They Went Datto Way

A few year’s back I attended a pin-up car show day at the Ascot racecourse here in Perth. The pin-up girls were intriguing and the retro stalls obviously had their devotees…I resisted the temptation to take home a number of items. But the best part for me was the unusual line of cars that attended.

You’ve seen some of them before in this column – the shoebox Ford sedan and the two-tone Jaguar saloon come to mind. The three-toned Valiant Safari with the hessian door liners was a highpoint for me – but I also got a thrill from this Datsun 240 GL. I suspect it is mid-70’s…not old enough to be antique but still with the design characteristics of another era.

I can’t say if the interior is a cleaner and leaner one than today’s designs, but it looks more spacious  to me. Less wrap-around light show about it. Dear old cassette tape deck and a AM radio – it was all we needed in the day and I suspect it is all we need now…but don’t try to argue that one out with the Bluetooth boys. Those of you who have never seen car seats before may wish to pay special attention to these – they are styled to make anything you wear look good.

Likewise the vinyl top. I hope that it stays in good condition – some vinyls were prone to leakage and rusting underneath or cracking under harsh Western Australian conditions – the grey looks good with the green bodywork.

Notice the painted wheels – there was a period of time there between the hubcap era and the alloy spoke era that saw a transition with small centre caps . They could look lonely inside a big wheel and the really cheap ones made of black plastic were a real stylistic turn-off.

On final thing to observe – the side spear is actually useful for defending the doors – unlike many modern sedans that have heavy moulding on the side contours but leave the panels open to every careless parker in a shopping centre. Full marks to this Datsun for just enough to do the job.

 

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The Big World – Playing With 1:1 Model Cars

I am going to go out on a limb with this column today. I have no idea whether I have correctly understood something and am going to make either an honest report of it or a complete mess. If the former, I am eligible for the Pulitzer Prize – if the latter, it is a sure ticket to talk-back radio stardom…

I mentioned the Toyotas On The Quay event that I attended and the number of what appeared to be racing cars displayed there. I was delighted to see them and thought that they were very well presented. Of course, an open air car event is a lot less sophisticated than an annual show at the Convention Centre, but there is this about it: the vehicles got there under their own steam – legally – and will make their way home again at the end of the day. This proves that they are real devices and not just the products of some dreamer’s imagination…as some show cars on the hot rod circuit seem to be.

Ignore my note of cynicism there, folks, because I do like the show cars as well…but there is more authenticity in a daily driver than a trailer queen.

Or is there?

I asked myself this when I looked carefully at a number of the ” race cars ” that were displayed. I’m quite unfamiliar with most motor sports – I can recognise the Indianapolis 500 cars from the 1950’s and I know the difference between a rail dragster and a Caterpillar tractor, but after that is all gets to be hazy. But I did look rather carefully at some of the racers and decided that I might be seeing model cars. Big model cars.

Take our featured image – the Toyota in the Castrol colours. Is it really the car that Didier and Denis piloted to an overall whatever place in the Rootyabouti Rally. Or is it a clever reconstruction of that car based upon a local Toyota – a 1:1 full-scale model, in fact? Made with loving care by enthusiasts who should be admired for their skill and artistry?

I like to think that this is the case. I should be equally impressed if one of the people who restore older vintage cars were to make General Montgomery’s staff car or Barney Oldfield’s racer. It is an entirely new level of enthusiasm, and should be encouraged with deliberate recognition.

If I’m wrong in this assessment, I am sure the local car fans will put me right.

Note: if you are a restorer or maker of racing cars…and drive with a standard WA licence plate, I’ll bet you are pulled over and grilled every time you venture on the roads.

Playing With The Old Toys

The old Toyotas, that is.

Perth was awash in motor car shows yesterday: The Italian car show at Gloucester Park, The All Ford Day at Bassendean Oval, and the Toyotas At The Quay at Elizabeth Quay. As I am entitled to free public transport and Elizabeth Quay is right on the train line, I opted for that one. The fact that the show itself was also free appealed to my frugal nature.

We often neglect the Asian motor cars in automotive events – in some cases with a disdain that amounts to mechanical racism. But at an event that celebrates all the Toyotas, that could hardly be the case. And for Western Australians it points up a fact that we sometimes forget: a lot of us have owned and driven Toyotas in the past and a lot of us drive them now. My wife has been most successful with them, passing from Corollas to an Avalon and now to a new Aurion. I spent a few years in a ’73 Corolla myself and have a fond memory of it. In fact, if I had replaced the head on it in ’85 instead of trading it in, I would probably be motoring in it now.

Not in comfort, mind. It was pre-A/C days, and a do love the A/C in my present Suzuki.

But the show today was proof positive that the Toyota has a solid place in Australian motoring history. That so few of them have been rodded or customised is made up for in some part by the fact that there are any number that are rally and race cars. I can’t get all that enthusiastic about that aspect of them, but I appreciate the fact that others do.

Here are a few of the brighter items at the Quay today:

Just A Cattle Shed Full Of Old Cars…

Just another day yesterday at the hot rod show.

Nothing to see but hot rods, bikes, custom cars, and pinup girls.

Nothing to listen to but hot rod rock and roll music.

Nothing to buy except car parts, tee shirts, model cars, insurance policies, wheels, tyres, paint jobs, etc.

Nothing to eat but food and nothing to drink but booze and coffee and choc milk.

Nothing to do but take pictures of cars and talk to car people.

I wonder if today will be the same?

 

A Poke In The Eye With A Javelin

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Jowett were an English motor car firm that had their factory near Bradford, in Yorkshire. Bradford is currently famous for containing the Kodak Museum of Photography and a great many residents of non-Anglo-Saxon ancestry. I can vouch for the excellent quality of the museum and their local curry restaurants, having visited both a few years ago. Goodness Gracious me…

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But back to the Jowett car seen at the Whiteman Park Motor Show. It immediately attracted my attention as it looked so much like a Peugeot sedan of similar vintage – the Peugeot 203. I don’t suppose they were drawn by the same people, but I cannot help feeling that the designers may have done lunch…Whatever, it is the sort of shape that immediately appeals to me – rounded and streamlined with few freaks on the body contours as they flow backwards to the rear. It is the sort of shape that says late 40’s  – the sort of shape that Morris used for their 1000 cars. But done here with more flair than Morris.

Well the car does have some oddities. They were not seen as such when it was designed, but they do seem so now. The suicide front-opening doors are the main example. They’ve been a feature of many designs, and are no more dangerous than the rear-opening ones, in most instances. The clever catch-phrase has damned them, of course, but then we’ll see that with politics for the next four years anyway…

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I am particularly impressed with the body line that makes the boot space of the car. It is a four-seater, which in 1950’s British terms meant four people who have been eating wartime rations for the last decade. They could be expected to occupy less space than four Americans of the same era.  When they went on holiday to Sewagepans-on-the-Sea their luggage would occupy less space as well. The Javelin designer calculated that requirement exactly – there is enough volume to carry socks, sandals, buckets, spades, and knotted handkerchiefs. No need for bars of soap…

The interior is also very well done. It has been designed to look like expensive wood without actually having to be such. It has space and good proportion. There is no silly parcel shelf under the dash to restrict the knees. This is a car interior in which parking at lover’s lane would prove rewarding. Don’t ask me for more details.

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The seats are very well done. Applause for the choice of fawn leatherette. It is perfect.

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I can’t tell you much about the engine. I note that the radiator is a fair way back in the engine bay, and this suggests a small engine, but then it might have been a powerful little thing and moved the car along at a sporty pace. I know that if I were invited to drive it I should leap at the chance. It is a consummately elegant little design.

 

 

Morning In The Valley

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The sky is blue

The sun has riz

I wonder where the hot rods is?

They is in the Swan Valley at the Cheese and Olive place – doing a charity show for pre-80’s iron. And they is doing a perty good job, too. Here’s a selection of the more colourful ones…and you need to remember that rust is also a colour…

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Events in the valley attract a large turn-out on a Sunday as the place has any number of cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, food and coffee places attached to the farm properties along the Great Northern Highway. A fine day and a car or music event will see the roads packed and sometimes – as today – the amount of trade overwhelms the available parking space. The late comers find that they are just unable to join in. I’ve learned to read the advertisements and arrive an hour before the things open.

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Today I was just that little bit late and found myself nabbing one of the last parking spots in between the sleeping grape vines. It’s a great place, the valley, but organisers need to put their heads together to see if they can overcome the logistics jam.

Last Of The Two-Eye Chevys

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I have a deep affection for 1957 Chevy sedans – it was our family car in Canada from ’57 to ’63. I am surprised at the short space of time that encompasses – 7 years – when I compare it to the length of time that I have kept my own cars here in Australia it seems piddling. I got 15 years out of the Ford Ute and it would have still been going if I had cared to root out the electrical bugs. 7 years is just getting started.

Yet…we went all over Canada, the US and Mexico in that ’57 Chevy and more or less wore it out at the time. I wish I could have been more attentive in those days as there are questions I cannot answer as to the engine or drive train that I’d like to know now. I do know that when you are a little kid you can sleep sideways on the back seat for hours on a long drive. And the car track is exactly 4 feet eight and a half inches. We found that out by lowering the tyre pressure and then straddling on the main rail line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad outside of Calgary and driving along with hands off the steering wheel at 60 miles an hour. It sounded smarter at the time than it does now, eh?

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Well, 57’s are seen quite a lot at Perth and Melbourne shows. I guess there is enough of a trade in their parts to allow for extensive rebuilding or maintenance with authentic bits. Of course that should not really be a hindrance to the dedicated car person – they will find ashtray springs for 1943 Hupmobile ambulances if they really need them from somewhere. Still, it is nice to have a selection of good stuff.

Every time I see a ’57 I indulge myself with the whatif’s and mentally plan how I would change what I see. It’s not disrespect for the cars or the owners as such – it is just the inveterate tinkerer and designer in me. I’ll never have the dough nor the time to do it, but the mental exercise is nearly as much fun.

I don’t think I would go though the exercise, however, with this red two-door ’57. It seems too nice and too complete to need any more fiddling. The owner tells me that the engine is a standard small block – though we didn’t get to see it open, I’m willing to bet it looked nice.

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He was able to open the passenger’s side door for me, however ( That is always a kind act, hint,hint…) and the interior is just as rewarding as the outside. There is a style and flair in there that you just cannot see in a modern black/grey/silver plastic sedan. 1957 lived larger than now.

I wonder if they would let me sleep on the back seat?

Tech note: Car is a little redder than that – the Fujifilm camera mode is Classic Chrome and it dulls the colour slightly. But it’s authentic to the look of 1957.