Des West


Written by Ruth West

I am still not really sure about the gentleman bit so I will put that on hold for a while. I have only known him for sixty four years so far.

Now the suit, first of all its not a beautifully made pin striped pure wool suit which you could buy from on of those London boutiques to wear down to the House of Commons, then listen to the afternoons gossip. Its not a black tie and tails affair that we ladies admire so much. Heaven forbid, I will never get this old fellow into one of those. Its a white specially impregnated against fire, very strong cotton driving suit that so many of you fellows like to believe would make you able to drive at least three times faster than you should.

Its a nice clean white coat with brilliant bits of coloured advertising attached. CAMS have their few square inches, ARDC have their little bit of space, ASCC is on board and our own local club from the Manning district the CNCSCC. That’s where so many of us started off, you know ˜Boys and their Toys”. We own one square mile of flat sandy brush country, it was a three sided airstrip during the second war, a marvellous spot to skid and slide and speed. That was all over 50 years ago, and now a large number of our grand children drive out there. And I must add here that very few of those young people get into any trouble with their cars, the public roads or the police. But back to the suit.

AMPOL’s patch is red, CASTROL’s in green and TOTAL glowing in blue and white and KLG, are all on board and TORANA has a good showing too. Even the bright pink of Camp Quality jumped on at one stage. Now that’s the coat but its the trousers that got far more attention.

Back in the 60s when the suit was new the driver looked trim and terrific in it, and he certainly should have as I reckoned that with the special shoes and later the Kevlar helmet it all cost far too much. I could have had a new pair of tyres for the shopping car, instead of the old leftovers for that much money. But after the first ten years and the paunch enlarged a bit, seams had to be let out some 2″, then another 10 years disappeared and in 1973 he gave up smoking and tried living on chocolate and the waistline just blossomed and the gussets then were 4″ wide and had to be let into the back seam.

Then in 1993 when getting ready for the London to Sydney Rally another gusset had to be inserted on one hip. Then because it was getting a bit old and thin from sliding up and down and sideways on hundreds of different seats over many thousands of miles ( there is my generation showing) in a great hurry, I put a LOCTITE patch right on his bottom. I thought, it might stop him asking for repairs so often. He wasn’t exactly happy with that one, but I thought it hilariously funny, I can tell you that by that time it was difficult to find any of the original seams at all. That rally was an awful trip when so many of the drivers were attacked by ˜Delli Belliâ” and lost so much weight. A few years later our driver also had to lose most of his stomach from cancer and then most of those gussets had to be taken right back out again.

From 1995 we had three magic years with Camp Quality galloping along so many of the dusty roads of NSW. VIC. QLD. & SA., the suit came out again just for show that time. IN 2003 it came out of wraps again for the Re-Run of the original 1953 REDEX. In the heat of the NT., our driver seemed rather too tired and by the time they reached Wycliffe Wells and he was seeing more little green men than the town believed they owned, he had to be taken back to Tennant Creek in an ambulance for a quick rest in the local Hospital. But he bounced back up again, with the dutiful wife and daughter picking him up in a rent-a-car from Alice Springs on the 4th day of his stay in hospital. So back to ˜the Alice”, then catch a flight to Sydney and have the audacity to assist with handing the trophies out to the same fellows he had started with in the Re-run.

Now for the 13th February 2010, we went to Orange, for the 50th Anniversary of the First Australian Touring Car Championships. Even the old Holden he had driven those 50 years earlier turned up. It had been sitting in a shed in Newcastle for 39 years. The old suit had to be resurrected again and two more inches taken out of the waist. The main difficulty this time was that the seamstress had had a stroke 15 months before. Her left hand couldn’t manage the sewing machine very well. It took over 2 hours for her and the driver ( he’d had a cataract operation) to insert two new needles into the old Singer, to thread the thing and stitch about 10″. The waist of those trousers could now win a prize in a quilting show. 477 persons attended the dinner in Orange to Celebrate and when the 11 original drivers were interviewed by Wil Hagen, he asked our driver when he had given up driving? The answer was “Well I haven’t yet”. Not too bad for an 82 year old.

And for persistence and perseverance and longevity – I think both the driver and the precious old suit should be congratulated.