A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland

The Sigma pictured at Day Street, Middleton with Brett Ebert (left), Chris Jordan (centre) and Simon Harris (right).


Nanna Zacher’s Sigma

In 1999 Carolyn’s mother, Valma, had reached an age when she no longer wished to drive and she decided to gift her 1985 Mitsubishi Sigma to my son, Nicholas.

Nic was 15 at the time and soon learned to move the Sigma in and out of the garage, as he would meticulously wash it on the front lawn; dreaming of the day he could drive.

Soon enough he gained his learner permit and began learning to drive in the Sigma.  Nic had gone from a BMX bike, to the Sigma.  2.0 litre, 4-speed on the floor, bucket seats, air-conditioning, heating.  A cream coloured 4-door sedan.

At this time, the HR Holden Wagon was up and running, but was in the final throws of a complete restoration – to be Nic’s first car.  He effectively had two cars at age 16 and I guess in hindsight, was beginning to take after me.

The Sigma was a freedom machine for a lad in his final two years at high school and I was his mechanic.  


Two of the memorably ‘modifications’ were the 2”1/2’ replacement exhaust system, which gave the Sigma an audible note at revs and the ‘$5 roof racks’ I bought from the local wreckers and refurbished for the Sigma.

As it turned out, Nic was to become a bit of a surfer himself (again like me) and he was keen to start chasing the waves.

A tank of fuel and permission to drive

Nic had completed his driving lessons. It was a Friday afternoon, I collected him from his school and took him to the motor registration office where he received his Provisional Licence and permission to drive alone.  

I had filled the Sigma with a tank of fuel and he finally had his long-awaited freedom.

The alarm was set for around 4:00am, and Nic and his best mate Brett (also our neighbour) set off on a long-awaited surfing trip.  Nic recounts this story, saying that “he doesn’t think he slept a wink that Friday night,” in anticipation of the first self-guided trip to Victor Harbour for a day of surfing.

From Victor Harbour they returned back home, his weekend continued with a ‘run through the hills; to test out the Sigma. And of course, a bit of ‘trundling’ through the city and Glenelg.

Come Sunday night when I was shuffling all of the cars back into the garage, Nic and Brett had consumed an entire tank of fuel (or done in excess of 500km) that first weekend.

A trip to Torquay

Later than same year, as a family, we embarked on a road trip to Torquay on the surf coast of Victoria. 

Myself, Carolyn, our daughter Sarah and her friend Julie in the Mitsubishi Lancer, and Nicholas and Brett driving along behind in the Sigma.  For Nic and Brett, this was their first huge road trip ‘alone,’ but under the close supervision of mum and dad.  

We enjoyed a relaxing week on the coast, as they boys chased after the surf, exploring up and down that stretch of coast each day.

Play horn

One of the other legendary stories of the Sigma, was the ‘play horn’ Nic’s mate bought him for his 18th Birthday.  Much like a car alarm system, this thing had a siren to be mounted under the hood, but it was equipped with a microphone and a small keyboard of buttons; which would cue up all kinds of sirens, animal sounds and musical tunes.

Nic and his mates would tear along playing imitation police sirens, torment local kids with the recognisable turn of an ice-cream truck or hoot out cow and elephant sounds.  Usually, his mate Brett, orchestrating the keyboard from the passenger seat.

I guess his mates realised, that of any of the other dads, I was the man capable of installing such a device and also, quietly turning a blind eye to the harmless fun.

An earlier image of the Sigma pictured in the garage at Bahamas Grove.

The Sigma went on to become a first car for cousins Katie and Craig Zacher.

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