Red and Green – Port and Starboard

Or in this case – Avant 1 and Avanti 2.

I never expected to see a Studebaker Avanti in Australia – it was such a rare car in North America in my youth that I only saw one of them in Canada. Of course far more were made – you can google up the statistics of production for yourself – and there were always Avanti model cars in 1:25th kit form. It was the sort of thing that attracted the scale model market…even if the full-size customers shied away.

Studebaker was always pretty advanced – from their Raymond Loewy designs to their Lark compact cars and then on to the Avanti. Though I sometimes wonder if the high point of the company was war-time truck production for the US Army. In any case, the Avanti was one of their last hoorahs before they closed the plant. it would appear that it was really only a two-year project.

But what a project. Four seater, fibreglass body, Lark chassis. Unique body style and pretty good performance – many records at Bonneville.

And here’s two of them down under – one converted to RHD and one left in the original configuration. The LHD Model 1 has the advantage of matching the bonnet scoop moulding to the driver’s console. The green Model 2 has to make it serve as a style statement.

I’m afraid that not everyone is as impressed with the styling as I am – one of the female spectators at the 2018 VHRS thought it was the ugliest car on show. I wondered if she could see it for what it was. And I wonder if she could have accepted ” The Pickle ” better if it had an Italian or European name attached to it. The rear elevation is surprisingly reminiscent of some Alfa or BMW lines.

In the end I hope the owners of the Model 1 and Model 2 are going to be proud of their unique cars. They will never be worried about the bodies rusting out. Or being stuck behind five identical cars on the freeway.

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.



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…



Trailer Trash II

dscf0129aWell, after old man Mangina decided to move in next door to the B/A station – and I can tell you his son, Wayne, thought that was a very bad idea – there was no need to keep the axles on the Rollahome. The left spring stack was broken anyway, so they just jacked it up, tore out the suspension, and let it down on some railroad timbers. Salvatore crawled under the trailer and connected the sewage pipe to the town mains with a flexible hose ( not that he ever told them or anything ) and Wayne ran an electric line in conduct over to the trailer and that was it.

They fill up the propane tank about every 6 months when the delivery truck comes to the station and Wayne puts up skirts every winter and his dad pretty much lives on-site. It isn’t a bad idea when the old man gets a cold because Wayne or Sharon can go over from the station and check on him. He still owns 51% of the B/A anyway so you can’t really keep him out.

It is still useful to park the roll-off truck there when it comes into town. Salvatore made his money in hauling garbage from the RCAF WET DOG station in the 50’s. He still has a stake in the business even now the thing is closed off and just does civilian traffic. He keeps telling Wayne that they need to get a dedicated fertiliser truck for the air seeders but so far Wayne is unconvinced. He reckons they can just haul it in a tarpaulin draped inside a standard bin even if the tarp is thrown away at the end of the season. He suspects that Salvatore wants to buy a new truck and that would blow out the loan something terrible.

What he doesn’t know is the old man doesn’t want a new truck – he wants one of the old ’46 Chevy ‘s like he had when started. Salvatore was a POW in ’42 and sent out to Edmonton to work on farms for the duration. He married Peggy in ’44 and her dad made sure that he wasn’t sent back to Italy. He’s done alright for himself…farm haulage contractor in the 50’s with the old Chevy and then the deal with the RCAF during the DEW Line construction. He opened the first B/A station in town and now Wayne has it as a going concern. And Salvatore was still driving the Scania until he slipped getting up to the cab a couple of years ago and had to give it away to Bruno. But Sal still reckons he has it in him and if he had the ’46 Chevy he could drive that. It is a continuing source of friction at the Sunday dinner table…

Studebaker’s 50’s Fighterplane Design



There have been any number of motor vehicle designers who have popped to prominence and stayed for years – Pininfarina comes readily to mind, as does Harley Earl.  And others that we hardly know…It would appear that the ” bullet nose ” design was the idea of a worker at Studebaker who was then endorsed by Raymond Loewy. The bullet design had been the feature of Bob Bourke’s drawings for some time.


Does it look like an airplane nose? Yes it does. Was it meant to? Yes, it was. They gambled that people would like the military and aeronautical echo in it during a time of war.


Apparently the gamble paid off – Studebaker had their biggest production and employment years. The car had a big , light engine and performed well in road tests – It got praise from Tom Cahill in the US and he was a hard person to please.


The cars have been seen as 2-door coupes, 4-door hard tops and 2-door soft tops. The distinctive wrap-around rear window of the hard top was as much a controversial point in the rear as the bullet nose was in the front, but people eventually decided to like it and voted with their wallets. For myself, I always imagined a rear gunner and a pair of .50’s set in the rear window. Even now I think this would be a good idea on Leach Highway in the early morning traffic rush – it would certainly cure the tradies in the tray tops from monstering you…


I think the soft top, with the top down, is the best looking variant of the marque. It is also a car that needs wide white walls for best presentation.


Design speculators will look at the hanging rails for the front bumpers and wonder. They are real – you can see them on other examples in the net. They are necessary to get a functional bumper out from under the receding chin of the car. The fact that they are there means that Bourke and Loewy were able to press their vision on the engineering team but I would also be willing to bet that the original design drawings showed another way of providing front protection. The solution as it is seems too conventional and…if I can be permitted the word…clunky to have come out of Loewy. You have only to see his New York Central and Pennsylvania RR  locomotive designs to figure that there was a different idea first.

Wonder what it was?

Vietato Toccare Part Three


There’s a shop selling Nikon equipment on the main street of the Ginza in Tokyo that has entire windows of secondhand lenses for sale with price tags. It also has signs peppered throughout scolding the passersby not to take pictures of the window display – chiding them for having bad manners. I am not sure if taking pictures of shop windows is illegal or offensive in Japanese culture, or if it is just the personal grudge of the owner. In any case, at least he did put the sign out in English and I refrained from taking any. I also refrained from buying anything – I hadn’t that much courage. I ducked round the corner under the railway bridge to Bic Cameras and bought my stuff – they had lots of signs but none of them were in English and none of them seemed to be angry.

Perhaps we need to think of signs for our car shows – if we have the problem of people who do not know the basic rule of not touching the cars we can let them know on the spot, and…

Oh. Wait. We do have signs. Many of the cars have placards asking us to admire but not touch. They can be home-made or provided by clubs or insurance companies.

Or we could announce it on the loudspeaker that the paint jobs and chrome work are expensive and that owners have put hours of work into preparation for the show, and…

Oh. Wait. They do announce it. About every fifteen minutes. Jolly and kindly and all, but they do make it loud and clear – no touching the exhibits.

The best way might be to make up a series of signs in appropriate languages and post them near the cars. With suitable graphics that would attract the attention of the visitors. The hot rodders and vintage car people would probably not understand, but then they are not the target audience…

I’ve collected these so far from the internet and I’ll see if they can be printed cheaply:




I won’t have any printed in Japanese. There is no need – the Japanese visitors respect the cars and the exhibitors. Here is a young man doing the right thing, the right way, in Melbourne. I hope his images were rewarding.



The Plastic Bumper Club – Or The Personal Car Club

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I have recently been going to car shows that referred to themselves as ” Chrome Bumper ” shows. This was to limit the entries to a certain section of the history of automobiles. That was after narrowing it down further by era and time and type and nationality and degree of reworking and…and…and a great many fun things would have been excluded.

The cars that did show were fine – and presumably fitted into slots that the organisers set up. I had a good time. I got some good shots and some new weblog posts for the column. But I couldn’t help think about a different approach.

Of course this is nothing new. You can have a car show for British cars, Italian cars, VW cars, Veteran cars, etc and the very name sets out the criteria. You can ask for classic cars and the question becomes a wider one – and one that I suspect is driven by money and prestige as much as enthusiasm. You can ask for new cars. But I am thinking that you could have a great show asking for Personal Cars.

Cars that have been taken past the factory fit-out to to become something special to their owners. Driving cars, as opposed to show trailer queens. Cars from any nation and any era that have been endeared to their drivers with something extra. It might be a fully chopped, slammed, sectioned, shaved, and pink fuzzy diced ’49 Mercury. It might be a fuzzy diced Nissan S Cargo. It might be a classic Roller or a classic baby Austin with rebuilt everything. All it needs is to show the hand of man – or woman – after it rolls out of the factory and it is a Personal Car. Paint jobs count big-time. Interiors count big time. Full undercar ricer lighting counts big time. No-one gets excluded because of the bumper or rego sticker or country of origin.

Big show. Fun show. Lotsa food trucks. Shannons making a mint on insurance and the tee shirt guys throwing ’em off the racks. Pinhead striping a silver Audi TT with pink flames. The Forged girls on 15″ high heels. All kinds of a good time being had by all.

Puzzle Badge – Puzzle Car



I have been searching for some time for information that will let me make a sensible column about this Studebaker car – I am still in a quandary about it but hopefully one of my readers will set me right.

The stumbling blocks are fourfold


The name badge on the door says Gran Turismo, while the body shape of the car says Hawk – whether plain Hawk, Golden Hawk, or Silver hawk, those tail fins finished in 1961 while the Gran Turismo name started in 1962.


I can only locate one other picture of a “continental look” boot lid and it is on a  ’57.


No record seen yet of the peculiar tricolour badge on the body side.


No other photos showing any thing like the Victoria Half Vinyl top have been found so far.

Now, Australia has had a history of getting American ( and perhaps European) car models later than in their native countries. We have seen cars in 1960 that America used in 1959 – new production, but possibly with extra parts or stamping press moulds shipped over after their use in North America. It has lead to confusion in car spotting in the past. Is this a Studebaker made of 1961 parts but christened with a 1962 name by the factory?

Is the boot lid with tyre shape from an earlier model but adapted to this one?

Are the badges later additions – is the half-Victoria top a local modification?

I am also pleasantly suspicious about the colours on the car – but then I am always suspicious of the use of green and gold here in Australia – it being the Australian F1 motor racing livery. Is this a highly imaginative custom sedan by a local enthusiast? Is the absence of chrome trim around the two small grill openings in the front evidence of a little re-styling?

Whatever, it is fun to look at and would be a head-turner in any motoring gathering. The Studebaker Club seems quite strong here – I know there are several chaps who have adapted them for wedding hire and other special purposes. And as Studebaker did have a reasonable following in heavier vehicles as well, there should be a lot of knowledge and nostalgia for it.

I just wish I had more definite info about this one.

A Plea From The Car Photographers To The Clubs


When you are planning your next car show, could you please park them a little further apart?

We are thrilled to bits that you will be bringing your vintage-veteran-hot rod-street car-sports car-truck-bus-tank to the park-stadium-exhibition hall-mudflat behind the asbestos works. We don’t mind paying at the door-gate-edge of the car park for the privilege of seeing your prize machines and we want to make great pictures of them.

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We promise not to stand on the running boards like the punters do, and poke the dashboards like the punters do, and scratch the duco like the punters do. We will be respectful.


We will be utterly patient as the tag-teams of lurching punters slowly walk in front of the cars and progressively block the view…never allowing a clear sight of the edges of the cars. We are trained to stand still in one spot until the exact quarter of a second when the mob clears. We are frequently consulted by still hunters and snipers about how to remain motionless. Ninjas envy us.

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But we need a helping hand. If the cars are parked too close together we won’t be able to do them justice. We’ll have to use extremely short focal length lenses and the cars will look distorted as hell. Of course if they are Italian supercars no-one will be able to tell, but the regular British and French sedans will look odd and it will be a dead giveaway.

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Likewise, if you park them with their back to the sun, most of the exposures will look too dark – we’ll end up trying to light the front of the car with a reflector or a fill flash and it will look most unnatural. Again the Flopatelli Snazolla III Supraeformaggio won’t suffer too badly, unless it is the open Monza version with the folding wings. And they look bad in ANY light.


We do appreciate the trust and kindness the drivers show by leaving the passenger’s side window down – the interior shots will be so much better – but if you can’t manage that, it’ll be all right anyway. We can boost the shutter speed to 1/180 second, stop down to f:16, and fire a fill flash up at the headliner from the quarter window position while the camera looks in through the side. It’ll be a little dirty but not too bad. If you leave empty beer cans and dirty novels on the front seat that is your affair.

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In exchange for these small changes we promise to take good pictures of the way your cars look. We will photoshop out the rust holes – unless you are driving a rat rod, in which case we will photoshop more in for free. We will draw a discreet curtain over the state of the interior floor.



And Yet Another Car Shoot Post – Go To Bed, Already.

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No, no, just one more. I promise it will be short. Sort of…

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When you visit people you have to be careful – it does not do to see too much in their houses or in their cars. Every one of us has little corners into which candy wrappers and sordid dreams are swept, and it is very cruel to look for them and point them out. That said, the people who open their houses for public inspection or park their cars in the front court of a car show might remember that people are curious…

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