Ancient Numbers

Here is the burning question: who has Gladstone’s oldest number plate?

The Observer wants to find out, and so does Ray McEwen, who has thrown his own entry into the mix. Mr McEwen has his father’s old license plate number, which dates back to 1928.

The original number plate was on Mr McEwen’s father’s Model A Ford and now hangs proudly on his garage wall along with other motoring memorabilia. That classic Model A remains one of Mr McEwen’s prized possessions and he says that when the time comes, he will pass it on to his son.

The car was first purchased in 1928 by Farreigh Sugar Mill and later sold to Mr McEwen’s father.

But getting back to our burning question, Mr McEwen is mighty curious to find out who has our most ancient license plate number. In order to keep his father’s original license plate alive in spirit, he had the old number transferred to his current Hilux ute, which now parades the ancient digits around town: Q177-265.

Mr McEwen is a passionate enthusiast of historic motoring tidbits. He has old road maps from the 1950’s that will advice you on the price of a room at each town’s hotel. (11 shillings at the Grand Hotel, Gladstone, plus another shilling for parking.)

When it comes to cars, it’s the classics that really get his heart racing. The enthusiasm is bubbling as he pours over a photo album he compiled of his visit to the Cité de l’Automobile, a Bugatti museum in France.

“This is art,” he says of the stylish old luxury vehicles. “(Ettore) Bugatti was an artist. For him, making cars was a craft, whereas today your car has to look like a tear drop to reduce air resistance.”

“I love the Type 35’s (built in 1925.) Just look at the artwork behind this.”

His love of the automobile began when he was about 4 years old and his dad took the family for long drives that involved waiting for the tide to drop on the O’Connell River so they could make a crossing.

“I remember just looking out the windscreen thinking, ‘There’s so much to see,’” he said. And ever since, he has loved the joys of the open road. In 1954, he and a friend spent 8 months on an 8,000 mile odyssey around Australia.

Nowadays, a map of Australia hags on his garage wall with all the routes he has driven inked in and we can assure you, there isn’t much blank space left.

- Got an old license plate? Tell the Observer all about it.

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