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.

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.


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.

The Winner


” I’m sorry sir, the title of Coolest Car is already taken. Your silver/grey smoke gunmetal i34/Laxidestrical Deutsche Humpmobil Sportt Ezstravaganzzza 3 is all very well, but this other gentleman has a yellow 1958 Chevrolet custom car. The exit road is just over there and you are free to go. Have a nice day. ”

Well, it was never really a contest, was it? I mean the Humpmobil might have had gold-washed cylinders and an automatic warm and fuzzy feeler arm under the dash, and it might have cost the sort of money that would keep Subiaco in Chardonnay for a year but the Chevy had the thing won as soon as it appeared on the field…


Pinstriping. Not just the nose, but the wireless aerials. Pinstriped aerials. Matched left and right.


Lakes pipes. Lakes pipes on the ground. The car goes up and down. It is alive. The Humpmobil has difficulty registering on the radar, let alone going up and down.


Chrome. Real chrome. Chrome that you can touch without having it come off on your finger.

And a roof with metal flake paint. There is no-one on Earth that can be sad when they see metalflake paint. It is like the stars brought down to us.


Now as for the interior, I can understand that you are upset. Your Humpmobil does not have a spotlight with handle control. It doesn’t have fuzzy dice or multiple dials or a locking glove compartment. I can feel your pain. Perhaps when you next buy a motor vehicle to impress your neighbours you will be more careful.


I can only leave you with the best wishes of the pin-up girl on the rocker panel. Please keep your spirits up and see if you can find some back issues of ROD & CUSTOM magazine to give to some inspiration.






I first encountered a tonneau cover on a Triumph TR3 sports car in 1959. I was never so impressed with anything in my life, though at this juncture I can’t really say why. After all, it was just a rubberized canvas cover that fit over the cockpit. The driver used to unzip his side and fold it down behind his seat but leave the other part attached.

Literature dealing with the idea said that this would reduce buffeting in the airstream of an open car and retain the heat from the heater. You could also hide your luggage under it from the sun and prying eyes. I just thought it looked cool.

It turns out that the name is derived from the French word for cask or barrel and that it was associated with a style of automobile body in the early days. Some of the open rear passenger compartments have a barrel-like appearance and indeed some are even accessed from the rear of the vehicle rather than the sides. When not in use a tonneau cover kept the seats free of dust. The body style is high and imposing and must have been quite a fun place to ride along rutted early roads. Sort of like a bouncy castle.

Nowadays the name is most frequently used to describe the cloth cover for a ute body. These are actually pretty cool in themselves if they are stretched out over two bow frames across the bed. I used to sleep under mine on the occasional country trip and it was as waterproof as you needed. The attachment with bungee cordloops over buttons was a little naff, but it lasted for the life of the ute.


This tonneau seen at Gillam Drive uses punch buttons to secure the perimeter of the cloth. It is as shapely as needs be, though the area it encloses is quite large. It’s a lonely sort of accessory, though, as it just underlines to the driver that they don’t have someone in the front seat to talk to. Maybe that isn’t as cool as it used to be.

Steee-rike Twoooo…


I wrote about going to three car shows this week. Two occasions have passed and I can’t decide whther to dread the third one or not.

The Veteran car run that took place two days ago was actually pretty nice, if your idea of nice is sitting inside an oven with the gas turned on to 9. The suburb it was held in was inland and the only breeze that will blow there this week will have come from fire trucks rushing through it to put out someone’s blazing paddock.


Twenty of the brave old cars filled with 40 brave old souls apparently started out from Perth and headed for the hills. Some pegged out ( the cars…) but quite a few made it. I got smart – I photographed them as they arrived in case I was overcome by the heat. Bless them, they parked under the tres and stayd for 45 minutes before driving or trailering home again. I salute their stamina.


Tonight’s Monster Beach Party with all the hype was to be down at an Indian Ocean beach – lots of adverts for pre ’85 cars and transistor radios tuned to a special rock and roll station. It promised to be cool…so I motored down right on time.


Good thing I did. There is no better way to blow away the cobwebs after a hot day than driving aimlessly around a series of carparks, freight terminals, and beach apartments looking for Where It’s At. And finding Where It’s Not. I did see one chap driving a black ’32 roadster who was doing the same thing – at least there was one lost, frustrated, cynical kindred soul out there on the road. I can’t think when I have enjoyed a drive home again quite so much…

I still have faith in Big Al’s Poker Run. It has never disappointed in the 5 years I’ve seen it. There must be a pot of something at the end of this week’s rainbow…

Oh Joy, I’m A Three Percenter

49 Ford

And not in politics, neither. Apparently I am among only 3% of the population who choose to drive a green car.

This from a survey of a number of websites that seek to comment on the dullness of modern car colours and to find the reasons for it. The reasons turn out to be simple:

  1. Basic Suzi_edited-2White cars are most commonly sold because they are most commonly sold. And that means that they are most commonly re-sold, and the white colour makes it happen faster because the argument just goes round again.
  2. Basic Suzi_edited-1Black cars are powerful. If their drivers are powerful they buy them to show they are powerful and if the drivers are not powerful they buy them to pretend they are powerful.
  3. Basic Suzi_edited-3Silver cars show less dirt on the outside. They can still be knee-deep in Cheezel fragments and cat hair on the inside, but.
  4. Basic Suzi_edited-4Grey cars show less dirt as well, but are more sedate and dignified. Yeah, I know. But that is what the websites said and they were sedate and dignified as they said it.
  5. Basic Suzi_edited-5Women buy bronze and brown cars to take care of their families. Apparently the brown palette suggests concern and nurturing. Which is a crock because beige is a brown colour and the only people who drive beige cars are salesmen travelling for insurance companies and fertilizer manufacturers.
  6. Basic Suzi_edited-6Red cars suggest sex and speed and a this makes it a preferred colour for men buying sports cars.
  7. Basic Suzi_edited-7Blue cars suggest reliability. Whether this is related to the idea of the Navy or the cops I don’t know. I suspect it is related to the fact that somewhere we can all remember a relative who drove an old dark blue sedan, station wagon, or ute and despite the oxidised exterior and general air of grease and chicken poo, that damn car never actually stopped.
  8. Basic Suzi_edited-8Green cars are dangerous if they are dark green because they blend into the scenery.
  9. Basic Suzi_edited-9Light green cars are childish.
  10. Basic Suzi_edited-10Light blue cars are childish and effete.
  11. Basic Suzi_edited-11Pink cars are vulgar. Unless they are pink Cadillacs driven by pneumatic blondes or Elvis and then they snap back to the No.6 category of sex.
  12. Basic Suzi_edited-12Violet cars are going to remain on the lot a long time, unlike the company buyer who thought to order one in an idle moment. People who drive violet cars are strange individuals.
  13. Basic Suzi_edited-13Plum coloured cars are purchased by adolescents and ethnics.
  14. Basic Suzi_edited-16Orange cars are red cars without the sex.
  15. Basic Suzi_edited-15Yellow cars are either a wayward taxi or someone who has finally realised what their life is like and just doesn’t care anymore. These are generally the most visible things on the road, which means you can avoid them.

I plan to screw up this survey entirely by finding a pink and charcoal grey 1949 Ford Coupe and a Desi Arnaz jacket and driving around. And I ain’t gonna do no esplainin’…


The Plastic Bumper Club – Or The Personal Car Club

WA Rod Show 2014 200

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.

The Quiet Chopper



I’m going to keep a promise to a chap I met this last Sunday at the Vintage Retro Markets. It was one of the nicest of these events I’d been to for ages and I found myself open to new sensations.




These bikes are one of them. The chap asked me to send them along to their Facebook, and I’ll try to do that as well, but here they are for the world to see as well.



Well, who’da think it. Chopper bicycles. As a chap raised on Schwinn and Raleigh and subject to daily doses of the Jefs on the road in the lycra shorts and expensive sunglasses, these come as a revelation. They actually look like fun – not just hard work.



Oh, there is hard work there all right. I don’t think these come out of cardboard boxes looking the way they do – I suspect there is a lot of design and engineering and then a lot of cutting, welding, grinding, re-welding, and swearing goes into these bikes. The builders have decided not to be governed by the latest in euro trends – any more than the hot rod builders are.



Hard work pedalling them too, I daresay. I don’t know, but I suspect that the geomertry that places the rider down low will change he way the muscles have to work to give the thing a go. My daughter has a lay-down bicycle that I get to try when I have been good and done my chores and promise not to bend it…and it is a strange sensation to be pushing forward rather than down. I’m also not too sure about the ape hangers as steering, but then I was never sure of them on the motorcycles. The reinforced silver bars look to be a good compromise.



I am also a little puzzled at the tandem with the dual frame, three wheels, and two cranks. One assumes that the senior commander is up the front steering but how does he keep the rear compartment pedalling and not coasting?


Never mind – I do have a favourite – the burgundy bike with the light coloured tyres. No idea who built it or how much it cost but it is a stylish beauty. Never mind the Mexican Chevrolets – this one is a REAL lowrider.