Blue Dreams

I am a fan of blue cars ever since my first one -a Renault 10 in light grey-blue in the late 60’s. It seemed to be the epitome of style and grace…in a small car. Since then I’ve owned other colours, but always looked keenly to see if whatever I wanted to drive could be had in blue.

This my attraction to this Chevrolet pickup a this year’s VHRS in Melbourne. It was on the inside, which means thee lighting was mixed – and I would have liked to see it out in the sun – but that doesn’t lessen the admiration for the paint job.

A restrained vehicle like this one is perfect for the dignity of the blue. I must admit that from the other side of thee floor I thought I was seeing a restored historical car rather than a rod. Closer inspection showed the lowering, rh shaving, and the other touches that have made this look so good. I love the whitewall and beauty ring treatment, but then I would love that on my little car if I could do it.

 There is a terrible temptation with something as nice as this – that is also a practical vehicle. The temptation would be to make a daily driver out of it and take it down to Bunnings and load the bed with MDF board and kegs of nails. And then where would the superb finish be?

Perhaps the best solution to this would be to make two cars the same – one for show and one for go. Yes, that’s the answer. Now all we need is Lotto to supply the question…

The Blues and Whites


Sounds like a football team, doesn’t it. If you think of it, maybe it is – the Manchester City team has this sort of light blue and white as a team uniform. You would think that it was a standard sort of thing – indeed there are internet images of the mid-50’s Ford sedans and Victorias painted in the scheme – but none of the internet references exactly agree on the shades of blue. I am not going to guess at the factory names and I dare not suggest that these two Fords have been resprayed in anything other than factory paint. People are sensitive about that.


Actually, internet research for these two blue paint colours has shown just how spotty that electronic resource can be. There are paint charts reproduced from period sources for a number of manufacturers; Ditzler, PPG Industries, Acme ( good ‘ol Acme…), and Rinshed -Mason…but none of the sources seen actually say Ford Motor Company, much less Ford Motor Company of Australia. I am left wondering if every can was different and every can was mixed up out of a big vat round the back of the works just before it was sprayed…


Well, anyway, here are two two-tone 50’s Fords at Gillam Drive that feature reversed schemes. You can trace the panel and upholstery pictures and see just how close the pattern was followed in each case. You can exercise your preference as to which version looks best. The common factor is the quality of the work and the retro finish to the cars.


The individual touches are what make each car a different tune.


The convertible exudes a sporting atmosphere with the centre console ( and drink holders ) and wire wheel hub caps. Note the electric window switches and the additional instruments below the dash. Perfect for a late afternoon cruise along a beachside in spring.



The Victoria has the distinctive chrome pillar and overlay that separates front and rear roof. Some of the cars referred to as Skyliners had a clear plexiglass with green tint over the front seats. I could see it being a novel attraction in a cooler climate but a real broiler in the Southern US or Australia. This one is the slightly less expensive steel top, and I’ll bet the driver going home from Gillam Drive was glad of it. A slightly more stock and slightly less luxurious interior – you have to crank your own windows. But note on one view how the rear window disappears into the side panel on a rather odd angle. This roof line is one of the last flowing lines before Ford decided to make the angular rear pillar of the 57-58-59 designs. I must say I prefer this line, as well as the line of the ’60 and ’61 designs, to the angular one.



Both vehicles have a continental extension and spare. These are possibly practical, but I suspect that they are chiefly decorative. The one with the celebrity portraits certainly is. I was also delighted to discover the release handle on the other one – this is a detail frequently missed on custom cars…yet you have to have some way of getting the thing to let go, don’t you? Don’t you wish that they would include that much chrome on modern car designs?


Actually, I’d just settle for the two-tone colour choices that were available then. I don’t even need metallics – just two colours.


Show Us Your Booty!


If you think that sounds a little crass, how would you like it if I wrote: ” Show Us Your Trunk “? Not much better, is it?

Every year at the shows I take the front 3/4 view of the car as the main signature view. Then some details, and the interior, and – if there is enough space – a direct side view. In some cases in the past I neglected to add more to  this and to picture the rear panel. I am going to make sure that I always remember to include this in the future as it is one of the most user-friendly areas of the car.

Perhaps user-friendly is not quite the right phrase…let’s say user useful, if that is not too strained and expression. People spend inordinate amounts of time and money on the engine of their personal car – followed in some cases by a lesser amount on the interior cabin space. ( is some cases they spend nothing at all on it and it costs them an absolute fortune…) But the bit that is the most useful – the boot or trunk area – is a neglected afterthought. Yet, where are they going to store the beer crates or the rock and roll records…the fitted luggage…the engine parts that they bought but have not worked up courage enough to show to the wife…why the boot of course.

Here’s a selection of back ends from Gillam Drive:

Our feature car, the blue ’33 might have a rumble seat in there, but as there is no way of getting into it, I’m betting not. You could not bear to scratch that magnificent paint job scrambling over the fenders.


The brown Buick has the sort of trunk that takes leather suitcases or wicker hampers of cold chicken and champagne. Not at Gillam Drive in November, mind, as the temperature is traditionally 147º in the shade and there isn’t any shade.


The blue ’39 has a wonderfully styled line to the boot and the builder of the car has been wise  and tasteful in preserving it. Probably plenty of room in there.


The green Holden also has plenty of room and the boot extends in under the seats. Modern cars can be surprisingly roomy back there – the wife’s Toyota being a case in point – it absorbs far more stuff that you would think for the shape of the metal. And I remember seeing a new 300 Chrysler that seemed to have enough room in the boot for an entire sofa. Pity about the spoiler on the boot lid as it does.


The orange Bel Air has the rest beat as far as vast open space – as they did in the 60’s. You pay the price of more metal, but you get the advantage of enough carrying capacity to match that of the cabin. ie you can fit all the bags of all the riders.


But the champ is the ute. It always will be, and now that the hard cover for a ute bed has become an established thing…remember that there were few of these in the 1990’s…the drivers can secure their stuff against thieves and road spoilage. Were I to get another ute I would serious consider a functional hard cover – as well as a bed liner.


The Vice – Regal Rod


I think the Governor of Western Australia is secretly a hot rodder. There is no other explanation for keeping a black car in the Australian summer – particularly if it’s an older one with a vertical grille. And fat tyres. And an overstuffed interior.

She did do a bit of a cleanup on it for the Government House Open Day – the Mexican blankets were taken off and the Macca’s wrappers and empty tinnies were cleaned out of the back seat. But you could see the tell-tale signs of rodderdom; discrete striping down the side, special hubcaps, and a custom licence plate. Driving spotties too.

I note that she is also keeping the old sticker on the LHS of the windscreen – probably nostalgia because they don’t issue them any more with new car rego. I can’t say I am sorry to see them go. It was always a pain to try to stick a wet paper towel along the inside of the screen long enough to soften the old sticker. It would either fall off and make a mess of the dash or dry up in the WA summer heat.

Even if you did succeed in leaving it on long enough the blasted sticker never actually came off in one piece – you always ended up trying to scrape the last vestiges off and the bits went into the carpet. Then when you put the new one back on ( all that effort to do the same thing again ) you always got it a bit skewed and had to motor round for a year with a wonky coloured patch distracting your left eye. Good riddance.

I didn’t get to pop the bonnet on the roller because security was hovering but I reckon there is a lot of chrome under there. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Her Excellency had an exhaust cutout fitted with a control cable through to the back seat. When she wants to cruise on Saturday night round the cappuccino strip in Freo she probably has her chauffeur gun it just past Hungry Jacks and she pops the cutout to scare the sitters.

Well, I would…

Graphics. Beware…

mel2014 64

We are often warned on the television about graphic depictions of violence. The same goes for the cinema – they have that classification thing at the start of the movie. I go for the ones that say “G” and so far I have not been disappointed.

But what of the graphics at the car show? Should we be warned? Does there need to be a sign warning us that it is NSFA…not safe for adults?

As with all questions of art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of some of these beauties we would also recommend Murine and an a soft cotton pad….

mel2014 417

VW 201543




Whiteman 2015 152




Hot Summ 15 2 (1)


Flames In The Frame


Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable, throw in undependable too.

But I’m undeniably mad over flames.

Not, you understand, to the extent that I run around setting fire to paddocks. I mean flames on hot rods. They are such a part of the look, the style, the culture – they reward nearly any car that sports them. And I hesitate to say that about a couple other aspects of the genre…but more on that in a future post.


The first thing that drew me to this blue Chevrolet were the flames on the bonnet and fenders. Faded, lined, and accented, their warm tones complement the cool colour of the body perfectly. they break up what might otherwise be vast stretches of curved sheet metal and serve to introduce the car to the viewer as something more than just a restoration job.*


At the same time, this builder has been conservative enough ( …conservative flames…) to leave them on the bonnet and fenders and not extend them to the entire surface of the car. This can be done and I can think of one Victorian Shoebox Ford that is renowned for it, but you have to know where a curve fits.

Note to self: Must enquire if we see more pre-war Chevrolet  cars here in Australia as rods or as restorations? Do they have as many in North America? Logic says yes, but are the figures distributed evenly? Are they tougher restorations than similar-era Fords?


Well anyway, this is no trailer car – this one drives beautifully – that interior is everything that a man could want in a car, and the stylist has not fallen into the skull and decal trap. But that is another post…

  • Nothing wrong with a restoration – I also go to the Australia Day RACV car show in Melbourne and have a glorious time.


All You Ever Need To Know About Style


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.


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.


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…


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.