One of Ararat’s most iconic treasures will be brought out of mothballs for its final run in the Ararat Golden Gateway Festival Parade on Sunday.
Eric “Whirly” Wilson’s Southern Cloud, better known as The Bomb, will make a rare appearance in the parade, staring at 11.30am.
The Bomb has thrilled crowds in festival parades including Melbourne’s Moomba Festival, since 1951 when Whirley turned a 1927 Dodge Flying 4 into a novel entrant in the inaugural Golden Gateway Festival parade.
Whirly’s welding skills came into play and he set about adding horns, an elaborate feature which made the Southern Cloud backfire and cough up explosions, and an eccentric steering system which rarely kept the old girl in a straight line.
Hand painted slogans, bells and whirligigs adorned the vehicle. Over the years many additions were made. For each bit that fell off, Eric added two others.
The Southern Cloud’s fame soon spread.
Whirly was invited to enter the old girl in the Moomba parade and she didn’t let fans down.
With a crew of six, including best mate Moe Kent, and in later years his own children, Whirly entered the Southern Cloud in Moomba 10 times, winning prizes on each occasion. Its last appearance at Moomba was in 2005.
It was then retired and put into storage.
The Wilson family – Eric’s wife Pat, and his nine children, 25 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren - have decided to bring the Southern Cloud out of retirement as a mark of respect for the family patriarch who died in May, aged 93.
Eric’s Son, Ian Wilson said the family believe that with a “little bit of luck” and some divine intervention from their dad, the Southern Cross can make a final appearance at this year’s parade.
“The Bomb has brought so many people happiness over the years,” Mr Wilson said.
“When Dad died it brought back a lot of memories for people and we were being asked what was going to happen to The Bomb.
“We thought it would be fitting to bring it out for one last run in the parade and honour Dad at the same time.”
While next Sunday will be the Southern Cloud’s final festival appearance, the family is hoping it won’t be the last time the public gets to enjoy the old girl.
The family is teaming up with Ararat Lions Club, and Langi Morgala Museum to find a permanent home for The Bomb.