By on May 17, 2012

James writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m a university student completing their honours degree in screen production. My project for this year is making a short drama/comedy about a young man and his car (surprise, surprise!), so I’m looking for old, tidy cars with character.

My search has come down to a yellow 1983 Volvo 244 GL 3sp auto, offered to me for $500AUD with no registration – the pictures I’ve been given shows a very straight, tidy old brick, but it could respond well to a good polish. The bad? The car has been sitting around for at least a few months (could even be closer to a year…), which causes worries. I’m told it drove quite well before it was put away and the owners in question are quite mechanically minded and love their bricks, so I’m lead to believe it will be a good car. However, if I buy this car and it doesn’t work, suddenly I’m out of money and I don’t have a car for my film. So is there anything I should be wary of and check to ensure clean health? Any brick nuts want to chime either?

For you brick nuts, it’s an ’83 244 GL with the B23 and the 3 speed automatic. It’s done 280,000 kilometres/170k miles. I’m from Australia so I’m sure someone will school me on how we got the better bricks and USDM got shafted or something along those lines!

Speedy response would be lovely before I loose my money!

Sajeev answers:

Take it from a single guy who spends a fair bit of time networking: be it for cars or people, “character” is an, um, interesting term. Try telling your average business networking professional that your daily driver is a Ford Ranger. Or a Lincoln Mark VIII. It’s quite an eye opener, and the right car will set the tone for a conversation. Or a movie.

All old cars have tons of it, and perhaps your short film will be adult rated because of the sheer volume of profanity involved when said vehicle’s character leaves the protagonist stranded, waiting for parts or trapped in a diagnostic nightmare.  Trapped, I tell you! In this case, depending on the quality of a vehicle’s service history, this might be quite a short film!

Buying a non-runner is a terrible idea for a man in your shoes.

I’d strongly suggest finding a runner that you can test drive and judge on its flaws and benefits.  Service history is crucial.  I’d also recommend buying an indigenous vehicle so people around the world can get a better window into car culture in Australia. Not necessarily like MAD MAX, but some sort of Australian angle would help.

I’d go with a Holden, any of them. Or a Chrysler with a slant-6 motor. Ya know, the Ford’s already been done.




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35 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Ideal Aussie Indie Film Star?...”

  • avatar

    Hehehe… brick nuts. Look here- I’m a reasonably manly man. Nothing special, but no pushover. But I don’t think I can live up to the name “Brick Nuts.” I wish I could, because it is the most awesome potential nickname ever.

  • avatar

    Follow the yellow brick road…..

  • avatar

    If the car is a character in the movie, the presumably you should already have in mind what kind of car is good for the role. I mean, different kind of car would be better for a specific kind of character. How would the car be portrayed in the movie? Will it be driven? Perform stunts? Carry passengers? How many? What kind of character the owner is? Volvo 240s would be great for certain type of characters, not so for others. Other types of character might be more suited to a sports/exotic car, other a pick up truck. Aston Martins are perfect for James Bond, BMW Z4 or 7-series, not so much. Inspector Morse’s Jaguar MKII is also very well suited for his character.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “I’d also recommend buying an indigenous vehicle so people around the world can get a better window into car culture in Australia. Not necessarily like MAD MAX, but some sort of Australian angle would help.”

    And where pray-tell do you think this Volvo was made?

    • 0 avatar

      It still looks like every other Volvo on the planet. Get something DESIGNED for the Aussie market, not just screwed together there.

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed, a Mercedes assembled in South Africa still screams German, not Africa. A Suzuki assembled in Hungary still says Japanese, not Eastern Europe.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        Well Holden VB-VK Commodores look pretty much the same as an Opel Commodore/Reckord or Senator, a VT-VZ Commodore is an Opel Omega Doppelganger. A XK-XY Falcons were variations on American models, XD-XF Falcons were styled as Granadas. Not to mention all the BMC, Valiant, Toyota and Mitsubishi stuff that was also a variation on theme from the overseas parent company. In fact only the Leyland P76 can claim it was designed solely for the Australian Market.

      • 0 avatar

        True and Volvos really arent much of a car by the way the last Valiant with a slant motor was 1969/70 VF it was Hemi 6 from then on much better engines

    • 0 avatar

      So- Sajeev is 100% correct… It’s not about the car’s actual place of origin, it’s about the perception. If James uses a car that is readily identifiable as available-only-in-that-market, the film has a stronger footing, particular if he wants to submit it to any small int’l festivals.

      Of course it depends on the storyline – I agree with MrWhopee that if the car is a significant part of the film, it needs far more consideration than “cheap and runs.” A Volvo might be right for the character, but it might not. And “runs well” and “service history” are irrelevant at this price. I’d be willing to bet that surprisingly few shots in the film actually require the car running…

  • avatar
    Bonneville2000 (of GM)

    Look for a ’69 Monaro with a small block. It will probably still be reliable, has inexpensive parts available and makes for a nice transistion when your film crosses into the U.S. It may actually help sell the film here as those cars are sister cars to some of the coolest in the states. Ahhh…but this is putting the car(t) before the character.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      Completely ignoring the fact of course that depending on model, people want between $50,000 and $300,000 for a V8 1969 HK or HT Monaros these days. Parts prices are the least of your worries.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with Robert, there are _parts_ of an early Monaro you couldn’t buy for $500, let alone a whole car!

  • avatar

    A young man and his Volvo 240, eh? It’s been done. Have you seen “Spun?”

    OK, it was more about a young man and his drug habit … but the car he thrashed was a 240.

  • avatar

    Last of the V8 Interceptors, she ain’t.

  • avatar

    Reminds me of one of our menders from the Nether-regions of Europe.

    He and his buddy decide to drive a few thousand clicks to see the Northern lights. They choose to do so in a 1970’s Corolla bought just for this purpose.

    A hundred kays out, the front suspension breaks… In half. Leaving them on three wheels. They bus it back home, buy another Corolla, pile all the good parts together into the facsimile of a working car and make the trip successfully.

    Shoulda video’d the trip…

  • avatar

    I happen to know a bit about car registration in Australia.

    You should be or become familiar with your state’s/territory’s rules, but I would assume that anything that isn’t currently registered will require some sort of inspection and clearance prior to getting new registration. Depending upon the state, getting that registration could be quite difficult.

    If you can’t get rego, then you can’t drive the car. Accordingly, if the car appears to be sound, then I would take it to a shop that is qualified to assess what would be required to obtain that registration. I would be quite concerned that the cost of getting it back on the road could blow through your budget pretty quickly.

    “I’d also recommend buying an indigenous vehicle so people around the world can get a better window into car culture in Australia.”

    It’s a class project for local consumption. Getting an old Falcon or Commodore carries certain baggage with the home crowd, and presumably won’t help the plot line, whatever it is. Australia used to have very high import tariffs, which makes cars like that old Volvo a relative rarity down there.

    • 0 avatar

      You always have great points, and I always enjoy reading your comments. That said, think about Web 2.0. This short film can go viral on YouTube/Vimeo, and why not? Uploading stuff is free, might as well broaden the audience!

      • 0 avatar

        The Falcon/ Commodore thing is a bit complicated down there.

        Of course, they were ubiquitous family cars, as pretty much just about everything else was shut out of the market. The vast majority of cars that were sold in Australia 30 years ago would have been either one of these.

        There was also a Ford-Holden rivalry on par with the Ford-Chevy rivalry here.

        To an Aussie, an old Falcon or Commodore carries certain baggage. In the outback, the beat up versions are associated with aboriginals (read: poor minorities.) With the vestiges of the old Ford-Holden rivalry, they can carry a rep that we would think of as being “redneck.” ( ) In either case, they don’t stand out as being particularly quirky or unique to the locals.

        I don’t know the plot line of this story, of course, but presumably, the Volvo is supposed to serve in a role of being a sort of anti-Holden. Imagine a road trip film with an old VW Bug vs. another featuring an old Cadillac Eldorado — there are some plots in which one of those cars would work but the other would not.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      “I happen to know a bit about car registration in Australia.”


      “but I would assume that anything that isn’t currently registered will require some sort of inspection”

      Not in SA it doesn’t.

      “Australia used to have very high import tariffs, which makes cars like that old Volvo a relative rarity down there.”

      Again I would point out that this Volvo was actually made in Australia so your point about tariffs is irrelevant. They are not rare at all – and have an enviable reputation as a favoured first car amongst concerned parent.

    • 0 avatar

      True a registerted Volvo might be worth $500 without rego is worth nada

  • avatar

    Now I’m thinking that the plot of the story is almost as important as his shoestring budget. Well, at least to us over-analyzing car nerds.

  • avatar

    Hi guys, James here!

    Thanks for the replies first of all!

    I just though I’d point out the reason for me buying a car, rather than borrowing someone’s pride and joy, is that I want to remove the risk of borrowing someone’s prized car and end up having an actor/driver destroy it. At least if I own the car, if that does indeed happen, I’ll only have myself to blame, rather than having to explain to someone that I’ve destroyed their cherished car! Initially the idea was to use a friend of mines mint, stock Holden HX Kingswood 202, but he wouldn’t let anyone but himself drive that, even on a deserted desert road with no other cars for 100 miles!

    I agree completely with Sajeev that a non-runner is a waste of time and money. However I’m told this car runs quite well… I’m going to see it in a few days so I’ll see what exactly this is!

    I’m located in South Australia, so we lack Road Worthy Certificates, so all you need to do is register the car with the local authorities.,+travel+and+motoring/Motoring/Vehicles+and+registration/Vehicle+registration/Registering+an+unregistered+vehicle

    For those interested, the inspiration for the film was my experiences with my first car, which was a 1985 Nissan 910 Bluebird (known in the US as a 810 Deluxe or Maxima). I learnt everything about driving in that car, I basically spent my high school years growing up in that car – learnt to drive, had my first dates, bonded with mates, did your typical teenage thing on abandoned roads and dirt car parks, you name it. I loved that car, I thought I was going to keep it forever. But sadly the car ended up dying and I had to make the decision whether to hold onto my past and fix it, or move on. Sadly, I moved on. I still regret that (I’m sure everyone has a similar story!)

    The film explores a similar relationship around a young man and his first car – the experiences that formed the love and connection to this particular car. I can see the Volvo being a bit of a gag to begin with (“Bloody Volvo Driver” is a popular idiom for Volvos here!), it’s something that’s a bit unique and cool in it’s own way. Ideally I would find another Bluebird like my real first car, but the Volvo is something far more recognisable, unique and a (tiny bit) rare these days. It also got offered to me out of the blue and I’m convinced it can work for the script! That’s if it actually works!

    I’ve sort-of decided against the idea of using indigenous product firstly; because they’re as common as muck, and second of all, the fans of Holden and Fords are (as someone else has pointed out) the region of the bogan. The character is more of a car obsessed nerd-type, rather than your typical swearing, dim-witted, Jack Daniels drinking car enthusiast, which is what stereotype of a Holden and Ford here. Not saying it’s the reality (the old man drives a yellow modern LS1 Monaro, which I talked him into buying!), but it’s something I’ve decided to avoid.

    What’s interesting to point out is the film is less about the car (but trust me, I take car casting very seriously!) and more about it being a “vehicle” for the character’s growth and development, and eventually becomes emotional baggage for the character at the end of the film.

    @Bonneville2000 (of GM) I wish I could find a Monaro for that cheap! They’re either rusted out buckets, or expensive show queens now.

    @Robert Gordon The Volvo is a proper Swedish brick – I’ve never known of any locally made Volvo products.

    @Pch101 I think you’ve got what I was thinking – part of the conflict in the script comes from him being gifted a car he doesn’t like at first. Everyone gets a Falca-door over here as a first car, so what actually makes this car special or unique? Being a weird, brick style Volvo achieves this.

    • 0 avatar

      “The character is more of a car obsessed nerd-type, rather than your typical swearing, dim-witted, Jack Daniels drinking car enthusiast, which is what stereotype of a Holden and Ford here.”

      So, no mullet then. I suppose that you won’t be casting this guy:×400.jpg

      It’s been awhile since I’ve been there, but as I can recall, South Australia had the easiest rules for dealing with unregistered cars. Western Australia was probably the worst — getting rego for an old unregistered or out-of-state car was next to impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      “I’ve never known of any locally made Volvo products.”

      All non-metallic 200 series of this era were made in Australia, by Volkswagan/Nissan in Clayton – Melbourne as it happens. They also built 700 and 100 series too.

      You learn something everyday don’t ya!

  • avatar

    If I were making a film I’d never go close to using a 240 as a star car, the parts alone would dry up my budget.

    • 0 avatar

      If I were making a film I’d never go close to using a 240 as a star car, the parts alone would dry up my budget. Try a Honda Z360 or 600, something a bit different.

  • avatar

    Shouldn’t the ideal Aussie Chrysler have a hemi-6 instead of a slant-6?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Is it me or the OI OI OI crowd is getting bigger here.

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