Small, Blue, And Triangular…

And French, to boot. How much more mysterious could you get?

The Amilcar seen here at Hyde Park this year is the closest thing I could find on the day to my all-time favourite motor car – the Samson of M. Hulot. It has a little more style that the Samson, and this could be a problem for me as I have no style whatsoever, but for a car as lovely as this I would be prepared to wash, shave, and dress.

It is hard for a person with a limited grasp of the French language to read literature of the period – the 1920’s – and understand all the nuances of the country. I depend upon English translations and these can sometimes be a view filtered through glass coloured by any number of biases. But one does not need to be a master of literature to appreciate an object of the period – whether it be art, furniture, architecture, or mechanics. Thus the Amilcar acts simultaneously as a vigorous stimulant and delightful object of art.

And it is an adventure. Who could set out for any destination in this little roadster without experiencing a thrill of discovery – of danger, of wind, and dust, and velocity. Rain, too, though there is some provision for protection on the port quarter of the boat tail. Neither the driver nor the passenger will be in comfort, but neither will they care – they are racing against the clock to Monte Carlo, or Rheims, or the local IGA. And the Polly Farmer Tunnel at 80 Kph must be as good as a ride at Disneyland!

I’m rarely jealous of others’ motor cars. The troubles and expenses that they are faced with are a barrier to me – but I would be prepared to face them if there were a little mechanical delight like this as the reward.

But one thing puzzles…the blue triangle. I cannot find any sensible reference to it in a Google search. Perhaps readers can enlighten me.

 

Addendum: The Leatherworking Reverand has supplied an answer – apparently the blue triangle is an indicator panel required under CAMS rules to indicate where the battery of the car is located – for vintage motor racing. Thank you, Reverand.

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A Desireable Property

Going to car shows is sometimes an exercise in patience – waiting until the car you want to photograph is free of strolling gawkers or until a glacier whizzes by…either one…and sometimes an exercise in tasteful criticism. Not that you are allowed to voice it – even the worst cars are there because someone thinks they are the best cars, and gentlemanly behaviour prohibits you from suggesting otherwise. But it is rare that I can go to a show and see a car that I would like to drive.

It’s not that I am mega ambitious – I drive a little green Suzuki Swift all day, and am perfectly satisfied with it. I can look at exotic vehicles all day and not raise a sweat or anything else. But occasionally I do get the wannas. This Dodge has excited the feeling.

It is a simple pre-war coupe with a rumble seat. Still in LHD form. As stock as they come, if you disregard the metallic blue paint finish. The interior has all the characteristics of the era – deco dash instruments, painted finish, and long gearstick. I see an air conditioner there, which bespeaks a larger engine, perhaps. But the whole suggests the best sort of daily driver.

I was also charmed and enlightened to see the handle on the rear part of he cabin. Now I finally know how they secured the rumble seat in a closed position. A daunting place to ride but I’ll bet there would still be takers wherever you went.

Again – if they made them look like this now, we would buy them in a second.

The Show For Free Is Never Free…

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I would never consider a visit to Melbourne complete without a day spent looking at whatever is on show at the National Gallery Of Victoria – whether it is at the St. Kilda Road building or the Federation Square site. The collections differ, but they are ever-changing and eclectic. I can’t pretend to like it all but I do like some of it.

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Please feel free to hum and haw about these, but the blue pool of constantly circulating water with the ceramic bowls in it is aural as well as visual. They bonk and ding around the basin all day and are ultimately soothing.

The scooters? That’s the Fed Square division of modern art. As is the wonderful chair…

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In the St. Kilda Rd. permanent collections you see more of the older canvases and sculptures. I have still not figured out how they hang them on the wall and how they change the exhibits year from year.

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One word of caution – there are bookshops and cafeterias at each venue and they beckon. Few wallets can resist.

Studebaker’s 50’s Fighterplane Design

 

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There have been any number of motor vehicle designers who have popped to prominence and stayed for years – Pininfarina comes readily to mind, as does Harley Earl.  And others that we hardly know…It would appear that the ” bullet nose ” design was the idea of a worker at Studebaker who was then endorsed by Raymond Loewy. The bullet design had been the feature of Bob Bourke’s drawings for some time.

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Does it look like an airplane nose? Yes it does. Was it meant to? Yes, it was. They gambled that people would like the military and aeronautical echo in it during a time of war.

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Apparently the gamble paid off – Studebaker had their biggest production and employment years. The car had a big , light engine and performed well in road tests – It got praise from Tom Cahill in the US and he was a hard person to please.

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The cars have been seen as 2-door coupes, 4-door hard tops and 2-door soft tops. The distinctive wrap-around rear window of the hard top was as much a controversial point in the rear as the bullet nose was in the front, but people eventually decided to like it and voted with their wallets. For myself, I always imagined a rear gunner and a pair of .50’s set in the rear window. Even now I think this would be a good idea on Leach Highway in the early morning traffic rush – it would certainly cure the tradies in the tray tops from monstering you…

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I think the soft top, with the top down, is the best looking variant of the marque. It is also a car that needs wide white walls for best presentation.

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Design speculators will look at the hanging rails for the front bumpers and wonder. They are real – you can see them on other examples in the net. They are necessary to get a functional bumper out from under the receding chin of the car. The fact that they are there means that Bourke and Loewy were able to press their vision on the engineering team but I would also be willing to bet that the original design drawings showed another way of providing front protection. The solution as it is seems too conventional and…if I can be permitted the word…clunky to have come out of Loewy. You have only to see his New York Central and Pennsylvania RR  locomotive designs to figure that there was a different idea first.

Wonder what it was?

A Victorian Behind

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One thing you can always count on about Melbourne weather: You will find it inconvenient. This was the rainy but then sunny and then cold day at the Victorian Hot Rod Show this year. No problemo inside the exhibition building – but a nuisance outside where the free show goes on. My camera gear is not waterproof and I have to be careful that it doesn’t get a dose of Melbourne.

Well we survived, and I was delighted to see this ’34 in one of the dry periods – at least it was dry on the top – down by the roadway it was still wet. I couldn’t resist trying to see what was under the pan, however, and was assisted by the new camera I carried. The Fujifilm X series is my chosen set of instruments, and this year I had an X-T10 with a zoom lens to use. A speedlight flash also added light under there, though the Fujifilm speedlight is a cumbersome affair that stands up very tall. I am hoping the new Metz M400 is ready by the time I make my next journey east – it is only about half the height of the Fujifilm Ef-42.

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Anyway, have a look at the finish on the front and back decks of the ’34. I must say I have often puzzled at the inclusion of louvres on the back deck of a car that was not intended for runs on salt flats at high speed. perhaps there is an additional radiator and fans inside there to cool the engine…I do like the retention of the full bonnet side panels, though, as they make the whole design look art deco.

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Under the back was the classic quick-change rear end, leaf springs, and shocks as well as the trailing arms – which is a lot nicer to see than strange clips and parallel arms sawed off modern cars and welded on. I know there are some exciting adaptations done on some cars but if you are going to have a design that is as open as this it is good to see traditional rigging.

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Is your underside as clean as this? Have you checked lately? No good having a sticky bottom if you are going to go out and meet people…

Hello. Mechanical Spectator Here Again…

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And this time he looking at a car with somewhat of a jaundiced eye. Perhaps this is a mistake, but then so many good things in life are…

This is a Chrysler 50 car. 1927 to be exact, and in good running order. You’ll see from the photos taken at the Labour day car show that it has a good set of tyres, top, and all the accessories that would make for successful touring. Indeed it toured to the park for the day – this is no trailer queen. Note the regular Western Australian licence plate – that is an endorsement of the good condition of the vehicle and somewhat jealously guarded.

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The interior is plain – plainer than I would have expected for a Chrysler. But then this tourer may have been made to a price for a middle-class market. It is still a larger proposition than many Ford or GM products. Note the economical number of gauges and control knobs – one would master the dashboard pretty quickly. A little inconvenient that the speedometer/odometer is located on the LHS of the dash, as it would have been in North America but then that contributed to what may have been an easier conversion process for Empire roads. Well upholstered.

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I wrote about a jaundiced eye…well, I guess it is really about the colour combination. I do love blue and white on a car but generally on a model later than this one. Here it reminds me of an unmarked taxicab or the sort of paint job that the 1:18 model companies put on their cars when sales flag. Apart from this, full marks to the owner for the level of care.

The Turquoise Beauty

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I cannot generally comment upon the paint colours of veteran and vintage cars – I know so little about the subject. I can vouch for a few in the 195os to the 1990’s – the vehicles my family owned here and in Canada. For the most part they were plain-coloured, though there was a two-tone Chevrolet in 1956 that was rather dazzling. And I’m happy to say it has been the subject of a very good 1:18 scale model – more on that one day.

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All this to introduce the rather startling colour of the 1934 Speed 20 Alvis. The pictures are taken on two separate occasions – last year and this year, but I daresay that if you are 82 years old one more makes little difference. I cannot say whether this is a factory colour, though I rather hope it is. It is glorious.

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The Alvis attracted my attention due to the large size of the headlamps and the high transverse spring in the front. That, and the low bonnet line, give it a particularly racy feel as a saloon. It is evidently not the sort of vehicle one would expect to see on Route 66 in the dustbowl with chairs and chickens attached to the roof.

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Not that you could not do it. I was fascinated to see the chrome attachment points there on the front and rear of the roofline – I should posit a dedicated metal hook, and a removable transverse rack to attach there – perhaps to transport skis to Switzerland or fly rods to Scotland. I have no idea why the designers decide upon a little chrome loop to lift the boot lid instead of a sturdy handle, but perhaps the British motorist is a one-finger person. Evidently he drives on deserted roads with little illumination, if the front of the car is anything to go by. I hope the engine has enough power to cope with the drain on the electrics.

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