So, if you’ve spent any time around me from Grand Final Day 1993 (not being autistic specific at all), then you’ll know that I absolutely love Jurassic Park. I walked out of the cinema being completely wowed by the story, the action, the effect, and with a wedding planner on speed dial so this 11 year old could marry Sam Neill.

Unfortunately, my latter plans never came to fruition despite my attempts when meeting Sir Sam at the 2023 Sydney Writer’s Festival, but my love for the film has endured. I’ve got books, pops, tshirts, prop raptor claws, and my complete set of original trading cards. But there was one thing that always felt a little out of reach … one of those amazing striped Ford Explorers.

I’ve never been a huge car fanatic. It’s true that I married one, and we’ve enjoyed plenty of adventures and heartbreak with his vehicles, but it’s never been “my thing”. That is until I downed a few bevies and found myself scrolling CarSales.

It always starts this way. Las time it went like this: Belinda has a drink or two, Belinda relaxes, Belinda asks Shane about his dream car. Two days later, we were on a red-eye to Brisbane to pick up his new collectable. This time was a little different.

I’ve always said if I bought a car for me, for fun, it would have to be a 1993 Ford Explorer. A Jurassic Park Car. They looked good and solid until one of them got skull-dragged by a T-Rex. That, and I suspect there’s a huge level of autistic comfort in them for me. I know them, I recognise them, they fall into the area of my special interest, so it’s continual and solid dopamine from here on out. There was only one problem with my theory: Australia didn’t import the Explorer until 1997. Any chance of getting a 1993 model meant huge import fees. 

Never gonna happen. 

*record scratch bringing us back to 2023*

Anyway. Like I said, Friday night, booze, and an internet connection. Spinning the roulette wheel of CarSales threw up four matches. They’re getting harder to find - not that I’m sure they were ever in abundance. An entire one of them fell into our price range. In all our times talking about The Car and “when I get one”, there was a price range bandied about. I contacted the seller and began dreaming of driving around in aviators and akubras and hyperventilating about dinosaurs.

This Explorer was in South Australia. Not a drama, llama. I was going to be in Adelaide at the end of the next week for the Fiction and Friction Indie Book Signing. Though I’d planned to drive the MEL > ADL route, I could fly in if that meant driving an Explorer home. Of course I could. 

It quickly became apparent that all was not rainbow with this unicorn car. As ridiculous as I am, I will analyse the shit out of a situation before I commit to anything. With a car, that means due diligence finance, rego, and write off register checks. Here are some slang terms i learned that may help you when searching for cars:

One owner = I bought this car from one dude. Chances are, there’s a small chain of people who’ve owned it before me. But me? I got it from one dude.

Immaculate = I polished this turd, and I probs haven’t told you about the fact the car is on the write off register. If you question me about it, I’ll feign total ignorance.

First to inspect will buy = I’m trying to make you anxious to put a deposit on it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every seller is dodgy, but when I called SA Transport and learned there had been four owners and a write off fourteen years ago … well, stares in suspicious.

The thing with written off vehicles is not that they’ve been written off. It’s a tricky insurance loophole sometimes. If the car has been repaired properly, there shouldn’t be an issue. My problem would be once I tired registering the car in Melbourne. Alarm bells would sound for VicRoads, security screens would drop from the sky, and Tom Cruise would self destruct if I couldn’t prove the car had been repaired sufficiently, and for WHAT. Ultimately, there was every chance I wouldn’t be able to register the car. No rego = no cruising for palaeontologists.

And, so, another plan scuppered.

It was pure disappointment that lead me all the way back to CarSales for another gawk at the Explorers. Had any new vehicles been added? One of the problems with my brain - and one I wish I could switch off - is that once I have a bug up my ass about something, it’s really hard to shake until I’ve closed that “I’ve done it” loophole. So, thank my lucky stars there was another one recently added for sale.

Toreador Red - the ‘correct’ colour when starting with a base vehicle (depending on who you ask), and wheels that were as close of a match to the screen accurate version as I was bound to find. Love at first sight? Of course it was. Shane wasn’t so convinced, but he’s never going to say no to a wander around a car yard, so off we went.

A test drive to Bunnings and back, minus the sausage in bread, and I was already making a list of changes that needed to be made. I won’t get into them here, but I do think it’ll be a fun exercise to keep track of “changes needed” as we travel through the build.

Even now that I’ve had the car for the better part of a month, I’m still not sure the car yard was an entirely trustworthy establishment. A lot of their reviews were less than stellar - but there are a lot of factors that play into reviews, too, so pinch of salt and all that. Plus, their reviews were statistically better than one of our local ‘officially licensed’ car yards. Weighing all that up, I shrugged, hoped for the best, and squirmed like Ariel signing her life away to Ursula the Sea Witch.

All we had to do now was get the car home … and find a space for it in the driveway.

Read on to find out what happens when I tell my parents they’re about to have car number seven in the driveway.

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