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.

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

Welcome To…

I often wonder whether the Ford Motor Company realised just what good fortune they had when they named some of their motor cars ” Victoria “. It seems to be a name that was added when the Model A was born in 1927, thought there may have been a style of coach body made earlier in the horse-drawn days that was similar. Given the immense prestige of the British queen, Victoria, in the 19th and early 20th century there must be literally thousands of product and places that bear the name.

Such as the state of Victoria…the one sandwiched between New South Wales and South Australia. Perpetual rival of NSW…so much so that the federal capital had to be placed in a special administrative territory between the two states…more or less out in the boonies. ( A good place for it, as it keeps the pollies away from the rest of us for much of the time. )

But away from this, the name ” Victoria” applied to sedans made by Ford – such as these seen at the recent VHRS in Melbourne – must have sold cars to Victorian buyers by appealing to that deep-seated home instinct.

Even if they do not admit it, the pull of a locale name always boosts the popularity of a song or product. And in this case the consonance between place, royal association, and the word for winning would have been worth millions to the car company.

Other makers have tried it too – Austin tried to foist a terrible car on us by calling it a ” Tasman “. Holden stacked on Monaro, and there have been others. No-one has had the nerve to try ” Adelaide ” or ” Mount Isa ” but there were probably moments in the board rooms when the danger was clear. I am hoping for the Renault ” Manangatang ” some day, but the company has stopped returning my phone calls.

Jail Bar Is Not The Same As Jail Bait

If you are old enough to know the difference between the two terms, you are old enough to appreciate the red Ford pickup truck at the VHRS show. If you have no idea, I believe there is a Pokemon hatching around the corner and you’ll want to take your iPhone and chase it…

Okay, now that the adults are alone, here’s a new addition to the car collection. Melbourne 2018. As sweet a Ford as any inside the Exhibition Buildings but parked out in the free section. But, as the appearance is so close to the stock 1940’s look, you’ll have to examine it carefully to see whether this is a hot rod or a not rod.

Look at the trim work. Seems to be all there. Including the rubber edging between front panels.

Look at the interior. The interior. The interior…Oh, for crying out loud, stop looking at the girl. You’re supposed to be older than that. No sign of an air conditioner or Bluetooth connection. A column shift…but is that column really Ford…?

Wheels. Okay, there’s four and they touch the ground. Very funny….but is that rear tyre diameter really stock? Or is it bigger and fatter? Is the ground stance really what a farmer in 1946 needed to get over the local rail lines? Or has it been lowered…?

Now the tail gate has to be stock. It’s obvious that this truck was used to haul manure and other nitrogenous wastes and that an adequate ventilation was needed – hence the Ford-standard louvred tailgate to vent off the chicken gas. Simple logic, really.

But here’s the dodgy bit, that makes me think the owner of this truck has been fiddling with the specs. The front end. The ” Drive Safely ” flying horse is a later addition…because Henry Ford never endorsed anyone else’s logo in his life. The club permit plate gives the game away. You don’t get them in Victoria unless you need them, and I suspect that somewhere on this wonderful pickup, the owner has substituted a modern part for a historic one. You only have to do this once, and you need to go over the pits, fill out the forms, fall on your knees in front of the departmental mechanic, and pay the required fee into general revenue. In short…

This is a hot rod. A resto-rod, if you will…a mild rod rather than a wild one, but fully entitled to sit proudly in the VHRS car park. If I had a million dollars and a million hours it could sit in my car port.

 

 

Enter The Clear Plastic Car

I’m sure it must be possible to make a car with a plastic body now. A clear plastic body that is flexible and bouncy. One that springs away from bumps and does not rust. We’ve got plastic bumpers front and back for most cars now – time to extend the material to the rest of the vehicle.

I don’t say that a clear plastic body has to be perfect – it’s not going to look like Diana Prince’s Invisible Airplane in the Wonder Woman comics – and there are going to have to be some metal supports in there to hold up the sides and enclose the passengers.  But heck, we had polycarbonate bodies for our slot racing cars when I was a kid and the mechanic’s magazines were promising them for full-sized cars 50 years ago.

I’m not too fussed about the rust aspect – most cars are kept for a smaller period of time these days and we live in a land that has no snow – hence no ice on the roads. My cars have never rusted out – though that ’75 VW Passat probably would have tried to do so just to add to its flaws.

And the flexi-bump part is not all that necessary – I drive so as to not run into people. But I do want everyone who drives an SUV, tray top ute, or van to have clear plastic back sections to their vehicles…so that I can see to back out when the sods park next to me at shopping centres.