Saturday, September 7, 2013

Picnic in Mississippi

Half the fun of going on a picnic is driving there in nice car on a pleasant day, and so that's what this diorama is all about. A 1957 Studebaker Silver Hawk certainly qualifies as a nice car, and in this case the happy couple are in the town of Natchez, on the banks of the Mississippi River, in the state of Mississippi.

The background for this little diorama is a photo my wife Pam took while
we were on holidays in the USA in 2011, and it's the grounds of an historic
plantation in Natchez. She also provided the inspiration for the dio as
well, as she is an artist, and her latest exhibition is part of a group exhibition
entitled "31 Days". For it, each of half a dozen artists produced 31 paintings
in 31 days, and Pam chose as her theme the grey, ethereal hanging Spanish
moss that droops from the Southern Live Oak trees both here at the plantation
and throughout the Southern States of the USA. So while she did some
incredible paintings of Spanish moss, I parked a car underneath some and
laid out a simple picnic for two.
I've always liked Studebakers, particularly the models of the second half
of the 1950s, such as this 1957 Silver Hawk. The diecast model itself is
 by Solido, and it's a good example of how a cheap $10 model can sometimes
become a real favourite in a collection where many other models can cost
five or 10 times as much. I just like the colours and its lines.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Slowing down in Italy

For a country with a great love of fast cars, it is a shame there are so many traffic jams in Italy — but then again, that statement is true of many other countries, too. It will come as no surprise when I tell you that the idea for this diorama came to me in a traffic jam here in Sydney. I wasn't in a back alley stuck behind a marching band at the time, but somehow my traffic jam turned into this 1960s Italian-themed diorama.

Behind our tuba and trombone players, the first car is a Starline model of a
Fiat 1500  (driven by Marcello Mastroiani). Behind him is Claudia Cardinale
in a Lancia Fulvia Sport (model by Starline) and in the distance is a Lancia
Fulvia Coupe (model by Norev).

I really like the look of this Fiat 1500, so perky and stylish
in an early 60s way. As a child we lived a few doors away
from Fiat Australia's sales manager, and he was always
home new Fiats to drive, including this one.
I guess that is where my soft spot for 1960s-era Fiats comes
from. This model is made by the excellent German company
Starline, whose models are modestly priced and cover all sorts
of unusual and lesser-known Italian cars and motorcycles.

This Lancia Fulvia Coupe is made by Norev.
And this Lancia Fulvia Sport 1968 is also by Starline, and it's
a model I value a lot, as it was given to me as a gift by a
fellow diecast collector, Johan Grinbergs, from Sweden, a
man with a wonderful passion for red Italian cars.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scooters & microcars: little gems

Today is my 24th wedding anniversary, and not only am I a very lucky man to be married happily to a wonderful woman, but I am also a lucky boy to be married to a girl who loves to buy and give gifts. My girl Pam is a legend in our family for her gift-buying, gift-wrapping and card-choosing skils, and she always seems to buy gifts that people really like and treasure. She knows me too well, and so when she saw this book on scooters and microcars she knew I had a love for both of them – and have several examples in my collection – and so I thought this is a perfect topic for another blog posting. First, the book, then the models and a few dioramas.

Michael Dan has done a superb job with this book,
producing a social history, a celebration of style,
an authoritative mini-encyclopedia on his topic,
and best of all an enjoyable book that you can pick
up, open it at any page, and be entertained.

This scan of the back cover includes the web address
of the publisher, and also shows very well the
wonderful array of images, advertisements and
information within the book's 256 pages.
My own association with scooters goes back to the 1980s,
when I worked on a motorcycle magazine. I loved scooters
and got to do all the roadtests on scooters, as none of the
other guys were very interested in them at all. As a joke,
they even changed my job title to 'Scooter Editor'. With the
huge popularity of scooters now, I can with satisfaction
look upon this photo of me, above, as an action shot of
a man who was simply ahead of his time!
I loved that Vespa 200 a lot, and I had
thought of a heading for my roadtest of
'Mighty Tough' and then was inspired to
take a photo of the Vespa beating me up!
All I had to do was put it into first gear
so it wouldn't roll back, then the photographer
Greg McBean helped me hoist the scooter
into position, and he took the shot. It's
still one of my favourite bike photos.

I don't have that many scooters and microcars in my collection
but I do have some, so here they are. A pair of Vespas in
1:32 scale, by New Ray, a 60s model on the left and an earlier
50s model on the right.

Scooters with sidecars have always appealed to me, and I
have three examples. Right front is a play-worn Matchbox
model of a Lambretta outfit (which cost about $10, the mint
condition ones in boxes go for more than $100). On the
left is a Zundapp 'Gino's Ice-Cream
) outfit made by Premium
Classixxs, and at the back is a white-metal model of a
Vespa with a Swallow Sidecar assembled by me.

And here's a little British seaside diorama I did quite a while
ago, featuring Gino's Gelato outfit.
Maybe it's just good luck, but there's a guy who lives near
me who owns and regularly drives his Messerschmitt bubble
car around town. It goes great, too. And so when I saw this
model of a Tempo Matador 'Messerschmitt Service' van,
complete with Messerschmitt needing attention, I snapped
it up very rapidly. The model is lovely, in 1:43, made by
Schuco, one of my favourite pieces in my collection.

Maybe it's the idea of a small van with an even smaller car
that gets me, but when I saw this BMW Isetta Service combo
I was hooked. This is tiny, in 1:87 scale, made by Bubmobil.

Bubmobil isn't obsessed with accuracy; rather they attempt
to create an homage to the spirit of the model. There's no
glass in the windows, and the shapes remind me of the
children's books about Noddy and his cars. Still love it!
Sure, rough around the edges, cute as a button, though.

On holidays recently in an Australian country town I spotted
some models for sale in a shop, and no-one there seemed to
be interested in the dust-covered box with this 1:43 scale
model of a BMW Isetta, so that became my holiday souvenir.
This is made by the Chinese outfit, Cararama.
One night I was watching an Italian movie in which the old
priest slowly motored down to the village market in this, his
Piaggio Ape, and so I went looking for a model of one.
 All I know about this is that it's 1:35 scale, don't know who
makes it, but it did lead me to do a farmyard diorama.

The old priest in the movie had a pig in the back
of his Piaggio Ape, so I added one to my dio.
If you go to Bangkok on holidays, you'll probably do what I
did and ride in a Tuk Tuk sometime. This model is by Altaya,
and this rather primitive diorama is one of my earliest efforts.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spanish beauty

There's so much I love about Spain, especially its food and its people, but I have never really had Spain featuring strongly on my car-loving radar. (In fact I'm more fond of Spanish motorcycles such as the Bultaco Metrallas in particular, plus also all the various other Bultacos, Ossas, Montesas and Derbis produced over the years.) However, there is one Spanish car of which I have been very fond indeed, and it's this one, the Pegaso.

Did you know that Penelope Cruz's grandmother was a dead ringer for her
famous film star grand-daughter? And that Javier Bardem's grandpa drove a
Pegaso? Here's the picture that proves it. As they say, don't believe everything
you see or read on the internet – it might just be a Photoshopped fake using
a little 1:43 scale model car (made by IXO)!
It's sad that the Pegaso's lifespan as a sports car was so brief. Just the 1950s, and not even the whole decade, just seven years (1951-58). The Pegaso company itself was a well-known maker of trucks and coaches, and then all of a sudden someone managed to convince the bosses to agree to make this beauty, the Z-102, with a quad-cam V8 engine with desmodromic valves, all encased in sleek bodywork by Tourig. Unfortunately, the cars themselves, while looking a million dollars, also cost far too many dollars to make, hardly won any races and put a lot of unwanted financial pressure on the company. And so the brief flirtation with high-end sports cars ended, with only 86 cars being produced. At least the cars are now eminently collectable and rare.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You've got too much time on your hands!

Of all the comments made about my little hobby of doing diecast dioramas, the dumbest one that I hear quite often is: "You've got too much time on your hands."

I think the commenter is trying to say "I'm busier than you". It's the sad, modern version of being "holier than thou". It's a miserable symptom of modern life that some people think it's a terrible thing to do something creative with your spare time. You're meant to be tired, worn out and exhausted by work – how can you have spare energy to burn? 

I guess we're all meant to spend our tiny allocation of spare time on nights and weekends by wearily slumping down on the couch and watching TV? Or sitting at the computer and clicking "Like" on Facebook until it's bed-time? 

Well, for this ranty posting I'd like to celebrate hobbyists everywhere by posting a few photos of the dioramas which have taken the most time to do. And at the end, I've found some great videos compiled by other people who also, fortunately, have too much time on their hands.

These old people came from a marketplace elsewhere, and deep-etching their
shadows took quite a while. I had to reconstruct the village behind, too.
 Not sure how much time on my hands I wasted... many many hours though!

The whole background for this Australian Golden Fleece Service Station was
a black and white photo, so colourising it slowly happened over a period of
a week or two. Adding the Holdens and the bystanders only took a few hours,
right at the end of the very enjoyable and satisfying project

The killer with this Vincent HRD bike (and all the other bikes I put against
this same background) was deep-etching the wheel spokes. Ages, it took.

This is another colourised black and white photo. It's one of those projects
that you do when you have some of that wickedly wasteful spare time to spend,
and from start to finish took a couple of weeks. Though this isn't my model
car in the image (it's a real one) I do have a model of the very same car, so
at least I had a starting point when trying to figure out the colour scheme.

This, too, is a colourised black and white photo, and again I also have a
scale model of this Renault 4CV Barquette driven by Guy Michel in the
1953 Bol d'Or to help with the colour choices. Like the other colourised
black and white photo projects, this took several weeks from start to finish.

And so fooling around in Photoshop is just one of the ways that I waste my precious spare time on weekends. I also manage to maintain an even busier little gardening blog at the same time, and so I think it comes down to what you do with the time available, rather than how much time you have to spare. 

So now, to finish off this "up yours" to the sad fools who like to tell people with hobbies that they "have too much time on their hands", here's three entertaining little videos compiled by other people with too much time on their hands...

First, Madmen star Don Draper says "what?" in countless different ways

Next, Woody Allen's complete movie stammers

And finally, Al Pacino yelling at everyone, anyone, goddammit!

Press Play VIDEO ESSAY - Pacino: Full Roar from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Volvo Club day

I always remember one scene in 'The Simpsons' where Lisa Simpson is flicking through a teen girl's magazine called 'Non-Threatening Boys' and that's very similar to how I feel about Volvos: they're good, reliable, safe, non-threatening cars. I've never driven one but I have ridden in them, and they seem to me to be like Swedish Peugeots, which is a compliment. And so in my diecast collection I've made room for just a few Volvos: these two.

I've called this diorama 'Volvo Club Day', as I imagined the Volvo Car Club
organising a run up into the mountains in autumn, to lunch at a winery. Fans
of Scandinavian police dramas might see a familiar face or two here.

This 1:43 scale model of the Volvo P1800 is by Minichamps.

Also made by Minichamps is this 121 Amazon Volvo.
I often think of these old Volvos because there's a guy in my local area who has a number of them, and he keeps them out on the street, not garaged. And I see him driving them around the place regularly. He has a P1800, but his 121 is the station wagon version. It's great to see historic old cars like this still giving good service.

In fact if you want longevity in a car, a Volvo is probably the best bet. The current holder of the world record for the road car with the most miles on the clock is a Volvo P1800 owned by an American guy, Irvin Gordon, who is getting close to three million miles in his car. So, to finish off, watch Irvin and his P1800 show how it's done.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

142nd ain't so bad!

How's this for a fab little race result: driven by Elio Celani, this Giaur 750 (pictured below) finished the 1956 Mille Miglia in 142nd place! That was enough to seal the deal for me. I wanted one! Lots of collectors love to get the car that came 'first' here, 'won' that – and I don't mind doing that either sometimes – but I love the way diecast model car makers occasionally make a model of an interesting, glorious place-getter.

I first spotted this Giaur at my home forum, where a Swedish collector, Johan, had found one. I almost wanted it straight off because of its era, the fact it was just 750cc, and its looks, but that 142nd placing sealed the deal for me.

The model itself is 1:43 scale, made by Metro, and is very
cheap to buy on eBay. I got mine for under 10 Euros.

Not sure how accurate those wheels are, but the rest of the
car looks pretty close to the photos I have seen online.
This photo of one at a modern car show gives you a good idea
of how tiny these Giaurs were.
Knowing how small these cars are makes this other shot
from another Mille Miglia all the more incredible. Imagine
having to race for 1000km cramped together like that!
Giaur themselves were an interesting company. Here's a
photo of their factory, with several cars in different stages
 of manufacture.
And if you are interested in reading a bit more about this obscure little breed of Italian race car of the 1950s, there's a great website stacked with interesting photos.

Discovering this Giaur is one of the things I really enjoy about collecting little diecast model cars: I love the way this hobby keeps on educating me about motoring history. I'm a history buff anyway, loved studying all kinds of history at both school and uni, and I still read all kinds of history books just for relaxing fun now. However, when I read car history I usually do it online, and it's almost always kicked off by seeing an interesting model car at some collector's forum somewhere, just like I did with this Giaur.