Shoe Two – The Ford That Makes Me Nervous

I get it. I really do. I was puzzled at first but I’ve seen enough now to say that I do get it. But it makes me nervous.

The rat thing. The Baxter Basics movement in the hot rod world that thinks it remembers what rodding was like in the late 1940’s and wants to suggest that it is bad to the bone. And who am I to say they are not…?

 I am a spectator – a photographer and gawker at the hot rod shows. I can be amazed and amused and no harm comes of either experience. The rodding enthusiasts and custom builders are marvellous artists as far as I am concerned and I applaud nearly all I see. I know that I could never display a hundredth part of the car-building skills that they show.

But I am also not a police motor vehicle inspector or a patrolman on the roads. And the fact that I admire the rodders and ratters counts for nothing, if one of these officials takes a dislike to a car or driver.

I’m not accusing the police of bad behaviour. They may be executing their duty in a perfect manner. But sometimes there are temptations placed in front of them that would be nearly impossible to resist. It must be a very finely run thing for them to look at a vehicle on the road and make a snap decision about whether it should be driven over the pits…or into one.

The artistry of the rat is a very strange mixture of dilapidation and deliberate provocation. Some of the local cars in this style seem to be works of low-brow art – so much so that you wonder if they have not been made as a parody of themselves. Others, like this NSW shoebox Ford – have a genuine air about them. The authenticity is the thing that would trigger the vehicle squad…and I would be afraid that if they ever started in on this car they might not let it escape their clutches.

 Like every car, it is a work in progress – heck, my standard suburban sedan is that, as is every car on the road. But mine would be less likely to get a sticker on the windscreen as it does not advertise itself.

Well, I hope it all comes out well in the end. If there is a gleaming 16 cylinder Hispano-Suiza engine and a racing car chassis under the Ford skin, all might still be well at the Vehicle Inspection Centre. I didn’t see under the bonnet, so, like the US Navy and nuclear bombs, I can neither confirm nor deny. Let’s just hope the NSW cops do not fiddle with the fuse.

All At Sea In The Car Park

I am a car expert. I can tell, after a hour’s careful observation, the difference between a 1973 Chevrolet Impala and a 2002 Hyundai Getz. No problemos. I can sort out Hupmobiles from Mattel Barbie cars. It’s a gift…

But when I encounter the out-of-the-ordinary car that has been rescued from the restoration fiends and made into a proper street rod I can flounder badly. Such was the case with this car in the car park of the 2017 NSW hot rod show. I knew it was gold, I knew it was good, and I knew it was locked up and impossible to steal ( don’t ask…) but I was in trouble as to what sort it was, and how much what I was seeing had departed from the original.

I know it was metal, because when you hit all the various panels with a ball-peen hammer they made a ” Doing ” sound. Not the windscreen. That was more of a crunchy noise, but we won’t dwell on it.

I was pretty sure that the mirror-polished engine compartment panels weren’t stock…unless the owner was the King of Sweden. Also the Mr. Horsepower logo on the side. Few cars of the period rolled out of the factory with a woodpecker. But I fell into a revery when it came to the shape of the fenders – they were distinctive and complex, and not the sort of thing that you generally see in ads in Street Rodder magazine machined out of aluminium. They looked suspiciously real – if enlarged a bit for the wider tyres.

Likewise the three rivets on the front to the windscreen posts. This sort of detail is not the kind of thing that rodders add to a car – they are generally grinding everything that they can off flat. These rivets argue that they are an original feature of the car…and they also suggest that if you did grind them off the windscreen would fall into your lap.

The roof worried me, frankly. There are three longitudinal strakes up there and the last time I saw a car with this feature was my old 1966 Renault 10. I haven’t seen that car since 1972, and anyone could have gotten hold of it. I was trying to picture this gold one in a two-tone blue to see if it was just a re-paint but decided in the end that it wasn’t.

Nothing else helped at all. I looked carefully at all the external lines, trying to imagine whether they had been altered or were a faithful reproduction of the original car. The dash and steering wheel were no help. No help in identifying it, I mean. I’m sure they are very useful for turning and that.

In the end I had to give up. I’d gone from the front of the grill to the back of the rear panel and the only thing back there was some pinstripes, tail lights, a square bumper and a paint job that said 28 ESSEX, so the whole thing was a mystery. Unless I can see the DMV records I’ll have no idea what brand of car it is.

The Canvas Car

Well not exactly, though I will take a little time later in this column to tantalize you with a real canvas car…But right now I am thinking about cars as mobile canvases for artwork – the increasingly complex business of showing pictures on sheet metal.

Every hot rod car show I have attended in the last 4 years has had graphic cars – you’ll have seen some of them over that time here on the weblog column. Here are two examples from the 2107 WA Hot Rod Show just gone. They are representative of two motifs but there are many more that can be found.

a. The black Holden ute with Thor on the bonnet and sides. Thor would appear to be a character from either television or the cinema translated to a graphic on the black paint of the car. He is more than a cartoon here, as the screen version is more so – this is a live actor reproduced. Colourful, violent, and dramatic, he would appeal to many of the hot rod hobby and well as to a wide cross-section of the viewing audience.

b. The yellow Holden tray top. A nationalistic theme here, and a rural one, fully in keeping with the nature of the tray, if not of the vehicle. I mean, who could be so mean as to take something as beautiful as this car and slam it over railway crossings and down gravel roads, let alone out in a paddock. As far as loading cargo on the tray and/or unloading it by tilting it…well, would you use the Mona Lisa as a tea tray? Sacrilege.

I will make another post about some of the other artworks seen on cars, but these two are particularly noticeable because the car takes second place to the canvas. As with any art, no debate is possible about the goodness or badness of theme or concept – art is in the eye of the beholder.

But here is the real canvas car I promised…

Imperial Purple

I have reported some years ago about another purple car seen frequently at car shows. It is still making an appearance – I saw it just a month ago at the WA Hot Rod Show and it had the familiar ” For Sale ” sticker on it. At least it is a reliable vehicle – if not an immediate seller.

The car in today’s post did not have a ” For Sale ” sticker that I could see. I daresay it might in the future – kit cars like this are as salable as any hot rod or restored vehicle and if they possess the coveted license plate they can be driven as much as the owner dares.

The driver of this car might need a bit of daring, as it really does have an engine under that long bonnet- a large one. The styling of the engine compartment has been taken a bit from that of a big Mercedes of the 30’s, and they probably had in-line engines. Hence the bonnet line has had to be widened a little to fit the V-shaped engine. And there has been some imaginative and busy shoe-horning to get the exhaust manifold to approximate that of the Mercedes. I have no idea how functional the side pipes are, but I volunteer someone else to put their lips on them to see if they get hot.

The wider engine bay may also mean that the interior tub space is a little wider. The dash seems quite rectangular in shape – probably because the cowl is too. In any case, it is wooden in there, with what look to be 70’s North American appointments. At least there would be power enough under that bonnet for the A/C. I wonder what the top and side sealing arrangements are to contain the cool or warm air?

 The suspension is a straightforward adaptation of a modern unit, which is wise given the stresses the engine on one side and the tyres on the other would generate. I rather like the horn.

Altogether, I do admire it. I was a little taken aback by the tubular nature of the front bumper with the orange plastic ends…but I daresay a few weeks consultation and work with a good hot rod shop and chromer would change that.

I wonder…were Mercedes ever painted this colour? Perhaps for the playboys of the period they were.

 

 

 

B, C, Or E?

I am undecided as to which of the mid-series Holden cars I like best – the FB, FC or FE. They were the products of GM-H between 1956 here in Australia but sometimes went for several years – hence we tend to refer to them by the two letters rather than a model year. This practice was also adopted by the Ford and Chrysler when they named their cars. Australians are good at remembering these codes.

Aside: The ones who are really good at this are the train enthusiasts. They have a three-letter code for most rolling stock on the different rail systems in the country. It makes reading a model railway magazine somewhat of a chore, though, and probably has contributed to the popularity of North American layouts with their colourful – and named – freight cars.

 Back to the Holdens. Overseas readers might be forgiven for thinking that the FB was the first of the line, followed by the FC and then the FE. And wonder what happened to and FD. Uh uh. This is Australia, remember…the FE was the first, then the FC, then the FB. Then, wouldn’t you just know it, the EK, and then the EJ and then the EH…Aww stop it, before I fall off the seat…

 Now you would expect the next model after that to be in the ED or EC line, wouldn’t you? Nope -the HD, then the HR, then the HK. Then I lost any sort of interest…

 But here is the red and white ’58 FC at the Curtin Car Show. 2 seats for 4 people. 6 cylinder engine, fair-sized boot. Enough chrome on the front and back to please anyone and doors that can defend themselves in a Leeming car park. ( I miss that kind of door…). A two-tone paint job that looks good. And you get an AM wireless. What more could you want?

 

Blue Shoe

This single-spinner shoebox Ford seen in the car park of the Rosehill Racecourse during the afternoon of this year’s NSW Hot Rod Show attracted me immediately – 49-53 Fords always do, no matter how they are presented. They are the first car I ever saw that I wanted to own entirely upon their external looks. Many others have come along in the meantime, but I still love the shoebox…and a few of its overseas copies.

But this car and the afternoon I saw it have pointed out something I did not realise – the fact that satin or matt paint can be a difficult thing to photograph. Until now, I thought that this sort of finish made car shooting easier, but now I see that this is not the case.

This will not be accurate in scientific terms, but the satin auto finish is suspended somewhere between shiny and dull paint. Apparently there are 5 different grades between flat and glossy. How they do it is a mystery, but I’m betting on some form of particle or filler in the fluid that makes up the paint along with the pigment particle. The look is unmistakable when done well.

It also needs to be completely done – you’ll note the doors on this Ford seem to have a structure showing – that may be because it is not yet the final paint coat. More rubbing down, more coats.

The car itself is a work in progress, as evinced by the rear bumper and the multicoloured nature of the interior. It is perfectly in order for the builder to drive it to the show and park it out in the car park – we are grateful to him for doing so to show us how the car is progressing. New enthusiasts who only see finished show cars may be discouraged when they return home and see their base car nowhere near the show condition – it’s good for them to see how others are managing the tasks.

I am pleased to be able to record the neat and unobtrusive nature of the tail-light treatment. I’ve seen some surprising ideas bolted and leaded into custom cars in the past , and even if they are marvellous jobs of work, some of them have not been good looking. This use of the classic shoebox design is fine. Likewise the decision to clean up, but leave undisturbed, the classic front end. No drawer-pull grilles needed here.

The stop light? Well, that is a matter of taste – like the Tiki shift lever. Both are certainly period-correct, but…

Okay – back to the paint. As a photographer of car shows, I am equipped with a good mirror-less camera and large flash. I expose for the general scene and then throw fill light into grilles, interiors, or shaded portions as needed. The overhead lights and/or sky will always be a factor in any scheme, and the way the car reacts to them will make a great deal of difference to whether the lines of the car are well seen. Show shooting for the visitor during open hours is entirely different from work done after all the crowds have gone home. You don’t get to do lighting set-ups or multiple pops. It is all in one and frequently the window of opportunity is about 3 seconds! It’s like press shooting.

Note in the featured image how the sky light glares out the line of the fender and bonnet. On a gloss finish that would be a brighter specular highlight, but very much narrower. Surprisingly , it would be less obtrusive and one might almost PS it out. Not here – the specular highlight is a diffuse patch that you just have to put up with. And it seems in some cases to delineate the panel contour more than a gloss would do.

Looks like there might have to be a lot more experimentation with these finishes in the future – I like ’em but they are a menace.

 

The Naked Mexican

In case you are looking for girls, they are on the next page.

This one is about the Chevrolet coupe that I discovered in the car park at the Rosehill Racecourse during the 2107 NSW Hot Rod Show. It is a prime example of the advice never to leave too early and always look everywhere. It is the last car on my camera roll and I would not have missed it for a thousand Pesos.

Chopped, of course. Lowered, indeed. Shaved, but badly. This is a traditional custom/rod of the old Southern Californian border type. It rides low but does not do it by jacking the front suspension up. It is a bad man’s car, and knows it…

The decision to leave the scars and marks that this car has earned is deliberate – it is coated with something that preserves the metal…mostly…but lets us see the muscle underneath. The fading and graphics on the top are done because it is artistic. The boot lid is done because it is important to let people know with whom they are dealing.

There are no badges. This Chevrolet does not need esteenking badges…

Are you surprised at the interior? Do not be. It will become something different as time goes on. Do not expect knitted seatcovers, however – this is not that kind of car.

Is the radiator leaking? Is that water under the front grille?

No, it is blood. You would be wise not to notice it in future.