21 April 2024

Jacko, his formidable junkyard dogs and the little car that had crowds tickled pink

| John Thistleton
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two men at a car-wrecker yard

Jacko and Zane Jackson near their famous Hillman Imp – Honda motorcycle combination. “People call it the Maserati because their [Hillman] engines were made by Maserati,” says Jacko. Photo: John Thistleton.

Michael ”Jacko” Jackson’s first job after buying a Goulburn wrecking yard was making friends with the two guard dogs that came with the business.

”D” (for dog) was a blue heeler.

“She was a cranky dog. She’d nip anybody if she got a chance,” says Jacko. “But it didn’t take me long until I won her over.”

The other dog, a purebred Alsatian named ”Smokey”, was as formidable and lived to a great age. Chained during the day to a stake near a sign on a bonnet warning people to keep clear of them, D and Smokey were let loose of a night time.

Intruders still came over the fence and not only had to fight off the dogs, but also Jacko, who tipped them straight back over the fence.

Now Jacko and his grandson Zane, who grew up in the yard, are getting out of the business after 40 years, but love to remember the fun times, and most especially all their dogs over the years.

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Zane said their yard became known for its dogs.

“They were not vicious, they were more family,” he said. “People would come to the yard to see our dogs. We had a little chihuahua for years.”

Jacko has been in the motor industry since he was 14. His first job was working for Neville ”Buzz” Burrows, who owned a bike shop.

He worked tirelessly, often on two jobs, learning to be a mechanic, welder and all about automatic transmissions, which led to his friendship with Goulburn Auto Wreckers owner Phil Versteeg. Phil approached him in 1984 to buy the business and offered to lend him $100,000. The overall purchase price of $300,000 was a big stretch for Jacko, who sold his house and raised several loans.

group of people with a modified car

Matt Cole, Tracey Kain and a friend (Jacko does not know her name), with Heidi and Kelly Jackson before they entered the Lilac Time Festival procession in Goulburn. Kelly steered the vehicle. Photo: Jackson family collection.

Rising interest rates were becoming scarier than D and Smokey.

“We started paying the place off. I was working up at the transmission service three nights a week,” Jacko said. “I paid the place off, it took me ages. Phil was happy to be getting $13,000 a year interest for his $100,000 [loan]. I had other loans to pay off, the interest and principal.”

To promote the business, he entered his two reluctant daughters in the Lilac Time Festival procession, which traditionally brought thousands of people into Goulburn’s main street.

“They used to hate me, I suppose,” he said. “I would get them to dress up as kings and queens, fit them in these little things that I made, billycarts, things like that,” Jacko said.

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In 1986, he had a better idea. He cut a Hillman Imp car in half, bolted the front to a 250cc Honda motorbike and painted the combination hot pink.

“When I finished it, or thought I had finished it, and everybody hopped in, it just bowed,” he said. “So I had to reinforce the forks, put a big brace underneath it, all that sort of stuff.”

A sensation in the festival procession, the bike-car combination was featured in car magazines including Street & Strip and the Australasian Post.

boy at car-wrecking yard

Zane Jackson in his grandfather’s yard as a youngster. He later joined the business and has owned it since 2022, but reckons the fun has gone out of their wrecking business. Photo: Jackson family collection.

Having a tow truck and being on a police roster for attending road accidents ensured wrecked cars continued coming into Goulburn Auto Wreckers’ yard.

“We ended up with great contact with the garages in town and towing places like Darren McMahon’s Rapid Auto Repair, Harry Cohen [deceased)] Terry ‘Shadow’ Hartnett [deceased] and Southern District Panel Beaters,” Jacko said.

“Every now and again, I would buy a car off Frank [Nicastri, also deceased]. I would pay what I thought was a fair price for cars and look after the people.”

As the business progressed, Jacko was employing three mechanics working on engines and gearboxes, mainly Holden 253, 202 and 206 engines.

“We were always selling, we were flat out. We had people putting deposits on engines before they were even finished,” he said.

grandfather and grandson at car-wrecking yard

Jacko and Zane Jackson have owned numerous guard dogs over the years at their wrecking yard on the Braidwood Road in Goulburn. Two of Zane’s dogs, a Rottweiler and a husky, escaped when people cut out a section of the fence. The dogs were later shot dead on a farmer’s property. Photo: John Thistleton.

Jacko’s road to the wrecking game was paved with invaluable experiences and personalities, including the Burrows brothers Neville and Doug, service station owners Alan Tomlin and later Brian Buckley, who helped him secure a lease on the business when he was 24.

He taught at TAFE and in his younger years, chasing higher wages, worked as a fireman on steam trains.

“I got sick of the railway. It was getting a bit dangerous for me,” he said. “I was going out drinking probably too much and going to sleep on the trains.”

His cranky guard dogs were later to prove a much safer bet.

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