I’ll Have The Green One, Thank You

Well, it was that time of year – the Australia Day weekend and the Victorian Hot Rod Show was on at the Exhibition Buildings again. I approached it with some trepidation…

Not because of the Australia Day parade and the visit to the NGV or any of the good things that had happened on the day – because the RACV had cut short their annual car show on the 26th and I was afraid that when I visited the VHRS the next day it would be as sad a disappointment. As it turned out, I had nothing to fear.

This fine Holden EK visited the open section at the front of the building. This year then committee decided to send the bulk of the front visitor’s cars to the rear of the building , which left a little more room at the front for yet more cars. A good idea – more cars increases the chances of seeing something special.

American readers can see Chevrolet…or at least General Motors influence in the styling, though they will recognise that it is an Australian body and a little smaller than the cars they were used to. Still a good big hefty vehicle for the late 50’s and early 60’s and made doubly attractive by being a station sedan.

No idea what is under the bonnet, but I would be willing to bet it is a clean example of the standard engine of the time – an upright 6. The good looks of the outside of the car practically guarantee that the owner will have done as nice a job in the engine bay. I note that the styling touches have been kept to the conservative side – wheel trims and removal of badges being the most I can see…though I do note that there seems to be an effective air conditioner and some extra sound in the interior. And did EK’s have a floor shift…?

Well, anyway, we come to the paint job. Faced with the long, long roof line of a station sedan, the designer did the very best thing that he could – striped it all the way, and then put in tasteful internal scallops in some of the panels.

I am particularly impressed with the use of the silver striping down the middle. Was he influenced by the design motif that Pontiac had on many of their cars?

One question…with a car as nice as this, why wasn’t it inside in the show section? Would it have made some of the other owners feel jealous? I know I’d swap my dog and horse for it…

 

B, C, Or E?

I am undecided as to which of the mid-series Holden cars I like best – the FB, FC or FE. They were the products of GM-H between 1956 here in Australia but sometimes went for several years – hence we tend to refer to them by the two letters rather than a model year. This practice was also adopted by the Ford and Chrysler when they named their cars. Australians are good at remembering these codes.

Aside: The ones who are really good at this are the train enthusiasts. They have a three-letter code for most rolling stock on the different rail systems in the country. It makes reading a model railway magazine somewhat of a chore, though, and probably has contributed to the popularity of North American layouts with their colourful – and named – freight cars.

 Back to the Holdens. Overseas readers might be forgiven for thinking that the FB was the first of the line, followed by the FC and then the FE. And wonder what happened to and FD. Uh uh. This is Australia, remember…the FE was the first, then the FC, then the FB. Then, wouldn’t you just know it, the EK, and then the EJ and then the EH…Aww stop it, before I fall off the seat…

 Now you would expect the next model after that to be in the ED or EC line, wouldn’t you? Nope -the HD, then the HR, then the HK. Then I lost any sort of interest…

 But here is the red and white ’58 FC at the Curtin Car Show. 2 seats for 4 people. 6 cylinder engine, fair-sized boot. Enough chrome on the front and back to please anyone and doors that can defend themselves in a Leeming car park. ( I miss that kind of door…). A two-tone paint job that looks good. And you get an AM wireless. What more could you want?

 

The 0691 Nedloh Sedan

My visit to the New South Wales hot rod show at Rosehill Raceway in Sydney a week or so ago was a complete success. The show is different from the VHRS one held on Australia Day and different again from the WA Street Rod spectacular that is later in the year. But every bit as charming…and with features that they other two do not have.

My attention was arrested immediately upon entering the lower pavilion floor when I saw this 1960 Holden. I must confess it took me a while to comprehend what I was seeing, and then I pored over it all over again to see the details of how it was done.

At this stage of the game I would invite my readers to Google up the standard 1960 Holden and see what all the fuss is about. Then sit and contemplate what sort of drinking session could have started the whole idea off. I cannot even imagine what was going through the builder’s mind.

Done well? Absolutely! A delight to drive? Well, that’s hard to say, but the value as a head-turner is incalculable. Unfortunately by now the owner has probably heard every joke and pun imaginable re. his custom and has come to dread the look that people get in their eye just before they come out with the tired witticisms. I shall leave him in peace.

I will say this much. I’ll bet the builder was tempted to reverse the side chrome accent strip and stars, but resisted it.

It Takes A While To Digest A Fat Rat

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This vehicle appeared in this year’s Hot Rod and Street Car show but I have just now gotten around to considering it. It takes a deal of looking.

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I can recognise the basic cab as one derived from a Holden – the sharp bulge shape of the belt line confirms that. After that it is an entirely different thing. Overseas readers may be tempted to think that all Australia cars are made by the same people who produced Mad Max…this is not generally the case. There are milder versions. The small sedans that the local Sisters Of Mercy drive for their convent work do not have machine guns, though they do have scythes on the hubcaps. They’re not THAT merciful, you understand…

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I will leave it to the eye of the beholder to discover the beauties of the car. Likewise to discern exactly what has been used where in the build. The quick will see the silver fern on the radiator cowl and understand that a person from New Zealand has built it. That would also account for the rat-cage headlight housings, air cleaner, and tail gate.

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I suspect it is a work in progress and will re-appear with additional embellishments in the future. Whether they include licence plates is uncertain yet, but the vehicle inspectors are brave and stalwart men and you never can tell.

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You Pays Your Money And You Takes Our Choice…

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I alluded in a previous post to the effect of seeing Australian cars on the roads for the first time in 1964. It may have given the impression that I was shocked and horrified, but that wasn’t exactly the case. Bewildered, maybe – and that was because I was seeing makes and marques that were entirely foreign to western Canada. I was also seeing the benign effect of Western Australian weather – no snow and ice on roads meant no salt slush and much less rusting out. Stuff lasted longer here. It probably was kept in commission far longer than in North America by the fact that people at the time did not have the disposable income to change cars regularly.

The first shock for anyone from Canada or the US was seeing cars drive on the left hand side of the road. Your initial reaction as a passenger was to cringe as the taxicab from the airport swung out into traffic and headed up the wrong side of the highway! But soon you got to looking at the passing vehicles and noted that there are only a few that could be recognised – and these few were the compact cars from Ford and Chrysler. That and the Land Rovers. Everything else was exotic – even if you had prepared yourself with a 1960 Observer’s Book of Automobiles.

Eventually you could see that there were basically three big sellers in sedan cars, and these had echoes in station wagons ( ” Station Sedans ” here ) and what we used to class as ranch wagons ( ‘ Utes ” here ). If you held your breath and crossed one eye you could see two  of them as transplants from North America, but the third  – from General Motors – had GM flavour  but a local design. They were what families of 3 or 4 travelled in – middle-class vehicles for everyday use.

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Ford took the Falcon design from North America and modified it for Australia, building the bodies in Victoria. When they were shipped to Western Australia they were sent as partially completed cars and railed into an assembly plant at Fremantle. Nice factory, but the cars were left in Leighton marshalling yards next to the beach to get as much salt sea spray blown over them in the afternoons as they could stand. The result was rather like winter in Alberta as the bodies had integral rust. Didn’t bother the taxi industry which took them over in thousands.

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Chrysler sold the Valiant cars from ’62 onward. They were made in South Australia and marketed as a slightly better thing than the Ford or GM product. Bit more tone, donchaknow? We had one of the ’64 models and formed our own opinion of the tone of the car when we discovered it did not have demisters in a climate that had mist or a heater in a climate that had cold. It did have two big vents the size of bread boxes that opened under the dash onto the legs of the passengers to allow them to judge what the outside temperature was. Fortunately they had door flaps that could be wired shut. South Australian design…

The GM product was a local design that had elements of GM styling in it but a smaller size than cars in North America. Call it a 4 passenger sedan. Produced again in Victoria, it also had the option of a luxury model, a ute, and a station sedan. I had a friend who derided them as overweight and stodgy, but I have noted over the years that the various cars he espoused at the time have vanished entirely, while the Holdens of the period still appear in the rod, custom, and restoration hobbies and still chug along quite happily. Time has a way of making value judgements.

Of course there were lots of other sedans available then that are gone now – the British motor trade was strong and even the French had local assembly plants for their cars that turned out a darn nice product. It must be noted that we have assembly plants in nearby countries like Thailand and Korea that also turn out darn nice products, and the driving public agree with them. I leave you with a BMC device of the time that also had many followers.

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Classic 60’s Cruisers From Australia

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Whenever you use the phrase “cruiser ” for a car you conjure up a whole raft of images from different people. Some see it as a description for giant California convertibles on Hollywood Boulevard. Others  think of Grand Touring cars in Europe…trying to grand tour through rotten little streets. Today’s cars are cruisers in the Australian sense – they were capable of long-distance travel with useful loads – in one case loads of people and the other loads of gear.

6 years of development separates the station sedan – the Holden EJ of 1962 – from the ute – the Holden HK of 1968. Surprisingly, there is probably not a lot of difference in the engine that drives them or the drive train connected to it – Holden made its changes sensibly over a long period of time. These are vehicles that never had to battle modern legislators and computers, either. They work because they work and there is room in their engine bays to work on them to keep them working.

The station sedan, or wagon if you insist, was equally seen in the city or the country, and was the mainstay of the yearly holidays down south or up north. You could pack the whole family in and still have enough space in the back for the camping gear and suitcases. That long roof and sturdy gutters were also host to no end of very long roof racks and the carrying capacity rose as the petrol milage fell. It was the days before aerodynamics was invented – there was just air. Not air conditioning, you understand – just air. It leaked into the driver’s side window until you fitted moulded perspex shields to the window. Then you overheated.

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The ute hauled only two or three people in the front, but as many as you could stack in the back. This is no longer allowed because certain communities in our northwest had horrific accidents with overloaded utes – the practise now attracts a hefty fine. Not that they pay any attention to that, I daresay, but down here we have to obey it. But you can still put the dog back there if you tie his lead to the side of the car.

A ute is a dangerous thing to own if people find out about it. All of a sudden the owner becomes a public haulage contractor ( unpaid ) and has to invent excuses to avoid being called on to move house or haul chook manure for his mates.

Note I cannot guarantee that the blue HK is genuinely used by a speed shop. These days people paint lots of artistic statements on the sides of their rods and you don’t know it they’re real or not. I kinda think the Florida beach patrol I saw a few years ago was made up , and I’m equally uncertain about the Mad Max interceptors. Perhaps it’s only forbidden to put on the local police markings. If this is the case I’ll definitely consider RCMP badges for my next 1949 Mercury…

The joy of Holden in the land of the Holden is not the fact that it is totally reliable and never breaks down. Far from it… It is the fact that there are a lot of parts out there for them. And some of the cars only have electricity in them that does sensible things…and they’re easier to work on.