25 Nov 2014

A snakey tale

There can be very few cars which have had such an interesting history with so many twists and turns as the AC Cobra.It started life as the AC Ace-a very British tweed jacket and flat cap sports car made by a small independent car manufacturer,AC Cars in Thames Ditton,Surrey,UK. I remember cycling one day in the summer school holidays to the AC factory when I was 11 years old-they had not invented helicopter parents then and there were hardly any cars on the road either.It was about an hour's ride from my home.I arrived expecting to see a yard full of beautiful sports cars but what I found was a small factory turning out British government invalid cars designed for use by amputees.

Now I am sure that the amputees- it was close to the end of the second world war so there were many of them-were very grateful to this device for giving them mobility but to me it was like something from a horror fairground ride.A small crude fibreglass bodied single seater powered by a motorcycle engine.The AC invalid car was actually banned from British roads in the early 1970's as it was deemed too dangerous.How sad that a war hero who lost a limb in climbing out of an exploding Spitfire could have perished in Brixton High Street under a London bus a few years later in an invalid car.

Now it should be pointed out that in no way were AC involved in the design of this horror-they merely built them under contract but there could not be a greater contrast than between the AC built invalid car and the Cobra.If you had to design the world's most dangerous car you could pass on the Pinto,the Corvair and even the Trabant for inspiration.You would go straight to the AC built invalid car.With a high centre of gravity,a very narrow track and short wheelbase,a thin light fibreglass body with zero crash resistance which was highly susceptible to cross winds -indeed even a fast moving truck could blow it off course-with very crude steering,narrow tyres,basic brakes,a crude transmission and a temperamental motorcycle engine and minimal performance it was disaster in blue fibreglass.
I cannot include a photo of the invalid car as those I have found are subject to copyright.

But I digress .The AC Ace was originally powered by an AC engine but this was soon replaced by a 6 cylinder Bristol engine -which was a BMW pre war design-then to give it more herbs they put in a 6 cylinder Ford Zephyr engine in 1961.The top photo below shows an AC Ace-photographed at this year's Le Mans Classic.

Then Carroll Shelby discovered the Ace and squeezed in a Ford V8 and as they say the rest is history.In fact the first Cobra was quite an elegant car but soon the tyres got wider and the wheel arches grew and it became a bulbous device -a far cry from the very elegant lines of the Ace.The AC Cars company disappeared in the 1980's and then was resurrected and if I remember correctly was even partly owned by Ford for a while and then it disappeared again and was resurrected again....
There were continuation runs of genuine Cobras and a whole industry making replicas had started up.The lines between a genuine Cobra and a replica and a continuation became very blurred.It is such an easy car to replicate-a simple chassis,a Ford V8,a Jaguar rear end and in the cheaper replicas a fibreglass body or in the better examples such as this one seen at this year's Le Mans Classic an aluminium body.

I went to the Le Mans 24 hours in 1999 in a friend's Cobra replica.I have to find the photos.It was an experience.We just made the cross channel ferry out of Portsmouth after having to investigate a noisy wheel bearing soon after we departed.Despite its huge size it had no weather protection-a rain jacket was mandatory and the worst aspect was that the boot (trunk) was totally filled with an enormous spare wheel and tyre with absolutely no space for luggage.And there was no space behind the seats.So I had a small rucksack filled with camera gear (and I carried a lot more gear in those days) and my clothing and soap bag on the floor between my legs and the seat.Talk about uncomfortable.
Both photos Leica X1.The top one is a big crop so is not the usual standard.

21 Nov 2014

The Leica photographer

About 6 years ago I sold my lovely Leica M6 (film) camera and my collection of Leica lenses and spent the proceeds on restoring my 1971 Porsche 911.I wasn't using the Leica and it just seemed to be dead money.From time to time I wish that I had kept it-or better still that I could afford a new Leica M 240 -the latest digital version of the M rangefinder series-and a few of the latest lenses.
At the Le Mans Classic back in July friend Patrick and I caught up with his friend Michael who is both a Porsche driver and a committed Leica user.Despite his enthusiasm for Leicas and Porsches he still had some rough edges back in July-he wanted to sidetrack to go and look at a display of De Tomaso Panteras when there were far more interesting cars all around us but Patrick and I kept him walking in the right direction and he never mentioned Panteras again.
The photo shows Michael shooting with his Leica M9 in one of the LMC paddocks on the very wet Sunday morning.Michael tells me that he is using his 21mm Super- Elmar f3.4 lens on the Leica in this shot.
I really like this photo-it shows an artisan hard at work-and he definitely was not shooting a Pantera.Photo by me on my Leica X1.

18 Nov 2014

A wet afternoon in Paris

Another wet photo.If you are a regular follower of this blog you may be surprised to find a black and white photo here after my disparaging remarks about black and white a few weeks ago.But oddly this photo works so much better in black and white.So I will eat a little humble pie for this one.It was taken late in the afternoon at the corner of Place Joffree and Av de Tourville in Paris in July this year.
There is so much going on in the photo.The Eifel Tower in the background and there is one of the very distinctive Air France airport buses,the Asian tourists in their "Paris" plastic rain coats,the embracing couple,the senior without an umbrella, the group of police and the very distinctive Parisien buildings,trees and street furniture and more. Leica X1 photo.

15 Nov 2014

More rainy days...........

The rainy days sequence in the previous post  below has been so well received-thanks for the emails-that I though that I should add some more rainy day photos.Particularly as yesterday we had a very hot day-41ºC on the drive back from Sydney.That's hot by any standards and a good time to wish for a rainy day or two.
First photo taken back in June on a very wet day in Dürnstein,Austria.The rain was there a few weeks later when I took the second ,third and fourth photos in Paris on a wonderful street near my hotel in the 7th arr.
And it was still raining at the Le Mans Classic  when I spotted someone who was prepared for the weather with her red "wellies".
The line up of wet 356 Porsches was also taken at the Le Mans Classic.
The umbrellas by the lake was taken in 2004 in Hanoi on Fuji Velvia slide film on the same morning I photographed the rush hour photo on the first rainy days post.And the sea of umbrellas was taken in Tokyo a couple of hours after the previous wet morning in the park in Tokyo shot.All the recent photos were taken on my Leica X1 apart from the Tokyo shot which was taken on my Canon G7.
In response to the email asking how I take photos in the rain without getting the camera wet my answer is with great difficulty.Cameras and water do not mix-particularly today's electronic cameras where one drop of moisture on a circuit board can literally mean"goodbye Mr Chips".
Some modern camera are weather sealed but this does not mean that they are that waterproof.The cameras I use are not sealed so I stand under an awning,or in an archway as in the first photo or hold the camera with one hand and an umbrella in the other as in the Tokyo shots .Sometimes I put a plastic bag around the camera but that is strictly a short term measure just to keep the rain off for a few seconds.

12 Nov 2014

Rainy days....

Rain is in short supply around here again and the garden is rock hard.But Clarence Boudreau from Vancouver Island in Canada -another Leica user whose photos have appeared on the blog previously - sent me a great rain shot he had very effectively processed in Lightroom so I thought that I should put up a few of my rain shots to accompany it.
The first is one of my personal all time favourite shots-a policeman in Hanoi,Vietnam at morning rush hour on a wet morning.This was taken by me on Fuji Velvia slide film on a Leica M6.I know that have put this on the blog before but I do like it.
The second is a very wet morning in a park in central Tokyo-taken by me on a little Canon G7.This is a recent discovery -I had overlooked it for a few years but it is a very moody shot which captures for me a very damp day.
The third is from a very wet event -this year's Le Mans Classic in July and finally Clarence's Lightroom work taken on I believe a Leica Digilux 2.
I hope that these inspire others to take their cameras with them even when it is pouring down.

8 Nov 2014

Just crazy

The craziest or perhaps bravest thing I have seen in 2014 has to be the young ski jumpers practicing in mid June on the ski jump in Innsbruck,Austria.They jump onto wet astroturf.
That's a local cemetery just beyond the ski jump.That must concentrate their minds as they hurtle down.Just crazy.They seemed so nonchalant about it.Like it was something they do every day -which it probaby is.
What I had not realised until I saw them jumping is that their skis run in two channels down the jump.Until then I thought that they had to free ski down the slope steering themselves.
The tiny red dot on the green in the bottom photo is the red skiier in the first photo shuffling off the turf.
 Leica X1 photos taken from the balcony of the observation deck.

6 Nov 2014

On props

I've seen a few aircraft propellers over the years but never really thought about them .So I was intrigued to learn whilst visiting Luskintyre (see post below) that Tiger Moths have wooden propellers many of which are made from Queensland maple by an Australian company,Invincible Airscrews,which was in Sydney but which has recently relocated to the Hunter Valley near to the Tiger Moths at Luskintyre.
Obviously propellers have to be made to the highest levels of quality-no picking up a cheap Chinese copy on ebay- and apparently the Invincible props are made to the original De Havilland drawings.I don't know how much a prop costs but I am sure they don't come cheap.I would like to see and photograph how they are made.The company and the process sounds really interesting.I will call them and see if they would let me visit them as they are not that far away.Watch this space.In the meantime some propeller photos.Leica X Vario photos.

2 Nov 2014

Lunch with the Tigers

Went to a private airfield at Luskintyre in the Hunter Valley on Saturday with a Porsche group to have lunch with the Tiger Moths and the other interesting vintage aircraft which are housed there.The only disappointment was the weather-searing heat and very strong gusts of very hot wind which totally ruled out the possibility of any flying.Another time... Going up in a Tiger Moth is now on my bucket list.

The Tiger Moth is a very simple biplane designed before the second world war and used as basic trainer by the RAF in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth countries.Thousands of Tiger Moths were built in the UK and elsewhere and thousands of pilots learnt to fly on them in WW2.Now enthusiasts covet them and the group at Luskintyre are real Tiger enthusiasts.

As well as the Tiger Moths the restoration workshop is full of interesting aircraft in various states of repair and restoration including a rarer than rocking horse droppings WW2 Hawker Hurricane fighter which is being restored.The whole place has a wonderful laid back vintage atmosphere-untidy but not dilapidated.With the heat and the flies and the glorious vistas it was not difficult to imagine that I had been transported back to a summer's day in 1950's/1960's Australia.I fully expected to see Tony Abbott,Australia's Prime Minister, coming up the driveway as I left because that's where he lives-the 1950's and 1960's.

Luskintyre Tigers is a private airfield not a museum but you can visit on the first Saturday of the month by prior arrangement.Leica X Vario photos.

1 Nov 2014

A very hot Porsche 2.7

Drove the 136kms up to the Luskintyre Tiger Moth airfield in the Hunter Valley with a group of Porsches today.More on the airfield later.I was planning to take the 2.2 but with a forecast of temperatures in the high 30sC (100ºF) I decided to take the airconditioned 2.7.Most of the journey is on motorway including the very newly opened and very impressive M15 Hunter Expressway.
It was very hot.Probably some of the hottest driving conditions I have ever experienced in the 2.7.On the way back a group of us cruised at 110kmh on the motorway and the temperature gauge of my car was slowly advancing towards the red zone and the oil pressure was sagging.Not critically low but not too far off.The aircon worked a treat though and I definitely made the right call there and the car never missed a beat and purred there and back.Although it is conventional to describe the 911 models upto the 996 as air cooled they are in fact oil cooled so it's the oil which really has a hard time in conditions like today.
The oil is cooled in the 2.7 by what is known as trombone oil cooler so named because it is a pipe shaped like a trombone-why I do not know-and is located inside the front rh wheel arch.If the car ran that hot frequently I would fit a bigger oil cooler but usually it runs a little on the cool side.
As I always do after a long drive I checked the oil when I reached home and the dipstick was too hot to handle with bare hands and oil filler neck was belching out oil fumes.On a 911 you have to check the oil at operating temperature (no problems there today) and with the engine running.
Photo shows the 2.7 at a new rest area on the Hunter Expressway on the way up.The pool underneath it is water off the aircon.Leica X Vario photo.

I just made it home and into the pool before an enormous electrical storm came through.It did not last long but it did the garden some good and put some water in the rainwater tanks.Photo above shows the storm over Terrigal as seen from home.

31 Oct 2014

Not better in black and white

I shot this on Terrigal Esplanade at dawn today.Another beautiful day.Shot with my Leica X Vario.
The colour on this shot and some of my very recent photos-see below-set me wondering why I ever do black and white photos.Go back a few decades or more and it was obvious why so many photographers shot black and white film-colour was expensive and difficult.That reason totally disappeared with digital photography.But black and white has made a major comeback in recent years.It has always been seen as more"arty" and "serious" than colour and that position has if anything been reinforced in recent years particularly with Leica releasing the M Monochrome camera which only shoots monochrome.
Many photographers including myself often use black and white as a cop out-to make a photographs look "better" and to give them "gravitas".I have decided to try and avoid doing so in the future.
This post will be well received by friend Patrick in Belgium.In the 12 years I have known him and the number of his photos which have appeared on the blog not once has he sent me a black and white photo or expressed any enthusiasm for any of the black and white photos which have appeared on the blog.Patrick is a colour man.
And if you are reading this and consider yourself a street/urban photographer who shoots in black and white for the atmosphere take a look at the work of a brilliant urban photographer,Fred Herzog, who shot over 100,000 Kodachrome slides of life in Vancouver over a 50 year period.Very inspirational.A small selection of his work is in a wonderful book Fred Herzog Photographs  see also Fred Herzog

29 Oct 2014

Porsches,pubs,beer and other things

Some more great classic vintage Porsche photos taken by Justin Reed's father and supplied by Justin who is in some of the photos.

Many thanks for these Justin.I did not scan them in but I would guess that some were taken on Kodachrome and others on Ektachrome.They are very well preserved.

This photo was obviously taken on the fly-probably photography was not permitted in the factory-but what a contrast to today's pristine robotic assembly line.CAD/CAM has changed everything -for the better-in car manufacturing.It is amazing that Porsche and others achieved the build quality they did given the way cars were designed and manufactured.The best way to appreciate how modern manufacturing has changed cars is to take the door trim off an old Porsche.It is a long job.Loads of small screws and cup washers and small pieces of trim.Even a hardworking German worker would have had to spend some time putting it together.Today's door trims come as one moulded part from an outside supplier with just push on fasteners.It literally takes seconds to fit and there are no rattles or squeeks.

Great atmospheric shots of very tranquil factory surroundings.All seems to be under control although there was obviously a small problem with wheel or tyre supply the day in 1963 the overhead 356 factory parking area shot was taken.Porsche did not have to deal with the almost continuous strikes experienced by British car manufacturers through the 1960's,70's and into the 80's.

In 1974 there was a strike at the Lucas starter motor and alternator factory in Birmingham and at the same time there was a strike at Pilkington Glass who manufactured the windscreens and rear windows.Despite the non supply of these parts the British Leyland factory at Cowley did not stop producing Morris Marinas  -a truly awful car-so the cars were bump started off the production line and those which did not start were pushed off the end of the line.The front and back holes where the glass was missing were covered with polythene sheets held down by sticky tape.The cars were stored everywhere there was space in the factory grounds.And when they ran out of space there they stored them on the works soccer fields.It was November and very soon there were over 15000 cars standing around not finished and many were quickly sinking into mud.

Eventually they ran out of space and they stopped the production line.When the strikes ended it took months for all the cars to be finished and by that time many of the plastic sheets had come loose and many of the cars were full of rainwater....
I remember all this because I was working there at the time.It was character building.

If you are unaware of the Morris Marina take a look at this TV ad.Marina Commercial
If you know the Morris Marina you will have found that hilarious and perhaps also sad.Were they really that naive? I wonder if any Marinas survive.Certainly those featured in the TV ad would have rusted away before the commercial went to air given the way there were driven in seawater.

It was a pretty unusual to find a Porsche parked on the street even in the best parts of London in 1972.And look at the lack of cars parked in Kensington-so different to today.
Porsches were extremely expensive even back then.You could buy two E-Type Jaguars for the price of one 911.No wonder they photographed this one which does look very much like my 2.2.

Mike Evans in the UK was able to identify the pub in the pub shot as the Anglesea Arms in Selwood Terrace South Kensington in London-thanks Mike- and I have included a modern shot of the pub for contrast.It looks much more inviting today.Back in Sept 1972 when Justin,complete with a Porsche badged jacket,and his mum were standing in front of a longnose 911 outside the Anglesea Arms it was, judging by the sign, selling Watneys Red Barrel beer.Today it is a free house selling a variety of beers from different brewers.Watneys Red Barrel and its major competitor Ind Coope's Double Diamond and their companion lagers,Skol and Harp,were just awful slops-you cannot call them beers-and were basically responsible for the emergence of the Real Ale movement in Britain.Double Diamond and Watneys Red Barrel are what happens when the finance department does the brewing.

The 1960's and 1970's were a grim time in Britain.Mediocrity ruled and the big brewers and British Leyland were the front runners.
If you want a taste of Double Diamond times see Double Diamond works wonders .V

What a contrast between the display of the 917 pink pig in an old shed  and my photo of the same car in the beautiful Porsche Museum today.

How about the colour scheme on this 911 Targa? Surely inspiration for all those Targa owners who wonder whether the hoop should be stainless steel or painted black.That's a young Justin standing by the car.What a lucky boy he was.

These two photos above were taken at Sydney's Amaroo Park track - long gone and now another "executive" housing estate.It was a short challenging track and the paddock facilities were very basic and in a natural bowl and on a hot day it was as hot as hades.But it was great fun-particularly in a Mini Cooper S the only car I ever drove there.By the time I had a Porsche it was houses.And those were the days when Kodak was a big cheese and sponsoring motor racing.
The photo below was taken in 1978 or 79 and shows a 935 which was imported by the O'Neill family.Justin believes that it never actually raced locally and was recently being offered for sale in Europe as one of the most lightly raced 935s in the world.

25 Oct 2014

Chrome,tats,rock and roll and Elvis

It is the annual Chromefest hot rod show at The Entrance,NSW this weekend over three days.It gets bigger every year.More cars,more bands and rock and roll,more tats and more Elvises.
I was there this morning-Saturday- with my camera.It was hot and really bright and as entertaining as ever.I certainly had plenty of photographic competition there today-smartphones dominated followed by Canon DSLRs.
I am disappointed that I missed out on the shot of the day-an older man with a completely shaved head which was totally tatooed -scalp,face,ears,neck and all. I asked him cheerily if I could photograph him and he told me to "f... off" .Which I did pronto.Disappointing but discretion is the better part of valour.
The raised finger bonnet( hood) mascot is on a cutdown coupe Morris Minor.My first job in the motor industry was at the Cowley in Oxford in the UK and they were still making the Morris Minor then.I never would have dreamt then that I would be seeing one made into a skunk rod and on display in Australia 46 years later.
Here's today's crop from my 90 mins at the show.All taken with the Leica XVario.