WARRANDYTE’s David Cameron was born in Zurich in 1951. Five years later a brand new FJ Holden drove off the GMH assembly line in Australia, and David and the classic motor vehicle were destined to come together for a lifelong partnership.
The FJ eventually became David’s mum and dad’s family car and when he turned 18 his father presented him with the keys. What makes it really special is it was David’s first and last car.
Now, almost half a century later, he’s still driving the classic around the hills of Warrandyte.
“It’s been a member of the family for well over 50 years,” says David. “People often advise me to upgrade to a more modern car, but I just say to them, you don’t trade in your grandmother just because she’s getting old. We have to treat the old girl with great respect.”
David moved to Warrandyte with his parents Barbara and Don in 1962. “We moved to Glynn’s Road just after the great fire,” says David. After Grade 6 at the local primary school, David went to Norwood High School. “I completed my six year sentence at Norwood. It was a terrible time for me because I was so painfully shy. Life during those years was a bit of a misery. Later I played keyboard in a band called Pieces of Eight and that helped me with my shyness and gave me a passport into parties and social events,” he explains.
David studied biological science at Latrobe University and it was during his second year when he met his wife Lee who was studying medicine at Melbourne Uni.
“Laurie Ball was the matchmaker,” remembers David. “He got us together at his house in Research Warrandyte Road.”
Lee remembers the meeting too. “There was a little voice inside my head saying, ‘This man is going to be my husband’,” says Lee with a smile. “There was also another voice saying, ‘Why me? This little Swiss apple is too young and green’. But it has all worked out and we still really love each other.”
David adds: “Yes, we have weathered the obstacles together. But our fairy godmothers have worked overtime.”
Lee pipes up saying: “We’ve been held together by Angel’s Glue and it’s held well because we are soon to celebrate our 45th anniversary.”
David and Lee raised a family of six children, Marcel, 41, John, 37, Virgil, 35, Maria, 33, Felix, 31, and Angelica, 28. The family has grown up with the old FJ, too.
“We’ve brought up our six kids and they have all been driven to school in the car, learned to drive in the car and some of the kids were even conceived in the car,” says David with a twinkle in his eye. “Unbelievably, the 1956 car’s odometer still reads in miles not kilometers. And when we add up all the miles we’ve done driving the kids to the Rudolf Steiner School, it adds up to more than the distance to the moon.
“Sure, there have been accidents along the way, but the FJ is built like a tank from solid metal and not designed to crumple like modern cars. If somebody runs into me, they’ll come off second best. We always get the old girl patched up and back on the road.”
Lee has kept up the family tradition and driven a 1954 FJ special since ’85. “My cars first engine lasted from 1956 until 1970,” David says.
The first replacement-reconditioned engine lasted until ’88, the next replacement engine went until 2007 and David is confident the fourth engine will last until 2027. “Now I really look after the old girl and don’t push her too hard,” says David. As a botanist, David has ventured forth and driven his FJ on most of his field trips over the years, often taking Lee with him.
“The car speedo has probably been around the dial about five times,” he points out. “We’ve had some close calls in the car too. One night we were coming back from Goongerah with the whole family in the car when the fan belt gave out. I always carry rubber bands in my pocket so I put about 10 big fat rubber bands in place of the fan belt and off we went. Five miles down the road there was the smell of burning rubber and these strange pinging sounds coming from under the bonnet. We tried the rubber bands again but once again only got another five miles along the road before they gave out. Eventually a good samaritan stopped with a mobile phone and called the RACV.”
Another time David and Lee were travelling through the South Australian Outback with a group of botanists. Lee was pregnant at the time and the corrugations on the outback roads were creating a rough ride.
“We feared the constant bumps could have an adverse effect on the pregnancy and so we left the group and turned for home,” remembers David. “Nevertheless, it was a charmed and wonderful trip to make before we had a big family.
“Over the years people have got increasingly nostalgic towards these classic cars. People constantly wave and approach me at petrol stations to tell me their FJ Holden stories. I’ve had endless offers to buy the car and people ask me how much I want for her. I tell them that the car is priceless and that I never want to sell it. It’s a member of my family and I can’t part with it.”
Sometimes David and Lee have lived away from Warrandyte but like all good and committed Warrandytians they have gravitated back to where they belong.
David tells the Diary why he loves Warrandyte: “It’s a place that’s generous towards unusual and odd people. A place that’s tolerant of people who don’t quite fit into the suburban straightjacket.”
David, at 65, will keep working as a senior botanist with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and doesn’t intend retiring his trusty FJ Holden any time soon. It seems they will travel onwards together, for the whole journey.
Perhaps the Angels Glue that has bound David and Lee’s marriage will also keep the old classic car on the road forever, all the way to the moon and back.