Sunday 7 October 2012


You might've noticed that things are pretty quiet around here. Never fear - we're still going strong, asking the questions, digging out the stories and getting the perfect shots. Most of our online activity is now on our Facebook page, so please log on and "like" us!


We've got a whole swag of published work from the last few months that will beuploaded shortly and I promise that I'll put up some original, never-before-seen content here very soon.

In the meantime, keep the shiny side up and between the ditches.


Wednesday 2 May 2012

Thursday Pitch - Airborne

Us kind folk here at ColumnShift Media often sit around scratching our heads about what to write about next. Naturally, we are always on the lookout for cool things that scoot along on terra firma - race cars, street cars, bikes and what have you. But I feel that we have overlooked one of mans greatest achievements - strapping a set of wings to an internal combustion engine and taking to the skies.

For many, aircraft are a natural progression from the world of automobiles. Virtually limitless speed (SR-71 Blackbird 3500+km/h), altitude (Lockheed Martin U-2 70,000+ft) and general air tearing awesomeness (General Dynamics F-111), aircraft can inspire and awe even the most boring of individuals.

We all know that the Wright Brothers were the first to invent and fly a plane (well, pretty much) and we also know that aircraft have come a hell of a long way since then. To most, the thought of flying means cramming yourself into a cigar with wings and drinking as many beers as you an on the way to your destination, but for the lucky few, it means going to work everyday and taking to the skies, be it in a passenger plane, an air force jet or even a crop duster.

Whilst aircraft are forever becoming more modern, like cars and bikes, the cool stuff happened in the good old days. The three aircraft I mentioned above are all designs from the 1950/60's, with the speed and altitude figures having yet to be broken by modern conventional aircraft. Whilst an F22 Raptor may be the latest and greatest, in a midair drag race, the SR-71 Blackbird would eat it for lunch (not before catching fire and crashing, probably). The Lockheed Martin U-2 would be soaring 21 kays high in the sky, far too high for an F22 Raptor to even think about trying to shoot it down (easier if you are Cuban and own a Soviet missile).

Going back even further and getting to the point of this story, is the Supermarine Spitfire. The Spitfire was designed to take on the relentless might of the German Luftwaffe in World War Two, most notably coming to the fore in the Battle of Britain in 1940. With it's 2000+ horsepower V12 Merlin engine, and it's highly advanced airframe, the Spitfire was faster, more agile and could fly higher than any aircraft the Nazi's had at the time, thus securing a decisive victory the the British RAF and it's Allies.

Regarded by many as the most beautiful aircraft to take to the skies, these days, the Spitfire commands a high level of respect and an even higher price tag. Rumour has it, that a squadron of 20 Spitfires is buried somewhere in a Burmese jungle, hastily buried by the Allies in fear of the Axis powers getting a hold of their precious secret weapon after they had retreated. Which is why British national and aviation enthusiast, David Cundall has spent near on his entire life and life savings on trying to turn this rumour into a reality.

Luckily for him, he's done it. Preliminary digging has found that these aircraft are still in their original shipping containers, wrapped in their original wrapping, just waiting to be dug up. Initial reports on the condition of the actual aircraft are sketchy - some think that the precautionary measures of wrapping the airframes in wax paper and a decent coat of grease will have preserved these planes as if they came off the production line yesterday. others aren't so sure. Regardless, even if these planes are nothing but a pile of rusted sheet metal and bolts, this find is yet another link added to the chain of our ever deteriorating past.

And for that, we should be grateful.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Desirable muscle car. One owner since '88. Only driven on weekends.

The first time I saw Viv's hardtop was on the last stage of Rally Queensland at Imbil in about 2004. I was standing on the inside of a downhill, left hand turn and it came out of nowhere, slid through the lantana on the outside of the turn and then disappeared. It was such a bizarre sight, I wasn't sure it had really happened.

I finally met him last year - a genuine, old-school racer with a thousand stories to tell. I hung out, helped out as service crew at a couple of events, wrote an article that appeared in Gasoline magazine.

He was clearly both grateful and slightly amused that someone wanted to write a story about him, but gave me a lot of his time. Dan and I were very pleased with the finished article.

What I remember of my time hanging out with him is a lot of late-night hours sitting in a race seat on the way to Rockhampton, doing a lot of waiting and changing a lot of tyres. And that sick, sinking feeling when I realised that after 48 hours with only 3 hours sleep, I had sent him back out to a stage with loose wheelnuts. Fortunately, everyone survived that mishap.

For those who missed the article, here's a couple of excerpts and some of the photos:

Spectating at forest rallies is one of life’s more subtle pleasures. Everyone who loves cars understands NASCAR or drag racing at some level – you sit in a big stadium with drinks and chips and it’s an hour of non-stop action. Then you go home.

Watching rally, you sit on a tree stump on a bend of the road in the middle of nowhere. You eat your sandwiches a bit too early. You drink your water. You fiddle with your phone (still no reception). You have those little how-you-goin chats with the bloke beside you. He’s always better prepared, with proper chairs and an esky. You have to change logs because yours is now covered with ants. Your new log is covered with ants too.

Then suddenly, usually when you’re trying to remove a particularly nasty looking bug from inside your shirt or taking a leak behind a tree, there’s a flurry of noise, a crunch of gear change, a bit of rev-limiter bounce and a hail of gravel. This is gone in a second as the taillights of another blue WRX disappear down the stage. Dust settles. The cicadas start back up. You wait.  

“When I started, everyone drove their rally cars to events. Now it’s a rarity.” In the lead-up to Rally Queensland, the hardtop was taken on a 500k round trip for scrutineering, then driven an hour and a half to the rally the next weekend. Often, Viv tows a box trailer full of tools, fuel, tyres and spares behind the race car. I know people with street cars that wouldn’t do those kind of miles.

Which led to what I really wanted to know: what it’s like to drive? Viv is on record saying that pushing the big Falcon around forestry tracks is like sitting in your lounge chair, trying to drive your house.

70s Falcons are known for being front-heavy and prone to understeer, but Viv has obviously mastered the technique on the dirt, making it look every bit as surefooted as some of the purpose-built rally weaponry. She might be big, but the old girl can certainly dance.  

Walking from one end of the service park to the other, Viv can't take three steps without someone calling his name and shaking his hand. At one point in mid-conversation, he disappears. He's been dragged aside for a chat by Murray Coote, former Australian rally champion and Bathurst contender.

Other competitors recount his superhuman repair efforts – rebuilding the motor after holing a sump so he could drive home the next day, or the time he rolled the car on a mid-afternoon stage, took it home, fixed the panels and windscreen, changed the suspension and brakes and had it back at the service park by the midnight cutoff. Every time you hear this one the damage to the car is worse and the repair time is shorter.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Double Aught

Dan and I have often thought of going racing. We've both had plenty of road-racing experience in our formative years, but as we get older it seems the public racetracks roadways are getting more filled with backmarkers in slow minivans and flag marshalls with radar guns and bad attitudes.

The only problem is the choice - As true car enthusiasts, prepared to give anything with wheels and an engine a go, we can't narrow the field. Forest rally? Drag racing? Motorcycle track days? Group Nc? Speedway?

Interviewing racers and spending time at race meets has only made things worse. When we saw this oval-track car outside an abandoned service station in Dulacca while driving to Roma to cover the Easter in the Country race meet, we were in love.

One day.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Dashboard Diary - Deathproof

The latest issue of Gasoline magazine is out next week, with a story I put together about my old Fairlane. Make sure you grab your copy!

Gone, but not forgotten.

Thursday 15 March 2012

In The Name of the Father - Australian Classic Car

Another article, hot off the presses. Go grab your copy of Australian Classic Car today to read the story of Ash Woolford and his family's fantastic HJ Holden.

Monday 12 March 2012

Gathering Storm

I had a dream
I saw you driving
Down the road
In a gathering storm

Wind on the rise
Black crows flying
You out there
In the gathering storm

1965 Ford Galaxie
Nowhere Road
Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Monday 27 February 2012

Blue Lights

This photo was posted on a forum I’m a member of today. If you’ve been driving a modified car for any length of time, the situation may look familiar. Even at this point, all is not lost. Remain calm, put down your beer and remember these few tips:

-          If you have a New Old Stock time machine installed in the glove box, you may want to travel back a few minutes and see if you can spot the reason you’ve been pulled over. Doing skids in a school zone will get you noticed even in a white Camry, but bear in mind that muscle cars stand out even before you pull full-noise in second gear leaving the traffic lights. Many people drive 6/71 blown street cars and never receive police attention by driving sensibly and avoiding hot-spots like the local Macca’s hangout. This advice is more important than all the points below. Do all you can to avoid the interaction in the first place.

-          On this topic, a great way to avoid being pinged is by keeping the simple things in order. Sure, your Torana is  too low and too loud and has a V8 conversion that really should have a mod plate, but that’s the way you like it and you might be prepared to take the risk. Don’t compound this by dumb stuff like running around on bald tyres.

-          Don’t look any more dodgy than you already do. Nothing will get you pulled over faster than turning left to avoid an RBT line or locking up the brakes when you see a police car in a side street. Reduce the revs, but carry on as normal. Cops are busy people – If you don’t give them a reason to be interested, they might pass you by.  

-          If they want you to stop, shut the car down immediately. Even if it’s a hard starter, as soon as you’ve stopped, kill the engine. It might not sound important, but every modified car looks more standard when you’re not shouting over the exhaust to the beat of a solid roller camshaft.

-          Be cool. Sure, the cops might be fascists in jackboots sent by a hostile government to keep modified car owners in check. They’ve ruined your night as well. But for the next 5 minutes they need to be your long lost friends. Smile, ask them how they’re going. Remember – they may well be people too.

-          Don’t argue. You might have been the Grade 9 debating champion, or even a Federal Court barrister, but you almost certainly don’t have a magic, witty response that will make the cop apologise and walk back to their car. If in doubt, smile and nod.

-          Don’t ever plead guilty. You’ll be asked “Is there any reason why you were speeding?” or “When did you lower this thing?” These will often feel like the time to explain yourself, to try to make things better. It probably won’t. Try to say nothing at all, while remaining polite and responsive. If the question directly asks if you broke the law, this is particularly important.

-          Realise that you may not win this one right now. Even if you believe that they’re unfair or unnecessary, laws about speeding and tyre width and suspension height and exhaust noise are just that – laws. The copper may have some discretion about letting you go with a warning, but they also might not. If they have the law wrong (and sometimes they do), the place to challenge their view is in court or in correspondence, not on the side of Parramatta Road.

Monday 20 February 2012

Dick Johnson's Tru Blu

It's been 31 years since Dick Johnson won both the Australian Touring Car Championship and the James Hardie 1000 at Bathurst in his venerable Tru Blu XD Falcon and what better way to celebrate this oddly numbered milestone than giving the old Falcon a makeover.

The car's current care taker, the Bowden Family of Queensland, have just completed a sympathetic rebuild, consisting of a full engine tear down and most recently, a return to the livery that the car raced in at the 1981 race at Mt Panorama.

It is interesting to note that the livery in the below photo, which I took at Lakeside last year, is actually a reproduction in itself, with Dick having sold the car after the 1981 to fund the purchase of his new racecar, the Red Roo XE, which later became the infamous GreensTuf Falcon.

Local Brisbane privateer, Alf Grant, raced the car for a while in a slightly modified, but no less recognisable, Tru Blu livery. Luckily, Dick had the foresight to buy the car back from Alf before it was turned into a sports sedan, which was the trend for race cars of that era.

Below, you can see Alf about to be rounded up by Dick in his GreensTuf Falcon. I guess these two cars can be called sister cars.

Once the car was back in Dick's possession, he gave it a quick coat of paint to make it look like how the car ran it's last race in 1981, which was at Lakeside, where he clinched the ATCC by literally a nose hair over the heavily funded and relentless Holden Dealer Team Commodore of Peter Brock.

Whilst the ATCC win was a huge achievement, most regard the Bathurst win an even bigger one, as the year before Dick had encountered the famous rock and the even more famous outpouring of money and support from the Australian punters, so obviously, this was the best way to repay all those loyal fans for their support.

So, enjoy your freshly darned suit Mr Tru Blu and here's to the next 31 years!

Pic courtesy of Bowden's Own

Thursday 16 February 2012

Dashboard Diary

Very exciting news - CSM's new column in Gasoline Magazine is out this week. It borrows from a Thursday pitch some time ago, with a great pic of my poor old Plymouth taken on top of Mt Coot-Tha.

Have just dispatched the next instalment, which is a trip down memory lane in to my automotive past. A dark, scary memory lane.

Friday 3 February 2012


I know I'm a cafe racer tragic, but this is much more than a motorcycle. It's a Dresda Triton, built by Dave Degens. He wasn't the first to exploit the razor-sharp handling of the 'featherbed' Norton frame combined with the power of the 650cc Triumph twin, but his Triton hybrids set the standard on the track and at the Ace Cafe in the late 60's and continue to do so today.

With the passage of time, you'd have thought pulling apart valuable standard bikes to make monstrous creations with big alloy tanks and savage rearsets and open pipes would be out of fashion. Not so - Tritons are just as relevant today.

The man himself is even still building them, tuning them and making custom parts for them. Check it out.

The point of this brief history lesson?

They've been making modern Triumphs for many years now. They're everywhere you look - fat Rocket IIIs, bug eyed Street Triples, old school Thruxton Bonnevilles. Wreckers would surely be bulging with Triumphs that have climbed gum trees or bounced off taxis.

UK Bike magazine rated the Triumph powertrain in their top 5 engines of all time. It's pretty too.

Last year, the re-established Norton Motorcycles started manufacturing new Commandos from an industrial unit in the middle of the Donington Park race complex in Derbyshire, UK.

They're beautiful, but terrifyingly expensive. They boast capable chassis technology including  big Ohlins forks and big Brembo brakes. The motors are a clean-sheet design that's been hastily tested and put in to production. Without an established dealer network, bikes outside the UK are going to have trouble with warranty claims.

See where I'm going with this?

Thursday 2 February 2012


We figured it was about time you all got taste of what is coming up with our latest article, but I thought I'd mix it up a bit and do a bit of artistic editing on this particular picture.

I envisage this being on a Tshirt or something like that.


Tuesday 31 January 2012

The Bodger's Guide to Spanners

The adoption of a set of spanners over clumsily-wielded pliers is the sign of graduation from green amateur to seasoned bodger, prepared for anything.

Tools maketh the man. And sometimes a mess. Admire the shiny racks of Snap-On lovelies in the tool shop. These are not for you.

You'll most likely have a motley assortment of bent and rusty (but faithful nonetheless) Sidchromes that you found in the shed of a house you used to rent. The sizes will mostly be worn off or rusted in to oblivion, but given they were wrapped in a 1948 copy of Autocar, the smart money is on "nothing useful". These will be augmented by most of a $10 set of metrics you bought once, seduced by the shiny metal and the mysterious CHROME VANADIUM stampings.

Let's consider classification for a moment. Nominally, there are three types of spanners. The first is Whitworth, an ancient British standard of measurement, the distance across the 'flats' of the spanner based on the size of the oil leak left under a Brough Superior motorcycle in an hour.

Imperial is slightly less complex. The sizes of these spanners are measured in fractions of inches. Inches are what were used to measure small distances before the invention of Japanese cars.

Finally, we have metric spanners. Metric spanners are sorted by the amount of millimetres between the flats of the spanner before you used it to undo an imperial bolt. Never mind - the answer is nearly always 13mm.


Ah, the "Magic Thirteen".

A confession: I was not always destined to be a bodger. I once owned a full set of vintage Sidchromes in metric and imperial and prided myself on having the right spanner, socket and driver for every job.

One day, a stranger turned up to remove an engine I'd sold him from a doomed Fairlane. We were chatting away, merrily disconnecting bits and bobs when I said "Damn. Can't see the 1/2 inch spanner."

The stranger extended a shiny tool and said "This will do. Magic Thirteen." I looked askance. A metric spanner? On a gen-u-ine Made-In-The-USA half inch bolt?

I gingerly applied it to the unsuspecting fastener. It fitted snugly. I applied pressure, apprehensive, waiting for the ghost of Smokey Yunick to strike me down. The bolt gave and wound out without fuss. With a metric spanner.

The Magic Thirteen. It was a revelation.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

The Bodger's Guide to Oil

Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle. It lubricates, it cools and it provides hydraulic pressure. Or at least it should.

We all know that oil fails us every now and again. Sure, the "professional" mechanics will blame bearing wear or faulty parts from eBay or all those third-gear burnouts. But somewhere, lurking in the back of the mind, is the idea that maybe the oil has let us down. This gives rise to another phenomenon - the grasping, desperate hope that oil can fix the problem.

Let's examine the details.

Mechanics and oil companies will tell you there's a multitude of oil grades, differentiated by SAE numbers like 20W50.

This is a lie. There are only two grades of oil - too thick and too thin.

Oil that is too thick will make the top end rattle when the engine is cold, as the goop doesn't thin out enough to get to the cam and rocker gear. There's two bits of good news though - the bottom end, close to the oil pump, has plenty of pressure, and the wear that the unlubricated top end is experiencing will soon mean you need the thick oil anyway.

Oil that's too thin is worse - like middle management, oil is the cushion between big stationary objects and things that would otherwise pound against them. When the cushion gets too skinny or has a long lunch at the pub, carnage can result.

Fortunately, oil that is too thin can be easily replaced with oil that is too thick.

Here ends the lesson. Next week, we'll take a look at nuts and bolts.

A note on the disposal of oil: Recycling is important in this environmentally conscious age. This correspondent has successfully drained oil out of a Kingswood, used it for 5000k's in a Falcon, then used it for years in a mower. I wouldn't recommend recycling any more extreme than this.

Monday 9 January 2012

Going Fast

When we automotive types browse the world wide web, we often come across a stack of meaningless and/or obscure claims to fame. One guy might claim he has the fastest manual Commodore in South Australia, and another might say they own the fastest purple-and-orange-striped-non-turbo-pod-filtered-leather-wrapped Skyline in the world.

All credible claims, I’m sure.

But how often do you come across a legitimately impressive claim? I was watching the telly late one night and came across a TV show about salt lake racing, Bonneville in particular. They were following the progress of a lady by the name of Leslie Porterfield, who had entered herself in the over 1000cc Production motorcycle class.

Leslie is no stranger to salt lake racing, having competed in numerous Bonneville Speed Week events, but this time she was determined to go hard or go home, preferably in once piece.

And go hard she did.

During the closing stages of the event, she rode her unfaired, but otherwise stock standard Suzuki Hayabusa to 209MPH (336KPH), backing it up for a second time to set the class record. Not only did that earn her a spot in the Speed Week record books, it also earned her the accolade of being the first woman on a conventional motorcycle to enter the Bonneville 200MPH club.

Subsequent attempts at Speed Week has yielded her two more noteworthy accolades, firstly setting the world record as the fastest woman on any motorcycle at 232MPH (373KPH) and secondly, the Top Speed of the Meet award (man or woman) at 240MPH (386KPH). Needless to say, she isn’t scared to twist the throttle or to push the limits.

Being the fastest person at a Wednesday night Test and Tune is one thing, but being the fastest person in the world is something that requires some serious dedication.

I tip my hat to you Leslie, I really do.

Friday 6 January 2012

The Bodger's Guide

Of course, we'd all like to think that we work on our cars with clinical precision. An orderly, measured affair with the kind of attention to detail you'd expect from an aerospace engineer. I do it all the time.

Immaculately suited in monogrammed white overalls and gloves, I enter the garage to find the car parked on a 4-post hoist. It's clean, inside and out, the bonnet is up and the engine is gleaming. I lift the hoist, extend my right hand and pick up a Snap-On 7/8th spanner out of the second drawer of the tool chest.

Stepping under the car, I admire the paint on the sump for a moment before undoing the plug and letting the clean-but-4999-kilometre-old oil drain in to a funnel on a stand. I then spin off the oil filter, which comes away easily with but a few drops in to a second drain pan. Someone passes me a cup of tea and a saucer with a biscuit while I wait for the sump to drain.

Tea finished, I dispose of the oil in an enviromentally friendly fashion. I take a new copper washer from a drawer, a new sump plug from an adjacent drawer and wind them back in. The final tighten is then done with a torque wrench - 30ft/lb. With some thinners on a rag, I wipe the face of the oil filter pad. The seal on the fresh oil filter is lubricated with a few drops of fresh oil and spun on firmly.

I safely lower the car to the ground and select a bottle of 20W50 Penrite from the rack. A spotless, white funnel is used to empty 4.5 litres exactly in to the engine. I replace the filler cap and shut the bonnet. Another cup of tea appears. I fill out the logbook as the tea cools and admire my handywork.


In here, nothing ever happens like that. We adhere to strict standards - do your best, silicon the rest. It would be wonderful to have racks of shiny tools, but I'm yet to find a task worth doing that can't be completed with an angle grinder, a shifting spanner and a can of brake cleaner.

Anyone can write a Haynes manual dream sequence involving use of the Ford Special Tool #3490 (Puller). The rest of us just want to know how to get the job done.

For us, there will be The Bodger's Guide. Stay tuned.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Nice Arse

More great shots from the DJR workshop - I think Dan is hoping one day the team will be packing the truck to leave for a round and throw him in by accident.

The top one is Dick Johnson's Fox-body Mustang from the '85-'86 Touring Car Championship. The Group A car was an American body, built in Germany and raced to no great effect in Australia. Best forgotten, apart from Dick's classic comment that "It wouldn't pull a sailor off your sister"

The Falcon is an AU XR8 that ran in the 2001 V8 Supercar series, driven by Steven Johnson. Not sure if it won much either.

Still, a great looking pair of race cars.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Mr Reliable

A friend just told me that this beautiful Norton Commando is an unsuitable mount because it may be prone to breaking down. The comment came from a man who owns two Alfa Romeos, so one would presume he's  familiar with the shame of standing next to a stricken vehicle whilst those who chose more wisely swerve around you.

But since when has mundane, depressing reliability been such a virtue? If we're all striving for turn-key, fill-up, set-and-forget operation from our vehicles, why isn't the 2002 Toyota Camry the world's most desirable car?

People who ride or drive old stuff are pioneers and adventurers by nature. No one would remember Livingstone or Stanley if they journeyed to the heart of the Congo in air-conditioned comfort behind the wheel of a beige sedan. Manfully (or womanfully?) tackling adversity armed with nothing more than a shifting spanner and a can-do attitude develops our character. And often an odd limp.

The zen of breakdowns is the topic of a short column that will hopefully appear in print very shortly, accompanied by an excellent photo Dan took. We'll keep you posted.