Castlemaine, Australia: ‘Hot rod capital’ of the world

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PHOTO: The Father, The Son and The Chev: Laurie Williams (left) and his son Darren Williams. (Supplied: Darron Davies)

21 April 2018 |Larissa Romensky |ABC Central Victoria

“In the central Victorian town of Castlemaine, a lot of people build them, drive them, write about them and dream about hot rods — and one man has photographed it all.

There is no place on earth with a greater concentration of hot rod enthusiasts than Castlemaine according Australian Street Rodding magazine publisher Larry O’Toole.

The chairman of the Castlemaine Hot Rod Centre said the industry, which can be traced back to 1929, employed about 150 people in the small town and surrounds and brought in an estimated $50 million to the local economy.

“You can get everything done in town except for upholstery,” Mr O’Toole said.

While not everyone in town shares the same enthusiasm, others have been converted such as Castlemaine photographer Darron Davies whose initial photograph inspired the project, The Rodders, which explored classic hot rod enthusiasts.

“Photographing cars was all about achieving balance and not having the car dominate,” he said.

‘There is something spiritual about rodding’

For Mr Davies there was always a good chance of bumping into a rodder with the town boasting 38 hot rod businesses and even more enthusiasts.

He did not have to travel far. Just over the road, his neighbours house painters Laurie Williams and his son Darren were working on their classic Chevrolet.

Nominated for the Blake Art Prize in 2015, The Father, The Son and The Chev, photographed in low light, captured an emotional and devotional atmosphere between the two men and their car.

“There is something spiritual about rodding, building a car and working with other people,” Mr Davies said.

Emotion is central to the photographer’s work and in preparation Mr Davies studied the works of Rembrandt “to create a narrative by introducing an atmosphere and feel”.

“Where you can ask the questions: who is this person, what are they thinking, where are they going?”

‘A new lease on life’

 

Always driven by narrative, Mr Davies was drawn to then 14-year-old Corey Wilson sitting in his late father’s 1948 Ford Coupe.

Corey’s father passed away before finishing his car, so it became a sanctuary for the boy who would often retreat there for solace.

“I noticed when Corey was sitting in the car he would go into this dreamy state,” Mr Davies said.

“It was some sort of hope for the future.”

Corey’s mother Jeanette Wilson said when her husband died, the car got them out of a hole.

“I was very sad and depressed, and Corey was the same way; he wasn’t dealing with work,” she said.

Under the mentorship of legendary hot rodder Rod Hadfield, who set up the Castlemaine Rod Shop in the mid-1970s, Corey was “taken under the wing” and completed the work on the V8.

With Corey on his L-plates behind the wheel it gave the mother and son a “new lease on life” and connected them to new places and people.

“He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face,” Ms Wilson said.

“We’ve enjoyed every moment; we’ve had a lot of fun.”

The 17-year-old welder has since bought a 1931 Ford from the United States with a four-cylinder engine, so he can drive unaccompanied when on P-plates, not possible in a vehicle with a modified engine.

‘Sophisticated car builders’

While some consider hot rods a part of hoon culture, Mr Davies was quick to point out the owners were instead very sophisticated car builders.

He said Rod Hatfield’s conversion of a 1948 Fiat Topolino car to include a fire truck engine was a confluence of skill and artistry that also included beautiful custom finishes on the aptly named ‘the fire chief’.

He singled out the work of Newstead automotive artist and founder of the annual Chopped festival Ryan Ford for his detailed work on many hot rods.

 

Continuing with the father and son theme, Mr Davies also captured Ryan’s father, Eddie Ford.

The avid car collector and magazine publisher since the 1960s, Ford senior bought his first car, a Ford Coupe in 1932 and currently has a large collection of mostly American cars in his shed in Newstead.

A departure from his usual low-lit subjects, Mr Davies photographed the more playful side of Mr Ford including the pet cat that continued to jump on the windscreen throughout the shoot.

“In photography you’ve got to accept the composed and you’ve got to accept the accidents,” Mr Davies said.

The exhibition is at the Goat Gallery in Natimuk, in western Victoria.

Original Link |‘Hot rod capital’ of Australia captured in photo exhibition

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