The Little World – Applying For A Fun Licence

” This is a free country, isn’t it? ”

Fine words, and perfectly appropriate at the polling booth or in the public bar, but hesitate before uttering them in your local hobby shop. Because the answer may turn out to be ” No “.

I’m driven to this conclusion by looking at the goods on offer in the shop. Fine models, glorious kits, magnificent engines, and more trouble than you can pack into a Gladstone bag. In many cases you may be free to purchase the fun, but you will be forbidden to have it…or at least you will need to go a’begging to someone for permission to play somewhere.

If that sounds over the top, consider that here in Perth – the most isolated capital city in the world with hundreds or thousands of kilometres between us and other cities – we need to go to one special secluded spot on the outskirts of town to fly a toy airplane. We need to go 20 kilometres to sail a toy boat, and we can go to Bunbury or buggery if we want to run a toy car.

Noise, pollution, disturbance, wildlife, public nuisance,etc. etc. Councils jealously guard their parks and schools jealously guard their ovals, and woe betide the trespasser. The drone flyers have it even worse as they are the bete noir of everybody. Doesn’t stop the hobby shops from trying to sell lots of different drones, but when it comes to clubs flying them…?

So far the toy train people can escape most of the contumely and control as their layouts are inside, and on their own property. If they take them outside they can be harassed for creating an attractive nuisance or for spoiling the council’s view of what the garden should look like.

The toy soldier, car, and doll collectors also escape most of this problem…but this is probably only because the police and council haven’t figured out an angle that can either fee or fine the collector. Have no fear…they are probably working on it. They already have a stranglehold on the militaria collectors who just want to trade old muskets.

I am not going to worry too much. I’m sure I contravene a number of regulations by collecting toy cars and taking pictures of them and a zealous enemy could put in so many council complaints as to make the hobby miserable, but collecting enemies could also be a lot of fun.

Particularly if you pin them to a board or press them between the pages of a thick book.

The Nose To Tailer

Having just written a humorous Facebook post about nose-to-tail car accidents in morning rush hour…and that will tell you a lot about my behaviour on social media when they let me loose…I have dived for the editorial keys to vindicate myself.

Let me say at the outset that I am against such accidents – both on principle and in practice. I think they should be avoided. I have so far managed to not be there when they have happened.

But unfortunately I suspect that I don’t really have a say in the matter anyway. The behaviour of the drivers of the large SUV and tray-top vehicles seems to determine when these will occur, and they are getting more desperate by the day.

My life currently allows me to be off the road during morning and afternoon crushes, and sometimes to be on public transport for the average town journey. It is heaven not to have to worry about the driving and parking, and makes a journey into our main city shops actually worthwhile. I am also able to access at least two major suburban shopping complexes on the bus or train, so as long as I am not buying a refrigerator I can do my shopping on foot.

Nose-to-tail has no winners. Everyone accuses everyone else and everyone and authority blames them all. It only wants one link in a crash chain to have no insurance or license to delay any repairs or settlement, and the meat in the sandwich cars can sometimes be written off with horrifying ease.

Let’s hope that winter eases up in a month or so and we can get back to dry roads and small comfortable motor crashes…

Shoe Two – The Ford That Makes Me Nervous

I get it. I really do. I was puzzled at first but I’ve seen enough now to say that I do get it. But it makes me nervous.

The rat thing. The Baxter Basics movement in the hot rod world that thinks it remembers what rodding was like in the late 1940’s and wants to suggest that it is bad to the bone. And who am I to say they are not…?

 I am a spectator – a photographer and gawker at the hot rod shows. I can be amazed and amused and no harm comes of either experience. The rodding enthusiasts and custom builders are marvellous artists as far as I am concerned and I applaud nearly all I see. I know that I could never display a hundredth part of the car-building skills that they show.

But I am also not a police motor vehicle inspector or a patrolman on the roads. And the fact that I admire the rodders and ratters counts for nothing, if one of these officials takes a dislike to a car or driver.

I’m not accusing the police of bad behaviour. They may be executing their duty in a perfect manner. But sometimes there are temptations placed in front of them that would be nearly impossible to resist. It must be a very finely run thing for them to look at a vehicle on the road and make a snap decision about whether it should be driven over the pits…or into one.

The artistry of the rat is a very strange mixture of dilapidation and deliberate provocation. Some of the local cars in this style seem to be works of low-brow art – so much so that you wonder if they have not been made as a parody of themselves. Others, like this NSW shoebox Ford – have a genuine air about them. The authenticity is the thing that would trigger the vehicle squad…and I would be afraid that if they ever started in on this car they might not let it escape their clutches.

 Like every car, it is a work in progress – heck, my standard suburban sedan is that, as is every car on the road. But mine would be less likely to get a sticker on the windscreen as it does not advertise itself.

Well, I hope it all comes out well in the end. If there is a gleaming 16 cylinder Hispano-Suiza engine and a racing car chassis under the Ford skin, all might still be well at the Vehicle Inspection Centre. I didn’t see under the bonnet, so, like the US Navy and nuclear bombs, I can neither confirm nor deny. Let’s just hope the NSW cops do not fiddle with the fuse.

The Little World – eCon – omics 101

I have generally stopped cruising eBay for hobby products now that I am retired. I have time to visit our local hobby stores…at least the ones that will let me in the door…and can look forward to an interstate trip now and then to fill in the big spaces. Plus the economics of retirement mean that you need to do more with less. Fortunately in scratch building this can be quite possible.

But I still do venture into the electronic souk occasionally if none of the local sources can supply something. It is the same principle that I apply to photography gear; my old employers first, then another local shop if possible, and the net if necessary. I do not cavil at the tiny purchase of accessories from Chinese suppliers – I’ve purchased machined metal brackets and lens hoods for very small prices and have been pleased with the service and quality. A net purchase of a Chinese electronic trigger system for flashguns was done on the basis that it looked quite unique. So it proved to be, and has been very useful as a lightweight accessory.

But a recent eBay session looking for a model airplane kit has opened my eyes to the nature of some of the dealers. I wanted a small model of an RAF trainer. A chap in England had one, and as it was unbuilt, it would have been perfect. The original bagged Airfix kit was worth 50 cents when it was fresh.

He wants $ 100 for it…And that is in real already-assembled money…

That kind of return places it in the sort of category that used to be reserved for Fabergé eggs or Bugatti motor cars. One can only hope the Police have been alerted in case there is a theft. Bugger the Crown Jewels – rally round the Airfix kits!

I daresay I’ll see more of this if I go to local trading fairs as well, so it is not just the English chap. I used to fancy I could tell the shonkies by the look of them but either my eyesight is getting worse or they are starting to shave more and dress better.

Featured Image: the new Airfix Tiger Moth kit I bought at Hobbytech for $ 14.00. A sensible and acceptable price and no postage to pay.

Filling In The Form


It is rare in Australia that we are asked to put some personal details forward on official forms – at least not on the occasions where we are not asking for government charity. Even the intrusive census forms leave us a couple of pathways to avoid contentious issues.

Most times we are not asked our sexual preferences, or religious beliefs, or our political persuasion. Applying for a licence to own a dog is pretty well focused on the dog and not us. And we throughly approve of this approach.

Other places in the world are different. I should recoil from the sorts of enquiry that might be directed at me in Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, or Russia. Or at Los Angeles Airport, for that matter. It is not that I would be afraid of giving the wrong answer – I do that all the time. It is because I am loath to give ANY answer – or to even consider the question. Certainly not to consider the question as legitimate or moral.

What sort of questions? Religion. Sex. Politics. Finances…the subjects that were once placed beyond the pale at a dinner party. The sort of questions that polarise conversation and lead to someone being treated badly. Yet there are always going to be these sorts of questions asked – as there are always going to be people who just don’t realise that they are doing the wrong thing in asking them. So what answer can be given – what answer should be given?

I have pondered it for a long time and finally I have to come back to the teachings of the Dalai Lama – a gentleman who has had to cope with a great deal of pressure. I think I shall adopt his classic answer when people ask me about religion, sex interests, or money matters…

” None of your G-d damned business, eh? “*

This seems to  cover all areas under consideration. I shall look forward to the next enquiry.

* Fred Dalai Lama. Runs a tyre warehouse in Okotoks.

Two More Family Hot Rods

dscf4384Readers of this column will remember seeing some of the junior rodders of the future in Melbourne attending the Victorian Hot Rod Show with their fathers. Likewise one small chap who was taking advantage of a push-start at the West Australian Hot Rod and Street Machine Show this last year. Well here are two more mini-vehicles from the 2016 Gillam Drive day.

These kids are troopers – Gillam Drive is hot. Their fathers are also to be commended for providing reliable propulsion in the heat. I’ll bet that they started to regret the idea about halfway down the strip…But if you start, you have to finish. Returning home without the kids when you very distinctly took them out the front door at the start of the day is bound to be noticed…

The pink custom is pretty much complete, and I would point out the inclusion of lakes pipes down the side. Plus the furry upholstery and the spectacle windscreen – there are show cars on the circuit with far less style.

dscf4436The open-wheel rod is a work in progress – as so many hot rods have been throughout the world. The frame with the dropped and drilled axle and the smooth bare bodywork show that there is a very high level of skill in the builder. But the bare engine compartment’s the fascinating thing. Whatever is going to be put in there?

I hesitate to tell the builder what to do. I can imagine a (very) small block Chevy in there or a confection of a Hemi. I can understand if it were to be a fabricated shell covering an electric drive – but how glorious if it could be a working ic engine…

Whatever the decision, I am going to keep my eyes peeled over the next few years for this car and the drivers. And the dad who built it. I just gotta see how it is finished and I would be delighted to be able to take studio pictures of it too.*

Stay tuned.

* Oh if there is any justice in the world, he should take it to the police pits when it is done and ask for a very small plate…and please tell me when it happens so that I can be there with the camera.


Backstabbium – The Pyramid That You Need

untitled-1At the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we are not really given to remorse or regret. We occasionally curse our luck when a scheme goes wrong, but then there are so many more scurrilous works in progress that a few victims escaping the net is neither here nor there. We know and admire the entire quotation from P.T Barnum : ” There’s a sucker born every minute…and five born to take him. “. We look to the long term.

So did the Egyptians of the Pharaonic period. They built vast temples and tombs for their rulers so that the dead might attain immortality. Most of them have attained museums, but that is just the effect of archeologists for you. They are people of a very little faith, unlike modern day acolytes of the pyramid system…

But on to the BGA Pyramid Scheme. It is the only one that is 100% legal in WA – and with a bit of management it can actually do good. Mind you, that is a side-effect. Most BGA operations work out differently. To understand the scheme you must know several things in advance:

a. Everyone eventually dies. And the comfort and safety of the rest of the community demand either burial or cremation before they become a public health hazard.

b. WA laws do not allow you to bury a dead body in the back yard. If you do, you will have the council and the police on you. On the other hand, if you have the correct paperwork after a cremation, you can dispose of ashes of whomever in the back yard quite legally. Indeed people scatter them at sea, off cliffs, over the MCG, etc. and no one bats an eyelid, though they might end up wiping the dearly departed out of that eye if the wind shifts.

c. Bricks are relatively cheap. You can buy them from Midland Brick or other makers new, or you can go out to the recovered brick lots in Forrestfield and get any amount of secondhand and over-run stock.

So what the BGA is proposing is that we will come to your property with a specified number of bricks and build you a Pyramidette in which the ashes of Aunt Ivy or Uncle Earle may reside. You can wrap the residual hydrocarbons up in resin-soaked swaddling clothes or enclose them in an urn – the choice is up to you. The team from the BGA will advise you when the cavity in the pyramid is relative-ready and you just pop them in. Then they are bricked up and over and eventually there is a wonderful monument ready for the aeons.

We’ve been told that most councils will not allow the pyramid closer than a metre from the fence line nor taller than about 5 feet, but as we have seen piles of VB cans higher in some back yards, this may be just a bureaucratic myth.

The BGA Pyramidettes are available in Cream, Old Tudor, or Modern Multicolour to match the decor of the house.

Moving? Unwilling to leave Aunt Ivy to the mercies of the Kiwi renters in the house when you depart? No problem! The BGA Pyramidettes are available either with mortar or without. If you need to move, you choose the latter and then just disassemble them and set them up at the new site. Rather like Abu Simel, but cheaper – you can carry a BGA Pyramidette in the back of a ute.

No need to Tut Tut about this idea – the whole family will love it. Just ask your Mummy.