The Little World – Nowt Boot A Trick – Part Four

Light pours from the heavens like liquid gold.

It pours from old-fashioned street lamps like tallow candles, and from mercury-vapour fittings like the cold green smell of death. Sodium lights remind us of sleazy bars and painful treatments for public diseases. Is it any wonder that I drive with my eyes closed?

I mention these sorts of horrid illuminations because I am eventually going to have to provide one or all of them for my street modules. I can remember all of them in Canada and Australia in my childhood and youth, and they contribute no little part to the authenticity and temporality of a model scene.

Doll house makers are favoured with a number of small light fittings for their structures – ornate candelabra and modest side lights – library shades and even fluorescent fixtures. The larger size of the scale makes it easy to get good lighting, as long as you can provide a suitable voltage. But the dollhouse street lamps are big, and for the most part are patterned after Victorian or Edwardian prototypes. Unless one is modelling the older parts of Montreal or Toronto, there is little use for them – and certainly no use for a prairie city in the 1950’s.

Fortunately there are perfectly good grain of wheat bulbs on sale at the electronics stores for a modest sum that can be pressed into making tungsten-filament street lamps for the 50’s. The holders, shades, and brackets will have to be scratch built, but many of them were of fairly utilitarian style anyway. A production line to make a dozen would be wisest – dull work, but best to have a stock of them.

The mercury-vapour light that started to make inroads into the cities about 1960-62 will be another matter. They were green, cold, and a lot brighter than the old lamps. Here I think I am going to have to go to more specialist suppliers to get coloured LED bulbs ( and learn how to wire them up ) for both the mercury and the later sodium lights. Green and orange should be reasonably easy to achieve but again the fitments will need to be even more modern. The heads of a modern street lamp can be very streamlined castings indeed. Even the light poles are frequently octagonal tapers with a preformed swooping shape – this is unlikely to be do-able with a metal tube, and some sort of resin casting may be necessary. Fortunately for most modern lights, there are a variety of DC gel/acid batteries available on an inexpensive basis from Jaycar and other stores. And one can generally find a leftover mains charger from somewhere with whatever weird little voltage is needed.


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.



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 Traditional Garb Of My People


Having noticed the recent critical complaints being flung out over cultural appropriation, and remembering my own shameful episode in the 1990’s when I draped myself in someone else’s colours, I decided to look carefully at my situation and correct any errors. I refuse to be politically correct, but I can be personally correct.

The primary thought was to refrain from aping any other cultures, religions, or people. This is a negative thing, but at least one can be specific whilst doing it. No longer will I appear in public as a Catholic monk, or a Scotsman. I shall not appear in a Jackie Howe, or a Hello Kitty kimono. Even the Halloween scarecrow costume will go, though I must say that I am not unhappy to lose it – it itched.

But the tougher part is to actually identify what I can wear in the future if I am to stay within cultural lines. And the first question to address is: What exactly is my culture – where am I now and from whence did I come? To answer this, I need to consider the consideration I raised a couple of posts ago…the business of the ” old country “.

I have decided to leave the European and middle eastern countries to themselves…I suppose they are ancestral but I have no contact with those ancestors save chromosomes. So I need not look there for the garb of my people.

It becomes a little more apposite when I consider the clothing worn by my parents and myself when I was younger. Personal memory of what a person of a certain age should be dressed like is still strong, and can be remarkably persuasive. When I was young, the men of my tribe wore khaki work pants and shirts when on outside job sites. In an office they wore suits or sports coats. At home there might be a sports coat but frequently it was exchanged for a sweater or pullover. Pants were broadcloth or wool and cut generously – little denim was worn as this was the additional garb of a different tribe – the farmers.

Likewise, the people of our tribe were not bowlers – so loud polyester shirts would have been seen as an aberration. No-one past high school or college would wear a blazer or sweater with numbers or letters. Blazers with piping and crests on pockets were only seen in illustrations or motion pictures and no-one took them seriously. Sandals were reserved for the beach or back yard.

Shirts in the summer might be referred to as short sleeve sports shirts, but they never betrayed the name of a sports team or the manufacturer. Stripes, perhaps, or a check pattern. Wool plaid shirts for colder times were standard, as were tee shirts worn as underwear. Tee shirts with logos were reserved for a child’s souvenir of Disneyland or a television hero – no grown man would imagine himself in one.

Ex-military garb was unknown except as camouflage in duck season and even there I doubt it fooled the ducks.

Men wore hats. These had style in most cases and practicality was always present – the ludicrous small straw brim pork pie hat was an affectation for Miami – Westerners knew that you either had sun, rain, or cold to deal with. An adult could only wear a cowboy hat if they were actually herding cattle or if it was Calgary Stampede time.

Shoes were leather, brown or black as the outfit required, and Oxford style. No ludicrous Italian toes. No Spanish heels. Work boots stayed at work until they were destroyed, and hunting boots actually kept your feet from freezing. The only rubber sole canvas shoes were on the feet of basketball players and little kids.

So….where does this leave an adult in 2016? It means that he need not and probably cannot shop at Big W or Target or Jeans West or any other cheap store. He needs must go to a better shop for formal wear – a suit or sports coat and trousers – or to a workplace outfitter for khaki shirts and pants. In any case a surplus store or workplace outfitter will be his preferred shoe shop, but there is still a core of decent leather in the Florsheim store. R.M Williams and specialty hatters still can cover his head decently.

The real problem is to find tee shirts and regular shirts that suit an adult. No logos, no signage, no odd shapes or cut. Sometimes one can trail through an entire shopping centre and come up with nothing. In many cases the Op Shop starts to look good.

In my case, the wardrobe – the back reaches – is going to be the preferred prospecting ground. My people do have traditional garb and I’ve got a lot of it. – I just need to realise that it is as valid a costume as anything that the foreign market might suggest.






Crwzzn, indeed. And this is the sort of crwzzn that I thoroughly approve of – not only can you go for a burger in this rod, but you can go for sheets of plywood and bags of cement at Bunnings or a weekend down at Margaret River with equal ease. You’ll spend more on petrol than you would do with the Hyundai hatch but you’ll get far more done.

Melbourne in January is notorious for being Melbourne in January. You can count on weather. It will be too hot, cold, wet, windy, humid, and Wednesday all at the same time. People from Sydney go to Melbourne just to be uncomfortable and loud about it*. We from Western Australia go there to get whatever the weather was like last week at home. The Victorians just carry water bottles and parkas wherever they go and apply them as needed throughout the day.


The Mercury was high on this particular Saturday. And wide and low as well. And turquoise, which surprisingly enough was a factory colour. Of course there were different bumpers on this one from those on the assembly line, and different mirrors and tail lights as well, but the overall impression with CRWZZN is of a stock van.


These were not common in Australia – and for that matter not as common as you’d think in the Canada of my youth. Don’t know why – the basic design is gloriously big and roomy for the 50’s and the engines, chassis, and drive trains were beefy enough to make these good farm and industrial haulers. I often wondered at the way Ford or GM dealerships divided up what would be sold in Canada and the USA – the offerings were sometimes segregated on national lines and further parcelled out into different models for different provinces or states. I’ll bet they would have sold anything to anybody willing to have it freighted across the country but there were only a few showroom offering for each brand.


Well, this Merc made it to Melbourne and picked up a rolled pan job at the back, a channel iron bumper at the front, and a tow hitch. I would imaging the tow ball stops most moped riders from trying to crash into the centre of the van but I would still be nervous about the flanks of the vehicle – BTW I admire the use of that channel for the front. Also admire the decision to paint it body colour rather than trying to make a chrome slab out of it. Channel, angle, and H-beam is exactly what it looks it – industrial steel. You can rarely make it look like a streamlined design feature. Better to capitalise upon what it does and admit what it is.


The hand? Well, let’s face it. What would a hot rod show be without the eyeballs, coffins, Rat Fink decals. or skull motifs. The desire for them sets in early in the pre-teen and continues on for decades. Most of them are either removable or repaintable whenever a car changes hands so little harm is done. There have been worse…

* Melbourne people go to Sydney to be uncomfortable and sullen…

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.

Get Outa Here! Slowly…


Aha. I have just realised that there is a good way to overcome some of the disadvantage that pertains to car shows -the thing that I complained about in a previous column; the overcrowding of the display lines. I’m not a greedy person – I don’t want it all for myself or all to myself …but I do wish for a clean view of it. Now I think I have it.


Normally I leave most events early. Whether it is a professional society dinner, wedding reception, or siege – it is always better not to be there at the end. I have applied this principle to car shows as well – leaving before the show winds up. Not that I would have to do any of the cleaning – I just take pictures and pixels are easy to sweep up – but I should only be in the way as people started pouring kerosene and match heads into their superchargers and tried to get the engines to turn over. Plus I am worried by robust language and I reckon some of the owners would be utilising it as they kicked the cows…


As luck would have it, the Brockman Port To Whiteman Park Run show wound up while I was there. They gave tannoy instructions to the drivers and waved them off through the gate of the grounds onto a main street. This naturally slowed the stream as they fed into traffic, and in turn presented a nice slow cavalcade to view. Sun position was good, focusing was easy, and the only problem was the occasional intrusion of a fat arse in cargo shorts and a fluoro vest who stepped into the line of sight. There is probably always one at every car show and it might well be him every time…


I noted a similar opportunity last year at the end of the Australia Day car show in Melbourne. There were a number of roads exiting the main park and moving down them was slow for the drivers of the veteran and vintage cars. All the better for the photographer. In the future I am going to bide my time – perhaps even go a little later in the day – and mark well the exit roads and possible vantage points. I’ll still try to get close-up detail for cars as well as lurching crowds will permit but the best clear shot will be as they drive away.


Photographer’s note – tempting as it is to use a tripod for this, I still think a hand-held camera and a fill flash will be best. I’ll be using the pre-focus manual method with everything set as the cars approach a fixed point. It’s always a little experimental as to when to release the shutter when you are using an electronic view finder – there is a time lag in any camera. If you have set the speed, aperture, and manual focus, however, you can sight along the top of the camera housing and fire it instantly when the vehicle comes to your pre-selected point. This also works with 17 pounder anti-tank guns but it is more difficult to use them unnoticed – at least with the Fujifilm cameras you can turn the shutter noise off.


Technical note: These images were taken using the new Fujifilm X-T10 and the 27mm f:2.8 pancake lens. What a sweetie of a combination – light and fast. Perfect for touristing it without weight or bulk. Next best will be the new 35mm f:2 when it is released in Australia.

A Plea From The Car Photographers To The Clubs


When you are planning your next car show, could you please park them a little further apart?

We are thrilled to bits that you will be bringing your vintage-veteran-hot rod-street car-sports car-truck-bus-tank to the park-stadium-exhibition hall-mudflat behind the asbestos works. We don’t mind paying at the door-gate-edge of the car park for the privilege of seeing your prize machines and we want to make great pictures of them.

mel2014 642

We promise not to stand on the running boards like the punters do, and poke the dashboards like the punters do, and scratch the duco like the punters do. We will be respectful.


We will be utterly patient as the tag-teams of lurching punters slowly walk in front of the cars and progressively block the view…never allowing a clear sight of the edges of the cars. We are trained to stand still in one spot until the exact quarter of a second when the mob clears. We are frequently consulted by still hunters and snipers about how to remain motionless. Ninjas envy us.

Italian 99

But we need a helping hand. If the cars are parked too close together we won’t be able to do them justice. We’ll have to use extremely short focal length lenses and the cars will look distorted as hell. Of course if they are Italian supercars no-one will be able to tell, but the regular British and French sedans will look odd and it will be a dead giveaway.

Oakover Winery 2015 78

Likewise, if you park them with their back to the sun, most of the exposures will look too dark – we’ll end up trying to light the front of the car with a reflector or a fill flash and it will look most unnatural. Again the Flopatelli Snazolla III Supraeformaggio won’t suffer too badly, unless it is the open Monza version with the folding wings. And they look bad in ANY light.


We do appreciate the trust and kindness the drivers show by leaving the passenger’s side window down – the interior shots will be so much better – but if you can’t manage that, it’ll be all right anyway. We can boost the shutter speed to 1/180 second, stop down to f:16, and fire a fill flash up at the headliner from the quarter window position while the camera looks in through the side. It’ll be a little dirty but not too bad. If you leave empty beer cans and dirty novels on the front seat that is your affair.

Gillam Drive 2014 255

In exchange for these small changes we promise to take good pictures of the way your cars look. We will photoshop out the rust holes – unless you are driving a rat rod, in which case we will photoshop more in for free. We will draw a discreet curtain over the state of the interior floor.



I’m Not Happy, Carl.



You sure this is a good idea, Carl? I mean we could wait for another day, like. It’s not lookin’ good, Carl. Shouldn’t a picture for the cover of Hot Rod Honeys magazine be taken in the sunshine, eh?

Okay, okay, I take your point – since when does Wet Dog get sunshine…Yeah, well, we ain’t getting any sunshine right now so lets get the picture taken before it rains. I just waxed the Merc and I want to beat the rain back to the garage, so lets’s get shooting, eh?


You sure this is how to get into Car magazines? I mean, shouldn’t we have a girl or something like they do in California? Well, I thought YOU knew some girls. I know Brenda but she won’t pose for pictures. And her cousin Denise is back in Quebec. We coulda used Denise, it would look like California.

Uh, Carl, is this gonna get faster, ’cause that rain is coming, eh?


Jeez Carl, hurry it up. The rain is here. It’s getting wet inside. The upholstery is getting wet! I just paid for that upholstery! Carl!


Yeah, Carl. Ya know, I think when you have your next idea to break into the car magazine business…you oughta just have that idea sort of private, eh? I’m not happy, Carl…