They Went Datto Way

A few year’s back I attended a pin-up car show day at the Ascot racecourse here in Perth. The pin-up girls were intriguing and the retro stalls obviously had their devotees…I resisted the temptation to take home a number of items. But the best part for me was the unusual line of cars that attended.

You’ve seen some of them before in this column – the shoebox Ford sedan and the two-tone Jaguar saloon come to mind. The three-toned Valiant Safari with the hessian door liners was a highpoint for me – but I also got a thrill from this Datsun 240 GL. I suspect it is mid-70’s…not old enough to be antique but still with the design characteristics of another era.

I can’t say if the interior is a cleaner and leaner one than today’s designs, but it looks more spacious  to me. Less wrap-around light show about it. Dear old cassette tape deck and a AM radio – it was all we needed in the day and I suspect it is all we need now…but don’t try to argue that one out with the Bluetooth boys. Those of you who have never seen car seats before may wish to pay special attention to these – they are styled to make anything you wear look good.

Likewise the vinyl top. I hope that it stays in good condition – some vinyls were prone to leakage and rusting underneath or cracking under harsh Western Australian conditions – the grey looks good with the green bodywork.

Notice the painted wheels – there was a period of time there between the hubcap era and the alloy spoke era that saw a transition with small centre caps . They could look lonely inside a big wheel and the really cheap ones made of black plastic were a real stylistic turn-off.

On final thing to observe – the side spear is actually useful for defending the doors – unlike many modern sedans that have heavy moulding on the side contours but leave the panels open to every careless parker in a shopping centre. Full marks to this Datsun for just enough to do the job.

 

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The Stylish First That We Never Remember

The silver Toyota Corona seen in today’s column is about 1966-68 vintage, I should say. I recognise it from my first days of car-shopping – it was one of the marques that made it through to my final selection panel in 1966. It did not take the prize – that went to the Renault 10 – but I’ve been considering it in retrospect for years. I think it might have been the better car.

No, I’ll qualify that. The better car in a pedestrian sense. I don’t mean better for running over pedestrians – I mean a car without any spikes of engineering brilliance to carry it through mundane build quality. A car that was excellent without being extraordinary. As it is, over the years I have come to appreciate that more than the four-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension of the Renault.

The Toyota Corona was the first, however , that we saw here with the slope-back grille configuration. This is ubiquitous nowadays, but in the 60’s all grilles tucked under rather than protruded at the bottom. In the interim since 1966 the designers have had to pursue more aerodynamic configurations, but back then this was unique. It nearly sold me on the style.

The off-put was the sort of little thing that customers often obsess about; in the engine bay a number of the actuators and brackets were finished in raw cadmium plating…and it looked cheap. It wasn’t, of course, and probably held up better than painted parts. But such is the perception of an uneducated buyer.

My friend, Dave Walter, bought a new ’68 Corona and hotted it up as hard as he could. There were speedy engine parts and rally seatbelts and spotlights…and it was never raced or rolled anyway. But that is what you did when you were 19 years old. I indulged in stick-on racing stripes and a chrome gear stick knob. I had style over substance…

I Want To Feel Better – Hand Me A Hammer

In the merdestorm that is the current Australian political climate, I have found myself wishing to see less and less of the opinions of my social media acquaintances, and more and more of logical and pleasant subjects. Thus I turned to a series of pictures taken at this year’s Sydney Hot Rod Show. It may be rusty, but we all need iron in our diet to some extent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They can also be said to pay you off for years before – in the sense that if there was some aspect of car building that you had always taken for granted or only vaguely understood, the cat of seeing it pounded out in front of you also tends to pound it into your brain. The chopping of the top on this Chevy is exactly a case in point for me. I say – for me – because you might have realised the difficulties and understood the procedures long before this. I’m just grateful that I got to see these chaps working.

Who are they? I do not know – it would not have been polite to interrupt. Do they know what they are doing? Look at the pictures – they are doing it. It was obvious from the straightforward way they went about measuring the thing with a steel tape and then bending and clamping that they knew precisely how to move that metal and exactly where to relieve it. It was staggering to see the condition of the car and to realise that one day it will re-emerge from destitution into a thing of beauty.

The shapers at the English wheel were good to watch but not quite as exotic for me – I have a friend who has an extensive metal-working workshop and forge and I’ve seen he and others using these machines to make plate armour pieces. They are not car enthusiasts as such, and they have lives too busy to become such, but I’ll bet that if the armour and blacksmith boys had to repair their own car bodies they could make as good a job of it as the professional panel beaters.

Of course they would not be able to help themselves somewhere along the way. Enthusiasm would surface and eventually one of them would be driving a Peugeot with pauldrons…

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.

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?

 

It’s Been A Golden Week

I often think that really good museums, art galleries, and car shows should have a premium service that rents out little three-legged travelling stools so that patrons could prop themselves up in front of the exhibit, painting, or car and just sit there looking at the details. It would make the experience one of quality rather that quantity. And we could block up the aisles so no-one else got a look-in.

I was a good visitor to the Perth Hot Rod Show. I obeyed the rules. I did not touch any of the cars, girls, or other photographers. I stayed outside the honour barriers. I stood aside to let other people see the cars. But I did want to climb all over this one…

Let’s get the featured image out of the way to start with. The sensible decision to paint the bumpers rather than re-chrome them is one that a lot of people take these days and I applaud it. I think it can really improve the looks of some of the cars, and I am surprised that it has taken so long in the custom car world to come up with it. And the use of quad headlights is also brilliant here – the Ford of the period was, like all cars, a two light design. This worked fine when Fords were narrower, but by the time they got to this year – 1946 – the sheer width of the nose made the lights look paltry and their chrome bezel did not help either. They were not alone in this, of course – look at what a Chrysler of the time looked like…

Not bad, as such, but a little wide and lonely out there. The Toyota headlights helped fill the Ford in nicely.

But the show stopper is the wooden grill teeth. In another vehicle they would have been an affectation. In this one they are pure art.

The wooden theme has also surfaced in some of the other trim. Note the doors and the surround coaming of the back seat. I am terribly sorry not to be able to show you the dash, but the honour barrier prevented me from going round there and seeing how far the wooden theme had been taken inside.

I have no idea what sort of maintenance schedule will be necessary to preserve the New Guinea Rosewood of the body. Perhaps modern varnishes like Estapol will keep it fine – the Western Australian sunshine can take the life out of most woods in a very short period of time. Let us hope that this car continues to gleam for decades to come.