Another Bluebird Of Happiness

Only this one wasn’t made by Datsun. This is a Morris Minor of 1953…65 years later. Lets face it, Folks…none of us reading this looked as good when we were 65, whether we were bright blue or not.

I’ve commented before in this column that it is surprisingly to see many of the cars that we were familiar with in the 50’s and 60’s here in Australia taken up in the hot rod or custom scene. Oh yes, there are Ford Customlines and Holden Fj’s and such, but the percentage of Dodge or Chrysler is low and the percentage of British or French cars that also get taken into the fold are even fewer. Least considered are the Japanese imports of the time. Hot rodding can be surprisingly blinkered.

This makes a car that is as well turned out as this Morris Minor a real pleasure to see. It is of a size that can lend itself to some of the smaller modern engines – my brother-in-law built a MM ute with a Nissan engine and he was the fastest old man in Mandurah for a while. But every project eventually gets finished and his MM finally was…and then interest was lost…

Well, thankfully the man who made this blue beauty carried it through to a magnificent conclusion. I envy him not only the finish but the practicality of it. That was meant to be a small commercial hauler and it still is – albeit a faster one, with better seats. Given the modern tyres as well as engine and suspension parts, this would be a magnificent wanderers van for Western Australian summers.

Winters, however, in cars of this vintage can be a damp and misty experience. Ask anyone who has travelled in Perth in rain with a tea towel to wipe the steam off the inside of the windscreen  and listen to the historic language. The 60’s saw a complete industry of add-on demisters and heaters and none of them worked a damn. Eventually you just wound down the side windows and froze or swam your way to your destination.

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1000 MPH Standing Still

One day I hope to be able to brag ” I seen it.”

It? A car that has broken the Australian and World land speed record. I’ve done the first part of the work by going to the West Australian Hot Rod Show and looking at the Aussie Invader. Now I just sit and wait until Mr. McGlashan does the rest.

There is no mistaking this for your average car…even for your average racing car…actually there’s no mistaking this for your average land speed record car. It is just that different. Metal wheels with no tyres, liquid fuel rocket engine, front trim canards, rear fin, and a tiny little space in the middle for the pilot.

Pilot? Don’t you mean driver? At 1000 miles per hour and supersonic on a mud flat I mean pilot. They have astronauts in space at this sort of speed and aeronauts in the air – I think Mr. McGlashan can very fairly title himself as an autonaut.

Note the ” debut ” sticker on the cockpit of the car. I didn’t get a chance to ask whether they will tow the car away at the end of the show or let it drive out under its own power. I’ll be listening out Sunday night…

I also looked as hard as I could but did not see the blue touch paper…

The New Ride

Travis Corich, the genius at Pinhead Kustoms, has a new ride.

He confessed that he always has several in the stocks – we saw his other ute last year and now there is a new one to see. I belive it is a 1938 Chevy half ton pickup with additional strakes added to the roof of the cab. If I’m wrong Travis can write in and correct me.

As you can see it is still not carrying a front WA license so there may be more to be done – or perhaps it was just taken off for the show. As you can tell, however, the finish is the thing and as Travis is engaged in striping and painting for others, his vehicles act as rolling signboards.

The interior is well in keeping with the mild customizing of the exterior – no gaudy space-age decor. I do not see a radio or MP4 player – perhaps Travis does what I do when I drive – hums and whistles along to himself.

The Perils Of The Opening Act

I should not like to be an opening act for anyone – whether they were famous or obscure, whatever occurred after my turn on stage would be inevitably detract from my own performance.

The same with the first car to be seen in a hot rod show. It’s going to be rushed by no matter what. I saw this today and took deliberate care that I gave the first act full attention.

It was a depiction of the yellow ’32 Ford coupe that featured in the film ” American Graffiti ” so many years ago. I was taken with the film, puzzled by the title, and receptive to this coupe in the entry hall of the 2018 West Australian Hot Rod Show. Note, I know it has an official show name but it is just the WAHRS to me.

Yellow is always a good choice for a rod, as it attracts the eye. Also probably safer on the road for just that reason, though it also would attract the official eye in blue so you’d better have the official papers right to run it. The problem with the hall that the WAHRS is run in is the lighting – it can have a colour temperature that ranges from water pump to Alsatian dog without ever getting to any of the conventional measurements. In the past I have tried to predict it with finely tuned custom WB. These days I just accept my fate and leave the camera on Auto WB. Take it from me that it was yellow.

It was also well-built, with a fair adherence to the spirit, if not the letter of the original. I must re-view the movie to see how close they got. Suffice it to say that it was a very satisfying reminder of the times. I was particularly taken with the shake tray…having seen a fully loaded one rip the top chrome moulding off the front window of a Pontiac in a Canadian drive-in in 1962 myself, I appreciate the feature.

Also appreciated was the period approach to the interior and the engine fittings. I admire some alternative rod styles but always default to the classics.

And finally – two good pieces of showmanship: the display stand that let people know what the intent of the rodder was, and the free stack of printed posters that let them take home a souvenir. That’s what gets the punters’ eye.

 

 

I Want To Feel Better – Hand Me A Hammer

In the merdestorm that is the current Australian political climate, I have found myself wishing to see less and less of the opinions of my social media acquaintances, and more and more of logical and pleasant subjects. Thus I turned to a series of pictures taken at this year’s Sydney Hot Rod Show. It may be rusty, but we all need iron in our diet to some extent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They can also be said to pay you off for years before – in the sense that if there was some aspect of car building that you had always taken for granted or only vaguely understood, the cat of seeing it pounded out in front of you also tends to pound it into your brain. The chopping of the top on this Chevy is exactly a case in point for me. I say – for me – because you might have realised the difficulties and understood the procedures long before this. I’m just grateful that I got to see these chaps working.

Who are they? I do not know – it would not have been polite to interrupt. Do they know what they are doing? Look at the pictures – they are doing it. It was obvious from the straightforward way they went about measuring the thing with a steel tape and then bending and clamping that they knew precisely how to move that metal and exactly where to relieve it. It was staggering to see the condition of the car and to realise that one day it will re-emerge from destitution into a thing of beauty.

The shapers at the English wheel were good to watch but not quite as exotic for me – I have a friend who has an extensive metal-working workshop and forge and I’ve seen he and others using these machines to make plate armour pieces. They are not car enthusiasts as such, and they have lives too busy to become such, but I’ll bet that if the armour and blacksmith boys had to repair their own car bodies they could make as good a job of it as the professional panel beaters.

Of course they would not be able to help themselves somewhere along the way. Enthusiasm would surface and eventually one of them would be driving a Peugeot with pauldrons…

Shoe Two – The Ford That Makes Me Nervous

I get it. I really do. I was puzzled at first but I’ve seen enough now to say that I do get it. But it makes me nervous.

The rat thing. The Baxter Basics movement in the hot rod world that thinks it remembers what rodding was like in the late 1940’s and wants to suggest that it is bad to the bone. And who am I to say they are not…?

 I am a spectator – a photographer and gawker at the hot rod shows. I can be amazed and amused and no harm comes of either experience. The rodding enthusiasts and custom builders are marvellous artists as far as I am concerned and I applaud nearly all I see. I know that I could never display a hundredth part of the car-building skills that they show.

But I am also not a police motor vehicle inspector or a patrolman on the roads. And the fact that I admire the rodders and ratters counts for nothing, if one of these officials takes a dislike to a car or driver.

I’m not accusing the police of bad behaviour. They may be executing their duty in a perfect manner. But sometimes there are temptations placed in front of them that would be nearly impossible to resist. It must be a very finely run thing for them to look at a vehicle on the road and make a snap decision about whether it should be driven over the pits…or into one.

The artistry of the rat is a very strange mixture of dilapidation and deliberate provocation. Some of the local cars in this style seem to be works of low-brow art – so much so that you wonder if they have not been made as a parody of themselves. Others, like this NSW shoebox Ford – have a genuine air about them. The authenticity is the thing that would trigger the vehicle squad…and I would be afraid that if they ever started in on this car they might not let it escape their clutches.

 Like every car, it is a work in progress – heck, my standard suburban sedan is that, as is every car on the road. But mine would be less likely to get a sticker on the windscreen as it does not advertise itself.

Well, I hope it all comes out well in the end. If there is a gleaming 16 cylinder Hispano-Suiza engine and a racing car chassis under the Ford skin, all might still be well at the Vehicle Inspection Centre. I didn’t see under the bonnet, so, like the US Navy and nuclear bombs, I can neither confirm nor deny. Let’s just hope the NSW cops do not fiddle with the fuse.

All At Sea In The Car Park

I am a car expert. I can tell, after a hour’s careful observation, the difference between a 1973 Chevrolet Impala and a 2002 Hyundai Getz. No problemos. I can sort out Hupmobiles from Mattel Barbie cars. It’s a gift…

But when I encounter the out-of-the-ordinary car that has been rescued from the restoration fiends and made into a proper street rod I can flounder badly. Such was the case with this car in the car park of the 2017 NSW hot rod show. I knew it was gold, I knew it was good, and I knew it was locked up and impossible to steal ( don’t ask…) but I was in trouble as to what sort it was, and how much what I was seeing had departed from the original.

I know it was metal, because when you hit all the various panels with a ball-peen hammer they made a ” Doing ” sound. Not the windscreen. That was more of a crunchy noise, but we won’t dwell on it.

I was pretty sure that the mirror-polished engine compartment panels weren’t stock…unless the owner was the King of Sweden. Also the Mr. Horsepower logo on the side. Few cars of the period rolled out of the factory with a woodpecker. But I fell into a revery when it came to the shape of the fenders – they were distinctive and complex, and not the sort of thing that you generally see in ads in Street Rodder magazine machined out of aluminium. They looked suspiciously real – if enlarged a bit for the wider tyres.

Likewise the three rivets on the front to the windscreen posts. This sort of detail is not the kind of thing that rodders add to a car – they are generally grinding everything that they can off flat. These rivets argue that they are an original feature of the car…and they also suggest that if you did grind them off the windscreen would fall into your lap.

The roof worried me, frankly. There are three longitudinal strakes up there and the last time I saw a car with this feature was my old 1966 Renault 10. I haven’t seen that car since 1972, and anyone could have gotten hold of it. I was trying to picture this gold one in a two-tone blue to see if it was just a re-paint but decided in the end that it wasn’t.

Nothing else helped at all. I looked carefully at all the external lines, trying to imagine whether they had been altered or were a faithful reproduction of the original car. The dash and steering wheel were no help. No help in identifying it, I mean. I’m sure they are very useful for turning and that.

In the end I had to give up. I’d gone from the front of the grill to the back of the rear panel and the only thing back there was some pinstripes, tail lights, a square bumper and a paint job that said 28 ESSEX, so the whole thing was a mystery. Unless I can see the DMV records I’ll have no idea what brand of car it is.