Yaller Cat

Forget about the racial overtones of that Yaller Cat title – this is about the hot rod show, yaller cats attract the eye and stand out even in the dodgiest hall lighting.

In fact I have always been a little surprised that our local taxi industry did not settle upon the colour for the fleets of cars here in Perth – oh, there are yellow taxis in Melbourne , but the bulk of them out here are silvertops, black, or the ubiquitous white. I suspect that a lot of times the colour was chosen with an eye to resale of the vehicle…but by the time a taxi is ready to move on, the buyers need to beware of a lot more than the colour of the body. Note that the Japanese use the dear old Toyota Crown to this day.

The entry car for the WAHRS was, of course, a depiction of the yellow ’32 Ford coupe from ” American Graffiti “. Further in was our heading car with a yellow that came closer to Trainer Yellow than to Lemon Yellow. The ’39 Chev was probably somewhere in between, though the Royal Agricultural Society lighting is always a factor in any judgement you make. You’re best to view a colour out in the sunlight before deciding what shade you’re actually seeing – it would be disastrous to pick paint under the artificial light.

The original Mooneyes rail dragster is also probably as pure a yellow as you could get and certainly seems to match the memories I have of the model kits of the time.

And finally, note that yellow may feature a lot in our state’s team colours but it is also popular in Victoria and New South Wales.

 

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The Local Traveller

World travelling, we read, is a marvellous thing. It is said to broaden our minds and make us one with humanity.

I expect everyone who has ever stood in line to get their baggage checked onto an international flight…and then stood in line to board, use the toilets, get off again, pass the immigration and customs desk, and then collect the remains of their luggage has an appreciation of the delights of the experience. Then as they are attended by taxi drivers, desk clerks, tour guides, cafe owners, street beggars, local militiamen, and all the varied members of the aforementioned humanity, they get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

In most cases it is a yeast infection.

I have done my share of it, but as I’ve not re-enlisted in the Traveller’s Regiment and I’ve kept my discharge papers, I feel I’m safe for the foreseeable future. The world may turn, but I’m required neither to push it around nor grease the pintles.

But I do like the occasional drive in the country or air hop to another city in Australia. And, contrary to the overseas experience, I find the actual travel quite relaxing.

In the air, whether you are in the Business seat or Cattle Class, you are provided with a number of entertainments and stimuli – videos, music, frequent meals, etc – that you are allowed to ignore. You can sit there with a book, or a notepad and a pencil, and think. No-one that you are with ever interrupts you to stick another household chore or family revelation onto you. Your phone and tablet are in Aeroplane mode which means you are officially ordered to ignore them. ( Yay! ) and even Mark Zuckerberg cannot pester you.

Likewise on the road. As a driver you need your wits about you and cannot be talking on a telephone or reading a Mills and Boon while at the wheel. You need to obey increasingly complex speed and passing laws, and to avoid those who don’t. So you are in a cocoon of concentration. Break it every hour or so for a coffee or a wee and the experience becomes all the sweeter – you might step out of your Suzuki a little more fatigued than fresh from a Boeing but then you’ve seen more interesting things on the side of the road. And if they are recently flattened, you might have been able to scoop them up for dinner.

The trick is to pick a place to go that is worthwhile going to for your own reasons – not just the fulfilment of some travel agent’s urging – and to go there at your own pace. I pick country towns that might have a friend or an event nearby or a city that has stores I’ve not visited for a while. These will cheer the heart both in prospect and retrospect, and as long as you don’t overstay your welcome, every journey will be a gain.

Overstay? An Australian capital city is worth about 1 week, a regional city three days, and a country town 2 days. If you think the time too short to justify the return journey, then combine several destinations in a round trip. In all cases, leave ’em wanting more of you rather than less…

Booze At Bar Prices

When I am out of town – interstate or just in another part of Western Australia – I enjoy a drink in a pub or a tavern. Generally just the one and usually in defiance of the elements; a cold beer in summer and a whiskey or glass of port in winter. Part of the pleasure is the drink and part the experience of the place.

I accept that the price I will pay for the drink is more than I would pay if I had the same glass in my lounge room at home. This is sound business there in the hotel and sound management in front of my own fire. In neither case is there too much money spent – my tastes do not run to champagne or exotic vintages.

But I also do not wish to find that I have paid over the knocker for something that is under the measure – I suspect that this occurs in more places than you’d think. In some cases it is economics and in others ignorance.

The watering of a bottle of anything at a pub apart from a water bottle is supposed to be illegal. It is also impossible to police – at least from the drinking side of the bar. If you order a cocktail or other mixed drink you may very well see something poured from a bottle with a complex measuring spout, but you have no idea what went into the bottle before it was attached to the apparatus. If you order at a table, you get what comes back on a tray. And you are expected to drink it and approve by leaving a tip…in some cases the only authentic part of the transaction is the government banknote you hand over – not even the change is full-strength.

Has it happened to me? Only in three cities – Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. And only in certain establishments – If you want to be properly served in Melbourne I should recommend that you frequent The Gin Palace or Young and Jackson’s – no half measures there. Here in Perth The Mechanic’s Institute is reliable, and I am still exploring Sydney. Country pubs generally manage beer well, though their kitchens can be problematical.

In all of these occasions you can depend upon your on-board sensors to tell you whether you are getting the real deal, the deal, or the reel. If it tastes fine, it is fine and if it tastes watered-down….well, it is watered down. The saving grace about an establishment that serves a cheatin’ drink is the threshold of the doorway. You can step over it on the way out and never re-cross it.

The Bookstore – A Tale Of Temptation

People have remarkably different attitudes to space and time.

I can spend a happy hour in a dentist’s chair as I spent many happy years sitting beside one. The comfort arises from my understanding of the processes and rituals involved. My dentist may not be having such a good time, as he realises that I know, you know, and that I know that he knows that I know…

I can also spend quality time in a hobby shop, art gallery, or hotel lounge. And be very happy in a bookstore or library.

Bookstores have books for sale that you don’t have to give back. Some of them are swanky places, quirky places, antiquey places, and they have prices that reflect this. Others have less style and more substance, and I can afford to shop there. The secondhand places are the most fun, but you need to adjust your mind to what you are actually seeing. And you need to realise beforehand that there may not be any gems to be found in the overburden of remainders and Mills and Boone novels. Be aware of the sucker shelf as well, and avoid it.

My favourite places are the targeted shops – booksellers that feature a specific area and do not move out into the complete range of literature. Oh, they might be literary places and sell as much Jane Austen and literary criticism as you could cram into a string bag, but in general I go for ones that are not this. I find the transport, military, art, and history shops much more to my taste, though I can always be arrested by a bookcase full of low-priced paperback classics. I admire publishers who are prepared to give me the Dickens for $4.95.

Is there a drawback to this all? Yes. A bookstore holiday in Melbourne and Sydney once a year is a very good thing, and provided that the stores can send the goods by road you can purchase heavy items. I try for a metre-width of new literature on the shelf with each holiday, and have never failed. But you can be hijacked and diverted by finding a book  that cannot be deferred – that must be read as soon as possible, and this is at the expense of time spent doing other holiday things.

Mind you, it does give you a good excuse to prop yourself up in the corner in Young and Jackson’s with a couple of pints or to retire after dinner to the lounge of the hotel where you are staying with a pot of coffee and the new book. If the purpose of a holiday is to bid care farewell, this is as good a way to do it as sitting on a sandy beach.

 

All At Sea In The Car Park

I am a car expert. I can tell, after a hour’s careful observation, the difference between a 1973 Chevrolet Impala and a 2002 Hyundai Getz. No problemos. I can sort out Hupmobiles from Mattel Barbie cars. It’s a gift…

But when I encounter the out-of-the-ordinary car that has been rescued from the restoration fiends and made into a proper street rod I can flounder badly. Such was the case with this car in the car park of the 2017 NSW hot rod show. I knew it was gold, I knew it was good, and I knew it was locked up and impossible to steal ( don’t ask…) but I was in trouble as to what sort it was, and how much what I was seeing had departed from the original.

I know it was metal, because when you hit all the various panels with a ball-peen hammer they made a ” Doing ” sound. Not the windscreen. That was more of a crunchy noise, but we won’t dwell on it.

I was pretty sure that the mirror-polished engine compartment panels weren’t stock…unless the owner was the King of Sweden. Also the Mr. Horsepower logo on the side. Few cars of the period rolled out of the factory with a woodpecker. But I fell into a revery when it came to the shape of the fenders – they were distinctive and complex, and not the sort of thing that you generally see in ads in Street Rodder magazine machined out of aluminium. They looked suspiciously real – if enlarged a bit for the wider tyres.

Likewise the three rivets on the front to the windscreen posts. This sort of detail is not the kind of thing that rodders add to a car – they are generally grinding everything that they can off flat. These rivets argue that they are an original feature of the car…and they also suggest that if you did grind them off the windscreen would fall into your lap.

The roof worried me, frankly. There are three longitudinal strakes up there and the last time I saw a car with this feature was my old 1966 Renault 10. I haven’t seen that car since 1972, and anyone could have gotten hold of it. I was trying to picture this gold one in a two-tone blue to see if it was just a re-paint but decided in the end that it wasn’t.

Nothing else helped at all. I looked carefully at all the external lines, trying to imagine whether they had been altered or were a faithful reproduction of the original car. The dash and steering wheel were no help. No help in identifying it, I mean. I’m sure they are very useful for turning and that.

In the end I had to give up. I’d gone from the front of the grill to the back of the rear panel and the only thing back there was some pinstripes, tail lights, a square bumper and a paint job that said 28 ESSEX, so the whole thing was a mystery. Unless I can see the DMV records I’ll have no idea what brand of car it is.

The Naked Mexican

In case you are looking for girls, they are on the next page.

This one is about the Chevrolet coupe that I discovered in the car park at the Rosehill Racecourse during the 2107 NSW Hot Rod Show. It is a prime example of the advice never to leave too early and always look everywhere. It is the last car on my camera roll and I would not have missed it for a thousand Pesos.

Chopped, of course. Lowered, indeed. Shaved, but badly. This is a traditional custom/rod of the old Southern Californian border type. It rides low but does not do it by jacking the front suspension up. It is a bad man’s car, and knows it…

The decision to leave the scars and marks that this car has earned is deliberate – it is coated with something that preserves the metal…mostly…but lets us see the muscle underneath. The fading and graphics on the top are done because it is artistic. The boot lid is done because it is important to let people know with whom they are dealing.

There are no badges. This Chevrolet does not need esteenking badges…

Are you surprised at the interior? Do not be. It will become something different as time goes on. Do not expect knitted seatcovers, however – this is not that kind of car.

Is the radiator leaking? Is that water under the front grille?

No, it is blood. You would be wise not to notice it in future.

 

 

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.