Sunday 31 July 2011

Face o' Leaves

Well, Mopar Sunday was pretty good. I realised that I'm really not a car-show-person, but this event had a lot to offer - show and shine, drag racing, merchandise tents, even a swap meet. More on that later.

It was nice to go to a car event without the stress of interviews and photoshoots and deadlines. We cruised out in a convoy of sweet Mopars too, at the invite of Tony, the husband of a friend of a friend of my wife's. Tony's Satellite is a bit of a rat-rod, but is 100% big-block powered cool. In the group he brought along was an old CSM mate, Charlie, who took us out in the Big Block Oldsmobile for CSM's first big feature. Today, Charlie was driving a hot, lime green Dodge pickup that towed a white Super Stock race truck out for some quarter mile action. Turns out that classic car owners make up a small world.

Speaking of small worlds, I recently encountered Flamin' Wayne MacGregor a former part-owner of Drive Publishing, producers of Cruizin and Gasoline magazines. He sold me this: 

She's what Mopar people refer to as an "A-Body" - a '72 Plymouth Scamp. It runs a 318ci Fireball V8, a three speed 904 auto and the baby 8-and-quarter diff. All factory running gear, bar a Holley I installed last week and a set of twin pipes and tiny cherry-bomb mufflers. It sounds great, and the whole car weighs less than the wheels of my old F100. This means performance from the little motor is plenty to shift a cruising car around.

We've driven it a few hundred miles now, and the experience is something else - we can't back it out of the driveway without smiles and waves from passers-by. I think we might have found a keeper.



Righto Nick, I notice you have conveniently omitted the car's minor flaw from your little love story above.

Let me set the scene.......

We were driving down the Cunningham Hwy after a day at Willowbank, Holliday clearly chuffed with his new car purchase and me just happy to be cruising in a cool piece of Americana.

Peuty: So this little 318 feels like it's got some poke, especially in top (third) gear 

Holliday: Yeah it goes alright, watch this! (slips trans into second and gives it a bootful) Look, pulls cleanly and strongly up to 90Mph and it really lovHNNGMMpFFHHHffffff!!!!!!

This was the sound of half the Californian bushland being forced out of the footwell air vent by our near as dammit 100mph showboating.

Clearly Aussie Customs weren't terribly thorough in protecting our Flora and Fauna and missed the forty year buildup of leaf litter in the various air vent piping when doing the Customs clearance - leaving Mr Holliday with a mouthful of leaves, bark and rotting gumnuts (and no doubt other kinds of American biohazard too).

So we pull over in the nearest clearing to contemplate this unexpected intake of roughage - Holliday to dust himself off and our mate Scooter and I to have a good laugh at his expense.
I'm sure he's got the dash apart cleaning the schmeg from the vents as I type, but I say leave it in - who needs Metamucil when you can get your daily intake of fibre by going for a spin in your awesome Plymouth Scamp!


Report from Mopar Sunday 2011

Life is easy for Ford and Holden fans. Everyone has an opinion on which is best, you see them on the street every day and there’s a race every weekend where you can wave the flag and see which is fastest.

Queensland Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth fans only get one big chance a year – Mopar Sunday. Held on the last Sunday of July for the last nine years, Mopar Sunday is a big deal. It’s much more than just a car show – there’s a full day of drag racing, club displays, a swap meet, dyno runs and of course hundreds of sweet Mopars to ogle.

This year was no exception – Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway reverberated to everything from the crackle of a Weber-fed six to the earthshaking rumble of  big-cube Hemi V8s. Walking from the staging lanes to the show and shine area, I didn’t know which way to look.  It doesn’t matter what you drive: If a purple hemi ‘Cuda doesn’t stop you in your tracks, you’re clinically dead.

Mopars are all about impact to me. 70’s colour schemes that scream out “OVER HERE!!” – Go Mango, Hemi Orange, Plum Crazy, Top Banana. And no other brand ever did dress-up packages half as good – everywhere you looked there was a bumblebee stripe or a Superbee badge or a Roadrunner sticker. Cool, cool, cool.

They were everywhere – Challengers, Dusters, Chargers, ‘Cudas, Darts, some still wearing vinyl roofs and factory air in the tyres, some worked to the max with motors a foot out of the bonnet.

Aussie Chryslers were out in force as well, with everything from immaculate early-girl AP5s to swarms of hi-po Pacers and Chargers. 

Even the late-model fans had something to drool over – big-stereo gangstamobile 300Cs and flash new hemi powered Jeeps. There was even a brand new Challenger coupe near one of the dealership stands, just to remind us what we can’t have in Australia.

Walking around the show’n’shine, you were all too aware that you were missing epic racing on the strip. Everyone was giving it a go, whether you had a daily-driver slant six-powered Val or a small-block Centura on slicks. For my money, the drag car of the day was Darren McGahan’s wheelstanding ’68 Barracuda.

Event manager Sam Tatton said that this year was the biggest ever, with 135 cars racing, over 300 cars on display and 3000 people through the gates. For Mopar fans, this is as good as it gets. We can’t wait for the 10th anniversary next year.

Words published in Cruzin Magazine, December 2011

Thursday 28 July 2011

Another One Bites The Dust

The photos are processed. The words are written. The email has been sent, and another ColumnShift Media article has been dispatched today.

After receiving news a few weeks ago that a story that WE uncovered is going to appear (in a vastly inferior form) in another magazine just weeks after our work is released in Gasoline, we're keeping our stories close to our chest.

This latest story is about a vehicle, obviously.

It's made of fibreglass, but it's not a speedboat.

It's purple, but it isn't the Bryan Byrt Ford GT-HO.

It's got a Holden badge, but it wasn't built at Fisherman's Bend.

But that's all we can tell you until the next Australian Classic Car comes out.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Rolling Wheels

Well, another 1200 kilometre weekend has gone by, at exactly the speed Daniel's photo shows. Modern cars don't float my boat for a number of reasons, but to drive 6 hours to Roma, do a one hour interview and photo shoot and then drive 6 hours home, I'd rather be in my 18 month old Commodore than the sweet 302/4 speed XY Falcon you can see us closing on.

We've been a bit slack on updates for the last couple of weeks, but expect some big updates soon - another issue of Gasoline will be rolling off the presses next week, we're submitting an excellent interview to a major magazine this week, Mopar Sunday is just around the corner and we have some automotive news of our own to share.

Exciting times.


Monday 18 July 2011

Family Ties - The 80's

My wife's family has stepped up to the plate, showing the family transport, circa 1989.

First is a steel grey XF Falcon S-pack, the hottest Falcon you could buy in 1987, sporting the mega-dark tint and Aunger window louvre for extra impact. A very young version of my wife can be seen breaking adjusting the wing mirror, with my father-in-law David showing off the stylish short shorts.

Next are a couple of photos of David's pride and joy in the same era, a gunmetal grey VN Commodore SS. The "batmobile" is the stuff of Broadbent family legends, with a 5-speed and an exhaust note that was the envy of all Wurtulla.

Note that my wife and her younger brother do not appear in these photos. This is because they were always thoroughly searched for crayons, lollies and other small-child vandalism weapons, then bound and gagged before being allowed to approach the SS. Fair enough too.


Sunday 17 July 2011

ColumnShift Weekend

Big weekend for ColumnShift media. Nick was in Yeppoon crewing for a car in the Capricorn round of the Queensland championship. It's suspected that he is bad rallying luck - the car has DNF'ed both times he's helped out. It's unclear how direct the relationship is.

There was some rally comedy on the provisional results board last night though:

Dan was busy amusing himself at the RACQ Motorfest in Brisbane, snapping some excellent shots.

A FordForums member's EL XR6, nearly nice enough to make Nick miss his:

Some epic classic Holdens:

Some lime green thing that looks useless for taking bricks to the tip:

A dodgy old Mopar:

Busy weekend, leading in to a busy automotive week - more research for the World's Fastest FJ article before we drive out on Saturday, plus picking up a new addition to the CSMedia fleet.


Wednesday 13 July 2011

Family Ties - Foreign Lands

Regular ColumnShift reader Scooter has had family members across the globe dig up some excellent vintage pics.

The first is his grandmother standing in front of the family's '57 Cadillac Fleetwood in Caracas, Venezuela. Great photo:

Even the lawn, the house and the dog look 1950's! This photo says everything you need to know about big, sweet American cars.

Second is a wonderful photo of young Scooter (left) and his older brother Ben outside the family home in Redruth, Cornwall circa 1982.

"One day I'll move to Australia and buy a BIG car that doesnt leak in the rain and catch fire like mum's Austin"

I think this photo says all you need to know about small, British cars of a certain era. Although the brightly coloured clothing does draw attention away from their green/greyness. I'm pleased to report that Scooter no longer sports a mullet and that squint wasn't permanent. His brother, sadly, remains a ranga.


Tuesday 12 July 2011

Tuesday Car Movie: Vanishing Point

Colorado State HP Officer: Nevada, this is Colorado State Highway Patrol. This is about a special query raised by the Utah Highway Patrol. - Affirmative, that's correct, but later they asked that the information be forwarded to you guys, so get ready for some details. Apparantly this speed maniac you've been chasing all over your territory is a former professional road racer named Kowalski, K-O-W-A-L-S-K-I, repeat Kowalski. First name unkown, other particulars also unknown. All we do know is that he's employed as a car delivery driver by an agency in Denver. He's presently driving a Dodge Challenger, Colorado licence plate OA-5599. This is not a stolen car; he's driving it to San Francisco for delivery due Monday.

Nevada State HP Officer: It's only Saturday, what's his hurry?

Colorado State HP Officer: That's what we wanted to know ourselves, so your guess is as good as ours. 10-4.

Monday 11 July 2011

Family Ties - Kingswood Country

Growing up as the son of a motor mechanic gave me the opportunity to hang around more cars than I could poke a stick at. Some of them were utter shitheaps, but by the same token, some of them were fairly nice cars. To this day, I still remember helping Dad wash his Kingswood wagon - light blue, with a 253 and wind down tailgate window, with the obligatory dual exhausts poking out the back. Legend has it that this was the car I was brought home from the hospital in (not sure if Dad did a skid or not, but it would not surprise me if he did).

Anyway, here are a few more photos that continues the Peut family automotive journey...

Here's Dad (red hat) and his mates "taste testing" the beers in the tray of his HJ Kingswood before a big fishing trip up north. For better or worse, Julia Creek didn't have RBT's back in those days, and more often than not the local Sergeant was at the pub drinking with the bar flies anyway. 

And here's my Mum and Dad standing in front of Dad's (different) HJ Kingswood ute somewhere in beautiful Julia Creek, FNQ.

I don't know what his obsession was with those Kingswoods, but it never really stopped, as there was almost always an old Kingswood of some description in the driveway for the duration of my childhood. In fact, one of the cars I learnt to drive in was a three-on-the-tree HX Kingswood ute...but more on learning to drive later.


Sunday 10 July 2011

Family Ties: Sedan Dip to Holland Park

A few more pics shaken out of our family trees:

First is a photo of the Peut family at Sedan Dip, Far North Queensland. Dan's father, Geoff is the one the white flares. Providing the seating is an HQ Statesman. Seriously hot car. Not sure of the date, but we're tipping late 70's.

A few thousand miles away and a couple of years later, my impending birth was about to cause the sale of my father's Morgan Plus 8. He bought the Plus 8 off the showroom floor at Earl's Court when he lived in London and brought it over when he returned to Australia. It's not my cup of tea, but I'm assured that an ash frame and all-alloy body meant that the 3.5 litre Rover V8 made it quite a weapon.

Plenty more to come over the next few days, but we still want to see your family and their cars!


Saturday 9 July 2011

Family Ties: Update

Well, my family have been clearing away the skeletons in the closet to find the old photo albums, and have come up with gold:

This is my grandmother standing in front of her father's Wolsely at the end of the Second World War. Note blacked out headlights and genuine gangster styling. The photo was taken on their honeymoon at Coolangatta by my grandfather.

And here is my grandfather Alex Churven standing with his brothers John and Nick after a tennis match in Isis, Central Queensland. This photo would be pre-war, probably taken in the mid 30's before the family left the farm and moved to Brisbane. I believe the car is the family's Model A Ford, the reliability of which turned all Churvens before me in to die-hard Ford haters.

My grandparents are now 91 and 93 years young, and still remember the parade of cars through their lives - forgotten marques like Wolseleys, Humbers and Rileys through to Chryslers, the odd Holden and a powder blue Datsun.

Still to come are pics of my mother driving what was probably Australia's only Morgan Plus 8 in 1983, my wife's father's totally-hot VN Group A Commodore, Daniel's parents with an assortment of hot Fords and Holdens and my friend Scooter's father with his classic automotive comedy statement - a Citroen 2CV.

Keep those old photos rolling in!


Friday 8 July 2011

Family Ties: Your Help Needed!

Fellow Automotive Tragics,

A recent discussion amongst some of the ColumnShift Support Network arising from Thursday's Pitch has brought up an excellent idea for a feature.

We need you to help though. What we're looking for is a scanned, period-correct photo of your family with the family car. Whether that's you as a 5 year old helping dad wash the Monaro or a picture of the family caravan behind a Humber Super Snipe, we want to see it.

Descendants of these honest farmers went on to ride Japanese motorcycles and drive red Alfa Romeos.

If you can dig up a photo and are prepared to be interviewed for a short blurb, please drop us a line at

Look forward to hearing from you!

Nick & Daniel

Thursday 7 July 2011

Thursday Pitch

Family Ties

It's no news to anyone that love for cars sometimes runs deep in families. Dan's automotive interest can be traced back to V8 Holdens his dad owned back in the day. My father owned 6 models of Fairlane before I bought mine. I guess kids still fight in school playgrounds over whether your Dad says Fords or Holdens are the best.

We made contact today with a guy who drives the same model of classic car as his dad, both of which are awesome examples of 70's Australiana, built at home. Hopefully we'll be able to catch up with them in the next few weeks, do an interview and get some great photos.

Tuesday 5 July 2011


Despite the odd attempt on my life, there was plenty of scope for good times. The Fairlane took me all over the country. I drove straight through from Sydney to Brisbane in it once, stopping only to refuel and wipe bugs off the right arm of my leather jacket. I drove people to formals and weddings. I power-parked it at Harry's Diner every Friday night for three years.

In Sydney for another car-club jaunt.

Like I said - I drove a lot, and experienced a lot through the windscreen of that car.

One cold Friday night in August, my girlfriend and I decided to go for a drive. It was a beautiful, clear night to in your late teens, cruising in a classic car, windows down, stereo on. Just talking and listening to music and being silent. I can't remember when the drive got out of hand, but it was nearly midnight when we turned back north in Lismore. We headed home the back way, planning to go through Nimbin and Uki, crossing the border on Garden of Eden Road at Tomewin, then back through the Tallebudgera Valley to the highway.

We were on the Kyogle road, and I was in the groove, sitting around 150, dropping back to second for the big sweeping corners and letting the gearing pull the revs up and slow the car a touch. It was magical. I barely registered seeing the shape on the side of the road, but something told me to stop. I braked heavily, but by the time I stopped and worked the column shift back to reverse I was a hundred metres or more past it.

It was a man on the side of the road, covered in blood, holding an unconscious body up by the arms.

He was in the back seat before I stopped reversing, babbling about brakes and a corner and the windscreen and not-that-much-to-drink-anyway. We could hardly see them in the dim interior light, but we could smell coppery blood and Bundaberg Rum.

The drive from there was surreal. I still recall it as snatches of memory - the man waking up and screaming for us to stop the car. A hand grabbing my shoulder, leaving a smear of christ-knows-what. My girlfriend desperately trying to raise an ambulance on the out-of-range mobile. A moment of absolute silence when I shifted down and hit 6500rpm in second pulling up a big hill. I remember that clearly, my hand working the cold shifter and a quiet voice in the back seat saying "nice car, man". I said "yeah, thanks" as the tyres howled under brakes around the next corner.

We were in Murwillumbah in no time. Finally we got through on 000, who refused to give us directions to the hospital and berated us for not calling them sooner. I found the hospital eventually. There were nurses with stretchers waiting in the carpark, along with a bored, tired looking copper leaning on a VT Commodore patrol car.

He asked me the usual - name, address, date of birth. I told him this absent mindedly as I looked at the mess on the white velour seats, blood and skin and mud and dirt and urine and other things I couldn't identify. The copper said something I didn't catch.


"Your birthday. Happy Birthday mate."

I don't think anyone has more than a handful of life-changing experiences. I've never put my finger on why, or exactly what changed, but I've never felt the same about anything after that night.

Monday 4 July 2011

Hard To Handle

Power is a funny thing. 16 year old P-platers will tell you there's no such thing as too much horsepower. But there's steel-eyed, broken men in dark corners of 50's-style cafes who know different. The young fool thinks of blowing the doors off Japanese cars at traffic lights and the big, dumb smile that follows a burnout. The survivor hears the sound of Goodyear Polyglas tyres exploding mid-corner and knows the cold, silent fear when the throttle doesn't come off the floor when you lift your foot.

The Fairlane turned me from the former into the latter.

It made good power, that's for sure, but nothing excessive. Cam, carb, compression. I was quite the race car builder. Over the years it went through three exhausts, two motors, three ignition systems, three carbs, five gearboxes, three diffs and countless sets of rear tyres. I never once touched the brakes or suspension.

Predictably, it became a death trap. All big V8 death traps have their own special black magic. Some cut left or right under brakes, or have brake lockups at the brush of a pedal. Some break down in lonely, scary places. Some have electrical problems that make you lose the headlights coming down a wet mountain range at night. The Green Machine was taily.

There's plenty of old cars that spin their tyres. It doesn't take much power to get both turning if you're trying hard enough. The Fairlane wasn't like that though. It longed to kill, and it had endless patience. It would chug along like your grandmother's Camry for months, then all of a sudden you try to execute a u-turn and find yourself entering a petrol station backwards at alarming pace.

There are people all over Brisbane who probably still wake up screaming, dreaming of that big set of taillights pirouetting towards them as if in slow motion. Out of roundabouts. Through the Aspley McDonalds carpark. Across intersections. Through paddocks beside country roads. The mere breath of throttle would have it lurching sideways, and there was just no catching it as all that weight shifted and the springs wound up so hard that it broke leaf packs.

It was basically undriveable in the wet.  I would periodically end up stopped at the steep uphill set of lights on Creek Street in the Brisbane CBD, outside Central railway station. To get moving with the loose 3500rpm stall convertor, you'd hold your left foot hard on the brake, bring the revs up sharply and let out the brake like a clutch. The tacho would spike and first gear would go nowhere. Once in second gear, the tyres and speedo would be doing 120kph as the car crabbed sideways across the intersection at walking pace, motor screaming. I did this once with a 60-year-old law firm partner, my boss at the time, in the car. He didn't say a word, but I did resign shortly after.

It was waiting to get me. It would taunt me in to making stupid, life-threatening mistakes then sit there innocent, impossibly ungainly but still beautiful, calling me back. It was like heroin - I knew eventually I'd end up crumpled in a wet gutter, but every time I went near it I needed another hit.

I walked past its ruined shell a dozen times on the weekend, smiling occasionally at the big, square grille and thinking it wasn't so tough. I found a stray piece of trim in the shed and opened the drivers door to chuck it inside. I lingered for a second too long. In my mind, the long, strip speedo wobbled up past 200 as fence posts whipped by. It still had me.