly time chatting about the merits of replacing his vacuum fuel systems with a 6 volt fuel pump for reliability on long distance rallies over a cup of tea or eight.
Just up the road, quite a bit of time later, we accounted a flock of 30,000 sheep being driven down for the winter from the Central Highlands. We know, as we had plenty of time to talk to the shepherds (yes they still call them that in Tassie) while we sat stationary for 2 hours, with sheep jumping over the bonnet. Even before we finally arrived at Cradle Mountain, we stopped for afternoon tea in Deloraine and we got attacked by a flock of geese who stole our cake and bit me. I don’t think they liked the Volvo 245. After an amazing day of landscapes and events and mud and the car not missing a beat we finally arrived at Cradle Mountain, where we had another adventure with 2 english backpackers lasses and negative 13 degree overnight temperatures but that is a story for another time.
I had to travel up to Bronte in the Central Highlands a lot with work and deliver training and the Volvo 245 regularly did the trip. Once whilst I was there for a week it got buried under a metre of snow over the roof. Four of the training participants (who were diesel fitters on their way to Antarctica and looked there were out of the Worlds Brawniest Ice Road Truckers Tv Show) needed to get back to Hobart, and the charter bus couldn’t get up through the snow. These fellows were pretty dismayed to find a 245 Volvo when we dug it out of the snow and one couldn’t help remarking “will it make it” with dismay. With their Antarctic Issue field kits piled high on the roof, and a sagging rear end providing excellent rear wheel traction on the ice we were off and had a remarkably beautiful and safe trip back in a snowy wonderland. Note: all cars in Tassie are fuelled by Special Antarctic Blend fuel which is stable and no waxing down to negative 32 degrees – it gets supplied for Antarctica and it is easier for everyone in Tassie to get the same fuel!
The Volvo 245 was a great car, comfortable seats, luxury brown velour interior, reliable but chronically underpowered motor, stable handling (but not at any speed) and masses of room for passengers and gear.
I can thoroughly recommend exploring Tasmania in a 23 year old Volvo. In that remarkable, atmospheric and lovely landscape “things happen”.