B, C, Or E?

I am undecided as to which of the mid-series Holden cars I like best – the FB, FC or FE. They were the products of GM-H between 1956 here in Australia but sometimes went for several years – hence we tend to refer to them by the two letters rather than a model year. This practice was also adopted by the Ford and Chrysler when they named their cars. Australians are good at remembering these codes.

Aside: The ones who are really good at this are the train enthusiasts. They have a three-letter code for most rolling stock on the different rail systems in the country. It makes reading a model railway magazine somewhat of a chore, though, and probably has contributed to the popularity of North American layouts with their colourful – and named – freight cars.

 Back to the Holdens. Overseas readers might be forgiven for thinking that the FB was the first of the line, followed by the FC and then the FE. And wonder what happened to and FD. Uh uh. This is Australia, remember…the FE was the first, then the FC, then the FB. Then, wouldn’t you just know it, the EK, and then the EJ and then the EH…Aww stop it, before I fall off the seat…

 Now you would expect the next model after that to be in the ED or EC line, wouldn’t you? Nope -the HD, then the HR, then the HK. Then I lost any sort of interest…

 But here is the red and white ’58 FC at the Curtin Car Show. 2 seats for 4 people. 6 cylinder engine, fair-sized boot. Enough chrome on the front and back to please anyone and doors that can defend themselves in a Leeming car park. ( I miss that kind of door…). A two-tone paint job that looks good. And you get an AM wireless. What more could you want?

 

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…

 

 

The SUV Without The S

The 1950’s were serious times for serious people. Not for them the fun-loving carefree attitudes of today. People were committed to work and only bought vehicles that were totally practical and sensibly engineered…

Yeah. Right. How many model car collections contain Thunderbirds, Corvettes, Jaguars, and MG sports cars? Painted in drab serviceable colours for everyday haulage…

As a contrast I present the Chevrolet or GMC Suburban of 1950. Like the Renault Juvenal and any number of English vans, it actually is the forerunner of the modern SUV – but no-one deceived themselves that it had anything to do with sport.

Filling the back seats with your own children might have been considered a sport, but the families who did probably considered that to be a form of work as well…In any case the vehicle could haul people, groceries, and products about as well as a modern SUV but with far less comfort or pretension. And for that reason I would love to own one.

If the front end looks like a GMC pickup truck of the period it is because that is what it is – the bodywork further back becomes a large station wagon with only two side doors and two rear doors – and a lot of shuffling and wingeing to get all the people into all the seats. A modern vehicle does that very much better – the slide-door vans being the best of all. It is amazing that it took the designers all the time it did to fasten upon that idea as the best solution.

Still, this is the sort of hauler that would haul in places that the car of the time would stall. I do remember them as rural school buses or construction job people haulers. I’m willing to be that they probably had their seats stripped out and became many more things before the decade was over. I’m undecided about the paint job on this Mira model, but I’m glad I have it and its companion panel van.

That’s a traffic signal box at the corner of High Road and Herald Avenue…

Morning In The Valley

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The sky is blue

The sun has riz

I wonder where the hot rods is?

They is in the Swan Valley at the Cheese and Olive place – doing a charity show for pre-80’s iron. And they is doing a perty good job, too. Here’s a selection of the more colourful ones…and you need to remember that rust is also a colour…

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Events in the valley attract a large turn-out on a Sunday as the place has any number of cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, food and coffee places attached to the farm properties along the Great Northern Highway. A fine day and a car or music event will see the roads packed and sometimes – as today – the amount of trade overwhelms the available parking space. The late comers find that they are just unable to join in. I’ve learned to read the advertisements and arrive an hour before the things open.

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Today I was just that little bit late and found myself nabbing one of the last parking spots in between the sleeping grape vines. It’s a great place, the valley, but organisers need to put their heads together to see if they can overcome the logistics jam.

All You Ever Need To Know About Style

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Here, children, is the greatest lesson that General Motors ever delivered on the subject of automotive styling. It is the closest that they ever came to selling a custom car straight out of their dealerships. In four images you can see why the Buick Riviera of the middle 60’s was what it was all about.

I took little notice of the marque in Canada because when it was fresh, we were out in the woods and away from the people who would have driven them. Oh, we were Buick owners ourselves once, but had fallen on hard times and were driving a ’57 Chevrolet 4-door for about 7 years.

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Well, my eyes were opened when I came to Perth in ’64 and saw what motor vehicles in Australia looked like. After the initial shock of the EH Holden and the Morris Minor had worn off and I could sit up and take nourishment, a family friend arrived in town with a gold-coloured 1964 Buick Riviera. It had been converted to RHD at who knows what cost, and was driven around the streets of Midland by the wife of the family. As they lived the next street over in Greenmount, my Mum and I hitched rides down to town frequently.

The effect of that Riviera in Midland was electric. I once scored a ride to Governor Stirling High School in it and the value of stepping out of it and waving the diver off was incalculable. I did top it once with a Triumph Spitfire but that is another story.

Okay – THIS Buick Riviera was seen at the Victorian Hot Rod Show this year. For the life of me I cannot think why it was not inside on show display instead of just out in the side visitor’s lot. Perhaps the owner delivers pizzas in ti for Dominos and couldn’t spare the three days on display…Whatever, it was worth going to the show for.

As far as the extensive customising needed to make it into the fabulous shape you see, I suspect that the owner has:

a. Thrown away the boot badges.

b. Lowered the thing on bags and new rollers.

c. Repainted it. And a lovely paint job it is too. No-one can complain about not seeing it on the road. They probably see it in Queensland as a glow on the southern horizon…

d. Filled it up with petrol and cleaned the pizza boxes out of the back seat. And drove to the show.

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And that is it – all the style and grace that you see was built into it new. I can’t swear about the interior. That wild yellow and velour is likely a refurb, but perhaps not. The walnut inserts for the doors are real, and the rest of it is fabulous. A killer in bright weather, though as the dash reflects up into the windscreen. You can always put a bar towel on it…

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All the effort, restyling, leading, shaving, frenching, chopping, nosing, decking, and footling around that custom builders have done over the decades is unnecessary on the ’64 Riviera. It is truly a show machine out of the box. I can only hope that there are more of them in Australia to show up…surely the gold RHD Riv must still be somewhere, if only for the sake of my nostalgia.

 

Is There A Home For Old Winch Trucks?

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If there is, I hope our old GMC winch truck that we used in British Columbia in the 1960’s has found its way there and is quietly idling away in some shed. And I hope that someone has had time to slap on a new coat of vile turquoise paint on the cab and red lead on the boom and  bumpers.

I was moved to this sentiment by seeing some of the older commercial vehicles at Whiteman Park. I can’t say whether preservation or restoration of a large truck is harder or more costly than that of a fancy sports car or veteran sedan…but I suspect that finding the basic vehicle to start on might be harder. There would have been fewer medium and large trucks in a community than the smaller utes and cars, and the trucks would have had a harder working life of it.

As well, a lot of these might have been modified time and time again as successive owners acquired them and put them to different tasks. And a lot of chassis were supplied bare – to be outfitted by the owner for whatever purpose. I think the licensing of these sorts of things was laxer in the old days, particularly in the bush areas.

Still, there are dedicated enthusiasts and men who have direct knowledge of farming, timber work, cartage, and mining who remember their old workhorses fondly and who bring some of them back from disuse – and drive them to motor meets. I guess the expense of doing so, and the hard work driving these heavy vehicles, is paid back in the special status they enjoy.

So enough writing. Here’s the pics. If any of the old-truck chaps would like to invite me along as a passenger on their next pleasure outing, I will at least be able to take the heavy camera gear…

 

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The Plastic Bumper Club – Or The Personal Car Club

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I have recently been going to car shows that referred to themselves as ” Chrome Bumper ” shows. This was to limit the entries to a certain section of the history of automobiles. That was after narrowing it down further by era and time and type and nationality and degree of reworking and…and…and a great many fun things would have been excluded.

The cars that did show were fine – and presumably fitted into slots that the organisers set up. I had a good time. I got some good shots and some new weblog posts for the column. But I couldn’t help think about a different approach.

Of course this is nothing new. You can have a car show for British cars, Italian cars, VW cars, Veteran cars, etc and the very name sets out the criteria. You can ask for classic cars and the question becomes a wider one – and one that I suspect is driven by money and prestige as much as enthusiasm. You can ask for new cars. But I am thinking that you could have a great show asking for Personal Cars.

Cars that have been taken past the factory fit-out to to become something special to their owners. Driving cars, as opposed to show trailer queens. Cars from any nation and any era that have been endeared to their drivers with something extra. It might be a fully chopped, slammed, sectioned, shaved, and pink fuzzy diced ’49 Mercury. It might be a fuzzy diced Nissan S Cargo. It might be a classic Roller or a classic baby Austin with rebuilt everything. All it needs is to show the hand of man – or woman – after it rolls out of the factory and it is a Personal Car. Paint jobs count big-time. Interiors count big time. Full undercar ricer lighting counts big time. No-one gets excluded because of the bumper or rego sticker or country of origin.

Big show. Fun show. Lotsa food trucks. Shannons making a mint on insurance and the tee shirt guys throwing ’em off the racks. Pinhead striping a silver Audi TT with pink flames. The Forged girls on 15″ high heels. All kinds of a good time being had by all.