Doesn’t Matter If It Is A Front Porsche Or A Back Porsche…

It’ll still be grey…

That’s an old Canadian joke, and I’m qualified to tell it. In North America there are three colours for the front or back porch of a private dwelling; unpainted  ( and weathering badly…), grey, or salmon pink.

The unpainted ones are seen in the hillbilly states where money is tight and in the New England states where there is more money but the people are tight. They are also traditional in the maritime provinces and out in the bush in B.C. Doukhobors take it further and never paint anything else on the house – it means they blend into the landscape better when the Mounties come searching.

The grey ones painted with a special mixture that consists of any paint in the garage that has not entirely dried out and is contained in a tin that can be prised open. All the blacks, whites, greys, and lesser colours are poured into a tub and mixed up – this gets slathered over the porch. Sometimes it is glossy and sometimes it is matte, and if you don’t get it all done in one day you risk getting both finishes at the same time. No-one ever cleans and saves their brushes after a porch job – it is generally considered hygienic enough to throw them in the nearest bushes.

The salmon pink is also a mixture made from all the brightly coloured tins that have been left over after painting bathtubs, soap box racers, and Finnish houses. It is distinctive and memorable, and no-one ever really thinks it is going to turn out that shade. Not even the salmon. Note that one car maker actually made a car – a small Hyundai sedan – in this exact shade, and they made them deliberately…at least I think it was deliberate. I can say I have seen them about 10 years ago here in Perth. Short-lived, unfortunately.

These vehicles are enthusiast’s cars seen in Sydney and Perth at car shows – though there are certainly a number of Porsche vehicles on the road at any one time – including a somewhat unexplained SUV with curves named after a variety of pepper. My contact with the marque has been very fleeting – an associate of my late father owned a bathtub Porsche in 1966 and there were some occasions when it was repaired enough to go on the main roads. I believe it had prestige value at the time, though the real value may have lain in the pile of receipts from the mechanics. I remember he had the rubber shock mounts between the body and chassis replaced at one stage of the game and the cost equalled the price of my new Renault sedan.

Have I ever wanted to own or drive one? Not really. I do covet the Audi TT and I would love an early 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle in perfect condition, but the sporty Porsche has never rung my bells. I remember James Dean.




The Little World – You Need Not Listen When They Tell You…

Do you remember when they used to tell you things? Like not to sniff glue or make sure that the drill was grounded before you ran it through the wiring? You always assumed that someone knew better than you and that they were telling you something for your own good. That was what they wanted you to think.

Pretty much how North Korea and your local Centrelink office do right now…and hasn’t that worked out well…

So now I am going to suggest that you cross the flux streams, cut the red wire, and make up your own damn mind about what to do with your hobby. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Case in point: I needed to paint the front of the Goldfisch Tivoli cinema on my latest diorama – a light blue with dark trimming. It’s a large fascia, and there was no way it was going to get done on one bottle of Tamiya acrylic paint – and no-one else had a light blue matt paint anyway. So I determined to mix my own, which is what they tell you never to do. Sort of like ” Don’t sail west Christopher, or you’ll fall off the edge…”.

Good cheap paint is hard to come by these days. If it’s good, it has a price tag that looks like a phone number. If it’s cheap it has the consistency of sewage. But you can indeed find the right combo if you go for the pots of sample paints that the good paint makers put out. They are tasters to let you get hooked on their big-ticket pots…but if you are a Little Worlder and prepared to do the old Dr. Chemistry dance, you can make them into custom colour.

I got the plain white Dulux in a sample pot for $ 2.00 off the clearance shelf. I already had used one on another structure and cleaned out the empty pot. Into this crucible went  1/3 of the sample white, 60ml of water, a little Tamiya X-20A thinner, and a couple of dollops of Tamiya Flat Blue. The important thing about mixing custom colours is not the exact shade that you get, but making sure that you mix enough into the pot for the entire job. Sacrifice 10 ml at the end if you must, but do not run dry at the last post and try to re-mix it. You will fail.

Okay, ingredients in place and shake mixing all done, it was time to apply the stuff. it was going on foam-core board that had been prepped with Tamiya undercoat so it was bound to go on fairly evenly. But there was no way I was going to try to thrust this soup through my airbrushes. Fortunately I had a set of foam brushes from Bunnings – laughably cheap trim items that you would think were just throw-away junk.

Not a bit of it. Given a medium thin mixture of flat paint, the Chinese foam brush is an awesome implement. I got even coverage and no bubbles. Easy clean up, and the brush looks untouched. All this for pennies!

The front of the Tivoli is done. The coat is great and the trim strips are setting it off marvellously. All-up it might have cost $ 1.75, and for the nollekins modeller, that is extremely good news.

The Canvas Car

Well not exactly, though I will take a little time later in this column to tantalize you with a real canvas car…But right now I am thinking about cars as mobile canvases for artwork – the increasingly complex business of showing pictures on sheet metal.

Every hot rod car show I have attended in the last 4 years has had graphic cars – you’ll have seen some of them over that time here on the weblog column. Here are two examples from the 2107 WA Hot Rod Show just gone. They are representative of two motifs but there are many more that can be found.

a. The black Holden ute with Thor on the bonnet and sides. Thor would appear to be a character from either television or the cinema translated to a graphic on the black paint of the car. He is more than a cartoon here, as the screen version is more so – this is a live actor reproduced. Colourful, violent, and dramatic, he would appeal to many of the hot rod hobby and well as to a wide cross-section of the viewing audience.

b. The yellow Holden tray top. A nationalistic theme here, and a rural one, fully in keeping with the nature of the tray, if not of the vehicle. I mean, who could be so mean as to take something as beautiful as this car and slam it over railway crossings and down gravel roads, let alone out in a paddock. As far as loading cargo on the tray and/or unloading it by tilting it…well, would you use the Mona Lisa as a tea tray? Sacrilege.

I will make another post about some of the other artworks seen on cars, but these two are particularly noticeable because the car takes second place to the canvas. As with any art, no debate is possible about the goodness or badness of theme or concept – art is in the eye of the beholder.

But here is the real canvas car I promised…

The Golden Woodie Part 1

Every car show has a gem buried at its heart. These are sometimes flagged by the show organisers and sometimes you just have to find them for yourself. This year at the Perth hot rod show I found the golden woodie. It is for me a true evocation of a custom car.

Just a moment for two asides – if you go to the motoring bookshops you can find very nice illustrated books of the classic 1950’s and 60’s custom cars from North America. Lots of famous names – Barris, Winfield, etc. Sometimes there are colour photos of the cars, though at the time the colour processes were both expensive and rare…and we miss out of seeing some of the images. I like to think that there are 35mm Kodachrome and Kodachrome II slides out here in private collections that still do show the colours of the time accurately. Maybe not taken with all the skill of a pro magazine shooter, but first-rate records nevertheless. If anyone comes across old car photos of any kind they should never throw them out – someone will benefit from them right now.

But the second aside…well a couple of the books I have show some pretty extensive customising done in California in those eras but they are painfully blunt in showing what are some pretty awful design choices. I know, I know – each to their own taste…but if that is the case then some of the tastes evinced by home builders were pretty bizarre. And not just home builders – the big custom boys sometimes reached out for novelty far further than aesthetics could follow. It’s the same with music and clothing tastes of that time and the place – some cause nostalgia and some cause rectalgia.

But enough of the asides. They only serve to point up what I really want to say about this car; it is a truly delightful design and very well executed. I should have wished to see it displayed on a plinth in a compound of its own.

The sign board identified the original chassis as a 1946 Ford Sportsman. It’s been chopped, sectioned, re-engined, and re-suspended. I’ll let you read the sign yourself. And thank you to Valmae and Peter for summarising it at the show – it makes it all the more enjoyable if you know what the bits are.

Okay – wooden bodies – particularly New Guinea Rose Wood ones – are not all that common in the car parks around Bull Creek. Probably just as well, considering what the local drivers can do with the doors of their Toyota 4WD’s. I can only imagine that it must take some rather special maintenance even in the country to keep up the smooth shine. Full marks as well, for the colour paint decision – the rosewood with varnish wants delicate treatment in the metal areas to keep it looking elegant – this Aztec Gold cum bronze is perfect.

Likewise, the temptation to stripe, scallop, flame, or fade is one that every hot rod or custom builder must face. Some give in to siren song of the colourful side and throw decoration at every panel that will hold paint. It’ll work in some cases, but in others they risk losing sight of the lines in the conflicting paint patterns. This car is perfect for the flowing scallop that you see here – indeed square fender Fords of the period nearly always look good with straight scallops. It just seems to echo with our memories of those custom car magazines of the 50’s…I mean the good ones.

Whoops. Is that the time? I’ll have to show you the details tomorrow…



The Little World – Meets the Big World

And they do not meet at the hobby shop – they meet at the DIY shop – the Home Depot – the ironmonger’s – the Bunnings. And you have to be ready when they do.

We are accustomed in the Little World to being done. In some cases over, and in some cases like a dinner. We have long realised that our wallets and purses are merely containers for someone else’s money. We have patronised hobby shops, dollhouse shops, gamers shops, and toy stores for decades in the sure and certain knowledge that we couldn’t possibly live without whatever it is that has taken our eye, and that it will also take our drinking – and in many cases our eating – money for a month or more. We swim up to the counter with mouths open and gasping for goodies. We’re like human goldfish. No need to be koi about it…

But it need not be so. We can be modellers, miniaturists, and collectors without becoming the natural fodder of the hobby shop. All we need to do is adjust our viewpoint and our scale.

As you get bigger in scale, the designs, materials, and techniques employed get much closer to real life. And they get, surprisingly , cheaper. Oh, it is more expensive to buy a 1:1 scale Chrysler hemi engine than it is to buy a 1:24th scale model, but the reverse is the case when all you want is corrugated iron. And when it comes to paints, scale equates in a logarithmically reverse order to price. If you painted a Ford Prefect in 1:1 with pots of Tamiya paint it would come out to the price of a Bugatti Veyron.

So. So take advantage of the low prices on paint when you need it for a 1:18th, 1:12th, or 1:6th structure or vehicle. You can get perfectly good coverage for any of these in the hardware store. Bucket or spray can, the paint can be made to look scale-correct with a bit of thinning and in the case of some of the enamel sprays can do a damn sight better job than an airbrush. You can score sample pots of paint and complete a whole project for $ 5.

Likewise fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts, and odd bits of casting made for many other purposes can all be swung into battery with the larger scales and at hardware shop prices. The oak strip wood and moulding racks are your friend and even the humble MDF stacks can be the materials of your dreams…if you dream big.

I have yet to find a good scale reason for regular doorknobs and bags of chicken manure, but I’m still thinking about it. At least in Australia you need not think hungry – Bunnings does a regular sausage sizzle on Saturday that most of us regard as sacred. Sacred with onions.

A Repeated Pleasure

I rarely go on a repeat visit to a motor car show…because most of the ones I see are one-day affairs. But the major indoor shows do run over a couple of days, and this time called for a the second run into Claremont Showground to the West Australian event. I am glad I did it, as it saved me money and made me friends.

My first day there was a test day for a lens from the Fujifilm company – a top-quality professional thing that promises to be all lenses to all men…I was curious to see if I should get one and never take it off the camera. I enjoyed using it and laid down a solid 300+ images which I’ll share in due course. The second day I took a lens I already use to compare it with the pro version. Again shooting many of the same cars, and taking time to seek out others that I had missed. These days the processing once you get home is fast enough to have it all done in three hours and the results side by side on the screen.

And what do you know – the pro version doesn’t really look any better than the enthusiast glass. Same colours, same sharpness. And the enthusiast version has the advantage of a longer optical range and a stabilising mechanism within it. There might be some difference visible if I was making wall-sized prints but I don’t – and for the things that I do, the one I own is just dandy.

The other good thing that happened is that I met a Lady from california who does custom painting – Katt put a set of hot rod scallops on the front bezel of my new Fujifilm EF-X500 flash. I now own pinstripe, flames, and scallops. If I ever get to the point where I am taking my studio Elinchrom strobe units out to car shows I will get Travis Corich to change them from standard Swiss grey to candy apple or Metalflake. Metalflake holds no terrors for Travis. That’s his work on the ” Tequila Sunrise ” model T bucket and it has proved a winner.

And finally, I hope to see a new Hot Rod Honey and her husband in the studio too – I met them whilst she was touring the clothing and accessory stands at the show. I’m glad I had my iPad along to show off previous results and to brag a bit. If the lady from California comes back to WA I hope to recruit her to the studio too.

Featured Image: Anglia outside.


The Little World – The Gang Sign

You can recognise Yakuza in Japan by two things – missing fingers or finger joints and the wide berth that the rest of the citizens give them. I often wonder how my father would have been treated – he had a finger that had been frozen in a curve by contact with the wrong part of an electric dragline motor in the 1940’s and it made for an interesting handshake.

As far as gang sign recognition using the hands, I believe a good deal of it goes on in the United States – particularly on the west coast.  Some of it is extended fingers, strange gestures, and secret meanings – some of it is simple pulling of triggers on handguns. All of these serve to let you know that you are seeing cultural diversity at its best.

Here in Australia we have the secret motorist’s sign that indicates some trenchant criticism of the other driver. Different states use different numbers of fingers, but the message is pretty universal.

Oddly enough, a thumbs-up is generally good, particularly if it is being exchanged between two motorists travelling in opposite directions. You can see it being practiced when they meet if one flashes their headlights briefly, and particularly if this flashing takes place down the road from an RBT or speed camera location.

For model makers  at conventions I think we must also have a secret sign – something beyond the smell of paint and the blobs of dried glue all down our fronts. I propose a ceremonial cut that can be displayed to indicate that one is initiated into the mysteries. In this case the mystery of why a blade that will not dent balsa will cut fingers cleanly…Surgeons rarely achieve such precision and I know because I used to wield a scalpel on the unconscious myself.

At the very least, scratchbuilders should display a deep scratch somewhere – eyeglass frames, scalp, or groin depending upon where their basic interests lie. That, and a pocket of purloined coffee stirring sticks, should mark them in any convention.

R/C flyers and drone pilots could come with their heads bandaged up and one eye sewn shut to indicate the fact that they have graduated from hand-thrown balsa gliders to something with real destructive power with out developing any caution in the meantime.

Model railway enthusiasts could display a forefinger – they will be using it to push the expensive locomotive over the dead section of track anyway. Not only useful, but decorative…particularly if there is a soldering-iron burn on the end of it, and there will be…

No gang sign needed for the enthusiastic airbrush and spray paint expert. You’ll be able to hear their lungs wheezing and rattling from the other side of the hall. The odour of toluene that seeps from them when they burp will just be confirmation.

How shall we know a collector? Ah, that’s a problem, if they are the sort who does not modify their models. Perhaps just open the meeting by throwing a cardboard box into the bin and see who goes and picks it out again.