The Little World – Just Popping Down To The ( Aardman ) Shops…

It’s hard to convey the sense of wonder that a Little World enthusiast gets when they first see a master model. The museum-quality ships at Greenwich, the scratchbuilt aircraft at Duxford, the railway models in the Science Museum or York…they all have an authority and an educational value that can go far beyond even the full-size original objects on display. The great thing about these artifacts is that, unlike the famous works of art in galleries, the popular knowledge of them is limited – you do not have to breast rooms full of tourists to see the tiny little painting – you don’t have to queue for hours to file past some renaissance daub because it is the ‘ famed ‘ daub.

And yet…there can be the same artistry exhibited by modern model makers, and the impact of it can be far greater for the familiarity of it. The fact that it is in 3 dimensions just adds to the charm. Witness the corner greengrocer’s shop set from ” The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit ”

The set is about a metre and a half long on each side – roughly 1/6 to 1/8 size. Correct internal lighting – the Fujifilm X-T10 was set on the 3200 ISO and the white balance was left on auto to sort itself out. What you see is what you saw in the film, albeit in motion and for a brief periods of time. The detail that you can see bears witness to the integrity and sense of dedication for the modellers. It was impossible to look at any corner of the set – even the doorstep with the milk bottle in front of the hairdresser’s shop – without getting the feeling that you were looking at a full-size scene.

The two display cases – tools and kitchen items – are actually mouth-watering to a miniatures worker. But they, and the detail pictures, can induce a terrible feeling of inadequacy in we amateurs – particularly if we are working in smaller scales with bigger fingers – fingers that are frequently covered in glue and/or stuck to the parts that we are actually working on.

Still…If the Aardman people would like a tasty little earner, they might consider compiling  How-To-Do-It videos and discs or making a book about their techniques. I would be first in line at the bookstore for them.

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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.

Fire Alarm!

We were visiting the Federation Square gallery in Melbourne for a tour of modern art. It was fine and apart from the vague feeling that someone had gotten rich on the public purse, a nourishing experience.

Until the fire alarm went off. It was a gentle, mellifluous sound and would not have been out-of-place rising from the pit of an opera house. Not like a fire alarm or diving klaxon at all. There seemed to be no sense of urgency about it, nor did the patrons of the place worry about it. It took the arrival of an appliance and a team of fireys to cause the staff to round us all up and ask us politely to go downstairs. No-one was crushed in the rush, though a few were miffed that they had to stop browsing in the bookshop.

The most entertaining sight was the last of the firemen heading up the stairs. A young man …fit, as he would be, and clattered out in the yellow reflective protection suit and helmet of the modern emergency services… with a look of intense anticipation on his face. And clutching an axe with the obvious desire to chop something. For his sake I hope they allowed him to make a hole in a door. Or a wall.

From the look of some of the art, I am also hoping they smelled smoke behind the frames of the paintings…he’d have enjoyed himself and done the art world a vast favour.

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.

The Blue ( Thunder ) Bird Of Happiness

A visitor – a welcome visitor – to the 2018 Victorian Hot Rod Show was this imported 1955 Ford Thunderbird. It would have been equally at home inside the hall, but by being in the car park it meant we could get much closer to see the details. And all for free.

You can think what you will and say what you might about the way that the Thunderbird evolved over the years – how it got bigger, and lower, and heavier, and ultimately indistinguishable from the sedans that took over the personal car market. And how Ford tried to wind back the clock when they restarted production to match two-seater modern cars…But you cannot deny the impact and the style of the first models.

They were never sports cars…nor were Corvettes or Studebaker Hawks. They were personal luxury cars for a market where the average Joe or Jane might just be able to afford one – and to do so while they were young enough to appreciate it. They had a big enough engine and adequate suspension and reasonable brakes, and the rest was just style and salesmanship…and quite frankly that was a reasonable answer to what people wanted.

The Europeans who decried the style or the weight or the handling fell into two classes; those who had enough old-family money to buy faster, better handling cars with astronomic price tags, and those who had enough money to buy an Austin A40 but were jealous of the Yanks. Their children and grandchildren are still echoing their shrill sentiments now, but paying 10x the price tags for modern sedans tricked out with spoilers and LED lights to do the same thing that the Thunderbird drivers did; cruise the beach strips on warm nights. They might cruise more expensively but they don’t cruise in better style.

Note the wire wheels. They are real and simultaneously unnecessary  and cool. Likewise the chrome bumpers…though I might say that the chrome and over-riders probably does a 200% better job of actually protecting the bodywork than the plastic parts of today. I note any number of dangling things on the freeway every time I drive into town – either the plastic pans are not attached very well or the people who snag and smash them cannot afford to have them ripped off and replaced. That’s not surprising considering the price of spare parts.

Note also the porthole. This is one of the last cars to have one and actually get away with the style. It is design folly, of course, but we wouldn’t be without it on a T Bird. The bird is also one of the few cars past the 1930’s that has made a wheel arch cover look good.

You might bemoan the standard look of the tail light assembly as well – it’s the style of the Fordsedan cars of their time – but remember that Ford was a reasonable-price manufacturer and any use of standard parts would have made good sense. You never had to complain about not seeing a Ford tail light when it lit up.

Is the interior luxurious enough for you…in a spartan sort of way? There is much less of the sculpturing of the dash area that you see on other North American maker’s cars, while still not retreating to the woodwork and flat panels of the European marques. It’s not padded – so you can expect to bounce your head off that dash if you stop quick.

The seat, however is pure romance, and I am willing to bet a number of them got started on those T Bird benches. Washable vinyl, too…I think the cup holder’s a later addition but the radio and the heater controls look pretty standard for the period. Is that a tape deck? Does it have Conelrad? Do you know what Conelrad was? And look at the wheel – ribbed for your pleasure.

Finally…consider the statement that the paint job makes in these days of grey and black. This is a car for people who want to have fun and colour. Truly Happy Days.

Red and Green – Port and Starboard

Or in this case – Avant 1 and Avanti 2.

I never expected to see a Studebaker Avanti in Australia – it was such a rare car in North America in my youth that I only saw one of them in Canada. Of course far more were made – you can google up the statistics of production for yourself – and there were always Avanti model cars in 1:25th kit form. It was the sort of thing that attracted the scale model market…even if the full-size customers shied away.

Studebaker was always pretty advanced – from their Raymond Loewy designs to their Lark compact cars and then on to the Avanti. Though I sometimes wonder if the high point of the company was war-time truck production for the US Army. In any case, the Avanti was one of their last hoorahs before they closed the plant. it would appear that it was really only a two-year project.

But what a project. Four seater, fibreglass body, Lark chassis. Unique body style and pretty good performance – many records at Bonneville.

And here’s two of them down under – one converted to RHD and one left in the original configuration. The LHD Model 1 has the advantage of matching the bonnet scoop moulding to the driver’s console. The green Model 2 has to make it serve as a style statement.

I’m afraid that not everyone is as impressed with the styling as I am – one of the female spectators at the 2018 VHRS thought it was the ugliest car on show. I wondered if she could see it for what it was. And I wonder if she could have accepted ” The Pickle ” better if it had an Italian or European name attached to it. The rear elevation is surprisingly reminiscent of some Alfa or BMW lines.

In the end I hope the owners of the Model 1 and Model 2 are going to be proud of their unique cars. They will never be worried about the bodies rusting out. Or being stuck behind five identical cars on the freeway.