Alex Forrest says keeping classic cars preserved for generations is no Idle Torque

Alex Forrest’s Idle Torque: stories for classic car enthusiasts is for anyone who likes their yarns to smell like hot engine oil and roll like greased lightning. We chatted to Alex about the best bits.

What did you learn about the history of cars in Western Australia?

In such an isolated place as Western Australia, motorists and in particular car enthusiasts, had to be incredibly independent and innovative when it came to building, racing and maintaining their cars. People built cars here to emulate the racing cars of Europe, such as the hugely successful Plymouth Special built by Clem Dwyer, or the ‘White Mouse’ Ford 10 Special built by Jack Nelson. That innovative, adventurous and collaborative spirit continues today among WA car clubs.

What would you say is the state of the classic car right now?

The classic car scene is in a very strong position. Rapidly increasing values of classic cars does, unfortunately, price many people (including me) out of the market. But what that means is some vehicles which would otherwise be scrapped are now being preserved. There is also a strong and competitive spare parts market for popular classic cars, which in turn can help keep affordable classics on the road for owners to enjoy during their time off.

Tell us about some of the more interesting personalities you met while covering cars.

Among the more interesting personalities I met would have to be the late Peter Brock. I met him several times, and he was always so calm and quiet. We all know he was different on the track, but he was so willing to give me all the time I needed to speak with him. I admire that tremendously. To compete with him in the 2001 Classic Rally was an honour. In 2006, to be reporting on his death in Gidgegannup during the Targa West Rally, and being interviewed by other media about Brock and the event, was heartbreaking.

If you could own any three classic cars in the world what would they be and why?

Narrowing my list of favourite classic cars down to just three would be harder than choosing the columns that went in the book! But on the list would be the 1967 Ferrari 330 P4, chassis number 0856. It’s one of four built, and three remaining. It’s a raw, V12-powered endurance racing car that won the 1000 km of Monza with legendary driver Lorenzo Bandini at the wheel. And it looks absolutely stunning.

Another classic I’d love is a 1931 Invicta 4½-litre S-Type ‘Low Chassis’. It’s fast, rare (one of about 75 S-Types built) and its iconic proportions make it a true classic of the pre-war era.

Thirdly, a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T would fit the bill nicely. Great sound, a handful to drive and total American vehicular ridiculousness in every way. It’s all that is great and terrible about American cars, all wrapped up in one classic package.

Alex Forrest has a passion for cars and writing. In his final year at university, he undertook work experience at The West Australian. On his final day, he found himself in the right place at the right time and was offered the chance to write a brand-new weekly newspaper column called Idle Torque. The column would run in the paper every week for the next 21 years and kickstart an extraordinary career that would lead Alex to drive a tank, a DeLorean, an amphibious car and an $11m Jaguar.

Bob Jane at the wheel of the E-Type Lightweight during its racing days.

Idle Torque: stories for classic car enthusiasts is available in all good bookstores and online.

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