As Mrs M will tell you, I’m mighty antsy about where I’ll park my favourite cars. A succession of tow-truck utes has been left anywhere from the airport to the local supermarket, but my Sunday cars have never even seen a shopping trolley up None of which made a blind bit of difference when I had to park the Munro in an older, inner-city suburb the other day. You know the sort of suburb: The ones where they have narrow streets and old bluestone kerbs and gutters. You can probably guess what happened next.
Yep, I kerbed the goddam front-left alloy on a bluestone block that was sitting about 20mm proud of its neighbouring blocks of rock. Oh sure, I was trying to make sure I got as close as possible – a VX CV8 is a pretty wide mutha – but had that mongrel, rogue block not been sticking out into the road, I never would have touched alloy on stone. Of course, that’s not much use to me now (and I’m willing to bet the council wouldn’t have cared less) `’cos now I had three pristine alloys and one scarred one. And it fair dinkum looked like a zit on a supermodel. Drove me crazy.
The solution turned out to be pretty simple. I contacted a mob that comes to you and smooths and repaints the rim in your driveway. Okay, there’s a limit to what they can do without putting a really hammered rim on a lathe or welding it up, but for the little tickle my wheel had copped, they were confident that they could fix it in situ. The best part is that I simply took a shot of the damage on my phone, sent it through to head office and they got back within an hour to say that yes, they could fix it and even told me how much it was going to cost. The bloke turned up, got stuck in and within 90 minutes or so, Hulk Bogan was beautiful again.
Which brings me to Rule 64 when inspecting a second-hand car: Always check the right-hand-side rims for kerb rash. A lot of sneaky buggers switch the left-hand-side rims to the right, figuring you’ll be checking for kerb-strike on the lefts, but not the rights.
Aside from sticky-outy kerbs, the other thing that’s been getting up my nose lately has been a batch of fairly uncomplimentary comments about one of the reader’s cars to be featured in this mag. Typically, the comments have not been expressed face to face but on social media (where we promote the upcoming stories) and the ones I saw concerned the grey VN SS of Rob Groeneveld. A couple of geniuses were expressing their expert option on the VN SS, essentially saying that it wasn’t a car worth restoring and would always be a pile of crap no matter how much time and money was thrown at it. This despite the fact that they’ve never seen the car in the flesh. And for all I know, have never driven a VN SS anyway, let alone owned one.
Now, I’ll admit, the VN SS isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. And if it aint yours, then feel free to move right along… Nothing to see here. Of course, that limits your exposure to the variety that makes our hobby such a grand one, but hey, whatever. On the other hand, if you want to see how a restoration is done properly, then check it out when it appears, because it’s a stunner. Here’s my rule: If you wouldn’t say it to a bloke’s face at a car show or in the front bar, don’t say it online. As Aretha Franklin once said: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
BTW: Vale Aretha.
Regarding car engines doing other duties: When I was young my uncle had a cabin-cruiser powered by a Zephyr six. I asked him why it wasn’t a Holden or Falcon six. His answer was they were no good for boats – not enough power down low. I think the Zephyr had it over the early Holden grey motor but by the 60s the Falcon, then the Holden red, were as good or better.
Geoff Dunstan, Merimbula, NSW.
I NEVER HAD much to do with the Zephyr six-cylinder Geoff. As well as being a bit before my time, we tended to gravitate towards the US-inspired Fords rather than the Pommy ones which, even back then, were considered a bit off the pace when push came to shove. But I can see how the Zephyr engine, particularly the Mark 3 version, with its 106 horsepower from 2.5 litres would have been considered a proper goer. Although, from what I can gather, the Zephyr motor, like the Holden grey, still used just four main bearings to support the crank.
And I think you’re probably right in saying that by the time the Holden red motor and the bigger capacity Falcon sixes arrived, the Zephyr’s advantages might have dried up. I still love the idea of a cammy 186 or 202 crammed into a period correct, clinker speed-boat hull along the lines of a Lewis. Give me a dual cockpit deck and a big stainless exhaust outlet, lots of varnish on the timber and a period-correct Stewart Warner tacho on the dash and you’ve just described my dream boat.
Reading about the mouldcovered car in your recent column reminded me of something way more sinister that attached itself to the steering wheel boss of my car not long ago: The biggest, hairiest Huntsman spider ever born. I flicked it out with the owner’s manual as I didn’t want to hit it and have spider guts everywhere.
Ten minutes later, at a busy intersection something dropped onto my foot, I shit myself. I froze and looking down I saw it was my shoe lace! The drive home had me looking everywhere ’cos there’s always two, right? When I got home I emptied a full can of Mortein into the car to kill anything that moved. It got me wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience with uninvited locals hitching a ride?
Schneider the Spider, The worldwide web.
MATE, I HAD a good chuckle at this one, but it’s kind of a serious matter for some people who really are truly terrified of anything with more legs than a daily-double. The partner of a mate of mine, many years ago, went to check her make-up in the vanity mirror at about 60km/h one day (stupid enough in itself) and when a big, hairy spider crawled across the mirror, she panicked, hit the picks and bailed out. Problem was, she was still doing 10km/h or so when she flung the door open and performed her tuck-and-roll. The car, not afraid of the spider one bit, and relieved of the obligation to obey a driver, continued to do its thing. Until it tired of staying on the playing surface, jumped a kerb and head-butted a telegraph pole. The former driver was a little scuffed and bruised. The car was bordering on a write-off. And the spider walked away with not a scratch.
But it’s funny, isn’t it, how once you’ve seen a creepy crawly, suddenly you’re itching all over. Or you see one mozzie, and then all you can do is lie awake in the dark listening for the bastard to come back.
I‘m not sure whether, post-Ark, spiders really do travel in pairs, but there’s one thing that does and it’s something learner drivers should be taught (but I bet they aren’t). And that’s that fire engines often travel in pairs. So, just because you’ve moved over and given way to one, don’t immediately assume that you can move back into your lane, ’cos there’s often a second one right up the tailpipe of the first.
It’s about time the authorities did something about older drivers on our roads. For far too long older drivers have caused havoc as they hog the left lane and stick to the speed limits (even the road-work limits and school zones). They also stop at stop signs causing great inconvenience and often preventing others from doing whatever they like.
Another major concern is that by avoiding fines and demerit points, they are not doing their bit for the revenue of our state, and therefore place a further burden on younger drivers. Until older drivers can prove that they are proficient at weaving in and out of traffic, driving while texting, tailgating, using drugs or doing burn-outs, they must be banned from holding a license!
Geoff Scard Morayfield, QLD.
GEOFF, THAT’D be funny if it wasn’t how a whole sector of the community looked at older drivers. But, you see that lowered VR Commodore V6 over there? The one with the bloke with his seat reclined so far he’s almost lying down to drive? Yeah. Him. The one with the hoodie on. Yeah, well that’s exactly what he thinks about us grey-beards, mate.
Mind you, it’s a bit of a two-way street; every time I see that VR Commo (or anything like it) I tend to give it a wide berth and presume that it’s only seconds from doing something random/stupid. Funny thing is, I’m usually right. Call it the generation gap.
A few years back I was walking my dawg when a VL Commodore pulled out of a driveway, stalled up on the converter and snaked its way towards me with smoke pouring off the Bob Jane All-Rounders. I just shook my head at him as he went past, but the spotty, pudgy oaf (for he appeared so) took umbrage at my silent protest, and reversed back to take it up with me. I explained that as this was a suburban street that is usually full of kids and pushbikes and whatnot, he should probably save his exuberant driving for a nice, quiet road in the middle of nowhere. Again, he seemed miffed, mainly on the basis that he’d lived in this street all his life and that entitled him to drive however he liked. And, iffy logic aside, there’s that bloody word: Entitled.
I countered by explaining that even though he was still a kid, he appeared to be a big one and that, in turn, would entitle me to disregard any regrets I might have otherwise had if I caught him at it again and was forced to place my size-nine fair up his date. Again, he seemed displeased with this news, so I tied the dog to a fence and took two steps towards his car. He selected Drive and was gone. As he was entitled to.
Too right about ‘the current batch of self-righteous douchebags’ and their ignorance about classic-car owners and their love of all cars, pre or post 2002: The love and passion that takes us out on the road, early some weekends to avoid the once-a-week drivers wrapped in the cocoon of their late model cars with all the safety features that allow them to drive like nuph-nuphs let out of kindergarten for the weekend.
What these so called experts fail to see and understand, is the passionate respect we have for our cars, those who ride with us and the observance we have for the road rules. That is what road safety is about: It’s called being accountable, acting responsibility, using common sense and giving respect to other road users. We don’t look to the nanny state to look after us by making needless dumb rules and regulations that cause others the loss of freedom and enjoyment.
As always, keep up the great work.
Mike o'neil Email.
YOU’RE DEAD right, Mike, and to see how us old tappet-heads look after our cars and how carefully we drive them, should be enough to convince anybody with half a brain that we aren’t the problem here. Thing is, though, half a brain is a lot more than what’s housed in the melons of a vast percentage of our law-makers and policy advisors. How on Earth an insurance company (the TAC down here in Victoria) can get away with forming road safety policy is absolutely beyond me, and yet successive governments and police-force management teams have allowed it to happen.
Meantime, we’re the ones driving the cars that really stand out from the crowd, so we’re the ones who are most visible. It’s why we have to take a personal stand when we see somebody doing the wrong thing; because it’ll come back to bite all of us, not just the dickhead minority.
I reckon this is maybe the key to smoothing the waters for car enthusiasts; a bit of self-policing. If you see somebody leaving chalkies in a suburban street, take the time to suggest they go elsewhere (where nobody can see them) to do that stuff (see previous letter). Or better yet, join a car club with a competition calendar and get it out of their system the safe, legal way. Same goes if you have a mate who’s dodgying the entries in his club-permit logbook: Have a quiet word, because if enough lunkheads get caught cheating the club permit system, the law will have no hesitation in pulling our cheap historic-car rego from under us.
Exactly what we do about the majority of dopes who view driving as a pain in the butt, necessary only to get them where they’re going, remains a mystery to me. But if we keep ourselves nice, they’re one group who won’t be writing outraged letters to the local member about us. What I’m getting at here is that the various tiers of government these days are so completely and utterly populated by vote-grabbing morons, that the absolute best thing we can do as a group is keep our heads down.
You only have to watch the six o’clock news to know that a few dills doing skids in a suburban street will soon have the TV channels coming up with outraged headlines and then interviewing the equally outraged locals and the coppers who will inevitably vow to get tough on hoons and crush their cars. Only problem is, Ma and Pa watching the telly each night don’t differentiate between those hoons and us. We’re all car-dudes, so we’re all tarred with the one brush. It’s just like the current media war on African youth-gangs. Yeah, sure, some of them are car-jacking mums and grandads, but others are doing volunteer work in nursing homes. To say they’re all just troublemakers is anything but fair.
Everybody seems to reckon the Starfire Four (as fitted to the four- cylinder VC and VH Commodore) was a 173 cube blue motor with two pots sliced off. But that’s not strictly true. After all, the crank needed different phasing to work as a four-cylinder rather than a six and the block itself was a specific casting (obviously). Which begs the question: If you’re going to go to that sort of trouble, why not design something that was going to work better? One of the industry’s mysteries.
On a lighter note, I noticed you used the expression “nuph-nuph”. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but I was once told that the term was derived from police radio-code, where a NUPH was an individual who Needs Urgent Psychiatric Help.
Hey Morley: Wondering you if can assist or point me in the right direction. I seem to recall you wrote or commented in an article along the lines that only 1400 1964 Ford XM Futura Sedans were made. I currently own one and wanted to find the source article to confirm my understanding. Are you able to assist with my search?
Ian Pitt, Email
HI IAN. Listen, just because I wrote it somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact… Anyway, the point is I don’t recall ever quoting a production number for the XM Futura (or any other Falcon for that matter) anywhere recently, so I’m guessing you’re thinking of something else. Or somebody else.
The fact is that accurate production numbers for these early girls are awfully thin on the ground. I had a quick scratch around, and really, the only info I can find is that Ford Oz built 47,132 XM Falcons in total. There’s a rumour that of the roughly 3000 XM Hardtops made, about 250 were Futura spec. But as for how many Futura sedans made it off the line at Broady, I wouldn’t have a clue. The best bet would be to check with the relevant car clubs and see if anybody there knows a bit more. Wish I had an XM Futura now.
Just reading the latest edition of Unique Cars and the subject of motors being flung into other jobs got me thinking about the many diesel Holden Gemini motors I have sold over the years (having wrecked or driven over 700!).
Of the 40 odd diesel motors that went on to live, only one ever made it back into a Gemini. The rest went into providing power for a sawmill blade, a boat, WW2 replica Jeeps, a Bobcat and a forklift. Six went to an enterprising young bloke who used them to power a vacuum to suck out insulation from roof cavities and blow new stuff back in. He had a rig made so as the motors deceased they could be changed quickly.
And lastly, quite a few made their way into leafsprung Suzuki Sierras which were a very good fit being a relatively compact unit and cheap – although very underpowered. One time, a mate rocked up in a Sierra with the conversion done but needing a new motor. Popping the bonnet revealed a JDM-spec turbo-diesel Gemini motor which then sparked a quest to discover what Oz really missed out on Gemini-wise. Turns out there was an auto, turbo-diesel Gemini with cruise-control, electric sunroof and other good stuff. But that’s a story for another time! Cheers.
Here's my tip
MY FAVOURITE gag about the diesel Gemini, Elky, was from back in the day. The story was that the diesel Gem could get anything up to 70 milesper-gallon. Just not in one day. Oh, how we larfed.
I hadn’t actually heard about folks plonking the little Isuzu diesel engine into Sierras, but it kind of makes sense. Most blokes I know at the time were using Corolla motors (3Ks and 4Ks I think) to get their little Sierras out of the bog-holes quicker, and that seemed like a pretty good conversion too. Probably a bit faster than the Gemini diesel deal.
You’re right about us missing out on so many tasty cars, too. When you look at what Japan was doing even back in the 70s, you can see that it was a hot-bed of high-tech development, yet so much of it missed the boat to Australia. The classic example was the Toyota Celica from the mid-70s which, in its home market of Japan, could be had with a much improved rear end and, wonder of wonders, an honest-to-god twin-cam engine that even had twin side-draught carbies.
As a kid, watching Peter Williamson in his RA40 Celica at Bathurst was truly inspiring stuff. Even for a kid raised on Holdens and VWs. Williamson’s car was the first in the world to have race-cam and to watch his laps (and you can youtube it) where he’s beating up on V6 Capris and everything else across the top of the mountain, you knew you were witnessing brilliance. And when you watch closely, you notice that at no point in a lap of Bathurst did that little 18RG engine drop below 6000rpm, with most up-shifts happening at about 8000. Don’t try that in your 202-cube VB Commodore.
Hey Morley: Just thought I’d send some images of my new barn find – still in the barn. Just needs a wash.
Rob Hadley, Richmond, NSW
HEY ROB, nice find. I’m no expert on old Landies, but that looks like a Series 3 to me. What are the plans for it? I mean, you could repaint it and make it lovely, but I’d be inclined to wash the chook-poo off it and keep it as found. Mind you, the old Holden six motor (below) will be easy to make good-as-new with parts readily available. Only thing to watch then is that you don’t start snapping axles, but it will be a whole lot more useable in the real world. Keep us in the loop.