Buying The Dream

Going to a car show is a little like being a psychiatrist; you see crazy people hear a lot about their dreams. Or, perhaps that should be changed – you see a lot of dreams and hear about crazy people. Sometimes there are couches involved.

Whichever approach you take to it, a car show is also a commercial affair – even in the simplest open park affairs there will be someone selling something. Insurance, ice lollies, or Isotto – Fraschinis. Or in the case of hot rod shows; spare parts, wheels, black tee shirts, and paint jobs. And also, apparently, the hot rods themselves. And I don’t mean just the owners who have put a cardboard sign of whatever price ONO on their half-finished project – the WA hot rod show had some pretty complete items for sale.

The sellers that caught my eye were a commercial firm of automobile retailers who maintain showroom premises in  two suburbs. One of the showrooms is not too far from my home and has been an auto site since before 1964. It used to sell Morris, Austin, and Wolseley – then Saab and Volvo – and now is given over to exotic cars from all sorts of makers. I don’t know if there is a new-car agency in it or not, but considering the nature of the vehicles it offers, it hardly matters. This is all enthusiast big-money stuff.

I’m not qualified to talk about big money, as I do not have any. Very few of the people I know personally do either, though I have met some people through my former employment that might. Or then again they might not…I remember meeting a high-roller and high-spender in the 1970’s that proved to be financially and morally hollow. Best not to go back to those memories nor speculate about current people.

But I can sort of wonder about who the customer for the yellow Chevrolet pickup that you see in this post will be. It was a noticeable feature of the Xoticar display, and for good reason; it was darn near perfect. Maybe it was entirely perfect – I did not get to see it driven in or out. But from the look of the finish I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The pictures and the sales board tell you as much as anyone could about the car, but the real questions remain unanswered. Who built it? How much did they sell it to Xoticar for? What can they tell us about the bits inside that make it go? Why did they sell it to Xoticar?

More. Who is the target customer?  Are there target customers for turn-key rods and customs as much as there are turn-key customers for sports cars and any standard vehicles? Speaking as a turn-key driver of a small daily-driver hatchback I can see where that is a perfectly valid model for normal transport, but I always associated rods and customs with people who built their own.

More, still – I associate rods and customs with people who design their own as well as build them. Tastes can be as variable as the wind, and the idea of buying someone else’s taste – or dream – seems strange. What if they did not do it the way you wanted? Would you have the courage to break it down again and build it differently? Or would that be like overpainting a picture in an art gallery?

And who has $ 94,888.00 dollars to play cheque book hot rodder? I’m a bit cynical about the 888 in the price because I live next door to Leeming and Winthrop, and the doors of my hatchback show it…but have my neighbours taken to rodding?

Will we see a flurry of moon disks and lakes pipes on the BMW and Mercedes? I tremble to think.

A Repeated Pleasure

I rarely go on a repeat visit to a motor car show…because most of the ones I see are one-day affairs. But the major indoor shows do run over a couple of days, and this time called for a the second run into Claremont Showground to the West Australian event. I am glad I did it, as it saved me money and made me friends.

My first day there was a test day for a lens from the Fujifilm company – a top-quality professional thing that promises to be all lenses to all men…I was curious to see if I should get one and never take it off the camera. I enjoyed using it and laid down a solid 300+ images which I’ll share in due course. The second day I took a lens I already use to compare it with the pro version. Again shooting many of the same cars, and taking time to seek out others that I had missed. These days the processing once you get home is fast enough to have it all done in three hours and the results side by side on the screen.

And what do you know – the pro version doesn’t really look any better than the enthusiast glass. Same colours, same sharpness. And the enthusiast version has the advantage of a longer optical range and a stabilising mechanism within it. There might be some difference visible if I was making wall-sized prints but I don’t – and for the things that I do, the one I own is just dandy.

The other good thing that happened is that I met a Lady from california who does custom painting – Katt put a set of hot rod scallops on the front bezel of my new Fujifilm EF-X500 flash. I now own pinstripe, flames, and scallops. If I ever get to the point where I am taking my studio Elinchrom strobe units out to car shows I will get Travis Corich to change them from standard Swiss grey to candy apple or Metalflake. Metalflake holds no terrors for Travis. That’s his work on the ” Tequila Sunrise ” model T bucket and it has proved a winner.

And finally, I hope to see a new Hot Rod Honey and her husband in the studio too – I met them whilst she was touring the clothing and accessory stands at the show. I’m glad I had my iPad along to show off previous results and to brag a bit. If the lady from California comes back to WA I hope to recruit her to the studio too.

Featured Image: Anglia outside.


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.

Googling The Monster – The Work Rod


Going to car shows is all very well and taking pictures is all very well, but what do you do if you come home with a find that you can’t identify? If you’re lucky it will be a registered entry and you can harvest information from the show placard – if it is just an interesting vehicle in the car lot with no owner about, you are on your own.

Thank goodness for Google. I puzzled for a long time about the basis for this pickup – I knew the rear wheel guards were a modern product because I have seen that chamfered profile before on tray-tops. And the bed and box might be just anything. But the basis – the cab shell – was the sticking point.


I ran through Dodge, Ford, and Chevy with no real hope – I know their shapes intimately. I tried to convince myself that it was Studebaker, but pictures proved otherwise. I knew there were no Olds, Buick, or Cadillac pickups…and Mercury was Ford-shaped anyway. Then I remembered that we once owned an International Harvester Scout…


Sure enough – mid-fifties International 1/2 ton pickup. I’ve found examples in the US from 1954 to 1956 with that distinctive little chromed side vent on the edge of the bonnet. All the rest of the build may indeed be a Frankenstein’s monster, but at least I know the main source.


I like it, and I think the owner has done an interesting job of it. I particularly like the choice of the black and green scheme for cabin top and interior but probably not for the same reasons that the builder does. You see this scheme always echoes the Euclid earthmoving scrapers, trucks, and belly-dumps that I was familiar with in my youth. Of course they generally were covered in dirt as well as scratches. Most of them had fewer skulls attached to them as well…

Aw, that is just being fussy. This International has more chrome on it than the originals but that is hot rod style. The basic shape of the pickup was excellent and rewarded nearly any of the factory paint schemes of the time with no chrome at all. And they could look good as stock highboys, too.

I think rat rod is too harsh a word for it – let me propose a new one….work rod.

All You Ever Need To Know About Style


Here, children, is the greatest lesson that General Motors ever delivered on the subject of automotive styling. It is the closest that they ever came to selling a custom car straight out of their dealerships. In four images you can see why the Buick Riviera of the middle 60’s was what it was all about.

I took little notice of the marque in Canada because when it was fresh, we were out in the woods and away from the people who would have driven them. Oh, we were Buick owners ourselves once, but had fallen on hard times and were driving a ’57 Chevrolet 4-door for about 7 years.


Well, my eyes were opened when I came to Perth in ’64 and saw what motor vehicles in Australia looked like. After the initial shock of the EH Holden and the Morris Minor had worn off and I could sit up and take nourishment, a family friend arrived in town with a gold-coloured 1964 Buick Riviera. It had been converted to RHD at who knows what cost, and was driven around the streets of Midland by the wife of the family. As they lived the next street over in Greenmount, my Mum and I hitched rides down to town frequently.

The effect of that Riviera in Midland was electric. I once scored a ride to Governor Stirling High School in it and the value of stepping out of it and waving the diver off was incalculable. I did top it once with a Triumph Spitfire but that is another story.

Okay – THIS Buick Riviera was seen at the Victorian Hot Rod Show this year. For the life of me I cannot think why it was not inside on show display instead of just out in the side visitor’s lot. Perhaps the owner delivers pizzas in ti for Dominos and couldn’t spare the three days on display…Whatever, it was worth going to the show for.

As far as the extensive customising needed to make it into the fabulous shape you see, I suspect that the owner has:

a. Thrown away the boot badges.

b. Lowered the thing on bags and new rollers.

c. Repainted it. And a lovely paint job it is too. No-one can complain about not seeing it on the road. They probably see it in Queensland as a glow on the southern horizon…

d. Filled it up with petrol and cleaned the pizza boxes out of the back seat. And drove to the show.


And that is it – all the style and grace that you see was built into it new. I can’t swear about the interior. That wild yellow and velour is likely a refurb, but perhaps not. The walnut inserts for the doors are real, and the rest of it is fabulous. A killer in bright weather, though as the dash reflects up into the windscreen. You can always put a bar towel on it…


All the effort, restyling, leading, shaving, frenching, chopping, nosing, decking, and footling around that custom builders have done over the decades is unnecessary on the ’64 Riviera. It is truly a show machine out of the box. I can only hope that there are more of them in Australia to show up…surely the gold RHD Riv must still be somewhere, if only for the sake of my nostalgia.


And The Winner For 2016 Is…


A Packard.

This is quite frankly the most glorious find on the 2016 Victorian Hot Rod Show. Parked on the outer circle on a sunny afternoon.


The shape is reminiscent of so many other cars – Porsche, Mercury, Tatra, etc. without giving way to some of the funny little quirks that they can have. You are looking at 40’s styling, of course, and it looks to be 1948 – 1949 – or 1950. The original vehicle is so close to a custom to start with that the decision to lose the rear bumper and round the pan goes almost without saying. Mind you, if the rear bumper had been given the same body-colour treatment as the front one, it could have stayed on.


You will also have noted the body-colour headlight rims that leave the massive streamline plus upright chrome grille to carry the front alone. As this is such an unusual car, the builder has wisely elected to allow the grille styling that Packard did to stand alone. Vintage car enthusiasts will recognise the Packard shoulders to the vertical grille carried into a streamline.


I am still trying to research the tail light shape and to see what relation it has to the shapes of the day. Some internet pictures show originals with small flat oblong lenses as well, though in some cases they are surrounded by more chrome. This set is probably more visible than the original style.



The interior is a concerto rather than a symphony. There is nothing overstated – it is minimalism in a luxury car. I should have looked upon a wood dash in there as a monstrosity – fortunately the designer had more style than that. The upholstery says luxury without raising its voice.

And the choice of colour is at once bold, refreshing, and historically plausible. I have found a similar two-tone style on the net in fawn and warm brown so this two-tone is perfect. And not a skull, eyeball, or smoking woodpecker decal to be seen – a blessed relief sometimes.


The last picture is sad. Sad for the owner who will part with this beauty – sad for me because I don’t have that kind of car money. But I am so glad I got to see it.



Coolest Krautwagon On The Block


Those of you who wish to indulge in the deadly sin of jealousy can prepare to do it now. Please direct your envy and malice toward the owner of the duck-egg blue and white Volkswagen beetle in this post. The vehicle was seen at the 2012 Victorian Hot Rod Show in Melbourne during January of that year. It was parked over under the trees in the free section. Unfortunately the Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter was down for repairs that week and we could not lift it up and spirit it away – presumably the owner still has it. Drat.


The car itself is beautiful, as only the VW bug before they started to restyle it can be. I should say it is pre-1966. The paint scheme may have been factory but I am inclined to think that it would have been one colour – the base blue – and that the white side panel and the chrome trim strip are and aftermarket Australianism. Well thought out, mind, as it breaks the deep belly appearance and is in keeping with the white seats. I cannot tell you whether the visor was a dealer offering or whether it too is the result of the local motor shop.


The real surprise for me was the rocket launcher bolted to the driver’s window…I spent a fair bit of time looking at it before I figured out what it is -and then had to go off and Google it to confirm my suspicions.


It is an air conditioner. Inside the hammertone-finish steel tube is an axial-flow fan that is propelled by the inrush of air rammed into the front. It whizzes around and propels air through a flat vent into the side window of the car. To cool that air, it runs through excelsior that is kept wet from an internal tank. No electricity, all done on ram air. A cool, wet blast in your right ear as you go along.


No good at traffic lights – no air. No good on humid days as there is no evaporation to work. and there must be some sort of sound as it whirs and drips away away . But how ingenious and conservative – and just in keeping with the age of the vehicle. And given the sounds that that luggage rack must make at any speed – well…

Note – I did see one of these coolers in miniature on a 1:24 scale die cast car. it would have puzzled me had I not seen the real thing.