The Golden Woodie Part 1

Every car show has a gem buried at its heart. These are sometimes flagged by the show organisers and sometimes you just have to find them for yourself. This year at the Perth hot rod show I found the golden woodie. It is for me a true evocation of a custom car.

Just a moment for two asides – if you go to the motoring bookshops you can find very nice illustrated books of the classic 1950’s and 60’s custom cars from North America. Lots of famous names – Barris, Winfield, etc. Sometimes there are colour photos of the cars, though at the time the colour processes were both expensive and rare…and we miss out of seeing some of the images. I like to think that there are 35mm Kodachrome and Kodachrome II slides out here in private collections that still do show the colours of the time accurately. Maybe not taken with all the skill of a pro magazine shooter, but first-rate records nevertheless. If anyone comes across old car photos of any kind they should never throw them out – someone will benefit from them right now.

But the second aside…well a couple of the books I have show some pretty extensive customising done in California in those eras but they are painfully blunt in showing what are some pretty awful design choices. I know, I know – each to their own taste…but if that is the case then some of the tastes evinced by home builders were pretty bizarre. And not just home builders – the big custom boys sometimes reached out for novelty far further than aesthetics could follow. It’s the same with music and clothing tastes of that time and the place – some cause nostalgia and some cause rectalgia.

But enough of the asides. They only serve to point up what I really want to say about this car; it is a truly delightful design and very well executed. I should have wished to see it displayed on a plinth in a compound of its own.

The sign board identified the original chassis as a 1946 Ford Sportsman. It’s been chopped, sectioned, re-engined, and re-suspended. I’ll let you read the sign yourself. And thank you to Valmae and Peter for summarising it at the show – it makes it all the more enjoyable if you know what the bits are.

Okay – wooden bodies – particularly New Guinea Rose Wood ones – are not all that common in the car parks around Bull Creek. Probably just as well, considering what the local drivers can do with the doors of their Toyota 4WD’s. I can only imagine that it must take some rather special maintenance even in the country to keep up the smooth shine. Full marks as well, for the colour paint decision – the rosewood with varnish wants delicate treatment in the metal areas to keep it looking elegant – this Aztec Gold cum bronze is perfect.

Likewise, the temptation to stripe, scallop, flame, or fade is one that every hot rod or custom builder must face. Some give in to siren song of the colourful side and throw decoration at every panel that will hold paint. It’ll work in some cases, but in others they risk losing sight of the lines in the conflicting paint patterns. This car is perfect for the flowing scallop that you see here – indeed square fender Fords of the period nearly always look good with straight scallops. It just seems to echo with our memories of those custom car magazines of the 50’s…I mean the good ones.

Whoops. Is that the time? I’ll have to show you the details tomorrow…



The Cut Lunch And The Water Bag

I am getting to be three things in my old age; smarter, cheaper, and more determined. It does not prevent me from being taken advantage of in the first place, but it does prevent a repeat performance. Next week I am going to test myself out in all three characteristics.

It is to be the occasion of the annual big hot rod show at the Claremont showgrounds. A weekend affair, I will go on both days to see different things and to take different photos. I am delighted to be a guest of another car photographer who is a regular shooter for the car clubs…he invites me and it means a free entry at the door. I will also take advantage of the free public transport card that allows a senior to travel on bus and train. Since the photography can be done with the Fujifilm X cameras, there is no film or paper cost either. So far, so good, so cheap!

But the trap for old players is at about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon when you get a bit hungry and wander over to the fast-food stand. The pavilion that houses the show has a contracted caterer there who serves hamburgers, chips, and nachos…no-one else is permitted to do so. there may be a coffee stand up, the other end, but they are bit players, and the caterer is sited near the only bar in the venue.

Needless to say, they clean up with all the hot rodders and their kids wanting to eat at once. Their prices, like their name, suggest the charge of a wounded bull.

Well, this year there will be no more bull. I am going to take my own lunch in my camera bag and buy a beer in the bar. There are plenty of tables to sit down at, and so far in this country you can still make your own sandwiches without government interference. I wish it were possible to do this in pubs as well, but I guess there is a limit to how cheap they will let you be.

It’ll be interesting to see if the days can be as nice as the one spent at the NSW hot rod show a month ago. All I need is a half a dozen new cars to see and it is all worthwhile.

The Little World Week – Part Four – This Wood Doesn’t Grow On Trees, Ya Know

Okay, I admit that was an exaggeration for comedic purpose – I’ve never actually heard a hobby shop owner say that. I have seen them sit huddled over the obechi stripwood muttering ” My Precious…” but that is another tale entirely…

I do not think that the Western Australian Forestry Commission should spend any more of its time trying to save tuart and jarrah forests from disease. And they should raise no more pine tree plantations – plough ’em under. What they really should concentrate on is obechi and balsa. From the price of the finished milled wood in the hobby shops it is evident that it could supplant gold, iron ore, or wheat as the state’s chief money earner.

The transport costs would be less too – they could replace the Peterbilt and Mack trucks and their the big trailers with fleets of Hi-Ace vans….

Of course, our state┬ámay not be suitable for balsa – it is apparently a tropical thing. At the prices they charge for it, however, the state government could afford to roof over the entire state and change the climate. The vast stretches of the Nullarbor plain may one day ring to the Exacto knives of the balsa loggers…

Obeche is African, and harder than balsa, but even more useful in strip form. It can be sawn finer and charged for higher. Unfortunately the Wikipedia entry says that the harvest in natural areas is unsustainable. All the more reason to bring it here, raze the Bell Tower and Elizabeth Quay and start the plantation.

In the meantime I can report that dear old IKEA is a good source of odd timber. I bought a set of their wooden venetian blinds for the studio some years ago in beech finish and had to shorten them to fit the windows. The extra slats have been providing 3mm stripwood ever since – the new Picador Pup saw makes easy work of dividing them.


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.

Cabinetry at 80 Km/hr

Gillam Drive 2014 115

I was in two minds about photographing this Model A woodie – it was parked on a side lot at the Gillam Drive open day and I wasn’t sure if the owner had quite intended it to star in the show. Not that there was anything bad about it – far from that – but I thought it might be a work in progress and not ready for the feature.

Still undecided about that. I can recognise some of the styling decisions on this rod, but I can’t say whether there will be more detail.

To start with, the basic premise of the build – a heavily-engined woodie – means that it is also somewhat of a simple style. The headlights and front fenders spell stock, and it is only the absence of bumpers and the choice of bonnet covering that alert us to the modified rod. Of course that big engine is a give-away, as are the choice of wheels and tyres. Those hubs are perfect for the utilitarian/stylish nature of the car. And for the size and weight of the engine, for that matter.

Any woodie involves…well…wood. Some are complex pieces of furniture with compound curves like the Chrysler and Chevrolet models of the late 40’s, but some are as simple and straight-lined as this Model A. Home carpenters and cabinet makers get a clear shot at woodwork with these designs, and there is a definite style to the blend of the wood colours. Doors need to be straight at the hinge lines to work properly.


Gillam Drive 2014 116

Gillam Drive 2014 117

The interior shows some fine coach building and I see the owner has blended the statutory requirements for a steel roof support to the square lines of the interior with a steel arch. The arches and the strakes of the roof are a delight – they definitely do not need a head liner for charm.

Gillam Drive 2014 118

I was surprised to see that there were no side windows. I was left wondering if this was a deliberate decision or if something is being prepared. A wet day with side winds would be a real experience – also cold days. Oddly enough a hour later on the Roe Highway I saw another Model A woodie with side windows that were made of perspex. Big and bare with no frames – they looked a little out of place on its wooden body. Perhaps they are practical or perhaps they just have not got around to fitting more complex coverage. I would not imagine that this car will ever have wind-up windows, but they might fit side curtains in the same manner that cabin cruiser owners do – or for that matter, the sort of horizontally-split thing you used to see on Citroens and Renault 4’s.

In any case this car looks like fun, and if it changes at all I will be keenly tracking its appearance at WA events.