Norm Golding & Paul Wright
Perth Western Australia
Love of Chevys spans continents
Sunday, June 19, 2005
By Carole Schrock, The Star
Norm Golding and Paul Wright prove a Chevy guy is a Chevy guy whether he lives in the United States or half a world away. If Golding and Wright didn't have that distinct Australian twang, no one would know they traveled almost 11,000 miles — more than 17,000 kilometers — just to check out Chevrolet cars. "I thought it would be nice to have them here," Don Tornow said. The Chicago Heights resident and his wife, Elaine, are hosting the guys while they sink their teeth into all things chrome and crank.
Back home in Perth, Australia, Golding and Wright are members of the '55, '56, '57 Chevrolet Club of Western Australia. "We just like the features, the design of Chevys," Wright, the club's president, said. Tornow is a member of the Tri Chevy Association, a local car club. One day Golding landed on the group's Web site, which is maintained by Tornow's adult son, Devin, and joined. Earlier this year, former club treasurer Kathy Englert made a video for Golding and Wright during a club picnic. "She said, 'We're making this video because you'll probably never make it over here to see us,'" Wright said. "That was it. We knew we had to go." The men left their wives and children to spend more than a month in the United States. They stayed with a fellow Chev-head in California before flying to Chicago. Relying on hospitality, the two camped in Englert's New Lenox home for about a week before motoring over to the Tornows'.
On the quiet street, Golding and Wright were welcomed by the Australian flag, flying on the front of the house. Tornow also hung two large banners heralding the guys' arrival. Hopefully the visitors were ready for complete car craziness because their host is keeping them busy. The trio visited the Frankfort Cruise Night on June 9 and Route 66 Raceway in Joliet on June 10. "That was so awesome," Wright said. "We couldn't believe the scale of the cars that were there." Golding agreed the sheer number of cars impressed the gents. "It was mind-boggling," he said.
And June 12 was every Chevy man's dream. It was the Tri Chevy Association's 33rd Anniversary Swap Meet and Car Display in Peotone. Chevy lovers from near and far converged on the Will County Fairgrounds to swap and sell car parts and stories. Golding and Wright both picked up parts to bring home.
However, those are Tinkertoys compared with what Golding already purchased. He bought a 1957 Chevrolet earlier in the trip and shipped it home. He paid about $22,000 for it and almost as much to transport the classic car back to his home country. "It's costly but it's worth it," Golding said. "We just have a passion for these cars."
Both men said they've been gear heads since their youth. Wright grew up on a farm and always tooled around in off-road vehicles there. Now he manages and lives on a chicken breeding farm. In a city of almost 1.5 million people, Golding and Wright are oddities in Perth. Most cars there are Fords — the "F word" — and Australian-made Holdens. Many of the cars look similar, the men said, though there are many more trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States. "We can't afford them," Wright said. "Gas in Australia is about the equivalent of $5 a gallon."
Golding and Wright reported being surprised by American drive-through banking. They marveled at California gridlock and were horrified by Chicago humidity. But they're not really here for the culture. It's all about the cars. Automotive love is something that Tornow said transcends nation, age, politics and position. "If you got the presidents of every car club in the world to meet at the United Nations, we could solve all the problems those politicians can't," Tornow said.
The Aussies will return home Thursday to wives they said were OK with the trip
at first, but now want their husbands back. Both men have two children and said they miss home, though they've enjoyed the Chevy tour. "Maybe we'll come back to the U.S. and visit the Jim Beam factory," Wright said, laughing.
Carole Schrock may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 802-8828.