27 August 2021

Canberra's classic and muscle cars roar into life online for men's mental health

| James Coleman
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Muscle cars on computer screen

COVID-19 has forced many events online, and car shows are no exception. Photo: James Coleman.

There’s no doubt the COVID-19 lockdown has brought out some ingenious ways of keeping everyone connected when face-to-face meetings are restricted, thanks largely to the internet.

This past week, the ACT Classic & Muscle Car Forum launched an online car show designed to help out local car enthusiasts who might be struggling mentally and emotionally with the difficult circumstances during lockdown.

Members of the Facebook group have been sharing live videos of their cars and encouraging others to do the same.

One of the group’s admins, Andrew Dale, says the idea popped into his head after coming across a post from the Belconnen Bowling Club.

“They thanked the mate who nominated them and skolled a drink before nominating someone else,” he says. “I thought, ‘What a great way of staying in touch,'”

The method is simple, and Andrew kicked it off on Sunday, 22 August, from his garage. His phone is resting on the dashboard as he sits in the driver’s seat of his 1964 Holden EH panel van. He shares a few words and starts up the engine.

Muscle cars parked outside Old Parliament House

Cars parked outside Old Parliament House in August 2020, including Andrew Dale’s Holden EH panel van at the front. Photo: Andrew Dale.

“Starting my ‘Panno’ always puts a smile on my face and I’m pretty sure everyone else with a classic car, muscle car or hot-rod would be the same when they kick theirs in the guts,” he says.

“While you can’t hang out with your mates at the moment, you can at least hear their pride and joys rumble.”

One benefit of the online nature of this car show is that people whose cars don’t happen to be capable of ‘rumbling’ can still take part.

“If you are nominated and your car is broken, take a video of the car and give us a brief on what you’re doing to it,” says Andrew.

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He says a key part of the video is towards the end when he wishes everyone all the best in these difficult times and encourages others to do the same.

“We’ve got tough times to get through, but if we support each other in little ways, it’s going to be better for everyone,” he says to the camera.

“There are so many people who live on their own, including quite a few on our page. So this is a great way to see mates and listen to them talk rather than just reading their messages on Facebook.”

Andrew says he has been keeping in regular contact with members of the group, and they have reciprocated.

Andrew Dale sitting in car parked in garage

A scene from Andrew Dale’s Facebook Live video. Photo: ACT Classic & Muscle Car Forum.

“Mental health is so important, but at the moment it’s a priority,” he says.

Andrew finishes the video by nominating three other members within the group to post similar live videos. This has created a domino effect and the page has come alive as a virtual car show.

Using cars as an avenue to check up on how men, in particular, are coping mentally is nothing new, but one by one, these events have fallen under the relentless march of COVID-19.

‘Tuff Day Out’ was scheduled for 30 October at Exhibition Park in Canberra, and officially registered with Beyond Blue as an event designed to “raise awareness and money for men’s mental health”. However, with many of the cars coming from Sydney and Melbourne, the event was cancelled as the virus took hold in those cities.

Members of the ACT Classic & Muscle Car Forum were looking forward to taking their cars out to Bungendore for the ‘PTSD Show N Shine’ show for Father’s Day, in solidarity with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This event has also been cancelled.

People watching cars at Summernats

The Summernats car rally in 2020. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Andrew says he’s receiving very positive reactions from people within the group to the live videos.

“It’s only a few days old, but we’re hoping it grows legs,” he says.

Lockdown might mean many cars are in garages gathering dust, but Andrew says people are using the opportunity to work on them. He says every drive is precious, even if it’s no further than the Woolworths car park.

Andrew typically clocks 20,000km a year in his Holden EH panel van, and driving it is clearly the balm he uses to help him through this time.

“If I’m not in a good place, I start her up and go for a drive for 20 minutes or so,” he says. “I come home, park it, and it’s like I’ve just given myself a wheel alignment. Everything is good again.”

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