Soft & Delightful

Soft And Delightful

The Joys of Summer Living

Summer in the city

Practically everyone remembers ice cream in the summer. For many in the city,  ice cream trucks delivered treats right to your neighbourhood. For myself, there was an ice cream shop steps from our apartment. And if that wasn’t enough, a fleet of  ice cream trikes were constantly on the prowl wafting dry ice mist on every transaction.  If I saved all the money I spent on ice cream during my misspent youth, I still wouldn’t be rich, but would have enjoyed my summers a lot less.

Early ice cream trucks carried just ice cream, when most families didn’t have freezers in their home. The truck refrigeration initially was dry ice and to make it last longer,  the truck motor was turned off during transactions, with the original chimes being hand cranked.

With the advent of fully refrigerated trucks, a diversity of  packaged ice cream treats were also sold, such as popsicles and ice cream bars. What more could you ask for on a hot summer day…

 

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Land Rover Series II

Land Rover Series II

 

Land Rover Series II

The Taming of the Wild…

The first time I ever noticed a Land Rover Series II was in late 1969. My parents had just moved to Lesotho, a mountainous land-locked country surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. My father was establishing agricultural development projects in Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. The Land Rover was one of the project vehicles.

The Land Rover was conceived after World War II, as a temporary measure to keep the auto manufacturer Rover afloat and generate enough cash-flow to get it back on its feet to restart car production. The Willys Jeep was the initial inspiration. The body was made of an aluminum/magnesium alloy because steel was tightly rationed at the time. Because paint was also in tight supply, Land Rover made do with army surplus green paint.

The big surprise was that the Land Rover greatly out-sold the Rover car, once car production resumed. Thus, the Land Rover developed into its own very successful brand.

The Land Rover my father inherited for the projects was a mid sixties Series II Station Wagon. This particular vehicle had already seen a lot of off-road service and had its own unique body characteristics. It had been rolled in one of its off-road expeditions. Just roll it back and keep on truckin’!

Because this Land Rover was often used to transport workers from one farm location to another, the extended length and rear seats distinguished it from the more common short wheel base Land Rovers normally encountered; lots of room for passengers and farm implements.

There were a few things I always loved about this vehicle. It was a real work truck, stripped of pretty well any extras, though it did sport a “Safari Roof”, a second skin fitted on top of the roof allowing for added ventilation. This helped cool the truck in summer and reduce condensation in Lesotho’s cooler months. I loved the fact that the engine could be hand-cranked in the event of a starter failure; handy in the many very remote areas this vehicle travelled. On an aesthetic note, I got a kick out of the close-set headlights, though I’m not sure if this hindered driver’s visibility at night. The headlights were eventually relocated to the outside fenders in the next series iteration, probably because of regulations in other regions of the world.

Probably my most memorable experience with the Land Rover was one trip I joined in early 1974. One of the project farms was in a very remote area of Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. After an initial rendezvous in Gabarone, we headed to a remote village to meet with the villagers to discuss an on-going agricultural project. Shortly after leaving Gabarone, the roads graduated from paved to dirt and not too long after, I noticed we weren’t on roads at all. We were travelling cross country, probably following animal trails. We eventually located our destination village on the desert edge.

What I saw next surprised me. The entire village came out to greet us. Chairs were set up in a large circle outside and everyone participated in the discussions. Whenever I think of the ultimate Land Rover experience, this comes to mind – a vintage Land Rover used in the environment for which it was ultimately developed – as a work tool to help a community maintain its ability to sustain itself.

I guess what I would call the Land Rover Series II is a truck’s truck! It’s there to do a job. For my Land Rover Series II illustration, the beautiful highland villages of Lesotho seemed an appropriate backdrop. These beautiful village settings of  rondavels or mokhoro buildings, are often elaborately carved and painted and covered with a thatch roof that is sewn to the support poles with grass rope. Simple and functional like the Land Rover.

 

Prints of this painting are available at www.thedrawingroomgallery.com.

 

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Fiat 500 Nuova – Italy’s Original City Car

Fiat 500 Nuova
Fiat 500 Nuova

Cinquecento – The original city car

By the time my family moved to Rome in 1962 the Fiat 500 Nuova was celebrating its 5th birthday. It was perfectly designed for the Italian roads and could easily squeeze into the underground parking in our apartment building while our 1963 Opel Caravan station wagon was relegated to the sun-blistered street parking.

The early 500s had a 479 cc two-cylinder air-cooled engine generating 13 horsepower. That pretty much matches my snow blower. As a weight saving measure, these early versions had a fabric roof folding right to the back of the car. Those early models did, however, have one feature later adopted by the early ‘60s Lincoln Continentals – “suicide doors”. Top speed was 85 km/h.

The first model got off to a slow start. To many, it was too stripped down. No back seat and a price very close to the more powerful and faster 600 (95 km/h), which could accommodate 4 passengers, made people think twice. Fiat quickly remedied this with the addition of a back seat, slight power increase, a few added features and a price reduction. The rest, as they say, is history.

One of my earliest recollections of the “Cinquecento” was one attempting to climb a very steep road in Rome. It just didn’t have what it took to get up the hill. But the innovative driver wasn’t going to give up. He turned the car around, put it in reverse and backed up the hill. Problem solved!

The Fiat 500 was very practical for the European road conditions and was very popular. It kept its basic shape from 1957 until production stopped in 1975, with over 3,800,000 produced.

As Italy came of age during the sixties, the 500 was updated with changing tastes. My illustration shows the Fiat 500 L (Lusso). This car was designed to meet the growing demands for a more “luxurious” car. Chrome nudge bars were added to the front and rear bumpers. The front and rear light groups were updated and turn indicators and rear lights enlarged. Lots of chrome was added and the interior went upscale with improved seats and storage. As is appropriate for such an upscale version, my backdrop is the resort town of Portofino in the Italian Riviera, made famous by the theatre and movie glitterati of the fifties and sixties.

Fiat 500 Retirement Living

Fiat 500 Retirement in Tuscany

While walking on the back roads between the villages of Lamole and Volpaia in the Chianti region of Tuscany, I discovered a quaint retirement meadow hosting a forlorn Fiat 500 Lusso. Needless to say, I thought it looked sad and missed its days showing up Vespas on the back streets of  Florence and Siena. I think I captured its mood at having been “put out to pasture”, so to speak. As they say, all good things…

Prints of this painting are available at www.thedrawingroomgallery.com.

 

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