FOR ME IT LOOKS LIKE A DODGE PHOENIX, AT LEAST THE BADGE SAYS IT ... But I grew up with Opel Kapitän and Ford Badewanne ...
Doug Wilshire plays a two-neck Hawaiian steel guitar in city pubs and drives a '67 Valiant.And somehow it all makes good sense. The 45-year-old came to Australia in 1982 when he was 17 to play in our pubs chasing the success of Aussie pub bands Australian Crawl, Men at Work and Mental as Anything.
"I came out here and joined a rockabilly band in Sydney," he says. "I've earned my living playing music full time ever since."
Wilshire also trained as a mechanic, so when the opportunity to "earn some good money" came up maintaining the massive dragline excavators in the North Queensland mine fields, he jumped at it. "I only work three days a week up here and then fly back to Brisbane where I can continue to play my music. "When I get more money up here, I'll be able to whack a great big huge donk in the Valiant."
This jumble of jobs and passions seems to fit like a jigsaw puzzle for Wilshire. His day begins at 3am when he starts a 12-hour shift keeping the big excavators running '24/7'. And he's been working on some of the biggest of them all.
"Dragline 37 at Peak Downs is the largest in the southern hemisphere," he says. "It weighs a couple of million pounds (about 900 tonne) and the bucket alone holds over 1500 cubic metres which is the equivalent of a house. It runs on a 66,000 volt electric motor and plugs into a giant wire about 8 inches (20cm) across."
His love of big machinery extends to his passion for Chryslers. "I bought the Valiant off a guy who worked for Compass airlines and when they went bust he had to sell," he says. "He had done some of the work on it; air shocks, turquoise paint and 1970s Jelly Bean mag wheels. "The car picked me. I had to have it."
The car is a 1967 Chrysler Valiant VC Regal powered by a 225 (3.6-litre) six-cylinder Hemi with a single-barrel Carter RBS downdraft carburettor.
"If I could get my hands on a Special I would. The Regal is the one below," he says. "I got it for just $1500 in 2006. It was a bargain. It only had 6000 miles (9656km) on the clock. I've redone the trim on the doors, rebuilt the carby, put new valve seats in as it was blowing some smoke, and a bigger exhaust. "I put 225mm tyres on the back and 190s on the front. When I pump up the air shocks the back looks high like a '60s Mopar muscle car. One day I'll put a 360 (5.9-litre) Hemi in it. It's got the engine bay big enough for it."
Wilshire likes old Chryslers because they have "more style than any Ford or Holden".
"My dad was a Ford man and my brother was GM man, but not me. "You can always tell a Chrysler product. Even their PT Cruiser and 300C. They have that retro style that I like. "My dream car is an AP1 or AP2 1957-59 Chrysler Royal. I'm looking for one right now. They have the biggest fins in Australia. "Fins should make a comeback."
The fins, the retro car ... It all seems to fit with Wilshire's music and his sense of style. "The way I look - tattoos, clothes - it's all retro," he says. "I've been into it since grade 3 when I saw Sha Na Na. They played at Woodstock and I looked at them and I just clicked with that era."
Wilshire followed rockabilly band the Stray Cats in the '80s and became good friends with guitarist Brian Setzer, recently playing support in Brisbane on the Stray Cats reunion tour. "He's one of the main reasons I wanted to play guitar. I even have a big Stray Cats tat on my left shoulder."
Wilshire will launches his new solo "rockabilly, roots and blues, and western swing" album, Cuz Of You, with his band the Tailspinners at the 18th annual Brisbane Blues Festival on March 13 at the Jubilee Hotel in Fortitude Valley.
Wilshire's music should even score him cheap rego. "I might put this on concessional rego and just use it for club meets. I play a lot of car club gigs, so I can use it a fair bit legally," he says.