A Side Order Of Lingotto To Go – Hyde Park Part Three

I thought I knew all the different types of pasta – spaghetti, linguini, tagiatelli, etc. Today I discovered a new variety – this sort is shaped like a Fiat racing car.

Given the recent record of FIAT cars here in Australia – the FIAT 500 and some of the other cooking-quality sedans that have been briefly seen on the streets of Perth before retiring and expiring – you might be given to thinking that this Italian car maker is not one of the icons. Not a Ferrari or Lamborghini. But remember that long before F. or L. were feuding, FIAT was racing all over the world. They were also making fighter planes and giant locomotives.

This FIAT 502 may yet be on the ground for a closer inspection at future car shows – I am going to go to them to see if more can be seen inside it. The outside details scream of the period and promise a great deal of interesting design inside.

Oh, to see it in operation on a track…

I must look out the next Italian Car Show day here in Perth and hope. Wheel ’em Danno…

When Someone Says ” Why The Hell Not? “

You end up with The Prospector.

You may have read magazine articles and books that said Australians are perfectly normal, everyday people, just like the rest of the world. Those magazines and books were lying. The Prospector was not made by, or for, normal people. It did not come off the design board of a major European car maker. It is not eco-friendly. It does not come in silver or beige and you cannot pick the children up from private school in it.

It also does not comply with the laws governing noise emission, smoke emission, or any form of occupational heath or safety. Indeed, the OH&S inspector hides behind the sofa and won’t answer the doorbell when someone comes to talk to him about The Prospector.

Some may question the utility of this form of transport in the metro area – well The Prospector comes from the Goldfields and they have enough utility out there to last for decades – they need a little play sometimes. Hence the truck drags. It makes a nice change from the drinking, gambling, and vice that occupies the rest of the week. And that’s just in the diocese – it gets worse out in the secular world…

Don’t get the wrong impression. The Goldfields is a wonderful district but you have to adapt yourself to the expectations of life out there. Many of us city people see it as tourists but fail to appreciate the real culture of the place – The Prospector brings a little of it down to us at the coast.

Note: The engine that you see slung between the rails at the back with the enormous exhaust and other piping is just for show – the real motor is a 1954 four-cylinder Austin behind the louvres of the yellow bonnet. They like to keep it hidden in case the opposition see it and take fright.

 

1000 MPH Standing Still

One day I hope to be able to brag ” I seen it.”

It? A car that has broken the Australian and World land speed record. I’ve done the first part of the work by going to the West Australian Hot Rod Show and looking at the Aussie Invader. Now I just sit and wait until Mr. McGlashan does the rest.

There is no mistaking this for your average car…even for your average racing car…actually there’s no mistaking this for your average land speed record car. It is just that different. Metal wheels with no tyres, liquid fuel rocket engine, front trim canards, rear fin, and a tiny little space in the middle for the pilot.

Pilot? Don’t you mean driver? At 1000 miles per hour and supersonic on a mud flat I mean pilot. They have astronauts in space at this sort of speed and aeronauts in the air – I think Mr. McGlashan can very fairly title himself as an autonaut.

Note the ” debut ” sticker on the cockpit of the car. I didn’t get a chance to ask whether they will tow the car away at the end of the show or let it drive out under its own power. I’ll be listening out Sunday night…

I also looked as hard as I could but did not see the blue touch paper…

The Little World – Just Leave the Milk And Cookies On The Table

When I am finished playing I will eat them. I may be some time – I’m currently in 1959. And if I can find the sort of things I need on the internet, I may not leave for years.

You see, 1959 was the year that I got the Schuco wind-up Ferrari racing car. It cost $ 10 at Uncle John’s Hobby Shop on 7th Avenue in Calgary, Alberta and the $ 10 represented the entirety of my birthday money. I cannot say why the pressed-tin car appealed to me – but I knew that it was a must-have.

Normally that $ 10 would have meant at least three plastic models and some paint from Don’s Hobbies – about a block away from Uncle John’s. It was my central model shop – every other place was judged in relationship to Dons. I’m delighted to be able to report that it still exists – some 60 years later. Changed, moved, but still Don’s.

Well, I took the Schuco home, ran it around every flat place I could find, and carefully kept it safe and sound for decades after that. I knew that there were other Schuco wind-up models as I encountered them occasionally in hotel gift shops, but I never had any money to buy any more.

The Ferrari came down to Australia with me, and for some reason I cannot remember, it was eventually traded for some die-cast ship models. I put it out of my mind…until I went to Nürnberg in Germany in 1995 and visited the largest hobby shop in that toy city. There was a whole cabinet of Schuco tin toys for sale – modern reproductions by the company of their classic models. I saw the red Ferrari, and any thought of other purchases went out the window – At a vastly inflated EEC modern-day price I was the owner of my birthday car again. It has pride of place in the model cabinet…and as you can see, has been the favoured prop of a favoured live model – Jane Hebiton.

And yes, the Ferrari still goes like a rocket when you wind it and set it out to run on a flat tiled floor.

Note that I am still in 1959 for another reason; more of that in the next column.

The Big World – Playing With 1:1 Model Cars

I am going to go out on a limb with this column today. I have no idea whether I have correctly understood something and am going to make either an honest report of it or a complete mess. If the former, I am eligible for the Pulitzer Prize – if the latter, it is a sure ticket to talk-back radio stardom…

I mentioned the Toyotas On The Quay event that I attended and the number of what appeared to be racing cars displayed there. I was delighted to see them and thought that they were very well presented. Of course, an open air car event is a lot less sophisticated than an annual show at the Convention Centre, but there is this about it: the vehicles got there under their own steam – legally – and will make their way home again at the end of the day. This proves that they are real devices and not just the products of some dreamer’s imagination…as some show cars on the hot rod circuit seem to be.

Ignore my note of cynicism there, folks, because I do like the show cars as well…but there is more authenticity in a daily driver than a trailer queen.

Or is there?

I asked myself this when I looked carefully at a number of the ” race cars ” that were displayed. I’m quite unfamiliar with most motor sports – I can recognise the Indianapolis 500 cars from the 1950’s and I know the difference between a rail dragster and a Caterpillar tractor, but after that is all gets to be hazy. But I did look rather carefully at some of the racers and decided that I might be seeing model cars. Big model cars.

Take our featured image – the Toyota in the Castrol colours. Is it really the car that Didier and Denis piloted to an overall whatever place in the Rootyabouti Rally. Or is it a clever reconstruction of that car based upon a local Toyota – a 1:1 full-scale model, in fact? Made with loving care by enthusiasts who should be admired for their skill and artistry?

I like to think that this is the case. I should be equally impressed if one of the people who restore older vintage cars were to make General Montgomery’s staff car or Barney Oldfield’s racer. It is an entirely new level of enthusiasm, and should be encouraged with deliberate recognition.

If I’m wrong in this assessment, I am sure the local car fans will put me right.

Note: if you are a restorer or maker of racing cars…and drive with a standard WA licence plate, I’ll bet you are pulled over and grilled every time you venture on the roads.

Playing With The Old Toys

The old Toyotas, that is.

Perth was awash in motor car shows yesterday: The Italian car show at Gloucester Park, The All Ford Day at Bassendean Oval, and the Toyotas At The Quay at Elizabeth Quay. As I am entitled to free public transport and Elizabeth Quay is right on the train line, I opted for that one. The fact that the show itself was also free appealed to my frugal nature.

We often neglect the Asian motor cars in automotive events – in some cases with a disdain that amounts to mechanical racism. But at an event that celebrates all the Toyotas, that could hardly be the case. And for Western Australians it points up a fact that we sometimes forget: a lot of us have owned and driven Toyotas in the past and a lot of us drive them now. My wife has been most successful with them, passing from Corollas to an Avalon and now to a new Aurion. I spent a few years in a ’73 Corolla myself and have a fond memory of it. In fact, if I had replaced the head on it in ’85 instead of trading it in, I would probably be motoring in it now.

Not in comfort, mind. It was pre-A/C days, and a do love the A/C in my present Suzuki.

But the show today was proof positive that the Toyota has a solid place in Australian motoring history. That so few of them have been rodded or customised is made up for in some part by the fact that there are any number that are rally and race cars. I can’t get all that enthusiastic about that aspect of them, but I appreciate the fact that others do.

Here are a few of the brighter items at the Quay today:

Doesn’t Matter If It Is A Front Porsche Or A Back Porsche…

It’ll still be grey…

That’s an old Canadian joke, and I’m qualified to tell it. In North America there are three colours for the front or back porch of a private dwelling; unpainted  ( and weathering badly…), grey, or salmon pink.

The unpainted ones are seen in the hillbilly states where money is tight and in the New England states where there is more money but the people are tight. They are also traditional in the maritime provinces and out in the bush in B.C. Doukhobors take it further and never paint anything else on the house – it means they blend into the landscape better when the Mounties come searching.

The grey ones painted with a special mixture that consists of any paint in the garage that has not entirely dried out and is contained in a tin that can be prised open. All the blacks, whites, greys, and lesser colours are poured into a tub and mixed up – this gets slathered over the porch. Sometimes it is glossy and sometimes it is matte, and if you don’t get it all done in one day you risk getting both finishes at the same time. No-one ever cleans and saves their brushes after a porch job – it is generally considered hygienic enough to throw them in the nearest bushes.

The salmon pink is also a mixture made from all the brightly coloured tins that have been left over after painting bathtubs, soap box racers, and Finnish houses. It is distinctive and memorable, and no-one ever really thinks it is going to turn out that shade. Not even the salmon. Note that one car maker actually made a car – a small Hyundai sedan – in this exact shade, and they made them deliberately…at least I think it was deliberate. I can say I have seen them about 10 years ago here in Perth. Short-lived, unfortunately.

These vehicles are enthusiast’s cars seen in Sydney and Perth at car shows – though there are certainly a number of Porsche vehicles on the road at any one time – including a somewhat unexplained SUV with curves named after a variety of pepper. My contact with the marque has been very fleeting – an associate of my late father owned a bathtub Porsche in 1966 and there were some occasions when it was repaired enough to go on the main roads. I believe it had prestige value at the time, though the real value may have lain in the pile of receipts from the mechanics. I remember he had the rubber shock mounts between the body and chassis replaced at one stage of the game and the cost equalled the price of my new Renault sedan.

Have I ever wanted to own or drive one? Not really. I do covet the Audi TT and I would love an early 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle in perfect condition, but the sporty Porsche has never rung my bells. I remember James Dean.