COAL: 1962 Dodge Lancer, Part IV • A Stop

The car carried on snoozing in Michigan, some 18,000 km (11,000 miles) away from its new home in Australia. Shee-yoot, that’s nearly ten times the distance the car came from its original owner in Orinda, California to my father and me in Englewood, Colorado all those years ago in 1990! The buyer needed time to make a bunch of complicated arrangements—inland transport to a port of departure in the states, export clearance paperwork, transoceanic transport to Australia, import clearance paperwork, and all the rest.

Not just the car, but also my 3-decade mountain of parts, accessories, and literature for the car; those were part of the deal. Everything from bitty knobs and small emblems all the way up to extra bumpers, and that exterior front sunshade would be travelling back to Australia as well. Some parts went elsewise, but most of them got packed and palletted with great skill and talent into a very big crate: 72 × 40 × 32 inches (183 × 102 × 81 cm); 400 pounds (182 kg):

I took off the Cibié CSR headlamps, which would’ve been useless, unsafe, and illegal in Australia’s left-side traffic. Instead I installed a new old stock set of some of the world’s first-ever halogen sealed beam headlamps, very nicely made by the British Sealed Beam Syndicate (a consortium of Lucas-Ediswan, Thorn, and one or two other companies). These dated from the mid-late ’60s and seemed very appropriate for this ’62 car. And what else was I ever going to do with a set of left-traffic headlamps? On they went.

There were some big, threatening questions in the process. For example, Australia has very stringent laws against the import of asbestos or products containing it, even if it be completely encapsulated or otherwise sequestered from general exposure, and old cars are a high target for enforcement of those laws. So there would have to be picky inspections by approved inspectors, and surely some parts would have to be replaced (or at least removed) before the car would be allowed into Australia. Some nails got gnawed over this one; it’s easy enough to replace brake pads and shoes, but there is only one kind of cylinder head gasket for the aluminum Slant-6 engine, and it’s a copper-faced asbestos item. Eventually the relevant authorities granted approval without confiscating the head gasket, though they did insist on new front brake pads.

The car departed Michigan in December 2019, and landed in Australia in May 2020, a little over two years after the buyer came looking at it and roughly four years after I first raised the idea with him. That’s a whole lot of hundreds of beige-Camry-sale timeframes. Remember that big, carefully-palleted, 53.3-ft3 (1,510-litre) crate of parts? It looked like this on arrival:

Fortunately, there was much less damage than this jarring photo makes one fear, and the car itself made it in good nick:

So this brings us full-circle, then, with the alpha-and-omega car that bookended both the start and the end of my serious, direct involvement with running, driveable old cars. I was right in my letter to that other club member, as it turns out; every now and then I get a little wistful, but overwhelmingly I’m happy the car has gone retiring to a warm, sunny, dry place where it’s well-loved and kept company amidst its fellows. It is a hell of a fine car. We had a lot of fun with it—thanks for taking a chance on my nutty idea, dad!—and now its new owner is tending and mending and perfecting it. He just wrote me the other day that he’s doing the driver’s floor this week and the new headliner (which was in that big crate) next week.

I can’t foresee it now, but perhaps one day I’ll go to Australia after all and finally get to go to one of those car shows they have with nothing but early Valiants…and one particular green Lancer.

Now, of the whole sale process, what was the hardest part? The starter motor, and I’ll explain that in another post one day in the not-terribly-distant future. Before that, though, there’ll be another COAL post to tie up the loose ends, so…seeya next week!

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