MEMORY LANE: Ian O'Brien shows the receipts for a 6,000 mile service - it cost just $5.25.
MEMORY LANE: Ian O'Brien shows the receipts for a 6,000 mile service - it cost just $5.25. Meg Bolton

The story behind the priceless vehicle on display in town

YOU can't put a price on sentimental value if you ask Lockyer Valley Toyota dealer principal Ian O'Brien.

When customers first lay eyes on the Toyota Hilux RN16 proudly displayed in the Gatton dealership, their first question is "what is this car?”, closely followed by their second question "can I buy it?”.

The answer will always be "no” for Mr O'Brien, with the vehicle not only bringing back memories for the businessman, but also representing the start of his family's business.

The Hilux was the first commercial vehicle sold by Gatton Motors Pty Ltd as a Toyota Commercial Vehicle in 1971.

Mr O'Brien was only six when the sale occurred, but just knowing the origins of the car was enough reason to keep it around.

Back then, the Hilux wasn't a popular vehicle according to Mr O'Brien, but in 2019, the ute was the best selling car in Australia.

He said the change in how people lived sparked the shift in popularity for the Hilux.

"People are different now, they have more adventure in them,” Mr O'Brien said.

"They're off taking a boat away or they're taking caravans away or they're a tradie putting things in the back of their ute or they're off to the footy.”

Mr O'Brien said action utility vehicles, like the Hilux, were growing in demand.

But there is no doubt, the Hilux RN16 is from a different time - accompanying the vehicle is receipts for registration, servicing and insurance with costs unrecognisable in modern day.

For a 6,000 mile service, the owners paid $5.25. They were charged $48.00 to register the Hilux and $9.60 for insurance.

Mr O'Brien reminisced about the times where the dealership's employees drove the cars down to the Gatton Courthouse to register them.

Like the prices, the Hilux has changed too, the model on display at Toyota is a two-wheel drive, petrol engine vehicle, which Mr O'Brien said was rare these days.

"Not many people buy petrol - they all buy diesel, and back then they were all mainly two wheel drive, but they wouldn't stand up on farms so the four-wheel drive is more popular now,” he said.

The Hilux was sold to WJ Sticklen, who used the vehicle on their farm in Helidon.

The Sticklens had the vehicle for more than two decades, before trading it in for $200 at Toyota.

"It was in real bad condition when we got it,” Mr O'Brien said. "We restored it, but the issue was we had to get rid of the tray and the wheels and the tyres because they would've fallen apart if we drove it.

"We had to put on new wheels, new tyres and a new tray, and then we restored all the leather inside and then we painted it the original colour - white.”

Employees at O'Brien Body and Paint restored the Hilux in 2008, and ever since the vehicle has been on display.

The O'Briens have been selling Toyotas for almost 50 years and in that time have sold the Hilux about 3000 times.

Despite the model's slow climb to popularity, the Gatton dealership now sells about 100 Hilux each year.

Mr O'Brien said the Hilux was a combination of high and luxury.

From time to time you might see the 1970 model being driven across Gatton to keep the engine going, but you couldn't give Mr O'Brien enough money to call it your own.

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