By Ellen Morgan
Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2021
“There’s no one like you, Elenore, really,” ’60s groovers The Turtles once sang. The same could be said about Matt Rowe’s pride and joy, ‘Eleanore’ – a 1977 Mazda Cosmo. But it wasn’t always the case.
It’s a love affair spanning the best part of 15 years, with Matt originally purchasing the Cosmo as a run-around between university and football training, when he was in his late teens.
“Back when you’re a young tacker, you probably don’t appreciate an older car as much as you should,” Matt says, reflecting on his once-bumpy, now-solid relationship with Eleanore.
“My dad found it for sale in an old paint workshop, and I fell in love with it.”
“The car is definitely a classic.
“Back in the ’70s, they didn’t have the tools they do now – cars were built to last, I believe, and made to have more character and to stand out… they all showcased a sort of uniqueness.”
His favourite features? The interior wood panelling and tiny back windows, which wind down.
“Those little windows have certainly got a comedic appeal,” he says.
“I love the shape of the car – it’s got that Gone in 60 Seconds look – it stands out, and that’s part of my personality, so I think that really resonates with me.”
Eventually, career and life changes led Matt to purchase a more modern vehicle, but he wasn’t quite ready to be rid of his noble steed, storing it in his parents’ garage for a decade.
In 2018, Matt moved the Cosmo to his own garage, and began working on it himself, alongside restorer and friend, Gary. It’s a decision he’s never looked back on.
“I have this great appreciation for the car as a project, because it’s something I’ve been involved in and I haven’t just given it to someone else,” he says.
For the past 2 years, Matt and Gary have been working on the car from Matt’s pokey home garage. They’ve done everything themselves, aside from a few finishing touches, which Matt says makes it all the more satisfying.
“We were out there on 35-degree days pulling it all apart, sanding it all back and painting, then sanding it all back again.
“You definitely learn patience and resilience and a new sense of mateship.”
The duo transformed the Cosmo from the dusty blue palette of the past to a modern, eye-catching deep blue.
“The colour took some convincing, but I love it,” Matt says.
“We took the mud guards off the back, made it a bit sleeker, and tweaked the colour of the frame around the headlights to make them pop a little more.”
The final paint lick was completed by a local business, as well as some finishing touches like fresh, new tyres, extra detailing and window tinting.
While the outside is sparkly and new, the interior has hardly been touched – a conscious decision by Matt to keep aspects of the Cosmo original.
“The woodwork is original and the cassette player is still in there… that’s why it’s so special – because it hasn’t been modified to be a completely different car.
“I think you can do cars up too much, so they lose their initial value and purpose.
“I have an appreciation of growing up with this car, and becoming older with it, so I definitely value its quirkiness and character.”
The restoration was a labour of love, but Matt says he’d do it all again.
“The big thing for me was the joy I got from it as I showed dad what I’d finished. Dad’s my best mate and it gave me a lot of pride to show him.
“There’s still work to be done – I don’t think you can ever say a car’s completed, but hopefully I can pass it on in the family one day.”