The Little World – The Brown Hand Society Strikes Again

Last year I was horrified to see the remains of a Rolls Royce parked at the WA Scale Model Exhibition in full view of the public. It was rotted, rank, and rusty, and showed that the owner had taken no steps to preserve it from the elements.

I walked away shaking my head, but determined to be too judgemental. Perhaps he had a bad childhood. Thank goodness it was only a one-off example of neglect.

Unfortunately it would appear that this sort of thing is becoming more prevalent. Three more of them have been uncovered. In each case they probably started out with just a little bit of trouble – perhaps a dented panel or a paint finish that needed some polishing…and look what they have ended up as.

I don’t know whether to complain to the model society committee, to the foundation for social outrage, or to the police inspections department. Something has to be done.


The Little World – You Dirty Thing…

dscf2406Dirt is one of the nicest things you can give someone as a gift.

If you are a gardener, a big bag of dark steaming nutritious dirt to spread around the parched plants is wonderful. If it stinks, so much the better.

If you are a gossip columnist and someone rings you up with the latest dirt on a celebrity or political figure, you dive for the pencil and paper. Not to be missed!

If you are a scratch builder you have to go out and dig up the dirt yourself, but you are very selective; it must be the correct colour and very finely ground. organic fragments must be of the sort not to give the game away. You might resort to expensive weathering materials from the hobby shop, but I’ll bet you occasionally do a scrape round inside the pot plants to see if anything useful is growing. Inveterate weatherers have been knownto bring rust flakes home in their pockets. They all have some sort of an improvised mortar and pestle to grind the dirt finer.

The search for a binding agent is also never-ending. Matte varnish, acrylic liquids, paint, thinned glue, and hairspray have all been tried  – sometimes in multi-layer combos. The goal of reliable sticking with no shedding and no colour change to the dirt is eagerly sought-for. Sometimes it works – sometimes it all flakes off and you have to start over again.

The real trick would seem to be to have the dirt as light-coloured as possible and yo layer it up. Also to go out and observe where it swirls to and collects in the real world. Don’t be ashamed to live in a slightly grubby world – it is the real one.

Now go wash your hands…

Pre-Chewed For Your Convenience


I find myself lingering more these days at car shows near the rat rods and rat customs. They were an initial shock, but that has worn off and I am starting to appreciate the genre a little more. Some still jangle the nerves, but mostly they’re all right.


I suppose a rat is really a sort of mathematical equation – the sort of problem that seems to be too hard to solve in conventional terms but yields if you are prepared to ignore a few of the decimal points. The decision to take this road must have to be made early in the piece before starting too much in the way of restoration and rebuilding…and then the energy that you might have spent trying to smooth the last wrinkle out of the sheet metal can be turned to entirely different purposes,

I have noticed that there are several parallel lines of development in the rat – it is not all just one tub of rust:


a. The patina patootie. This is a car that has  lost enough of the original paint that the builder is going to have to engage in a desperate festival of filler, undercoat, and expensive top coats….or…just stop rust on the bare bits and seal the rest and hope that it passes. Some original factory colours are suitable for it – some just look manky. If nothing, it can be a long-term stop-gap before a more extensive redesign.


b. The barn find. Make of that what you will. Some of the genuine barn finds are wonderful, and some are just very sad. I have yet to see a new car barned deliberately but I daresay someone will do it eventually. I hope my fillings can stand the tooth grinding…


c. The organic rat. This is a rat that is genuinely made of whatever was in the shop at the time. If it looks a little rough and the parts do not really seem to match to a design, it doesn’t matter. It rolls and trying to make the assorted bits fit keeps the builder out of the pubs.


d. The OTT. Here there is no end of material to work with and it is generally stuck together pretty well – well enough to pass the pits, anyway. But sometimes it seems as though the pudding has been over-egged. There are skulls, bones, German helmets, bullets, rats, and brazing-rod spiders webs nearly everywhere. A Munster’s coach from Mandogalup, if you will. Fun to look at but somewhat déclassé.


e. The inadvertent rat. It all started out as a project that was going to have candy apple paint, drawer-pull grill ornaments, and white roll-and-tuck upholstery but it never seemed to happen.


As with most of these things it is as well to separate out the failed restoration from the failed custom rod and to be kind to them…they are only failures now but that does not mean to say that they cannot succeed in the future. Likewise you would need to look carefully at some Asian cars to see whether they are trying to rat or not. It is hard to rat with lighted wheel wells and multiple spoilers. Very hard to rat with WRX’s and Nismo stickers and extremely hard to rat with Mercedes and 888-888 license plates. Not if your father catches you…

As a side note, I remember the Asian Student cars of the 1960’s as compared to the ones they drive now. I should be interested to see what they might make of a Renault 4 or a Skoda Octavia of the period. Or a Standard…One thing, the chaps in my 1967 class were, to a man, ratty drivers.