Talking to Norm Raverty about cars is a lesson in history — mainly about the American motor industry.
A regular visitor to the United States over the years, Norm has imported a lot of cars and bought even more from around Australia.
His collection is so vast he even has his own motor museum set up on Ogilvie Ave in Echuca.
He built the shed 40 years ago after running into trouble with the council over the number of cars he was collecting at his old place in Hovell St.
He called the shed a museum and set it up for educational purposes to get around town planning issues.
He had 14 A-model and nine T-model Fords when he started but that collection ballooned to 108 vehicles, including cars, trucks and caravans.
He even owns a car that will turn 100 next year — a 1918 T-model Ford owned by the Vickers family of Lockington.
‘‘I’ve always loved old cars,’’ Norm said, borne out by the fact he was a founding member of the Echuca and District Historical Car and Motorcyle Club in 1982.
His first car was a 1928 Pontiac which he had at age 16.
His next car was a 1939 Ford Mercury which he took on his honeymoon, driving it to Surfers Paradise and back 56 years ago.
A cabinet maker by trade, he finished his apprenticeship and became a shearer for 20 years.
It allowed him to drive around farms looking for old cars.
He taught himself how to fix cars and built his first hot rod 50 years ago.
‘‘The first one I did up was a 1934 Chev Coupe,’’ Norm said.
‘‘It was across the road behind a dairy, I got it for nothing.’’
Each car that has passed through his collection has a story.
‘‘I wished I kept a lot of the cars,’’ Norm said.
‘‘I had the only 1927 Marmon Tourer ragtop.
‘‘They only made the sedans in Amercia and they only made tourers in Melbourne and I had the only one of its kind in the world.’’
There’s a 1932 Sports Coupe he drove back from Cairns and a 1923 Gardner four-cylinder, one of only four in Australia.
‘‘The Gardner company only ran from 1919 to 1931,’’ Norm said.
‘‘After World War One ended in 1918, all the companies who made guns and ammunitions had to do something so they went into making cars.
‘‘There were 6000 makes of cars in the 1920s.
‘‘There was a big glut. All the companies borrowed money and when the big stock market crash came along in 1929, they all went broke.’’
One car of note in his museum is a 1934 Ford Coupe V8, a two-door version of the bullet-ridden four-door sedan which American outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in back in 1934.
‘‘It was the first of the double barrel carburetors and could do 80mph,’’ Norm said.
‘‘Police cars back then were two-door A-models which could only do 50mph.’’
Bank robber Clyde Barrow even wrote a letter to Henry Ford congratulating him on ‘‘how dandy’’ a car he had made.
‘‘He wrote it outside a bank,’’ Norm said of the infamous criminal’s letter.
The letter, a copy of which Norm has beside the car, goes on to say: ‘‘I have drove (sic) Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned.’’
The 1946 Ford Convertible Club Coupe super deluxe model is what Norm refers to as his ‘‘wax on wax off’’ car.
That’s because it’s the same model used in the 1984 movie Karate Kid in which bonsai master Mr Miyagi instructs his young apprentice Daniel to wax his car, the ‘kid’ being completely unaware this mind-numbing chore is actually a pretty cool martial arts training technique.
When Norm bought the car, it was in bad shape.
‘‘It had the frame on it but the rest of it was bare,’’ he said.
‘‘Everything was rusted. It was a real wreck.’’
Norm spent four years working on it and it’s now been on the road for about eight years.
Everything has been rebuilt on it.
‘‘It’s got a whole new front on it from a ute I had in the paddock.
‘‘There’s a new bonnet, new steering and grill.
The car has an original 1946 sidevalve V8 motor in it.
‘‘From 1932 to 1954 Ford had the same motor, they just increased the horsepower from 65 to 110 in that time,’’ Norm said.
‘‘It runs beautiful. Runs quiet.
‘‘This is the South American model so it has a different roofline. The Australian models had the roof right down at the back so you couldn’t see out of them.’’
The car has been converted to right hand drive and Norm has even been able to track down some headlights to install in the holes either side of the windscreen.
‘‘I found one light and went to America to get another one.’’
Norm has also changed the system for activating and deactivating the roof.
‘‘You had to have the motor running to put the hood down,’’ he said.
‘‘It was a hydraulic pump system with copper pipes running through it. Now it’s a different system.’’
WHERE DID YOUR CAR COME FROM?
Originally from South America — Argentina to be precise — before Norm acquired it off a car collector at Peak Hill in NSW.
‘‘I had a bloke come in all the time trying to buy cars off me,’’ Norm said.
‘‘He imported it and I bought it off him about 12 years ago.’’
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE CAR?
‘‘The fact that it’s a convertible,’’ Norm said.
‘‘It’s the same as the one in the Karate Kid film, the wax on wax off car.
‘‘I thought then I absolutely love that car and I would get it one day. And I got it.’’
SO WHAT’S YOUR PERFECT CAR?
‘‘That one,’’ he says, pointing to the ‘‘waxonwaxoff’’ coupe.
‘‘I just love them. I’ve always loved that model — the 46, 47, 48 models,
AND WHAT’S NEXT?
Norm wants to finish the 1972 Oldsmobile Convertible he bought in Hawaii but admits time is against him.
‘‘I’m slowing down a bit. The 34 Ford may be the last car I do. It depends how long I live.’’
Nevertheless, Norm will keep opening his museum ever day and educate anyone who drops in about old cars and the seemingless endless motoring accessories and odd and ends he has collected over the years.
‘‘It’s just a hobby,’’ he says.