Cast your mind back to 1997. The bubble-gum pop of the Spice Girls is dominating the airwaves and the UK top 40 is still a relevant cultural institution. To the thumping soundtrack of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ the electorate of Britain elect a fresh-faced Tony Blair to the top office. Titanic is the highest grossing film of the year, teenage girls and middle-aged mothers alike are falling heads over heels for a young Leo. Princess Diana dies in tragic circumstances and the East Coast – West Coast Hip Hop rivalry reaches its peak with the death of the Notorious B.I.G.
But on a factory line somewhere in the depths of industrial Melbourne a star was born, unbeknownst to the rest of the world. Amid the hedonism, baggy t-shirts and curtains, Martyn (our trusty Holden Commodore Station Wagon) rolled off the production line and had his first tantalising taste of bitumen which sparked a love affair that would last nearly 20 years.
Over in the UK, Lauren and myself were just starting out at school, blissfully unaware of the fact that we had set out upon a path that would one day lead us to converge with the pinnacle of vehicular engineering.
Although little is known to us about Martyn’s life between then and 2015, we can only assume he served his country loyally. Carting the good people of Australia across this vast, isolated country. Devouring any sign of tarmac that got in his way. But in the winter of 2015 he was discovered by our friends in the sleepy beach town of Busselton in Western Australia.
At this point the car was probably used for little more than short trips to the local shops or for a genteel cruise down the promenade. Sitting and staring out over the endless South Indian Ocean, dreaming of adventures further afield and a return to his motherland, Melbourne.
Things changed drastically for Martyn that winter as he was put to good work, traversing the length and breadth of the vast empty continent of Australia. He journeyed over endless deserts, crossed huge swells on the Bass Strait and winded his way over and around the rugged mountain ranges of South West Tasmania. It would be safe to say he lived his final years to the fullest.
But his time with us was not without its scrapes. He endured Lauren’s death wish in rural Western Australia as she managed to fly off the road not one but twice in the space of a week. The second time a high-speed brush with death as Martyn was thrown off the red dirt road and plunged deep into the boggy bush. We thought this might be the end of Martyn but stared on in disbelief as the tractor pulled him out unscathed and rearing to go.
He bore the brunt of my bad temper and took the scars to prove it with him to the grave, the worst of which he accrued when I ploughed a two-tonne tractor into his side.
But despite this the old boy never gave up. He served as a trusty steed right to the end. He only ever broke down in the close vicinity of cities, only allowing himself to fall from exhaustion when our safety was guaranteed.
For all of this Martyn was a true Australian hero. A work horse born and bred. He refused to give up despite his old age because a hard day’s work was the only bloody thing he’d ever known in his life.
So tonight, wherever you are, raise a tinny of XXXX, a stubbie of VB or glass of wine (if that’s how you choose to live your life) to old reliable.