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…

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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.

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.

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 Cut Lunch And The Water Bag

I am getting to be three things in my old age; smarter, cheaper, and more determined. It does not prevent me from being taken advantage of in the first place, but it does prevent a repeat performance. Next week I am going to test myself out in all three characteristics.

It is to be the occasion of the annual big hot rod show at the Claremont showgrounds. A weekend affair, I will go on both days to see different things and to take different photos. I am delighted to be a guest of another car photographer who is a regular shooter for the car clubs…he invites me and it means a free entry at the door. I will also take advantage of the free public transport card that allows a senior to travel on bus and train. Since the photography can be done with the Fujifilm X cameras, there is no film or paper cost either. So far, so good, so cheap!

But the trap for old players is at about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon when you get a bit hungry and wander over to the fast-food stand. The pavilion that houses the show has a contracted caterer there who serves hamburgers, chips, and nachos…no-one else is permitted to do so. there may be a coffee stand up, the other end, but they are bit players, and the caterer is sited near the only bar in the venue.

Needless to say, they clean up with all the hot rodders and their kids wanting to eat at once. Their prices, like their name, suggest the charge of a wounded bull.

Well, this year there will be no more bull. I am going to take my own lunch in my camera bag and buy a beer in the bar. There are plenty of tables to sit down at, and so far in this country you can still make your own sandwiches without government interference. I wish it were possible to do this in pubs as well, but I guess there is a limit to how cheap they will let you be.

It’ll be interesting to see if the days can be as nice as the one spent at the NSW hot rod show a month ago. All I need is a half a dozen new cars to see and it is all worthwhile.

You Can Make A Hot Rod Out Of Anything

When you read the title of this column, you might think that I’m being snitty to the builders of hot rods. Or that I’m being elitist. Far from it – I say exactly what I mean and I mean it as a compliment. The people who have opportunities to go outside of the mainstream…and take those opportunities…are the ones I especially treasure.

I see it here in the west occasionally – builders select a classic Japanese or British car and re-think it in the same vein that the American rodders would. In most cases it is awesome, and fully rewards all the work that its put in. And the work seems to be even harder than it might be for Ford or Chevrolet  builder – fewer re-made parts are seen and a much smaller stock of historical parts is available. There’s a lot of parallel thinking for the out-of-stream rodder.

This is a preamble to viewing the powder blue International pickup at the NSW rod show. Every part of it looks like it presented a challenge – not the least of which was the tilting bed. The classic lines of the cab have also been wisely preserved – it is a mini-truck and has been left to look like a mini truck. The complexities under the bed aft of the passenger compartment are what they are – the builder chose to go this route and at least we were spared hearing the bad language as he worked his way through them.

 And what do you think about the chromed rack that holds the bonnet halves up to display the engine…is that clever or what? I’m usually a fan of closed side panels but these look so professional that I love them.

I guess the crowning bit of pride is the radiator surround – so very different from the average run of repro or fibreglass Ford shells. It immediately tells us that we are seeing a one-off.

 

Nearly That Time Again

I got a reminder from another professional photographer that the Western Australian Hot Rod and Street Machine Spectacular…the hot rod show…is coming up on the 17th and 18th of June. I am delighted – as June also contains a belly dance show, a toy show, and a model train show as well, it looks to be a good month.

I am hoping that I get to see the next chapter in the story of this pickup hot rod. It was displayed under some rather intense lighting at last year’s show, and I have been thinking about it ever since – it was a very valuable thing to see.

Oh, it’s a very valuable thing to the builder, as well. For many reason,I should say, and not just a pile of paid accounts to the parts suppliers and custom shop. That goes without saying with any car hobby. Even the rat rods have healthy price tags. It is in the interest of every car enthusiast to carefully record the purchase costs of any car they have, and then the price of parts, repairs, modifications, and outside work…plus the inevitable changes and official fees required to get it licensed. They should put all of this in a looseleaf folder with categories and subdivisions. And then take it down to Fremantle, wrap it in heavy chains, and throw it into the middle of the harbour.

No-one ever felt better looking at a price list – but everyone can feel better out driving a car. And this applies to every other constructive hobby, too. Pay for it, build it, use it, and love it. If you want to focus on the money become a bank robber or a miser.

Back to the white pickup. I can’t wait to see what more has been done, but I am glad to have seen what went into the insides. Too often a big engine is sandwiched into a frame and connected up but the very size of the thing and the complexity of the plumbing obscures the details further in. I appreciate it when rodders put a mirror under a show car to let me see what’s in there. I also like the slow pace of a car show…no pressure…because it lets me stand there and speculate about what all the bits do and why the builder has connected them in the way that I see. Some things puzzle me beyond sense, but I like looking at the patterns.

The one thing I always keep in mind when I see a car there is the fact that the car is there. If it has WA license plates – if it drove in the exhibition hall doors – if it has not let out 15 litres of old oil on the floor—it is patently obvious that it is a successful vehicle. It may have broken every knuckle on the builder’s right hand and rolled over his foot and smell funny in wet weather, but it is up and running. THAT is a real achievement.