The end of the road for a faithful friend

Being sentimental about a car does seem pointless. But my blue Volvo has served me so faithfully for so many years, that driving her on her final trip today (200kms from Apollo Bay to Melbourne) made me sad. Hence this brief photographic reminiscence about my favourite mode of transport between my house and the sea for all those years, to mark the end of my Volvo era.

All these photos (with the exception of the final one of the Volvo under the Milky Way) were taken on the final drive today.

This is the machine that waited patiently in my driveway for my arrivals on all those Friday nights. Racks for the surf ski, solid plastic floor mats with short vertical sides to contain sand and salt water dripping out of a wetsuit, and a heater made for the Swedish winter which could warm up from stone cold  by the end of my street and need turning down opposite the surf club. The engine started first time every time, and purred without a single fault for the whole time I owned the car.
A last look at Apollo Bay from the lookout above Skenes Creek.
Seriously, does this car look unroadworthy to you? Gleaming, powerful ageless design – a motoring icon if ever there was, and a fine example of the type.
The missing reversing light lens has never impeded my driving. I drive the car forwards not backwards. This car rarely went anywhere at night.  Anyway, the globe still worked.
Somewhere down the track I guess this rust might have become a problem from a technical roadworthiness point of view. Interestingly, the car has four door sills and only one has rusted – that’s the one I step over when I get out of the car, at least half the time with salt water dripping off me. Serendipitously this rusty door sill has had a positive impact on performance – whenever I hit bump and a bit more rust falls of the car it gets lighter. The laws of physics dictate that provided the power of the car does not decline for some reason at the same time, the power to weight ratio of the vehicle improves with every bump. I have noticed and greatly enjoyed this steadily improving power over the years.
Age barnacles – harmless
More age barnacles. Cannot possibly affect safety.









This high point is a favourite lookout spot on the inland road. It offers the first sight of Apollo Bay when inbound, and on today’s drive, the last sight. The mighty 240GL was champing at the bit to get into those 2kms of curves. It’s never happier than hunting through a corner  with two wheels on one side unweighted or even just lifting, a bit of opposite lock to keep on track around the corner, the logo on the front grille rising as the power is steadily applied and the turbo kicks in, the firm push in my back from the seat a bit like when a jet takes off….  It’s a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s actually a very cleverly disguised racing car. I have often gone the whole length of the Great Ocean Road in this car with nobody able to pass me. What a machine.
I expect to hear from Volvo about using this shot in a global promo before too long. The country looking wonderful and the car looking even better.
I detoured on the drive to Melbourne and wandered a km or two along Turton’s Track. This road winds through the cathedral of the soaring mountain ash and the permanently dark and damp under-storey of massive tree ferns with an almost  impenetrable profusion of cool temperate rainforest vegetation beneath. Inhaling the air here is a privilege and a joy. How can a car that looks this good, even though it was made in 1986, be considered no longer fit to be on the road? Yet that is what a kindly country police officer suggested to me in a conversation on the side of the road in AB one night recently. He did not do anything unfriendly  such as booking me or grounding the car, but I independently formed the view not long after the chat as it happened,  that perhaps the Volvo’s time had come.
A Jurassic Park vegetation feature.
Silence and awe in the cathedral.
It seems impossible and just a little sad that the Volvo will never again see this road.
It hadn’t been raining, but it was wet and fresh everywhere in this part of the Otways.
Magazine cover if ever I saw one.
This could be an ad on the back of National Geographic – a caption could be, ‘Some things are timeless’.
The 240GL has not been certified organic, but parts of it definitely are just that. This naturally occurring garden is on the passenger side roof gutter. In keeping with many modern gardens, it is at a convenient height for tending, to avoid having to bend over. Foot-level stationary gardens are so 1900s.
Lichen is aerodynamically well adapted to its chosen home – the roof gutter. The airflow here is laminar, and therefore free of turbulence. This allows the lichen to stay very well oxygenated as well as stuck to the roof. (Disclaimer: I am not a formally qualified botanist).
Note the beautiful dark green moss mound growing above the rear passenger quarter window – just around the corner from a healthy patch of lichen. Possibly my favourite corner of the car’s roof-garden.
I wanted a picture that said, in a general sense,  ‘Not everybody trades up to a new one after a couple of years’. I feel that the improvements on the agricultural land (the shed and the windmill) demonstrate that the Volvo is still very much in its fully functional youth. The windmill is of course of very advanced years and will need some maintenance soon.  But these are some fine examples above and below of getting the most out of a product.











John Langmead_LochArdNight_8382_20171017_Online
This is perhaps my favourite photo of the Volvo because it was taken on a memorable night. The photo is of a track near Princetown on the Great Ocean Road, and it was taken very late at night under the arch of the Milky Way. I had spent many hours between Peterborough and Gibson Steps taking photos of the coast and the Milky Way and the heavens generally. Those photos are in a post on this blog called ‘Loch Ard Night’. I took this photo on the return trip to Apollo Bay. It was a warm night, and there wasn’t another soul around. The Volvo has taken me and my camera and gear to many wonderful locations where the sea and the sky have captured my imagination. What a comfortable companion it has been all these years. This car will remain indelibly associated with so many of my adventures along the west coast.

Being sentimental about a car does seem pointless.  But nevertheless,  I will miss this car.


























4 thoughts on “The end of the road for a faithful friend

  1. Great post John.
    Did you sell it to the wreckers?
    Or hopefully, to someone who will fill the holes with bog and paint it.
    I thought your AB Volvo was a beige station wagon.


    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Gilbo. I traded it in (industry code for the dealer getting it for nothing) on a Mazda CX-5, which we took delivery of this morning. I didn’t inquire as to the precise details of the blue Volvo’s fate, and thought it best not to. Instead, I have considered a few happy scenarios as to where it might be headed, and will leave it at that.
      The beige Volvo wagon was retired quite some time ago when it was on the verge of rusting into a single solid object with no moving parts at all (save for the engine which was still purring after 700,000kms), and put out to pasture as a paddock car on a farm in the Otways. The blue Volvo started its life with us with Georgie driving it at 18 years of age, then various members of the family driving it, and finally down to AB as the permanent beach car.


  2. Well that was an enjoyable ride back to Melbourne with you and your Volvo, John.
    Very entertaining in many directions.
    Being sentimental about a car must be a ‘man thing’ as I recall Richard being emotional about the parting of the ways with a funny little Renault 4 that had carried our family of 4 (as we were then) all over Britain and France for the 3+ years we were there; camping, B&B’ing and many day trips.
    Keep up the posts, John, so excellent as Kylie would say!!
    Cheers Peney


    1. The Renault 4 adventures sound wonderful. Such adventures become imprinted on the DNA of the vehicle, and parting with the car is like severing a strong link with all those memorable experiences. I’m surprised the Renault 4 is not still in the family, even if only as an installation in a garden somewhere.
      Yes, the final drive to Melbourne, the penultimate step in the Volvo’s end of life plan, was enjoyable. We took our time.
      Thank you for responding to my post. There will be more.


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