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.

 

 

The Golden Woodie – Part 2

I do not pretend to understand engines. With the possible exception of the .049 Cox Thimble Drome model airplane engine – and that impressed me with its ability to bite into my fingers. But all the rest are intricate mysteries. People ask me why I include pictures of engine compartments in my reports if I don’t know what I am seeing – I do it for those who do.

Other people are more knowledgeable – This 350 Chevrolet seems to have been neatly fitted into a place that once held a considerably smaller Ford flathead engine and presumably moves the car along at quite a bit faster pace. I salute the skill that does this. My complements to the chef who also decided to do it without cutting horrid holes in the bonnet and poking industrial machinery through them. Perhaps the owners of this wonderful custom car have passed the stage of wanting to have things look like an Ed Roth cartoon.

How much shoe-horning was required? Well the show sign said they sectioned the bonnet and reshaped the fenders so there must have been some squeaky moments. I have a 1:18th scale die-cast model of a 1948 Ford Woody so I will go look at it to see if I can see where the cutting took place. I can’t see a bad line anywhere here.

Likewise, I am going to have to consult a 1:18 model of the Ford convertible of the time to see if I can pick out how the shape of the boot lid was done. I can’t say whether the body is a readaptation of the original or a new construction but if the car comes back onto the Perth display scene and we can get closer to it past the honour barrier, I will examine it closely.

Note the wheels. perfectly chosen combination of modern spoke design relieved and highlighted by the repeat of body colour and the period-correct effect of wide whitewalls and substantial tyres. Some stylists might have been tempted to put in thin rims and strip rubber tyres, but I am glad to see they did not do this here. The Ford tragics in the crowd might have looked askance at the Chevy bow ties in the hubcaps, but then it has a Chevrolet engine after all. And all the bow ties were lined up for smooth appearance.

 

 

Buying The Dream

Going to a car show is a little like being a psychiatrist; you see crazy people hear a lot about their dreams. Or, perhaps that should be changed – you see a lot of dreams and hear about crazy people. Sometimes there are couches involved.

Whichever approach you take to it, a car show is also a commercial affair – even in the simplest open park affairs there will be someone selling something. Insurance, ice lollies, or Isotto – Fraschinis. Or in the case of hot rod shows; spare parts, wheels, black tee shirts, and paint jobs. And also, apparently, the hot rods themselves. And I don’t mean just the owners who have put a cardboard sign of whatever price ONO on their half-finished project – the WA hot rod show had some pretty complete items for sale.

The sellers that caught my eye were a commercial firm of automobile retailers who maintain showroom premises in  two suburbs. One of the showrooms is not too far from my home and has been an auto site since before 1964. It used to sell Morris, Austin, and Wolseley – then Saab and Volvo – and now is given over to exotic cars from all sorts of makers. I don’t know if there is a new-car agency in it or not, but considering the nature of the vehicles it offers, it hardly matters. This is all enthusiast big-money stuff.

I’m not qualified to talk about big money, as I do not have any. Very few of the people I know personally do either, though I have met some people through my former employment that might. Or then again they might not…I remember meeting a high-roller and high-spender in the 1970’s that proved to be financially and morally hollow. Best not to go back to those memories nor speculate about current people.

But I can sort of wonder about who the customer for the yellow Chevrolet pickup that you see in this post will be. It was a noticeable feature of the Xoticar display, and for good reason; it was darn near perfect. Maybe it was entirely perfect – I did not get to see it driven in or out. But from the look of the finish I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The pictures and the sales board tell you as much as anyone could about the car, but the real questions remain unanswered. Who built it? How much did they sell it to Xoticar for? What can they tell us about the bits inside that make it go? Why did they sell it to Xoticar?

More. Who is the target customer?  Are there target customers for turn-key rods and customs as much as there are turn-key customers for sports cars and any standard vehicles? Speaking as a turn-key driver of a small daily-driver hatchback I can see where that is a perfectly valid model for normal transport, but I always associated rods and customs with people who built their own.

More, still – I associate rods and customs with people who design their own as well as build them. Tastes can be as variable as the wind, and the idea of buying someone else’s taste – or dream – seems strange. What if they did not do it the way you wanted? Would you have the courage to break it down again and build it differently? Or would that be like overpainting a picture in an art gallery?

And who has $ 94,888.00 dollars to play cheque book hot rodder? I’m a bit cynical about the 888 in the price because I live next door to Leeming and Winthrop, and the doors of my hatchback show it…but have my neighbours taken to rodding?

Will we see a flurry of moon disks and lakes pipes on the BMW and Mercedes? I tremble to think.

Can You Afford To Own A Chevrolet?

Or put another way – If they try to sell you a Plymouth can you Dodge the question?

No good Nash-ing your teeth over it either…

How odd that as we pull away from the curb into the twenty-first century in Australia, we should do so in the Toyota, Subaru, Daihatsu, Nissan, Suzuki, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Fuso vehicles. Or, if we have been successfully greedy, in Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Lancia cars.

We should be hard pressed to do the same in a Humber, Standard, Triumph, Rover, Hillman, Austin, or Vauxhall.

And yet today I will go to a car show that glories in Ford, Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Willys, Cadillac, Mercury, and Chrysler. And they will be spectacular and bright…or rotten and rusty…but will reflect the best of a car builder’s skill. Very few of them will be oriental or continental. What do the hot rodders and custom car builders know that the rest of us have forgotten?

Can we be reminded by an industry that needs to stop repeating what Europe and Asia say? Can we still build what we need, for ourselves, where we live? I hope so.

 

The Mini-Motor Trade Monthly Report

Well, the last of the boxes have arrived from New South Wales – this year’s quota of new die-cast models for my collection are ready for unboxing and display.

Or, I should say, they are ready for further work. They have already figured in complex plans for photo shoots and now it is time to prepare them for their roles. They will be unboxed and the worst of the anomalies ground off them…by this I mean any mounting posts that the makers have left visible on the bottom of the chassis. They do this even on some quite pricey models and the result can spoil low-level shots if you are not observant.

Then it will be time to consider whether there should be any weathering. While I am quite enamoured of the normal wear and tear look of normal daily drivers, some of these cars are always going to be showpieces or central players in advertising scenarios. That means clean tyres and no road grime on the sides of the body. The license plates might need to be changed and little anomalies polished out, but essentially the models are ready to go.

There is one model scheduled for a big repaint straight away, and I have no idea exactly how to do it yet. It will be a complex pattern with advertising signage and extra accessories glued on. It goes to the back of the queue…

I am starting to collect more trailers and caravans as well, and have started to notice more of them in the smaller scales ass well. They certainly appear to have been a popular subject for the classic die-cast makers of England and France in the 50’s and 60’s. I would add some of them to the collection except that the market seems to regard them as far more valuable than new models. I am not a great fan of being driven to overspend by someone else’s urging.

And then we’ll start on the structure building and the set making for the new shoots. A new building was completed this week, and will show up in the studio shortly. I am getting better at assessing what degree of detailing is necessary for a good appearance on the photographic table and the new foamcore construction methods are speeding the construction no end.

And finally, the new series of Hot Rod Honeys and Hunks shoots started last weekend with a Hollywood starlet and a pesky news reporter at The Goldfisch Studios. The prep shots were all ready to go beforehand and I am happy to say that the talent were perfect in their roles. The only technical hitch occurred  when the studio cameraman inadvertently turned off the RAW recording on the camera and only saved medium fine JPEGs. Fortunately Fujifilm JPEGs are superb and the images are excellent. A dumb mistake…he’d get fired if it wasn’t for nepotism.

 

 

Dashboard

Every time I open the WordPress site I get a dashboard that lets me control the weblog. Every time I get into my little Suzuki I sit behind a dashboard that lets me control the car. It is a comfortable place to be in both cases and I can see the wisdom in naming the set of electronic quizzes and sliders that we operate for sites and computers the same as the automobile – we are nearly all familiar with one somehow.

Well, leave the weblog and the computer aside and follow along to a couple of car shows as I look at the dashboards. I find them a fascinating insight into the minds of both the designers and of the society they serve.

DSCF0114The first dashboards literally dashed the mud aside as buggies and wagons followed horses. I’ll bet that the horses were not fooled – they could think of ways of spattering the people behind them anyway. But the dashboard of the wagon might only need to have a footrest, and no other controls. This leaked onto the first horseless carriages – they have few things happening in front there either, though they start to add pedals and switches to deal with braking and transmissions. Sometimes with the acceleration of the engine, though in many of the old cars this was still happening around the steering wheel.

Sometimes pipes and gauges were added to cope with fuels, or water, or oil. There might even be electrical gauges if the driver needed to know what was going to fail next…

Gradually the gauges took on more significance and prominence. People might not have needed to know how fast they were going early on because they were not going fast at all. When they sped up, someone wanted them to slow down, and quantified that – speed limits were evolved and drivers needed to know how quickly the vehicle was moving. The speedometer appeared. Followed by the speed trap and the fine.

Technical brother to the speedometer was the tachometer – how many revolutions per minute the engine was making. The driver could use the information to decide when to shift gears, if the screaming of the transmission or the passengers did not supply the signal. Old timers probably paid more attention to this one and regulated themselves in their district on hills and turns they knew by watching their revs.

People needed to know how much petrol or other fuel was in the tank and for a long time the only way they could determine this was a dipstick in the tank. That or a glass gauge with a tube in it somewhere near the tank. Or sticking their tongue in the tank. It was a long time before a reliable petrol gauge appeared on the dashboard…and I am waiting any week for one to show on mine…A guess is as good as a mile in many cases and that is how far you’ll be walking when you ignore the little floppy needle.

Oil? All engines and many navies needed it, but the original measure was a dipstick on the crankcase for when you had it and a grinding clank when you didn’t. The idea of putting an oil gauge on the dash to worry the driver came along pretty quickly but it was generally done by means of a tube from where the oil pressure was to the gauge in the dash where the needle swung over. The inevitable vibration and fatigue fracture would send the hot oil somewhere unpleasant. It was quite a while before they thought of a sensor and electrical reporter for this.

Electricity, coming or going, is invisible. You only ever hear it when you are holding a spark plug lead and the block and some comedian cranks the engine over. Then it makes a noise like bad words. For some time the designers did not really know what to measure as far as electricity went and there were few sensible gauges. Eventually they settled on a little bobbing needle that went one way when you were using it up and the other way when you were making more. You could even measure the battery to see how much electricity was in there but it was always a blasted lie.

Most other measurements and reports were only commentary. Various makers decide to tell you or not, depending upon the market and whether they thought you wanted to know or would understand the message.

Will post later…must dash…

 

 

The Little World – Raw Materials

I used to look at model engineers and marvel at their patience. Patience and hard work. Patience, hard work, and dedication. Basically, I thought they were nuts.

Not because of the models they made – the traction engines and steam locomotives and V-8 engines – and not because of their appearance ( though the English ones did have a tendency to look like a cartoon of themselves ). It was because of the problem they set themselves in trying to make one model that would occupy them for fifteen years. I could not conceive of someone sustaining an interest in one piece of modelling for that period of time. I thought it was some sort of fraud.

I still did not get a clue to the real state of affairs when I read the model engineering magazines and saw how many of the articles were dedicated to making things for the workshop in preparation for making the model. I thought it was still preliminary stuff. I’ve since learned the lesson of the scratch building shop…and I am delighted.

I’m also a little taken aback. I am currently engaged in making model structures for dioramas and a good great deal of the time involved is not in the actual fabrication or decoration – it is in sourcing and then preparing the raw materials. And sometimes in solving engineering puzzles of how to treat large objects so as to make them appear small.

Part of it is the challenge of frugal modeling. Even when I can afford to go to a hobby shop and buy a Plastruct part I begrudge the money spent on it. I’m time-rich now and can afford to put in the hours to make a complex part from smaller components of it can be done cheaply.

Part of it is the discovery that there are modelling materials everywhere. I used to view some of the models my friend Don Smith made with a jaundiced eye because they were made with popsicle sticks and Tarzan’s Grip glue. No more – I recognise the skill he demonstrated in finding the raw stuff of modelling in such humble places. I spent the better part of a very good day with a Shachihata Fineliner pen and a ruler making a very large mastic sheet roof and then cutting up a sheet of newsagency construction card for lengths of 1:18 siding. The fact that I had the pen, matt board, and card lying about the workshop doing nothing only serves to make it more delicious. Free modelling.

Part of it is the pleasure of component modelling…or subassembly work. Getting things right in small chunks and then eventually seeing it all come together on the main frame. Any modelling project involves some stages that are a drag, and I can certainly view drawing roof tiles in that light, but if you get them right once you do not have to get them nearly right twice.