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 Cut Lunch And The Water Bag

I am getting to be three things in my old age; smarter, cheaper, and more determined. It does not prevent me from being taken advantage of in the first place, but it does prevent a repeat performance. Next week I am going to test myself out in all three characteristics.

It is to be the occasion of the annual big hot rod show at the Claremont showgrounds. A weekend affair, I will go on both days to see different things and to take different photos. I am delighted to be a guest of another car photographer who is a regular shooter for the car clubs…he invites me and it means a free entry at the door. I will also take advantage of the free public transport card that allows a senior to travel on bus and train. Since the photography can be done with the Fujifilm X cameras, there is no film or paper cost either. So far, so good, so cheap!

But the trap for old players is at about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon when you get a bit hungry and wander over to the fast-food stand. The pavilion that houses the show has a contracted caterer there who serves hamburgers, chips, and nachos…no-one else is permitted to do so. there may be a coffee stand up, the other end, but they are bit players, and the caterer is sited near the only bar in the venue.

Needless to say, they clean up with all the hot rodders and their kids wanting to eat at once. Their prices, like their name, suggest the charge of a wounded bull.

Well, this year there will be no more bull. I am going to take my own lunch in my camera bag and buy a beer in the bar. There are plenty of tables to sit down at, and so far in this country you can still make your own sandwiches without government interference. I wish it were possible to do this in pubs as well, but I guess there is a limit to how cheap they will let you be.

It’ll be interesting to see if the days can be as nice as the one spent at the NSW hot rod show a month ago. All I need is a half a dozen new cars to see and it is all worthwhile.

The Plastic Bumper Club – Or The Personal Car Club

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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.

The Quiet Chopper

 

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I’m going to keep a promise to a chap I met this last Sunday at the Vintage Retro Markets. It was one of the nicest of these events I’d been to for ages and I found myself open to new sensations.

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These bikes are one of them. The chap asked me to send them along to their Facebook, and I’ll try to do that as well, but here they are for the world to see as well.

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Well, who’da think it. Chopper bicycles. As a chap raised on Schwinn and Raleigh and subject to daily doses of the Jefs on the road in the lycra shorts and expensive sunglasses, these come as a revelation. They actually look like fun – not just hard work.

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Oh, there is hard work there all right. I don’t think these come out of cardboard boxes looking the way they do – I suspect there is a lot of design and engineering and then a lot of cutting, welding, grinding, re-welding, and swearing goes into these bikes. The builders have decided not to be governed by the latest in euro trends – any more than the hot rod builders are.

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Hard work pedalling them too, I daresay. I don’t know, but I suspect that the geomertry that places the rider down low will change he way the muscles have to work to give the thing a go. My daughter has a lay-down bicycle that I get to try when I have been good and done my chores and promise not to bend it…and it is a strange sensation to be pushing forward rather than down. I’m also not too sure about the ape hangers as steering, but then I was never sure of them on the motorcycles. The reinforced silver bars look to be a good compromise.

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I am also a little puzzled at the tandem with the dual frame, three wheels, and two cranks. One assumes that the senior commander is up the front steering but how does he keep the rear compartment pedalling and not coasting?

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Never mind – I do have a favourite – the burgundy bike with the light coloured tyres. No idea who built it or how much it cost but it is a stylish beauty. Never mind the Mexican Chevrolets – this one is a REAL lowrider.

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Tin 33

 

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Ever get tired of seeing the same darned thing? The movies that have the same plot, the television shows that have the same actors, the streets that have the same shops… Well, we have a remedy for that. Go to the hot rod show.

Oh there will be some samesame – you can’t avoid that. There will be 1932 Fords in various forms at every rod show – they are such a classic shape that they have been reproduced in lots of different materials. Metal, fibreglass, polyfoam, short-crust pastry, etc. Enjoy yourself by finding the variations between one 32 and the next one.

Or find yourself a metal ’33. A metal 33 that is not hiding under two grey undercoats and a dozen candy apple red topcoats. A car that lets you see what is happening and how it was made. If you can’t find one nearby I’ll let you look over Tin 33 that was at Gillam Drive .

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Now the engine has a resemblance to a Ford flathead – with possibly a little more attached to it than henry originally intended. Not crazy extra, but enough to make it a steady worker of an engine.

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The interior is nicely finished with enough of a hint of history as well as enough modern rodding in there to be fun. Note that there is no music – this driver has all the tunes in his head.

The top is a nice colour to match the firewall, frame and wheels. Not too red, but red enough.

The wheels are classic Ford wires and caps and a a well-judged size choice for front and rear balance.

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But it is the frame and body that make this car stand out. Some rods are finished too well – too slick, too new, too plastic. Some are finished too oddly – the more extreme rats – you feel that the detail effects on them are contrived rather than derived. This car is perfect.

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Perfect finish? Well no. Look at the rear deck and the panel edges. Look at the different reflected tones of metal under the clear protector coat. But what a perfect style. Hats off to the man for including the cycle fenders in the general finishing scheme – it would have been alright to red them out, but the bare /clear is the perfect finishing touch.

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The only style problem with this concept is the foolish comments the owner has probably had to field from the general public. One of the other cars at Gillam had the perfect answer for that – you’ll see it on a future post.

 

The Pistol On the Table

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There is a principal of theatre that you may wish to observe; if there is a pistol on the table in Act One someone will be shot in Act Three. If it were not so they would not set that roscoe out on the stage. Likewise with the shrouded form you see in the heading photo -it was sitting at the entrance to Gillam Drive last Sunday as we walked in – I took a picture because I knew it was there for a purpose.

Halfway down the Drive, just next to the Rockabilly stage truck, I found it. An old-time rail dragster powered by a Ford flathead V-8 engine and featuring enough good things to drive the Royal Show fun fair.

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Okay, to start there’s the good old rail frame, beloved of the 60’s. The pilot sits abaft the rear end and wonders what he did to deserve it. The differential reminds him of fun times at band camp…The front of the rail has a set of tyres and wheels that mean some kid is missing out on BMX this season. It is all horrible and wonderful and traditional at the same time.

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Moving back from the front axle, we find the fuel tank. It is finished better than most of the furniture in my house. It probably costs more than most of the furniture in my house. If I could figure out a need for one I would sell the lounge suite for it.

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Now the radiator…wait a minute…did I say radiator? Is this car going to be sitting at the lights on Leach Highway at 2:00 on a summer afternoon sandwiched between sheep trucks and Leeming Mercedes? A radiator? Well, I guess if you insist…I don’t remember those from the 60’s.

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Here’s the engine at last. Perfectly normal stock flathead Ford V-8 with twin turbochargers and open pipes. Like they put in old Fords and stuff…This was probably one of those cars that Mums use to pick their kids up from soccer with.

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The slicks are interesting – with the two vestigial tread grooves down them. I must do some research to see if this is a modern phenomenon. Love the Moon discs. And the whitewalls.

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And finally – the little plastic mount on top of the roll bar. I know what that is for because I used to sell GoPro cameras in Camera Electronic – I thoroughly approve here – it is one of the few instances that I have seen where the action camera has some legitimate action to capture.

Photographic note: The yellow colour of the car seen at the start of the day under wraps is accurate – the washed-out yellow of the uncovered vehicle is due to the camera being overborne by the intense light of noontime. In future years for Gillam Road I shall revert to the Fujifilm X-10o with the leaf shutter that will allow synchronisation at all shutter speeds and no overexposure.

Note: Readers unfamiliar with drag racing cars may wonder what the little tube is in the last picture – the one sticking out from the back of the car behind the driver’s seat. This is a drain tube. In case the race becomes too exciting.

A Plea From The Car Photographers To The Clubs

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When you are planning your next car show, could you please park them a little further apart?

We are thrilled to bits that you will be bringing your vintage-veteran-hot rod-street car-sports car-truck-bus-tank to the park-stadium-exhibition hall-mudflat behind the asbestos works. We don’t mind paying at the door-gate-edge of the car park for the privilege of seeing your prize machines and we want to make great pictures of them.

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We promise not to stand on the running boards like the punters do, and poke the dashboards like the punters do, and scratch the duco like the punters do. We will be respectful.

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We will be utterly patient as the tag-teams of lurching punters slowly walk in front of the cars and progressively block the view…never allowing a clear sight of the edges of the cars. We are trained to stand still in one spot until the exact quarter of a second when the mob clears. We are frequently consulted by still hunters and snipers about how to remain motionless. Ninjas envy us.

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But we need a helping hand. If the cars are parked too close together we won’t be able to do them justice. We’ll have to use extremely short focal length lenses and the cars will look distorted as hell. Of course if they are Italian supercars no-one will be able to tell, but the regular British and French sedans will look odd and it will be a dead giveaway.

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Likewise, if you park them with their back to the sun, most of the exposures will look too dark – we’ll end up trying to light the front of the car with a reflector or a fill flash and it will look most unnatural. Again the Flopatelli Snazolla III Supraeformaggio won’t suffer too badly, unless it is the open Monza version with the folding wings. And they look bad in ANY light.

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We do appreciate the trust and kindness the drivers show by leaving the passenger’s side window down – the interior shots will be so much better – but if you can’t manage that, it’ll be all right anyway. We can boost the shutter speed to 1/180 second, stop down to f:16, and fire a fill flash up at the headliner from the quarter window position while the camera looks in through the side. It’ll be a little dirty but not too bad. If you leave empty beer cans and dirty novels on the front seat that is your affair.

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In exchange for these small changes we promise to take good pictures of the way your cars look. We will photoshop out the rust holes – unless you are driving a rat rod, in which case we will photoshop more in for free. We will draw a discreet curtain over the state of the interior floor.