Putting You On Notice…

One of the classic phrases that comes up repeatedly in Australia is ” Putting someone on notice “. I don’t know whether it also occurs in North America, Europe, or Asia, but here it has been constantly in the mouth of every level of officialdom.

We’ve just had it again from a local politician – possibly a state minister for police, or justice, or traffic revenue, or scolding…whichever – in her case it was to warn motorcyclists that there is now a jury-rig camera system that takes a picture of the back of their motorcycles as they pass it by. So they dare not speed.

Riiiight.

The phrase is nothing more than one of those high-sounding concoctions like ” At this point in time ” or ” It has come to our notice ” that make the person using it sound like a prat. An official prat, but a posturing prat nevertheless. In other, more honest contexts, it could be seen as a threat or bullying tactic.

What should you do when someone uses it to you? Well, do take note of whatever threat they are trying on and plan how to counter it, but also let them know that you think them hackneyed and trite. And that you will be watching them to see if they become worse posers with time – and making sure that others laugh at them.

In short…put them on notice.

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Raising Your Sights And Aiming Lower

” Low-Brow” is such a wonderfully wrong term…and yet we hear it all the time in publishing, art, and entertainment. The people who use it are generally rather proud of it, and hope to make money by applying it to products, concepts, and events. Sometimes they succeed wonderfully.

The idle philosopher who contemplates it immediately realises that if there are ” Low-Brow ” things , there must be ” High-Brow ” ones as well. And presumably ” Middle-Brow “. It’s hard to say whether there are equivalencies or whether there are exclusive concepts in each division.

I’m tempted to say that there are, using the motor car as an example. And further – that there are genuine examples and fake ones – theatrical representations, if you will. And we are such weird and weak creatures that we all play along. Here are some examples:

 

a. Real low-brow. A Cadillac fallen upon hard times in a foreign land. The heart of darkness in white and rust. Let us hope for a resurrection one day.

b. Faux Low-brow. The overblown graphics of what might be popular culture.

c. Real High-Brow. The one-of-a-kind preserved exclusive car that once defined the social status of the owner…and for that matter still does. ¬†A social strainer.

d.Faux High-Brow. Harmless – rather pretty, but susceptible to exposure and the scrutiny of judgemental people.

e. Real Middle-Brow. As average as a beige Dodge. Or in this case a beige Toyota. Honest, if plodding. A car that we might all resort to if we had to leave town surreptitiously. The modern Australian equivalent of the Nash Rambler in North America.

 

f. Faux-Middle-brow. An abandoned Musso in the airport car park. It is not healthy to run away from your troubles too much…

The Stylish First That We Never Remember

The silver Toyota Corona seen in today’s column is about 1966-68 vintage, I should say. I recognise it from my first days of car-shopping – it was one of the marques that made it through to my final selection panel in 1966. It did not take the prize – that went to the Renault 10 – but I’ve been considering it in retrospect for years. I think it might have been the better car.

No, I’ll qualify that. The better car in a pedestrian sense. I don’t mean better for running over pedestrians – I mean a car without any spikes of engineering brilliance to carry it through mundane build quality. A car that was excellent without being extraordinary. As it is, over the years I have come to appreciate that more than the four-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension of the Renault.

The Toyota Corona was the first, however , that we saw here with the slope-back grille configuration. This is ubiquitous nowadays, but in the 60’s all grilles tucked under rather than protruded at the bottom. In the interim since 1966 the designers have had to pursue more aerodynamic configurations, but back then this was unique. It nearly sold me on the style.

The off-put was the sort of little thing that customers often obsess about; in the engine bay a number of the actuators and brackets were finished in raw cadmium plating…and it looked cheap. It wasn’t, of course, and probably held up better than painted parts. But such is the perception of an uneducated buyer.

My friend, Dave Walter, bought a new ’68 Corona and hotted it up as hard as he could. There were speedy engine parts and rally seatbelts and spotlights…and it was never raced or rolled anyway. But that is what you did when you were 19 years old. I indulged in stick-on racing stripes and a chrome gear stick knob. I had style over substance…

Who Stole Your Caravan?

The Toyota Crown 2600 featured in today’s column is familiar to all Australians.

This car, in this colour…or the white version…was the pace car for the Easter Parade on Australia’s two-lane country highways between 1971 and 1974. It was attached to a Coromal caravan just slightly smaller than the loading gauge of the highway and driven at 10-20 Kph under the legal limit wherever it went.

The longest tail-back ever recorded during an Easter Weekend was outside Managatang and stretched from Victoria to the Western Australian border – it was behind a beige Toyota Crown and caravan. To be fair, there was a boat on the top of the caravan and the driver’s wife had to stop every 3 Kms to be ill on the side of the road. Four babies were born in the tail-back before police were able to get to the front of the line and pull the driver – Kevin – over. Kevin is retired.

Of course this was only mid-stream for the Crown. They had been holding up traffic,  bottoming out, and leaning over for many decades before this. And they still do, because the supply has not dwindled. For that matter the supply of Kevins is even greater.

And that is the crux of the matter. This sort of car is bought by that sort of driver. They are not doing anything illegal either way – yet it is odd how the Toyota Crown driver has largely escaped the opprobrium that has attached to the Volvo owner. Perhaps it is the case that, even if the behaviour is the same, the Crown driver is not seen as the upper class pest that the Volvo driver is. Kevin is more approachable than Tristan…?

The Big World – Playing With 1:1 Model Cars

I am going to go out on a limb with this column today. I have no idea whether I have correctly understood something and am going to make either an honest report of it or a complete mess. If the former, I am eligible for the Pulitzer Prize – if the latter, it is a sure ticket to talk-back radio stardom…

I mentioned the Toyotas On The Quay event that I attended and the number of what appeared to be racing cars displayed there. I was delighted to see them and thought that they were very well presented. Of course, an open air car event is a lot less sophisticated than an annual show at the Convention Centre, but there is this about it: the vehicles got there under their own steam – legally – and will make their way home again at the end of the day. This proves that they are real devices and not just the products of some dreamer’s imagination…as some show cars on the hot rod circuit seem to be.

Ignore my note of cynicism there, folks, because I do like the show cars as well…but there is more authenticity in a daily driver than a trailer queen.

Or is there?

I asked myself this when I looked carefully at a number of the ” race cars ” that were displayed. I’m quite unfamiliar with most motor sports – I can recognise the Indianapolis 500 cars from the 1950’s and I know the difference between a rail dragster and a Caterpillar tractor, but after that is all gets to be hazy. But I did look rather carefully at some of the racers and decided that I might be seeing model cars. Big model cars.

Take our featured image – the Toyota in the Castrol colours. Is it really the car that Didier and Denis piloted to an overall whatever place in the Rootyabouti Rally. Or is it a clever reconstruction of that car based upon a local Toyota – a 1:1 full-scale model, in fact? Made with loving care by enthusiasts who should be admired for their skill and artistry?

I like to think that this is the case. I should be equally impressed if one of the people who restore older vintage cars were to make General Montgomery’s staff car or Barney Oldfield’s racer. It is an entirely new level of enthusiasm, and should be encouraged with deliberate recognition.

If I’m wrong in this assessment, I am sure the local car fans will put me right.

Note: if you are a restorer or maker of racing cars…and drive with a standard WA licence plate, I’ll bet you are pulled over and grilled every time you venture on the roads.

Playing With The Old Toys

The old Toyotas, that is.

Perth was awash in motor car shows yesterday: The Italian car show at Gloucester Park, The All Ford Day at Bassendean Oval, and the Toyotas At The Quay at Elizabeth Quay. As I am entitled to free public transport and Elizabeth Quay is right on the train line, I opted for that one. The fact that the show itself was also free appealed to my frugal nature.

We often neglect the Asian motor cars in automotive events – in some cases with a disdain that amounts to mechanical racism. But at an event that celebrates all the Toyotas, that could hardly be the case. And for Western Australians it points up a fact that we sometimes forget: a lot of us have owned and driven Toyotas in the past and a lot of us drive them now. My wife has been most successful with them, passing from Corollas to an Avalon and now to a new Aurion. I spent a few years in a ’73 Corolla myself and have a fond memory of it. In fact, if I had replaced the head on it in ’85 instead of trading it in, I would probably be motoring in it now.

Not in comfort, mind. It was pre-A/C days, and a do love the A/C in my present Suzuki.

But the show today was proof positive that the Toyota has a solid place in Australian motoring history. That so few of them have been rodded or customised is made up for in some part by the fact that there are any number that are rally and race cars. I can’t get all that enthusiastic about that aspect of them, but I appreciate the fact that others do.

Here are a few of the brighter items at the Quay today:

The Right Wrong Right Side Of The Road

Which side of the road do you drive on where you live? if you’re in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Siam, South India, North India, East North India, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Japan, you drive on the left hand side of the road. If you are elsewhere you drive on the right.

The chief need, whether on left or right, is to do it well. With dignity. With foresight. With accuracy. All concepts that I am desperate to introduce to the residents of our street.

We are a mixed lot here in Dreyer Way, and generally benefit from it. All races, all nationalities, all ages. We do not hold wild parties and we keep our lawns mowed. We do not break into each other’s houses. We pick up litter after bin night. But we also do not know how to park in the street to save our lives. If we do not learn, some of us will risk losing them.

The convention in Western Australia – at one time enforced by the police – was that you had to park your car as close to the curb as practicable. It had to be in a place that did not obstruct other road users or the driveways and pathways that served the street. The car had to be parked on the left of the street. This seems to have changed.

On days that see tradesmen working in the street – house repairers or lawn mowing men, etc. there is no problem – they follow the old rules and you can navigate around them as you go along. They are never loud or unruly and do not speed in the street. They may be different when they get out on the open highway, but at least they are exemplary here. The residents, however, have taken to parking every which way on both sides of the street – even when their own driveways are unoccupied. Their travelling guests follow suit, and often will stop opposite a car that is properly parked on the left hand side. This narrows the street’s passageway to door-wrenching size.

Please note that our house is base to four cars – Two big ones, one medium-sized sporter, and my little Suzuki. We park on our own drive and lawn and do not encumber the rest of the way.

The bottleneck is next door, and I am starting to think that there might have to be some creative thinking to solve it. I do not want to make enemies of the neighbours but I also do not want be barricaded into my yard. It might be too much to hope that a Sherman tank with a mine plow will come down the street and shove the Mazdas aside, but I may have to resort to driving over the next door’s council nature strip to bypass their visitor’s bus. Perhaps the council garbage truck will loosen their doors a little at about 5:00 AM. I’ll listen out…

Note: Apparently they also drive on the left side of the road in England, North England, West England, and Even Further West England. I’m glad they have followed our lead.