Just like the smell of violets take me straight to the tank stand where I grew up, the smell of Av Gas is something that is permanently layered in my memory. As a young child being in the audience when Dad was stock car racing was probably the first, cars revving up in the dark spotlit and dusty night.
Then later as a teenager hanging out in the late sixties with the stock car legend that Dad was, making us doubly cool kids. Someone told me today he used to give out programmes at Onehunga before they moved racing to Waikaraka Park and loved watching ‘Louie the Leopard’. How they roared when Dad appeared as it meant fun and games were about to begin. The Leopard had no respect for rules or fear.
Grass track racing days where Dad brassed everyone off because he was still driving like a stock car driver, pushing everyone off the field while Lindy and I would saunter around oiled up with big sunglasses on feigning interest in all things cars, on my part at least. Later the drag strip days where I now had a boyfriend/future husband and he hung out there because I was there…pretty sure that was the case! Dad had the nerve needed to push a car to its limit and soon brought home more trophy cups and prizes to pride of place in the lounge joining the others in a mirror backed cabinet. All regularly played with, polished and coveted, well, by some more than others.
The cup I loved to play with had one handle and its much fancier mate stood on a pedestal with two handles. We usually got these down together for games. Mine wasn’t as tall or showy but it had my birth year on it being the year Dad and his team mates went as New Zealand’s Inaugural Representative Stock Car Racing Team.
I can see them in the old photograph now, fun loving young men all scrubbed up for the big trip with their black and white blazers and a silver fern pin in the lapel. The cars had to be black and white too, so Dads leopard had to take a rest from being his flag on the track.
To Aussie they were shipped with their cars and Dad the Croatian-Lebanese was billed as ‘the handsome Italian who couldn’t speak English’. A ploy to prevent him from speaking as his language was rough and ready. I found a postcard from this trip sent to Mum, and reading it I saw a wisp of the man, the husband, rather than the Father I knew so well. Story has it that on his return I was just a few months old and cried fervently when handed to him, much to his chagrin as he loved nothing more than cuddles with babies.
How I loved this cup, the cup that was to be to mine, as it embodied ALL the stories, ALL the pride, ALL the memories from my teenage years. All this was to flood back to me at the Waiheke Demolition Derby at New Years. The roar of the cars, the smell of engine oil and the gas of course, as we sneaked through the pits, the loud speakers and races and even the water truck to keep the dust down carried me back years.
You must’ve looked like a Nerd out of place back then one of the kids asked me. No, I replied, I looked more like them, pointing to some long limbed and tanned teens with short shorts and bikini tops. We were gorgeous and we knew it!