A weekend in Melbourne

AGR_Melb (67)Here’s something to make you feel old. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the immortal high-watermark of cinematic history and one of the most iconic films to ever be conceived, is 30 years old. 11 June 1986 saw its box-office release, meaning our recent long weekend wasn’t just to celebrate the Queen’s special day.

AGR_FBDO (5)AGR_FBDO (6)A week after the Ferris Bueller anniversary I found myself with a spare weekend in Melbourne. With the oft-used phrase of ‘What Would Ferris Do’ (WWFD – we’ll stop short of producing the wrist bands though) in my head, I thought it might be fun to kick around in Australia’s hispter capital with no real plans other than to see and do some cool car stuff with a few friends. It’s a shaky theme at best, but bear with me here.

AGR_Melb (12)Any Ferris inspired trip needs a cool set of wheels, something that’s fun to hoot around in but can also be left parked places while you’re off exploring. In Ferris’ case it was a Ferrari 250 GT California, in mine it was a Renault Sport Megane RS from Hertz. Same same but different. After a truly terrible experience in how not to do customer service when picking it up, and a good demonstration from the Hertz representative that if you’re going to lie to customers you need to do it far better than he did, I was finally driving out of the airport in one of the best modern hot hatches you can buy. I’m still slightly bemused that someone at Hertz decided to rent these things out, but God bless that decision.

AGR_Melb (1)After parking my camping mattress on the apartment floor of my friend’s and recent ex-Adelaidians Felix and Ashleigh’s, I awoke from a small Saturday sleep-in and made my way to Dutton Garage for a quick coffee.

AGR_Melb (2) I had visited Dutton’s a few weeks prior which meant I had seen many of the cars before, but it was still a no-brainer to visit again. What would you rather look at while you enjoy your coffee – sweaty people in their activewear or a Diablo GTR? I thought so.

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AGR_Melb (10)Last time I visited Dutton’s it never occurred to me that Maranello Motorsport is located right around the corner. In fact, it was only when I saw a yellow Ferrari F50 in a glass workshop as I was looking for a park that the gears meshed. I went back after my coffee yet sadly the F50 was no longer there, meaning I missed getting a photo and must have only just missed seeing it driving on the public road. Double dang.

AGR_Melb (11)Maranello must get people gawking through the window’s all the time, so I didn’t want to bother the one staff member there by painfully asking if I could come inside. No one wants to be that guy.

AGR_Melb (8)AGR_Melb (9)Have you ever walked around the corner on a lazy Saturday morning to find a Ferrari 250 GTO sitting in a shop window? I guess I can now say that I have. It’s the most unexpected of delights.

AGR_Melb (13)Freshly caffeinated, I pointed the Renault away from Richmond and skirted around the city CBD toward Collingwood and the home of Suss, thanks to a tip-off from friend of AGR Matt Kelly.

AGR_Melb (20)AGR_Melb (17)You know the deal by now. Build a brand around people cooler than yourself doing slightly dangerous things on motorcycles that are far cooler than you could ever build. Find a retail space in an up and coming area and then fill it with clothing, leaky motorcycles and a cafe. It’s a path through the dunes well-trodden by Deus ex Machina, but that doesn’t lessen its impact when done properly. If anything, Suus goes to the next level.

AGR_Melb (19)It feels a helluva lot less corporate here than what Deus has become, and you get the impression that these guys are only selling the clothing to fund their motorcycling addictions. Maybe it’s the hipster in me talking, but I can live with that. In fact I encourage it.

AGR_Melb (14)I still regularly find myself inextricably attracted to these places. After dreaming about possible projects over another coffee, I left with a few t-shirts under my arm and a fresh resolve to get my own bike finished for the DGR in a few month’s time.

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AGR_Melb (21)Out the front of Suus I found street spot #1 of what became a weekend ‘Melburn Motors’ spotting series: Land Rover Defender 90 Heritage Edition HUE 166.

AGR_Melb (22)It would be great to spend some proper time in Melbourne at some point as it seems to be a haven for photographers. I guess because the city is so much older than Adelaide and not nearly as well laid out, there are thousands of photogenic little alleyways and beautiful industrial style brick buildings that would make marvelous backdrops.

AGR_Melb‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #2: Porsche 964 Carrera. The kinds of cars that you find parked on the streets of Melbourne are pretty incredible.

AGR_Melb (23)There was a vague plot to my Saturday of exploring, which was to scope out a few locations for a possible Any Given Reason Burger Meet in Melbourne later this year. There’s no firm decision on holding it just yet, but it might be fun to put the word out and see if there are any Melbourne readers out there who might roll in. Sure, it wouldn’t be on the scale of the 300 or so cars that came to the last meet at Penny’s Hill in Adelaide. But you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

AGR_Melb (24) ‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #3: Renault Sport Clio V6. How cool is that?

AGR_Melb (26)My next waypoint was set to take me right into the heart of Melbourne’s CBD on Elizabeth street. I somehow lucked out and found what was likely the only free 1hr parking space in the entire CBD, no finski needed.

AGR_Melb (25)Ferris ended up in the middle of a CBD parade singing Danke Shoen, I ended up embroiled in an immigration protest march. How’s that for being born under a bad sign? I guess I did technically march in the protest though- I was just trying to cross the road, honest.

AGR_Melb (29)My city destination, through a small door and up a narrow flight of stairs, was one of extreme danger to my credit card. My girlfriend had warned me to avoid these shady parts of Melbourne, yet I just couldn’t resist their draw. I could never tell her I’d visited against her wishes.

AGR_Melb (28)AGR_Melb (27)I nearly faltered several times yet through sheer willpower the credit card remained firmly in my wallet, and I left without a purchase. Lucky.

AGR_Melb (30)‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #4: AMG ML63 camera rig filming a Mazda 3 commercial. I love how the guy in the back seat is looking at me with an expression of ‘why are you taking a photo of us?’ Uh, I think it’s pretty damn obvious why I’d be taking a photo.

AGR_Melb (32)It was getting late in the afternoon by this stage, so from the city I headed down to Albert Park to drive a lap of the GP circuit.

AGR_Melb (35)AGR_Melb (31)I’ve been to the Melbourne Grand Prix many times, but I’ve never visited Albert Park outside of race weekend and had never driven a lap. Apart from one inconveniently placed locked gate, it’s pretty cool that you can string together an almost complete lap of the circuit.

AGR_Melb (34)AGR_Melb (33)I stopped for a walk around pit lane. It’s funny to think that just three months ago this small patch of land was the focus of the global media and one of the most secure places on the planet, and now you can go wherever you like. Garages that tightly held the cutting edge secrets of world motorsport were being used by kids soccer teams for their practice nets.

AGR_Melb (36)AGR_Melb (38)I stopped by to meet up with Felix and Ashleigh and we headed back to Howler in Brunswick for dinner and a few drinks.

AGR_Melb (39)‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #5: Mercedes-Benz 230SL Pagoda and Porsche 356 Speedster.

AGR_Melb (40)AGR_Melb (41)AGR_Melb (42)AGR_Melb (43)‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #6: BMW E9. We found this street parked E9 on Alpina rims in the rain just a few blocks from Felix and Ashleigh’s place, and thought it was one of the coolest things we’d seen.

AGR_Melb (44)Sunday was set aside for driving, but first up we went back to see if the E9 was still there so we could have a look in the daylight. Such a timeless shape.

AGR_Melb (45)And then Felix took me to a suitably hipster cafe that served pork belly with crackling for breakfast. Such decadence! If it’s listed on the breakfast menu and there’s an egg on the plate then it’s not immoral, right?

AGR_Melb (48)I’d originally hoped to drive the Great Alpine Road and to find some snow, but with only one day at our disposal we decided it was too far away and instead chose to explore the best roads that the Yarra Valley region had to offer. We started with the Black Spur, one made legendary for its camoflaged police hiding in bushes with speed cameras. We instead chose to take it easy and check out the temperate rain forest we were now driving through. The region had received a huge amount of rain in the weeks before our visit, and it was resplendently green and lush.

AGR_Melb (47)AGR_Melb (46)I expected that the area would be full of sports cars, much like the Adelaide Hills are on a similar Sunday morning. Instead we largely had the roads to ourselves, only coming across this one group stopped in Healesville.

AGR_Melb (49)We stopped at some unexpectedly ornate farm gates to plan our next move. Neither of us had ever properly driven in the region before, so we charted what looked like an interesting loop on Google Maps and set the Megane to RS mode before taking off in a rush of turbo whoosh.

AGR_Melb (50)I recalled that the Great Tarmac Rally is run out of Marysville. If they base a tarmac rally out of a country town there’s bound to be some stellar roads nearby, and our theory didn’t disappoint.

AGR_Melb (51)At Marysville we turned right at the T junction in the middle of town, heading toward the Lake Mountain Resort access road. Felix was behind the wheel, and was having an absolute blast in his first proper drive of a Megane RS.

AGR_Melb (57)There are always plot holes in movies, and a massive on in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is their very choice of how to spend their day. “If you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away? Neither would I”. The quote that has surely inspired many supercar joyrides just raises another more serious question, though. If you had access to a Ferrari 250 California, would you drive it around the city and then park it for most of the day? Neither would I.

AGR_Melb (53)We turned off toward Warburton and I had a chance to get back behind the wheel. We were reveling in mile after mile of deserted, empty roads. And it was my favorite type of road, too. Those ones where a series of second and third gear switchbacks are linked with short straights, the road flowing enough to build a rhythm but slow enough to allow you to properly exercise the car without complete fear of penal indictment.

AGR_Melb (54)It was, in a word, driving heaven. And we pretty much had it all to ourselves.

AGR_Melb (56)AGR_Melb (59)We passed through Reefton and McMahon’s Creek before turning right just outside of Warburton. We drove to the summit of Mount Toolebewong just because it looked like a good road…

AGR_Melb (60)AGR_Melb (55)… and then came back down again because it was indeed a very good road.

AGR_Melb (52)It was here that our loop went a little awry. I checked Google Maps and was planning to follow Acheron Way, the C507, back to complete our loop. On our phones and on the Renault’s Sat nav it looked like another of the sealed roads we had been driving, and it turned out to be very smooth but unsealed. Not taking it would mean backtracking our entire path and not seeing any new roads, so we decided to press on. It was a marked C road, after all.

AGR_Melb (62)AGR_Melb (61)AGR_Melb (64)Melbourne and the Yarra region had received a huge amount of rain in the weeks preceding, and the little C507 turned out to be far slushier than either of us predicted. It only lasted 15km, but it was sufficient to give the Renault a distinct gravel rally vibe.

AGR_Melb (63)AGR_Melb (65)Dogue sighting at the Black Spur Inn, where we stopped for lunch.

AGR_Melb (66)‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #7: Mazda 1000 Coupe. Parked out the back of the Black Spur Inn, the little Mazda clearly hadn’t been driven for a while but it’s condition seemed fair. Being outside in the rain and snow would surely do it no favors, though.

AGR_Melb (68)With bellies full of one of the best ‘Parmas’ we’d had in a long time (no, this trip was never going to be a health retreat), we returned back down the Black Spur in a line of traffic.

AGR_Melb (69)I had actually come to Melbourne for work in the days before the weekend (sadly AGR does not pay the bills, it mostly just contributes to them), and as part of a training course I’d driven a mystery road into Healesville in a Jaguar F-Type convertible. With the roof down and a confident instructor alongside I’d been extremely lucky to have a proper go at it, but as it was dark during my drive I was really keen to try and find the road again in daylight.

AGR_Melb (70)In the dark it had been just a tunnel pierced by headlight beam, but in the daylight it was something special. It was called Myers Creek Road, and it was the hands down highlight of the trip.

AGR_Melb (71)Felix was driving, and was clearly having quite a lot of fun. The Renault was the perfect car for the road, and we remarked that in the real world something like a GT3 or a 458 probably wouldn’t have been a lot quicker.

AGR_Melb (72)‘Melburn Motors’ street spot #8: Volkswagen Kübelwagen. Filling the tank at Kinglake we finally encountered another like minded driver. On the other side of the pump from the VW we got talking to a local Melbournian driving an Audi S3, who gave us the lowdown on some more good roads in the area. We’ll have to save them for next time.

AGR_Melb (73)We did the final sprint down the Heidelberg-Kinglake Road and back into the suburbs through St Andrews.

AGR_Melb (75)I dropped Felix back to his place and hit the highway across to the Airport and a flight home to Adelaide. It was just a short stay, but one that merely served to highlight the depth of automotive culture and quality that can be found in Melbourne. There’s plenty more exploring to be done.

AGR_Melb (37)Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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  1. Jed June 30, 2016 Reply

    Nice work Andrew. I enjoyed getting away for ten minutes.

  2. Chris b July 8, 2016 Reply

    Great story, I have a Mag RS and love it, such a great car.

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