Letting The Hooks Do Their Work

We often read about how complex things should be to work well. The endless choice of fashion and fad –  together with tech and toy – will have us doing 5 procedures to maximise our pleasure, safety, or monetary return…and in many cases we will have wasted all the effort. A simpler solution was there on the counter, or in the drawer all the time.

No sphere of activity sees this more than the photographic world – except the self-publishing weblog one. We are continually being bombarded with must-do extra steps. We are looked upon as fools and dinosaurs if we do not do them. I saw one instance yesterday of this sort of built-in confusion but I saw that it has been disabled – and by the people who set it up in the first place. This gives me hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel and that it is not an oil fire…

The car parks of Perth that are run by Wilson Parking have had a variety of operational systems over the years – from grumpy old men in little hutches beside the gate to massive ticket machines in the multi-storey parks. These machines started out simple, got complex, then more complex…then I stopped going to the multi-storeys because I feared for my sanity. The outside parks got a new wrinkle a few years back – a machine that demanded your license plate registration before it would accept your cash or credit card entry for parking.

I was always having to restart the procedure to key it in as I either forgot a number or hit the wrong key. You could see lines of people doing the same thing and getting frustrated and angry. Added to this the practice of wheel clamping to extort money and the whole idea of going into entertainment or city areas became untenable. I stayed out and so did others.

Yesterday the Wilson outside machine was one of those license plate jobs but they had disabled the function and turned on one that just issued you a ticket based on the time you paid for. The charges weren’t excessive and as it was a pay-wave job your card stayed in your hand. Finally the automatic features were allowed to run unhindered and the experience was good.

Either someone came to their senses or the machine was broken…

Sneer Away, Vermont.

The people of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and upstate New York need a laugh occasionally. They are accustomed to the beauty of rich colours in their forests every September and October. We’ve all seen the wonderful calendar photos of the covered bridges and the old churches amongst the red, oranges, and yellows…

The heading image is Fall in Perth, Western Australia. Autumn if you want to be pedantic. Those are dirty yellow trees in the Hay Street mall overarching a wet pavement. That’s it. That’s as picturesque and romantic as it gets. You can take long, soulful walks between JB HiFi and Vodafone if you want to but be aware that no songwriters have ever made ballads about it. And the Perth City rangers will move you on if you slacken your pace. You might as well get back on the train and go home.

Autumn in Australia is wet and cold, followed by a wet and cold winter. If you get nostalgic for sunshine and heat you can either go to Singapore or wait for January when the Weather Bureau will have a little surprise for you…

Perth in winter is bracing. So is Skegness and root canal treatment. But at least if you are languishing in the dental chair under rubber dam you are not standing at a bus stop getting splashed by the 507 from Booragoon as it speeds past unheeding. Winter in Perth combines discomfort with banality – cold with pointlessness. It is the least you could do, but you re compelled to re-do it every year.

The only way to escape it is to go North. North to Geraldton and Broome and Exmouth and Darwin. You’ll find good weather and a lack of culture. Your body will rejoice and your mind will shrivel. The choice is yours.

Note: Perth does have covered bridges. They’re covered in bird shit and motor cars.

 

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:

It’s Been A Golden Week

I often think that really good museums, art galleries, and car shows should have a premium service that rents out little three-legged travelling stools so that patrons could prop themselves up in front of the exhibit, painting, or car and just sit there looking at the details. It would make the experience one of quality rather that quantity. And we could block up the aisles so no-one else got a look-in.

I was a good visitor to the Perth Hot Rod Show. I obeyed the rules. I did not touch any of the cars, girls, or other photographers. I stayed outside the honour barriers. I stood aside to let other people see the cars. But I did want to climb all over this one…

Let’s get the featured image out of the way to start with. The sensible decision to paint the bumpers rather than re-chrome them is one that a lot of people take these days and I applaud it. I think it can really improve the looks of some of the cars, and I am surprised that it has taken so long in the custom car world to come up with it. And the use of quad headlights is also brilliant here – the Ford of the period was, like all cars, a two light design. This worked fine when Fords were narrower, but by the time they got to this year – 1946 – the sheer width of the nose made the lights look paltry and their chrome bezel did not help either. They were not alone in this, of course – look at what a Chrysler of the time looked like…

Not bad, as such, but a little wide and lonely out there. The Toyota headlights helped fill the Ford in nicely.

But the show stopper is the wooden grill teeth. In another vehicle they would have been an affectation. In this one they are pure art.

The wooden theme has also surfaced in some of the other trim. Note the doors and the surround coaming of the back seat. I am terribly sorry not to be able to show you the dash, but the honour barrier prevented me from going round there and seeing how far the wooden theme had been taken inside.

I have no idea what sort of maintenance schedule will be necessary to preserve the New Guinea Rosewood of the body. Perhaps modern varnishes like Estapol will keep it fine – the Western Australian sunshine can take the life out of most woods in a very short period of time. Let us hope that this car continues to gleam for decades to come.

The Golden Woodie – Part 2

I do not pretend to understand engines. With the possible exception of the .049 Cox Thimble Drome model airplane engine – and that impressed me with its ability to bite into my fingers. But all the rest are intricate mysteries. People ask me why I include pictures of engine compartments in my reports if I don’t know what I am seeing – I do it for those who do.

Other people are more knowledgeable – This 350 Chevrolet seems to have been neatly fitted into a place that once held a considerably smaller Ford flathead engine and presumably moves the car along at quite a bit faster pace. I salute the skill that does this. My complements to the chef who also decided to do it without cutting horrid holes in the bonnet and poking industrial machinery through them. Perhaps the owners of this wonderful custom car have passed the stage of wanting to have things look like an Ed Roth cartoon.

How much shoe-horning was required? Well the show sign said they sectioned the bonnet and reshaped the fenders so there must have been some squeaky moments. I have a 1:18th scale die-cast model of a 1948 Ford Woody so I will go look at it to see if I can see where the cutting took place. I can’t see a bad line anywhere here.

Likewise, I am going to have to consult a 1:18 model of the Ford convertible of the time to see if I can pick out how the shape of the boot lid was done. I can’t say whether the body is a readaptation of the original or a new construction but if the car comes back onto the Perth display scene and we can get closer to it past the honour barrier, I will examine it closely.

Note the wheels. perfectly chosen combination of modern spoke design relieved and highlighted by the repeat of body colour and the period-correct effect of wide whitewalls and substantial tyres. Some stylists might have been tempted to put in thin rims and strip rubber tyres, but I am glad to see they did not do this here. The Ford tragics in the crowd might have looked askance at the Chevy bow ties in the hubcaps, but then it has a Chevrolet engine after all. And all the bow ties were lined up for smooth appearance.

 

 

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…

 

 

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Well, that’s what they are.

I see ’em at all the hot rod events I go to. I have no understanding of them at all, but I respond to them as works of art. Sometimes the owners are works of art as well, but I’m not sure they want to be stared at.

As works of art they are infinitely more useful than public sculptures or abstract paintings – they can at least be ridden in some fashion. I have a private suspicion that many of the builders do not ride them, however, but reserve an old 250cc farm bike in the back of the carport for their normal jaunts. But what the heck, artists are artists and you have to expect anything…

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Your Ref In The Voterendum

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The announcement from the Western Australian Parliament today that a referendum will be held on the subject of exiting from the Commonwealth of Australia caught many news broadcasters unprepared. The only official announcement so far has been on Radio KBWW – The Voice Of Walla Walla. As this is a 25 Watt AM station in the centre of the state of Washington it is unlikely that the news has spread much around Perth as yet.

Walla Walla, Washington is twinned with Walla Walla, NSW and we suspect that there has been a little confusion in the newsrooms. As the state abbreviation for Washington State is WA , which also applies to Western Australia, the mistake is a natural one.

As it is, however, many residents of both WA and WA will welcome a firm political bond free of the shackles of Canberra ACT or Washington DC. No word yet as to defence or trade bonds but we note with pleasure that this state is stuffed to the gills with uranium and Hanford is still there in the Yakima Valley, so something should be possible.

Twinning Portland with Medina or Leda has also been suggested, and it would serve them all right.

Let’s do this!

Note – the state bird problem also needs to be solved. Over there it is a goldfinch – here it is a black swan. Either we’re going to need a fair bit of yellow spray paint here or an equal amount of waterproofing compound there. Negotiations are continuing.

Saturday Night At the Nightline

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Britons and Europeans…and in a few days those will be two separate classifications…have been sadly deprived all their  lives. Oh, I don’t mean the missing out on milk and orange juice and bombing each other flat every twenty years – that is a legitimate part of their culture and heritage and they enjoy a bit of decimation now and then. Does ’em good. No, I mean they have never had drive-in movies.

Oh, they can go on about the Odeon and the Palais and the Cine d’ Whatever, but girls, unless you have sat on the tailgate of a Holden panel van in the hot darkness swatting mosquitos and your boyfriend you have not lived. I know – was one of the boyfriends and I remember the swatting.

Canada, the US, Australia, and I presume South Africa and New Zealand were all sensible and adjourned the motion picture theatre out into the night at an early stage. In canvas seats that cut the circulation off at your knees or stuffed five abreast in the back of an Oldsmobile, we all saw Ben Hur, or High Noon, or The Road Runner and loved it. The snacks from the snack bar were greasy, sugary, salty, and watered-down all at once and we loved them too. Half of our heart disease and diabetes started at the Snack Bar.

Half of our children started in the back row. I hasten to add this is something I heard from someone who heard it from someone else. I never owned a panel van or ute in those days. But Renault 10 seats were surprisingly comfortable…

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Here’s two takes on toy drive-ins – the small N scale one at the Model Railway Exhibition used a cell phone screen to stream the actual movies of the day and there was sound as well – bigger sound than the cell phone could make. I suspect a Bluetooth speaker. Please note the delinquent sneaking in over the fence. And the sin bins parked with their tails to the screen at the back.I believe the maker of this diorama has lived a chequered youth…

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The 1:18th scale drives is a project in progress. It was an experiment early in the Hot Rod Honeys series and shows the crude effects of plastic mannequins. In time it will be redone in black and white with real people and with a forced perspective – I have more cars in smaller scales to go down the front. The screen shot is from an actual movie made by the Goldfische Studios; ” Tarzan And the Bird Of Paradise “.

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And here’s a toast – in watery orangeade – to the motorised cinemas of the past. We still have one in Perth and it is still fun to go and swat.

 

Google Earth And The Frugal Traveller

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I am not a frugal person – but I admire those who are. The idea of conservative values and careful use of resources to live a good life seems to be closer to the ideals that my parents held than I have been able to attempt. I get distracted by a desire to own more and more things and I suspect that I lose out on a lot of inner peace thereby.

I’m not entirely lost, however, and I have hope for the future. Oddly enough it is a hope that somewhat limits me. Let me explain.

I emigrated to Australia in the 1960’s from Western Canada. Settled down here, got an education, got married, have a family. Became an Australian citizen, worked for 40 years, retired for 8 days, and am back in harness. State law grants me a big annual holiday and pays me to take it, and conventional wisdom tells me that I should use this opportunity to travel. I have been getting a lot lately from acquaintances who think I should visit Western Canada again…presumably to soak up the nostalgia.

Maybe – but this sort of trip also soaks up about $ 20,000 and I privately wonder if it would deliver more algia than I want for the money. I have happy memories of a good childhood, and I think if I were to try to recapture it I would fail. The chief actors in my childhood – my parents – are long passed away. Their brothers and sisters are gone. The cousins left are strangers to me and I would only expect to see them if they were passing through Australia and wanted a bed for a week…

The houses I lived in and the neighbourhoods I frequented might still exist, but would be 50+ years older. Time enough to go to hell or come back again – the buildings would either be gone or in terrible shape. The people I knew would be scattered to the winds all over Canada. It is hard to conceive of anything that would reward a trip.

Yet….there is always the curiosity…and the irrational little thought that you would find the old school yard…

Enter the Google Earth program. Whether you go for the sneaky vertical spy shot or the intrusive street view – or just the map view – you can look at where you were. I have done just that – walked to my third-grade school from our old house. And to the drug store. And caught the bus downtown. I was horrified at one stage to see the old house razed and a new two-story one go up but I have reconciled myself with the fact that I did see it in the old place before it went. Note that the Calgary school board have not improved the appearance of the school since I was 8…

It is interesting to see that in 50 years they have also not altered scrap-ends of streets where we tobogganed in winter – and it is impossible to remove some of the big hills and valleys where we played. It is also interesting to see which points of the city have not grown in 50 years…not fancy sections either. I guess unattractive land is just that.

The Google Earth takes me all over the western part of Canada and the US to find old haunts – I can trace my way as I did in my childhood, and in doing so most of the build-up of nostalgia goes away. The need to spend big to relive it is no more – I can be frugal and spend the $ 20,000 on toy cars and girls in sequinned costumes. Now who could argue with the financial morality of that?