Monday, May 30, 2011

Farmer's market day

When I started enthusiatically collecting diecast model cars, never did I imagine that I'd develop an interest in things like the Renault 4, complete with cages filled with ducks, geese and chickens, pictured here. But that's tangents for you. They kind of spin off from the main wheel, don't they?

This diorama is just an attempt to put the poultry farmer's pickup in some kind of context.
In the background is a three-wheeled Piaggio Ape, complete with pig and bale of hay.
The Ape is a 1:32 model by Hachette, while the Renault is 1:43 by Universal Hobbies, but
the important feature of the Renault is that it's a hand-made modification by a chap
named Daniel Lardon, from whom I have bought two other equally charming models, of
a Peugeot J7 'Friterie' hot chip van, and a Citroen Type H van converted into a mobile
vegetable and fruit seller's van. You can see the dioramas I have done of them here.
While most of my car models are conventional cars (if you can call things like Duesenbergs, Ferraris, Delages, Abarths, Gordinis etc etc 'conventional' cars), I love the daggy, ordinary charm of Mr Lardon's modifications, which you can see at his eBay store here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


There are several people I know whose first name is not their christened first name. My dad was one. First name Robert, everyone called him Neil, which was his middle name. The driver of the car below was called, on the the day he was born, Ian Geoghegan, but to everyone who watched him drive very fast he was Pete. Not sure why that is so, but while trying to find out I came across this great obituary of the man who died in 2003. He was the first to win five touring car championships, a feat he achieved in the 1960s, mostly behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang.

However, in this photoshopped diorama set in the early 1970s, he's behind the wheel of a
Chrysler Valiant Charger RTE49. This 1:43 model is by Trax. Touring Car racing has long
been dominated by Ford and Holden in Australia, but the Valiants not only did respectably
well against their foes, they managed one feat that race wins don't guarantee: they became
a much-sought-after cult car. Aussie car buffs love a nice Charger. They're a good looking car.
Now, I wouldn't pretend to know all that much about Chargers in the technical way. Reading about them in Wikipedia taught me a stack I didn't know, but Valiants in general are still a daily event for me. They haven't made or sold them here for 30 years now, but there are still a few about. However, the Sydney nickname for the Valiant was always a "Marrickville Mercedes" due to the migrant community's love of Valiants, and Marrickville is about as migrant as a Sydney suburb gets (which is why I like living here). Marrickville is still a Valiant hot spot. There's a guy down the street with a nice V8 Valiant Regal, the one with the vinyl roof. There's a couple of old mint Valiants driven by even older Greek men at 20mph. I am sure their grandsons are waiting patiently for old pop to drop off the peg, so they can have his Valiant. And there is even quite a nice old Charger running around here too, and its owner doesn't drive it slowly, either. Good on him!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Angle parking in New Zealand

I've just realised that angle parking is a great way to include multiple cars in a diorama, and so for what promises to be the first of several angle-parked dioramas, I went looking for a nice old pub. I started looking for Australian pubs, but when I chanced across this nice Kiwi pub that's in the North Island, especially with the 'Home of the Republic' slogan, that won me over. And so here we are, angle parking in New Zealand somewhere in the mid 1950s.

From left to right, the drivers of the FJ Holden (1:43 by AutoArt), Peugeot 203 (Solido) and
Series 1 Land Rover (Oxford) have all stopped to quench their thirst. Holdens and Land Rovers
would have been as common a sight in NZ as they were in Australia at the time, as both
sides of the Tasman Sea bought most of their cars from England and Australia. The Peugeots
were quite popular in Australia, thanks to their wins in long-distance rallies such as the
Redex. I'm not sure if they sold well in New Zealand or not in the 1950s, but they would
have been as perfect a choice for NZ as they proved to be in Australia.

For my previous diorama of the Citroen SM being driven at speed by a woman wearing a scarf, I attempted to redress the overly male bias in my choice of drivers, and for this one I have created a more diverse ethnic mix of drivers and bystanders, in the interests of social realism.
My wife and I visited the South Island of New Zealand a few years ago and loved the place, and so the North Island has always been high up on our list of places to visit next. If we do make it there, I am sure my wife will at some stage ask me 'why is it so important that we visit Whangamomona?' I just hope that I'll be able to angle park outside the pub when I get there.

Monday, May 2, 2011

70s style

When you think of those flared trousers, hairy sideburns, wide ties and dodgy wallpapers, the 1970s do not have the best reputation when it comes to fashion and style. Yet, when you look at these two sleek cars pictured below, this decade wasn't all bad taste. (Some might wonder whether the architecture of the 70s-designed Pompidou Centre in Paris, outside which these cars are parked, is the ultimate in 70s good taste or bad taste, but we have enough bland buildings in this world, and the Pompidou Centre certainly isn't guilty of being bland.) Nor are these cars.

The blue Citroen CX and the gold Citroen SM are still as beautiful as ever. If I could have my
pick of any of the long line of Citroens, delivered to me today as a brand-new vehicle for me
to own and live with day-to-day, I would love to be the owner of a CX. This Prestige model
would do me. I am sure the man on the bicycle in my little diorama agrees. By the way,
the CX model is 1:43 by Minichamps, and the SM is made by IXO.

If the factory was fresh out of brand new CXs but there was a gold SM going begging, I'd
have it! For this diorama of an SM at speed out on the highway, I thought I'd reverse my
inadvertent sexist bias and put a woman behind the wheel of a fast car. She's in a hurry!
Why would I have a CX instead of an SM? Am I mad? Well, I know I'd lose my licence quickly in an SM, and I do think a gold SM would be a cop-magnet, too. But I also feel that the SM is a bit of a one-off Citroen 'special', and so I prefer the CX as the ultimate development of the line of Citroens which started back in 1955 with the original DS. All along the way, through the 50s, 60s and into the 70s with the CX, Citroen had managed to make some very swift and comfortable open-road cars using surprisingly detuned, smallish 2.0 to 2.3 litre four-cylinder engines. It's one of the forgotten features of the great Citroens, Peugeots and Renaults of this era is that they won rallies and went fast on highways without relying on big, powerful engines to haul them along, as so many other marques from other countries did.

With the SM they slotted a powerful Maserati V6 into the place normally taken up by a smallish four, and no wonder the thing went so quickly. And no wonder the SM appeals even to people who normally don't get too excited about French cars. The SM had a bigger, sexier, more powerful engine than anything else slotted into a mainstream French car before then. I am sure it would be a thrill to drive.

But the old French car fan in me says the humble 2.3 litre four in the CX is actually something to be proud of, as much a part of the Citroen tradition as the hydro-pneumatic suspension and the comfy lounge-chair seats. I am sure a long drive in a new CX would be  comfortable and fast, both a thrill and a pleasure.