The Grand Unified Theory of Roadworks

I have a theory. Bear with me – it has to do with roadworks. And it formulated in my mind recently because the end of a financial year seems to be when there are more roadworks taking place than at other times of the year. Someone who knows about these things – she seems to know everything about everything – told me it’s because councils, who are responsible for much of the stuff going on, work on the basis that if they do not spend all of the money they’ve been allocated in any given financial year they won’t be given more, and in fact may get less, next year. So they spend 10 months of the year spending it here and there and then two months of the year shoveling it out of the door as fast as they can to make sure it’s all gone by June 30.

Anyway, there’s one particular set of roadworks not far from home that has been underway for – as near as I can tell – about 60 years now. It hasn’t really been that long, of course, it just feels like it. But it’s been going on for a while.

The stretch of road that they seem to be slowly digging up and relaying before slowly digging it up and again and then relaying it again, and then repeating the process, covers about three kilometres and a fairly busy intersection. It was pretty bad before they started – the surface was very rough, and the traffic lights at the intersection appeared to the casual observer to be working on a more or less random sequence. Something had to be done. But as bad as it was before, it’s immeasurably worse now. And this is where my theory kicks in. When they stop the roadworks and remove the barriers, and when they reveal the spiffy new road surface and the spunky traffic controllers have moved on, the road and the intersection will feel vastly improved. But here’s the thing: it will be better than it was during the roadworks, but I can guarantee it will be scarcely better than it was before they started. Our expectations have been so dramatically shifted over the past 14 months (I just looked up when they really started) that they are no longer anchored to the pre-roadworks state of the road.

‘If I’m behaving badly now, all I have to do is behave worse, then go back to my old way of doing things.’

Yes, they’ve improved the surface, so that’s something, but the odd angles at which the roads converge on the intersection – and which I reckon led to the peculiar traffic light sequencing in the first place – are still the same. Actually redirecting a road, rebuilding an intersection and reprogramming traffic lights is far too much like hard work. Nevertheless, every motorist who passes through the intersection in just a few weeks’ time will think to themselves: what a great job the council has done; I can see where my taxes and council rates (and probably speeding fines, for all I know) have gone and it’s Money Well Spent. When you think about it, it’s a kind of genius. The council gets to spend money and employ people to do things, and to look busy and productive and concerned about motorists; but it doesn’t actually have to improve anything by doing so. It can just make a bad situation worse, and then make us feel like a return to the bad situation constitutes an improvement. It’s a concept I’m considering applying to the relationships in my life. If I’m behaving badly now, all I have to do is behave worse, then go back to my old way of doing things. I’ll let you know how I go with this one, but you’ll know if it’s worked when you hear my friends starting to say: hasn’t there been an improvement in Jemima? Don’t hold your breath, though – you’ll be waiting longer than at a red light at a poorly designed intersection.

Classic Cars Deliver On Elegance And Value

Classic cars can be a hot investment for those who’ve chosen wisely, delivering gains over the past decade for those lucky few of more than 500 per cent. The most highly desired and legendary vehicles – think Ferraris and Aston Martins – last year were commanding prices in the 10s of millions of dollars.

Those stratospheric valuations go a long way to explaining why we rarely see such cars on the roads, here or overseas. Unless you visit classic car shows like Melbourne’s Motorclassica or the more lavish affairs offshore, you’ll rarely see such valuable vintage vehicles cruising the public byways. So when a set of special wheels makes itself available to be touched and admired – even sat in – by the general public, it’s an opportunity worth taking up, especially given how quickly automotive design, functionality and technology is moving ahead.

Not only can such cars give us a lens though which to admire workmanship from a different era, they also help us appreciate more fully how far and fast things have advanced in terms of safety and convenience. Take for example, the 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE Cabriolet, an example of which has been parked at the Mercedes Me Store in Melbourne’s CBD for a few days this week. The cream convertible, restored to mint condition by a private collector, represents one of only 68 right-hand drive versions of the car ever made.

‘To be able to showcase privately-owned cars and some brand heritage in the store is, I think, very unique.’

The Mercedes-Benz W111, as it’s known, started production in 1969 selling for $19,000 at a time when Melbourne’s average house price was $11,400, according to Mercedes Me lead brand specialist Matt Bruce. He says a search for the model’s current value on the Mercedes-Benz “All Star” database yielded a price of 600,000 Euros ($A967,000) – but that was for a left-hand drive variant of the car which was “not so rare”. That, of course, throws this vehicle beyond the heady space of the $1m-mark.

Madam Wheels got experience how such a car might feel while it was parked this week front and centre in the Mercedes Me Store in Melbourne. It felt like a kid on a car ride in a games arcade.We didn’t get to drive it, however, which was perhaps no bad thing. The car’s roof and windows were down on what was Melbourne’s coldest day in May in almost 20 years – roughly the same amount of time it took Mercedes-Benz to make another four-seater cabriolet after the W111 in the W124.

An over sized cream steering wheel dominated the driver’s seat, leaving to the imagination the possibilities for a pilot unleashed on the roads.Mercedes’ Bruce says classic cars like the 280 SE are particularly popular in the Me Store.

“This is one of the few opportunities the average person will get to see cars like these for themselves,” Bruce says. “To be able to showcase privately-owned cars and some brand heritage in the store is, I think, very unique.”It’s an offering which resonates with the store’s audience, he says, which averages about 600 people a day stopping in for drinks, to dine or to participate in the store’s series of diverse lifestyle events. “They like to see concept cars, and the modern fleet but the heritage and the classics are timeless,” he says. “We love bringing in new communities and we’ve got the platform to really change perceptions about what the brand stands for and how innovative we are now.”

Overall, the 280 SE Cabriolet was a beautiful thing, with its wide red leather seats, luxuriously length and elegant lines. Never mind the lack of digital display, windows controlled with a button or heated seats/steering wheel/windscreen/center console/arm rest.

And of course it pre-dated parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, lane assist and any notion of autonomous driving. You’d be on your own in a drive like this. There in, perhaps, lies the appeal. That notion of being in total control, confident that one’s innate facilities need to be switched on. That’s what driving used to be about, after all. But that was then. This is now. The future awaits.


State’s Luxury Car Tax ‘Money Grabbing At Its Worst’

SOME of the safest cars coming into Victoria look set to become less attainable from July 1 when the State Government hits them with a new tax. The scaled increase in duty on cars priced from more than $100,000 will be on top of the 10 per cent GST and the 33 per cent “honeypot” Luxury Car Tax (LCT) already applied on every dollar above $66,331. Announcing the plans today as part of the Victorian State Budget, Treasurer Tim Pallas described the tax as part of a revenue raising strategy designed to “not substantially distress the broader community”. But its delivery follows one of the worst starts to the year in terms of road deaths in Victoria. Already 134 lives have been lost on the state’s roads, a 52 per cent leap on the figure of the same time last year, and well above the five-year fatality average of 103, according to the Transport Accident Commission.

‘If you can buy a $200,000 Maserati, you’re not going to be particularly fazed by a slight increase in the rate of vehicle duty that you have to pay.’

The duty will be applied as $14 per $200 of market value on cars valued between $100,000 and $150,000, while vehicles worth more than that will face an additional $18 per $200 of market value. Low-emissions passenger cars and cars used by primary production farmers will be exempt from the tax. “If you can buy a $200,000 Maserati, you’re not going to be particularly fazed by a slight increase in the rate of vehicle duty that you have to pay,” Pallas told the ABC.With lower stamp duty revenue resulting from a soft housing market, the new tax on luxury cars will help boost state coffers, adding an estimated $260 m. The automotive industry has slammed the tax, with its peak body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), describing it as “money grabbing at its worst”.“But what’s more disturbing is that it is a tax on safety and technology,” says FCAI chief executive Tony Weber. “It targets vehicles that introduce innovative safety and technical features to the market.” Weber has called for the abolition of the federal LCT which was introduced to support Australia’s local vehicle manufacturing industry – one that no longer exists. So not only is it therefore redundant, Weber says, it could also hamper the development of a European Free Trade Agreement. “The EU regards [the LCT] as a false tariff and there is no doubt that it is a tax on technology and safety, preventing consumers from accessing the newest and safest vehicles,” he says.

Rolls-Royce Chest designed to rise to the occasion

WHETHER you’re celebrating or commiserating the outcome of yesterday’s Australian Federal Election, here’s a vessel that could help you do it in style wherever you happen to be – in a car, on a super yacht or just enjoying the brilliant autumn warmth on a private terrace.

Behold the “Champagne Chest” from the Bespoke Design division of luxury automaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

This latest addition to the Rolls-Royce Accessory Collection is part of the British company’s efforts to produce pieces that lift personal experiences to the Rolls-Royce standard.

The Champagne Chest was designed to be highly portable, enabling owners to enjoy some of the design cues of a Rolls-Royce car wherever they go. It’s made from machined aluminium, carbon fibre, and embossed natural grain leather, all flanked by Tudor oak – materials commonly used in the marque’s cars.

A push of a button opens the chest in dramatic style, with the lid morphing into a serving tray for a champagne set for four within. Hand-blown crystal champagne flutes are illuminated from within to make them sparkle in their V12 engine-inspired display. Polished aluminium bases complete the look, each etched with the “RR” monogram. Thermal coolers keep the bubbles at the perfect temperature.

For those who want to switch things up, a caviar configuration can be optioned in, including two thermal caviar caissons with space for 30g tins, two blini caisson and the requisite Mother-of-Pearl spoons to ensure the flavour of the delicate fish roe isn’t unimpaired.

The Champagne Chest is a clever pairing of luxury and gadgetry so would probably go down well with that special-someone who’s hard to buy for, especially as it may become a collectible.

Local pricing is yet to be revealed but, if it was a car, it would almost certainly attract at least a little Luxury Car Tax, which kicks in from $66,331.

Rolls-Royce says it’s making the vessel available through dealerships from £37,000 – equivalent to $A68,575 before taxes.