McFeeters Motor Museum.
McFeeters Motor Museum. Drive

Fast food

IT'S highly unlikely that Karl Benz, embarking on his first brief drive of his self-engineered three-wheeler car in 1885, gave a single thought to food or refreshments en route. He was too busy making history.

But as car use broadened around the world, so, too, did the need to feed the moving populace.

Along the highways, motorways, autostradas and autobahns, petrol stations expanded to offer food-to-go.

Americans, always reluctant to take a walk when they can drive, were arguably responsible for the whole phenomenon of the truck-stop 'shake and a 'burger.

Drive-in burger joints gave the meals and wheels craze more impetus in the 1940s, before evolving into the drive-through fast-food outlets we know today.

But the Maccas pit stop isn't the only gastronomical option for the motoring enthusiast.

Some places allow drivers to combine their passion for driving with their love of food.

We're not talking of those that challenge your constitution - truck stops that might have a faded old poster of Dick Johnson or Peter Brock on the cafe wall.

"Greasy spoons" don't qualify for a place here.

Egalitarian though we are, we are focusing on recommended eateries of different persuasions that have a motoring connection.

Cavallino, Terry Hills

Co-run by prominent Sydney restaurateurs Giovanni Pilu and Lido Russo, Cavallino takes its name from the cavallino rampante (''prancing horse'') emblem that adorns Italy's famous supercar car marque - and the famous eatery across the street from the Ferrari factory in Maranello.

Under the dramatically raked roof, Russo and Pilu have created a true rustic Italian pizzeria and ristorante, offering traditional antipasti, pizza and pasta.

The prancing dobbin symbol is evident on the floodlit stone wall in the front garden and on the mirror behind the front desk but, these apart, Cavallino's decor skips any blatant car connection.

But if passionate Ferrari owners Russo or Pilu are on the floor, you're likely to get as much chat about quad-cam engines as you are the source of Cavallino's excellent prosciutto.

During formula one telecasts, supporters of the ''right'' team can be spied lounging by the fireplace watching the Grand Prix.

The restaurant can provide the ideal exclamation point after a fun drive through the nearby national park taking in West Head and Akuna Bay. The car park often reflects the motoring enthusiasm of customers.

Deus Ex Machina

One of the unqualified meals-with-wheels success stories, Deus is an intoxicating mix of motorcycle showroom, edgy fashion boutique, DVD and bookstore, surfboard shop, cafe by day and restaurant at night (Wednesday to Sunday). Housed in an old antique warehouse on Parramatta Road, Camperdown, Deus Ex Machina - literally, ''god from the machine'' - hums all day.

Its breakfasts score a tick in the Herald's Good Cafe Guide and its lunches and dinners hit the spot. Cranking up its appeal further is the vibey bike- and car-themed ambience and endless people-watching opportunities, with no detectable gender bias. Spend some time checking the wonderful eclectic array of bikes - veteran, pre-owned and new - and check out the inner-city and biker fashion racks or gawk at the photos and posters decorating the white-washed walls. It helps if you're a motorcycle nut but it's certainly not obligatory.

Audi Lighthouse, Zetland

A car dealership first and foremost, this $50 million, multi-level building has the uber-trendy Cafe Bavaria perched on its mezzanine floor, giving patrons a lofty view of the latest models bearing the four rings badge and the upmarket tyre kickers who drop by to haggle.

Gourmet food is tasty and brilliant value and extends beyond snacks to curries and heavier teutonic stuff designed to feed an army. Between sips of your latte, you can check the fashion wear and marvel about what type of person would pay $300 for a polo shirt. The coffee is a more reasonable $2.80.

Trackside Restaurant, West Gosford

There's no avoiding owner Terry Ashwood's love of motor sport. It's evident in the name of the restaurant and the examples of winning touring cars and open wheelers on the floor, along with fascinating race memorabilia. A wildly popular modern Italian and stone-grill restaurant on the old Pacific Highway, Trackside attracts lots of locals, along with race fans and car clubs that make the central coast a sunny drive destination for a day.

Only three of Ashwood's cars are on show at any time but he likes to change the exhibits around regularly. When Drive Life checked it out, Mark Skaife's title-winning Formula Brabham SPA was keeping company with Jim Richards's JPS 3-Series BMW and George Fury's turbo Datsun Bluebird Bathurst pole winner from '84.

Ashwood also has Skaife's class-winning Nissan Gazelle and the last of the Gibson Motor Sport Nissan GTRs, the famous car that was booed when it won the 1000 in '92, prompting driver ''gentleman'' Jim Richards to call the rowdy Bathurst faithful ''a pack of arseholes''.

Apple Bar, Bilpin

A spin over the Blue Mountains along Bells Line of Road used to be one of the great drives for motoring enthusiasts, before it became heavily policed, but it is still a pleasant, picturesque day cruise. And for the past few years the added appeal of a lovely lunch at Apple Bar looms as a real fillip for travellers. They can warm their tushes by the open fire before settling down to peruse the inviting modern Australian menu specialising in wood-grilled meats and pizzas. The Apple Bar isn't themed in any way but owner-chef Michael Jaggard is a car nut with a particular penchant for sporty V8 utes. "We get lots of car clubs coming here for lunch - Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche drivers are regulars."

Citigate Mount Panorama, Bathurst

The Chicane restaurant belongs to the Citigate hotel, which sits right on the infamous Chase towards the foot of Conrod Straight, Mount Panorama. It's a spectacular location for motor sports buffs on the few race weekends of the year. At other times, there's always the chance to drive around the world-famous stretch of tarmac or visit the nearby Bathurst Motor Museum. Tip: if you hate lots of noise and fraternising with strange people who wear either red or blue and consume too much alcohol, avoid the period of October 6-9 this year.
McFeeters Motor Museum, Forbes

A private collection embracing everything from a 1906 Minerva from Belgium to a Kia prototype of an Elan (and the only survivor of six) and '60s hot rods are displayed at the affordable museum, one of the main attractions in the area. Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Jaguar are featured, too, along with real cars, 62 all told.

Those who have taste buds as well as salivating thoughts of gas lamps and spring shackle bushes will be pleased to learn the stunning purpose-built facility houses a coffee and snack food cafe and local winery Banderra Estate's cellar door.

Pie In The Sky, Cowan

A magnet for recreational bikers and drivers who like a bit of an early-morning heart starter (all at 80km/h, of course) along the old Pacific Highway north of Sydney, Pie in the Sky is legendary, scruffy and casual.

Unsurprisingly, given the name of the place, pies are the specialty, although they are aimed at those who don't set their culinary sights too high. The coffee is ordinary, though probably all right if you ride a Harley.
Harry's Cafe De Wheels, Liverpool

Most Sydneysiders know about the iconic pie cart just along from those fancy restaurants on the Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo. But while the inner-city cart attracts the famous faces, the fancy sheet-metal gathers in the rather less salubrious surrounds of the Liverpool Harry's outlet.

The cafe attracts a steady stream of car buffs every Saturday night, with a bumper crowd usually turning up for the last Saturday of each month. Car clubs often hold meetings at the cafe, drawn by its wealth of car spots and the offer of security parking.

Hungry and Tired

We can have fine cars and fine dining in and around Sydney but not, it seems, enjoy both experiences simultaneously.

The epitome of the meals 'n' wheels experience in the free-spending early 2000s was MG Garage in Surry Hills, now sadly no more.

A brave attempt by chef Janni Kyritsis to offer the best in food and service in company with a new-car display, the elegant MG Garage soared briefly then stalled, a sad metaphor for the MG car brand. No more MG cars on sale in Oz. No more pig's trotter stuffed with veal and sweetbreads ''gently scented and reworked in a Mod Oz way with ginger and shiitake''.

''We had a wonderful time doing MG Garage,'' says restaurant investor Ian Pagent, who owns new-car dealerships across Sydney, before adding, ''Then we had a less than wonderful time. But I don't think it is restricted to Australia.''

In times gone, tyre kickers could swing by The Throttle Shop, under the northern approaches to the Harbour Bridge, and peruse the pre-owned four-wheeled exotica before sitting down for a latte and light lunch. Alas, the cafe has gone the way of John Howard.

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