Mel’s pining for the Fords
Trucks a fortune for a model maker who loves working with wood, writes BRUCEMOUNSTER
WHEN Mel Blunden was told his models were too good for the village craft shop, it was a turning point for one of Tasmania’s most talented craftsmen. Even so, the 70-year-old woodworker still doesn’t think his 1:16th scale-model Jaguars, each created from huon pine, are anything special. ‘‘The Jags, they’re just the bread and butter,’’ Blunden says, adding he is more interested in making trucks. Blunden is a former longdistance truck driver who only became a became a serious woodworker after moving to Fingal in Tasmania four years ago. But once his talent was discovered by local car enthusiasts, mostly Jaguar drivers, he hasn’t had time for trucks. Blunden says he isn’t com- plaining. Few cars have more body curves than 1950s and ’60s vintage XK and E-Type Jaguars. The buyers of his Jags aren’t complaining either, paying just under $700 for a scale replica complete with badges, dashboard radio, steering wheel, sun visor, seats, window winders and exhaust pipes. For chrome parts such as badges, bumper bars, windscreen trim and hub caps, Blunden uses reddish-coloured myrtle timber. He sculpts the car bodies from huon pine and turns the wheels and tyres from blackwood. He also uses blackwood for many of the interior fittings and coats the cars with Estapol resin to retain the timbers’ natural colours. Blunden, whose last job before moving to Tasmania was driving a giant dump truck at the Leigh Creek coal mine in South Austra- lia, says he had always wanted to work with wood but suitable wood had been hard to find. He made up for lost time as soon as he moved to Fingal, starting with furniture and clocks for his home, followed by comparatively simple 1931 Model A Ford utes, coupes and vans. When he took them to a craft shop he was told they were too good for them and advised to try Launceston’s National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. The museum provided a shopfront for his products and it wasn’t long before Jag owners who keep cars at the museum as exhibits cottoned on. Blunden finally got around to building a truck when Ewan Stephens, a major honey producer at Mole Creek, commissioned him to build a replica of his family’s 1956 Ford F600 truck and semi-trailer. The semi will be fully laden with bee hives, which Blunden will make from leatherwood timber. Blunden starts by developing a plan, getting the dimensions from photos or old promotional drawings. From that he cuts out plywood templates, with the profile shapes of all the body panels. Once he has researched and drawn up plans, a typical car takes him about two months to complete, working for as long as six hours a day.