One of the reasons I like writing about cars is because I think your choice of vehicle (or choice to drive no car at all) can say a lot about you: the life you lead, what interests you, and what’s important to you.
That’s why I thought it would be fitting, in my first column for The Riot ACT, to check out the cars that are driven by some of our current and aspiring political leaders.
With less than a week to go until the election, we’re hearing a lot about doorknocking and roadside signage – but when they’re not hitting the pavement, how do our pollies get around?
First up is our current Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, who drives a Volkswagen Golf GTi.
“I chose it because I have driven Golfs previously and enjoyed them. It is the right sized car for me and suits my current lifestyle,” Mr Barr says.
“I’d also say that not many small cars offer the all-round polish of the Golf GTI. A fantastic engine, great dynamics and nice interior combine with pretty reasonable value and fuel economy to make it the right car for me.”
Like many of us, the Chief’s first set of wheels was the old family car, a 1995 Mitsubishi Magna wagon – “Not stylish in any way, not always reliable, but did the trick during the latter part of my uni years,” Mr Barr says.
First chance he got, and in his first job out of uni, the young Andrew took out a loan to buy a Subaru Impreza Wagon, which was a pretty credible choice in the mid 1990s.
After growing up in England and Cyprus, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson’s family moved to Australia in 1983, and he was quick to adopt that most Australian of motor vehicles, the Ford Falcon. Coincidentally, as I write, the last ever Ford Falcon has just commenced production at the Broadmeadows plant – a sad day for Ford fans, though with only days until the election, Mr Hanson is unlikely to have much time to reflect.
The Canberra Liberals leader’s choice of car these days is a white Toyota Kluger, with plenty of space and grunt to take the family (including two growing boys) off-road.
Known for his love of fitness and concern for the environment, it’s little surprise ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury prefers to ride across town on his much-loved Dutch bike whenever possible. But when he has to drive, it’s a Toyota Prius Hybrid for him.
“I chose this car because it has lower emissions than a standard vehicle and I wanted to ensure that, when I do need to drive, I am limiting the impact I have on the environment. The Prius is also really versatile – it has enough space to take all my gear for camping or triathlon, and I’ve even driven it up the Oodnadatta Track!”
Mr Rattenbury thinks his bike says more about him than his car though: “I spent a number of years living in Europe where, for many people, their primary mode of transport is their bike. This really appealed to me both from an environmental perspective, but also in terms of the type of lifestyle it creates. There are so many benefits to active travel including improved health, less pollution, reduced congestion and a greater sense of community.”
Mr Rattenbury’s first car was a Subaru Touring Wagon – “the vehicle of choice for outdoor enthusiasts in the 1990s!” Which we weren’t going to worry about mentioning, except the photo was just too good to leave out (see top).
Even if he so desired, Tim Bohm of the Like Canberra Party would probably have a hard time finding a bike that could carry his three small children and Numpty, the 32kg Labrador cross rescue dog. So for him, the choice is a 2010 SUV Lexus 400H (hybrid), as he says, “it fits three car seats and all the kids, the pram and the dog safely in the back.”
“I wanted a car that had a unique look but was still safe, comfortable, fuel efficient and was big enough to transport the family from A to B, and to the coast or Sydney, while minimising our impact on the environment,” Mr Bohm says.
“At the moment the car is chockers with LIKE Canberra Party election material – anyone would think it was the campaign headquarters.”
Young Tim Bohm’s first car was – sentimental sigh, everyone – a classic brown Datsun 180b [if thinking about a Datto 180b doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I’m sorry to tell you, your teenage years were wasted.]
“I bought it in Phillip for $1200. It had no air con, no FM radio, no power steering, and no power,” said Mr Bohm, “it was pretty much the bare minimum for a car, but I LOVED IT! Sold it to go travelling overseas, very sad day.”
Someone else who appreciates vintage cars is Greg Renet, the ACT Liberal Democrats candidate for Brindabella. A self-confessed revhead, he currently owns three cars: a 1972 Chrysler 770 E55 Charger and a 2010 Holden Commodore SSV Special Edition that he drives depending on his mood and the weather; and a practical little Holden Combo (Barina) for everyday use. Though the everyday runabout is not without a little flair …
“I read that Holden were bringing out a station wagon Sandman, so I placed 1970s style Sandman graphics on the Combo and added some mag wheels. It doesn’t make it go any faster but it brings a smile to everyone’s face,” he said.
“I chose these cars as they were special to my youth, or in the case of the SSV, I just loved the styling, being the USA variant Pontiac G8 GT manual. I later found out my SSV is one of 29 sedans built in the Wildfire colour and one of only eight manuals!,” said Mr Renet.
“My Charger website is known around the world and I field many questions on the E55, at www.e55chargers.com. My first car was a 1972 VH 770 265ci Charger as well, that looked very much like the one I have today. It met with up with a tree in the 1980s and was written off.”