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.

 

The Little World Has A Win

The Little World is rarely a sad place – normal life has enough of that to fill the rest of the day – when I turn to my model-building hobby and photography I get to be happy and interested. And to occasionally score a victory.

This week saw two of those times – a simple discovery in the local hardware shop of a bargain source of material and the equally simple discovery of a part for a model that is provided by a yoghurt company.

The first success was in finding a small, cheap source of paint for model buildings. As I build in 1:18th and 1:12th scale, I do need a fair amount of paint sometimes – unlike the 1:43rd and 1:64th builders who can pretty much paint anything with pots of Tamiya, Humbrol, or Mr Hobby acrylics. They are fine paints but only come in smallish bottles and spray cans – they are best reserved for vehicles and delicate detail parts. I need to cover foamcore board buildings.

Bunnings – the local get-your-fix place for builders and fixers – has lots of paints but the smallest tins of standard acrylics are about 1 litre and start out costing $ 25.00 – $ 30.00. If your basic building cost is $ 20.00 that’s a big ask. What I was delighted to find this week were $ 2.00 pots of Dulux paint in various shades of white. They are a proper semi-matt paint intended as samples and testers. But a $ 2.00 pot is more than enough to paint even a big 1:18th building.

The joyous thing is that they are thin-able with water, and tint-able. I am going to try a few squirts of the Vallejo acrylic colour into a half pot and see if I can come up with a good Nile Green for a service building.

They also respond very well to foam brushes, either roller or flat, and the brushes wash out really well at the end. It’s a whole new chapter in Little World decoration.

Now for the second score – I needed roof ventilators for the model sound studio I was building  – something like the Whirly-Bird extractor fans we have in Australia. My daughter’s boyfriend came up with the part – they are the tops cut off Chobani yoghurt packets. Rinsed, sawn apart, and spray painted, they have started to do duty on the sound stage building of The Goldfisch Studios.  And they cost nothing at all…a good price.

Don’t be alarmed if I fossick through your rubbish on Bin Night. I am just modelling frugally.

 

46 Years At Bunnings

And Boy! Was that ever a long line at the cashiers…! I went out tonight for some epoxy glue and two sample pots of Dulux paint to my old standard Bunnings store. It’s the Australian equivalent of Home Depot. They do DIY hardware supplies as well as trade materials and homewares. You can pretty well figure on finding some way to do something with the tools or materials there – even if you do not do it as well as a professional.

It is also the male equivalent of the perfume and makeup counters at Myers…you walk past rows of tempting tools and find yourself fingering the impact drills when you really only came there for a paintbrush. It is a marketing approach that the supermarkets use to make you pass by the chocolates and chips on the way to the broccoli. For all I know, Bunnings may sell broccoli.

The shock of the evening came when I realised that I have been buying things from that location for 47 years.It’s expanded somewhat in the time but the core supply of MDF board, paint, and glue have seen me through innumerable models and structures. They never have exactly what you want in a quantity that precisely fits your project – forcing you to compromise or overbuy nuts, bolts, washers, etc. IKEA do this too. In the end if you live long enough and make enough garden furniture you can use up the spare iron.

I don’t build lawn furniture, but I have furnished two houses and a studio through this shop.

Two things I will complement them on – they have managed to source light-duty cheap power tools at extremely inexpensive prices. The hard-users will be disappointed in the Ozito brand, but we hobbyists who under-run most tools will get good value.The trick is to never buy cheap drill bits or abrasive tools for these – the thing that does the cutting must be top-notch.

And the other thing – bless them for staying open to 9:00 PM most week nights. Easter will be a mess, but not too bad – as long as you stock up on sanding belts and tiger bolts  on Thursday you can make it through Friday.