Memories of the Torquay Go Cart track
From “History Matters” Vol 1 no 4
1966 was the year Australia sent a task force to the war in Vietnam. The Youth Revolution was in full swing. The laws to end six o’clock closing were about to be abolished and decimal currency was about to be introduced. The Beatles “Rubber Soul” was rocketing to the top of the billboard list.
For many young people getting a summer job down at the one of the beach towns served a double purpose, it enabled you to get some cash in your pocket and it also provided the opportunity to get out of the city for the hot summer period. For many with a beach holiday job it was their introduction to the more casual and free life of the small towns. Some enjoyed just a single summer; some stayed on and made the coast their home. The is a story from Bryce Ferguson about his first time in Torquay. During the 1960s a go-cart track operated on the front beach foreshore in the area now known as Elephant Walk where the children’s playground is.
The owners of the track advertised at Melbourne University for a student to manage the track during the 1965/66-summer period. Although I had never been to Torquay I liked the idea of a summer sojourn, and the money I earned would help a poor student make it though the winter, so I replied to the advertisement.
After a brief interview, I got the job to manage the track. I was a nineteen year old uni student without much experience at Go carting, but with a sense of adventure. So with a little a little trepidation I headed off down the coast. Two locals were also employed to assist. As well as managing the Go-carts, there was also a kiosk that sold drinks ice creams and chocolates. I would run the track and the kiosk and the back of the little kiosk was to be my home for the summer period.
The track operated daily from Christmas 1965 to the end of January 1966, and from the end of January to Easter in Mid April the track operated at weekends. It finally closed for the year after the end of the Easter holidays.
It was a basic set up. The bitumen track was a circuit, with a ‘pit’ area at the start; some ‘S’ bends on the way down around some old Moonah trees, to a sharp turn at the bottom. Aspiring ‘hoon drivers’ loved to gather speed heading into bottom turn.
The area became a meeting spot for teenagers mainly boys to test out their pre-licence driving skills. Races, crashes, running off the track were common amongst the young drivers.
The Torquay go cart track provided me lots of challenges. The go-carts were bought ‘off the shelf’ in Melbourne and were just not up to the task of the heavy use that was asked of them. Dave, local mechanic, had prepared the fleet of go-carts for the summer period. Over the off-season the go-carts had been strengthened and fitted with re-conditioned engines. We started the season with 12-15 go-carts. By the end of the season we were lucky to have 2 or 3 available. It was a constant juggling act to keep the Carts on the track The main issue was governing the speed. Using the foot pedal only the carts would go at only a moderate speed, but by pulling the accelerator cable where it was attached to the engine, higher speeds could be achieved. Despite efforts to prevent this, we were no matches for the local boys. Understandably as a result, engines blew up and wore out quickly. Go- carts were push-started, and this got harder as the engines wore out. One of the local boys had a home made car -really a chassis on wheels -and this was used to push start the carts until it met an untimely end going over the cliff onto the beach at fishos. Old motor-mover engines were found to replace broken engines. Reconditioning engines was a continuing task. Chain sprockets, tyres, brakes all wore out and were purchased in bulk to keep the go-carts on the track.
The summer of 66 was a hot one with above average number of day over 35 degrees. A really hot day provided a welcome break for me from working 7 days a week at the track, as when the weather was too hot there were no customers and the boys could knock off and go the beach below and have a chance for a swim and a bit of time off. The heat that summer brought the usual fire risk and when one hot March day smoke appeared in the sky above Anglesea drove for a look. I had no sooner gotten out of my car than I was handed a fire beater and put to work bashing embers as they hit the ground .I added fire fighter to my resume that day
The go track had no lights so it was a day time activity only and although the six o clock closing was still in place (it ended in Victoria on Feb 1st 1966) the licencing laws allowed for bona fide travellers to go to the pub for out of hours drinking, so after a hot trying to manage failing engines and local lads doing their best to flaunt the rules I was able to go to the Pub for a late beer.
Despite the challenges it was a wonderful time in my life. I made friends with visitors and locals. I had a wonderful sense of freedom as well as responsibility Apart from the interview in Melbourne to get the job I never saw the owners again and would deposit the daily takings and the bank in Gilbert St. Every time I hear the Beatles tune Michelle ma Belle I am take back to my one summer in Torquay.
Bryce returned to Torquay to revive some memories for this story and took a tour of where the track might be. It is now under a lot of sand in the playground area but at the bottom of the hill he is certain a little digging would reveal the bitumen of the bottom turn.
If you have any memories of the Go Cart Track we would love to hear from you