And That’s Why They Make Swivel Guns

Look it up: swivel gun. Google should have a few pictures from maritime museums. Try to imagine the fun you could have with your own.

And it’s not just the owners of merchant ships passing the east coast of Africa who might appreciate a brace of ’em. Local boat owners who get sick of other people crowding them out in the marinas…or who are afflicted with saboteurs attacking their vessels while docked. Indeed, the Rottnest ferry would probably benefit as well.

The whalers and fishermen who are pestered by the Sea Shepherd gangsters would also appreciate the devices…after all the maritime nuisances do have a skull and crossbones as a symbol and I think that makes them fair and traditional game for a charge of canister over the taffrail.

For myself, as I do not own a boat, I would settle for just the one…mounted on the driver’s side door of my Suzuki Swift with a friction primer and the lanyard led inside through the window. I would use it in our local shopping centre car park for the drivers who loom up and menace you when you are trying to carefully back in or out. I would not be too mean…perhaps load it with Jaffas instead of grapeshot.

If it’s good enough for Johnny Depp and Geoffry Rush, it’s good enough for me.

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The Last Half Century On The Road

It is always a shock to the system to realise how old you are. I don’t mean when you are very young – a little kid knows exactly how old they are because they count the time in months and years. They have a great deal more time between the events of their lives – the birthdays, Christmases, and school years – and they feel it acutely.

As a retired coot, I feel it as well, but the sense of disconnection is not present. I go from one year to the next with hardly a blink. I went to a post-Christmas barbeque with three friends…two of whom I had not seen since last Boxing Day, and I could still recall the conversations around the table 2 or three years prior to that on similar occasions.

All this as lead-up to the speculation that I have been driving steadily in a private capacity for over half a century . I started at 17, I’m 69 now. I hope to be competent and licensed for driving for at least another decade, as I have places I want to go and people I want to see. I agree that I will need to stop driving some day, but hope to have gotten all the dirty deeds done by then.

Note that currently I am allowed to use public transport in my home city free of charge on account of age. I’m close to a bus route, and it is close to the train system. I’ve been exploring the use of these facilities in the last two years and am pleased with the efficiency. If you keep out of rush hours and off the lines that run to horrible suburbs it really is pleasant.

On the road, I have long passed the boy racer stage. I also seem to have passed the suburban tank and/or ute stage as well, though I do long for a good old station wagon sometimes. But that longing goes away when I pull up at the petrol pump – my hatchback is just perfect for city travel.

The really interesting thing I note is the disappearance of the need for intensive service and maintenance on the average little car. Mine’s 7 years old now, and bids fair to go another 7 if I am careful. The first five years only saw service for it at the dealer’s once a year. Even now, it is only every 6 months. The constant oil, grease, and fluid maintenance of the 50’s and 60’s cars is now sealed in. Even the battery just sits there for most of its long life and charges and discharges without asking for much.

I wish the laissez-faire attitude to design would come inside the modern car – particularly onto the instrument panel. My car has as much in the way of tits and clocks as I ever want to deal with, but I notice that newer and more prestigious vehicles owned by other members of the family are tricked out with video, LED, screens, sensors, and music players that frankly defy understanding. When I travel with them I keep fingers off the buttons and try to concentrate on the outside world.

I hope that we do not see further silliness on the roads like driverless car stunts and cameras snooping from every vehicle – and that we gain a little relief from the traffic congestion. I suppose my best way of aiding this is to use the bus and train or just stay home. Or take to doing my driving after midnight.

The Right Wrong Right Side Of The Road

Which side of the road do you drive on where you live? if you’re in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Siam, South India, North India, East North India, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Japan, you drive on the left hand side of the road. If you are elsewhere you drive on the right.

The chief need, whether on left or right, is to do it well. With dignity. With foresight. With accuracy. All concepts that I am desperate to introduce to the residents of our street.

We are a mixed lot here in Dreyer Way, and generally benefit from it. All races, all nationalities, all ages. We do not hold wild parties and we keep our lawns mowed. We do not break into each other’s houses. We pick up litter after bin night. But we also do not know how to park in the street to save our lives. If we do not learn, some of us will risk losing them.

The convention in Western Australia – at one time enforced by the police – was that you had to park your car as close to the curb as practicable. It had to be in a place that did not obstruct other road users or the driveways and pathways that served the street. The car had to be parked on the left of the street. This seems to have changed.

On days that see tradesmen working in the street – house repairers or lawn mowing men, etc. there is no problem – they follow the old rules and you can navigate around them as you go along. They are never loud or unruly and do not speed in the street. They may be different when they get out on the open highway, but at least they are exemplary here. The residents, however, have taken to parking every which way on both sides of the street – even when their own driveways are unoccupied. Their travelling guests follow suit, and often will stop opposite a car that is properly parked on the left hand side. This narrows the street’s passageway to door-wrenching size.

Please note that our house is base to four cars – Two big ones, one medium-sized sporter, and my little Suzuki. We park on our own drive and lawn and do not encumber the rest of the way.

The bottleneck is next door, and I am starting to think that there might have to be some creative thinking to solve it. I do not want to make enemies of the neighbours but I also do not want be barricaded into my yard. It might be too much to hope that a Sherman tank with a mine plow will come down the street and shove the Mazdas aside, but I may have to resort to driving over the next door’s council nature strip to bypass their visitor’s bus. Perhaps the council garbage truck will loosen their doors a little at about 5:00 AM. I’ll listen out…

Note: Apparently they also drive on the left side of the road in England, North England, West England, and Even Further West England. I’m glad they have followed our lead.

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…

 

 

Bollards To You!

_dsf0313The heading photo is from a few years ago – the back end of my pride-and-joy little car after I reversed it into a concrete bollard at a car park. The post was low enough not to be seen as one pulled out of the parking bays but tall enough to strike both bumper and rear hatch.

The subsequent repair work was costly enough to require me to use my insurance policy but was done to a good standard and the car is as useful now as before. While I considered myself plagued with bad luck then I recently saw something that changed my mind. A friend did the same thing to his car and has effectively written it off.

This may seem a little severe with bumper and boot lid damage but he unfortunately has an older car that is constructed on some sort of unibody principle. The entire rear end up to the window line is all one giant panel, and if you break it the price of replacing it  – for cars that are well out of date – is prohibitive. He will end up with a secondhand car of the same era if he is lucky but it is likely to have as many flaws as the one he owns.

Is this gong to be the way of the future? What happened to the 70’s plans to make cars with replaceable panels that would cut down on repair costs? What happened to actual panel beaters actually beating panels? Have we regressed?

The idea of a hot rod sourced from someone who has already built it to a legal standard is getting more and more attractive. Blow getting a big-engine one – a roadster with a tiny Japanese 4-cylinder engine will be fine – as long as the body has separate panels and there are real live steel bumpers out the front and back on big stalks.

Or better still –  an old pickup with a steel rear platform.

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Did You Hear Something, Watson?

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That faint sound of a destroyer siren at 10 paces?

I think it’s the car insurance company again. This time it is another pleasant young man from Manila…taking up the slack where the last pleasant young man left off. He has apparently been in contact with PYM1 and is going to contact his manager to see if he can secure an insurance quote for me that is as low as the insurance quote that his firm already sent to me in the post…

Say what?

Yes. Indeed. Over the weekend the insurance quote has climbed from $ 606.43 to $ 739.00 – but he will do his utmost to try to persuade the manager to only take $ 606.43.

We’re talking about a 5-year old Suzuki hatchback here – my wife’s one-month-old car was also insured with the same firm for $ 606.18. In one case an old car that rates at $ 9500 and in the other a new car at $ 30,000… Same address, same drivers…but the same premium. Say what?

I do wish they would turn off that diving klaxon so that I could think…

A round of the local internet has turned up insurance with the same specs for the old car for from $ 440 to $ 534. Major player firms that pay up on claims properly. Firms with which I already deal in other insurance matters.

I am grateful to PYM1 and PYM2 – they have provided me with a timely reminder to be vigilant and prudent in my financial dealings, and as there is a month to go before I need the new cover, I should be able to make a sensible decision.

My goodness those fire alarm bells are noisy. And where did all the ” Achtung: Minen ” signs come from? Is there a message here?