by Jeff Gilbert email@example.com
Here in Australia, we have and will continue
to take our cues from the good old USA in general, and Hollywood & Detroit in
particular. So it was that we grew our very own brand of "Petrol Head" or
Hot-Rod Harry, driving a souped up Ford or HoldenV8 with big mobs of chrome, &
excessive rubber on both rims & roads. The Australian Auto Industry was soon booming
along with a life of its own, and has now reached the point where Holden has accidentally
produced the hairiest 4-door sedan on the planet, assuming all doors remain on. General
Motors has done very well in the USA by flogging thinly disguised Holdens called
Chevrolets to the unsuspecting American punters. (Course this is only the beginning,
it won't be long before Industrial espionage claims the entire gamut of Aussie Innovation,
including the rare and wondrous hand-carved Mulga clutch-plate, & even Spinfex tyre
A well adapted and established Species such
as the Horsepower Hoon is not apt to be wiped out overnight, by jingo, and has survived
and indeed thrived upon attempts at their forcible removal from their natural environment
via wowserish Drink-Driving Legislation and blatant use of radar to check reasonable
And so it is with amazement that we have
witnessed the decline & near disapperance of the aquatic equivalent, the Horsepower
Hoon on Water. He too was booming along nicely from the long nosed front engine speedboats
of the twenties thru post war years, where the Aussie HHOW could be glimpsed thru a
curtain of spray and noise, idly twiddling the wheel of his fabulously expensive imported
But as his land-based equivalent expanded in
numbers, overcoming exhorbitant car prices by hitting the chop shops to "do his own
thing" and make Horsepower Excess available to all, the HHOW failed to join in the
creativity and faded from sight.
At this point we must pause to point the
finger in blame. The real problem is lack of guidance. The wheeled hoon has almost
unlimited resources in the matters of design and availability of both potentially
adaptable machinery and shop manuals to steady the manic creative hand. Building ones own
uniquely fast "set of wheels" merely requires a set of spanners, plus the usual
lashings of poor taste and enthusiasm. The land based Aussie hoon has these in abundance,
the former aptly demonstrated by national worship of the Sydney Opera House, the latter
usually generated by the prospect of "getting a bit". This latter spur is sadly
missing for the HHOW: "going for a burn" in someomes dodgy "set of
wheels" at least does not offer a 50 percent chance of drowning.
Back to guidance. The requirements of the
HHOW are obvious, yet in this age of myriad designs for the home boat builder, he remains
standing on the dock, or perhaps chainsmoking Camels in his darkened workshop, forlornly
sharpening propellor blades with a rusty No.8 Bastard.
But hark, the solution is at hand. What are
the HHOWs simple requirements alluded to above? They are merely the same as those of
his more wheeled cousin: seating for two or three, a steering wheel, windscreen, cigarette
lighter, wireless & a rear tray for
well, fishing? A pickup that floats!
The No 8 Bastard file hits the floor with a
joyous clank, narrowly missing a suddenly unnoticed spotted mutt. Something is up thinks
Khan, and settling down in the sun, he watches his corner of the world go
.. The 40s Ford Ute with the rusty doorsills and the
"solid 289 donk" is turned on its side to reveal a solid chassis, which the boss
pats, calling it the Fortri. Ho ho ho! This is a worry.
Months pass quickly in a frenzy of activity.
Wave shaped bulkheads are bolted and glassed across the chassis. Strip planking forms
three hulls and two tunnels under the black Ford, with the centre hull bow faired up into
the grille, supporting engine and radiator mounts on shaped hardwood blocks. Outer hulls
of the Fortri are faired into the wheel wells, doors are shortened and new sills built
half way up. The dog hides behind a pile of mag wheels and suspension bits, trying to get
used to the stink as epoxy and bog kill the back lawn in scruffy patches. The dog wonders
if dinner will be late again and worries he is not getting enough sleep. The master has
lifted up the front jaw of the Fortri and stuck his head in its mouth. He shouts at it for
several days, and hits it a lot. He only closes its jaw when it roars at him, with the
same roar that used to wake Khan as a pup.
The pickup floor is up and the
jet impellor fits straight along the old driveshaft line from gearbox, in second for
posterity, to transom. The snout of the jet is linked to the steering. The dog wishes the
discarded diff were a discarded bone.
The master smiles as paint mist fills the
air. The dog is a pale shade of blue.
Khan pricks up his ears. A car-load of his
dopey masters noisy friends have arrived with green cans not containing dog food.
They use a lot of familiar words in loud voices, and the Fortri is soon in a big box
behind another car. Khan gets in the big box.
The rest is Heaven and History. In between
swims there are bits of bait to eat. Sometimes Khan jumps thru the sunroof to share the
front seat with Dopey and Shaylene. Dopey keeps roaring the Fortri, and saying odd things
like "40 bloody knots, mate" and "She didnt even get her feet
wet". Ah, this is the life!!! .