A New Departure For Collectors

Diecast car collectors in Australia who wish to depict the local car scene are not all that well served. Oh, there are expensive exotic cars from Biante and Classic Carlectables of the street rod and motor racing kind, but the number of average driver daily vehicles in the large scale is quite small. The prices are high, of course because there is no economy of scale. I rather despaired of making up a modern Australian section of the collection…until I went to the car show today.

It was some sort of charity show with an eclectic mixture of sports, rod, classic, and all-too-recent beaters. I enjoyed it once it was found, and didn’t think my $ 5 badly spent – because it opened my eyes to the idea of a wider net for modern Australian collecting. You see, I can do what the car owners are doing in ever larger numbers – importing overseas cars to become local prides and joys.

Hitherto I shunned the idea as it seemed counter to my goal of making a real little world. Now the real big world is changing and I can use this to branch out. Look at some of the North american iron that people actually have here – as well as some of the European stuff.

I still have hopes that someone will get in a supply of 1:18th scale modern oriental cars that are not Japanese drift specials or Winthrop wankwagons. I want workaday wheels and industrial vehicles on my roads – so many of them are on the full-size street.

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Portholes To Adventure

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One of the earliest memories I have of motor cars is of a deep green early 50’s two-door Buick that my parents bought in Canada. I was unaware of many aspects of it, but I was convinced of two things: the doors would deliberately slam and trap my fingers, and the portholes on the side of the bonnet were really exhaust stacks – like on a fighter plane. Nothing I have seen in the intervening years has convinced me otherwise. I never go near Buick doors and I never put my ear next to the portholes in case they fire it up.

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Here’s a selection of them. Some are local in Western Australia and some are in Victoria. I think it is very cleaver of the owners to clean them up so well…you can hardly see any trace of exhaust smoke down the side of the cars.

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Note that Buick could not decide whether they needed three portholes or four. It must have been a source of considerable argument in the Fisher Body works canteen at lunch time.

For students of mythology, Elektra was a vengeful daughter…hence her connection to Buick doors and fingers.

Show Us Your Booty!

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If you think that sounds a little crass, how would you like it if I wrote: ” Show Us Your Trunk “? Not much better, is it?

Every year at the shows I take the front 3/4 view of the car as the main signature view. Then some details, and the interior, and – if there is enough space – a direct side view. In some cases in the past I neglected to add more to  this and to picture the rear panel. I am going to make sure that I always remember to include this in the future as it is one of the most user-friendly areas of the car.

Perhaps user-friendly is not quite the right phrase…let’s say user useful, if that is not too strained and expression. People spend inordinate amounts of time and money on the engine of their personal car – followed in some cases by a lesser amount on the interior cabin space. ( is some cases they spend nothing at all on it and it costs them an absolute fortune…) But the bit that is the most useful – the boot or trunk area – is a neglected afterthought. Yet, where are they going to store the beer crates or the rock and roll records…the fitted luggage…the engine parts that they bought but have not worked up courage enough to show to the wife…why the boot of course.

Here’s a selection of back ends from Gillam Drive:

Our feature car, the blue ’33 might have a rumble seat in there, but as there is no way of getting into it, I’m betting not. You could not bear to scratch that magnificent paint job scrambling over the fenders.

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The brown Buick has the sort of trunk that takes leather suitcases or wicker hampers of cold chicken and champagne. Not at Gillam Drive in November, mind, as the temperature is traditionally 147º in the shade and there isn’t any shade.

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The blue ’39 has a wonderfully styled line to the boot and the builder of the car has been wise  and tasteful in preserving it. Probably plenty of room in there.

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The green Holden also has plenty of room and the boot extends in under the seats. Modern cars can be surprisingly roomy back there – the wife’s Toyota being a case in point – it absorbs far more stuff that you would think for the shape of the metal. And I remember seeing a new 300 Chrysler that seemed to have enough room in the boot for an entire sofa. Pity about the spoiler on the boot lid as it does.

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The orange Bel Air has the rest beat as far as vast open space – as they did in the 60’s. You pay the price of more metal, but you get the advantage of enough carrying capacity to match that of the cabin. ie you can fit all the bags of all the riders.

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But the champ is the ute. It always will be, and now that the hard cover for a ute bed has become an established thing…remember that there were few of these in the 1990’s…the drivers can secure their stuff against thieves and road spoilage. Were I to get another ute I would serious consider a functional hard cover – as well as a bed liner.

 

All You Ever Need To Know About Style

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Here, children, is the greatest lesson that General Motors ever delivered on the subject of automotive styling. It is the closest that they ever came to selling a custom car straight out of their dealerships. In four images you can see why the Buick Riviera of the middle 60’s was what it was all about.

I took little notice of the marque in Canada because when it was fresh, we were out in the woods and away from the people who would have driven them. Oh, we were Buick owners ourselves once, but had fallen on hard times and were driving a ’57 Chevrolet 4-door for about 7 years.

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Well, my eyes were opened when I came to Perth in ’64 and saw what motor vehicles in Australia looked like. After the initial shock of the EH Holden and the Morris Minor had worn off and I could sit up and take nourishment, a family friend arrived in town with a gold-coloured 1964 Buick Riviera. It had been converted to RHD at who knows what cost, and was driven around the streets of Midland by the wife of the family. As they lived the next street over in Greenmount, my Mum and I hitched rides down to town frequently.

The effect of that Riviera in Midland was electric. I once scored a ride to Governor Stirling High School in it and the value of stepping out of it and waving the diver off was incalculable. I did top it once with a Triumph Spitfire but that is another story.

Okay – THIS Buick Riviera was seen at the Victorian Hot Rod Show this year. For the life of me I cannot think why it was not inside on show display instead of just out in the side visitor’s lot. Perhaps the owner delivers pizzas in ti for Dominos and couldn’t spare the three days on display…Whatever, it was worth going to the show for.

As far as the extensive customising needed to make it into the fabulous shape you see, I suspect that the owner has:

a. Thrown away the boot badges.

b. Lowered the thing on bags and new rollers.

c. Repainted it. And a lovely paint job it is too. No-one can complain about not seeing it on the road. They probably see it in Queensland as a glow on the southern horizon…

d. Filled it up with petrol and cleaned the pizza boxes out of the back seat. And drove to the show.

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And that is it – all the style and grace that you see was built into it new. I can’t swear about the interior. That wild yellow and velour is likely a refurb, but perhaps not. The walnut inserts for the doors are real, and the rest of it is fabulous. A killer in bright weather, though as the dash reflects up into the windscreen. You can always put a bar towel on it…

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All the effort, restyling, leading, shaving, frenching, chopping, nosing, decking, and footling around that custom builders have done over the decades is unnecessary on the ’64 Riviera. It is truly a show machine out of the box. I can only hope that there are more of them in Australia to show up…surely the gold RHD Riv must still be somewhere, if only for the sake of my nostalgia.

 

Wow! Look At What These 20 Celebrities Have Deteriorated Into Now!

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Must. Not. Click. The. Picture…Arrrrgh…

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We’ve all been baited into that one at some time or another – pictures of 20 people we loved in the past who have grown older, fatter, and more disoriented in the last couple of decades. If we succumb to curiosity we run the risk of losing all our memories of them in their great days. No-one who remembers ” Spartacus “should presume to see Kirk Douglas in his 90’s. Have some respect.

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Well, I couldn’t help feeling the same way in Melbourne this year when this car appeared in the forecourt. It has style, it has presence, and it has colour, but as a person who remembers 1956 Buicks in 1956, this is a sad sight.

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Okay, rat is a style. Patina is a style. 50 retro is a style. I get style. But I also get how close you can come to custom or cruiser and still have respect for the original.

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I like the lowering – Buicks of the time had the wickedest real wheel arch and trim ever. I like the wide whites – this is also period-perfect. I like the spinner caps as they were also a trick of the times. I like the retention of stock colour…but the highlighting of rust pon panels and pits on chrome is like looking at Gloria Swanson in ” Sunset Strip “. You just know it will end badly.

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Well, look at the windows. And then look away. Ask yourself how and then why. If you cannot get an answer from yourself you will know the quandary I am in. If they are a sad accident it is one thing, but if they are an artistic statement, I am not sure I want to hear it. Again, as with Kirk Douglas…have some respect.

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Okay, the criticisms aside, it is good to see that the old B has survived this long. A Stradivarius it ain’t but if it got as far as the Exhibition Buildings in 2016, it could still be restored to a former glory.

It’s not ready for its close-up yet, Mr. De Mille.

They Will Come

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Remember that line from a baseball movie…”Build them a park and they will come.”? Well that appears to be the case with Whiteman Park in the Swan Valley. Derived from some form of legacy left by a brick maker, and probably hedged about by all sorts of state governmental deals, it has proved to be a good venue for all sorts of oddball activities.

I would not be surprised to see it exempted from the land rush and speculative building boom in the area on account of native titles, empire building by government departments, or old quietus deals left from the previous owners. Nor would I be surprised to see it swept away with the stroke of a pen if some mining magnate or overseas industrialist decides to make a private Xanadu out there. Pretty certain that won’t happen because it is not all that spectacular nor prestigious but then you should see what some of the local potentates look like…

Well, apart from this, the place currently hosts an international class shotgun shooting complex,a model airplane flying area, an ecologically friendly bush park, and a sort of a low-grade railway/motor museum/picnic ground/ pleasure park. The shooters and the model airplane people are as snooty and exclusive as the price of their hobbies and government regulation make them but the pleasure grounds are open to all.

Today was the annual classic car show…classic is a large flexible word that can be used to glue nearly anything together. In this case it is about 50 veteran cars, 100 vintage cars, and a great many modern vehicles thrown in to bulk out the dish. It was a murphy’s mixture of cars and food stalls, but as it was free parking and a $ 2 donation, it was well worth the trip.

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As you might imagine, Perth and surrounding towns and cities has a finite number of old cars and enthusiasts, and each year will see repeat showings as people come together. This is not bad – it lets you see something several years running and watch improvements as they are made. And there are new things each year. Unimagined things. Perth hides a hell of a lot of history and treasure in sheds and garages and the country towns are sometimes even better.

The people who attend are similar to the people who exhibit. I am now 68 and can say then next phrase with impunity – the old cars are the province of old car people and frequently they are old car people. I can wear my khakis and flannel shirt and Akubra and vanish into a crowd of people who look like me. And the people are well-behaved toward each other and toward the cars – none of the insect swarm behaviour of Melbourne on Australia Day. Fortunately Whiteman Park also has enough surface area to provide for spacious parking so the photo opportunities can sometimes be easier. You still gotta wait for the grazing herds of gawkers to move through but that is the way anywhere. Go early and get the pics you want.

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And one thing you get at Whiteman Park that you don’t get in Melbourne or Laguna Beach. Roos. As I drove to the Mussel pool car park this Sunday a mob of about 30 bounced across the road in front of me. Not little zoo roos – big bush ones. All the cars on the road stopped to let them through as we wanted to go home with our radiators and windscreens still in place. A reminder for next time I am in the area…

The Big White Buick

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I can’t think what might have kept me from writing about this Buick in the two years since I saw it at Gillam Drive – perhaps there were just so many more things pressing – well before Gillam is upon us again at the end of the month, here is the Buick.

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Note – white is a notoriously difficult thing to depict in photos as it is so close to the point where the digital sensor blows out to a blank that you can sometimes miss valuable detail. There is a tendency to underplay it and sometimes you can end up with muddy tones or a false colour from the sky. Editing programs help, as does shooting on a RAW program, but there are still going to be compromises somewhere. Witness the more detailed information available from the pictures taken in the shade on an overcast day at Whiteman Park.

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Well, anyway, the 1938 Buick is something of an epitome of Art Deco streamline style. It has all the characteristics of the period – flowing streamlined contours, speed lines, chrome trim, and wide whitewall tyres. It sits surprisingly high off the ground – as a post vintage car it has none of the lowered speed characteristics of the hot rod or custom cars and the driver can safely take country roads, railways crossings, and speed humps in the suburban streets with confidence. Nothing will be wrenched off.

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Buicks in North America were always seen as the middle-upper vehicle in the General Motors range – just below Cadillac in luxury but well above the Chevrolet, Pontiac, or Oldsmobile. Bankers drove Buicks, as did factory managers and engineers. Ladies who entertained drove Buicks. Here in Australia it was probably much the same – possibly even a step up the ladder . If they were rural vehicles it would have been the rich graziers.

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Their interior appointments were much in the North American streamline style – metal dashes with chrome trim – no teakwood for Buick. No old wooden wheels – that is modern acrylic moulding in pearl finish. The large speaker grill suggests a factory radio installation. Note the rear suicide door – though GM would have never countenanced calling it that. Tragic accident that we don’t talk about door, perhaps…

Altogether a most suitable vehicle for people of substance.