Rusty Gold: an epic adventure while hunting pies and geographic certainty
If you’re a fan of chrome-bumpered classic cars it doesn’t get much more exciting to discover a huge collection of them laying hidden in a collection. We’ve all read stories of epic barn finds, and on the recent Journey To The Pie Hole (CLICK HERE) we found ourselves surrounded by dusty pieces of Aussie street machining glory.
One of the best parts of getting out on a road trip is finding new places and new people. The characters you’ll stumble across can profoundly change your life totally by chance, and such was the case on our trip to the outback, as the boys’ happened to bump into Rusty and his daughter Kirsty.
Driving up the long dirt driveway we spotted his wrecking yard first, but as we got closer we could spot an old Dodge Fargo truck… then an R31 Skyline sedan… then some unidentified pre-World War II trucks… and it just kept going the deeper you looked. We’d hit Nirvana!
Situated at a secret spot in the Central-West region of Gulgong, Rusty and Kirsty are an old school type of hospitable, offering refreshments, travel advice (“don’t drive at dawn or dusk as we’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized ’roos out here!”), and local history.
With dreadlocks falling down his back ("I can't even remember when I started growing them" he casually mentions), bare feet and a freshly opened beer Rusty starts showing us through the first shed on the property.
An awesome, home-built ramshackle structure it is part car storage, place to put the insane amount of memorabilia he's collected, and also functional home workshop.
“A 1964 Holden EH station wagon was my first car, which my dad and I built together,” says Rusty. “I learned a bit off my dad and mostly just taught myself; I’d get a beer and a grinder and just go for it! Do a tune by ear and off you go.”
The skyrocketing prices of classic Australian cars of any make means what were once cheap second-hand nuggets are now sizeable, expensive pieces of history that need protection from the hard Aussie weather. While these 1960s cars have been fairly rare in capital cities for the last two decades, Rusty's property is located in ground zero for picking them up, as they used to litter farmers' sheds through the Central West, where the dry conditions mean the vintage tin doesn't rot into the ground double-quick, like it does closer to the coast.
“There’d be 45-50 cars all up in my collection, but that doesn’t include the wrecking yard,” Rusty explains. “I’ve still got my 1967 Dodge Phoenix I bought when I was 18, and I’m 55 now.”
"I like everything, I don’t have one brand that concentrate on," says Rusty while walking past a rare Chrysler New Yorker parked just ahead of a V8-swapped RN40 Hilux, an engine-less Suzuki Vitara, and an E12 5-series BMW equipped with a Ford Windsor V8 sporting two high-mounted turbochargers.
"A lot of these cars just popped up through friends and relatives, who I purchased them from, and they don’t go anywhere. I don’t really sell cars, I try to keep ‘em, and I try to get them all undercover.”
The only word to surmise the breadth of Rusty’s collection is “breathtaking”. I’ve been fortunate enough to walk through countless car collections but I’ve never seen such a diverse range of cars owned by one person.
Walking through the gate there is one carport with a 1JZGTE sitting next to an SR20-powered S12 Gazelle, across from a Valiant Wayfarer ute, Ford F100, Holden VK Commodore wagon, and near the Mitsubishi Sigma the 1J came out of, while a pair of gigantic Dodge Phoenix sedans sit outside the next shed…
For many hardcore car fans their passion is a multi-generational addiction, and Rusty is no different having been led into the car-mad lifestyle by his father.
“My dad was into cars, and I started collecting with him when I was around 14 or 15,” explains Rusty. “He was always into Fords… and he was also in Valiants. He had an S-series Valiant, plus XR, XW, and XY Falcons, too.
“Actually, come to think of it, he also loved Zephyrs… and he loved his FE Holden station wagon… a Holden! [laughs]. We’d go to wrecking yards together and my first car was an EH Holden wagon we built together.”
The huge prices paid for old cars in Australia has led to a massive rise in the purist movement, as some enthusiasts point to the potential value behind these increasingly-rare old beasts. For Rusty, however, he cares not a jot about that as many of the cars have personal meanings to him through friendships or family connections.
"People in the area know to come tell me about any old cars they’re thinking of getting rid of, to see if I’d be interested in buying it because they know I won’t get rid of it. I'm not really interested in what these cars are worth because they mean more than that to me."
That isn't to say he doesn't use them, however. “We’ve got a dragstrip near here called Bodangora, at a local airport, which is only an eighth-mile but we take some of these cars there for a bit of fun," he says.
Australia is a huge place, and the closest permanent drag strip or race track to Rusty is in the middle of Sydney, some four hours away. This is a common issue for people living in rural areas of the Wide Brown Land, and some feel this is how the sports of speedway and burnouts grew over traditional types of car racing, as it was easier for people to set up a dirt ring or a burnout pad than a dedicated racing facility.
One of the cars Rusty drag races at Bogandora is a 1968 Ford Escort two-door (a highly valuable car in some circles). However, the standard 12hp four-cylinder been ripped out in favour of 151kW (203hp) 4.3-litre Chrysler Hemi six-cylinder.
“I built the Mk1 Escort with a 265ci Hemi just for a bit of fun," he says. "I’ve also built a Corolla, which I called Lola, with a 253ci (4.2-litre) Holden V8 for burnouts. Oh, and we’ve got a V8 Lexus outside, plus I’m also going to try and get another V8 ute going for it, too."
“I’m not going to lie to you, but the Escort was built after a few beers and because I had easy access to an angle grinder,” laughs Rusty. “We had a few beers and then by 2am the engine was in. I came home from work later that day and finished it off, and it’s been done for over 26 years. It’s a cracker of a car, we have heaps of fun with it.”
While many commenters on the Internet are never shy in sharing their opinion on how someone should have built their car, Rusty prefers to just get in an build cars how he sees fit. These aren't just randomly hacked together nuggets, either, with a bump-side F100 project packing late-model independent Ford Falcon coil front suspension, or the leaf-sprung Dodge Phoenix gasser build, or dozens of others.
As we wander he excitedly tells the story behind different cars, or parts dotted around the floor. "This 15x15in wheel will get put under this Valiant here. I used to take it to the Summernats but it hasn't been since Summernats 8 [this January will be Summernats 34] and i'll take the Chrysler 440ci big-block out of my Desoto to put back in it, with a blower too."
Rusty is also incredibly generous with his space, opening it up to car and bike enthusiasts over the last two years for a good time party.
“Because the Gulgong swap meet got cancelled we have run an event here for the last two years. I was going to put a concrete burnout pad in but we had too much rain and the trucks can’t get up the hill to pour it, so I’ll make space in the shed and we’ll do them in here.
“We’ll have a swap meet plus a car, bike and hot rod show, then we’ll do burnouts until probably 3am. We get people camping out so it’s a great time with music and cars and everyone.
We have to give a massive thank you to Rusty and Kirsty for taking the time to show us through the collection and give us the down-low on the history behind many of these cars. Below is a gallery of other photos from Rusty's, and this is only a small slice of all the awesome cars he has.
Unfortunately our time with Rusty was short as we were less than halfway to our destination and had to get back on the road. However, we'd have never even met him if we hadn't jumped in our cars and taken off on a mad road trip to a place we'd never been, and taken the time to explore along the way.