I’ll Have The Green One, Thank You

Well, it was that time of year – the Australia Day weekend and the Victorian Hot Rod Show was on at the Exhibition Buildings again. I approached it with some trepidation…

Not because of the Australia Day parade and the visit to the NGV or any of the good things that had happened on the day – because the RACV had cut short their annual car show on the 26th and I was afraid that when I visited the VHRS the next day it would be as sad a disappointment. As it turned out, I had nothing to fear.

This fine Holden EK visited the open section at the front of the building. This year then committee decided to send the bulk of the front visitor’s cars to the rear of the building , which left a little more room at the front for yet more cars. A good idea – more cars increases the chances of seeing something special.

American readers can see Chevrolet…or at least General Motors influence in the styling, though they will recognise that it is an Australian body and a little smaller than the cars they were used to. Still a good big hefty vehicle for the late 50’s and early 60’s and made doubly attractive by being a station sedan.

No idea what is under the bonnet, but I would be willing to bet it is a clean example of the standard engine of the time – an upright 6. The good looks of the outside of the car practically guarantee that the owner will have done as nice a job in the engine bay. I note that the styling touches have been kept to the conservative side – wheel trims and removal of badges being the most I can see…though I do note that there seems to be an effective air conditioner and some extra sound in the interior. And did EK’s have a floor shift…?

Well, anyway, we come to the paint job. Faced with the long, long roof line of a station sedan, the designer did the very best thing that he could – striped it all the way, and then put in tasteful internal scallops in some of the panels.

I am particularly impressed with the use of the silver striping down the middle. Was he influenced by the design motif that Pontiac had on many of their cars?

One question…with a car as nice as this, why wasn’t it inside in the show section? Would it have made some of the other owners feel jealous? I know I’d swap my dog and horse for it…

 

Can You Afford To Own A Chevrolet?

Or put another way – If they try to sell you a Plymouth can you Dodge the question?

No good Nash-ing your teeth over it either…

How odd that as we pull away from the curb into the twenty-first century in Australia, we should do so in the Toyota, Subaru, Daihatsu, Nissan, Suzuki, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Fuso vehicles. Or, if we have been successfully greedy, in Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Lancia cars.

We should be hard pressed to do the same in a Humber, Standard, Triumph, Rover, Hillman, Austin, or Vauxhall.

And yet today I will go to a car show that glories in Ford, Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Willys, Cadillac, Mercury, and Chrysler. And they will be spectacular and bright…or rotten and rusty…but will reflect the best of a car builder’s skill. Very few of them will be oriental or continental. What do the hot rodders and custom car builders know that the rest of us have forgotten?

Can we be reminded by an industry that needs to stop repeating what Europe and Asia say? Can we still build what we need, for ourselves, where we live? I hope so.

 

Dashboard

Every time I open the WordPress site I get a dashboard that lets me control the weblog. Every time I get into my little Suzuki I sit behind a dashboard that lets me control the car. It is a comfortable place to be in both cases and I can see the wisdom in naming the set of electronic quizzes and sliders that we operate for sites and computers the same as the automobile – we are nearly all familiar with one somehow.

Well, leave the weblog and the computer aside and follow along to a couple of car shows as I look at the dashboards. I find them a fascinating insight into the minds of both the designers and of the society they serve.

DSCF0114The first dashboards literally dashed the mud aside as buggies and wagons followed horses. I’ll bet that the horses were not fooled – they could think of ways of spattering the people behind them anyway. But the dashboard of the wagon might only need to have a footrest, and no other controls. This leaked onto the first horseless carriages – they have few things happening in front there either, though they start to add pedals and switches to deal with braking and transmissions. Sometimes with the acceleration of the engine, though in many of the old cars this was still happening around the steering wheel.

Sometimes pipes and gauges were added to cope with fuels, or water, or oil. There might even be electrical gauges if the driver needed to know what was going to fail next…

Gradually the gauges took on more significance and prominence. People might not have needed to know how fast they were going early on because they were not going fast at all. When they sped up, someone wanted them to slow down, and quantified that – speed limits were evolved and drivers needed to know how quickly the vehicle was moving. The speedometer appeared. Followed by the speed trap and the fine.

Technical brother to the speedometer was the tachometer – how many revolutions per minute the engine was making. The driver could use the information to decide when to shift gears, if the screaming of the transmission or the passengers did not supply the signal. Old timers probably paid more attention to this one and regulated themselves in their district on hills and turns they knew by watching their revs.

People needed to know how much petrol or other fuel was in the tank and for a long time the only way they could determine this was a dipstick in the tank. That or a glass gauge with a tube in it somewhere near the tank. Or sticking their tongue in the tank. It was a long time before a reliable petrol gauge appeared on the dashboard…and I am waiting any week for one to show on mine…A guess is as good as a mile in many cases and that is how far you’ll be walking when you ignore the little floppy needle.

Oil? All engines and many navies needed it, but the original measure was a dipstick on the crankcase for when you had it and a grinding clank when you didn’t. The idea of putting an oil gauge on the dash to worry the driver came along pretty quickly but it was generally done by means of a tube from where the oil pressure was to the gauge in the dash where the needle swung over. The inevitable vibration and fatigue fracture would send the hot oil somewhere unpleasant. It was quite a while before they thought of a sensor and electrical reporter for this.

Electricity, coming or going, is invisible. You only ever hear it when you are holding a spark plug lead and the block and some comedian cranks the engine over. Then it makes a noise like bad words. For some time the designers did not really know what to measure as far as electricity went and there were few sensible gauges. Eventually they settled on a little bobbing needle that went one way when you were using it up and the other way when you were making more. You could even measure the battery to see how much electricity was in there but it was always a blasted lie.

Most other measurements and reports were only commentary. Various makers decide to tell you or not, depending upon the market and whether they thought you wanted to know or would understand the message.

Will post later…must dash…

 

 

A New Departure For Collectors

Diecast car collectors in Australia who wish to depict the local car scene are not all that well served. Oh, there are expensive exotic cars from Biante and Classic Carlectables of the street rod and motor racing kind, but the number of average driver daily vehicles in the large scale is quite small. The prices are high, of course because there is no economy of scale. I rather despaired of making up a modern Australian section of the collection…until I went to the car show today.

It was some sort of charity show with an eclectic mixture of sports, rod, classic, and all-too-recent beaters. I enjoyed it once it was found, and didn’t think my $ 5 badly spent – because it opened my eyes to the idea of a wider net for modern Australian collecting. You see, I can do what the car owners are doing in ever larger numbers – importing overseas cars to become local prides and joys.

Hitherto I shunned the idea as it seemed counter to my goal of making a real little world. Now the real big world is changing and I can use this to branch out. Look at some of the North american iron that people actually have here – as well as some of the European stuff.

I still have hopes that someone will get in a supply of 1:18th scale modern oriental cars that are not Japanese drift specials or Winthrop wankwagons. I want workaday wheels and industrial vehicles on my roads – so many of them are on the full-size street.

The Bird Is The Word

dscf4918If you know what the title is about, you are as old as I am. Which means you are young enough to want a Pontiac like this one, but mature enough to know that you would be a nuisance on the road if you had it…

Well, while you grapple with that moral quandary, I’ll go on. This was the scene at the BP servo in Baldivis South this last Saturday. ( For North American readers, ” servo ” is Australian for service station. We also have servos who are servants and servos that are electro-mechanical actuators that operate at a distance from the control panel. It’s that kind of a flamin’ country…)

dscf4915The Saturday Night fever meet is a freebie – you just show up and talk cars…or photograph them. The BP has a Macca’s and a Red Rooster so you can eat if you want to, and they do a pretty decent meal, all things considered. If you are gluten, lactose, or hot rod intolerant you are out of luck – no-one will pay you the least attention. I would not broach the subject of protesting about road extensions either, as you are likely to be given a serve at the servo…

dscf4916But back to the Pontiac. The outside of the vehicle speaks for itself – and with that big bird on the bonnet, it speaks in a loud voice. The finish is flawless, and that tells you the builder knows how to do it right. In an age that sees slipshod building in houses, clothing, and household goods, and then tries to excuse it on economic grounds, it is wonderful to see an enthusiast who is prepared to spend time, money, and skill on making a car into a work of art. I’ve no idea who owns the car, but I salute ’em.

dscf4917Well, the interior is fascinating. When we get cars from Europe that are deliberately targeted for the Australian market, we get straight-out design that is a reverse of the continental pattern. I am not sure if we miss out on the dangly bits, but on the BMW, Mercedes, and Audi I have seen I think they include it all. The Japanese have no trouble doing this right down to the modest cars like my little Suzuki Swift. They drive on the right hand side of the road as we do so the whole design is ready to go as soon as they make it for themselves.

The American ones are different- and particularly American cars that have been imported and then converted to RHD. It’s not far-fetched to say that each interior treatment is a new departure of the imagination, as the parts don’t exist until someone makes them up. I sometimes wonder how much of what I see in street cars is made up…

Here it is padded vinyl. I assume that is vinyl. Leather would be  wretchedly expensive and not all that much better – let’s celebrate it for what it is. The wooden instrument panel chimes in well with the padding and I don’t think you’d need air bags in there at all. ( Indeed, I suspect air bags are a legislative boondoggle anyway. I would far prefer lap and shoulder harnesses and a decent pillar or roll cage in every car. Those people who refused to buckle up could bounce around inside to suit themselves…)

The most comforting thing about this interior is the carpet cover for the dash. Here in Western Australia the sun operates on a setting of 11 ( on a ten-part scale ), and frizzles up modern dashes in a year or so. You get deep furrows, cracks, and then the whole thing falls apart. No-one is game to make a metal dash any more for fear of getting sued by the people who won’t wear seat belts. We have taken to getting moulded fuzzy covers for most cars and this takes the brunt of the UV radiation. I am considering one for my head.

I wonder how long before some bright spark starts to put air bags on the outside of the cars to protect the fools that bicycle into them.

Hark!

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Hark! Hark! Hark! Hark!

Kafagggh!

Sorry about that. Something went down the wrong way. I think was a piece of mince pie – Harold Angel brought a plate of them in for the office party and I got a bit carried away. I should have stopped at 14.

I think they had brandy in them. Or possibly mescaline, if the spinning walls are any indication. I am sure that the double vodka surprises had nothing to do with it, nor the pinto of tequila. Perhaps it was just a bad prawn. I’ll be all right  if you will just hand me that potted plant and look away for a moment…

There. All better. You may want to wipe your shoes – it was a small plant pot. Bet you wish you hadn’t worn the open toe pumps today.

Well, what could be better than the Christmas holidays, eh? Chestnuts roasting on a steering wheel ( it is Australia in December, remember ) and the cheery sound of underage schoolies besieging the liquor outlets of Dunsborough. I think they made those scaling ladders in shop class. Great workmanship, and they’ll come in handy later when they do breaks in Armadale and Gosnells.

Have you got all your presents? I was smart – I wrapped up last year’s unwanted gifts and will be directing it on to other people this year. The only expense is a bit of wrapping paper and sticky tape. I’ve made an exception with the kittens – I’ll pop them in cardboard boxes with a cup of tuna pellets and a ” Guess Who? ” card and leave them on the doorsteps. A quick ring of the bell and the Christmas Surprise is complete for at least eleven households. I was planning to do fifteen this year but ran out of kittens – the last four will have to make do with two goannas, a dugite, and a rather surly duck. Well, it will be a surprise anyway.

We’re having all the family over for lunch. This year we are not going to serve any food or drink, but we are going to give everyone around the table a printed card saying how much we think of them and reminding them that they are now in sympathy with the starving masses in China. We got the cards from K-Mart and they are printed in China. People should start arriving about 11:30 and I imagine the day will peak at 11:45 when the cards are distributed. We’re expecting the crowd to thin out ( that’s appropriate ) at about 12:45 and when they’re gone we can send out for pizza.

At least we have a tree up this year. It’s a dinky-di Australian Christmas tree – an eight foot-tall Ghost Gum decorated with cockatoos and lizards and the traditional cow skeleton and rusted-out 1937 Ford ute at the base of it done in marzipan. The cat gave it one look and hid under the bed – we’re safe this year.

And there is going to be carolling up the street. Carol’s house is the one with the Pontiac on blocks out the front and the red light on the porch. She loves this time of year as she can entertain all night long. I figure about $ 200 of entertaining is all I can afford, so I’ll be home early.

See you then! Merry Christmas!

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NOTE TO READERS:  Do not panic. I have not sold this weblog column to speculators – I have just chosen a different WordPress theme for it. The sister column at:

frontierandcolonial.wordpress.com

Also got a new theme and I think that this has cleaned up the visual impression considerably. Same old writing, though.

 

 

Morning In The Valley

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The sky is blue

The sun has riz

I wonder where the hot rods is?

They is in the Swan Valley at the Cheese and Olive place – doing a charity show for pre-80’s iron. And they is doing a perty good job, too. Here’s a selection of the more colourful ones…and you need to remember that rust is also a colour…

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Events in the valley attract a large turn-out on a Sunday as the place has any number of cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, food and coffee places attached to the farm properties along the Great Northern Highway. A fine day and a car or music event will see the roads packed and sometimes – as today – the amount of trade overwhelms the available parking space. The late comers find that they are just unable to join in. I’ve learned to read the advertisements and arrive an hour before the things open.

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Today I was just that little bit late and found myself nabbing one of the last parking spots in between the sleeping grape vines. It’s a great place, the valley, but organisers need to put their heads together to see if they can overcome the logistics jam.

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I have just been engaged in an idle idyll on the internet. It started with an languid interest in 1:16th scale model car kits and ended in the sort of language that strips paint. I have just seen what the plastic kit market has come to.

To be more specific, I have discovered what happens when someone finds a partially-built toy car kit from the 1960’s and decides to parley it into the down payment on Florida.

The kit was something put out in 1967 by AMT to capitalise on the hippy subculture. If you can reconcile hippy subculture with toy plastic cars, and make the connection by including a sheet of lurid decals and a foolish name. It used the basic model of a 1960’s Pontiac – something that was produced as a promotional giveaway for the GM dealerships – and just repackaged it. It would be interesting to see if the AMT company actually moulded new plastic bodies from their dies in 1967 or whether they just had so many unsold 1960 Pontiacs that they could clap them together and fire them out the door.

In any case I can state categorically that the 1967 kit would have gone out the door of any hobby shop silly enough to stock it at no more than $ 1.99 US. More likely $ 1.49 US.

I can’t say what the enthusiastic reseller paid for his kit, but he wants to meet someone who will give him $ 159 for it today. The fact that the kit was once started by some poor kid in the 1960’s and then had the paint stripped off it makes no difference – the price now is $ 159.

I can see the value of nostalgia. Of re-issued kits. Of badly-fitting parts and mould marks everywhere and crude plating. There is a part of our childhood we can address by building such a kit. In some cases it will be fulfilment – in others closure.

But I can get a great deal of both of those items by holding $ 159 in the palm of my hand and closing my fingers tight…

The Big White Buick

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I can’t think what might have kept me from writing about this Buick in the two years since I saw it at Gillam Drive – perhaps there were just so many more things pressing – well before Gillam is upon us again at the end of the month, here is the Buick.

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Note – white is a notoriously difficult thing to depict in photos as it is so close to the point where the digital sensor blows out to a blank that you can sometimes miss valuable detail. There is a tendency to underplay it and sometimes you can end up with muddy tones or a false colour from the sky. Editing programs help, as does shooting on a RAW program, but there are still going to be compromises somewhere. Witness the more detailed information available from the pictures taken in the shade on an overcast day at Whiteman Park.

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Well, anyway, the 1938 Buick is something of an epitome of Art Deco streamline style. It has all the characteristics of the period – flowing streamlined contours, speed lines, chrome trim, and wide whitewall tyres. It sits surprisingly high off the ground – as a post vintage car it has none of the lowered speed characteristics of the hot rod or custom cars and the driver can safely take country roads, railways crossings, and speed humps in the suburban streets with confidence. Nothing will be wrenched off.

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Buicks in North America were always seen as the middle-upper vehicle in the General Motors range – just below Cadillac in luxury but well above the Chevrolet, Pontiac, or Oldsmobile. Bankers drove Buicks, as did factory managers and engineers. Ladies who entertained drove Buicks. Here in Australia it was probably much the same – possibly even a step up the ladder . If they were rural vehicles it would have been the rich graziers.

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Their interior appointments were much in the North American streamline style – metal dashes with chrome trim – no teakwood for Buick. No old wooden wheels – that is modern acrylic moulding in pearl finish. The large speaker grill suggests a factory radio installation. Note the rear suicide door – though GM would have never countenanced calling it that. Tragic accident that we don’t talk about door, perhaps…

Altogether a most suitable vehicle for people of substance.

 

 

 

Get Outa Here! Slowly…

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Aha. I have just realised that there is a good way to overcome some of the disadvantage that pertains to car shows -the thing that I complained about in a previous column; the overcrowding of the display lines. I’m not a greedy person – I don’t want it all for myself or all to myself …but I do wish for a clean view of it. Now I think I have it.

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Normally I leave most events early. Whether it is a professional society dinner, wedding reception, or siege – it is always better not to be there at the end. I have applied this principle to car shows as well – leaving before the show winds up. Not that I would have to do any of the cleaning – I just take pictures and pixels are easy to sweep up – but I should only be in the way as people started pouring kerosene and match heads into their superchargers and tried to get the engines to turn over. Plus I am worried by robust language and I reckon some of the owners would be utilising it as they kicked the cows…

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As luck would have it, the Brockman Port To Whiteman Park Run show wound up while I was there. They gave tannoy instructions to the drivers and waved them off through the gate of the grounds onto a main street. This naturally slowed the stream as they fed into traffic, and in turn presented a nice slow cavalcade to view. Sun position was good, focusing was easy, and the only problem was the occasional intrusion of a fat arse in cargo shorts and a fluoro vest who stepped into the line of sight. There is probably always one at every car show and it might well be him every time…

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I noted a similar opportunity last year at the end of the Australia Day car show in Melbourne. There were a number of roads exiting the main park and moving down them was slow for the drivers of the veteran and vintage cars. All the better for the photographer. In the future I am going to bide my time – perhaps even go a little later in the day – and mark well the exit roads and possible vantage points. I’ll still try to get close-up detail for cars as well as lurching crowds will permit but the best clear shot will be as they drive away.

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Photographer’s note – tempting as it is to use a tripod for this, I still think a hand-held camera and a fill flash will be best. I’ll be using the pre-focus manual method with everything set as the cars approach a fixed point. It’s always a little experimental as to when to release the shutter when you are using an electronic view finder – there is a time lag in any camera. If you have set the speed, aperture, and manual focus, however, you can sight along the top of the camera housing and fire it instantly when the vehicle comes to your pre-selected point. This also works with 17 pounder anti-tank guns but it is more difficult to use them unnoticed – at least with the Fujifilm cameras you can turn the shutter noise off.

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Technical note: These images were taken using the new Fujifilm X-T10 and the 27mm f:2.8 pancake lens. What a sweetie of a combination – light and fast. Perfect for touristing it without weight or bulk. Next best will be the new 35mm f:2 when it is released in Australia.