Park Between The Mercedes And The BMW

I am a pragmatic man. I used to be pragmanual, but I got tired of downshifting and double de-clutching. Particularly when it was a question of one argument or another in the middle of winter and you had to put on tyre chains.

But back to the pragmatism. I have long realised that the neighbourhood I live in has a high percentage of emigrants as residents. I am one of them. Many others are people of my own age who have come to Australia on business visas, and have the requisite skills and abilities to succeed. They also have the requisite finances…this is something that the Australian government makes sure of before they arrive.

In their native lands a great deal is attached socially to the possession of wealth. Part of this possession is the ownership of motor cars. In some places the price of even a small car is astronomical, and the more expensive cars proportionally more. It is a real staus symbol.

Not so here in Australia, unless the car is indeed expensive. Thus, to carry over their status here, they purchase large and expensive cars – Mercedes, Audis, BMW’s etc. Unfortunately there may be a disparity between the wealth necessary to purchase this status and the ability to drive it. Or to put it in crude terms, they drive like newbies.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. A careful learner or cautious probationary driver can be as safe as anyone else on the road – perhaps more so if they are not inclined to be entitled or domineering.

On the road unfortunately also includes in the carpark; next to other people, and dodging down small lanes to get into the parking spots. Many things can be taught by feel – reading, sex, and a pot-throwing come to mind. It would appear that parking may also be one of the skills.

I have learned not to park next to maroon Nissans, old Commodores, and Chery cars. The problem is not the cars – it is the drivers. I do not think that they mean to be savage and  destructive, but it comes upon them unbidden. I shudder to think what they could do with a Kenworth and a wet road…

I’ve learned to slot in between the Mercedes and the BMW. The owners may be arrogant and entitled, but they are also protective of their own door edges, and that protects me. Short of bolting a length of 5-inch channel iron on the outside of the Suzuki ( And don’t think that I haven’t considered it…) This is the only way to protect the paint.

The bumpers have to take their own chances…

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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…

Dashboard

Every time I open the WordPress site I get a dashboard that lets me control the weblog. Every time I get into my little Suzuki I sit behind a dashboard that lets me control the car. It is a comfortable place to be in both cases and I can see the wisdom in naming the set of electronic quizzes and sliders that we operate for sites and computers the same as the automobile – we are nearly all familiar with one somehow.

Well, leave the weblog and the computer aside and follow along to a couple of car shows as I look at the dashboards. I find them a fascinating insight into the minds of both the designers and of the society they serve.

DSCF0114The first dashboards literally dashed the mud aside as buggies and wagons followed horses. I’ll bet that the horses were not fooled – they could think of ways of spattering the people behind them anyway. But the dashboard of the wagon might only need to have a footrest, and no other controls. This leaked onto the first horseless carriages – they have few things happening in front there either, though they start to add pedals and switches to deal with braking and transmissions. Sometimes with the acceleration of the engine, though in many of the old cars this was still happening around the steering wheel.

Sometimes pipes and gauges were added to cope with fuels, or water, or oil. There might even be electrical gauges if the driver needed to know what was going to fail next…

Gradually the gauges took on more significance and prominence. People might not have needed to know how fast they were going early on because they were not going fast at all. When they sped up, someone wanted them to slow down, and quantified that – speed limits were evolved and drivers needed to know how quickly the vehicle was moving. The speedometer appeared. Followed by the speed trap and the fine.

Technical brother to the speedometer was the tachometer – how many revolutions per minute the engine was making. The driver could use the information to decide when to shift gears, if the screaming of the transmission or the passengers did not supply the signal. Old timers probably paid more attention to this one and regulated themselves in their district on hills and turns they knew by watching their revs.

People needed to know how much petrol or other fuel was in the tank and for a long time the only way they could determine this was a dipstick in the tank. That or a glass gauge with a tube in it somewhere near the tank. Or sticking their tongue in the tank. It was a long time before a reliable petrol gauge appeared on the dashboard…and I am waiting any week for one to show on mine…A guess is as good as a mile in many cases and that is how far you’ll be walking when you ignore the little floppy needle.

Oil? All engines and many navies needed it, but the original measure was a dipstick on the crankcase for when you had it and a grinding clank when you didn’t. The idea of putting an oil gauge on the dash to worry the driver came along pretty quickly but it was generally done by means of a tube from where the oil pressure was to the gauge in the dash where the needle swung over. The inevitable vibration and fatigue fracture would send the hot oil somewhere unpleasant. It was quite a while before they thought of a sensor and electrical reporter for this.

Electricity, coming or going, is invisible. You only ever hear it when you are holding a spark plug lead and the block and some comedian cranks the engine over. Then it makes a noise like bad words. For some time the designers did not really know what to measure as far as electricity went and there were few sensible gauges. Eventually they settled on a little bobbing needle that went one way when you were using it up and the other way when you were making more. You could even measure the battery to see how much electricity was in there but it was always a blasted lie.

Most other measurements and reports were only commentary. Various makers decide to tell you or not, depending upon the market and whether they thought you wanted to know or would understand the message.

Will post later…must dash…

 

 

A New Departure For Collectors

Diecast car collectors in Australia who wish to depict the local car scene are not all that well served. Oh, there are expensive exotic cars from Biante and Classic Carlectables of the street rod and motor racing kind, but the number of average driver daily vehicles in the large scale is quite small. The prices are high, of course because there is no economy of scale. I rather despaired of making up a modern Australian section of the collection…until I went to the car show today.

It was some sort of charity show with an eclectic mixture of sports, rod, classic, and all-too-recent beaters. I enjoyed it once it was found, and didn’t think my $ 5 badly spent – because it opened my eyes to the idea of a wider net for modern Australian collecting. You see, I can do what the car owners are doing in ever larger numbers – importing overseas cars to become local prides and joys.

Hitherto I shunned the idea as it seemed counter to my goal of making a real little world. Now the real big world is changing and I can use this to branch out. Look at some of the North american iron that people actually have here – as well as some of the European stuff.

I still have hopes that someone will get in a supply of 1:18th scale modern oriental cars that are not Japanese drift specials or Winthrop wankwagons. I want workaday wheels and industrial vehicles on my roads – so many of them are on the full-size street.

Hot Rod Heinies

dscf5142Wait a minute. That didn’t quite come out the way I meant it.

dscf5113Oh well, at least it sounds better than Kustom Krauts.

It’s all because we just don’t see all that many German cars that have been taken through the hot rod or custom car mill. But there is no reason why not.

Well actually there is, the older Volkswagens are becoming thin on the ground, the middle-aged Volkswagens are pieces of junk ( I owned one… ) and the new Volkswagens are immutably locked into computers – either honestly or dishonestly, depending upon who programmed them at the factory. And the BMW, Audi, and Mercedes cars are generally too expensive to fool around with. Add to that the fact that they have attracted a sort of unhealthy idol-worship amongst the well-to-do…and they are just not available for the car enthusiast to rod or customise.

dscf5144Here are two exceptions, however. The first one is the VW with the football knees. Or at least I think that is the problem – the rear wheels seem to have deviated ever so slightly from the vertical. It might be a trick of the light, but I don’t think so. I do hope the driver has some way of rectifying it as driving past a Goodyear, Bridgestone, or Beaurepaires shop would probably set up a series of screams from the staff.

dscf5145The windscreen adjustment is nice, however…if a little impractical in the face of dust, insects, and rain.

dscf5112The Mercedes seems to have been subjected to the sort of bonnet work that we see on the drag strip or in the more extreme of the street race cars. I was surprised to see the grill work lift up with the front of the bonnet, but Google images show that happening to other 1971 280 SE cars as well, so I guess it is stock. The blowers are a good idea if you want to make a street sleeper out of it but the fact that they poke pipes up through the bonnet is a bit of a give-away.

dscf5115I think the rear venetians are a nice period touch – do we all remember them from the late 60’s… and the cushions and stuffed animals on the rear window sill? They were a trophy of love in many cases, as well as a practical aid to accomplishing  it.

dscf5114And are the rear wheels of the Mercedes suffering a bit of the Volkswagens or is that just imagination?

 

Cue Red Baron And Snoopy Jokes

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Either they needed to get a new company name or design a different vehicle. I’m a little surprised that they did not realise this at the time.

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Postwar Germany needed a lot of things: food, antibiotics, coal, less Russians, and some way of earning money. They also needed transportation – some way of getting from the cities that had been bombed flat by the British at night to the cities that had been bombed flat by the Americans in the daytime. And out into the countryside to do a little black marketeering of a weekend.

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Who could they turn to? Who still had enough metal, machines, and unemployed fighter plane designers to oblige. Willy Messerschmitt. Out of gaol after only two years, ‘Ol Massa Willy started making sewing machines, prefab buildings, and these little Kabinenroller.

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They worked, and seem to have lasted well enough to be seen on the show circuit and in museums nowadays. They are ingenious, and either stylish or naff, as you wish. There is a small motorcycle-sized engine in the back and three fat little tyres. A steering tiller and just enough instrumentation to give you that old Bf 109 feeling. That and the plexiglass canopy were what really riveted the eye and garnered the snide remarks.

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One of these – the nice one – is outside and running around in Melbourne. The other resides in peace in the York Auto Museum. I would willing pay a C note for an afternoon on a deserted road trialling it out, but I would not for the life of me try driving it up a freeway in traffic. Not without the addition of a couple of 9mm machine guns and a ring sight.

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