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.

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The Question Of Race

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I went to a wonderful museum last year and wandered at will amongst the cars  Рthey had apparently been collected by a local mining magnate and were stored in a country town about an hour out of Perth. The collection was an eclectic one, and I was unable to fathom why some of the items were of interest to the owner. But I got in cheaply on a seniors ticket and looked my fill.

The most puzzling of the cars were the racers – mainly because they were such a mixed bag and there wasn’t clear story of how they fitted into the story of local car racing. I puzzled out a few things for myself, but have probably gotten it wrong.

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This imposing beauty may well be a replica of something that raced elsewhere in the world. I think it a 1904 Samson Napier from the sign but the condition of it seems too perfect. The really impressive part is the use of the copper tubing to form both an engine compartment and a cooling radiator. No seat belts or windscreen seem to make the position of the mechanic more perilous that need be as he is denied even the comfort of the steering wheel to hang on to.

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Smaller, lighter, weirder…this yellow boat tail seems to have a motor-cycle engine partially buried in the front of the chassis. The front axle has the same sort of steering action that we used to see in billy carts or soap-box racers – albeit with a vertical spring to rest on.

The final drive is also a thing of interest – is it really going to go forward with just a rubber vee belt and two pulleys? Not with that particular belt, I imagine…

And the single light at the front…acetylene, one supposes, and certainly an elegant little brass accessory. But it argues that this mechanical confection was let loose on the open road after dark. A midnight apparition.

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Now we’re getting somewhere…but unfortunately we never did.¬†This special is the partially – built remainder of a project that was to have been the salvation of a young man of good family. Alas, it did not succeed.

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Here is a racer! I am assuming an Offenhauser under that bonnet and mag wheels and all the trimmings that made American speedway racing great in the 40’s and 50’s. I am at a loss as to how it got here or exactly what tier of racing it competed in over there. Was it an Indianapolis car?

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Here is an Australian car of the 50’s and 60’s. Home made but to a quasi-continental style for circuit racing in the eastern states. It almost echoes a Mercdes style, though the engine is likely to be American or Australian.

I wish I knew more. On another visit I will get more information. Please note that there are wilder birds seen at other Perth exhibitions from the early days of motor sport in the state. Few of them ever look good, but they do attract the eye.