Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cranksters Winter Madness 2 - Blacky's 57 Chev

Over the Foundation Day long weekend, the Cranksters Hot Rod Club and members of the Goodfella's Hot Rod Club as well as a number of other interested and talented individuals gathered at Ferret Boilermaking in Maddington for the second Cranksters Winter Madness weekend.

Blacky's 57 Chevrolet, early on Saturday morning

The idea of these weekends is to attempt to build a hot rod or custom over the course of a weekend. Last year it was Ben "Flathead" Forster's Los Drogas Model T coupe, this year it was Geoff "Blacky" Black's turn with his 1957 2 door Chevrolet Bel Air, the Moonshine Express.

One of the first jobs was to separate the body from the chassis so that the work can begin

Prior to the weekend, Mick "Redbeard" Rumbold of Mick's Mods in Kalgoorlie (that's Mick on the left in the photo, if you haven't guessed from his nickname) had built a 505 cubic inch big Mick Rumbold, Darrell Horley and Dexter Taylor sort out the fuel line plumbing on the big block Chevblock Chev for the project, using a Dart block. Other prep work before the weekend included many hours of rust repair to the body by Blacky and Damo, who had been chosen to paint the car, and tack welding the HQ front end into the Chev chassis. Over the course of the weekend, the interior would be stripped out of the car, the body rubbed back, primered and painted. The doors were painted first, as they were to receive special treatment by signwriter Scully, who designed and painted the Moonshine Express signwriting. The body was removed from the chassis to enable the crew to split the jobs up over as many teams as possible, with separate teams taking car of the interior trim, wiring the body, preparing the chassis to be reunited with the body and polishing the multitude of chrome parts that make a 57 Bel Air complete.

Watto fitting the heat and sound absorbing floor lining

Meanwhile, Drew and Russ were busy preparing a new hood lining, fabricating and trimming new door trims and retrimming the Range Rover seats that Blacky had chosen to be his new front seats. Glenn "Watto" Watson was hard at work cutting and shaping the sound and heat absorbent matting that now covers the floor of the Bel Air and anyone who looked like they didn't have anything to do was busy polishing all the miscellaneous bits of chrome trim that would have to be fitted to the car when it was time to put it all back together.

Al Smart from Armadale Auto Parts returning from one of many parts runs over the course of the weekend

Late Saturday afternoon, the chassis team were happy with their progress and loaded the chassis onto the trailer so that Blacky could take it to the sand blasters. On it's return, it was set up for painting, as were the body and doors.

Scully took care of the signwriting duties on the doors of the 57

With all the major parts laid out waiting for paint, it was time for Damo and Scully to work their magic. Damo had already painted the doors in a makeshift paint booth outside, and before the rest of the paintwork commenced, Scully painted the Moonshine Express designs on the doors. Once the doors were painted, they were moved to another room and the workshop was cleared so that Damo could paint the chassis and body. The chassis was painted a standard underbody black, which the body received a coat of violet crumble purple paint with a satin finish. Both chassis and body were painted 'wet on wet', meaning the chassis was primered, then the body, then the chassis was painted black and the body in colour, with about 15 minutes between primer and colour.

Damo laying down the colour on the 57

Sunday would see teams fitting brakes, brake lines and fuel lines to the chassis, fitting the Turbo 400 to the back of the big block and continuing the fit out of the body, with the steering column getting fitted and a lot more wiring being run under the dash. The dash cluster was also painted and fitted with instrumentation, which Blacky would fit later on Sunday night.

Blacky fitting the instrument cluster to the Moonshine Express

Also on Sunday night, the team would attempt to fit the big Chev power plant. Unfortunately, the 'bolt on' headers would present a slight problem, as 2 of the pipes on each side of the motor fouled on the new front end. With time and resources at a premium, it was decided that this was one of those jobs that would have to be rectified after the weekend was over, and the pipes were cut back far enough to clear the chassis.

Doc Strangepork (John) gets to work removing the offending pipework

After the headers were modified and the engine mounts and front crossmember modified to Craig 'Flames' Clements spent most of the weekend buried under the dash wiring the big Chevsuit the motor, the remainder of the exhaust was pieced together and tied in place, the workshop was re-arranged to prepare for the mounting of the body on the chassis and tools were put down for the night.

When Monday morning rolled around, it was time to get serious about putting the body on the chassis, at which point the wiring harness could be connected to the engine and the fuel and brake lines could be finished, but before that could happen, the exaust was finished and mounted and the tailshaft loop, which doubles as an exhaust hanger, was fitted.

The glaziers were on hand shortly afterwards to fit the front and rear glass before the team gathered again to lift the body onto the chassis.

The team lifting the body onto the chassis while Blacky (right) gives valuable advise

Once the body was on the chassis, it was time to finish a couple of wiring and plumbing tasks and to fit up the doors, front sheet metal and radiator. Norm and Vicki from Aussie Desert Coolers were not only on hand to film the event for an upcoming DVD, they also supplied the radiator used in the build.

The big Aussie Desert Cooler supplied radiator filling the front of Moonshine Express

Now that everything was back together, it was time to fire up the car and drive it out of the workshop. After a few false starts, the big Chev fired and left two black stripes on the workshop floor as it left the building, coming to a stop surrounded by onlookers out the front of Ferret Boilermaking.

Mission complete - The Moonshine Express leaves the Ferret Boilermaking workshop under it's own power

There are a lot more photos over on LandBarge.com, 396 of them in the Winter Madness 2 gallery.

Most of the team (those left standing anyway) gathered for a group shot at the end of the weekend

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's the Little Things

I like it when I find an answer to a question I wasn't really asking, and it's happened to me twice in the last couple of weeks. It's usually something that I'll wonder about when I have no way of finding out the answer, and then forget about by the time I'm sitting in front of a computer with the whole internet in front of me, just begging to give me some answers.

Wayne Patterson warming the rear tyre on his Ducati at the Perth Motorplex

The first time, was when I was browsing an American hot rod forum, the HAMB, and came upon a thread discussing desmodromic valve actuation and it's applications. I had been wondering for some time, just why it was that Ducati motorcycles had such a characteristic rattle at idle, and it turns out that they use a desmodromic valve system. That is, instead of a spring to push the valve closed, they use a second rocker arm that pushes it closed in much the same way that it is pushed open, just that it pushes up instead of down. In earlier days, these systems were much more prevalent than today, as early valve spring materials did not support engines running at the high rpm's that we now expect from performance motors. Desmodromic systems of the time had their own pitfalls, but offered enough benefits for them to be fairly widely used in the performance and motorsport arena. Today, the only major manufacturer still using a desmodromic type valve actuation system is Ducati, who seem to have ironed out most, if not all, of the bugs in the system.

The second time I had that feeling of "oooohhhhh.... so THAT's what that's all about" was yesterday, as I was sitting at my dentists waiting for an appointment. I don't normally read the magazines in waiting rooms, as there's usually not much that grabs my attention, however yesterday I decided to have a rifle through the pile and see what was on offer. After pushing the gossip rags to one side, and hunting around some more, I found an issue of Sophisticated Traveller, the Australian Financial Review's travel insert, that contained an article on California's Mission Trail. Hidden in that article, was the answer to my question "What is so special about El Camino Real?" We had noticed last time we were in the USA, that one of the street names that keeps popping up in a number of different towns was El Camino Real, and we weren't sure why, however, at the time, while intriguing, it wasn't intriguing enough for us to actually type the words into Google and go looking for an answer, but now I've got one, and I intend to share it with anyone who's gotten this far.

Babe's Muffler Man stands tall on The Alemada, part of the current Route 82, the designation for El Camino Real from San Francisco to San JoseAs you may already know, long before California was part of the United States of America, the Spanish pushed north from Mexico and established a series of 21 missions each approximately 1 days ride apart, at the same time, the Russians headed south from Alaska, as far as San Francisco, but that's another story. The Spanish missions spread from San Bruno in the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico, up to Mission San Francisco in Sonoma, California. The track that joined these missions together was known as El Camino Real, which translates to either The Royal Road, The Royal Highway or The Kings Highway, depending on who translates it. From 1683 until 1912, El Camino Real was an unpaved road, initially marked by yellow flowers from mustard seeds sprinkled along it's length by the padres who traveled it, but in 1912, the state of California decided to start paving this historic roadway. Over the years that followed, El Camino Real has become one of Calfornia's busiest non-Interstates.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Perth at Night - The Haunted House

On Friday night, a group of us went out to take some night photos at an abandoned house north of Perth.

Well, Hello There

There are a couple of stories about this place that suggest it may be haunted, but we didn't see any evidence of that this night. It is however, fairly well run down and there's a fairly constant stream of visitors, some just wanting to look around, some wanting to skate in the empty swimming pool and some come to paint on the walls. Of course, there are some who come to drink, take drugs or trash the place, but we didn't encounter any of those while we were there.

There is literally no ambient light here at night, except for the moonlight. that means that all of these shots were taken with longer exposures, with the camera mounted on a tripod. They also all used off camera flash for additional lighting, varying from a couple of low powered pops for the close up work to running around firing flashes from a number of different angles trying to illuminate every nook and cranny (and even then, still missing some).

Twenty Eleven with Star Trails

We're already planning more visits to this location, as the constantly evolving nature of the artwork is going to ensure that there will be new, interesting things to photograph for a long time to come.

You can check out the full set of photos from the night shoot at the Haunted House in the galleries over at LandBarge.com.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Without a doubt, when it comes to movie cars, some of the coolest cars come from the Batman franchise. The latest in this line up is the Tumbler, from the Christopher Nolan directed films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The Tumbler on display outside Armadale Auto Parts in it's last official public appearance

Only four full size vehicles were built for the movie, but at least one collector from Japan was determined to get his hands on a Tumbler. In order to do so, he enlisted the help of a couple of guys from Perth, Western Australia, best known to many for their replicas of the Interceptor from the Mad Max films and if you head over to their website, you can check them out for yourselves.

The nose of the Tumbler is reminiscent of the star of the Predator moviesBuilding this replica has been a four year project for Grant Hodgson and Gordon Hayes of Mad Max Unlimited, and now that it's almost over, they have no plans to make another Tumbler. While they've certainly proven it's possible, the complex panel work involved has been a lot more time consuming than expected, although not without it's rewards. The Tumbler replica has already been featured in one national magazine, and will soon be featured in one of the biggest modified car magazines in Australia. It's too late to catch a glimpse of this car on Australian soil, as it's leaving for Japan very soon, but it will be on display in a privately owned museum over there, along with some of Grant and Gordon's other work. If you speak Japanese, or just want to look at the pictures, here's the website of the museum that commissioned this replica.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spotto a 57 Chev, A Blown 57 2 Door

This black 57 Chevrolet sedan was recently spotted at the Perth Motorplex. It was first noticed at a Whoop Ass Wednesday, but unfortunately did not pass scrutiny for the night, partly due to the large blower poking out of the bonnet, a definite no-no on a Wednesday night, due to noise restrictions.

After some work to make the car compliant, it was spotted again amongst almost 200 entrants at the Motorplex's Ford vs Holden event on ANZAC Day, where the supercharger doesn't present a problem. Some things that caught my attention on this 57 included the SuperChiller water to air intercooler sitting under the blower, the MSD EFI system controlling fuel and spark and some of the biggest rear tyres I've seen on a street car in a long time. The interior is a perfect blend of classic styling with some modern touches, including a full set of AutoMeter gauges and a B&M shifter.

The car was recently imported from Maryland in the United States, where it had been street registered and driven. It's also sporting a roll cage and has apparently run sub 10 second times in the past. On it's first and only pass at the Ford vs Holden event, the car ran 10.97s @ 128mph, with a launch that suggests there's still more to come from this black beauty, following the pass, the black 57's owner indicated his intentions to do the required work to bring the car up to ANDRA spec so that he can race again next season.