Hot rodding is most assuredly a worldwide endeavor-the e-mails I receive prove that. But, every now and then, something will cross my computer screen that is so simple, so obvious, and such a good idea that we have to say, "Now, why didn't we think of that?" Or better yet, "Why didn't I think of that?"
For starters, how about a retirement community for hot rodders who just don't want to trade in their welders, wrenches, or polishing rags? Worldwide, hot rodders have any number of common dominators, such as our passion for cars, events, and fellow rodders. But, there is one more very important aspect of our hobby that we may choose to ignore but can't; delay thinking about but shouldn't; and think impossible but isn't. To borrow a portion of the lyrics from Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart's song, "Old Habits Die Hard": "Old habits die hard, old soldiers just fade away," I would respectfully like to change that to "old hot rodders just fade away." But, they don't have to, and Aussie rodders are actually doing something about this with the creation of a retirement community, Castlemaine Hot Rod Centre Ltd., for rodders who want to continue their love of the hobby with others who have a like passion. Currently, the site location is on the western edge of the city of Castlemaine.
Lest I sound like a world traveler, or at the very least someone who "feels" the pulse of rodding elsewhere in the world, I should explain I found out about this great idea from several Australian rodders and one "sorta" Australian rodder: Kelvin Waddington, of Waddington Street Rods-who brought us the '34 Ute and most recently the '34 Ford phaeton that has covered the pages of STREET RODDER the past several months; Larry O'Toole, of Australian Street Rod publishing fame; and a transplanted U.S. rodder who spends a lot of time south of the equator, Tex Smith (many of you may recognize the name!).
I should preface the following by saying that the idea has proceeded well past the "dream" phase, as politicians, property owners, architects, financiers, and rodders alike are working together to make it happen. According to Australian demographics, "The typical hot rod enthusiast is 55 years old, financially self secure (bet that makes for an interesting definition), an 'empty nester,' and is often looking for a method to retire away from a metropolitan area where the opportunity to pursue their hot rod passion in a supportive environment, with like-minded people."
The Castlemaine Hot Rod Centre will have a number of buildings or settings for retired rodders, including: the hub, which will feature a museum for vehicle displays, a caf and sales area, office and administration, catering facilities, a fully equipped function room, training facilities, and modified vehicle inspection services; and a retirement/accommodation area, with 80 units targeting the active hot rodder and other automotive enthusiast retirees (long- and short-term living). These units are designed for the hot rod enthusiast with an attached large garage and workshop areas. Also included are rodding-specific businesses, an entertainment area, and-I couldn't believe this-a test track for driver education and related functions.
You might be asking where the heck and what the heck is Castlemaine, Australia. It is 120 km (for us Americans, that would be approximately 75 1/2 miles) from Melbourne, placing it on what we call the Southeastern Seaboard. Castlemaine is a city of the Shire of Mount Alexander, in central Victoria. It has a population of about 8,000, and economically it is doing better than the rest of regional Victoria. The charm of age, slow pace, and familiarity is reportedly part of the attraction of this city, although growth and change, as evidenced almost everywhere, seems to be occurring.
Castlemaine has its roots in the Mount Alexander gold fields in 1850, and it was during this time that its population was actually larger than Melbourne and it was the richest alluvial gold field in world history-this title still stands.
According to the core group, Castlemaine Hot Rod Centre-which will perform the role of parent company to oversee the establishment and staged development of the center-it is the intention to operate the center in conjunction with a varied grouping of individuals, some of which may be partners.
Can you imagine something along these lines in the States? Don't get me wrong, I like my neighbors-although I couldn't tell you their names or what they looked like-but the idea of hangin' with a bunch of car buds I've spent a lifetime cultivating into true friends sounds very appealing. Well, as long as Senior Editor Ron Ceridono doesn't mess up my garage!