The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

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Ozmac
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The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Ozmac » Fri Jun 10, 2016 1:09 am

It's 1956, and the Ampol Reliability Trial, yet another of the round-Australia rallies testing the endurance of ordinary family cars, is underway, and it is generally regarded as the muddiest, toughest, and most punishing of them all so far. Heavy winter rain has turned hundreds of miles of barely formed Outback tracks into mud-wallows. And once the cars get through that muddy hell there's the prospect of countless swollen creeks to get through. We've positioned our camera team at a river crossing in outback Queensland ... let's watch them come through, one by one.

Morris Minor Series II
First car coming through is the Morris Minor, driven by father-and-daughter team Cyril and Lesley Davidson in the car sponsored by Zane's Drive Yourself Cars, the car rental garage in Melbourne where Cyril works. While they got through both the mud and this swollen creek, eventually their engine packed it in at Cairns in far north Queensland, and they retired after a wonderful effort.

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Volkswagen Beetle
While Volkswagens distinguished themselves throughout the Australian long-distance rallies, for this next car through the creek crossing, the 1956 Rally wasn't a big success (although it was in second place overall earlier on, at Alice Springs in Central Australia), as this VW also retired at Cairns. However, the experience paid off in the long run, as the driver of this VW, Jack Witter, won the 1957 Ampol Trial in a VW Beetle. And even in this 1956 Ampol Trial the other VWs entered did very well, led by Max Goldsmith who took out second place overall.

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Peugeot 403
Having won the first of the around-Australia rallies, the Redex of 1953, Peugeot had developed a loyal following in Australia, and when the newer model Peugeot 403 came out, the field for the Ampol Trials was liberally sprinkled with Peugeots, both the tough old 203s as well as the new 403s. And Peugeot won again, this time in the car pictured here, driven by Wilf Murrell and Alan Taylor, both from the small town of Hillston, in western New South Wales.

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What didn't happen

Last of all, the original diorama I was going to make had all three cars at the same river crossing at the same time, and I changed my mind about presenting it that way here. Nevertheless, here's a few shots of an extremely crowded river crossing that very probably never happened.

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Poor old Morry DNF'd right here!

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Pug leads the Veedub.

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And the Pug leads the Morry across the creek.


Postscript, what happened to the Aussie Rallies? Bathurst, of course!
In 1956 the Around Australia rally craze was at is peak. There were two of them that year (Mobil and Ampol), two more the next year and then two more in 1958. And then they ended. The 1958 rallies barely caught any media attention, and so they fizzled out. However, the idea of endurance testing ordinary family cars never went away, and in 1960 the idea which eventually evolved to become the famous Bathurst 1000 was born.

At the old Phillip Island track in 1960, the first "Armstrong 500" endurance race for stock family cars was held. It was won (controversially) by a Vauxhall Cresta, with a Peugeot 403 second placed on the same lap. Australians loved to see their own family cars driven at speed, tested to the max, and the idea of sitting back at home, watching them do it on TV for one whole Sunday every year, proved wildly popular. It wasn't long before the Armstrong 500 moved from Phillip Island to Bathurst, and a motor racing legend began.

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Tom
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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Tom » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:53 am

Somehow I managed to miss this thread. As usual, excellent work on all counts. A diorama like this really makes model cars come alive and the weathering works very well indeed, rally cars should be dirty.
Fantastic job, Jamie!

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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by johann.nunweiller » Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:45 am

Beautiful job!

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Jager
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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Jager » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:03 pm

Thanks for resurrecting this Tom.....I missed it too first time around. Great work Jamie.
“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” - Steve McQueen

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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by LM24HRS » Sun Oct 16, 2016 2:42 pm

I wondered where this thread had gone after viewing the start of the project. Good work Tom bring it back to life.

Jamie, that water effect is the best I have seen. So much movement in the water, real great work and a pleasure to view.
Paul - "Collecting Motorsport in Miniature; for the passion and its history".

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Ozmac
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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Ozmac » Sun Oct 16, 2016 4:08 pm

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. Much appreciated.

The good things about doing all this work, of course, is that I've had a lot of fun and I've learnt a lot about a topic I only had a sketchy knowledge of beforehand.

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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by JSB33 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 5:17 am

How in the world did we all miss this? Fantastic work Jamie and I am sorry that it was overlooked in the first place.
Jeff
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Ozmac
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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Ozmac » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:40 am

Thanks again all, and to finish off this long story of around-Australia rallies, I should repeat this earlier Photoshopped diorama from the first-ever Armstrong 500 race at Phillip Island in 1960, as that is where the "around Australia" rallies ended up – with ordinary cars doing long distance racing around a racetrack, and what became the birth of the Bathurst 1000.

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For this photoshopped diorama, I started with a photo of a Honda Civic hurtling around Phillip Island, with a nicely blurred "at speed" background. I then Photoshopped out the Honda, added in the Peugeot, then added in a driver (actually Jack Brabham in a Cooper from the 1959 Monaco GP). And so we have an action shot diorama of a 1/43 model by Altaya.

The little Peugeot model is a very nice job made by a local Aussie photographer who hand-mods diecast cars in his spare time. He reproduced the correct livery for the Peugeot that entered the 1960 Armstrong 500 and came second, and I won the model car on an auction on eBay for a price that was a bit high — bidding was fierce at the end. I've sent him the Photoshopped diorama since then, and he got back to me and said he liked it, which was nice.

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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Tom » Tue Oct 18, 2016 5:09 am

Rightly so. Very nice job.

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Jager
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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Jager » Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:02 pm

Another nice diorama Jamie, made even better by a great looking car. I can see why it was eagerly bid on at auction.

Most of the Australian racing photographs I've seen from this era were B & W, so I was curious how this would look with a 'period' feel.

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The background looks a lot like this picture :

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“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” - Steve McQueen

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Ozmac
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Re: The River Crossing, an Aussie outback diorama

Post by Ozmac » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:59 am

The black and white pic looks really good, Ian, and you're right that the other real photo from the era is probably taken very close to the same spot as my dio (I suspect it's somewhere after the Southern Loop, closer to Stoner corner on the way to Siberia).

As a final bit of trivia, the old Peugeot fans here in Australia say the first Armstrong 500 should have been won by the 403. The reason for this is that the cars all set off in a staggered start, and it turns out the 403 started 30 seconds after the winning Vauxhall Cresta.

As it was the first Armstrong 500, lap scoring and organisation generally wasn't a strong point, and by the time it came to the last lap, they had forgotten about the staggered start, and when the Cresta crossed the line first, the chequered flag came out and it was declared the winner. The Pug folk claimed they finished less than 30 seconds later, but all their appeals were dismissed, and so officially the Pug came second and the Cresta won.

At least the Pug won its class (C), and for French car fans, a Simca Aronde won class B, for Ford fans a Customline won Class E, and for NSU fans a Prinz won class A.

So everybody was a winner that day, even if the Pug wuz robbed.

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