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…





Gentlemen, I am here to state the case for bi-chromatic exterior anti-oxidation coatings. For duo-tonal art. For the two-tone car paint job. The Toot.

Too long has this form of art been laid aside. Generations of car buyers have been denied their rights. Innumerable viewers have been depressed by monotony on the roads. It is time to redress this!

In the heading picture you see Miss Joanne Armstrong and Mr. Richard Stein who are engaged in beautifying the Toyota land Cruiser owned by Miss Armstrong’s fiancé, Mr Craig Spittles. The vehicle is a 4WD rough-duty device that Mr. Spittles and Miss Armstrong take out into the bush and bash through forests to reach the coast. Presumably after they have done so they bash through more forests to return home. The trail of destruction they leave behind them must be tremendous. Leaving said devastation  aside, the car is wonderful, but dull. Toyota have released it in a sort of metallic dark green that neither excites nor satisfies. Miss Armstrong and I determined to right this, and with the help of a couple of tins of acid-based paint from the shed, we were able to do so. We initially quarrelled over either the red should go on the right or the left, but maritime law prevailed and we decided upon the scheme you see.

The photograph was emailed to Mr. Spittles at his workplace – up on a mine site in the remote reaches of our vast state. I believe it was the high point of the week for him – I know it was for Miss Armstrong and I.

Now there are other people who feel the same. Witness the wonderful paint job seen at the recent Rods ‘n Rust show in the Swan Valley. Green and gold are the the official colours of Australia’s Grand Prix racers, when we have them, and as they are free to all who would employ them, who better than a man with a hydraulic-lift agency and a 1955 Chevy pickup. I am entranced with the result, and would follow his lead if I had the courage.



Not all Toots need be as bright. Here are two repaints of factory schemes. Classics in their own right. Both make the cars more desirable than any metallic, flamed, scalloped, pinstriped, or panelled version could ever be. If it is working…let it work.



And finally, just as we can always over-egg a cake, we can sometimes overpaint a car. My daughter’s young man had an old Toyota and I thought to amuse him by devising a suitable paint scheme for it. I regret showing the image to him, as the following hour with the defibrillator and smelling salts was distressing…


Can We Blame Trump For This One?


Or Obama, for that matter? Or Bush? Or Menzies? or The Margrave of Brandenburg?

Briefly, a sparkplug disintegrated on my wife’s  car this week, ground itself through the cylinder and out the valves, and rendered her Toyota hors de combat.

Hors indeed. Hors big time. It is a 16 yet-old car and had some problems up until this point, but nothing too severe. Unfortunately, now the mangled cylinder and head means that $ 7000 needs to be spent to return it to the road, and frankly, if it is paid out, the car will not be worth that on the road. In one fell swoop the car is junk and an albatross around our necks.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that no-one is readily available to attach blame or extract recompose from – hence my speculations at the start of this post. I don’t really believe Mr Trump or Mr Obama or Mr Bush are responsible for the spark plug fracturing – though if the American news media get busy they may be able to get 5 minutes on air with it. The Margrave of Brandenburg is dead and not answering solicitor’s letters and Mr. Menzies frightened me. I guess we are going to have to stump up for another car.

Motto? Replace your plugs every 6 months. Also replace your  Presidents every four years and your Margraves every generation. No good trying to fish a fractured Margrave out of a Toyota – it never ends well.

Lemme Out! Lemme In!


Ever take a close look at the door handles on your car – or anyone else’s, for that matter? Unless you are a professional locksmith or car thief, probably not. A trip to the hot rod or classic car show will be a good opportunity to start your studies.

The door is necessary to let you in or out ( Unless you own a fibreglass T-bucket and are young enough to vault over the side…) and just as important is some way to open and close it. And lock it too, if you live in one of he outer suburbs.



The original makers provided rather elegant handles for this – they are reminiscent of the latches and pulls on furniture and building doors. The advantage they have is that they stand well out from the bodywork and are unashamedly meant to provide a twist with considerable power. Even if the bolt is ill-fitting or rusty, you can get enough leverage with one of these to shift it. They’re sealed too – no water or dust in through a body opening.



Some rodders have sleeked the side of their cars by removing chrome strips, badges, and machine-gun pintles. To reflect this streamlining they fit flush handles that either pull up in the modern manner or out in a slightly older style. The pull-out design needs more opening for the actuator and means it never really seals the door.



Even sleeker is no handle at all – just an actuator button or a metal lock. This is visually appealing but leaves you with the dilemma of having to shove your fingers into the door crack and pull – paintwork suffers. If you are incautious, your fingers suffer.



I’m happy to report that the modern daily drivers are all pretty well served by the door handle design bureau. The green Suzuki handle has survived 5 years without looking mankey and the grip well in the door makes it easy to get your hand in there even if you are wearing welding gloves. The plastic Toyota grip plate is sleeker, but the colour breaks up the appearance of the door.

I envy some of the Dodge and Chrysler drivers – they seem to have gotten chrome and boot lid handles. Chrome is good.


Looming Near You In The Near Future


Every time I think that the motor car designers have reached the maximum in any particular thing I am proved wrong – it is the same when I consider the devices made by electronics firms – I think they could not be smaller and I’m wrong. Can’t figure out which is more frustrating.

In the case of motor vehicles I accept that some things have to be large. If you are going to transport army tanks you are going to have to accept the size of the Altair tank transporter as reasonable. Not in the carpark of the local Woolies, mind, but a suitable size for the intended purpose. I will also grant an exemption from grumbling when it comes to container trucks and ambulances – volume is necessary. But not when it comes to Western Suburbs Wank Wagons. Then it is just a pain.

The WSWW is the large white, silver, or grey German or British/German 4WD SUV that looks like it could take on Everest in second gear but never goes any further than the Margaret Riviera down a sealed 4-lane freeway. Even here I would grant its right to exist if the owner did not insist on using it to collect groceries in the aforementioned Woolies car park or in the angled parking bays in the middle of the street.

You see, when they do, you don’t. See, that is, particularly if you are driving a normal sedan car and they park next to you. You have no view of the traffic flow if you try to move out of the parking space and you might as well wait until they return to their mechanical fortress to drive away. You can risk easing out of the space fore or aft but there is just as likely to be another of the breed waiting for you to try it so they can flash their halogen driving lights and bare their Bangkok incisors at you.

Same thing at the stop sign or lights. You’ll not be able to see what is coming but any other tall vehicles behind you will honk and fume at your caution. Fortunately I took care of my fingers when I was in practice and now I can use them singly or in multiples of two to communicate with the drivers of these Suburban Iron Ore Freighters. I think that most of them do understand the code, though they don’t look happy about it…

The Plastic Bumper Club – Or The Personal Car Club

WA Rod Show 2014 200

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.