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.

 

Advertisements

Heavy Duty Macaroon Carrier

Australia is viewed by the rest of the world as a rugged country. Not, perhaps in Sydney during Mardi Gras, but for the most part we are seen as croc wrestlers and outback types. Most of us accept this for what it is hype – and just go about our daily lives mowing lawns and doing overtime at the bottle shop. I do mine on the buying side of the counter…

But for the car manufacturers, the myth and legend must have had a strong appeal. We have seen, in my lifetime on the road, such bizarrities as fake Kubelwagens, corgi-like Jeep copies, and a Japanese 4WD that only drove on 2 of those W’s and was so narrow it would fall over in a breeze.

The car in this report is the BMC Mini Moke. Originally designed as a military vehicle along the likes of a Jeep, it had nether the ground clearance nor the drive train to succeed. It might have made an admirable deck tug for British aircraft carriers when they had them, but the thought of it going through eastern European mud is hilarious. I think it would bottom out on a snail.

nevertheless, It could be made and sold in great quantities to the colonies as a utility vehicle. As long as you did not have to cross a railway track at speed, it was admirable.

This example seems to have been modified with dual rear axles – to what purpose I cannot say. The drive is still in the front, clawing along like a Mini Minor. The owner has done a wonderful job of it and I envy him the tray space back there. If this is a vehicle that travels over tarmacs at the airports with tools and parts in the back housings, it is perfectly suited. I cannot tell you what might be in the flat drawers, but spanners, postage stamps, or macaroons come to mind.

The office in the front is immaculate, and you have to admire the wood-rimmed wheel. It looks a fun car to drive in fine weather. I’ll bet it has returned every bit of enjoyment that the owner anticipated when he bought it – and I’ll bet he could sell it for the same price right now.

 

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.

A Small Amount Of Prejudice

Brockman2015161

I really should be ashamed of myself – prejudice being one of the sins that we most condemn in modern society. Mind you, some societies that exist in modern times celebrate prejudice and would see me as correct…Well, bless or curse as you wish – I am guilty.

I have never driven a Mini. I have seen them here in Perth since 1965 and have yet to set my bottom in one of the seats – except for a brief trial in the Ilich Motors showroom on Canning Highway in 1966. Put it down to about 4 minutes worth of seat time. In those 4 minutes I conceived a lifelong dislike for the car.

Brockman2015132

And isn’t that a foolish thing to do! I love little cars – the kleinwagens of the auto world get all my attention – indeed I own a small sedan right now and would not trade it for a BMW or Mercedes. But not Minis.

The 4 minutes were spent while shopping for my first car. I saw a vast variety of vehicles that were better and worse than the Mini – Hillmans, Isuzus, Renaults, FIATs,VWs, and Cortinas all were carefully studied and dissected. Even the Lightburn Zeta was inspected…but the Mini never made it to the 5 minute mark. Why?

Whiteman 2014 77

Wasn’t the sporty nature of the car or the reputation it had – that was a plus in my mind in those silly days. Wasn’t the size of it – I quite like the small cars. Wasn’t the square shape or the retro styling ( Was anything retro in those days? ). Certainly it wasn’t the price because they were quite cheap.

It was the interior appointments. The sort of appointments that reminded you of…well, of an appointment in a proctology clinic. Comfortless and plain. The instruments, such as they were, were set in a central cluster and required you to look down and away from the road to see them. And you weren’t rewarded with any luxury when you did. They looked like something the Italians would have rejected. The thought that they were connected somewhere to British electricity was another sobering thought. I had seen British electricity in Land Rovers in Canada and heard the Master Mechanic of a large construction firm discuss what he thought of the designers. He was a man with definite words…

Whiteman 2014 79

The clincher was when I turned my head and looked sideways at the headliner as it crossed the B pillar of the car – near the seat belt bracket. The head liner had not even been tucked into itself around the edge – just left to quietly fray away on the painted metal. Remembering the finish on everything else, save the Zeta, I gently climbed out of the seat and slid out the showroom door.

Please note that this was the old Minis. The newer ones may have improved. There were many cars from BMC in the intervening years and right now BMW seems to have revived the Mini name with a car that has many of the same external design clues as the original. Perhaps it is time to go look inside again. Dear old Ilich is gone but there must be other enterprising car lots.

Get Outa Here! Slowly…

Brockman2015143

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.

Brockman2015144

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…

Brockman2015148

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…

Brockman2015157

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.

Brockman2015150

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.

Brockman2015170

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

_DSC2378

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.

DSCF0096

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.

Brockman201593

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.

 

 

Getting Less For Your Money and Loving It

Victorian Hot Rod 2015 291

It is difficult to sell the idea of minimal living isn some markets – and particularly for some products. This is borne home to me each day in our camera shop and even more on the roads as I drive to work and home again.

I am surprised at this – as I am a a fan of the Bauhaus designs and the minimalist styles of the great Scandinavian furniture designers. Not, I hasten to add, the IKEA people – the more artistic of their forebears.

I can appreciate the house styles of the 50’s and 60’s – and some of the motor car designs of the times. and I wish fervently that they could be preserved for our own use.

Consider – I purchased a small French motor car in 1966. It had a small 1100 cc engine, four wheel independent suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the best seats in any car I have ever driven. More was not needed – more would have been excessive. It had rubber floor mats, a small AM radio, and no air conditioning. I’ll grant you the comfort of the last named in today’s world, but the other two can stand. None of us need 16 channels of pumping bass to go to the shops nor do we need unborn-Persian kitten wool deep shag carpet or leather seats . Not if we live in the real world.

Nor do we need to go 150 km/hr, even if we are rushing to our mistresses in Margaret River – mistresses can wait. We do not need to rush to them in 20 tonne SUV concoctions – there are paved roads all the way. We do not need metallic gold/bronze black $ 4000 paint jobs either – plain light colours will do the trick and not need two surgeons and the Master of the Royal Academy to retouch stone chips.

A light on the front in the daytime may make us safer, but it need only by one light – not an LED sneer or cartoon eyeballs glaring at the rest of the world.

Spoiler? Generally it does – leave it off. Large exhausts? With 1100-1600 cc you don’t need  the tailpipe of a MiG 23.

You can suit yourself if you put a stick family on the rear window – they are cheap enough and harmless enough – even if they do raise the ire of the judgemental. Likewise “Save The Whatever ” stickers. Save away. As long as the stickers are not obscuring forward vision you can make your self as visible and risible as you like. Even the Bundy stickers have a purpose – they enable the cops to see who to target in the pub car park.

In short. Drive less, drive smaller, drive cheaper, drive slower and drive quieter. Drive more carefully, and drive better for it.