My life with cars: Rob Mills
SINGER and actor Rob Mills isn't exactly a trainspotter but he can pick a model just by looking at its headlights in the rear mirror.
"At night if there's a car behind, I can tell what car it is just by the shape of the lights. I had this weird thing, even as a kid. I got to know what model it was," he says.
Mills's childhood travels were in the back of his father's VH Commodore wagon as it towed a caravan to "cousin camp" in the Victorian countryside, where the extended family gathered in the September holidays.
"Every year it was a different family's choice of where to go," he says. "I know a lot of people have traditions where they go to the same caravan park every year but we went somewhere different every year, which I really loved. That first car there were lots of photos, lots of road trips, velour seats in the back."
His father is still towing the caravan around Australia, although the Commodore has been replaced by a LandCruiser.
It's a dream Mills wants to follow when he's older. "I love hearing Dad's stories of, dare I say it, real Australia. He's got a big map at home which I love and he highlights all the roads he's been on," he says.
Mills often chooses to drive rather than fly between musicals in capital cities.
"I like to drive. I like to listen to podcasts, new music or old classic songs - maybe setting up a playlist," he says. "There's something about it, especially being in the theatre for months on end to then just having nothing but the road to yourself. I find it quite therapeutic to download."
As an aspiring musician, he clocked up a few miles in his first car, a Holden Nova.
"I called it Casanova. It did the job for many a year lugging PA equipment, speakers and amps, microphones and stands when I went to gigs. It was basically a little roadie car," he says.
Eventually the band got more gear and grew out of the Nova, so Mills graduated to a 1988 Camry wagon. It had more space and a bit more power but woollier steering and a tendency to lean alarmingly through corners.
"It drove like a boat. When you turned, it rocked to and fro," he says.
Over the years the Mazda ambassador has learnt the art of driving. His father bought him a defensive driving course when he got his first car and he competed in the Melbourne Celebrity Grand Prix, finishing second.
He's no leadfoot away from the track: "The chance of loss of life - your own or someone else's - it's just not worth it. And what are you going to save - a minute or two on the road?"
He also has no time for impatient commuters: "It's weird, people are trying to race to get to work or their next appointment when really it's their own fault for being late, not anyone else's."
He would choose "an old classic James Bond Aston Martin" or Shelby Cobra as his dream car.