Take a road trip full of memories

Scotty's Garage offers a blast from the past in the Lockyer Valley.

It's hard to miss the sleek lines of the gleaming white 1956 Thunderbird parked in front of Scotty’s Garage in the depths of the Lockyer Valley, just an hour’s drive from Brisbane.

Scott Wright purchased the Thunderbird after watching the 1973 coming-of-age film American Graffiti. 

In the film, Curt (a young Richard Dreyfuss) spent most of his time stuck in the back seat of his sister’s boring Edsel while on a mission to find a white Ford Thunderbird convertible driven by a mysterious blonde woman (Suzanne Somers).

Scott thought if he couldn’t have the blonde, at least he could have the car. 

Then the car needed a setting, so a petrol pump, sign and a rack of oil bottles were added to the garage, which already housed a ’69 Mustang. The next step was lining the fibro walls with rusty iron, which needed to be covered with old signs, and so it went on.

The film was the start of a passionate obsession with all things retro. These were the days when people traded their treasures via swap meets and Scott was hooked, big time.

“It just all fired up from the car,” explained Scott.

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More than 20 years later he does have the blonde, wife Sarah. They both enjoy cruising in the peacock blue-lined Thunderbird and running The Barn and Scotty’s Garage on Flagstone Creek Road, Upper Flagstone, which is open from Fridays to Sundays.  

Nestled under the Toowoomba escarpment, Upper Flagstone is a rural hideaway edged by conservation parks.

The garage is tucked off the road and almost hidden from view. Wall murals on the shed exterior by Peter Caporn are the hook that first drag the curious off the road.

Visitors soon discover that stopping here is like stepping back into a previous century. 

While a refreshing cuppa and warm scones with freshly-whipped cream await in the cool, dim barn, it’s the garage that is the real magnet.

If you have a penchant for anything old, a love of machinery or an interest in the retro revival, you will lose yourself wandering around Scotty’s Garage.

Built on site from recycled materials in 2013 to replicate an old-style shed, the building houses a collection from mid-20th century. The oldest item is a cash register from 1912, while the youngest is a 1970s tune-up machine.

Further back in the shed, 100-year-old petrol pumps sit close to those from the 1950s that would only take a bit of oil to get working again.

“The only reason they stopped using the 1950s-built machines is that they needed more than three digits when the price of the fuel purchased was higher than $9.99,” Scott said.

Among the hundreds of items are three pieces handmade by Scott’s father, which he would never part with. They include a tiny car crafted 50 years ago for his mother and a working model steam engine.

“Just before Dad died in 1996, he made me a model car out of a fork, a dessert spoon, a teaspoon and five pennies, all mounted on a piece of wood. That will never go,” Scott said.

One of the most valuable pieces is Pegasus, Mobil’s trademark flying red horse, one of five made for a cancelled trade fair in 1953.

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“This collection was going to be my superannuation, but it’s all worthless because it is not for sale,” Scott said.

Just when I thought I had seen it all, Scott opened the rear doors to reveal an even larger space. It was like stepping into the set of the television series Happy Days.  

There’s a long milk bar and red vinyl-lined diner booths where you almost expect to see Fonzie’s slicked back quiff greasing up the back. The temptation to slip some coins into the jukebox and cut up the floor like Sandy in Grease is palpable.

As I left the museum, eager for a Devonshire scone and tea at The Barn, I almost stumbled over something that took me right back to my childhood – a little red car.

It’s a 1967 Cyclops Lightning pedal car and I can remember sitting in the seat of mine and making broom-broom sounds.

Scott said the car sits there so children get excited when they enter the museum.

Leo, Scott’s young grandson, has a similar one on permanent loan from the collection and he wraps his car up in blankets every night before he goes to bed.

“We need to know where we came from to know where we are going,” Scott said. 

“The car shows youngsters that you don’t need a computer to have fun.”

Scott’s customers were often moved to tears by his collection.  

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.

“It’s not the stuff, it’s the memories that it jolts in people.”

Story: Kerry Heaney

Photos: Katie Purling