The Little World – When You Cross the Line…

The line? The line between a toy and a model. And who says that you only have to cross it in one direction…?

I purchased a number of Schleich dinosaurs and animals to help with my studio composites. They are a wonderful toys – well-modelled and painted, and as real as anything you can purchase in the stores. For a person who does not do figurine painting or modelling, they are a godsend. I freely confess to admiring the horses and ponies as much as any 9-year-old girl would.

When I saw a Schleich tank-trailer in the shop I grabbed that, and had a glorious time dirtying it up as a oil tanker. The fact that it is 1:16th rather than my preferred scale of 1:18th is neither here not there – I can position it in studio shots to make it any scale I wish. Far better to be larger and more detailed than the other way around, I find.

Then I googled around to the toy stores in the eastern states and found a Schleich barn. It is a beauty, but up until now has taunted me with a plastic-play appearance, even though it is largely made of wood. One week I set out to remedy that. My only problem was that I had no idea what a barn looked like or what the various bits did.

Oh. I knew that the Scheich horses and cows fit in there – I tried them for size. And I get the idea of putting real beasts under shelter in the northern winters – but the ins and outs of doing it were a mystery. I started with airbrushing the plastic base inside with a varied mixture of dung-brown colour and left it at that. The only other interior bit I felt confident about was to scribe wooden floorboards into the loft. I painted the pulley of the barn lift a rusty iron colour.

The roof came as three pieces of 5-ply in blond wood. I printed out sheets of shingles with a wood-grain pattern onto matte inkjet paper and glued them in rows to the ply roof. And then weathered it with moss stain between the shingles. The theme for the barn is dirt and age.

The external walls remained in their wooden form – I didn’t incise them for boards for fear of spoiling the surface – either it had to be smooth toy or perfect model. The plastic masonry, on the other hand, got some pretty rough stonework painting in matte and then the mossy green as grouting flowed down the channels between stones. Then green moss spray from the bottom and dust from the top with the airbrush.

I also researched period barn stickers with advertisements for suitable rural specialties like Red Man cut plug tobacco and possibly a Dr. Pepper sign. I tried the experiment of making these sorts of signs as stickers rather than decals…. the idea was to make up sets that can be stuck on or removed depending upon the era that the barn depicted. I could not made up my mind whether to have a Pennsylvania hex sign on the end or not…

I can hear the farmers amongst my readership laughing at my amateur efforts but I assure you that when the farm ute and the tractor are posed there it will all look as rural as hell.






The Crew Car

No, not the young lady from Crewe. This is not that kind of a weblog column. You can’t pay to get out of it…

I mean the crew car from this year’s Big Al’s Poker Run. The silver and black N0.51 Holden. She’s an FJ Ute, and as Australian a device as you could ever find. She wasn’t out on big bad open display, but up near the scrutineering tent. What a great daily driver this would make, if you didn’t have to go anywhere near shopping centre car park drivers. That, or hang some 5-inch channel iron bar on the sides of the car when you leave it in a parking bay…and give the dog in the back a revolver…

The Holden was a true Australian design made through the auspices and finances of General Motors in the late forties. It is still going as a brand but the powers that be have decided to close down the Australian factories that made them and to just badge imported cars to keep the thing alive. No-one I have ever talked to think this is a good idea for any reason whatsoever – perhaps I talk to the wrong people. Australia needs factories and workers who can make real things to do real tasks.

Well, the owner who refurbished the FJ ute obviously knows how to do things – the finish is wonderful. The smooth style of the rear end is not that far from what they were in stock form – Holden always seemed to make a slicker tail than Chrysler or Ford. The pronounced rear hips did not hurt either. There is a good deal of hauling space in that ute bed undisturbed by encroachment.

Remember I said that no-one I ever talk to thinks stopping car production is a good idea? Well the reverse of the coin is equally well-moulded; no-one in the car game that I have talked to would hesitate to buy this same design if they would make them again. We’d eschew air conditioning and MP4 players and GPS rubbish for just a good old bench seat and a good old 6-cylinder motor.

In fact, the whole crew want one.

Colourless And Shiftless

dscf4460No, this isn’t a post about my relatives – this is a tribute to STEEL 32 at Gillam Drive. An artistic presentation.

In case that sounds pretentious, I have to admit that it is actually inadvertent art – the hot sun on the shining surfaces of this bare-metal rod made for such glare that the only way I could rescue the files was to convert them to monochrome. The car had a little colour, but not too much more, and the black and white rendering serves to show the raw power.

Before I launch out on it, I have to say that I do not disrespect plastic bodies for cars. I remember the Studebaker Avanti, a number of racing cars, and the Lightburn Zeta. They were glorious. And a number of glass-fibre bodies are made for cars from the hot rod era – indeed sometimes it seems that every second ’32 or “T” is a glass-fibre shell over some sort of steel tube-and-strap reinforcing cage. I’ve stopped looking into the unfinished ones for fear of what I might see.

dscf4463All that said, I do love to see a steel body. I never lean over then and bonk them with my knuckles – I respect the rights of the builder too much for that – but I like the feeling that I could do so without cracking the surface gel. And they sound better.

If they are subject to rust, well that is an honest chemical reaction after all. It can be dealt with – after all, what do you think they invented lead and Stanley files for? It beats ugly little cracks and bits flapping as you drive. And they can be left, as STEEL 32 has been, uncoloured and just protected with a clear finish. You get a sense of authenticity that can sometimes be missing in a completely finished car.

dscf4461I’d also like to record my agreement with the builder’s decision to leave the fenders and the bumpers out there fending and bumping. It means that it is a real car that deals with real travel on the road – not just a decorated cake on a trailer.

dscf4462As for the shiftless part of the title…well that is a bit of an exaggeration – every car has some sort of shifter in there somewhere and if you look at the steering column of STEEL 32 you’ll see the column lever and indicator on top. It is a far more elegant decision than some of the giant floor sticks with skulls on the top. The choice contributes a great deal to the clean minimalist tub interior and it is a pleasure to see that it has not been overstuffed with stereos, air conditioners, and kewpie-doll dispensers.


PS: The engine is the famous Ford Hemi – named after Henry Ford’s half-son…Only a few of the 1932 model had it at the time. Pleased to see that they found one in good condition…

Just Gonna Leave This Here…


Two-dimensional art has taken many forms in the past; paintings on walls, tile frescos, paintings on canvas, etc. Then one day someone invented the motor car, air compressor, and airbrush…

Here is an advertising brochure from a firm that does airbrush art. And an example of their work on a Holden ute at Gillam Drive. Any further written description would be superfluous.








Pretty much self-explanatory, though I do have one technical question; does he wash the air brushes out between coats with lacquer thinner or blood…?

Light Up An El Camino


El Camino – the legendary vehicle from the fabulous Chevrolet company all the way from exotic Flint, Michigan. Now available longer, lower, and wider than when it was shorter, higher and narrower. Heads will turn as you light up an El Camino.


Okay, enough nonsense. Ford made the Ranchero to turn a standard passenger body into a light pickup and Chevrolet made the El Camino to do the same. They ran them from 59-60 and then again in 64-87. One source speaks of them as coupé utility but we would just call them utes. Apparently North America thinks of them as trucks. This ’59 El is some truck…


As it has appeared at Gillam Drive on Bake-Your-Brain Sunday…the car event that sells more bottled water than beer…I suspect that this El Camino may have been slightly modified. I cannot remember them being quite that low… At first I thought it might be one of the cars that has air bags to lower it for shows but then lifts its skirts to go home. Not the case – as luck would have it this car pulled out on the road behind my Suzuki after the show and trailed me for several kilometres patiently waiting to pass. It was this low even out on Champion Drive. It did eventually pass, and while it did not beetle past below the belt line of the Suzuki, it was really low nevertheless.


I cannot get over the capacity of that bed. Okay, a ’59 Chevy was a large car, but until you see it spread out in this much open space you really don’t appreciate it. The curse, of course, is everyone else sees how big it is and forms plans for you to come and help them move furniture and fertilizer. If your ute is not a show queen with french-lacquered bed and automatic feather fans you are in a sort of awkward position vis-a-vis your mates. I solved it when I owned a Ford ute by clapping a Flexiglass canopy on it as fast as I could afford one… Please note that I am not a bad photographer…the ’59 El Camino is soooo long that it was beyond the capability of my widest-angle lens to capture. It starts here and goes to there and there is way over in next week…


Please also note two things about the appearance of the El Camino; the red satin paintwork and the window striping. Both are glorious proof of the freedom of being a hot rodder. No-one else who drives a car gets to have this much style or fun because they are all tied to convention and what they think is someone else’s design. Rodders are different – they decide what they like and do what they want.





Tiki Love Truck


I am tempted to post the pictures taken of the Tiki Love Truck here and not add any commentary, as there does not seem to be anything superlative to say that is not encompassed by the images. However, a brief summary:


It was encountered in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney in January 2016. It formed the centrepiece of an exhibition that dealt with objects that had been used for political protests. I believe it was made to protest something in the southwest of the United States. I’m sorry that I cannot say what that might have been, but it certainly seems an unusual and artistic way of howling.


Good taste and bad taste have little to do with art. Indeed they sometimes have little to do with hot rods or utes, either. You may like or loathe it at your leisure and you will be perfectly correct in either attitude.


I am just glad that I got to see it. It may not have the art deco appeal of a Hispano Suiza 1936 limousine, but it does at least stay in the memory.





Show Us Your Booty!


If you think that sounds a little crass, how would you like it if I wrote: ” Show Us Your Trunk “? Not much better, is it?

Every year at the shows I take the front 3/4 view of the car as the main signature view. Then some details, and the interior, and – if there is enough space – a direct side view. In some cases in the past I neglected to add more to  this and to picture the rear panel. I am going to make sure that I always remember to include this in the future as it is one of the most user-friendly areas of the car.

Perhaps user-friendly is not quite the right phrase…let’s say user useful, if that is not too strained and expression. People spend inordinate amounts of time and money on the engine of their personal car – followed in some cases by a lesser amount on the interior cabin space. ( is some cases they spend nothing at all on it and it costs them an absolute fortune…) But the bit that is the most useful – the boot or trunk area – is a neglected afterthought. Yet, where are they going to store the beer crates or the rock and roll records…the fitted luggage…the engine parts that they bought but have not worked up courage enough to show to the wife…why the boot of course.

Here’s a selection of back ends from Gillam Drive:

Our feature car, the blue ’33 might have a rumble seat in there, but as there is no way of getting into it, I’m betting not. You could not bear to scratch that magnificent paint job scrambling over the fenders.


The brown Buick has the sort of trunk that takes leather suitcases or wicker hampers of cold chicken and champagne. Not at Gillam Drive in November, mind, as the temperature is traditionally 147º in the shade and there isn’t any shade.


The blue ’39 has a wonderfully styled line to the boot and the builder of the car has been wise  and tasteful in preserving it. Probably plenty of room in there.


The green Holden also has plenty of room and the boot extends in under the seats. Modern cars can be surprisingly roomy back there – the wife’s Toyota being a case in point – it absorbs far more stuff that you would think for the shape of the metal. And I remember seeing a new 300 Chrysler that seemed to have enough room in the boot for an entire sofa. Pity about the spoiler on the boot lid as it does.


The orange Bel Air has the rest beat as far as vast open space – as they did in the 60’s. You pay the price of more metal, but you get the advantage of enough carrying capacity to match that of the cabin. ie you can fit all the bags of all the riders.


But the champ is the ute. It always will be, and now that the hard cover for a ute bed has become an established thing…remember that there were few of these in the 1990’s…the drivers can secure their stuff against thieves and road spoilage. Were I to get another ute I would serious consider a functional hard cover – as well as a bed liner.