13 October 2023

Canberra car enthusiast showcases 1912 Overland 59-Roadster rescued from Gunnedah dumpster

| Oliver Jacques
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Nick Nowak next to his blue vintage car

Nick Nowak has had his 1912 Overland for 20 years. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

More than 115 vintage cars have been seen on Riverina roads this month as part of the National Veteran Vehicle Tour 2023. The oldest car registered is a 1903 Oldsmobile, closely followed by a 1904 De Dion Bouton and a number of the famous Model “T” Ford that brought internal combustion automobiles to the masses.

But perhaps the most remarkable story of historic car preservation comes from 80-year-old Canberran Nick Nowak, who owns a 1912 Overland 59-Roadster that belonged to a NSW police chief and was rescued from a rural dumpster in the 1990s. Region caught up with the Vintage and Veteran Car Club of the ACT member, who told us all about the car and its history.

How has this 111-year-old vehicle been preserved?

The frame was found at the garbage tip at Gunnedah in 1994. It was missing an awful amount. The guy that pulled it out did a map of 50 km radius and rang every single farm and eventually found the man that had dumped it. On the former owner’s farm he found most of the parts.

The finder wasn’t able to restore it, but I bought it in 2003 and built up the body.

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How did you do that?

I managed to get all the plans for this actual model from Detroit. So I bought a photocopy of 140 plans of every part on the car, so then we knew exactly how to do it. We built a new wood frame and sheeted it. My son-in-law went to tech to learn upholstery, and this is his first effort.

The headlights came from America, the sidelights came from Adelaide. I spent three years looking for a taillight and would you believe I found it in my hometown of Canberra after writing to other countries trying to find one.

I finished restoring it in 2003 and it’s been on the road for about 20 years now.

Nick Nowak and his vintage car

Nick Nowak says his car is a bit “messy” to drive. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Who was the original owner?

The police chief in NSW, he had it for four years. It was the only two-seater of this model that ever came to Australia.

How fast can it go?

It goes up to 60 km/h, but it’s only got two-wheel brakes and they’re not great, so I tend to drive it at about 45 km/h. It came to Griffith from Canberra on a trailer.

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How much is it worth?

They insure it for $65,000, but I feel if I got $50,000 that would be a fair price.

Are you hoping to sell it?

No, it will be passed on to my daughter and my son-in-law, who has several vintage cars.

Row of white vintage cars

More than 100 vintage cars have been doing the rounds in Griffith in October. Photo: Griffith City Council.

Is it difficult to register cars like this for road use?

In Canberra we get concessional registration, and they don’t make it too tough as long as the car’s an original.

What fuel does it take?

Unleaded petrol. Leaded petrol didn’t come in until after these cars were built, so these old cars from pre-1920 were all on unleaded petrol.

What response have you received from your Riverina tour?

Very positive. We display the cars at the Pioneer Park Museum; there were hundreds of people to see them. The council here has been fantastic.

More photos of the vintage cars can be found on the Griffith National Veteran Vehicle Tour 2023 Facebook page.

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