LISMORE car enthusiast Richard Meineke is used to playing second fiddle to his precious Ramblers, but this year he will have to take another step back.
Both of his restored cars will feature as Ms April and Ms July in a popular US car calendar.
Mr Meineke’s restored cars, a gold 1966 Rambler Classic hardtop and a green 1964 Rambler American, are the only two non-US Ramblers in the calendar which, he suspects, was part of the reason they were selected.
“I was very surprised,” he laughed. “Perhaps the novelty of the right-hand drive conversions may have weighed in my favour.”
Last year the US-based online website for Rambler fanatics advertised for owners to submit photos of their babies for selection in the calendar.
But it’s not the first time one of his vehicles has been in the spotlight.
His 1964 Rambler featured in the popular British police TV series, Heartbeat, when a series was filmed in Australia in 2008.
The episodes were shot at Rappville, near Casino, and Mr Meineke’s Rambler was used as the actual police car.
“I think only about 800 1964 Ramblers Americans were shipped to Australia and very few are still running,” he said.
“I believe my 1966 Classic, which was recently imported from the US, is the only six-cylinder two-door hardtop in the country.
“The Rambler Americans were shipped out in knock-down kit form to Commonwealth countries and assembled as right-hand drive cars.
“However, the gear stick and indicator lever are on the wrong side of the steering column, which is confusing sometimes when you are not thinking about what you are doing.”
Mr Meineke is currently stationed at Bonegilla near Albury with the Army, where he is training to be a mechanical engineer.
He took his 1966 Classic with him, but left the 1964 American in Lismore with his dad, Lismore City councillor Graham Meineke.
Cr Meineke and his wife Anne take it out for a run in the country every couple of weeks to keep it ticking over.
“There are no seatbelts in the ’64 Rambler so it feels a bit weird to drive like that these days,” he said.
“But we just go slow – the journey’s the thing in a car like that.”
Richard Meineke says the Rambler is considered the understated and economical yank-tank and after cutting his teeth on a HR Holden, it was a natural progression for the young car enthusiast.
“I sold the HR in 2008 and bought the 1964 Rambler American, and then the Classic in September last year,” he said.
“I saw a photo of the American and did a bit of research and found that it was more powerful than the HR Holden, but used less fuel.
“It’s the underdog of the big three American car-makers and not really considered an investment because it’s not that popular there.”
Mr Meineke is engaged to be married, but his fiancé doesn’t share his passion.
“She puts up with it,” he laughed.
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