A Rat’s Eye View

Someone once said that a hot rod was the mechanical version of a teenager trying to get attention by behaving badly. Possibly, but you need to extend the simile to take in the old men behaving badly as well. No need to discriminate on the basis of age…

The pictures today have been passed through a new filter in my computer – an HDR plug-in that makes all the tones go quite strange. Many subjects are harmed by this approach, but the rat rod is not likely to be one of them. I hope the owner and builder of this Volkswagen rat rod will appreciate the tone that the treatment has given to his car.

Not that it really needed any additional work from me. He has pretty well styled every reachable surface himself. Like many rat rodders, he has taken the ” rat ” motif and added a number of rodents to the car. And true to 50’s and 60’s hot rod culture he has added skulls, skeletons and skeletal ironwork, spiders, and other graveyard decorations to the basic structure.

None of it is simple, and none of it could have come easy. A lot of hard work there.

There is also an unofficial military memorial theme somewhere in this design based upon the owner’s history. At least I assume it is his history, with the signs about National Service in 1969 and Vietnam. You would have to ask people who were also in the forces then what they think of the paint job, as I am in no position to comment.

I cannot remember seeing a rat rod being driven here in the metro area, though the ones that appear at Gillam Drive in summer never seem to have trailers – they must have gotten there under their own steam. It would seem logical that if the owner wishes to attract attention that the road would be the place to do it. Perhaps it would gather the wrong sort of attention – just as displaying it at military memorials might also pose a question – but in any case, as long as there are hot rod meets they can come out. They might not shine, but they can rust publicly.

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Yaller Cat

Forget about the racial overtones of that Yaller Cat title – this is about the hot rod show, yaller cats attract the eye and stand out even in the dodgiest hall lighting.

In fact I have always been a little surprised that our local taxi industry did not settle upon the colour for the fleets of cars here in Perth – oh, there are yellow taxis in Melbourne , but the bulk of them out here are silvertops, black, or the ubiquitous white. I suspect that a lot of times the colour was chosen with an eye to resale of the vehicle…but by the time a taxi is ready to move on, the buyers need to beware of a lot more than the colour of the body. Note that the Japanese use the dear old Toyota Crown to this day.

The entry car for the WAHRS was, of course, a depiction of the yellow ’32 Ford coupe from ” American Graffiti “. Further in was our heading car with a yellow that came closer to Trainer Yellow than to Lemon Yellow. The ’39 Chev was probably somewhere in between, though the Royal Agricultural Society lighting is always a factor in any judgement you make. You’re best to view a colour out in the sunlight before deciding what shade you’re actually seeing – it would be disastrous to pick paint under the artificial light.

The original Mooneyes rail dragster is also probably as pure a yellow as you could get and certainly seems to match the memories I have of the model kits of the time.

And finally, note that yellow may feature a lot in our state’s team colours but it is also popular in Victoria and New South Wales.

 

The Perils Of The Opening Act

I should not like to be an opening act for anyone – whether they were famous or obscure, whatever occurred after my turn on stage would be inevitably detract from my own performance.

The same with the first car to be seen in a hot rod show. It’s going to be rushed by no matter what. I saw this today and took deliberate care that I gave the first act full attention.

It was a depiction of the yellow ’32 Ford coupe that featured in the film ” American Graffiti ” so many years ago. I was taken with the film, puzzled by the title, and receptive to this coupe in the entry hall of the 2018 West Australian Hot Rod Show. Note, I know it has an official show name but it is just the WAHRS to me.

Yellow is always a good choice for a rod, as it attracts the eye. Also probably safer on the road for just that reason, though it also would attract the official eye in blue so you’d better have the official papers right to run it. The problem with the hall that the WAHRS is run in is the lighting – it can have a colour temperature that ranges from water pump to Alsatian dog without ever getting to any of the conventional measurements. In the past I have tried to predict it with finely tuned custom WB. These days I just accept my fate and leave the camera on Auto WB. Take it from me that it was yellow.

It was also well-built, with a fair adherence to the spirit, if not the letter of the original. I must re-view the movie to see how close they got. Suffice it to say that it was a very satisfying reminder of the times. I was particularly taken with the shake tray…having seen a fully loaded one rip the top chrome moulding off the front window of a Pontiac in a Canadian drive-in in 1962 myself, I appreciate the feature.

Also appreciated was the period approach to the interior and the engine fittings. I admire some alternative rod styles but always default to the classics.

And finally – two good pieces of showmanship: the display stand that let people know what the intent of the rodder was, and the free stack of printed posters that let them take home a souvenir. That’s what gets the punters’ eye.

 

 

Hunting Wabbits

Heheheheheheh.

I like to stalk big game, and there is no bigger game than other photographers at car shows. Particularly the professional ones.

It can be dangerous sport. You get a person who has been up for 27 of the last 24 hours carrying a tripod, two cameras, three flashes, and a half-eaten sesame seed health bar and you’ve got a wounded creature. No knowing which way they’ll break and when they charge it is all over in a flash. Either they savage you or they fall over and go to sleep.

This car show I found two of them in the wild; John and Brad. Brad was focussing his Canon so hard on the general crowd he didn’t even notice when I took $ 20 out of his pocket. He’d been going at it pretty solid for days in an effort to get all the cars covered for publication. I hope he wasn’t counting on that $ 20 for food.

John, on the other hand, was easier to find as he had girls around him. I think he had them in tow for artistic purposes. The first stand I saw him swoop on was the Japanese Mooneyes exhibitors. They were bemused but took it in stride. Next time they’ll be faster to scramble out of the way.

As there were more girls – a lot more girls – in the pin-up and promotion business at the show I’ll bet he was busy for the rest of the day.

The smaller game – the amateur shooters who were trying to get the cars on their DSLR, mirror-less, and compact cameras – I left alone. They were doing their best to cope with the crowds* and the light but very few of them were making the most of their opportunities ( apart from the scrum around John with the girls ). Most failed to use flash even if they had it as pop-up on their cameras and I am willing to bet 99% of them had the cameras set on Auto or P. I hope their chosen manufacturer had a provision in the cameras to run a high enough ISO to succeed.

The mobile phone shooters added unsteadiness to all the other handicaps that small camera users face. But that is alright because most of them will lose the images they take when they drop or lose their phones. It is just passing pixels.

Note: I am actually very grateful to John – a friend – who gets me in to the hot rod show as one of his photo team. I never stalk him when he is seriously busy or seriously stressed. I do not take money from his pocket because there is none in there.

*   I cope with crowds by finding the position I need for the car shot, then setting all the controls, framing the shot, and smiling sweetly. If you stand there long enough smiling even the hardiest crowd gets nervous and goes away.

Fast And Furious

The Fast And Furious  title seems to appear on a number of things – motion pictures, toys, models, appearances, etc. It heralds motor car chases, firearms, and gasoline explosions. I should imagine that a number of the participants will wear revealing clothing – which may be offered for sale at licensed establishments. I don’t know whether it is associated with a snack food or chain of restaurants, but it is still early days.

I do encounter F&F enthusiasts on the streets and freeways of Perth, however. They are distinctive in their grey and black cars that look all alike and their driving style: Zoom up behind someone, flash the high beams, honk, and dive around them…to then slow down to the same speed as the rest of the slow lane.

I don’t think that they have road rage. I think they just have rage, and it is probably evident everywhere they go and in everything they do. They are probably fast and furious in the grocery store, at the post office, and in the toilet. That would explain the sounds of the explosions in there…

What I’m really hoping for is a series of popular movies and commercial spin-offs entitled The Slow And Considerate. It could still have very small explosions but the motor cars need not tumble end over end. No-one need be covered in oil. They get to wear comfortable garments and use thee air conditioner. And the behaviour of the S&C fans on the freeway would take place mostly in the left lane, but not during rush hour. There would be courteous merging.

 

Bright Sunday Morning

With a new lens and a car show to go to, I had a good reason to get up on Sunday morning. It was a local affair, wanting no more than a 10-minute drive and a $ 5 bill to get in the gate. The exhibitors were there because they love showing off their cars and the spectators were there because they love looking at them…and that means that there was a good vibe all round. Most car shows have this, but the Curtin FM show has more than most.

It would have been a tough thing to schedule as there was a competing Show And Shine at the big drag-race complex fifteen miles away. Some car owners might have been hard pressed to select which one to show at…and the spectators would have had to make a one-or-the-other decision. The Curtin show has good food vans, however, so I chose it.

The big bugbear of Western Australian shows is the sun – it shines on a professional basis here and in partnership with a big blue sky it can dominate any outdoor picture. This time I wanted to try shooting with a bare rig – one camera, one lens, no fill flash – to see if it was a viable option for other interstate shows. By and large I think it succeeded and the post-processing power of Lightroom CC saved most of the shadow detail. Cloudier skies could only improve it as autumn and  winter advance.

The freedom of carrying a small retro camera while dressed in unobtrusive old-guy clothes is wonderful. No-one bothers you – if you are a street shooter who can look down into the LCD screen instead of up, I don’t even think that they even see you. it is the best thing to a cloak of invisibility. I don’t even think you have to cover the camera over with tape or fake nameplates to disguise it – no-one cares a hoot.

If you also have a cup of coffee in your left hand no-one will actually see you triggering the shutter. Fujifilm cameras can be set to shut off all shutter sounds and in bright sunshine you don’t need the AF-assist light. Just point and shoot.

Note that the camera coped with the white cars – this has been improved internally from what it was several years ago – or perhaps the post-processing program is better. In any case this will be the camera and lens of choice for future away-day shooting.

The World-Travelled Hobby

Coventry, England…New York, USA…Perth, Australia. Well you don’t get ’em much further apart than that – and you don’t get a tale of resurrection in many other hobbies than that of vintage cars.

Oh, there are a lot of restoration services for antiques – businesses that rebuild cellos, escritoires, and clean oil paintings…but few actually go to the extent that car restorers do to get the objects of their affection back to new. The only other example I can think of is the aeroplane restorers and they have an even more difficult task as their end result needs to defy death and gravity as well as time.

Well, the best thing I can do for the Jaguar XK 120 Fixed Head coupe story is to show the sign that the owner placed in front of it. Judge for yourself the dedication of a Western Australian who not only repaired what was left over in California over two decades ago, but converted it expertly to right-hand drive. The only saving grace would have been the fact that there were many more of the XK120’s made as RHD originally that the parts would have been available…but I’ll bet they were pricey.

Beautiful lines, of course, but as they are so reminiscent of the luxury cars of the 1930’s you have to wonder if the designers’ minds had been set in this before the war and they could not retune themselves after. I think some of the construction methods were also in the same category but this might also have been to do with the British unions’ control of manufacturing and trades.

I was most impressed with the security taken to keep the wheel covers in place. Actually, I’d love to see wheel covers return to modern styles and don’t know why they have not. Perhaps the age of elegance has passed.