Sometimes as a journalist, you enjoy the privilege of interviewing someone who is not selling or self-promoting but instead has an amazing story to tell.
Bertrand Cadart is one such person.
The story is his own and ranges from his childhood in post-war France riding around in General Patton’s former staff car (his father bought it by accident for the family), to becoming an announcer for the ABC’s Radio Australia, his passion for motorbikes and how that passion led him onto the set of the Australian hit film, Mad Max.
The self-declared accidental Australian served as a Mayor in Tasmania, the first in the country to be given, or more correctly demanding, a motorbike for their fleet vehicle.
Now, coming to the end of his life — he has terminal leukaemia — Mr Cadart has become the subject of a documentary, part of which was being shot in Shepparton yesterday.
There are other local links. In the 1970s performing the French broadcast on Radio Australia, Mr Cadart was beamed out of the short-wave transmitter located here, reaching as far as Quebec, Canada.
Mr Cadart jumped on his motorcycle in 1974 or 75, his memory is not what it was, he admits, and came to Shepparton to see the huge transmitter.
‘‘I arrived, and they were really nice to me and said, ‘Oh yeah, we like the music you play. Radio Australia is often boring, they play the brass bands, but you do rock and roll’,’’ he said.
The transmitter operators told the then 20-something to go out into a paddock and stand beneath the transmission wire. The broadcast was so powerful it reportedly did not require a loudspeaker to hear.
‘‘They said we have the French program on in one hour, and it is one of your programs,’’ Mr Cadart said.
‘‘So, I walked 500m away from the building.
‘‘I’m in the middle of this paddock with this huge wire above me and all of a sudden, I hear myself, my voice coming out of this wire, out of nowhere. God is talking to me, and it’s my voice! I have never forgotten that day.’’
A few years later an encounter with then little-known director George Miller took Mr Cadart’s life down another path.
Miller was looking for a unique style of motorbike for his new film, Mad Max.
Mr Cadart was the only fabricator in Melbourne who fitted the bill, crafting fairings for motorcycles in a style popular back in his home country.
‘‘My fairings and my design were not even for the film. It was basically, you know, to sell it to Australian motorcyclists so they could ride long distances and not have to dodge insects and all sorts of s*** everywhere,’’ he said.
‘‘I was the only one doing it.’’
The encounter led not only to a design production job on the film, but an acting role as one of the motorcycle-riding villains.
‘‘I did not even audition,’’ he said. ‘‘It was very hard work — you shoot it again and again and there’s always something wrong. I was surprised that the film would be even finished, let alone famous.’’
Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Mr Cadart has moved to the Sunshine Coast to be close to his children, but the filming of the documentary about his life titled Beneath the Outback Sun brought him and his Pontiac Trans Am Firebird GTA 1991 back to Victoria.
Now he feels too ill to drive it home and will be lending it to the Shepparton Motor Museum ahead of the premiere of the documentary in which the car will feature.
‘‘I said I’m not going to drive the car all the way back to the Sunshine Coast and then bring it back because I might die in between.’’
The car is currently on display at the museum and will be available for viewing for the next few months.