Friday, 20 April 2018

A fish out of water: A Honda Motocompo in the Australian outback, 1983.

It makes no sense. None. Zero.

Surely someone's having a laugh.

A tiny fold-able Honda motorcycle, designed to fit in the boot of a small hatchback - a little early-80s Honda commuter dream-team - purpose-made for the busy streets of Japan; in Australia, when new, registered to a state in central Australia that happens to have a population density not too dissimilar to the moon?

It's the minibike from Dumb and Dumber meets the landscape of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I touched on these in a post back in 2015, but again, briefly: What we're looking at is a Honda NCZ50 Motocompo. One of 50,000+ Honda pumped out between '81 and '83 to fit into the back of the then-new City hatchback. This one is yellow.

..and has a matching open-face helmet that's just a little bit adorable.

49cc, 2.5hp, 50km/h flat-out-with-a-tail-wind, and some of the only unrestricted highway in the world. Stick to the left!

The only thing not to like is that I still haven't got one!

Done. Adorable..

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Surfari 2: An actual Surf joins the safari.

Expanding on an Instagram post from a fortnight ago; itself two years since the original pointless-title-pun-that-was Surfari un...

"Back in Melbourne for the Easter long weekend (a cluster of at-one-point-religious public holidays that form a four-day weekend throughout Australia) and I've lucked into some prime early-autumn weather. Perfect 1980s convertible Toyota 4WD weather. So after literally blowing the dust off the 4Runner for the first time since Christmas; I stopped by a mate's place to help set up his new Softopper, then headed out for a cruise - roads largely empty with so many people away. Pleasant. Yep, that's the best word to describe that arvo/evening. Three days to go.. #unemploymentsampler #toyota #4runner #toyota4runner #t4r #toyotasurf #toyotahilux #toyotahiluxsurf #hiluxsurf #hilux #toyotapickup #teq #トヨタ #toyota4x4 #toyotaoffroad #toyotatruck #speedstarwheels #speedstar #ssr #ssrwheels #ssrauswuch #softopper #4runnermafia #4runnernation #4runnersdaily #classictoyota #oldschooltoyota #drivetastefully #japanesenostalgiccar #1980s"

A grainy camera-phone photo-set painting the full scene. That perfect evening bringing us to this otherwise unremarkable rooftop shopping-centre carpark in Melbourne's Eastern suburbs. An impromptu photo-set mid-cruise. My tatty-but-photogenic 1984 Australian-delivered 4Runner alongside a mate's much, much, prettier 1989 Japanese-import HiLux Surf; his only fresh from a thorough cosmetic tidy-up late last year, and fitted with a matching Softopper as of only hours before-hand. It went well.

I absolutely love these things.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Built with pride by the people of Ford Australia: a Catholic-pack EA Fairmont wagon..

Circling the drain outside the most picturesque of Melbourne wreckers back in early January..
Five metres of family-luxury late-80s Australiana: a March 1990 (1988-) EA Ford Fairmont wagon.

One of the handful of still-good cars that get a brief last-minute chance to dodge the bullet before they head into the yard..

But this one just absolutely killed me to see.
Not only was it achingly original, in phenomenal shape for its age and kilometers, and a generation of Falcons that have so quickly disappeared from the road; but it was s a rare, unusual and interestingly optioned variant when new: a Fairmont wagon with a bench-front/column-auto combo, all wrapped n a pleasant minty green metallic.

This is a seating configuration that - while seemingly still popular in the USA at this point in time - was quickly becoming less and less common in Australia. A seating configuration my dad always jokingly referred to as the "Catholic pack" for obvious reasons.
I don't care about the extra seat itself, but that breezy and open front seating area is just so relaxing. To see it in the high-spec Fairmont's velour trim, in a wagon, in a good colour? What a thing..

28 years old and still sporting a full set of undamaged original hubcaps. Someone has treated you well..

It's used, it's old, so the signs of wear and tear throughout are no surprise; but holy hell has this thing survived well. That cleared acrylic paint wouldn't have made it to this millennium without a garage to park in..

Urgh. I'd be curious to see a production breakdown wagons; surely the Falcon outnumbered the Fairmont by many to one..

Just as neat and original around here. Towbar, mudflaps, hubcaps, headrests - it's all still there...

Drive-train wise, being a Fairmont it would've had the high-spec, multi-point injected, thee-point-nine litre version of the single-cam straight-six (good for ~139kW/186hp and 339Nm/250ftlb of torque); a Borg Warner three-speed auto, and solid-axle rear supported by leaf springs (the sedans were coil sprung). It's certainly no race-car, but a basic and durable-enough configuration..

Original everything.
I wish I got the keys from the office to go through this properly, but I was in a bit of a hurry. It was for the best. I would have left with the damn thing if I'd looked too much longer..

This sticker hits hard. January 2018 was only months after Holden, the last of Australia's car manufacturers, packed up shop in Australia. Ford built its last Falcon (the 2014- FGX generation) a year earlier.
I love my Holdens, but Ford's Falcon always got bonus points from me for being so local. So Melbourne. A mild-melting percentage of this car would have been produced in the same state it's in right here...

...if not for the thoroughly-well-used kilometers this one has traveled, I'd worry whether it had ever got a chance to leave!

Yep, this one's done 460,000km. 285,000 miles. It's lead a good and useful life. As I commented on the Toyota Corona post recently, it's something that makes me feel so much better.

I may've tortured myself by looking at these photos on phone for days later.. but no, I don't have to feel bad about leaving it behind.

Now for a couple magazine articles from the EA Falcon's 1988 launch, for the billions of people outside of Australia and New Zealand (..although only a few thousand actually interested!) who've never seen one of these things:
A wagon-specific comparison to the then-popular Mitsubishi Magna wagon.

Grade-walk of the various trim levels available; the base Falcons through to higher spec Fairmonts..

Variety. Australian automotive engineering in the late 80s. It had its issues, but at least I'd always considered the design handsome..

A base Falcon GL wagon and a Fairmont sedan at around 200kmh/125mph..

...and finally, a trainspotter's guide to EA Falcon/Fairmont variant differentiation.

I feel I'm still a little early in the EA-ED(-EL) Falcon appreciation side of things, so this surely won't be loved by all. But I don't care. As as with every generation of Holden, Ford, Chrysler, whatever ever produced locally: history's shown its time WILL come. Here's hoping there's some good original cars left..