Every time heavy storm clouds gather over the ACT, Craig Oates and his team start to worry about what this means for the 4000 cars still in their care on the grassy paddocks north of Canberra.
It has been four months since the huge January 20 hailstorm which swept in from the north and down through the ACT, damaging tens of thousands of vehicles and creating the biggest "hail row" car park ever seen in the ACT.
The storm set in train a massive logistics operation by insurance companies to fast-track claims, repair cars or pay out customers, and get the written-off hail-damaged cars into holding yards ready for auction.
The ACT says more than 37,000 cars received damage in the brief but fiercely destructive summer hailstorm, ranging from the most minor dents to others in which the cars appeared as though they had been shot-peened at close range, with their window glass and mirrors broken, and once-pristine paintwork pummelled beyond repair.
Two major Sydney-based auction houses, Pickles and Manheim, have managed the auctions and while both have been pushing hundreds of cars through on weekly and fortnightly online auctions, there are still thousands still on grass waiting to be sold.
The hailstorm created a three-month sales bonanza anomaly in the sale of new cars within the ACT at a time when the rest of the country is suffering a massive coronavirus-led sales decline.
Hail-damaged cars which had been privately registered in the ACT can be re-registered in the territory, and the ACT government has now extended its hail rebate package to those customers until October 30.
Cars with registration outside the territory, or which were registered to a business, are not eligible.
The ACT is paying $1500 to assist with the cost of getting these cars back on the road, More than 1500 applications have been received, with around $260,000 paid out in rebates.
Any privately registered car from the ACT still has to be rechecked for roadworthiness before re-registration at one of the 83 authorised stations in the territory.
Out on Majura Road, it's astonishing to find that damaged cars are still arriving in the two major holding yards, around 10 hectares leased from local landholders, at the rate of around 20 a day. But hundreds are also leaving daily on the backs of tow trucks, quick-lifts and car trailers. Under the salvage regulations, none are allowed to be driven from the site.
Mr Oates, the Manheim site supervisor, said that there had been some earlier suggestion that the cars would be gone by June 30 but he suspects it will take some time longer than that.
"About 80 per cent of the people we are dealing with are people involved in the salvage business; they are mostly vehicle dismantlers and scrappies [scrap merchants]," he said.
"But we're also getting some mums and dads; people chasing a bargain.
"Most of them have never bought a hail-damaged car before so they are a bit nervous about what they're getting. And wisely they tend to go for the cars which have no window damage, which means there's been no chance of water or dust getting into the cabin while they've been sitting here."
Mr Oates has three teams of people which work the huge yard all day and every day, jump-starting cars with flat batteries, occasionally adding fuel, and getting cars out of the holding pattern and ready for loading.
"Petrol does goes stale after a while so if the fuel level in the tank was low when the car came in, the fuel may have gone stale and it may not want to start," he said.
"Hybrid cars are sometimes complicated because they default to start on their electric motor and their starter battery is often hidden away somewhere in the car. But we've done quite a lot of this work, so we can usually figure it out."
When the rain pours down and turns the paddocks to mud, managing the car park becomes a safety issue.
"After all that rain about three weeks ago we couldn't move anything around for a few days, it was just too slippery," he said.