A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland

Some art work I produced during a continued professional development course on colour matching – featuring Mike’s XF Falcon in the background.


Work changing places

A change is as good as a holiday. Panel beating to Spray Painting. And a back to school for upskilling.

The workplace was changing, most of the older men were retiring, along with this change the organization was changing. When I started my apprenticeship, the Department was like a family, there was a Social club with family events held throughout the year, but there was a change in the organization and that change was across most of the state and maybe the country. The 2 senior painters had left along with Tommy the apprentice, he had completed his time and taken a position with St. John’s Ambulance. The new painter Malcomn had also decided to leave. I offered to take on the role of Panel beater/Painter and was approved to do so.

Painting, unlike Panel beating I found rewarding in the fact that when the Panel beating was completed the job still needed to be painted. When the painting was done and maybe some reassembly, the job was finished and looked splendid, like it had not been damaged.

I had been working for quite a few years alongside painters and had advanced to repairing family cars at home on the weekends, painting was part of the job. Until the job was repaired painted and reassembled it was not finished, the job was not completed. There is a lot of satisfaction from painting and completing the job beyond the panel beating repair. From painting, I learned a lot about finishing, and the panel beating finishing became blended into the painting preparation. I gained more satisfaction from the work.

Diamond T Wrecker Brian, Myself and Mike Panelshop team 1980’s

The Army B class vehicles were a large part of the work, this Diamon T was the biggest job a full respray top to bottom inside and out.

During the time I was painting, I realise my colour matching skills were very limited, I asked for permission to attend the Cloour matching part of the Spray painters course at Trade school and was accepted. There I attended 3 blocks of 2 weeks learning the basics of Colour matching and also took the advantage of asking the Lecturaturs about all and other related aspects of the work. Trade school had been great when I was an apprentice, and more so as a mature-age student. With my all-round trade knowledge and mature attitude to learning, I gained quite a bit more from the experience. Stripping panel, primming, mixing colours, adding tinters to effect colour or shade change, blending shading, were all part of the program. Spray gun control and application techniques were required when painting a picture on a panel. I chose to practice the techniques painting image of a friends Torana GTR. Not to bad, for a beginner!

Taken from a Polaroid sad about the quality of the print

My skills with colour matching improved, however, practice is the key. Funny story, a college said of my colour matching skills, ‘You are having problems even getting a colour match on a white panel, my friend who is a painter says white is easy to match!’ Maybe my college could do the matching in the future if it’s that easy?

My best mate Darryl,(mechanic extraordinaire) spent quite a few days, weeks. fitting a Turbocharger to a bus, because the engine was under power for the task it was doing in the very hot weather conditions up north. Towards the completion of the task, I was asked to respray the bus. In the fashion of the times, I suggested painting stripped to the sides and rear of the bus. The job was approved and with respect to Darryl’s efforts, I incorporated Turbo in the paint scheme.

Darryl on the right with ‘his’ Tubo bus

Darryl’s days of work, the comment, and the Stripps look great!

Back to painting, WHITE!

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MGA out front C KB


MGA MKII British sports car
The TR8 allowed me to combine my interest in ‘pulling things apart’, restoration and rebuilding, and my dream of owning a car for pure V8 driving pleasure.