The Awkward Mock Word


I’m always puzzled by the terms ” mock duck ” and ” mock chicken “. I’ve encountered them on menus in Canada and Australia and I’ve seen cans of something that calls itself ” mock duck ” in Asian grocery stores. As there are so many good things that you can do with real duck and chicken I have never felt the need to eat artificial stuff.

But past the culinary stage, the idea of mocking anything is generally frowned upon. We’ve always been told it is sinful to mock the afflicted, or downright dangerous to do so to some of the world’s snippier religions. And anyone who wants to mock their spouse does so at their own peril…

But you can still get away with it if you pick your target. A popular one right now is the United States of America. If you are British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, or any other variety of English-speaker you can use the mocking term ” ‘murica ” to refer to the country. It is an instant hit with the meme-takers of the world and presumably counts towards the kewl number within your Facebook circle or down the pub with the other second-year university students. It is derived, of course, from what the scornful imagine to be mumbled hillbilly slang. Fabulously kewl.

Well, fun comes in many shapes and sizes, and you can find it everywhere. If this sort of mocking is acceptable, I am sure that there are any number of sexual, racial, religious, and national slurs that can be resurrected and put into daily use on Facebook for a similar kewl effect. International readers of this column do not need a list of these – they can make one of their own.

If they happen upon someone using a term that targets their own ethnicity, religion, age, or some other aspect of their lives and seems to be both offensive and unnecessary, they can do what hypocrites have always done:

Blame the ‘muricans.


The Little World – Sad Economic News – The Chinese Are Getting Enough To Eat

dscf2393An article in the latest issue of THE DIECAST MAGAZINE by the chief executive of a die-cast model car maker is disturbing. The chap has laid out the history of die-cast vehicles from the 1980’s to the present day and has accurately traced the rise and fall of the average model car.

He’s pointed out the economic fact that the Chinese model making workers are getting better off nd expecting more pay in the future. The heyday of cheap labour from the PRC is over as the population starts to benefit from their own productivity. The western buyers who got a great model for $ 70 will be paying 4 x that amount in a few years time. It will mean that fewer prototypes are modelled.

There will be museum-quality stuff made always, and the rich can have marvellous new toys, but the small modeller will be left with repaints of previous issues. The collecting hobby may well stagnate.

I’m saddened by this. I’ll cope by changing what I collect and photograph to match what is made, and in some respects this will be a good challenge. I am already making a modern prototype diorama and will look at other slices of auto life in my own country to illustrate. Enough to do for my time, I am sure.

But here’s hoping…not for economic downturn or despair in China…but for renewed interest in reasonable quality scale cars for reasonable prices.

I, for one, am more than happy to sacrifice opening bonnets and boots and sometimes opening doors to allow a particular model to be successful. I have an Australian XP Falcon made like that and it is all I need. I would be happy with plastic resin cars, provided they are models that no-one else does and can be detailed enough. And I would dearly love some of the licensing restrictions to be taken off MOPAR and British cars.


Are We Having Fun Yet?

dscf5061That’s akin to asking the question: ” Did you have fun? ” They are innocuous enough thoughts for the average punter…but it really becomes serious when you ask a weblog columnist these to questions and they give the answer: ” I don’t know – I haven’t written it up yet… ”

Well, you can pray for us writers, if you are inclined that way. We have gotten caught in the trap of never perceiving things in a pure form – every experience we go though eventually becomes either grist for the mill or grit for the gears. And once we have realised it, we are in even a worse way – we write mental reports about ourselves to  ourselves.

It is not really a case of overthinking so much as thinking in paragraphs and subheadings. We write an account – humorous, cynical, serious, scientific, or whatever – in our heads as we are doing whatever it is we are doing. I do it at model shows and car shows – I do it while listening to trade presentations and looking at art shows. I daresay that if I fished or rode a horse or painted pictures I would be composing a third-person account of it. It would be like being haunted by myself all the time, and not in a good way…

The really dangerous part is when you suddenly come across a recording medium in the midst of the musing. I keep a Moleskine book in my daily bag to write down inspiration. I do, but sometimes find later that it is of the most cynical and acerbic nature. While it is safe in the Moleskine as long as no-one sees it, if I were to pass a laptop, tablet, or computer in the heat of the moment, I might be tempted to blurt out over the aether. Nothing bad that is internetted ever really goes away – it always arrives where it can do the most harm.  I dread to think what might have happened if I had posted many things in the heat of the moment – some of them have a scorching half-life.

But there is a good side to this – the weblog column does vent internal pressure that might otherwise consume the writer. The slightly surreal aspect of it is we sometimes do not know what we have actually experienced until we read what we have written. We are real enough, and reality is real enough, but we need to glue ourselves into it. I prefer Weldbond white PVA glue myself – it is a Canadian product that seems far superior to other glues…

Ford – Thinking Outside The Box

dscf5073My time at car shows – whether the subjects are  hot rods, vintage, or modern vehicles, is spent looking out for four things:

a. New displays – cars that I’ve never seen before.

b. Excellent displays – really well-done exhibits.

c. Odd-balls. Items that you really never expect to see.

d. The coffee van*.

Note that I do not specifically respond to over-the-top builds or show car designs. I am unmoved by the famous award-winning 5-years-in-the-making fibreglass confection sitting on a bed of angel hair and LED lighting. I spent a childhood building AMT models of Ed ” Big Daddy” Roth show cars and I am unimpressed by plexiglass bubbles.

But I do like a good design that someone has recognised and revitalised – like the mid-50’s Ford station sedans. These, like their cousins the utes, were initially intended as a semi-working semi-family vehicle and had more practicality in their makeup than many of their contemporaries ( Fight that one out amongst yourselves…)

mel2014-372Here are examples from Victoria and Western Australia – the yellow and white Customline is from the VHRS 2014 show while the light green and white is from this year’s Big Al’s Poker Run in WA. They illustrate the advantage that the hot rodder or custom builder has over their restorative cousins.

mel2014-370First the Victorian car. Ignore the fact that it is plopped down in the middle of the Exhibition Building in a Hot Rod Show – it is really a restored post-vintage car. Or a  pre-veteran, post-vintage, retro-themed, olden-tymes car. Whatever the damned committees have invented as a category for it…it is a well-maintained reminder of the mid 1950’s in Australia. Whatever it is, it has less hair and more good manners than Barry Humphreys…but then so does  a wheelbarrow full of dirty socks.

In any case, it is a car that has to tread a very strict line. It must be not only good and old, but good as well as old. The owner is under the eagle ( vulture? ) eye of the restorationists of Victoria and if he deviates from the Ford canon by one word – one wrong bolt or fabric – the whole congregation will cry out with a howl. Automotive apostasy is probably punishable by death or worse.

dscf5074The rodder, on the other hand, can look at the thing with a fresh eye. If the wheels would look better as billet mags, he is free to try them on without risking a blast from heaven. If the panels would look better with fewer advertising badges, he is free to prise them off and plaz up the holes…provided he is painting later. If the interior is in need of a lot of serious love and he doesn’t fancy grey factory corduroy cloth, he is free to make the thing look elegant. And he is free to attach a set of rather cool aerodynamic roof racks to the top in coordinated colour. He gets plaudits not hisses, because his viewers are men and women of art, rather than fanatics.

Of course, it also means that occasionally there will be something untoward appearing on the show floor. Not all hot rod designers are gifted with the eye for a line, even if they are masters at actual physical construction. Every now and then a complex construction is undertaken to reshape a car body – or the frame and running gear – and the result looks wrong. It may also be extremely sturdy, well-built, true, and functional. While looking …well…wrong. The best that can be done is to concentrate the eye on the workmanship and praise the engineering skill. Whilst trying not to stare.

We have all done it. Overcooked a cake, over egged a pudding, over drawn a picture. As long as we are not designing airliners, no real harm is done. And who knows – whatever we have done may become a barn find in the future for someone else…

*  Found it.dscf5148


Hot Rod Heinies

dscf5142Wait a minute. That didn’t quite come out the way I meant it.

dscf5113Oh well, at least it sounds better than Kustom Krauts.

It’s all because we just don’t see all that many German cars that have been taken through the hot rod or custom car mill. But there is no reason why not.

Well actually there is, the older Volkswagens are becoming thin on the ground, the middle-aged Volkswagens are pieces of junk ( I owned one… ) and the new Volkswagens are immutably locked into computers – either honestly or dishonestly, depending upon who programmed them at the factory. And the BMW, Audi, and Mercedes cars are generally too expensive to fool around with. Add to that the fact that they have attracted a sort of unhealthy idol-worship amongst the well-to-do…and they are just not available for the car enthusiast to rod or customise.

dscf5144Here are two exceptions, however. The first one is the VW with the football knees. Or at least I think that is the problem – the rear wheels seem to have deviated ever so slightly from the vertical. It might be a trick of the light, but I don’t think so. I do hope the driver has some way of rectifying it as driving past a Goodyear, Bridgestone, or Beaurepaires shop would probably set up a series of screams from the staff.

dscf5145The windscreen adjustment is nice, however…if a little impractical in the face of dust, insects, and rain.

dscf5112The Mercedes seems to have been subjected to the sort of bonnet work that we see on the drag strip or in the more extreme of the street race cars. I was surprised to see the grill work lift up with the front of the bonnet, but Google images show that happening to other 1971 280 SE cars as well, so I guess it is stock. The blowers are a good idea if you want to make a street sleeper out of it but the fact that they poke pipes up through the bonnet is a bit of a give-away.

dscf5115I think the rear venetians are a nice period touch – do we all remember them from the late 60’s… and the cushions and stuffed animals on the rear window sill? They were a trophy of love in many cases, as well as a practical aid to accomplishing  it.

dscf5114And are the rear wheels of the Mercedes suffering a bit of the Volkswagens or is that just imagination?


Valentine’s Day For The Retired

heart011I do not know whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. Some countries do – some don’t. Some people make a great deal of it and others ignore it. I have always enjoyed it as a delightful piece of sentimental nonsense.

As a child we were always compiling a list of people to whom we would give or post valentine cards to – all our classmates, all out family friends, and all the relatives nearby. The cardboard cards we got from Hallmark professed affection and as long as everyone got one, no-one felt unloved. I have often wondered if any of the old things were ever kept.

Now that I am retired I do not participate in the desperate bonhomie of commerce or science. I can reduce my contacts to those I like – and I have done so quite deliberately. I do not need to seek their approval of affection, and would regard a valentine as an intrusion from me to them. I reserve the card and the small present for my wife, and if I am clever enough to purchase chocolates or wine I get my fair share of them as well. I mean, sentiment is all very well, but sentiment plus chocolate has to be better, right?

But Valentine’s Day is too close to Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Easter to make sweets a comfortable thing. I would much appreciate a tradition that gave pickled herring or chili or cracker biscuits to the loved one. Is there no Dutch or Mexican saint that could be called upon to set the menu? Or are they all engaged writing snippy little memes for Facebook to belittle Donald Trump?

Ah, well, the chocolate will have to do. Fortunately we are not a jewellery family, nor am I expected to give furs, motor cars, or apartment buildings as tokens of love. I could probably manage a bondwood caravan and a ferret, but.


The New Paint Job

dscf5104Hot rod and custom car builders are more courageous than the average mundane motorist. They dream more and dare more.

This is seen in all the rat rods, street racer machines, hot rods, low-riders, and show cars. Every one of these is the labour of both a great deal of love and a great deal of money. And also a great deal of a patience dealing with the licencing authorities. As soon as any of the car enthusiasts thinks up the most modest of modifications – fitting a fighter plane engine to a family sedan for instance – they have to commence a round of grovelling negotiations with the joy-spoiling jobsworths at the vehicle department.

But one good thing that can be done is a coat of paint. As long as the re-spray is a simple modification of the original scheme, the official nay-sayers do not bother to take an interest. Perhaps even they have their limits…

dscf0397So that would likely explain the new coat of paint on UHN-661. It’s a Morris 1500 from the 70′ that was seen in the Big Al’s Poker Run of 2016 in the red and black scheme. The bonnet then had a wrap on it simulating a carbon fibre panel. A particularly specific look.

dscf5105Well, time has changed, and a year later has brough forth a retro look to the Morris – a metalflake paint job in dark bronze. It is a fascinating finish, and as an older car enthusiast, I must say I prefer it to the carbon fibre look. As with all show-car finishes, it has a real depth to it – not least because the actual metal flakes need more support medium to remain suspended in the finish.

dscf0400Now rodding a British-built car is unusual – I counted less than half a dozen on the field last Saturday. This is odd in a country that was sustained by the British car industry for longer and to a greater extent than that of the North American manufacturers. One would logically expect there to be more left-overs from the era that could be made into hot rods. It is unusual to see – as unusual as the use of Japanese cars for the same purposes. Even rarer are continental cars turned to the hot rod or custom side – any cars still extant are generally refurbished as veteran or vintage types.

dscf0399I hope that UHN-661 continues to be remade as the time goes on. I see she now has lakes pipes, though I have no idea whether they are connected to the exhaust or, for that matter, to a lake…Well, they look cool, nevertheless.