Horsepower of a most important kind

Horsepower of a most important kind

SPRING swept into Melbourne early this year, bringing a spectacular run of sunshine, an explosion of greenery and motivation aplenty to get us outdoors. It was the perfect run up for last week’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, even if the rain didn’t completely stay away.

Trackside at Flemington during the carnival is always a colourful, and Madam Wheels took advantage of the fact it was the perfect place to talk to like-minded ladies about horsepower of - in her mind - a more interesting kind - cars. The questions were around what they drive now and what they’d get into if money was absolutely no option.

Ranging from vintage beauties to a classic "pony" to pinnacles of modern luxury, the resulting car range of vehicles listed here would be sure to get any car enthusiast’s heart racing. Giddy up!

Julie Bishop, Porsche 911 Speedster

WHEN it comes to driven women, few could compare to the former Federal deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop. Widely regarded as one of the most impressive women in Australian politics ever, her potential placement in the country’s most high-profile job has been messed up. For now, at least.

In the meantime, the former foreign affairs minister (who’s been compared to House of CardsClaire Underwood on everything from power dressing to running style) probably continues to spend a great deal of time being ferried about in Parliamentary cars.

It wouldn’t do in her position to be getting around in anything too flash, however.

In another time and place, in a different role, or perhaps simply in a country where tall-poppy syndrome wasn’t so prevalent, Julie might just get away with the car she favours at the moment, the 2019 Porsche 911 Speedster.

The new 911 Speedster is not due to land Down Under until late next year after its limited production run. The fact the car will be in short supply already suggests it’s going to cost a pretty penny, especially given the previous 997-series Speedster of 2010 went for $519,800 plus on-roads.

Eileen Bond, Lexus LC500

Perhaps fittingly, Eileen “Red” Bond drives “a red Lexus, the latest model”, though she’s not clear on what it’s called. Regardless, she’s not planning on swapping into anything new any time soon.

“I had a (Lexus) hybrid before this car, and have had a Bentley, Rolls (-Royce) and Jaguar,” Eileen says. “Now I’m quite liking the Lexus.”

So in that brand I expect she’ll remain. I’d like to see her in the fabulous LC500. And I’d opt for the V8 variant over the V6 because it’s clear Red can handle power. A veritable bargain at $190,000.

Jackie Frank, BMW X1

ENGAGING with women has been a career-defining love for Jackie Frank, and it’s one which has steered her into a new direction. Frank was the founding editor of marie claire Australia before moving on to run everything fashion-, beauty- and health-related at Pacific Magazines.

Now she’s working up a new brand consultancy, Be Frank Group, to help brands connect more effectively and efficiently with their female audience. Needless to say, she’s been busy and cars have hardly been top of mind.

At the moment, Jackie drives a BMW X1 and she says she won’t be swapping out of it anytime soon.

“I actually love my car,” she says, which is as good a reason to stick with it as any.

Nevertheless, BMW Australia has just announced new specification and pricing upgrades for its A1 which it says unlock additional value. That value comes in the form of upgraded standard equipment which will now include Apple CarPlay, Navigation Plus and Head-Up Display.

Deliveries of the new BMW X1 start in January, with four variants ranging in price from $45,900 to $60,900.

Mimi Galan, Aston Martin Vantage

MIMI Galan has always had an eye for detail and a dedication to style - an important skillset in the diverse world that encompasses Melbourne fashion. She and husband Arthur have for many years played a key part in the look and feel of this town thanks to the popularity of their elegant and tailored brand, AG Galan. But it was perhaps Mimi’s formative years that say so much about the woman she is today.

At age 18, she might have viewed as an affront the replacement of her request for an Alfa Romeo Spider with something less optimal.

“That’s what I asked my father for but I ended up with an Alfasud,” Mimi laughs.

Such is life, and Mimi took it in her stride, as she has other difficulties life has thrown her way since then. Over the years, she’s remained in the same Porsche Cayenne but she knows better days are ahead.

Mimi keeps her sights set high and dreams of an Aston Martin Vantage, a car which that company’s chief designer, Marek Reichman, described in Melbourne earlier this year as “stripped raw and focused”.

Perhaps it takes the hard yards to help us see what counts. The Vantage is a car for a winning woman like Mimi.

Lindy Rama-Ellis, Old Porsche Speedster S

LINDY Rama-Ellis (nee Klim) is a Lexus ambassador so that’s who supplies her wheels while she’s visiting Australia. At home in Bali, however, she openly admits to being clueless about what she drives.

“There are so many cars there but people generally drive one of two types - either a (Toyota) Avanza or the other one. I have ‘the other one’ but I have no idea it’s called,” Lindy laughs. “What I can tell you is that it’s white and a tin can.”

The model and mother-of-four recently remarried in a fairytale wedding in Italy. If her fairytale continued and she could have any car at all, the Balinese princess says she’d love an old Porsche like the1958 Porsche 356 A 1600 “Super” Speedster featured here.

This particular vehicle could certainly help her live her happily-ever-after, though she’d probably baulk at its price. It attracted enthusiastic competition at a recent US auction where its price raced past its $US150,000 estimate to have the hammer finally fall on $US307,500 ($A595,582).

Jane McKay, Audi A1

LAWYER-cum fashion bloggerJane McKay has a lot to say about style, and she was the picture of elegance at Flemington during the week. Having amassed a following of more than 14,000 to her Instagram handle @iwearmelbourne, you’d expect her to have an eye for detail when it comes to choosing a car.

So it was shocking (!) to learn that she doesn’t actually drive. Well, she can but, since moving from her hometown of Adelaide to Melbourne about eight years ago, she’s chosen not to.

“Melbourne traffic gives me great anxiety,” Jane says. In these years, Jane’s been behind the wheels of husband Rob’s Audi A4 exactly twice. Otherwise she leaves the driving to him.

As for a dream car, Jane wouldn’t mind a Porsche Cayenne, “but I’m a little intimidated by big cars so I might prefer an Audi A1 or BMW Coupé,” she says.

In which case, I’d recommend the Audi given the suite of drive-assistance features all new Audi’s have on board these days as standard. Many of them, like adaptive cruise control and autonomous braking, help drivers relax in stressful traffic. The A1 even parks itself, performing parallel and horizontal parking manoeuvres, along with forward perpendicular parks.

Audi is expected to reveal the A1’s price early next year before the car’s mid-year delivery. The new top-of-the-line variant might come in at about last year’s price of around $40,800.

Nicole O'Neil, Bentley Continental GT

DESPITE the Miss Australia ribbon to her name and an entrepreneurial streak in her blood, Nicole O’Neil is best known these days as the ultimate Sydney Housewife. Her bio on the Real Housewives of Sydney website describes her as a born entertainer whose calling in life could have been shopping “if only it was a competitive sport”.

A highly-driven and passionate woman, Nicole admits to being impulsive and passionate which might cause a headache or two for husband Adam, especially if she goes for the car she’d quite like to have. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Range Rover Vogue she’s in at the moment, she says she loves it. But she’s warming to Bentley’s sparkling new Continental GT.

Adam says no, she wouldn’t like it. I say, yes, she would, especially with the Mulliner specification and other driver and safety options I’d include in her car.

As standard it has a list price of $422,600, but with everything desirable on board, the spend would be well north of $500,000.

Charis Perkins, 1952 Delahaye 235 Coupe

JOURNALISM may look glamorous from the outside, but the day-to-day realities for those on the inside are far from the fantasy. These wide disparities, however, can often contribute to the making of the journalist.

Charis Perkins, for example, is exposed to the some pretty rarified stuff as editor of the Australian Financial Review’s Life & Leisure supplement. But outside the corridors of the daily financial newspaper where she’s worked for 10 years, things get dialled down, particularly where the car’s concerned.

Charis (at left in the image above with friend and Fairfax colleague Carole Day) describes her daily drive ass “a hail-battered” Hyundai Getz which she shares with her art-student daughter, a car she “likes because it's so easy to park in tight spots and I don't give a damn about it getting damaged”.

“Actually, I’ve always driven battered old skadonks [‘old bombs’] from my days in South Africa where I figured they were the least likely cars to get hijacked,” Charis says.

You see how cars can be character-building?!

Anyway, if money were no object (“and I mean seriously no object,” she says), Charis would choose the car she recently featured on the cover of Life & Leisure - a 1952 Delahaye 235 Coupe with bodywork by Parisian coach-builder Saoutchik and sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction a couple of months ago at Pebble Beach.

"It's probably a gas-guzzling beast to drive,” Charis says, “but, gawd, is it gorgeous!”

It is indeed, as it should be, selling under the hammer for $US577,000 ($A800,000).

Sam Perry, Aston Martin DB11 Volante

SAM Perry is a woman who’s always loved luxury, and it certainly looks good on her. Which is why I think she should aim high with the car of her dreams.

A devoted mother of two girls, her daily drive from her harbourside home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is a Lexus SUV. She likes it, but she’s only in it because her chef husband, Neil, of Rockpool fame, is a Lexus ambassador.

But I know Sam to be a girl who thinks big and dreams of grand possibilities. So it’s fitting that the brand she’d like to own most is luxury British automaker Aston Martin.

“I think if I could have any car in the world, it would have to be an Aston Martin,” Sam says.

She didn’t nominate a particular model so I’ve chosen one for her, choosing a car which Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman, describes as “pure elegance and style”.

That sounds like Sam, which is why I’d like to see her in the DB11 Volante.

It’s not cheap, though, with a starting price of $398,495 plus on-road costs, which might mean Chef Perry will be manning the pans for a good while yet.

Jane Perton, Rolls-Royce Cullinan

EVER since I’ve known businesswoman Jane Perton, she’s had an Aston Martin firmly in her sights. We met at the kids’ school about nine years ago when our eldest children started their primary years together.

She’s the managing director of internationally respected MCS Digital, a global mobile communications business, but I’ve always known her to drive a Range Rover. That’s perfectly OK, of course, because of her long-term connection to horse riding on the Mornington Peninsula, a love that continues in her children today.

Jane doesn’t need a new car, having recently upgraded from the Range Rover Sport to the new Vogue, which she describes as a massive step up in terms of on-board technology, especially the new driver-assistance capabilities.

“It’s absolutely fabulous, and I really do love it,” says Jane of her Vogue. “But if money wasn’t an object, I could see myself in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan or Dawn.”

Hmmm, quite the dilemma choosing between the first SUV from the Rolls-Royce stable in the Cullinan or the elegant convertible Dawn. They’re priced at $685,000 for the SUV and $749,000 for the Dawn, which I rather fancy as the ultimate “girlfriends-who-love-to-lunch vehicle”. Especially if the Peninsula is the destination.

“I’m wondering if Rolls-Royce is more my style now that I’m 50 and a farmer,” says Jane. “I still have a soft spot for the Aston DB11, though!”

Jane Rocca, 1966 Ford Mustang

MELBOURNE is a city known for its rich cultural events celebrating music, fashion and the very best in lifestyle. Journalist Jane Rocca has been a firm fixture in all three of those realms for the past two decades and if she’s not there, it’s probably not worth reporting on.

Anyone familiar with Jane’s work would be aware she spends quite a bit of time scouting music shops for vinyl records, and she admits to spending way too much money on her shoe collection. It wouldn’t be a stretch, either, to say she has something of a fetish for leopard-print accessories, as well.

With two young daughters and a busy husband, it’s perhaps not surprising that cars sit firmly in the “necessary-evil” space for Jane, who views them more as a convenience, a means of getting everyone where they need to be.

Still, she definitely has a car she’d love to own if money were no option, and those who know her would agree it would suit the rocker chick that she is.

She’d like a 1966 Ford Mustang, the perfect fit if she’d be willing to pay between $36,000 to $45,000 for the pleasure of it.

Nicki Rutherford, Maserati GranCabrio

MONEY must be good in the music business these days if the daily drive of young DJ Nicki Rutherford is any guide. I asked her what she drove in the middle of a set she was mixing in the Lexus Design Pavilion.

“It’s a Porsche Carrera 911,” she said, sotto vocce, which I missed on the first admission on account of the blaring funk. I got it the second time, though, and was mightily impressed, especially given the amount of gear she must have to cart around to these gigs.

If Nicki was better positioned to change things up, she says she’d probably leave the German brand behind and go for something Italian, namely a Maserati. In which case, the V6 Maserati Levante S might tick all her boxes professionally, in terms of capacity, and personally, in terms of available performance and speed. I’d also suggest she look at the Maserati GranCabrio, a topless grand tourer and a car with attitude for a girl who likes to move and groove. Available from $335,000.

Christine Salter, Porsche Panamera GTS

WHEN you work in a family responsible for producing “the rarest and most valuable pearls in the world”, it’s understandable your vehicle might face conflicting demands. This is especially the case for Christine Salter who, as creative director of Darwin-based Paspaley Pearls, carries responsibility for fashioning the precious pearls into versatile and playful jewellery which embody the natural environment from which it came.

Christine’s work commitments take her from the sandy shores off Australia’s northwest coast to her discerning, largely city-based, customers.

To deal with those different terrains, it seems sensible that Christine has two cars. She swaps between a Toyota Land Cruiser which she’s had for 15 years and a more recent Porsche Cayenne.

“I think I’m a Porsche girl, though” Christine says. “They’re sexy and sporty at the same time.”

In which case, I think a Panamera would be perfect for Paspaley royalty. It’s everything Christine loves about the brand but elegant, too. Just like her.

Conveniently, an upgrade of this fanciest of Porsche models is being released in 2019, with the hatch-bodied Panamera GTS weighing in at $364,100.

Melissa Singer, Aston Martin Vanquish S Ultimate

AS FAIRFAX Media’s fashion editor and deputy lifestyle editor, Melissa Singer is a busy woman. Not only does she have to look perfect every time she steps out the door, she has to file copy and organise photos for multiple publications, on several different platforms, and be constantly on the lookout for fresh angles and talent. Day after day after day.

It can be exhausting, but such is modern journalism. And this lady pulls it off with aplomb, with never a hair out of place and always a smile on her face (like the one she’s displaying in the picture here alongside AFR Magazine editor, Matthew Drummond).

She also cares about the world, which might explain why she drives a Lexus CT200-H, a hybrid hatch. It seems a sensible car for such a stylish woman on the go.

“That Lexus is such a perfect car for me,” Melly says.

But if money was no object, she’d be looking at a European marque.

“It’d have to be an Aston Martin Vanquish,” she says. “It’s the perfect balance of sex, speed and sophistication. But I’d need a promotion first!”

She’s got that right.

The latest variant of the super GT, the Vanquish S Ultimate, will be one of the last that Gaydon will produce. Limited to just 175 cars globally, Aston Martin’s clearly trying to make this one a collectible. Which means it could end up being a great investment for Melly, so that pay rise will indeed be necessary.

The Vanquish S Ultimate costs from $518,995 for the coupe to $555,995 for the S Ultimate Volante convertible.

Lisa van Haandel, BMW Z4 M40i Roadster

IT’S perhaps not surprising that hospitality maven Lisa van Haandel rates service above most things in life given her 30-year background in restaurants and entertaining. She and husband John expect exacting standards in the restaurants within their Van Haandel Group, included among which is Melbourne’s iconic Stoke House.

Lisa’s first car was a VW Beetle but she soon moved on to a German luxury brand which failed on the service front. This saw her switch to BMW about 20 years ago and these days drives a BMW M3 with cream interior.

“They do everything properly and you can’t beat their service, especially,” she says, suggesting she’ll probably remain brand-loyal in future.

“A BMW gives you everything - performance, sportiness and luxury,” she says. I’d like to see Lisa in the new BMW Z4 M40i Roadster which is due to land in Australia halfway through 2019. Its price will start at an estimated $140,000.

Stephanie Wilson, Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet

STEPHANIE Wilson usually turns up in the most rarified and interesting of places, as I’ve witnessed time and again over the years. Having met her in the trenches of school-house fundraising and rubbed shoulders with her at art and cultural events around Melbourne, it’s hard to pigeonhole her into anything specific.

Recently she’s been dazzling on the frontline of the Spring Racing Carnival making husband Neil Wilson look good. Which is important when you’re the Chief Executive Officer of the Victoria Racing Club, a role to which Neil was appointed in January this year.

Steph’s past learnings have more than prepared her for the task at hand. After-all, she’s an accomplished businesswoman in her own right, having been part of the IPO of her own IT recruitment company as well as sitting on company boards as a director of other entities.

So she’s done some hard yards, and even though she’s also a devoted mother, there’s nothing wrong with having her heart set on what's ostensibly a two-seater they can’t comfortably fit into when she needs some down-time.

Her dream car is the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and at $328,547, I’d say she’s earned it.