” I Thought They Brewed Beer In Milwaukee…”

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You’re thinking of Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz. This is Schacht. They brewed cars.

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First car in the rows at Fremantle last Sunday – the rear-engined Schacht. I have no information that would explain why this car is here in Australia but I am glad it is. It is a healthy survivor of a very young automotive industry – an industry that had just barely dropped the shaft from the front of the buggy and turned the horse out to pasture.

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You can glory in the horrifying details – the open chain drive from the transverse shaft – the buggy suspension – the acetylene…or kerosene tail lamp. You can marvel at the external control rods – you can wonder at the wooden wheels and hard rubber tyres. You can contemplate driving this thing at speed into a cloud of grasshoppers on the Albany Highway just outside of Williams…

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Thrill yourself all you like. This is a vehicle from pioneers, for pioneers. Anyone motoring in this Schacht is doing it actively and with full participation. There is no texting or changing tracks on the Mp3 player while operating the Schacht. When you indicate a turn in the Schacht, you do so by hand signals – not finger flicks. You can flick your fingers if you wish, and people will make what of it they can…depending on how many fingers and where they are on your hand. There may be more emotion in your driving than in that of others. Try not to get in fights.

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The owner of the Schacht opened the engine compartment hatch during the day and I was able to look inside – what a gem. An oily gem, to be sure, but well worth seeing. Those of us used to seeing confusion and extra wires going everywhere in modern engine bays will be comforted – if not a little confused. The copper tubes are comforting – like looking at a still. They are oil, one assumes, not moonshine.

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Where electricity is needed it is applied in good old-fashoned spark plugs. Those are the sort of plugs that can be removed, gapped, and replaced without breaking a wrist. As there are only two of them, it is a task that can be savoured. Other works may be a little more obscure but we do advise that adjustments made to the engine while it is running would best be done with someone else’s fingers – there’s a lot of exposed gears there…

 

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Still, they did put a shield on the chain drive near the running board. And when you are seated up on that quilted leather wrenching at the wheel and stabbing at the pedals you won’t be anywhere near the chain. You will be steering round the sheep and clouds of insects.

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