Introducing John Maxwell Houston, the first proprietor of Vintage Motor Garage. He will be sharing some of the eventful episodes of his earlier life, his work at Vintage Motor Garage and perhaps some motoring adventures over the years. Firstly, a little background – John Maxwell was born at Dulwich Hill, Sydney in 1934, the youngest of three children born to John and Elsie Houston. Joyce and James came first and then John Maxwell, always known as Max. 

Max’s Mutterings will be a regular feature of the Vintage Motor Garage Blog, so keep dropping by for the next instalments. 

In the beginning our home was ruled by my maternal grandfather. Grandfather Hughan was a rather dour Scot and didn’t necessarily like little boys running around the place. When he died in 1942 the family moved to a weekender at Dolans Bay on the Port Hacking River, south of Sydney. Money was tight and there was only one bike shared by Jim and I. My brother Jim went to Hurstville School by train, firstly riding the bike to Caringbah Station and leaving the bike behind the hardware store for me. I arrived at the hardware store a little later by bus from Dolans Bay. (A rather slow 1927 Reo, that the kids would walk beside as it ground up Wentworth Rd), I then retrieved the bike and rode it to Cronulla School. The following year I joined my brother at Hurstville School in an opportunity class for bright students.

Being of a more mechanical and technical bent I chose Sydney Technical High School at Paddington for my secondary education. Despite being awarded a bursary to complete the five years, I left school after four years as the world of motor cars beckoned, much to the dismay of the headmaster and my parents. 

I subsequently did a five year Mechanics apprenticeship at an inner Sydney suburb workshop, part of which was a four-year course at Sydney Technical College. In 1950 or 1951 I acquired the bones of a 1923 Alvis sports car, making it into a car by my 17th birthday, when I obtained my driver’s licence. This car, lying dormant since 1988 has recently undergone restoration. (More about this car in future posts) I joined the Alvis Car Club in 1953 and began to enjoy some mild competitive motoring. 

Photo taken by Ken Day at Vintage Motor Garage at Central Mangrove, near Gosford. From alvisarchive.com

In 1955 I married Elizabeth Sergeant, the eldest daughter of a Scottish family who settled nearby. The Alvis was pressed into service, towing a small caravan to Brisbane on our honeymoon. Not very many years later we were living in a garage under the house being built at Turriell Bay Rd, Caringbah. We had bought a defunct motor repair business, known as Gymea Bay Garage.

In 1961 I decided to deviate from the motor trade into road transport. I first purchased a 1956 Leyland Beaver with 35-foot trailer. In 1962 I purchased a new Foden with 6LX Gardner engine and in 1964 a 1960 bonneted Leyland Hippo. There was also another Leyland Beaver for a while.

North Queensland became the preserve of these trucks when CSR was undertaking a major overhaul of their North Queensland Sugar Mills. One memorable trip was taken to Mt Tom Price, in Western Australia in the iron ore mines establishment phase of the 1960s. I also did many runs carrying explosives to the coal mines of Central Queensland.

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