Thursday, 25 February 2010

The best kind of R & R...

After a bit of an attempted mauling on the slot racing forum from a dissatisfied customer, I felt like some relaxation away from the pressures of a super active forum full of egos.
My favourite way to do that has always been silence, solitude, perhaps Radio 4 and model scenery.
In various measures.

This had got me back to my first passion in modelmaking, model landscape and architecture. I was born, it seems, with a love of vernacular architecture and although I have often drawn it and painted it, even drawn it officially for Councils to pore over in committee meetings, it is only models of buildings which ever really satisfies.

The tiny yard office at Grindley Brook Locks, Welsh canal

I made my first building when I was about 10. It was a little scratch-built flint dashed forge. I used poppy seeds as un-knapped flints. I was given some ancient copper foil rolled into a good scale corrugated which I used for the roof. Because I had no layout as such, I put it on a grassy base and kept it as that. A scenic set-piece. I have built many such set-pieces over the years, rarely having space for a layout.

I also have a love of estuaries, having spent many childhood weekends on the Essex coastal waterways. One day, when missing the clean air and the sounds of the saltings I made this little set-piece to get it out of my system. Just about 9 inches square, I put it on whatever I had under the bench in the way of a base board, yet it turned into one of my best pieces.

I can find inspiration anywhere, as in that tiny office above, so perfect in its proportion and fitness for purpose.

This is an old village cinema, now, alas, a hairdresser's emporium!

Imagine the queues of young lovers all desperate to get to the back rows in the days when it would have definately been known as the local "flea-pit", before the ugly cement dashed finish ruined the old bricks.

Here is the little country garage in the same village as the "Cinema Salon". Now used only for repairs to cars as the government has allowed the foreign unelected parliament to force stringent and unnecessary rules on small British businesses which cost so much to administer that they are forced to close in full or in part.

I have known this place for over thirty years. You could, at one time, choose from a whole line of Austin Healeys, Pipers, tuned up Imps and Mini-Coopers, to name but a few. The proprietor himself used to race. Now he is waiting for the economy to upturn again so he can redevelop the site because rules and unstoppable vandalism have made the business untenable. Just as well that I made a model of the office years ago then, eh? Another occasion when I needed the peace of architecture. Frozen music.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Comments on the blog

Not being very computer savvy, I have no idea how to answer people when they kindly leave a comment on the blog.
I would appreciate any viewer of the blog clueing me up on the methods.

Meanwhile, Jim, thankyou for your kind comments on the models and the Albatross in particular.
I had Hull No. 135., a Mk 1. I bought it from a chap in Yorkshire. It had a Consul Corsair 1500cc pushrod, pre-crossflow Ford engine. I wanted to put a side valve 10 back in or even a Coventry Climax, but the cost of rebuilding even a humble Ford 10 seems outrageous these days, so whilst it was cheap to buy one (my wife paid £90 for it), rebuilding it to a high level was to have cost much more than I paid for the boat! So the 120E engine got a clean up and put back in. New steering pullies and cables and a respray and off it went to a new owner when I got kicked out of the CMBA for telling a home truth or two about the museums in this country. No club, no water to go fast on, no point in the boat.
If you send me a comment with just your e-mail address, I can note it, but refuse the comment for publication then talk to privately about the models.

BXE 599, where are you!...

My Uncle recently scanned in and sent me some marvellous old Box Brownie shots of his Special as it grew, back in the late 50s/early 60s.
BXE 599 started life as an Austin Seven Ruby. Stripped of her bodywork she would have looked like this.
My Uncle was only 16 when he started this project and in fact, only 21 when he sold it, having used it for getting to work and for a long journey to Bristol. Here he is in our Bristol aunt's driveway.My Dad had built specials earlier and was obviously a good help-at-hand for my Uncle, since we lived over the road from where the car was being built.
Here he gives invaluable advice on steering geometry!
Behind them in that photo, all sorts of magic happened. My Granddad made his own paints and stains in the shed in the background for his work as a grainer and marbler and off to the right was where my Nan made her own wines and repaired all the family's bikes and resoled our shoes! Beyond both was a large garden in which grew most of the ingredients of the wine making. Remarkably my Nan never touched a drop of any of the hundreds of wines she ever made. I recall her parsnip to have been my favourite. Her rosehip was delicious, but gave me nightmares!

Unique as far as I know among specials, BXE had a hardtop. A removable accessory for the winter months which my Uncle made.
The eagle-eyed Special Builders among you will recognize some nice touches of the times amongst the goodies on this car.
A finned Aluminium cylinder head, but I'm not sure of which make. A four branch exhaust manifold and a nice twin SU side-draught inlet set up.
There's also an independent front suspension set up, possibly by Super Accessories or Bowndenex. My Uncle made many of his own parts including the header tank for the then quite rare crossflow radiator.
The very professional looking double hump scuttle always sets a special apart, I think, and BXE was no exception. It always makes for an attractive dashboard shape.

The lovely old spring-spoke steering wheel sets off a nice cockpit and never better than the Brooklands Bluemell's.
I'm delighted to learn that a spare one of these which hung in my Grandad's garage for years after BXE was sold is now in my Uncle's basement and he's promised it for my Cambridge Special.
That's a very special thing for me as I used to look longingly at that old wheel every time I was in my Grandad's workshop!

If anyone knows of the whereabouts or fate of this lovely special, please let me know.

Friday, 5 February 2010

And some more....

Since posting the last piece on Specials I've decided to put my money where my mouth is effectively and I have started an Austin Seven Specials Register under the auspices of the Austin Seven Clubs Association.
So far we have 39 fully written up sets of details about peoples' cars. We have home builts, Cambridges and Ulster replicas in about that order of popularity. We have some very old, even ex-Brooklands cars, too, which I never expected.
If anyone reading this blog has an A7 Special or knows someone who does, please let me know.