Hot rod enthusiast Bruce McDonald shows off his wheels

By Cobram Courier

Bruce McDonald , 74, has two passions — living his retirement to its full and his love of all things mechanical.

The retired dairy farmer from Yarroweyah believes preparing for retirement is an important part of life for everyone, not just former farmers.

‘‘I have heard of people that suddenly retire with no plans as to what they are going to do with their time off, it’s almost as if their lives literally come to a halt without an outlet or an interest to be going on with following the end of their working lives,’’ he said.

Mr McDonald has had a couple of goes at retirement and found it did not stick.

‘‘I was a dairy farmer for 37 years and retired. I then went on to work for an engineering firm for 13 years, then with Murray Valley Motor Homes in Strathmerton,’’ he said.

Mr McDonald decided a few years ago to embark on a project to keep busy — building a hot rod.

With the help of friends already involved in the hot rod community, he embarked on a five-year journey, to put his own mark on a 1948 Ford Anglia commercial van.

For many, the idea of such a project would be daunting, but not for a man of the land.

Mr McDonald moved to the soldier settlers area with his family when he was eight and, as with all farming families, he learnt there were times if you could not buy an item, you might just have to make it yourself.

Having started out restoring stationary engines and building his own tractors during his on-off again retirement, Mr McDonald set about creating a one off machine, which, not only turns the heads of people in the street, but also the Australian Street Rod Federation Hot Rod Show’s committee, recently held in Melbourne.

Mr McDonald’s car created such a stir, it finished second in the commercial vehicle group.

‘‘There were only 120 vehicles invited to take part in the competition and display,’’ Mr McDonald said.

‘‘I wanted to have a go at getting into that particular show, I sent them the photos of the van and I was invited to attend.’’

Finished in Micah red, the Anglia took on cars with budgets of up to $200000.

But, to a certain point, Mr McDonald believes a top show vehicle should still be practical.

‘‘Some of these cars are works of art and would not be expected to be driven on the road,’’ he said.

‘‘My Anglia however is no ‘‘trailer queen’’. I drove it to Melbourne and back for the competition.’’

While Mr McDonald does not regard himself as an official advocate of good mental health for men, he believes the car has healing properties out on the road.

‘‘The car does brighten people’s days,’’ he said.

‘‘I have been overrun by people at car shows wanting to know everything about the car.

‘‘I might just be driving around Cobram, running errands, but traffic generally stops when people see my car.’’

Mr McDonald smiles broadly when behind the steering wheel, happy to start the car. He touches the accelerator, listening to the V8 come to life.

While Mr McDonald has done 90 per cent of the work, he acknowledged the contributions and work done by various professionals in the area.

‘‘No-one can take on a project of this scale without the help of the professionals who do this type of work all of the time,’’ he said.

‘‘I am very grateful for all of the advice and assistance I was given during the construction period.’’

Mr McDonald offered some advice for those contemplating retirement, based on his own experience.

‘‘If you have a hobby you find people gravitate towards you,’’ he said.

‘‘Organisations such as men’s sheds have given men an outlet to not only gain knowledge and practical skills but has also a place where they feel they can talk to one another about their difficulties or things that might be troubling them.

‘‘Everyone needs a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, mine is my love of machinery, it keeps me going, I have a lot more to do in my life.’’

Retirement can be fraught with trepidation and is a big change for many, but as Mr McDonald has shown, retirement need not be an ending; it is the start of a new chapter.