My time at car shows – whether the subjects are hot rods, vintage, or modern vehicles, is spent looking out for four things:
a. New displays – cars that I’ve never seen before.
b. Excellent displays – really well-done exhibits.
c. Odd-balls. Items that you really never expect to see.
d. The coffee van*.
Note that I do not specifically respond to over-the-top builds or show car designs. I am unmoved by the famous award-winning 5-years-in-the-making fibreglass confection sitting on a bed of angel hair and LED lighting. I spent a childhood building AMT models of Ed ” Big Daddy” Roth show cars and I am unimpressed by plexiglass bubbles.
But I do like a good design that someone has recognised and revitalised – like the mid-50’s Ford station sedans. These, like their cousins the utes, were initially intended as a semi-working semi-family vehicle and had more practicality in their makeup than many of their contemporaries ( Fight that one out amongst yourselves…)
Here are examples from Victoria and Western Australia – the yellow and white Customline is from the VHRS 2014 show while the light green and white is from this year’s Big Al’s Poker Run in WA. They illustrate the advantage that the hot rodder or custom builder has over their restorative cousins.
First the Victorian car. Ignore the fact that it is plopped down in the middle of the Exhibition Building in a Hot Rod Show – it is really a restored post-vintage car. Or a pre-veteran, post-vintage, retro-themed, olden-tymes car. Whatever the damned committees have invented as a category for it…it is a well-maintained reminder of the mid 1950’s in Australia. Whatever it is, it has less hair and more good manners than Barry Humphreys…but then so does a wheelbarrow full of dirty socks.
In any case, it is a car that has to tread a very strict line. It must be not only good and old, but good as well as old. The owner is under the eagle ( vulture? ) eye of the restorationists of Victoria and if he deviates from the Ford canon by one word – one wrong bolt or fabric – the whole congregation will cry out with a howl. Automotive apostasy is probably punishable by death or worse.
The rodder, on the other hand, can look at the thing with a fresh eye. If the wheels would look better as billet mags, he is free to try them on without risking a blast from heaven. If the panels would look better with fewer advertising badges, he is free to prise them off and plaz up the holes…provided he is painting later. If the interior is in need of a lot of serious love and he doesn’t fancy grey factory corduroy cloth, he is free to make the thing look elegant. And he is free to attach a set of rather cool aerodynamic roof racks to the top in coordinated colour. He gets plaudits not hisses, because his viewers are men and women of art, rather than fanatics.
Of course, it also means that occasionally there will be something untoward appearing on the show floor. Not all hot rod designers are gifted with the eye for a line, even if they are masters at actual physical construction. Every now and then a complex construction is undertaken to reshape a car body – or the frame and running gear – and the result looks wrong. It may also be extremely sturdy, well-built, true, and functional. While looking …well…wrong. The best that can be done is to concentrate the eye on the workmanship and praise the engineering skill. Whilst trying not to stare.
We have all done it. Overcooked a cake, over egged a pudding, over drawn a picture. As long as we are not designing airliners, no real harm is done. And who knows – whatever we have done may become a barn find in the future for someone else…
* Found it.