Wednesday 24 August 2011

Swap Meets Are Dead...

... and I won't be mourning the loss. I know there's a certain sort of person who'll get up at 2am and drive the length of the eastern seaboard to stand in a muddy paddock, sifting through boxes of rusty junk, looking for the last New Old Stock HT Monaro mudguard screw in existence.

These lunatics in turn are hunted by a kind of predatory beast that inhabits these rain-soaked showgrounds. You'll recognise this person - sitting in an oily deckchair, all flannel shirt and toothless bad attitude, trying to sell a box full of stripped sprockets and mismatched pistons.

These days, I can sit in air-conditioned comfort and order parts online. They arrive at my desk during work hours, clean and neatly packaged, sometimes with a little card with a bible quote if you've bought from the south of the US.

This is far more civilised, and it removes the element of chance. Need a bonnet emblem for your Jowett Javelin? A factory hood tach for your Pontiac GTO? An adaptor to put a Triumph clutch in your BSA Gold Star?

You can't guarantee that you'll find one of these at the bottom of a bucket full of Whitworth bolts and dead rats at the Upper Dagworth Show, Rodeo and Bluesgrass Festival (featuring the Upper Dagworth Morris Club's Biennial Swap Meet).

Anyone care to defend this iconic waste of time?

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Call of the Wild

I first heard speedway sprint cars from a mate's front yard on the southside of Brisbane. It was a hot night and the wind must've been blowing the right way from Archerfield.

I wasn't sure what the noise was at first, a muffled bellow that sounded car-like, but too deep, too 6.1 Dolby stereo. And it wasn't just a traffic-light blat - the revs built and built and stayed there.

You could see the lights of the stadium from where I was standing, just a glow above a few gum trees, and still that noise, like a battle being fought or a pack of prehistoric animals on the hunt.

I've heard the noise across the country since then. At a set of lights on Tiger Brennan Drive in Darwin, miles from Hidden Valley speedway. In another friend's yard in Maryborough and while driving through Gympie.

It always takes me back to that night, that dry wind and that perfect noise.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Thursday's Pitch - Heroes

The word "hero" is thrown around alot these days - people such as Mr I Have No Hair And Sound Like I Need A Strepsil scoring the match winning point or Miss My Parent's Bought Me A Boat And Painted It Pink So I Can Run Into Things, spring to mind.

Of course, the word hero can mean different things to different people. To some people, a hero is someone who has acted selflessly, for no personal gain or reward. To others, a hero can be someone as unassuming as a family member; Mum, Dad, Aunt Betty or even drunken old Grandpa Moe.

People who know me will tell you that Dick Johnson is my hero - a man who built his racing career literally out of stone. A self made success, he was a man who didn't have the luxury of rich parents sending him to Europe to carve a lucrative Formula 1 career, like so many have tried and failed at. He is a man who ran a service station by day to pay for the building of the race cars in his shed by night.

Whilst Dick's financial woes have been widely documented in recent times, as he has done whatever it takes to keep Dick Johnson Racing afloat, that shows the steely determination that has cemented him, in my mind at least, as a hero.

So, Columnshifters - tell us who your heroes are and why. They don't need to be Automotive related - mine is only by pure coincidence.

Get commenting!


Sunday 14 August 2011

True Grit - Viv Gees' Rally Falcon

Well, Gasoline 5 is out now... Here's some captures of the article for your enjoyment. To read it, go buy the mag!



Just a quick update today - ColumnShift Media went to the 2011 Lakeside Festival of Speed over the weekend to check out some great touring car racing. Some had seen better days (Formula HQ which seemed to have had a little outing on it's roof) but some were in as fine form as they were thirty years ago.

This year marked thirty years since the great Dick Johnson won his first championship at Lakeside and to celebrate the occasion, Tru Blu was wheeled out for a few magnificent victory laps.

For this ColumnShifter, Tru Blue and Dick Johnson are motorsport legends and to see the big blue meanie out on the track literally made my spine tingle. Below are a handful of shots that I took of the old girl.

Note that the gentleman in the last picture is none other than John French, who was Dick's co-pilot at the 1981 Bathurst 1000. Unfortunately, I didn't realise this as I politely asked him the move out of the way so I could get an uninterrupted shot of the race car! To his credit though, he obliged...


Sunday 7 August 2011

A teeny tiny update...

We've been plugging away at this publishing thing like amateurs for the past few months, so we decided it was time to ramp it up into the Real World (tm).

Presenting our new grown up web address - and email address -

So feel free to email us with all your car related stories and anecdotes, we'd be happy to hear from you!


Thursday 4 August 2011



You ColumnShift guys love fast stuff, right? You’re devotees of massive excess? It’s better to be shot from a cannon than squeezed from a tube, right bubba?
Not in this case, my easily excited friends. The train might be fast and techy and green, but those criteria aren’t enough, not nearly. For years now, the only safe way to travel the dangerous, uncivilised territory between the State of Origin capitals was by plane. But the air-conditioned, plush seated cabin of an A380 is not an experience that the ColumnShift Connoisseur yearns for. Although I’m a member of a QANTAS Club – I don’t want everyone who ever ended up in a knife fight over a packet of chips on a Jetstar flight to write in.
Sure, plane tickets are cheaper than bottles of milk these days (plane maintenance seems to be conducted at the same price too. So sue them – ever missed a service in your car? Quit carping.) By contrast, fuel now seems to be sold by the same people who set the price of Crystal Meth. But what are you going to do with all the money you saved by getting a 99c flight? Get an education? Buy shoes for your children? A nice watch? None of that will improve your reaction time when you crest a rise at the cold-sweat side of the speedo and find the Newell filled with stalled roadtrains and oncoming traffic and I know which you’d rather have at the time.
Oh, but the time, they yell! Three hours on the train! You can’t drive it in that, can you Mr Highway Motorsport? Well, no. By the shortest route it’s 900k’s, and even though a Hayabusa will do 300 an hour, you’ll be hard pressed to find a servo attendant to fill it at that speed.
The Greyhound bus takes 16 hours to cover the distance, but that’s hardly a worthy comparison, although it’s likely the driver is an ex-criminal with little to lose. says it can be done in 11 hours, which is a perfectly reasonable lap time for a learner driver or a Mini full of elderly nuns.
We know with absolute certainty that if you’re currently at, say, the Breakfast Creek Hotel, you could be enjoying nice weather and bad attitudes in Sydney inside 9 hours flat. Probably less if the Z900 had a bigger fuel tank or the NSW Highway Patrol are on strike. This virtually never happens, so you take your chances.
There are two key ways to travel between these hamlets. Some suggest that these two ways are caffeine or speed, Ford or Holden, naked or clothed. Whilst these are all considerations, you need to look at the way to go.
Neither is appealing. The Newell Highway is 100k’s longer between Brisbane and Sydney, but passes through few towns. It bears down through the wasteland of central NSW like a polluted river of bitumen, carrying suicidal roadtrain drivers, inbred psychopaths in Hiluxes and enraged cops driving blown, methanol powered SS Commodores. The scenery is nice, until it drags you off the road in to a gum tree and eats you alive. I don’t recommend it.
The Pacific is worse.  It creeps down the coastline, navigation without imagination. Keep New Zealand to our left and we’ll be sipping Glebe lattes in no time. It’s speed-limit lotto there, 40, 60, 40, 100, 90, 40, 80, 90. You eventually just wind it up to 150 and plan on blaming the speedo that’s in miles-per-hour. Which is hard in a modern Lexus. Your fellow Pacific Highway users will fascinate and terrify you in equal parts. The enduring memory will be staring through a fogged windscreen in to pouring rain, in the right hand lane of the first overtaking zone in five hours, with the caravan you’ve been trapped behind at 67kph since the border now accelerating towards the horizon like a Top Fueller. You’re beside it, vainly trying to get past, watching it sway back and forward like the hand of God while your brain does sudden-death-trigonomics regarding the person in exactly the same predicament heading north and closing on you at the speed of sound.
Having chosen the route, the vehicle is the key to success. One brand of lunatic prefers the Japanese sportsbike. They’ll sit on 250kph as long as you like, they’re cheap compared to Mercedes Benzes and long-term heroin habits and you never wanted to stand up straight again, did you? That said, new Japanese sportsbikes are better for this than old British ones – although there is something romantic about the friendly dribble of warm oil in your boot as you thunder down the highway, the illumination on the 160mph Smiths gauge brighter than the headlight.
Everyone you ask will say you want a V8 Australian car. Something big and loud and cool with monster torque and a window you can lean an arm out of while you get the low down on the smokies on the CB. Something those small-town chicks will be dying to jump in while you’re buying fuel at 2am.
Misguided. It’s not going to be easy to lay low in a lime green HQ GTS with black stripes, a hornet scoop and numberplates saying KILLPIGS. Particularly if it’s full of underaged girls from Lismore.
It almost goes without saying, but what you actually want for a max speed run is someone else’s car. Preferably something anonymous, white and blisteringly fast, recently taken from an owner who won’t miss it any time in the next 9 hours. Once you’ve stolen your car, then we can talk about pace notes.
 *With apologies to Hunter S Thompson, my family, the NSW police and the three roadtrain drivers who haven't tried to kill me yet.

Monday 1 August 2011

Mopar Sunday - Drags

While we weren't getting hammered with leaves et al. we also managed to watch a spot of drag racing.

Here's some shots!