Dead Cool Legends On A Dead Cold Night

There are car people and there are car people. You can separate them into different camps according to the sort of cars they favour, but eventually you have two sorts; they ones who will stay at home on a 12º cold night and the ones that will come out to a petrol station car park to meet up. You may decide for yourself which are the crazy ones.

Here is some of the cool crop:

I bugged out after my fingers froze, but the enthusiasts were still rolling in. Bless them and here’s to an early and warm spring to make the next meet a more comfortable one.


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 Plastic Bumper Club – Or The Personal Car Club

WA Rod Show 2014 200

I have recently been going to car shows that referred to themselves as ” Chrome Bumper ” shows. This was to limit the entries to a certain section of the history of automobiles. That was after narrowing it down further by era and time and type and nationality and degree of reworking and…and…and a great many fun things would have been excluded.

The cars that did show were fine – and presumably fitted into slots that the organisers set up. I had a good time. I got some good shots and some new weblog posts for the column. But I couldn’t help think about a different approach.

Of course this is nothing new. You can have a car show for British cars, Italian cars, VW cars, Veteran cars, etc and the very name sets out the criteria. You can ask for classic cars and the question becomes a wider one – and one that I suspect is driven by money and prestige as much as enthusiasm. You can ask for new cars. But I am thinking that you could have a great show asking for Personal Cars.

Cars that have been taken past the factory fit-out to to become something special to their owners. Driving cars, as opposed to show trailer queens. Cars from any nation and any era that have been endeared to their drivers with something extra. It might be a fully chopped, slammed, sectioned, shaved, and pink fuzzy diced ’49 Mercury. It might be a fuzzy diced Nissan S Cargo. It might be a classic Roller or a classic baby Austin with rebuilt everything. All it needs is to show the hand of man – or woman – after it rolls out of the factory and it is a Personal Car. Paint jobs count big-time. Interiors count big time. Full undercar ricer lighting counts big time. No-one gets excluded because of the bumper or rego sticker or country of origin.

Big show. Fun show. Lotsa food trucks. Shannons making a mint on insurance and the tee shirt guys throwing ’em off the racks. Pinhead striping a silver Audi TT with pink flames. The Forged girls on 15″ high heels. All kinds of a good time being had by all.

Get Outa Here! Slowly…


Aha. I have just realised that there is a good way to overcome some of the disadvantage that pertains to car shows -the thing that I complained about in a previous column; the overcrowding of the display lines. I’m not a greedy person – I don’t want it all for myself or all to myself …but I do wish for a clean view of it. Now I think I have it.


Normally I leave most events early. Whether it is a professional society dinner, wedding reception, or siege – it is always better not to be there at the end. I have applied this principle to car shows as well – leaving before the show winds up. Not that I would have to do any of the cleaning – I just take pictures and pixels are easy to sweep up – but I should only be in the way as people started pouring kerosene and match heads into their superchargers and tried to get the engines to turn over. Plus I am worried by robust language and I reckon some of the owners would be utilising it as they kicked the cows…


As luck would have it, the Brockman Port To Whiteman Park Run show wound up while I was there. They gave tannoy instructions to the drivers and waved them off through the gate of the grounds onto a main street. This naturally slowed the stream as they fed into traffic, and in turn presented a nice slow cavalcade to view. Sun position was good, focusing was easy, and the only problem was the occasional intrusion of a fat arse in cargo shorts and a fluoro vest who stepped into the line of sight. There is probably always one at every car show and it might well be him every time…


I noted a similar opportunity last year at the end of the Australia Day car show in Melbourne. There were a number of roads exiting the main park and moving down them was slow for the drivers of the veteran and vintage cars. All the better for the photographer. In the future I am going to bide my time – perhaps even go a little later in the day – and mark well the exit roads and possible vantage points. I’ll still try to get close-up detail for cars as well as lurching crowds will permit but the best clear shot will be as they drive away.


Photographer’s note – tempting as it is to use a tripod for this, I still think a hand-held camera and a fill flash will be best. I’ll be using the pre-focus manual method with everything set as the cars approach a fixed point. It’s always a little experimental as to when to release the shutter when you are using an electronic view finder – there is a time lag in any camera. If you have set the speed, aperture, and manual focus, however, you can sight along the top of the camera housing and fire it instantly when the vehicle comes to your pre-selected point. This also works with 17 pounder anti-tank guns but it is more difficult to use them unnoticed – at least with the Fujifilm cameras you can turn the shutter noise off.


Technical note: These images were taken using the new Fujifilm X-T10 and the 27mm f:2.8 pancake lens. What a sweetie of a combination – light and fast. Perfect for touristing it without weight or bulk. Next best will be the new 35mm f:2 when it is released in Australia.

Hints And Tips At the Car Show


Or – How To Have A Good Time At The Asylum.

1. Go early. Go before the mums and dads have been able to organise themselves and their children. This tip is brought to you by John Harney who should know because he is covered in car show scars.

2. Go with everything that you are going to need in one pack. Don’t go back out to the car because the business of finding out which entrance is out and which exit is in will tax the patience of the door staff.

3. You do not need all that much. Avoid taking the canvas deck chair and the pizza cooling trays.

4. Wear comfy clothes. It is a car show – no need to dress up. Dress down. You have NO idea how far down you could dress and get away with it. Make sure you and your shoes are good friends – not new acquaintances.

5. Bring money. I know you said you are not going to spend anything but I don’t believe you and you don’t believe you.

6. Don’t bring big money. You may persuade yourself to surrender it for a ’51 Mercury coupe that ” just needs to be finished off “. The phrase ” finish off ” also applies to bank accounts, marriages, and the owners of ’51 Mercury coupes. If you see the seller wiping sweat from their brow and giving everyone the high five you will know that you have made a bad decision.

7. Bring lunch in a back pack. Catering at car shows generates enough income to buy a house in Sydney or the affections of the federal treasurer. If you cannot make a sandwich for under $ 12 at home, you deserve to go hungry.

8. If you are taking pictures, you can use a flash, but be careful about using a tripod. Reserve it for places and times that have few other visitors – not that you are going to be an inconvenience to them, but the general public can be cow-like to an incredible degree. They have two gaits – stagger and lurch – and would fall into a fire if you let them.

9. The car show girls are going to have a long day of it. Be nice to them. They are attractive ladies and have dressed up to make the experience fun and glamorous for all. Plus if you annoy them they will kick you hard and some of those shoes have wicked heels.

10. Never tell an owner that his car is the ugliest vehicle that you have ever seen. If it is a show car he will be insanely angry at you. Worse, if it is a rat rod he will be delighted and follow you everywhere.

11. It might be, or it mightn’t be, but you are not licensed to bonk it with your fist to find out. If you can’t tell if it is fake, it is a damned good fake and deserves to be left alone. If in doubt watch it when they start it up for the drive-off.

12. Yes, those wheels really do cost that much. Makes your old rims look good. At least you own them.

13. Never pass up a chance to pee – this hint is brought to you by HM King George V. Really…

14. Rome was not built in a day and neither was anything else that rolled into the show. These vehicles are years of work for some. If you are jealous of them, consider what other things you did in the last 5 years. If is still seems like a good hobby, think what you want to do for the next 5 years. If it still seems a good idea, go buy yourself some books and start to plan…

15. Go look at the knuckles of the car builders and mechanics. Yes, yours will look like that in 5 years. For exactly the same reasons.

16. Don’t be put off by the false barriers people put up to define hot rods or street cars or customs – there is a vehicle somewhere that is just perfect for you. It might be as close as a shave job and coat of paint or as far away as a sand-cast engine block and a flat file, but there is one for you. If your car is gonna be simple, be glad – make it happen and drive it EVERYwhere and be happy. If your car is five years of cold garages and welding burns and trying to find the last part then be glad that the journey is hard – your car will be unique in the world. So little else in our lives approaches that. When you are driving it you will be THE man.

17. You can spend just as much for parts that are sort of right as you can for parts that are nearly right. And that is the same amount of money as parts that are exactly right. Wanna spend once, twice, or three times?

18. If she brings tea out to the shed on a cold night, buys you a steering box link, and lets you go to Knuckleup for the annual rod day, you are the luckiest man in the world. Don’t press your luck. Turn down the ’51 Mercury coupe.

19. If you DO buy that damned coupe, finish it well. And paint it in a colour she picks. And shut up about it.

20. If you try to get away with it by saying it is her car be warned that some day she will take you at your word.

More To This Snake Than Meets The Eye



You can’t ask for a tougher photographic challenge at a car show than a silver or white car out in full sunshine. Whatever you do, something is going to flare out – and sometimes this combines with underexposed shadows and colour shifts as well.

I was therefore delighted when the files of the AC A98 coupe came out as well as they did. A polished silver body is a little easier than a painted silver as the shiny paint tends to make more contrasts.

This car is a reproduction of a one-off coupe made by AC cars for the 1964 Lemans race. A tragic race as it happened- the car was involved in crash that killed three people. The AC company retired the original and kept it under wraps for a long while – only restoring it and returning it to the show circuit when some of the sadness had passed. A Western Australian enthusiast decided to build a replica.


Well, it’s metal – you can tell that right off. The body must have taken some pretty sophisticated forming to get to the smooth curves that exist – they is possibly more to to before painting could be done. The original looks to be a metallic green colour with suitable racing roundels and stripes – the owner of this one may not want to go as far s that with the tribute. The whole project is a celebration of determination and hard work.

As far as the design goes, I am restricted to what I can see from the outside – the engine was not shown. It was so low to the ground that I did not think I could get down to peer under it, though I was tempted. At least the cockpit was open and some of the odd details could be seen.


Odd? Well look at the way the tachometer goes – counterclockwise.I’m sure there is a reason for this but it seems strange. Do you recognise the air vent bezels on the dash? If you are a 60’s Ford person you do…

Do you approve of the tail lights and front a rear traffic indicators? They are undoubtedly authentic for the period – I remember seeing similar ones in Atkins Carlysle in Hay Street at the time and on the front and rear of many buses and trucks since. Bolting them on undoubtedly saved the designers valuable time that was better spent on the giant rear spoiler. At least this car could go fast enough to need the thing – modern rice-powered sedans sport them as pure fashion.

DSCF0033Likewise the oil cooler slot in the bonnet. I daresay the oriental designers would add these to their cars if they could persuade the buyers that they were prestigious enough.

I like the design – it goes about 180 miles an hour while still parked- but I am nonplussed about the eyebrow fairings over the wheel arches. these are an authentic echo of the same thing on the original car, and resemble similar flairs over Mercedes arches. It has been suggested that they shed water. It has also been suggested that they pad out the arch to allow a wider tyre to be legally raced. I just find it strange that a one-off car should need them when a wider wing design could as easily be formed in the original sheet metal.


Whatever – the car is magnificent. If it has anything like the same engine power as the original it should be dangerous. Brave man to drive it to the show and home again on the roads.

Come In And Sit Down


We are strange creatures when it comes to selecting a car. We agonise over the specifications on the internet or on a printed pamphlet. We read no end of motoring books. We argue endlessly in the pub about arcane little aspects of the different makes. We stare at the outside and droll over scoops, flairs, and bulges.

And then we just get in and sit down and that is what sells the thing – or doesn’t sell the thing – to us. If we got in in the first place and tried to reach the radio dial we could save months of agony.


I am not going to say never mind the air conditioner and the MP4 player and the 15 separate glove compartments and storage spaces – these are important once in a while. I love the A/C in y Suzuki. I love the radio controls on the steering wheel. I would love the heated towel rack and bacon dispenser if it had one. But it all comes back down to a seat that doesn’t hurt and a steering wheel that feels right.

These Cobra cars are furnished in different styles on the outside and it is interesting to see how these style differences have carried on into the interior. In keeping with the sports image of the marque, and the fact  that it has an engine as big as a concrete truck balanced on a sporting chassis, there is a need for a responsive wheel. I am happy to say that each car here has one – unlike some Morgans that have appeared lately with what look like 60’s leftover controls.


There is a difference in the materials of the dash – wood in one case, metal in others, glass fibre in a third. I hesitate to say that I think the plain metal the best, because you may have a different aesthetic opinion. Likewise I would not like to press my taste for the steering wheel column – plain, please. Suffice it to say these cars all have a sit-up orientation for the wheel.

I must admit I was a little interested to see that the main dial placement could be so different. Tach and speedo are larger gauges and need careful placement if you are going to watch them successfully. Putting one in the middle of the dash has always seemed a distraction, though users of older English cars would not think it odd. It does mean that the dial is not obscured by your hands but you have to glance away to the left to see it clearly. Note that none of these dials are protected or sited against glare so at some stage of the game they may be whited-out.


Note the different positions of the stick shift in relation to the dash, and the variations in hand-brake position. I presume part of this is occasioned by the different transmissions.

The seats, as well call for some examination. I particularly commend the buff-coloured leather ones in the red Cobra – the side wings are prominent but ventilated so that you can get some comfort on a hot day. Their headrest also seem sleeker and more sophisticated than those of the other cars – the round barrel shape is functional but a little clumsy.


Door interiors can be plain or fancy – I prefer the map pocket variety. At least there are no window winders to poke in the side of your leg.

Finally, there is the general lining. A little more prominent in some cars. There is nothng wrong with this, provided the seams are straight. A dark colour wears well, but the beige or brown, if it matches the rest of the interior – is charming. No-one has resorted to a Mexican blanket or Playboy pink seat covers. Yet.