The Mercury That Wasn’t

Ever since the late 1940’s the Mercury sedan or coupe has been a constant subject for the custom car enthusiast. From extremely mild to extremely wild, the Merc has been chopped, channeled, frenched, rolled, tucked, decked slammed and ratted everywhere. So much so, that when you see a body that is sleek and low but has a domed appearance in every direction, you instinctively think that it is a Mercury.

I saw this one at the NSW rod show last month…and I was wrong.

I had not looked at the notice board beside the car, but was just admiring the full-on traditional lead sled style…when I noticed that the characteristic Mercury step in the side line was missing. Thinking that this must have been a hell of a job to cut out and fill in…and why would you want to, anyway…I finally got the clue when I saw the shape of the grill area. Not a Mercury – a Hudson.

Equally fine heritage, equally cool old school style – but a lot fewer of them in the field. And as a right-hand conversion in Australia…even rarer.

Please take time to notice the smooth side skirt enclosing the rear wheels and the use of the chrome trim strip to unify the body. Also please note the frenched aerials and the bumper shrouds front and rear. There would have been a temptation in some customisers minds to get rid of the heavy chrome bumpers – or if it was the early 60’s in California to make up horrible bent-tube things and try to blend them into the pans. Thank goodness this builder did not give way to this. Big bumpers were a real part of the Hudson heritage and a look that deserved to be preserved.

Likewise, I am glad the builder decided to keep the Hudson hubcaps rather than just go with generic spinners or bars. Moons would have been traditional, but these are all the better for being so specific. And with those rear skirts, you only have to find two good ones…

As far as the interior and dash, I don’t think that you could find any European woodpile dashboard of the time…or even a modern swoop and splatter design – that could be as elegant and stylish as this Hudson. The two-tone is superb. I do note some modern ait conditioning vents, however.

This is no trailer queen, either – look at the panel near the accelerator – feet have been down there pushing that pedal, presumably to the metal. Let’s hope there were some floor mats, too.

 

 

The Fire Belle

The owners of luxury motor cars must do a great deal of comparing and subtle bragging when they get together over the brandy and cigars. They probably assert ever-higher performance and engine size as well as going on about the electronic gadgets and the overly plush upholstery. And they probably skite about how expensive their cars are but how cheaply they got them for…the rich are like that.

None of them, however, can have a word come out of their luxuriously imported mouths that speaks louder than this little Fiat coupe.

Topolinos and Topolino bodies are no stranger to the hot rod world…indeed I have seen more of these tiny Italian coupes with racing slicks and violent exhausts than ever in stock form. The vintage Fiat Topolino is a charming mini car, and I should love to own one, but this Fiat has something special – an engine that no luxury cars could ever aspire to…It is wrapped around an American LaFrance fire truck engine.

Not a daily suburban driver, perhaps. Nor yet the sort of vehicle one would choose to travel across the Nullarbor with a caravan in tow. Probably poor on petrol mileage, and the radio would struggle keep up with the engine and road noise.

The engine is V 12 but apparently can be run on half of those cylinders. It has double of a lot of things – for reliability. I would advise that readers enlarge the notice board and get the info fresh.

Apparently it is over 500 cubic inches in the engine. Eeeeeee… And my complements to the designer who thought of the dog. perhaps they can find him a small fireman’s helmet in the future.

Note: Sydney was taken on the Fujifilm X-T10 with the 18 and 27 mm lenses plus the ef-42 flash. In the event, the flash was not needed much. That little X-T10 is getting to be the go-to for exhibitions due to the waist-level finder.

You Can Make A Hot Rod Out Of Anything

When you read the title of this column, you might think that I’m being snitty to the builders of hot rods. Or that I’m being elitist. Far from it – I say exactly what I mean and I mean it as a compliment. The people who have opportunities to go outside of the mainstream…and take those opportunities…are the ones I especially treasure.

I see it here in the west occasionally – builders select a classic Japanese or British car and re-think it in the same vein that the American rodders would. In most cases it is awesome, and fully rewards all the work that its put in. And the work seems to be even harder than it might be for Ford or Chevrolet  builder – fewer re-made parts are seen and a much smaller stock of historical parts is available. There’s a lot of parallel thinking for the out-of-stream rodder.

This is a preamble to viewing the powder blue International pickup at the NSW rod show. Every part of it looks like it presented a challenge – not the least of which was the tilting bed. The classic lines of the cab have also been wisely preserved – it is a mini-truck and has been left to look like a mini truck. The complexities under the bed aft of the passenger compartment are what they are – the builder chose to go this route and at least we were spared hearing the bad language as he worked his way through them.

 And what do you think about the chromed rack that holds the bonnet halves up to display the engine…is that clever or what? I’m usually a fan of closed side panels but these look so professional that I love them.

I guess the crowning bit of pride is the radiator surround – so very different from the average run of repro or fibreglass Ford shells. It immediately tells us that we are seeing a one-off.

 

Do Photo Bombers Use Norden Sights?

Work that one out for yourselves, folks.

The featured photo was taken at Rosehill Racecourse during the recent NSW Hot Rod Show when I happened upon what is becoming my show favourite – a small kid being hot rodded along by his Dad.

I’ve seen and photographed this form of transport in Melbourne, Perth, and now Sydney, and it fills me with glee. My own father had a tiny Caterpillar crawler tractor that I could ride in and I loved it. My daughter was put on a battery-powered motorcycle that caused terror on the back patio. It is an honourable tradition. And if you get the battery-powered ones you don’t have to push…

I have to apologise to the Mum and Dad in Sydney – something in the setting of the flash seems to have made it all look like bad science fiction, but at least your boy looks great. I’m not sure who the visitor is, but at least he looks as if he is having a good time.

Did your feet survive the day? I know mine were calling to me by the time I got back to the hotel and they were demanding something to drink! I took sympathy on them. But wasn’t it a good show? I loved the Caddy on the second floor with the sugar skull upholstery – I am going to try to make one in a scale model. Who says you can’t win at the racecourse!

 

The 0691 Nedloh Sedan

My visit to the New South Wales hot rod show at Rosehill Raceway in Sydney a week or so ago was a complete success. The show is different from the VHRS one held on Australia Day and different again from the WA Street Rod spectacular that is later in the year. But every bit as charming…and with features that they other two do not have.

My attention was arrested immediately upon entering the lower pavilion floor when I saw this 1960 Holden. I must confess it took me a while to comprehend what I was seeing, and then I pored over it all over again to see the details of how it was done.

At this stage of the game I would invite my readers to Google up the standard 1960 Holden and see what all the fuss is about. Then sit and contemplate what sort of drinking session could have started the whole idea off. I cannot even imagine what was going through the builder’s mind.

Done well? Absolutely! A delight to drive? Well, that’s hard to say, but the value as a head-turner is incalculable. Unfortunately by now the owner has probably heard every joke and pun imaginable re. his custom and has come to dread the look that people get in their eye just before they come out with the tired witticisms. I shall leave him in peace.

I will say this much. I’ll bet the builder was tempted to reverse the side chrome accent strip and stars, but resisted it.

The Cat’s Library

A chance remark over coffee last year alerted me to the existence of a new old bookshop in Sydney. This isn’t a rare sort of business in a large city, but there are degrees of good in the trade and it pays to investigate whenever you can.

Gould’s Book Arcade – King Street in Newtown. Not all that far from one edge of the University of Sydney and served by an at-the-door bus from outside the Central railway station. Could not have been easier to find.

One big open door and then a maw of shelved books – ground floor and three-side mezzanine. I had been given to believe that it would be a maelstrom of paper stacks on the floor, but not so; the staff have been assiduously racking the stock into the metal shelves and putting up divisional signs. I was directed to the section I wanted for the first purchase and then it was way-hay and into it for the rest of the afternoon.

The original owner, now passed away, had definite political opinions and a fair bit of the stock on the left wing of the mezzanine reflected this – perfectly appropriate positioning, as it happens. I treated myself to a 50’s Soviet picture book with added propaganda and will enjoy baiting my friends with quotations and statistics from it. It will make a nice counter to their rabid support of Trump and Trudeau. I was tempted to get some Christmas presents in the political section but decided to go to the medical shelves for that.

The cat? Well, not quite right now – there has been a cat for some time but a replacement will be need to be sought. The special door arrangements are still in place for the new candidate. I’m sure it will be comfortable and certainly won’t lack for something to read.

Neither will I – the parcel of polemics arrived today and will keep me going for some time. Sydney has heretofore not been quite as productive as Melbourne in the book line – I usually average a metre of shelf space for each Victorian trip – but now that I know how easy it is to find Gould’s, I think this disparity can be erased.

Note: The Elisabeth’s S/H bookstore down the road in Newtown is pleasant but not a patch on our own Elisabeth’s in Fremantle.

The Alternate National Day – Up Spirits!

unknownHere in Australia we have a national civic holiday on the 26th of January called Australia Day. Original aren’t we? It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships in New South Wales in 1788. Some aborigines now say they are upset about it and some local politicians who want to benefit from this distress want to use their position to promote an alternate holiday two days later. It is all very sad, silly, and cynical…and ultimately just an exercise in publicity. The national holiday will go ahead as it has always done.

But another intriguing prospect has been suggested by a Facebook post: the use of the 26th of January to remember a military coup in New South Wales in 1808 by members of a British Army colonial regiment against the Governor of the colony. It was memorable for two reasons; the Governor was ” Mutiny On The Bounty ” William Bligh, and the whole affair turned to some extent upon rum.

The spirit was being used as currency in the colony and Bligh forbade it…as well as angering the moneyed classes by other rulings. Eventually, it all became too much and several officers led the New South Wales Corps to Government House  – with colours flying and band playing – to arrest Bligh. He was confined, shipped elsewhere, came back, went elsewhere again, and eventually was replaced. The mutineers were tried and very lightly punished and the whole embarrassing incident got over.

But what a fine way to give an alternative reading to the national day! I intend to buy a very good bottle of Barbados rum for the occasion and toast all parties involved.