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…

 

 

Dead Cool Legends On A Dead Cold Night

There are car people and there are car people. You can separate them into different camps according to the sort of cars they favour, but eventually you have two sorts; they ones who will stay at home on a 12º cold night and the ones that will come out to a petrol station car park to meet up. You may decide for yourself which are the crazy ones.

Here is some of the cool crop:

I bugged out after my fingers froze, but the enthusiasts were still rolling in. Bless them and here’s to an early and warm spring to make the next meet a more comfortable one.

Who Do You Trust?

A better question…who trusts you?

I live within a mile radius of two petrol stations – a BP and a Shell – and have lived here since 1985. The service stations both have multiple pumps that you operate yourself…because no-one pumps petrol for you any more. You fill your tank, or run a preset on the pump, go into the station, pay, and go away. They want you to buy chocolates, drinks, fan belts and little deodorant pine trees so they make you pass by all the goodies before you get to the pay counter, but the idea is pretty much the same for both stations.

But today a new set of signs on the outermost pumps of the BP. You must pay before you pump or leave your car keys with the attendant. This suggests that they are worried about drive-off thefts of petrol. As I had pulled up to the inner face of the outer pumps before seeing the sins I philosophically pulled my wallet out, checked that I had money, and trudged to the door.

The door didn’t open. It took a half-minute of stepping back, letting the attendant see me clearly, then stepping in…and stepping back…before the lock was released.

I wondered if there was something about my car – a green Suzuki Swift – or my appearance – 69-year-old man in plaid shirt, trousers, braces, and flat cap – that alarmed her. I asked, but she said  ” No “. I paid a $ 20 bill and went back out to pump the $ 20 of petrol into the Suzuki.  So far, just a minor annoyance.

Then I observed another person rock up with an old Valiant – a lovely old Valiant with custom lettering on the back of the boot lid. Glorious car. HE got to pump his petrol before going in to pay…Curious…

Then a Chinese chap and his wife arrived in a big black SUV…and the pump was not turned on for him. He footled about for a bit then drove off unsatisfied…Curiouser and curiouser…That was probably $ 100 of petrol that wasn’t sold.

I pulled away and parked in the adjacent shopping centre car park and observed the next few transactions. Some people were compelled to go inside before being able to pump petrol, and some were let through to the keeper, as it were, and could pump before paying. But there was no distinct pattern to type of car, colour of car, colour of driver, or any other criterion that would have been observable at the attendant’s window.

I was a little incensed over this discrimination at first, but now I am more intrigued as to the process of selection that is involved. What is it that triggers the attendant to demand payment beforehand rather than afterwards? Is it related to the car? Is it related to the ethnicity of the driver? Is it related to the ethnicity of the attendant? Is it related to the sex of either driver or attendant? Is it related to the time of day? BTW this was all broad daylight in an affluent suburb.

No answers yet, but I shall continue to investigate. I have a full petrol tank right now – I went over to the Shell station after this experience and did the rest of the filling. THEY don’t require you to pre-pay, leave keys, or swear allegiance to anyone  – they just sell petrol. When I have used up this lot of fuel I shall try the BP again to see what they do. I am hoping for a definite pattern that can make for a workable hypothesis.

 

Buying The Dream

Going to a car show is a little like being a psychiatrist; you see crazy people hear a lot about their dreams. Or, perhaps that should be changed – you see a lot of dreams and hear about crazy people. Sometimes there are couches involved.

Whichever approach you take to it, a car show is also a commercial affair – even in the simplest open park affairs there will be someone selling something. Insurance, ice lollies, or Isotto – Fraschinis. Or in the case of hot rod shows; spare parts, wheels, black tee shirts, and paint jobs. And also, apparently, the hot rods themselves. And I don’t mean just the owners who have put a cardboard sign of whatever price ONO on their half-finished project – the WA hot rod show had some pretty complete items for sale.

The sellers that caught my eye were a commercial firm of automobile retailers who maintain showroom premises in  two suburbs. One of the showrooms is not too far from my home and has been an auto site since before 1964. It used to sell Morris, Austin, and Wolseley – then Saab and Volvo – and now is given over to exotic cars from all sorts of makers. I don’t know if there is a new-car agency in it or not, but considering the nature of the vehicles it offers, it hardly matters. This is all enthusiast big-money stuff.

I’m not qualified to talk about big money, as I do not have any. Very few of the people I know personally do either, though I have met some people through my former employment that might. Or then again they might not…I remember meeting a high-roller and high-spender in the 1970’s that proved to be financially and morally hollow. Best not to go back to those memories nor speculate about current people.

But I can sort of wonder about who the customer for the yellow Chevrolet pickup that you see in this post will be. It was a noticeable feature of the Xoticar display, and for good reason; it was darn near perfect. Maybe it was entirely perfect – I did not get to see it driven in or out. But from the look of the finish I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The pictures and the sales board tell you as much as anyone could about the car, but the real questions remain unanswered. Who built it? How much did they sell it to Xoticar for? What can they tell us about the bits inside that make it go? Why did they sell it to Xoticar?

More. Who is the target customer?  Are there target customers for turn-key rods and customs as much as there are turn-key customers for sports cars and any standard vehicles? Speaking as a turn-key driver of a small daily-driver hatchback I can see where that is a perfectly valid model for normal transport, but I always associated rods and customs with people who built their own.

More, still – I associate rods and customs with people who design their own as well as build them. Tastes can be as variable as the wind, and the idea of buying someone else’s taste – or dream – seems strange. What if they did not do it the way you wanted? Would you have the courage to break it down again and build it differently? Or would that be like overpainting a picture in an art gallery?

And who has $ 94,888.00 dollars to play cheque book hot rodder? I’m a bit cynical about the 888 in the price because I live next door to Leeming and Winthrop, and the doors of my hatchback show it…but have my neighbours taken to rodding?

Will we see a flurry of moon disks and lakes pipes on the BMW and Mercedes? I tremble to think.

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.

 

Just A Cattle Shed Full Of Old Cars…

Just another day yesterday at the hot rod show.

Nothing to see but hot rods, bikes, custom cars, and pinup girls.

Nothing to listen to but hot rod rock and roll music.

Nothing to buy except car parts, tee shirts, model cars, insurance policies, wheels, tyres, paint jobs, etc.

Nothing to eat but food and nothing to drink but booze and coffee and choc milk.

Nothing to do but take pictures of cars and talk to car people.

I wonder if today will be the same?

 

The Mercury That Wasn’t

Ever since the late 1940’s the Mercury sedan or coupe has been a constant subject for the custom car enthusiast. From extremely mild to extremely wild, the Merc has been chopped, channeled, frenched, rolled, tucked, decked slammed and ratted everywhere. So much so, that when you see a body that is sleek and low but has a domed appearance in every direction, you instinctively think that it is a Mercury.

I saw this one at the NSW rod show last month…and I was wrong.

I had not looked at the notice board beside the car, but was just admiring the full-on traditional lead sled style…when I noticed that the characteristic Mercury step in the side line was missing. Thinking that this must have been a hell of a job to cut out and fill in…and why would you want to, anyway…I finally got the clue when I saw the shape of the grill area. Not a Mercury – a Hudson.

Equally fine heritage, equally cool old school style – but a lot fewer of them in the field. And as a right-hand conversion in Australia…even rarer.

Please take time to notice the smooth side skirt enclosing the rear wheels and the use of the chrome trim strip to unify the body. Also please note the frenched aerials and the bumper shrouds front and rear. There would have been a temptation in some customisers minds to get rid of the heavy chrome bumpers – or if it was the early 60’s in California to make up horrible bent-tube things and try to blend them into the pans. Thank goodness this builder did not give way to this. Big bumpers were a real part of the Hudson heritage and a look that deserved to be preserved.

Likewise, I am glad the builder decided to keep the Hudson hubcaps rather than just go with generic spinners or bars. Moons would have been traditional, but these are all the better for being so specific. And with those rear skirts, you only have to find two good ones…

As far as the interior and dash, I don’t think that you could find any European woodpile dashboard of the time…or even a modern swoop and splatter design – that could be as elegant and stylish as this Hudson. The two-tone is superb. I do note some modern ait conditioning vents, however.

This is no trailer queen, either – look at the panel near the accelerator – feet have been down there pushing that pedal, presumably to the metal. Let’s hope there were some floor mats, too.