Dead Cool Legends On A Dead Cold Night

There are car people and there are car people. You can separate them into different camps according to the sort of cars they favour, but eventually you have two sorts; they ones who will stay at home on a 12º cold night and the ones that will come out to a petrol station car park to meet up. You may decide for yourself which are the crazy ones.

Here is some of the cool crop:

I bugged out after my fingers froze, but the enthusiasts were still rolling in. Bless them and here’s to an early and warm spring to make the next meet a more comfortable one.

Who Do You Trust?

A better question…who trusts you?

I live within a mile radius of two petrol stations – a BP and a Shell – and have lived here since 1985. The service stations both have multiple pumps that you operate yourself…because no-one pumps petrol for you any more. You fill your tank, or run a preset on the pump, go into the station, pay, and go away. They want you to buy chocolates, drinks, fan belts and little deodorant pine trees so they make you pass by all the goodies before you get to the pay counter, but the idea is pretty much the same for both stations.

But today a new set of signs on the outermost pumps of the BP. You must pay before you pump or leave your car keys with the attendant. This suggests that they are worried about drive-off thefts of petrol. As I had pulled up to the inner face of the outer pumps before seeing the sins I philosophically pulled my wallet out, checked that I had money, and trudged to the door.

The door didn’t open. It took a half-minute of stepping back, letting the attendant see me clearly, then stepping in…and stepping back…before the lock was released.

I wondered if there was something about my car – a green Suzuki Swift – or my appearance – 69-year-old man in plaid shirt, trousers, braces, and flat cap – that alarmed her. I asked, but she said  ” No “. I paid a $ 20 bill and went back out to pump the $ 20 of petrol into the Suzuki.  So far, just a minor annoyance.

Then I observed another person rock up with an old Valiant – a lovely old Valiant with custom lettering on the back of the boot lid. Glorious car. HE got to pump his petrol before going in to pay…Curious…

Then a Chinese chap and his wife arrived in a big black SUV…and the pump was not turned on for him. He footled about for a bit then drove off unsatisfied…Curiouser and curiouser…That was probably $ 100 of petrol that wasn’t sold.

I pulled away and parked in the adjacent shopping centre car park and observed the next few transactions. Some people were compelled to go inside before being able to pump petrol, and some were let through to the keeper, as it were, and could pump before paying. But there was no distinct pattern to type of car, colour of car, colour of driver, or any other criterion that would have been observable at the attendant’s window.

I was a little incensed over this discrimination at first, but now I am more intrigued as to the process of selection that is involved. What is it that triggers the attendant to demand payment beforehand rather than afterwards? Is it related to the car? Is it related to the ethnicity of the driver? Is it related to the ethnicity of the attendant? Is it related to the sex of either driver or attendant? Is it related to the time of day? BTW this was all broad daylight in an affluent suburb.

No answers yet, but I shall continue to investigate. I have a full petrol tank right now – I went over to the Shell station after this experience and did the rest of the filling. THEY don’t require you to pre-pay, leave keys, or swear allegiance to anyone  – they just sell petrol. When I have used up this lot of fuel I shall try the BP again to see what they do. I am hoping for a definite pattern that can make for a workable hypothesis.

 

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.

 

A Mystery Wrapped In An Enigma

I am borrowing what I think were Churchill’s words to describe this Volkswagen seen at the NSW hot rod show. It seemed straightforward enough at first when I saw it across the hall, but closer examination left me puzzled.

The half-way nature of it is what is most puzzling. There is a killer paint job at the rear, and some dramatic black used on the front and the inside…but where are all the rest of the bits?

Is it a work in progress? Or a rod made for a division of motor sport that I have yet to encounter? Or an art installation that can be rolled in and out? Who would spend all that money to do all that work and to show it to all those people? In that state?

Answers in an envelope, please, and slip it under the door after midnight…

The Mercury That Wasn’t

Ever since the late 1940’s the Mercury sedan or coupe has been a constant subject for the custom car enthusiast. From extremely mild to extremely wild, the Merc has been chopped, channeled, frenched, rolled, tucked, decked slammed and ratted everywhere. So much so, that when you see a body that is sleek and low but has a domed appearance in every direction, you instinctively think that it is a Mercury.

I saw this one at the NSW rod show last month…and I was wrong.

I had not looked at the notice board beside the car, but was just admiring the full-on traditional lead sled style…when I noticed that the characteristic Mercury step in the side line was missing. Thinking that this must have been a hell of a job to cut out and fill in…and why would you want to, anyway…I finally got the clue when I saw the shape of the grill area. Not a Mercury – a Hudson.

Equally fine heritage, equally cool old school style – but a lot fewer of them in the field. And as a right-hand conversion in Australia…even rarer.

Please take time to notice the smooth side skirt enclosing the rear wheels and the use of the chrome trim strip to unify the body. Also please note the frenched aerials and the bumper shrouds front and rear. There would have been a temptation in some customisers minds to get rid of the heavy chrome bumpers – or if it was the early 60’s in California to make up horrible bent-tube things and try to blend them into the pans. Thank goodness this builder did not give way to this. Big bumpers were a real part of the Hudson heritage and a look that deserved to be preserved.

Likewise, I am glad the builder decided to keep the Hudson hubcaps rather than just go with generic spinners or bars. Moons would have been traditional, but these are all the better for being so specific. And with those rear skirts, you only have to find two good ones…

As far as the interior and dash, I don’t think that you could find any European woodpile dashboard of the time…or even a modern swoop and splatter design – that could be as elegant and stylish as this Hudson. The two-tone is superb. I do note some modern ait conditioning vents, however.

This is no trailer queen, either – look at the panel near the accelerator – feet have been down there pushing that pedal, presumably to the metal. Let’s hope there were some floor mats, too.

 

 

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.

Too Slow…Too Old…Too Cheap…Too Bad

My stated purpose with this column is generally to entertain, not offend. But I am forced to the latter rather than the former when it comes to the subject of driving in Perth. Or, rather, whatever I say is going to be offensive…so I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and at my age there is a lot more about me that suggests mutton.

I am guilty of several sins when it comes to driving:

a. I drive at a little bit less than the speed limit, if I can.

b. I drive with one car length between me and the car in front for every 10 Kph on the speedo. 80 Kph…8 car lengths.

c. I frequently drive with the headlights on and the radio off.

d. I wear a hat in the car.

e. The car is a little 5-year-old Suzuki Swift hatchback with no pretensions to glory or prestige. No personalised number plate. It is bright green.

In my defence, I keep to the left hand lane. I attempt to merge smoothly. I do not talk or text while driving.

But I will not be bullied into going faster than the speed limit to cater to the tray-top tradie or Daimler despot. If I am in the right hand lane going over the Narrows bridge and interchange – with an 80 Kph posted limit – I will stay there at that very speed rather than dive off to let some scofflaw past.

I have frequently raised the ire of the desperate and entitled when trying to negotiate unfamiliar suburban streets at dusk – the drivers returning home have had to cope with me seeking my way while they know theirs. No-one has mercy at 6:00 PM…particularly when they feel they are near home territory and can be anonymously aggressive. I avoid dusk trips for just this reason.

I am also not at all shy about calling out impatient or aggressive drivers who bully their way through car parks – these are hard enough to navigate when you drive a small car and must cope with being hemmed in by SUV’s on all sides. My car is highly visible, and there is no excuse for taking your half of the narrow lanes in the middle.

As you can imagine, all of the above is a red rag to a motoring bull as far as many other younger drivers go. You can read their snarls on Facebook every day. Fortunately I cannot read Facebook whilst driving and so they can snarl as much as they like.