Before you jump to thinking this is a Defenders of the Wilderness Save The Forests chest pointy log entry well no, it's not, not directly anyway. In fact, it will at first seem counterintuitive of such matters but stay with me on this, it is going somewhere.
The Johnson family came to Queenstown around 1977 and moved into a house on the corner of King and Selby streets. I had to walk past that house on the way to Queenstown Central primary school.
'We welcome you to Central our school in Queenstown
Where mountains of pink wear white snow for a crown
Where we learn and we strive, to enrich all our lives
At Central our school in Queenstown'
Oh, I still remember the school song. Colin and Dianne Johnson came to town with their three children. The eldest, Scott, a little over a year older than me was quite the sporting type. Aussie rules footy and cricket mainly. Leesa was in the same class as me in school and Corey slightly younger. And why did they come to live at the end of urbanisation? Well, money of course. The promise of a generous fortnightly paycheck from working at the Mt Lyell mines accompanied by the almost cost free but high standard of schooling, medical services and a suitable house with a peppercorn rental, all of which were reasons most people came to the Lyell district in those days. But it's not all beer and skittles for this is at the farthest flung urban corner of Van Diemens land where at times incessant rain, sub zero temperatures and snow choked roads heightened the profound sense of isolation. Even today, Queenstown is perceived to be the ragged edge of civilisation.
But there was easy big money. The 1890's success of the Pyritic Smelter necessitated the Mt Lyell ABT railway to move the metallic bounty to Macquarie harbour then shipped to Melbourne for distribution. Logistic sensibilities backloaded goods for the vibrant cashed up people of Lyell meaning shiploads of Victorian beer for the 14 pubs got backfreighted in as did the latest Melbourne fashions and luxuries.
There are still undertones of Victoria here today and one thing still prominent is Australian rules football.
One has to wonder, what would possess anyone to take up residence in Wilderness frontier Tasmania and play this tough game made all the more tougher being played on the infamous gravel surface in what could sometimes be the harshest of conditions??... Money of course. Attractive incentives could be earned by coaches, captains and imported stars if the team won. Colin Johnson was a football star who would be the playing coach of a footy club to really crank up the earnings. As a child I had to tag along to the games with mum when she would work the coffee and cake shop under the grandstand. The teams were Lyell, City, Smelters and Gormanston but after more scaling back of the mining operations in 1976 this changed to the Western Tasmanian Football Association (WTFA).
The four key teams that had battled it out on the gravel grounds of Queenstown and Gormanston were amalgamated with City and Smelters combining to form the new team of Queenstown, Lyell and Gormanston would amalgamate into Lyell/Gormanston and now that everyone had cars and the roads were developed to something we could relate to today the nearby towns of Zeehan, Rosebery and Tullah could field teams. Rosebery could even contribute two clubs, Rosebery and Toorak! The footy of Western Tasmania was as strong as ever and everybody lived where the wealth was. If you worked there, you lived there with the Copper/Gold/Silver mining wealth fueling a lifestyle to be envied.
The cars that people drove between towns and parked around the boundaries of the footy grounds where people would barrack and sound horns when their team put one through became important.
Some of these people only had a passing interest in the footy but it was a great place to be seen with the car and for them..... Bathurst day was their granny!
My dad drove a Valiant Safari wagon and it took me a few years to understand what the 'leaning tower of power' meant. Chrysler cleverly engineered a 225 cubic inch displacement inline 6 cylinder with the crank tunnel and cylinder head offset casting the engine block with the cylinders off vertical. The engine looked like it was simply mounted about 20 degrees off vertical to the chassis and body but in fact was not. It was done like this to allow much more room for the intake and exhaust to be optimally engineered and so was known as the 'Slant Six'.
One night, after mum and dad had been away all day having driven to Burnie and back!, which was a big deal then, dad had traded the trusty wagon and that's when I saw the big new gunmetal grey 265 Hemi Valiant Ranger. I still remember the relentless acceleration and I don't recall dad ever being overtaken.
Reflecting the wealth of Queenstown was the disproportionately high number of performance cars from the magic Australian era of production car racing that could be summed up with one word....Bathurst.
One day in 1978 I walked down to King street and parked in the Johnson family drive was a brand new Atlantis blue
Holden HZ GTS.
I stopped and stared in wonder at this beautiful thing. I overheard an adult conversation about the smooth power of the 5L V8, the amazing four wheel disc brakes and a comment that I knew I wasn't meant to hear about the power steering 'I could steer it with my dick'. Mr Johnson went on to say 'driving it over to the game today'. The game was in Zeehan and I was lucky enough to go along that day in the back of this awesome car.
The crisp sound from those stereo exhausts of 8 Australian designed and manufactured cylinders in V configuration firing in beautifully timed order delighted this 10 year old.
12 years later I saw a Supermint Metallic example of one of these beauties in a Hobart yard for sale and test drove it. The Australian designed 5L Holden V8 produced a healthy amount of reliable horsepower as standard but a substantial power increase can be realised with just a camshaft and exhaust change and this particular car had both of these, an electric cooling fan and a twin point ignition distributor. When I got it onto the Brooker highway I gave it full throttle in 3rd gear, watched the tachometer needle easily pass the factory redline and 160Kmh... then I slipped it into 4th gear. Needless to say, I happily handed over the asking price.
It was our family car for a few years until I parked it in a shed one day from where it rarely moved for the next 22 years.
Until, one day, the time came.
Needless to say, I have always loved a nice classic V8 rear drive performance car.
Some say, given my obvious stance on environmental conservation this rings of hypocrisy.... or does it? (That's a Clarkson)
V8 Automobile engines are among the most efficient internal combustion reciprocating engine designs and although it appears that battery electric cars are the way of our future, certainly with regards to the daily commute, this post is not intended to get right into the argument of the virtues versus the hideousness of the electric promise. Let's first examine the internal combustion engine.
1826, the first combustion engine designs were fueled with Ethanol which has been used as heating fuel since the 17th century. Early appliances called spirit stoves fueled with Ethanol could heat food and people without contaminating or producing noxious fumes.
1860, Mr Otto developed the 4 cycle combustion engine and the preferred fuel was Ethanol. Henry Ford brings cars to the masses in 1908 with the model T. It was first manufactured to run on Ethanol with Gasoline as an option. *Worthy of note : A battery electric example that Ford himself drove was prototyped as well.*
A wikipedia 'timeline of ethanol fuel' perusal will undoubtedly leave one questioning as to why on earth are we not pumping this sun juice into our fuel tanks.
It's clean, it's totally renewable, it's safer, we can produce it ourselves and it has a substantial carbon offset.
I saw how Ethanol as fuel works first hand in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa where Ethanol production plants fed mainly with the waste of the immense corn crop produced clean fuel.
Fuel that I saw being pumped into Australian manufactured Pontiac GTO's!
I thought this was simply brilliant so when I got home I strongly invested in an Australian company that promised to produce Ethanol fuel in Australia for Australians. Even though slow to evolve Australia hadn't really caught on yet I thought this a sound ethical investment with regard to environment and Australian economics. I proudly purchased an Australian manufactured Pontiac Commodore powered with a 6 litre GM V8 that performed best with 85% sun juice! (Most motorsport disciplines had already adopted E85 or 100% Ethanol)
Yearrrp, that didn't go so well.... I avoid the topic of share investment at social occasions but still bang on about the glory days of owning and driving those cars.
Well, I'm still yet to be convinced that Ethanol is not viable. It was working long before governments taxed it out of the game as Big Oil refined dinosaur juice to produce Kerosene for street lighting and fuel stoves. A byproduct of this process, Gasoline, which was mostly being dumped was tried in fuel stoves but having a tendency to explode it looked like Mr Rockefeller's fortunes may have peaked.
But then, it was found to work just fine in Mr Ford's automobile engines and team Rockefeller pressed that point hard whilst the Governments increased the tax on Ethanol. Meanwhile over in Germany, Mr Rudolph Diesel's oil injection engine first ran on peanut oil and it was his intent that his invention would be fueled with vegetable oil but it was determined it would be fueled with Rockefellers refined Dinojuice aptly labeled Diesel fuel. Later the jet age capped things right off for Dinoco when gas turbines began burning massive amounts of good old Kerosene, as they still do today.
In reality, people who think deeply about these subjects have known since the days of Kerosene lights and stoves that refining crude oil could never be a lasting solution. For even though our planet has vast amounts of stored hydrocarbon it is a finite resource and one day we would have to do something else.
Some time later people who think rather deeply began warning us all that burning all this crude oil based fuel is releasing massive amounts of stored carbon as gas to atmosphere without offset. These emissions coupled with the increasing destruction of natural forest is changing the air, making the planet surface warmer which is starting to make life hard so we had better crack on with finding a different way.
So it seems we are set to generate much more electricity to charge batteries made from Copper, Tin, Zinc, Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel, Lead, Aluminium and plastic which will have to be mined and refined in increased quantity. Used up batteries will very quickly become a waste problem unless we can come up with a way to recycle and exchange.
Elon, I don't think this is what Mr Tesla envisaged but apparently battery electric is happening anyway.
Me, I still think Sunoco is great.