Rob Blackbourn


LIKE OTHER long-term readers of Unique Cars I meet around the traps I’m well pleased that our much loved magazine continues to hold its own at a time when many fine print publications have drowned under the digitalmedia tsunami. Some creative and clever footwork here at Bauer Trader sees the hardcopy Unique Cars happily co-existing with its smart and useful www.tradeuniquecars. online alter ego. Hats off to Editor Guido and all concerned. Best of all when you read a copy of today’s Unique Cars it’s as satisfying an experience as it was 20 or more years ago.

Contrast that with my daily newspaper – the digi-media challenge has gutted it. While its website is okay the paper is barely recognizable; clichéd labels like ‘mere shadow of its former self’ and ‘pale imitation’ come to mind. Part of the joy of a good print product is the way it feels in your hand – its tactile qualities, including its heft and thickness when you grab it from the news stand. And these days my paper is one helluva skinny little number. Having done paper delivery rounds as a kid I can remember what newspapers used to feel like. When it does feel a bit bulkier, raising your hopes for a moment, you invariably find it’s padded out with catalogues and other recycle-bin-ready bumf.

But on a good day there’s a flyer or a catalogue that’s worth a quick browse, like Aussie Disposals for example – they often feature something that might come in handy. Then there’s the occasional special moment when you find a sale catalogue from regular Unique Cars advertiser Hare & Forbes Machinery House – it’s almost like having a complimentary feature from Unique Cars in the paper. As well as adding bulk to the paper it adds real value for DIY car-heads.

The latest one a few weeks back (Yep, I keep ’em) had the usual Aladdin’s Cave workshop-gear range: ‘Who couldn’t use a bigger press, or a sandblast cabinet? And how about a pan brake? Jeez, I’ve always wanted my own milling machine…’ It gets my mind racing, until I calm down, remembering that you actually need to use stuff regularly to make it worth owning – it’s not that long ago that I handed my oxy-set bottles back instead of paying another bottle-rental bill after realising I had only lit the torch three or four times in the previous 12 months.

One standout Hare & Forbes item is harder to rationalise away though. A blacksmith’s anvil was staring out at me - yes, a ridgy-didge cast-steel anvil, all brutish 79.2kg of it. Who knew that in this day and age you could just turn up to a shop and buy a new example of this timeless bit of gear that fosters the primal connection with your inner blacksmith? Who among us shed-dwellers doesn’t want to be a latter-day Thor, wielding his creative hammer with godly authority over his own anvil? I’ve seen evidence of anvil-lust often enough at clearing sales and used-equipment auctions. While much useful gear goes cheap, a well-used, authentic anvil always attracts duelling bidders who push its price way beyond sensible numbers.

The catalogue sits open beside the keyboard as I type, displaying the anvil – while I sit uncomfortably on the horns of a heavy-duty dilemma. No, I don’t own an actual anvil, but yes, my sizable chunk of old railway line has been doing the job for ages. So how often do I need to pound anything into submission, whether on my Vic Rail cast off or on a proper anvil? Also, would a brand-new, shop-bought anvil have the shed-cred of a highmileage, battle-scarred veteran with interesting provenance? And will an anvil look silly in a shed lacking a forge?

Help me here, people…