THERE’S some classic American muscle right here in Tumut, and it serves as daily transport for Dan Vitacek.
For the past five years, Dan has owned a 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator, which he bought sight unseen from Queensland.
“I saw a little photo of it in Unique Cars magazine, and bought it,” he said. “The first time I saw and drove it was when it arrived here. It was my dream car when I was 10 and I’ve got it now.”
It’s an American built 351 V8-powered machine with left-hand-drive, which was the hardest thing for Dan to get used to.
“For the first half an hour, left hand drive is terrifying; everything seems wrong,” he said. “After that you don’t notice it.”
The car has a four-speed manual gearbox, a nine-inch differential, dragway wheels and the accompanying tyres.
“It has a very heavy clutch, but it has power steering and factory air-conditioning,” Dan said.
The Cougar is Dan’s only car, and while driving around Tumut doesn’t cost much, long trips do.
“It costs about $250-$300 to go to Sydney and back,” he said.
“It ain’t a cheap beast, but it’s cheaper to insure than a new car. It’s super comfortable, with comfy seats and lots of room.”
The best part about the machine, is how it seems to make others feel.
“People smile and wave to you, even in Sydney, whether they’re eight or 88,” Dan said.
“In Tumut, kids stand around the car and smile. The car looks intimidating, but the colour (a pale yellow) isn’t.”
Being left hand drive makes it even more head-turning.
“I sometimes take a mate for a drive, and he takes a spare steering wheel and he pretends to drive in the other seat, and drops the wheel when people are looking,” Dan said.
The model itself has an interesting history.
“In 1969, you had Woodstock, the moon landing, and this car,” Dan said.
“The Eliminator was signed off by Mercury boss Bill Bourke, and this was his last car in America. He then transferred to Australia and his next car design was the legendary Falcon GTHO. These Eliminators have been cheaper to buy than an equivalent Mustang, as they were not so well known, but this is rapidly changing as their story becomes known worldwide.”