Old cars “left to die” in creek beds and enclosures immortalized by Australian car dealers


Across the country, paddocks and creek beds are littered with old abandoned cars “left to die”.

It is up to a privileged few, the “guardians” of Australian automotive history, to keep history alive.

Before the pandemic, author Steph McCarthy and her husband, photographer Maurice Linehan, roamed deserts and wetlands to find what was previously considered lost.

“Maurice and I were traveling to a small country town in South Africa and it was Mad Cow Disease days in Britain, so it was on my mind,” Steph said.

“As we drove through the small town of Callington (in the Murraylands of SA) I saw the prettiest little mini, a very old mini, right down to its headlights in the grass in front of a very old, abandoned cottage.

“I said, ‘Damn you don’t have to be a car freak to think that’s a little picture honey,’ then we made another turn and ran into a cow grazing. in an enclosure.

A rusty Austin A40 in the Grampian Mountains of Victoria.(

Provided: Steph McCarthy and Maurice Linehan


After that moment, the couple’s travels became something more.

Their first book featured cars they had discovered in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

“We sidled up on old cars left in the creek beds and at the end of the day we picked these subjects which were in wonderful quirky places in the desert from very, very dry to very, very wet,” Steph said.

“We have one called Austin in the Mist, which is near the Grampian Mountains (in Victoria) and it was literally in the mist and a deer appeared at the same time.”

Steph said one of his favorite finds was a “mystery car” in the SA region.

“It’s a near Quorn (in the middle of northern South Africa), but there’s no point looking for it, as it’s now nothing but rust… it’s unidentifiable.

“It obviously belonged to someone very comfortable like a doctor. It’s something like a Packard, a Nash, a Pontiac or a Chrysler. We couldn’t really tell.”

A pile of rusty metal on dry grass with the sky in the background.
Steph says no one has been able to correctly identify the “mystery car” in north-central South Africa.(

Provided: Steph McCarthy and Maurice Linehan


‘Left for dead’

For their second book, Steph and Maurice traveled to western New South Wales and Washington state.

“In western New South Wales we ended up at places like White Cliffs to find an amazing car next to a pit,” she said.

“We were lucky enough to go to Ivanhoe and photograph a 1938 DeSoto flash sedan just sitting in the desert and there were lizards and spiders and beautiful birds.

“We had a really nice one in Australia’s hottest town, Marble Bar (in the Pilbara region of WA).

A rusty car without a roof on the sand.
While cruising through White Cliffs in West New South Wales, the couple came across this old car.(

Provided: Steph McCarthy and Maurice Linehan


“It’s a Holden ute that’s next to a very, very old little church with really an arrow on it and I called it Flower Power because it’s the Marble Bar of course and the kids have come and gone. ‘painted. “

Steph said she would like to take more pictures of cars in Queensland.

An old ute painted in blue, white and pink sits on long, dry grass.
Local children painted this Holden ute in the Pilbara area of ​​WA.(

Provided: Steph McCarthy and Maurice Linehan


Forever immortalized

Steph and Maurice are happy to have been able to capture the beauty of Australia’s oldest cars.

“We think when we photograph something, we kind of have it there forever, we immortalize it, you’d say,” Steph said.

Maurice, a self-proclaimed “head of gasoline” said that although it was their dream to publish a third book because they have so many more pictures that they have taken and received from people across the country, “it is just too expensive “.

“The actual cost of each book is now prohibitive because they are hardcover, laminated, high quality paper and high quality printing. “

Two men each standing next to a Ford car at a motor show.
Identical twin brothers Wayne and John Swadling at an auto show in Forbes.(

Provided: Wayne Swadling


Fuel for reflection

In west-central New South Wales, the more than 400 members of the Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club in Orange keep the spirit of classic cars alive.

Vice President Wayne Swadling said there were a lot of old cars in the paddocks in the Midwest, but “they’re getting harder and harder to get now.”

“I’m still looking to see things in the pens and sheds, but the problem also now is with the internet, their prices have skyrocketed,” he said.

“There are a lot of farms, especially in the west in Condobolin and after Dubbo.

“It’s hard to get people to part with it [the cars]. “

A racing car with stickers all over it, parked on the dry grass.
Wayne and his identical twin brother have restored many cars and created a replica of a Bathurst racing car.(

Provided: Wayne Swadling


Wayne said those who own or restore old cars play an important role.

“Especially since there are no more cars under construction in Australia.

“I remember when I first started in the auto industry we used to trade in a Valiant Charger for $ 400 to $ 500 and the first thing we did was call all the guys on the speedway.

“It was a really good speedway car and now I look back and think, oh my god, those cars are probably $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 and they would buy them and turn them into fenders.”

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