Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 14 October 2017


The one I bought when it was mounted on the owner's NA.

My MX5 will soon be a testarossa*

I need to get some striker plates and two Frankenstein bolts and the job will be done.

By way of explanation, gentle reader, these bits and pieces are needed to attach the hardtop to the car.

These are the bits you need.

I've done all this before. I fitted my first MX5 with a hardtop before I sold it. The mounting points are located in exactly the same position in all NA and NB versions, although you have to remove a bit of trim to access them.

These hardtops are like hen's teeth, and are beginning to go for very silly money. I think I was a bit lucky to get hold of this one. I contacted the vendor on the day he advertised it on Gumtree, and was in Brisbane collecting it the next day. The Ute is indeed handy, although there was about 5 mm to spare getting the hardtop under the canopy for the journey home.

His price was reasonable, as it's in pretty good nick, even though it is ten years older than the car.

I will eventually paint it to match the car, but initially I will be driving a testarossa.

Hardtops are a blessing for a number of reasons.

They make the vehicle much more secure. Anyone with a pocket knife can gain entry to a softop. This actually happened to my current car, which explains why it has a relatively new convertible top.

In addition, they are completely weatherproof - although the softops are the same, providing they're properly fitted.

They also increase the car's rigidity if mounted properly.

But for mine, the greatest advantage is the improvement in over-the-shoulder visibility.

Driving an MX5 with the convertible top up is a bit like sitting in the bottom of a bucket when it come to rear visibility.

*Check Google translate. It's Italian.

Update: Trial fitting -

The hardtop is not compatible with the roll bar, sitting about 5 mm too high - so I'll have to remove it. Another job ahead.

What do you reckon, gentle reader? Leave it red, or have it matched?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Home of the Brave - Land of the Free

A very young Abe Lincoln

Australians looking across the Pacific right now can’t believe what they’re seeing.

Our long-time ally, and a country which we always believed shared our values, is slowly but surely destroying itself.

Mind you, we've seen it all before.

I saw a similar phenomenon when serving beside Americans in Vietnam in 1970. Back then, American servicemen were killing their junior officers at an alarming rate. The preferred method was to put a hand grenade beside the sleeping victim, pull the pin, and run like hell.

Nine hundred died in this manner from 1969 to 1972. It was so common that it produced its own jargon.

The Yanks called it “fragging”.

The violence was a symptom of a deep national malaise in 1970, relating to the lack of support for the US military in Vietnam at home, and a growing understanding by those at the sharp end of the conflict of the sheer futility of it all.

In 2017, we are seeing similar violence, most recently the slaughter of 58 people at Las Vegas.

There seems to be a chilling inevitability about this, and the impotence of the US law makers to deal with it.

It is also a symptom of deep national malaise. The country should probably be renamed "the Disunited States of America", when you observe the quality of the hyper partisanship that has developed in the last decade.

That division in public opinion also reminds me of Vietnam.

When he was asked to put forward reasons why the US should continue to fight in Vietnam, in a memo dated March 24, 1965, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton writes to his boss, Robert McNamara, that America’s end goal is “70%” to avoid humiliation.

The “dignity” of the USA held sway over everything else. It wasn't about defeating Communism, or saving the Vietnamese. It was all about the self-absorption of the body politic in the USA.

So, the prime reason was about symbolism – saving face. We saw how that worked out.

In many ways, gentle reader, this same symbolism is at the root of the current malaise. A naïve observer is prompted to enquire why the most powerful nation on earth lacks the capacity, and apparently the will, to protect its own citizens.

And, on the face of it, if you listen to the NRA, it’s all about the symbolism of the Second Amendment.

This clause is held up as an inviolable symbol of freedom, expressed as the right to self-defence.

Now forgetting about the obvious and inevitable outcome of the practical expression of this cultural symbol (a rate of mass shootings unrivaled anywhere else on the planet) it’s important to examine the historical perspective.

You need to go back a lot further in time than Vietnam or Las Vegas, to understand that this thread of the threat of self-destruction runs through American history.

The following is an extract from an 1838 address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, by a very young Abraham Lincoln. He was talking about existential risk to the Union - 

How then shall we perform it? --At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! --All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I’ve bolded Lincoln’s answer.

It’s pretty obvious that he saw self-destruction as the greatest threat. Twenty three years later the threat was realized.

We’re seeing this same threat now, in the context of a President who gained power by dividing his country, and surfing into office on the fear and resentment created by that division.

As for the line in the anthem – Home of the brave – land of the free.

The gun culture fostered by the NRA is not an outcome of bravery, but of fear, or more accurately paranoia.

And the country which characterizes itself as a bastion of freedom, has the highest incarceration rate in the western world.

The irony is stark and inescapable.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Leyonhjelm Wimps It

Old mate David Leyonhjelm (that's him with the cat) is a vocal critic of Australian gun laws.

So am I, by the way, but unlike the esteemed senator, I believe they're not restrictive enough.

You would assume, that if he's fair dinkum about his position, he'd be prepared to debate it in a public forum.

Twitter is a good example.

Not so. I've been blocked after a few robust exchanges after a recent US gun massacres (the one before the last).

Today I visited his Facebook feed and invited him to debate the issue on that forum - or any other of his choice.

I won't hold my breath, gentle reader, but I will keep you posted....

Upgrade: The esteemed senator was not prepared to engage, but I discovered that there are a heap of conspiracy theorists out there who think he's God's gift to gun nuts. Why am I not surprised?

Monday, 2 October 2017

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War Is the Key to Understanding America

I'm posting this, gentle reader, because it is commentary on the documentary series produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

It comes recommended as an epic undertaking which reveals so much about the war which has waited 50 years to be revealed.

I'd be grateful, if you get to watch the series, if you let me know what you think of it. As I write, it's being streamed on American PBS, but not in Oz.

These people spent ten years on the project, and for a change, interviewed Vietnamese, from both North and South.



One of the (few) benefits of having lived three score years and ten, is the chance to observe the way our wonderful English language has morphed over that time.

English is flexible, organic and versatile. The way it is used in political discourse demonstrates this.

Let’s look at a few well-used expressions.

“Illegal” is a good example for starters. It has been appropriated from across the Pacific and applied to what our government calls Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals (UMAs).

Before wee Johnny’s “Pacific Solution”, anyone using the term “illegals” would have been looked at quizzically, and asked “illegal/s what”? It was, after all, an adjective, not a noun.

Other nouns are converted to verbs. “Medal” is a good example.

Then we have “illegitimate”.

Back in the day, this word was used to describe a child born out of wedlock. I doubt that most Gen Xers would have any understanding of its use in that context.

Then there is “guy”. Again, it’s a trans Pacific import, but its meaning has morphed from the individual male to the non-gender specific collective. It’s now a word used to address a group of both genders. Strange….

Some words are relatively new. An example is “awesome”.

Apparently, it originates in California surf slang of the 1960s, where it meant more or less anything from "good" to "incredibly amazing". I don’t remember hearing it until the early 2000s, but I’m always a little behind the trend.

Occasionally, words are invented. If the person doing the inventing has a profile, the word usually enters the lexicon quickly. Pauline Hanson talks about “Straya”. I think she is referring to my native land, but I can’t be completely sure. After all, most of what Hanson says is her own unique form of patois, understood only by Harpics.*

Many words are so over used that have been worn out. An example is “icon”. An icon was, for eons, a devotional painting of Christ or another holy figure, typically executed on wood and used ceremonially in the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches.

It is now used repeatedly by all kinds of media to describe something as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration. That’s OK. What irritates me is that it is over-used to the point of abuse of the original word and its meaning.

Then there is the language used in the political arena.

Generally, political language labels rather than describes. A favourite way of shutting down a discussion is to label your opponent. It’s used by those with a binary disposition who find analysis difficult.

That’s another trend imported from across the Pacific, as is the hyper partisanship that is wrapped up in it.

The study of language continues to fascinate me. I hope, gentle reader, you share my obsession.

*Those so far to the Right that they are completely round the bend. Derived from the slogan of a toilet cleaning product - "clean round the bend".

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Running Restoration

Interior. Note gear lever knob and lace up wheel cover.

My slow restoration of the MX5 continues.

One of the most appealing aspects of these cars is the wheel-tyre combination. Unfortunately, in its 17-year life, this example had many unhappy encounters with kerbs.

The technical term is “kerb rash”.
Rimskins not a success.

So, this needed attention to restore the appearance. I tried a product called Rimskins, but was unable to keep them attached to the wheels. The state of the rim edges probably had something to do with that.

Kerb rash

In the end, I gave up on the Rimskins, and went for a complete (all 4 wheels) rim reconditioning. The process involves grinding back the existing damage on the wheel to ensure there is a smooth surface to work with, and then colour matching with paint to the existing colour of the wheel and finishing with a clear coat and hardener.
Amazing improvement

The result was well worth the outlay, and I would recommend these people.

Another aspect that was contributing to the less-than-concours appearance of the car was the state of the interior. Most of it was honest wear (some call it patina) but the leather wheel and gear lever knob were both well-worn and unsightly.

The gear lever knob was beyond redemption, but when I priced a replacement, I was rocked by the quoted ask (from Mazda spare parts) of $350.

Instead, I found an aftermarket knob for $32. It’s not the real deal, but may have to do until I can source a second-hand part from a wrecker.

Then there’s the leather steering wheel. Short term solution there is the lace-on cover, but I’m looking to restore or replace the well-worn Nardi.

Under the bonnet, the dipstick had snapped off at the top.


The OEM replacement was only $32 - same as the gearshift knob - seems a popular price.

The best part of all of the running restoration is that I get to drive the car whilst all this is going on.
That is, after all, the object of the exercise.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Considerate Car

Now I am not one of those petrol heads that endows my cars with personality, gentle reader, but if I was, I'd be claiming that my MX5 is considerate.

When it failed to proceed, it did so in my garage, which was very convenient.

This things are generally very reliable, as they are a conglomeration of simple Mazda mechanicals in a lightweight roadster body, but like all things made by made by man, they are not foolproof.

This becomes more of an issue, when the vehicle in question has covered more than 65% of the distance between the earth and the moon, as this one has.

It failed to start after a long run on an unseasonably hot day, and I reckon the CAS* is cooked.

The RACQ came to my aid. I'm a "platinum" member, and got a free tow to my workshop of choice. The operator was very careful. He told me he is fond of MX5s. That was an advantage.

He was solicitously careful about getting it on the tilt-tray, not an easy task on our sloping driveway.

Anyway, I was always expecting niggles, and as they go, this one (if my diagnosis is correct), is not major or expensive.

I did a compilation the other day of the work that has been done on the car before I came into ownership -
So the CAS was one of the bits not replaced.

It will be now.

* Cam Angle Sensor
This is the thingy. You don't have to take the donk out.


It was the cam angle sensor, although the fuel pump was replaced as it also was on the way out.

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