Another Bluebird Of Happiness

Only this one wasn’t made by Datsun. This is a Morris Minor of 1953…65 years later. Lets face it, Folks…none of us reading this looked as good when we were 65, whether we were bright blue or not.

I’ve commented before in this column that it is surprisingly to see many of the cars that we were familiar with in the 50’s and 60’s here in Australia taken up in the hot rod or custom scene. Oh yes, there are Ford Customlines and Holden Fj’s and such, but the percentage of Dodge or Chrysler is low and the percentage of British or French cars that also get taken into the fold are even fewer. Least considered are the Japanese imports of the time. Hot rodding can be surprisingly blinkered.

This makes a car that is as well turned out as this Morris Minor a real pleasure to see. It is of a size that can lend itself to some of the smaller modern engines – my brother-in-law built a MM ute with a Nissan engine and he was the fastest old man in Mandurah for a while. But every project eventually gets finished and his MM finally was…and then interest was lost…

Well, thankfully the man who made this blue beauty carried it through to a magnificent conclusion. I envy him not only the finish but the practicality of it. That was meant to be a small commercial hauler and it still is – albeit a faster one, with better seats. Given the modern tyres as well as engine and suspension parts, this would be a magnificent wanderers van for Western Australian summers.

Winters, however, in cars of this vintage can be a damp and misty experience. Ask anyone who has travelled in Perth in rain with a tea towel to wipe the steam off the inside of the windscreen  and listen to the historic language. The 60’s saw a complete industry of add-on demisters and heaters and none of them worked a damn. Eventually you just wound down the side windows and froze or swam your way to your destination.

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The New Ride

Travis Corich, the genius at Pinhead Kustoms, has a new ride.

He confessed that he always has several in the stocks – we saw his other ute last year and now there is a new one to see. I belive it is a 1938 Chevy half ton pickup with additional strakes added to the roof of the cab. If I’m wrong Travis can write in and correct me.

As you can see it is still not carrying a front WA license so there may be more to be done – or perhaps it was just taken off for the show. As you can tell, however, the finish is the thing and as Travis is engaged in striping and painting for others, his vehicles act as rolling signboards.

The interior is well in keeping with the mild customizing of the exterior – no gaudy space-age decor. I do not see a radio or MP4 player – perhaps Travis does what I do when I drive – hums and whistles along to himself.

Blue Dreams

I am a fan of blue cars ever since my first one -a Renault 10 in light grey-blue in the late 60’s. It seemed to be the epitome of style and grace…in a small car. Since then I’ve owned other colours, but always looked keenly to see if whatever I wanted to drive could be had in blue.

This my attraction to this Chevrolet pickup a this year’s VHRS in Melbourne. It was on the inside, which means thee lighting was mixed – and I would have liked to see it out in the sun – but that doesn’t lessen the admiration for the paint job.

A restrained vehicle like this one is perfect for the dignity of the blue. I must admit that from the other side of thee floor I thought I was seeing a restored historical car rather than a rod. Closer inspection showed the lowering, rh shaving, and the other touches that have made this look so good. I love the whitewall and beauty ring treatment, but then I would love that on my little car if I could do it.

 There is a terrible temptation with something as nice as this – that is also a practical vehicle. The temptation would be to make a daily driver out of it and take it down to Bunnings and load the bed with MDF board and kegs of nails. And then where would the superb finish be?

Perhaps the best solution to this would be to make two cars the same – one for show and one for go. Yes, that’s the answer. Now all we need is Lotto to supply the question…

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.

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.

 

Pull Up A Plymouth And Sit Down…

The recent Hyde Park holiday show turned up something I have never seen before in one of the intriguing details of a 50’s motor car.

The car is a 1955 Plymouth station sedan – apparent from the licence plate though in this case it may have been imported to Australia a year later. They were like that – you can never tell whether a car style that you knew in North America is really the same year here. I have my suspicions that the major makers whacked out all the panels they could in their own model year and by the time this was finished they shipped the worn dies to whoever would pay for them…Australian divisions might have been glad to get them or might have taken them on sufferance – but that is a speculation I’ll leave for the crusty old motorfarts.

In any case, this Plymouth’s appearance matches Google images of the US production year pretty well. The outside is nice, but a bit staid. It has plenty of hauling space in the back. And it has a surprise on the dashboard.

No, not the fact that it’s RHD – at that time a car couldn’t get a licence for LHD unless it was restricted to one of the American communications bases – as soon as it came down to the metro area it had to have a conversion within a specified number of months. It might have been factory, but it might also have been a factory kit sent out and installed here.

The surprise for me is the transmission selection lever sprouting beside the wheel column. I’d seen them on column and I’d seen the push-buttons of the later Chrysler products in Canada and here. It’s an automatic, so the driver won’t be grabbing at it as they steer along. But what a sensible way to do it! – and why did no-one else at the time get on the bandwagon and make the same design? It is an electro-mechanical control that would have been easy to transpose to the other side of the car with just one special moulded panel. And the dash has a centre panel and two symmetrical side panels so that makes it better.

Well, ergonomics are like that, and Chrysler may have put some sort of patent fence around the idea in the US. I think I’ve seen dash shifts on some French cars, but not as straightforward as this. Almost as much fun as a four on the floor.