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…



How To Be Well Red


I am starting to think that the best cars at any car show are not to ones you pay $ 25 to see. They are not the ones inside the exhibition hall. They are the ones out in the car park that the enthusiastic owners have driven in…so that they can go inside themselves for $ 25.

This has long been the case for the Victorian Hot Rod Show in Melbourne at the end of January but now I see it happening with the Gillam Drive show out in Armadale.

Now you don’t pay $ 25 to see Gillam Drive because; a. There is no Gillam Drive Hot Rod Show committee , b. There is no-one to take the money, and c. No-one would pay anyway. Instead, you are expected to buy something at the lunch shop half-way along the Drive and also to spend a bit of cash at the tee-shirt and auto accessory stalls. Plus you pay in pain and panting as the Drive is always 59º Celsius by 10:00 and goes up after that…


But early on, before the tyres started to melt, I passed by this lovely Mustang in one of the outer car parks. It really deserved to be in the centre of things.

We all know the phrase ” Candy Apple ” and use it indiscriminately to apply to many sorts of metallic paint jobs. Usually we are being inaccurate with it though these days the dividing line between different forms of finish is blurring. The original candy apple jobs were spectacular but could be rather short-lived as pigments became fugitive and fading occurred. Legends have paint jobs fading within months of application and not evenly either. It all depended upon UV exposure and expansion and contraction. The addition of metal flakes, pearl sludge, and other visuals plus the differentiations that started to come from different manufacturers of paint made for some real successes as well as failures.

Stock colours were no better in some cases. The rose-metallic paint fiasco for Oldsmobile in 1960 with cars needing entire resprays while displayed on dealer’s lots was a real thing.


But when the candy apple job was good – really good, and the tint chosen was a classic like this red – the effect was to make the entire car stand out above all others. No-one didn’t like a good candy apple red. Some cars wore it better than others – 50’s Ford sedans and 60’s muscle cars were good, as were classic ’32 roadsters. Even Indy cars that got red as part of their multi-colour scheme benefitted from candy apple.


As far as the term classic goes, look at the wheel choice this builder has gone with. Perfect stance, perfect grip. Perfect balance of shiny rim with dull spoke.

This makes the heat all worth while.


From Those Wonderful People Who Brought You…


The Advertising Minds are a frightening thing for most of us to contemplate. At various times they have sold us chocolate Cream Of Wheat, Pokemon, Hitler, and the 1949 Crosley Hotshot car. Had they been able to arrange conference times for the various agencies involved, they probably would have been able to work them all into one campaign…



Occasionally they went beyond this, as this model entry into the 2016 Super Model Car Sunday proves. It documents, and illustrates, the use of a Ford Mustang convertible in an advertising promotion on an observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City.


Hint: there is no drive -in access ramp to the observation deck of the Empire State. You cut the car into pieces, put them into the freight elevator, press the button, and listen to the Muzak. At the top you bolt it together for the advertising shot. Then you heave the carcass over the edge of the observation deck, wait until the crashing and screaming dies down, and leave town.


There is another story to it, but this is my column and you have to read what I write.


My compliments to the modelling team who decided to depict this in a tin shed. I am particularly taken with the depiction of the green marble of the lobby. I have no idea whether this is authentic, but I approve of the look of it


And I cannot praise the decision to include the giant gorilla enough. If they would like to have him circled with biplanes I can recommend the ” Classic Planes ” S.P.A.D. as inexpensive and colourful – almost the right scale as well.



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.



Personal Car – A New Series


Ford did it. Or rather, Ford said it – in 1955.

They introduced the Ford Thunderbird two-seater motor car to try to recapture some of the market from the British and European sports cars and the Chevrolet Corvette. The first T Birds were not sports cars in the true sense, any more than the Corvette was. But they were desirable vehicles never the less and deserved a name. The manufacturer’s had long since cycled through words like “roadster”, “convertible’, “speedster”, and “coupe” and they had taken on meanings of their own. In the case of the Thunderbird something new was needed – Deerborn came up with “personal car” and advertised it as that.

Well, it took the imagination, as the Mustang did a generation later, and Ford profited mightily because of it. In both cases the original lithe design eventually bagged, sagged, and dragged into gross parodies, but the phrase is just as good as it was – indeed it can be used now for all sorts of things.

“Personal Car” is a broad category, and I intend to celebrate as many corners of it as I can explore. As a working definition I ntend to regard any vehicle that has been modified – however slightly – to the whim or the taste of the owner as a “personal car”. This means it will act as a lens to let us see something of the mind of the driver. We can approve or not – but we still look.

And so I show the first of the personal cars – in this case a Ford Thunderbird seen at the recent Father’s Day Hot Rod show in Fremantle. The owner has elected to keep it pretty standard as far as external presentation. Unfortunately the format of the show grounds didn’t let us see into the interior to see if the car had fuzzy dice on the dashboard or cruising lights – we must just use our imaginations.

The colour scheme looks authentic – indeed I think I recall a hit of the 50’s that featured a black and white T Bird as the heart’s desire of the The Delicates – they were going to drive up and down the boulevard ” happy as we can be “. They were less than complimentary about the motor as they used the refrain ” Putt Putt Putt…” Presumably FoMoCo forgave them for the gaffe in exchange for the publicity.

Want to cruise? This is the car. Nothing that goes down the road under a hard top these days makes you look as cool as this. The 888 Winthrop and Leeming cowboys will fade away into the background. Likewise the Subarude WRX pests. This is a car that has existed longer than they have been eating solid food, and shows them where it all came from. And where they can go.


That’s personal. The best kind of personal.

Here I Sit, About To Uncork Her…


Ready to launch another New Yorker…

Pardon me for that piece of disreputable poetry. It was caused by the discovery of yet another Chrysler sedan at the recent Nostalgia Drags. You’ll have read my little post on the Chrysler Newport that appeared at a local bogan show – the unusual greenhouse and massive proportions of it catching the attention.


Well, this New Yorker is undoubtedly of the same vintage but look at the difference a four-door configuration and a longer roof line makes. The square nature of the slab sides and the square sculpture are still there – but the whole has a much more balanced appearance. I was relieved to see that the quirky oddities like the Imperial LeBaron headlamp housing have not carried forward this far. They were distinctive and all, but suggested more straining after effect than good design.

I have been puzzled recently at the number of left-hand-drive vehicles that have appeared on Western Australian roads. there have always been a few-occasioned by the importation of personal vehicles by staff at the American submarine communication base at Exmouth in the 1960’s and 70’s. They would have their Mustangs or Rivieras sent over by the US Navy and then sell them off when they had completed their tours of duty. Some were converted to right-hand-drive but some always seemed to be getting about with the original configuration. Big ugly signs on the back to warn you – ” Left Hand Drive”.


I had always been told that the cars had to be converted to RHD in a specified time or face being banned from the road. Apparently that was so, but in the 1980’s someone successfully challenged it with the Licensing Division and now the LHD cars can remain uncut. It must make for some difficult driving decisions if the cars are as big as the Chryslers, and I daresay any accidents would be immediately put down to the LHD situation – bad luck if it was you at the wheel. I’ll bet they score a hefty insurance cost…

Well, at least they can look good at car shows. And cruising on a big road they would be awesome. All the prestige of the low-rider but none of the hazards going over a railway crossing. And cruising into a petrol station would be another story…

BTW: Two-tone. Go-on – admit you love it.


Down ‘t Snake Pit


I should never have thought of the Willeton Reserve as a snake pit. At least not in the same way as the old Scarborough Snake Pit – the seaside carpark and milk bar haunt of the Bodgies and Widgees here in Perth. FB Holdens, California Poppy, and illicit brownies of Swan under the seat. Col Joye and the Joy Boys…low class fun for the lower classes. Not like the Cobra Club.

Well, apart from the money aspect of it, the Cobra Club has a better mechanical basis. The cars may be authentic or counterfeit or anything in between as a previous post mentioned but their shape is nearly perfect for a mid-60’s sports car. The combination of a big Ford engine with sensible electrics and fuel feed means that for once more power was available when needed. The body shape and fitments were derived from English practise  with as many concessions to comfort as could be excused by the enthusiasts. The need for lightening up and minimising the interiors did not exist but in most cases the fitters did not give in to the Thunderbird syndrome – the cars still stayed true to the English sports car mould.


This car epitomises the moderate-racer Cobra. Of course there is a big Ford engine, and someone who likes doing Rubik’s Cube in the dark with their hands tied in a potato sack decided that they would have a total of eight carbies to tune. I bet they sleep in a coffin filled with the earth of their country…if they sleep at all. Of course it might be that only one of the carbies actually passes petrol – the others might be made of rubber and are just stuck on for looks.

Moving right along, the external view shows a great many large exhaust pipes. The ankle burns are considered a badge of honour in the Cobra Club. Sneaking home late at night and gliding silently into the garage before the wife wakes up is not an option here.


The interior is quasi-spartan, though there is carpet and fuzzy-butt seats. The harnesses are actually pirate sword belts taken from Captain Kidd. The wooden-rimmed wheel is extremely classy and I am delighted to see that the owner has opted for no radio. I hope he opts for no texting on his iPhone. The aluminium door panels and leather opening straps are a little Battle of Britainish for me but then I drive a small Suzuki…I always smile when I see the fire extinguisher. Many of us find that we can drive our Suzukis for years without having to put them out…

All things said, it is a fine car. I hope the owner races it in the vintage section and preserves it from harm. It is a delightful possession.