30 Jul 2013

356 racing up close and personal

 Porsche 356 and Jag E-Type racing at the recent Donnington Historic Festival in the UK.Two valuable cars looking as if they are ready to be shown at a concours d'elegance racing wheel to wheel.Another great photo by Peter de Rousset-Hall.

28 Jul 2013

Over the hills and not too far away

The Porsche Classic Register run cancelled 4 weeks ago due to the weather was on today and the weather co-operated with a sunny,warmish winter's day although Warren and I hit some really thick fog early morning on the F3 heading south.Quite why drivers push on at 110 kmh + in the outside lane of a freeway when visibility is down to a few metres I do not comprehend.We "hid" in the inside lane to keep away from the accidents waiting to happen.
Anyway a really great roll up of classic Porsches - long nose 911s,2x 914-6's ,quite a few 356s and lots of G series 911s ( incl a superb 930 -thank you Carol and a very nice 964) and not a single modern car to spoil the party.
Thirty six cars made it up into the Blue Mountains to the Pie in the Sky at Bilpin although some got seriously lost and came by very strange routes.
These runs seem to be getting some garage queens out from their protective cotton wool as there were quite a few cars we had never seen before.I took my smart 2.7 with its rejuvenated paintwork and it ran beautifully.
The back roads we travelled were pretty traffic free and we were able to enjoy some "brisk motoring".Dr Porsche would have approved.
Warren and I had a fast run home to Terrigal and Avoca over Wisemans Ferry and up over Mangrove Mountain- although we did come up on a few mobile chicanes out for a quiet Sunday drive over the top and on the run down to Gosford.For us it was a round trip of 380kms .
Anyway some photos of the day.All taken with the Leica X1-jpeg files taken on the "natural"setting  straight out of the camera.

25 Jul 2013

A seriously sharp Cobra

In the time of film photography it was a well accepted fact that all other things such as lens quality being equal a big format film camera would give you better image quality than a smaller format film camera.So 8x10 view cameras -or perhaps something even bigger-were the ultimate in IQ and you worked down from there.And despite all the posturing and boasting from the camera manufacturers on the merits of their latest releases and the input from all the armchair experts on the performance of their favourite small sensor cameras the same rule applies generally for digital.A big sensor digital camera will produce better IQ than a small sensor camera with the same quality lens.Sensor size matters .
This point was really bought home to me again from Peter de Rousset-Hall's latest batch of superb photos-all taken with Canon 1DX- a full frame sensor digital camera.A seriously heavy camera which comes with some seriously heavy lenses.Now Peter admits that carrying his camera outfit saves him having to pay gym fees but the results speak for themselves.The first is below.I have put it on at the biggest size Blogger can handle.It may not work well on a tablet or smartphone but really it needs to be appreciated on a bigger screen.
Now these full frame cameras produce very big files which can cause serious computer constipation but look at that quality and remember this has been compressed to email it to me and then even more by Blogger.
I'm not about to rush out and buy a 1DX or similar but it certainly makes me stop and think.More of Peter's pictures later and many thanks Peter for sharing them.

24 Jul 2013

Morning glow -Fraser Island

 Beautiful early morning light on squiggly gums- yes,their real name.Fraser Island,Queensland,Australia.Kodak Ektachrome film,Leica M6.

Morning glow -Anzac Bridge,Sydney.

The Anzac Bridge in Sydney carries one of the main routes into the city across an arm of Sydney Harbour.It's only possible to see it this quiet in daylight if you are up with the sparrows on a sunday morning.Canon G7 photo.

Always give me a viewfinder...

Friend Patrick over in Belgium whose photos have often appeared on The Rolling Road has exchanged his faithful,but worn out,Canon S90 for a  Sony RX100.The image quality and in particular the colour of the photos from the new arrival is very impressive for a well priced compact camera however it is not a camera I could live with as it does not have a viewfinder.He shoots using the LCD screen on the back-- he has no choice as there is no provision for a plug-in electronic viewfinder-but he is used to shooting that way.I really hate using the LCD screen as a viewfinder and with the X1 in bright Australian sun the dim LCD screen is invisible.Truly a point and shoot camera.

Call me old fashioned but I need a viewfinder to frame my photos.That's why I have an accessory optical viewfinder on the Leica X1 and why I still use my Canon G9-as above-which does have a very poor built in optical viewfinder which is like looking down a small tunnel but it is better than nothing.At least with the Canon viewfinder or the optical viewfinder on the X1 I don't have the viewfinder full of information on the camera settings I do not need to know.Talk about information overload.

I am not sure that I could live with one of the new electronic viewfinders.Those I have tried were very contrasty and slightly jerky so that I felt slightly queasy using them -like taking photos after drinking a couple of strong Martinis.

23 Jul 2013

A royal baby free zone !

This blog has been officially declared a royal baby free zone by me.After watching the Australian TV news this morning and evening-commercial and public broadcasting -I can truthfully say that I never ever want to hear about the royal baby ever again and I have never ever heard so much utter drivel spoken by so few for so long.Royal commentators my arse- only outdrivelled by the editors of women's magazines.Do they specially breed total airheads for those positions?
Quote of the day from some royal correspondent "this baby will lead a normal family life".Yeah-and I am the King of China.
My aversion to this royalist nonsense started not when I was perched on my father's shoulders in Oxford St in London at the age of seven in the rain watching the Queen's Coronation procession (I can still remember seeing the Queen of Tonga-- she was HUGE)-but when the Jaguar Overseas Sales Manager introduced me to some minor royal -- a right chinless wonder-in the Jaguar hospitality area 30 mins before the start of the 1987 Le Mans 24 hour race just as I was leaving to go to the stand to see the start at 3.00pm.Quite why Nigel xxxxxx thought that I would find a meaningless conversation with this Hooray Henry more interesting than the start of a race which I had travelled half way around the world to see I will never know.But I managed to extract myself in the nick of time to dive under the tunnel and up into the stand to see the start.A very close shave for which I have never really forgiven the royal family or the Jaguar Manager.
And just to clarify in case I sound like a grumpy old man.I really do struggle with the concept of the Monarchy-and an extended family somehow deemed to be exceptional by reason of birth.If the British want one that's their affair and the Queen has been an exceptionally dutiful Monarch but to have the British Monarchy as Head of State for Australia, an independent sovereign country is just too much for me. I have absolutely no problem with Will and Kate having a baby -- it's the OTT sycophantic Aussie coverage of it which has annoyed me. A quick cross to a correspondent in London who says" The Duchess of Cornwall had given birth to a baby boy.He will be third in line to the British throne.His name has not been announced yet.Mother and baby are fine and rest royal family are delighted.Back to the studio."would have said it all.

22 Jul 2013

It was different then.

I came across this photo of John Surtees watching the Honda mechanics working on his Honda RA300 V12 F1 car in the paddock at the 1967 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
What a contrast with today's F1 paddock scene.The car being worked on out in the open with a  trolley jack lifting the back end.A competing team -Lotus-right next to it.John Surtees in his race suit,without any sponsor's logos,casually watching.Big wide tyres with treads designed to last as long as possible not flail themselves apart after 5 laps for the sake of the "show".Aero was still only the name of a chocolate bar and not an industry abbreviation of aerodynamics -the black art of modern F1- although the Honda had very elementary wings. The Honda RA300 was a unique and very complex car with a Honda engine built to the designer's ideas not for conformity to a very detailed and restrictive rule book which ensures that today's cars are all are so similar.
And perhaps above all else the scene was accessible to a young guy with a camera-an enthusiast -not some corporate guest or PR spinner.No security screens and closed doors and massive motorhomes back then.
It started to change when sponsors came aboard but it still had the magic going into the 1990's but then it all changed and it has been downhill all the way since then.
Now it's all uptight,so very serious,secretive and technology driven and big money and even bigger egos and just another branch of show business.A noisy circus masquerading as a sport.

Photo by Hugh Palmer


20 Jul 2013

Vintage and modern Paris

I forget and missed Bastille Day last Sunday with these two vintage Paris photos from my chaotic archives - from 1984 and 1988.The first is of the Luxembourg Palace gardens boating pond in 1984.The interesting thing about this photo is that the same boat cart is in use today hiring out sailing boats to children and I would not be surprised if some of these boats are still being hired out 29 years later.Taken on Kodak Ektachrome slide film which has not aged well.
The second photo shows a typical Parisien boulangerie with the boy taking the baguette home for the family breakfast.
Both photos taken with my Leica 4MP.
And for some really superb HD aerial photos of Paris on Bastille Day 2013 see Paris from above and in particular take a look at the shot of the Frank Gehry designed Museum going up in the Bois De Blougne.Breathtaking

19 Jul 2013

Bernie to face the beak

Formula one supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, has been indicted in Germany on bribery charges.See Bernie snared .
Plenty of other reports across the media.Of course as you would expect F1 team bosses are saying to the media what a top guy Bernie is and how he has made F1 what it is today.No disagreements from me on the second point.And you would expect the acolytes to say nice things about him as he has made a lot of others very rich as well as himself.
The German banker who he is alleged to have bribed has already been found guilty and will be eating a lot sauerkraut and rye bread courtesy of the German prison system for the next 8 years.
However even if Bernie is found guilty and is forced to resign as F1 supremo-or when he does eventually fall off the twig-his departure will be too late to save F1.The culture of F1 is irreparably damaged and it will never be a sport again.
In the meantime Bernie will have to enjoy the company of his new 36 year old Brazilian wife and wait for that knock on the door.I'd tell her to hold the sauerkraut Bernie.Just in case.

17 Jul 2013

It's a Hillman Imp

The Hillman Imp was a small British car produced by the British Rootes Group between 1963 and 1976.It was designed as a competitor to the BMC Mini which had been launched in 1959 but it never enjoyed the Mini's success.
The Imp was rear engined with the engine placed behind the rear axle and used semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension as the designers were very anxious to avoid the wayward handling characteristics associated with the rear engined VW Beetle and Chevrolet Corvair.The power unit was a sohc 875 cc alloy engine based on a Coventry Climax fire pump engine.It was a good power unit at a time when pushrods ,not overhead camshafts ,and cast iron,not alloy,blocks were the order of the day.Arguably the power unit was by far the best thing about the Imp.Indeed many would say that it was the only good thing about the Imp.
As was usual at the time the British Government had a hand in the Imp in that they incentivised Rootes Group to build the Imp factory on a green field site near Paisley in Scotland to employ displaced coal miners .From hewing coal underground to assembling Imps was a big call for the miners.
The Imp suffered from a poor reputation for reliability but that was not unusual for British cars at the time.The tendency was to always blame the assembly workers but most of the quality and reliability issues were usually down to "under-engineering" and poor design and poor quality components from suppliers such as the legendary supplier of electrics Lucas Industries (company motto"Get home before dark").For a complete list of Lucas jokes see Lucas jokes
There was a van version -which must have had a very limited load carrying capacity -and also Singer and Sunbeam versions which had a fastback sloping roof -for people with short friends -and luxury features.At that time luxury features usually consisted of a strip of walnut veneer on the glovebox lid,a leather covered gearlever knob and a wood rimmed steering wheel and a higher price tag. Bluetooth was something you got from sucking too many blue coloured winegums and of course there was no GPS because well people used maps and Russia had only just launched the Sputnik so there were no satellites to lock onto anyway.Oh happy days.
I must confess to a somewhat jaundiced opinion of the Imp as I came across the aftermath of an awful accident in the UK back in 1968 where both the occupants of an Imp were killed and the Imp was just a horrible mess.But it really could have been any car of that era as crashworthiness was just not on the agenda for car manufacturers then.
A very optimistic Rootes Group even tried to sell the Imp in the USA.It must have looked tiny parked alongside the prevailing American cars.
Over half a million Imps were made but few survive and it was never imported into Australia( note that since writing this I have been corrected -- it was indeed sold in Australia).Down here they are rarer than rocking horse droppings so I was very surprised to find one next to me at the local traffic lights recently.Photo from the window of my 911-a much more succesful and enduring rear engined car.

16 Jul 2013

Three bridges

Three very significant bridges visited last month-all in close proximity.
First the Pont Du Gard aqueduct outside Avignon -a major World Heritage listed Roman antiquity and an amazing feat of ancient engineering and second the Millau Viaduct -a major feat of modern civil engineering.So high above the valley that the Eifel Tower would fit underneath it.A quite beautiful bridge.British designed and French built.You turn a curve on the autoroute heading north from Montpellier and you are on it.An attractive viewing area and exhibition centre is on the north side just after you have paid the 7 Euro bridge's certainly worth the toll.Plenty of videos of the Millau viaduct on YouTube if you want to see more.
These two wonderful structures are just 100kms apart.The third bridge is the perhaps even more famous- the Pont D'Avignon is only a few kms from the Pont Du Gard.
The Pont du Gard was World Heritage listed in 2000 and before that I gather that access was very casual and indeed the locals had used the bridge as a sort of quarry for hundreds of years.It is only the fact that removing more stones was extremely dangerous that prevented it being totally disassembled over the centuries.Much of the aqueduct which ran through the countryside to and from the bridge was "recycled" as building materials over the years so only a few short sections remain.
When Roger Putnam visited it in 1959 see Pont Du Gard you could walk across the top level.Now it is closed and although there is a notice which says that it is under restoration I am sure that it will never reopen due to safety concerns.I visited the Pont Du Gard on a rather gloomy day and I tried to get an unusual angle on it but it proved impossible so I had to revert to a standard tourist viewpoint which was a nuisance but at least I did not drive there in a Dutch registered small car pulling a caravan like many of the other visitors that day.With the Pont d'Avignon I was up early and photographed it without the crowds.

13 Jul 2013

14-15th June 2014

That's the date of the 2014 Le Mans 24 hour race when the works Porsche team returns as a serious contender for outright victory with the, as yet unseen, 918 hybrid sports car with Mark Webber in the driver lineup.
Three weeks later on 4-6th July it is the Le Mans Classic.Shouldn't be too difficult to entertain yourself in France for 3 weeks -- if the Visa card is up to it- then you can do both.
Had to find a photo which conveyed the atmosphere of the 24 hour race and settled on this one.Taken the saturday evening of the 2011 race- which was the tightest finish in the race's history -from the ferris wheel in the fairground beside the Porsche curves.Aerial photography for 5 Euros.For those who are interested in such matters it was taken with my Leica X1 as a jpeg file.A shutter speed of 1/500th second made sure there was no camera shake from my lofty perch.
And if for some weird reason you think that Mark Webber is taking a step down moving into sports cars from formula one reflect on the words of Michele Alboreto- a former Ferrari F1 driver who stepped up into sports cars after retiring from F1 and who was sadly killed testing an Audi sports car in 2001-"Formula one for kids.Sports cars for men." Could not have put it better myself.

12 Jul 2013

Porsche 911 50th Anniversary badge

Porsche have released an anniversary grille badge celebrating 50 years of the 911.It is supposed to be a limited edition with only 911 made but as they are not numbered this maybe "spin".It looks very attractive but at A$159 (US$146) the price is a bit rich for me.I'll wait for the copy on ebay for $25 shipped from Shanghai post free in a couple of weeks time.

10 Jul 2013

Totally incorrect

Everything about this story is politically incorrect.
I should not take photos of my food in a restaurant.It is boorish.Indeed some restaurants now ban the practice.Force feeding grain to ducks to distend their livers for foie gras production is inhumane.Fried foie gras in a rich sauce is absolutely laden with cholesterol and almost hardens your arteries just looking at it.
But sadly it is absolutely delicious and is one of many reasons why France is so wonderful.
Photos show foie gras (complete livers) in bags in the food cabinet at a restaurant in a village outside Carcassonne and a plate of fried foie gras with sauce,broad beans, polenta and asparagus as served on the balcony of a delightful restaurant in Ceret,S France on a beautiful summer's evening.Bliss......

8 Jul 2013

R4 fan boy

The post on the Renault R4 generated a surprising response from close quarters. Roger Putnam in the UK who has driven more than his fair share of fast cars through a long and distinguished motor industry career (Lotus,Jaguar and Ford) sent me the photo below with the explanation.

"I was amused by your article on the R 4.This photo was taken in 1967 just after I had written off my Elan. I bought a LHD car from Belgium as a runaround whilst between cars. I think I paid £25 for it plus £12 import tax. As you can see it was battered in 1968. It had front seats made from metal tubing strung with canvas. It ran well for about 10 months then there was a horrendous noise from the engine and it expired."

 Look at the state of the car.Production of R4s only started in 1961 so this one had a pretty rough life because it only took 7 years to get into this sorry state.
Roger seems to have an excellent photo filing system and is apparently immediately able to put his hands on photos related to most of the subjects I post on this blog.Time to write that book Roger.
I should also add that John Maries,also ex-UK motor industry,has such an arcane knowledge of UK motoring-and also photography- trivia ,and I mean real trivia, that he was able to date the photo from the colour and layout of the tax disc at the top of the windscreen.
As postscript the lady in the car is Trish and she is still Roger's wife despite having to drive around Norfolk in a battered Renault 4 all those years ago..

4 Jul 2013

A 911 sow's ear into a silk purse

My yellow 2.7 has been rejuvenated.Whilst I have always been relaxed about the rather tatty paintwork an expert convinced me that in fact some heavy duty rejuvenation work could really bring the paint up without the expense of a total respray.The yellow paint was faded and on some panels "milky".A previous owner had a light blow over/touch-up done on some panels and this had left an orange peel effect.The bonnet was stone chipped and was bubbling and the bumpers and mirrors and lower panels were stone chipped.
Anyway whilst I was away travelling in France the car was rejuvenated.The bonnet was stripped to the bare metal and resprayed as were the mirrors and the front and rear bumpers and the lower panels.The rest of the car was expertly sanded and polished.The orange peel and dead paint has gone and the original paint has a mirror like finish as have the repainted parts and the bonnet.
And it looks superb.Sure there are still a few chips on the door edges and some old rough points but otherwise it looks like a complete new paint job.A show and shine contender.And it seems to run better as well.....
Some photos of the final car and the work in progress.The workshop photos are from a phone.  

2 Jul 2013

Not a Porsche

The Renault 4 is everything a Porsche is not. It's slow,utilitarian.practical,affordable,very easy to maintain,has rolly polly suspension and carries 4 people and a couple of pigs plus a few chickens,olives,baguettes and of course a few bottles of vin de pays plus some vegetables and whatever all at the same time in reasonable comfort.
Eight million,yes 8 million,R4s were made between 1961 and 1992.There were everywhere in France and its former African colonies and even in some South American countries during this period.It was launched in the halcyon era of the French motor industry and for the then state owned Renault it was a major success and a very effective counter to the equally utilitarian Citroen 2CV.
Even ten years ago you saw a lot of R4s in France.Now they are disappearing rapidly although I saw many more in southern France on my recent trip than I saw in the north last year.They are still around in rural areas doing what they have always done- provide utilitarian transport.
In Paris they have been relegated to the role of trendy urban transport.
On this recent trip I saw one in a vineyard deep between rows of vines with the workers taking a "smoko" standing around it but I was on the autoroute at the time and could not stop and capture what was a wonderful and very French image.
Anyway I caught this one in a town in the Cotes Du Rhone.Slightly battered as they all are nowadays but still going strong.Vive Le Renault 4.