Synchromesh

If you never learn another thing…learn to shift gears smoothly.

The people who have automatic transmissions miss this skill – they jerk their T-bar into ” D ” and just accept whatever the unseen mechanism decides to do. In some cases this is flawless work, but in some it is a drag upon their resources.

And it can be worse if they are steering a motor car. Those car transmissions need a lot of maintenance.

What? You though this was all about motor cars in the first place? Wrong – it is about life.

You’ll do lots of things in life that happen at different speeds and under different loads; you’ll be a little kid one day with no responsibilities and a school student next day – with the weight of the world on your shoulders. If you cannot shift smoothly from a 4-year-old centre of the universe to the 5-year-old who is in line and quiet, you have trouble.

Likewise when you transition from grade school to high school – high school to university or trade training – and so on through your lifetime. Be assured that you need a good deal of strategy and patience to make the leap from employed person to retired one. You need to plan to speed up one set of gears while you are slowing another down to get them to mesh properly – you need a mental Synchromesh.

My transition involved writing these columns  as well as hobby interests gathered over the years. I selected a couple that still resonated with me – ones that I could afford and could manage on a physical level. The result has been a smooth transition with no loss of traction. No gears grind and no teeth have broken off the idlers.

If I travel slower than before, and do not surmount such high hills of achievement, I can still take some comfort from the smoothness evident in the ride. It’ll stop one day, of course, but hopefully not from idleness or inattention.

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The Barn Find

Barn finds are either a type of motor car or fresh eggs…the proper thing to do with them is to either fry them or repaint them. This thought came to me this afternoon on Leach Highway when a car pulled along side me at the lights.

It was a Mitsubishi of indeterminate age, and it looked like it had been shot down over Bougainville in the 1940’s. When it went down it was probably in need of a wash. Apart from tip trucks, I have not seen a vehicle on the road that was covered in as much rubbish.

The disgusting condition may have been a cunning plan to avoid the attention of thieves in carparks…though it carried with it the danger of being taken for a derelict and getting towed to the wrecker’s yard. Yet there may have been nothing mechanically wrong with it.

Some cars get that way because some drivers just don’t care how things look. I must confess that my first car eventually needed a re-spray due to the paint deteriorating, and that was because I didn’t have enough time in a week to give it the wash and wax that the paints of the day needed. Yet it passed the seven years that I owned it with only very minor mechanical repairs needed. And the interior was lovely to the last.

I do think we have been ill-served in automotive finishes during some decades…and particularly by some makers. There was a rush to metallics and clear coats with some Japanese cars that proved premature. The number of blue-green and maroon cars with severe peeling and fading shows that it was more than just owner-error. And we have thankfully seen the last of the vinyl roof cover that trapped water underneath it. Vinyl has gone the way of the contact-adhesive walnut dashboard and as far as I am concerned the velour seat can follow it. Along with the dashboard that lights up like the CIC of an aircraft carrier.

And then there are the good points. My little Suzuki Swift has arrived at the end of its first seven years with the paint work largely intact. There have been a few bumper scratches but these have been touched up and the glow of the rest of the of the shell is undimmed. As Western Australian sun has grown stronger during the decades while my cleaning performance has hardly altered, this shows a corresponding improvement in the paint. I was initially dismayed to see that my choices were limited to a metallic colour, but time has proved it to be fine.

The Mobile Billboard

I was passed one day, on the inside, in rainy weather and heavy traffic, on a notoriously busy road by a person who used the old ploy of zooming up the road shoulder and then lurching into the lane. You’ve all had that at some stage of the game and cursed the fool who did it.

In this case the fool had an advertising screen attached to the back of her hatchback car – the type that are see-through but can carry signs and telephone numbers on the outside. I observed that it was one of the belly dancers that I take pictures of at dance shows.

I’m afraid this is probably another case of  the first-day-of-wet-weather syndrome in Perth. Edmonton and Calgary used to have a first-snow-day show of about the same sort. It paid to leave the car at home and take the bus that day.

Perhaps I can persuade this lady to take up driving in Alberta instead of here.

Another Bluebird Of Happiness

Only this one wasn’t made by Datsun. This is a Morris Minor of 1953…65 years later. Lets face it, Folks…none of us reading this looked as good when we were 65, whether we were bright blue or not.

I’ve commented before in this column that it is surprisingly to see many of the cars that we were familiar with in the 50’s and 60’s here in Australia taken up in the hot rod or custom scene. Oh yes, there are Ford Customlines and Holden Fj’s and such, but the percentage of Dodge or Chrysler is low and the percentage of British or French cars that also get taken into the fold are even fewer. Least considered are the Japanese imports of the time. Hot rodding can be surprisingly blinkered.

This makes a car that is as well turned out as this Morris Minor a real pleasure to see. It is of a size that can lend itself to some of the smaller modern engines – my brother-in-law built a MM ute with a Nissan engine and he was the fastest old man in Mandurah for a while. But every project eventually gets finished and his MM finally was…and then interest was lost…

Well, thankfully the man who made this blue beauty carried it through to a magnificent conclusion. I envy him not only the finish but the practicality of it. That was meant to be a small commercial hauler and it still is – albeit a faster one, with better seats. Given the modern tyres as well as engine and suspension parts, this would be a magnificent wanderers van for Western Australian summers.

Winters, however, in cars of this vintage can be a damp and misty experience. Ask anyone who has travelled in Perth in rain with a tea towel to wipe the steam off the inside of the windscreen  and listen to the historic language. The 60’s saw a complete industry of add-on demisters and heaters and none of them worked a damn. Eventually you just wound down the side windows and froze or swam your way to your destination.

When Someone Says ” Why The Hell Not? “

You end up with The Prospector.

You may have read magazine articles and books that said Australians are perfectly normal, everyday people, just like the rest of the world. Those magazines and books were lying. The Prospector was not made by, or for, normal people. It did not come off the design board of a major European car maker. It is not eco-friendly. It does not come in silver or beige and you cannot pick the children up from private school in it.

It also does not comply with the laws governing noise emission, smoke emission, or any form of occupational heath or safety. Indeed, the OH&S inspector hides behind the sofa and won’t answer the doorbell when someone comes to talk to him about The Prospector.

Some may question the utility of this form of transport in the metro area – well The Prospector comes from the Goldfields and they have enough utility out there to last for decades – they need a little play sometimes. Hence the truck drags. It makes a nice change from the drinking, gambling, and vice that occupies the rest of the week. And that’s just in the diocese – it gets worse out in the secular world…

Don’t get the wrong impression. The Goldfields is a wonderful district but you have to adapt yourself to the expectations of life out there. Many of us city people see it as tourists but fail to appreciate the real culture of the place – The Prospector brings a little of it down to us at the coast.

Note: The engine that you see slung between the rails at the back with the enormous exhaust and other piping is just for show – the real motor is a 1954 four-cylinder Austin behind the louvres of the yellow bonnet. They like to keep it hidden in case the opposition see it and take fright.

 

1000 MPH Standing Still

One day I hope to be able to brag ” I seen it.”

It? A car that has broken the Australian and World land speed record. I’ve done the first part of the work by going to the West Australian Hot Rod Show and looking at the Aussie Invader. Now I just sit and wait until Mr. McGlashan does the rest.

There is no mistaking this for your average car…even for your average racing car…actually there’s no mistaking this for your average land speed record car. It is just that different. Metal wheels with no tyres, liquid fuel rocket engine, front trim canards, rear fin, and a tiny little space in the middle for the pilot.

Pilot? Don’t you mean driver? At 1000 miles per hour and supersonic on a mud flat I mean pilot. They have astronauts in space at this sort of speed and aeronauts in the air – I think Mr. McGlashan can very fairly title himself as an autonaut.

Note the ” debut ” sticker on the cockpit of the car. I didn’t get a chance to ask whether they will tow the car away at the end of the show or let it drive out under its own power. I’ll be listening out Sunday night…

I also looked as hard as I could but did not see the blue touch paper…

The New Ride

Travis Corich, the genius at Pinhead Kustoms, has a new ride.

He confessed that he always has several in the stocks – we saw his other ute last year and now there is a new one to see. I belive it is a 1938 Chevy half ton pickup with additional strakes added to the roof of the cab. If I’m wrong Travis can write in and correct me.

As you can see it is still not carrying a front WA license so there may be more to be done – or perhaps it was just taken off for the show. As you can tell, however, the finish is the thing and as Travis is engaged in striping and painting for others, his vehicles act as rolling signboards.

The interior is well in keeping with the mild customizing of the exterior – no gaudy space-age decor. I do not see a radio or MP4 player – perhaps Travis does what I do when I drive – hums and whistles along to himself.