A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland

Carolyn, Raff the dog and the Astra, picture just past Pt Augusta. Here we’re on the road to Roxby Downs where Sarah was living at the time – perhaps Nicholas seated in the front seat.


Astra CDX

My first brand new car. Well, our first new car. A top of the range Holden Astra.

My dad was 57 when he bought his first brand new car, the HR wagon. I was 58 now. 

For my children, Sarah and Nicholas, they both enjoyed new cars at around the time they graduated from university, in their early 20s.

My first new car

I like the shape of the TS Astra. GMH was my favoured manufacturer; my best man Darryl had one after all.  

I chose the CDX model.  It was meant to be top of the range.  It had leather seats, leather trim and all the latest equipment, including heated seats. 

It was actually a run out model, near the last of its shape, as the next model was starting to appear in showrooms. This is a buying technique my father in law, Les, often recommended as his proven way to achieve favourable prices for a new car.    

Doing the deal

One would rarely know if a better deal could have been struck, however, I did have fun trying to come up with a deal.  The usual run around looking for the rock bottom price and the final acknowledgement that “Yes sir. These are the best prices you can expect.”  

At that point, I turned to the internet to search out the exact car I wanted; a far change from the techniques I employed when I first started buying cars.  

I found the exact car I wanted in a Melbourne dealership. 

With a phone call I established could buy a car out of Melbourne, with a month’s registration and some costs to drive it back home.  These costs plus the full South Australian registration, would total up to an amount just shy of $28,000.  

Armed with this information I did the rounds of the Holden dealers again.  The deal was $28,000 drive away 12 months rego and a tow bar fixed and fitted.  

Some dealers said “no.”  One dealer asked “how I had arrived at that figure…? Did I have the GMH employee discount?” 

“No. My deal was carefully calculated,” I said.  My deal included the price of the car plus, a one-way flight to Melbourne, taxi fees, a tank of fuel and lunch at the Bordertown Bakery. 

If they were prepared to match price, I would buy the car right there and then. 

The art of the deal

So eventually, the salesman said “Yes.” 

There was a small catch, I had to wait until they sourced the car from the plant.  For this extra waiting time, I wasn’t too fussed. Because I had saved myself a busy trip to Melbourne. 

This was in fact, my first opportunity to do a deal on a new car.  

I tried action all the advice I have been given over the years, and I felt I had a stuck a good deal.  

It was my first new car and a new car experience.  Driving the car away from the showroom with the odometer in single digits and feeling the esteem of buying from a new car show room.  Who can forget the new car smell and the smell of fresh leather seats.

In the first few months, I would wash and vacuum the Astra several times a week.  

It was a clean machine. A nice, clean shape and an excellent design.  I drove firm and tight on the road; the first car I had owned with low profile tires and cruise control.

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There were many lessons changing gears, clutch in, clutch out, now try double the clutch, and, do not, look at the gear shift, keep your eyes on the road. Could I ever get this sequence to flow, to work, well in time I sort of
A change is as good as a holiday. Panel beating to Spray Painting. And a back to school for upskilling.