1969 Karmann Ghia Convertible

1969 Karmann GhiaKarmann Ghia is 60 years old…..When Wheel Tracks learned that 2013 was the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia’s 60th anniversary we thought it was a good idea to feature the car for our May issue. We asked club members for input and maybe even some stories about their Karmann Ghia’s they presently own or have owned in the past. The results was a surprise. There are only two listed in our VAE Roster and that appears to be it. WT has heard of a number of VW Beetle stories but we assume no other members own or have owned a Karmann Ghia. Our front page Ghia is owned by Ken Taplin of Blue Hill, Maine. The second Ghia, pictured to the right, is owned by your editor in Enosburg, Vermont, a 1968 Coupe.

Ken has owned his convertible for only a few years since he purchased it at the annual “Owl’s Head Transportation” auction in Maine. He had an older Ghia when he moved to Maine in 1967 and that spurred him to bid on one of the three that were in the auction. He has 25 antique and classic cars and drives most of them. If you check the roster you will see he is partial to air-cooled cars, his latest is a 356A Porsche coupe. He drove the Ghia to our 2011 Stowe Show where the front page photo originated, that is Ken pictured with the car.

From Ken…” I saw Wheel Tracks mentioned the ’46 Beetle I had in college. One of the many cars I should have kept, with it’s mechanical brakes and semaphore turn signals but you can’t keep them all. Another one I let go was a ’27 Minerva limo. I did keep the first two cars I owned, a’31 American Austin coupe and a ’29 Franklin 4dr”.

Here is some history from Ronan Glon…. Volkswagen is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Karmann Ghia. Nicknamed the Beetle in a sport coat, the car was previewed by a close-to-production concept that debuted at the 1953 edition of the Paris Motor Show. The Ghia came to life when coachbuilder Karmann asked Ghia designer Luigi Segre to draw a new body for the Beetle. Operating with-out input from Volkswagen, Karmann believed there was a market for a sleek and sporty convertible based on the cheap and readily available Beetle chassis.

For reasons that remain unknown, the convertible body style was scrapped and the first prototype took the form of a coupe. Segre presented the car to Karmann execs in a small Parisian garage in October of 1953 and although it was not the ragtop the men had imagined, they were thrilled with the result and proudly presented it at the show. The Ghia was generally well-received by the press and by visitors.

Volkswagen chief Heinz Nordhoff examined the car inside and out shortly after the show. He was impressed with what the Beetle had spawned, but he feared the coupe would be too expensive to mass-produce. Karmann proposed to build the coupe alongside the Beetle convertible in its own factory and the Ghia was quickly given the green light for production. The Karmann Ghia was launched across Europe in early 1955 after undergoing only minor changes in its transition from a show car to a production vehicle. It was powered by a rear-mounted 1.2-liter air-cooled flat-four lifted straight from the Beetle parts bin. The convertible that Karmann had initially en-visioned was finally added to the Volkswagen lineup in 1957. Positioned above the iconic Beetle, the Ghia enabled Volkswagen to reach a trendier target audience while boosting its image across Europe and on the ever-important United States market.

The Karmann Ghia was phased out in 1974 after 362,601 coupes and 80,881 convertibles were built. The prototype that debuted in Paris is part of a private collection but it is occasionally displayed at Volkswagen events throughout Europe.

I was heading South on the Jersey Turnpike in the early 60s when it happened.

It was maybe 2AM Monday morning and I am driving my 57 Pontiac Star Chief a little faster than the speed limit…. Mine is practically the only car on the road, I am heading back to my ship at the naval base in Norfolk, VA. As usual I am using 110% of a three day weekend at home in Vermont. The Star Chief could cruise forever at ninety mph, at least empty…. Going home on Friday I had a 500 pound load of potatoes in the back seat area so I had to go slower. My Navy pay was only $76 a month back then, so I bought fresh picked potatoes in Virginia and sold them in Vermont where the new crop would not be ready for another month. The profit from the potatoes paid for my gas and tolls and I had $50 left for the weekend.

Back to that night on the turnpike. There had been no lights in my rearview mirror for some time when I noticed lights slowly gaining on me from a long way back. I slowed down a bit but knowing the cops didn’t bother you much that late at night I didn’t slow a lot. It was not long when the vehicle behind me pulled into the fast lane and slowly passed me on the left. It was not a cop or an ambulance; it was a VW Karmann Ghia. I was able to talk to the gent in the Ghia a ways down the pike at a truck stop and found the little car had only it’s original 40 hp engine! I vowed that someday I would have a Karmann Ghia.

Jumping ahead a few years, it is now 1971. I am out of the navy and back in Vermont working electronics for a local cable TV company, I am married and have two lovely young daughters. I am minding my business one day while driving by Smiley’s used car lot in Georgia,VT when I spot a robins egg blue Karmann Ghia. It was a 68 coupe fresh from a 4X4 trade with an Air Force gent being transferred to St. Albans, he had bought it new in Mississippi and needed something the he could drive in our winters. You can guess the rest, Smiley and I made the $700 deal and I drove it home a few days later.

You had to sit slightly sideways with your feet to the right and the tiny foot pedals made for some tricky foot-work but it was fun to drive. The only problem was when I got on the interstate I could only get maybe 70MPH out of her and there was no more. That is when I determined I needed to get rid of the automatic transmission and the AC. With only 44 HP to start with there was not much left for the rear wheels to use. A transplanted standard shift and nixing the AC did the job…95 to 100Mph was now reachable alt-hough I was, by then, a responsible married guy and I didn’t do high speeds any longer….. well, not as often.

Again, jumping ahead to 2014… (life sure has a lot of ‘jumps’). My Karmann Ghia is parked out in the barn patiently waiting for me to get over my obsession with cars from the 1920s so it can get back on the road again. It was my main driver for 12 years and a lot of nice adventures happened during that time.

How many of you are thinking about my possible mistake of getting rid of the automatic transmission and the AC? The part you are missing is the 12 years that I drove it with all of those 44 horses. That is the part that makes my decision all-right!

1927 Dodge – My Dodge has Feeling Too

1927 DodgeA comment on a VAE tour… “I could hear you and your ‘clutch’ behind me”

Can you imagine how deeply feelings can be affected from comments like this? It just goes to the bone… hah… frame, but my Dodge can take it! Those other cars, well, we will not go there, because my Dodge has manners.

The quote you read on the front page came from a respected VAE elder after spending the day in the Dodge, traveling the mountainous back roads in central Vermont. He was correct, in a way. There had been a few vaper-lock problems… well, quite a few; then the split rim problem that happened on the way down a steep hill and compromising the braking… a bit. The clutch also gave a few grunts during the day. The problems did in fact happen one at a time but don’t you think he could have made his comment a little more delicately?

The quote above came from one of those Plymouth guys all puffed up with his shiny paint job… oops, must remember, manners.

The 1927 Dodge with the Fast-four engine can be traced as far back as Pennsylvania but with very few details. A gent near Mystic Conn. bought it in Pensy and then sold it to me when he needed to down size. There were real tears in this big guys eyes as we left with his car on our trailer. That is how these old cars get to you. They can make huge and great memories. I have had it only a few years now but I can go on for hours telling adventures “we” have had.

I started finding babbit material when I changed the oil and some VAEers with more experience than me could tell there were problems with the engine. I spent my career in electronics and had never ‘rebuilt’ an engine. Grinding valve seats, new rings, new bearings… that was always very mysterious to me. With a lot of encouragement from fellow members I decided to give it a try. As you can see from the pictures, the end is insight. If I have not forgotten something and if all goes as planned, there will be quite a day not long from now when I will hear that engine come to life. I can’t imagine yet what a great day that will be… and I will have another “adventure” to tell!

Let me see if I can tell you about one of these ’adventures’ we have had.

There was the weekend we (the DB and I) joined a VAE tour to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. And a great tour it is was! I had found my two mechanical rear brakes were not up to par so an ‘elder VAEer’ (there are a lot of them) agreed to follow me home via Canada where the terrain is flatter. Crossing back into the U.S. I had not been able to stop soon enough at the border crossing and was getting bald-out by an official for my transgression. The official was overdoing it a bit and I could hear the ’elder’ behind me making snide remarks about the scolding. No matter how much I motioned with my “left-turn-signal hand’ the elder continued… ”I knew him as a kid and he was a jerk then also” was one of many. The only thing that saved us (the DB and I) that day was when the official turned smartly for his control shack and smacked his head loudly into the stop sign I had gone through. The laughing behind me was deafening. Within minutes the DB and I, with the elder following, were on our way home.

Car adventures, great memories and wonderful friends are all by-products of owning an old car and being a part of a car club. We, the DB and I, haven’t gotten apologies yet but what the heck, what are friends for…

Gary & Nancy Olney’s 1934 Aerodynamic Hupmobile

1934 aerodynamic hupmobile trailerRobert C. Hupp, who had worked for Olds, Ford and Regal, introduced his own car in Detroit in 1909. Called the Model 20, it was quite a success in the lower price class. As a promotional stunt and right off the assembly line, November 10, 1910, a Hupmobile left on a 48,600 mile around the world trip to 26 different countries, returning on January 24, 1912.

In the meantime, Robert Hupp left the company in September 1911 following a dispute within the company. As Ranson Eli Olds did, when he left Oldsmobile and established REO (his initials) Hupp established R.C.H. (his initials) Automobile Company, but was not very successful.

Hupmobile did quite well through the teens and twenties with 1928 sales of 65,862. However, sales fell to 50,579 in 1929 (when over 100,000 was expected) and with the Great Depression Hupp was in trouble, as were many other automobile companies. But Hupmobile still had a couple of bright spots ahead, if not in sales and the bottom line, certainly in styling. In 1932 Hupp came out with their “form fitting” fenders (also referred to as the cycle-fendered Hupps) as well as chrome-plated wheel discs. This car was designed by industrial designer Raymond Loewy and was extremely handsome.

Raymond Loewy is probably most famous for his design work for Studebaker. Beginning in 1938, he and his team designed several notable Studebakers including the 1953-54 Starlight Coupe and Starliner Hardtop, the 1955 Speedster and the Hawk models beginning in 1956. Later in 1963, Loewy was responsible for the design of the Studebaker Avanti.

Also designed by Loewy were the Aerodynamic Hupmobiles introduced in 1934. In terms of design, these cars were several years ahead of the square, box-like designs of most four door sedans of the time. Hupmobile itself still produced these “square” models along with the sleek aerodynamic model.

The Aerodynamic Model featured a fastback design that made the 4 door appear like a 2 door sedan with the spare tire and cover molded into the sloping trunk lid. Could this have been the inspiration for the continental kit of the 50’s? It had a split rear window, maybe the inspiration for the ’63 Corvette coupe. It had a 3-piece windshield, an early version of the wrap-around windshield of the 50’s. It also had built in headlights which, except for the Chrysler and Desoto “Airflows” and Pierce Arrow, other cars didn’t have until 1938-41. Cadillac was one that waited until 1941.

I believe one of the problems leading to the demise of Hupmobile was the expense required to develop all the models and body styles they offered. In 1932 there were 8 different models (two 6-cyl. and six 8-cyl.) featuring from 1 to 6 body styles for each model. In 1934 there were 7 models (four 6-cyl. and three 8-cyl.) with 2 to 6 body styles in each model.

There were three 121″ wheel base 6 cyl. models in 1934: Series KK-421A (90 HP) with 6 different bodies; series K-421 (90 HP) with 4 bodies; series 421-J (93 HP) with 3 bodies.

1934 aerodynamic hupmobile grillThe car I have is a Series 421-J sedan. The original owner was a gentleman from West Townsend, Vermont. My dad tried to buy the car in the ‘60s, but it wasn’t for sale. Some time later it was sold to Donald Miller of Miller Construction in Windsor, Vermont. My dad bought it from him and a friend, Milton Norris, restored it – probably in the early 70’s. Milton, had recently retired from one of the machine tool shops in Springfield and did an amateur restoration including mechanical work, body work (rust) and paint. Some of the chrome was replated, but the bumpers were simply painted silver. The interior is still original. We brought it to Derby Line in the late ’80s and used it for several years touring and going to shows in Sherbrooke, Que., Enosburg, Newport and other local events. It hasn’t been used for several years now but deserves to be back on the road again with a better paint job and chrome bumpers!!

I’ve had comments on the car from: “that’s the ugliest car I’ve ever seen” to “Wow! What awesome styling”. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The design was deemed good enough to get our Hupp recognition for “Best Original Design” at the “Art of the Car” themed car show at Shelburne Museum in 2016. Good Job, Mr. Loewy!

As for the fate of the Hupmobile, it was all downhill. There was never a 1937 model introduced, but a few cars were built from left over 1936 parts. In 1938, for $45,000, Hupmobile purchased the dies, tools, etc. that were used for the defunct 810/812 Cord hoping this could be their salvation.

The Franklin Company had sold about 43,000 cars by 1919 and had the process fairly well perfected by then. They were using 6 cylinder engines in 1906 for some of their models and by 1914 all Franklins had six cylinder engines. Managing the air flow was important in these air cooled vehicles and until 1922 all that was required was a fan between the engine and the transmission to help “pull” the air through. As the horse power increased they moved the fan to the front of the engine and continued to use the cylinder fins to force air down past the hot cylinders, this was called a “down-drafter”. As the 6 cylinder engine power grew, from 24 HP to over 100HP, the company changed again in 1930, to keeping the fan in the front but now forcing air “across” the engine thus calling it a side drafter. A much more efficient way to keep the engine cool.

It appears George and Eva began a family tradition with the Franklin car. Over the years they had the 1919, a 1923 sedan and two 1929s sedans. One of those 29s later was reworked into a pickup truck which also sits in David’s garage. David’s dad, Richard, added a 1930 and 1931 sedan to the family Franklin history and then David took his turn when he was 15 years old, when he purchased a used 1930 sedan for $45.00. David also bought a ’31 roadster at one point bringing the count to eight Franklins.

Richard was an engineer and loved to tweak things and make them better. While the 1919 was in his possession he added an electric fuel pump with a pressure regulator, to keep the carburetor from handling anything over one and a half pounds of fuel pressure. He also added a fuel pressure and a vacuum pressure gauge to the dash. The ignition switch has an extra position so when you engage the starter a second battery is wired in to have 12 volts. Once the engine is running, the switch is moved to the 6 volt position.

It is probably not totally unusual for an automobile to be purchased new and be in a family for ninety eight years, but Wheel Tracks did not want to miss out telling this story.

As you have read in our classifieds the 1919 is for sale. David and Cereta need to down-size and have decided to try to find a good home for the old girl, that still runs perfectly. The hope is that the car stays in the VAE family and will have many more stories to tell years from now.

How many of you will be watching for those Rutland addresses the next time you go through. Please take a picture of what is there now and send them to Wheel Tracks.

Mary Jane Dexter and her “Poppy Red” VW

Mary Jane DexterMary Jane Dexter tells the story of going to Germany with her husband Bill to pick up their new, factory fresh, VW like it was yesterday. In fact the poppy-red VW Convertible Beetle is 50 years old now and still sits in Mary Jane’s garage. Ninety one years old Mary Jane said the Beetle heads to her Colorado nephew, Russell Dent, when she decides it needs a new owner.

Asked about the process at the German factory when they arrived to take possession of the car and she said it took about 3 minutes and they were down the road with it. They had ordered and paid for it before they left their hometown in Rumson, New Jersey. They toured Germany, then dropped the car off in Belgium for a ship to take it across the Atlantic, the Dexters then picked the car up at the port of NJ.

Mary Jane said they even have a name for the VW. During the German tour and the drive along the Rhine River they came upon a huge rock on the eastern river bank called the Lorelei and that name also became the name of their Beetle. I forgot to ask if it was because their VW resembled the rock and if it has to do more with the fabled feminine water spirit that comes from that same area. Another neat point was the fact that, at that time, convertible VWs were built for export only. I am sure the German tour resulted in some second looks as MJ and Bill motored the German highways.

This from Jim Sears…

Mary Jane was the original “Badge Lady”. She and Bill belonged to a woody club and those members had name badges that identified their club affiliation. She thought that VAE members should also have their own unique name badge and took on the task of designing and getting badges for us. I’ve heard that if you attended a VAE function without your badge there was a 50 cent fine. I have three badges that I purchased through Mary Jane and I still forget mine. Good thing for me we no longer collect the fine.

The year I was in charge of the appreciation dinner Mary Jane wrote all the name tags using her calligraphy pens. They were so elegant and appreciated.

A possible hint of Mary Jane’s love for VW Beetles…

This from long time friend Jan Sander… Jan remembers a day at MJ’s home during a VAE gathering when Jan’s son David had brought his VW to the gathering. Jan said that for some reason she had tripped and fallen against David’s car. Jan still remembers MJ’s response to her irreverent VW collision. Mary Jane simply said “ Bad mommy… leave the car alone”.

This received from Mary Jane, just at Wheel Tracks’ deadline…

Yes, indeed, Bill Dexter was a Ford Man. From his first 1934 Ford Roadster with a rumble seat to the Model A’s and then to the Ford V8 Station Wagons, he has a lot of Fords. He Stayed with this model as it fit his needs of transportation of students to games and meetings, and for ski trips and camping.

Then I came along with my penchant for “bugs”. Bill tried to show an interest in these cars and became fascinated when I acquired a poppy red VW convertible. He marveled at the ease with which it soared West Hill Road when snow was heavy on the road. Bill was interested!
That summer, was planned as a trip to Europe and Bill thought it might pay us to purchase a VW overseas and use it for our transportation. So we took delivery of our 1965 Poppy Red convertible in Germany. This was our chance to break in the car in its own language! It was a blast. VW was then still making the convertibles for export only, so this vehicle which we named “Lorelei” received plenty of attention. Vas is los?

She was a marvel in the mountains, speeding up the steepest of hills, passing the other cars, large and heavy, panting and steaming along the side of the road. We just zoomed along with a satisfied smile and a “Gruss Got”.

We had our sleeping bags along with us to save overnight expenses. Two people in that little bug was a challenge. We tossed a coin to see who would get the back seat (preferable) or the front seat winding in around the gear shift, brakes and other protrusions. It went reasonably well except for one night, it rained. Bill forgot to bring in his boots! In the morning, he found the boots well filled with Black Forest water!

We shipped Lorelei home and I drove her off the dock in New Jersey. She has been in many parades and shows and she knows her was around the Stowe Show field very well.

’30 Chrysler Roadster CJ

2013 Chrysler Roadster CJThe picture here was taken in Wendell Noble’s barn in Milton, Vermont about a week ago. As you can see much more work remains but it should be easy to see the exhaustive work that has been done.

Resurrecting an old car takes determination, planning, a lot of love and simply one step after the last until it is complete; Wendell Noble is on that journey with this 1930 Chrysler Roadster CJ (Chrysler Junior). Wendell had completed the wooden sections of the body using mostly rotted parts as patterns that he found at a location in South-ern New England. He then attached the steel ‘skin’ with screws and nails; just like the facto-ry did it in 1930. The CJ body arrived at John Johnson’s body shop in Enosburgh (Mountain View Autobody & Sign Design…check out the business card on page 14) last Fall for the finish paint work. The correct paint color was found, after a lot of research and 85 to 100 hours later the beautiful green finish with a darker green trim was completed (see page 16). Here is a part of the process at the body shop…

  1. The body was attached to a dolly while at the paint shop. Ken Labonty did most of the 70 plus hours of work on the body to get it ready for paint. The first task was to remove most of the filler that Wendell had applied during his hours of preparing it for paint. Johnson said he wanted to be certain the filler would be compatible with the layers of work that he would be adding. Johnson’s advice; if you are going to bring him something to paint…just prime the steel, he will do the rest. The plastic filler that Johnson uses is Everlast Rage and when that work was complete it was block sanded with an 18X4 inch pad four times using 36 grit to 180 grit paper.
  2. The next step was to use a relatively new process of ‘spraying’ the coats of filler on the body then going through the block sanding pro-cess again. Body filler resin is a thermal-set plastic, it cures with heat. In body-shop terms, the thermal-set filler allows it to “not-wake-up-again” so no matter what is added to the surface of the filler material, the filler will not break down. It is unbelievable the humps and bumps an automobile can acquire over the years, especially an 83 year old car, and that is where the filler comes in. Light is used to detect the body imperfections but a good body-man can simply use his hands to know where the work is needed.
  3. When the filler process was complete it was time for Ken to apply the Acrylic Primer Surfacer, at least three layers so the sanding pro-cess will not ‘break through’. Then more sanding with up to 300 grit paper.
  4. Next the Primer Sealer is applied and Ken’s job was done; the body was ready for the ‘base PPG 2-stage’ paint and then the clear coat. That is when Chad Johnson comes into the story, Chad is John’s broth-er and the resident paint expert. When the base coat is complete a clear coat is applied and for this CJ there was up to 30 hours of buffing that brought it to the finish you see today.

Wendell then brought his frame to the shop and everyone was involved in very carefully placing the body on it. Speaking to John Johnson later, he mentioned the work on Wendell’s car would have cost at least another 25% if it needed to be returned in a short or specific time. Having the car for these 11 months allowed him to bring it out when the shop was not busy instead of having his shop tied up with this one project. Something for all of us to think about when we send a project out.

So, where did Wendell get this 1930 CJ? It came from a VAE member who lives in the North East Kingdom, Dave Maunsel. Wendell got the car basically as a collection of parts and pieces, just like Dave had gotten it some 34 years earlier from a gent in Saxton Rivers, VT. Dave had collected additional needed parts while he had it along with hav-ing the engine rebuilt by Tri-Town Automotive in Brattleboro. Dave did work on the frame, hired a fellow to rework the doors and found a friend of Pevy Peake’s to do body work on the cowl, hood and rear deck. As the repaired car parts returned to the Maunsel home they found many places for storage….over the garage, in the cellar and even under some beds. When the collection of parts arrived at Wendell’s home it was discovered the doors were missing. Dave found them three days later in an upstairs closet.

Dave has always loved the Chrysler CJ since he had a 4-door sedan in the 60’s while attending UVM in Burlington. He bought the 4-door from a Shelburne dealer by the name of Henry Parker and drove it for 15 years. When asked about the best feature of the car Dave said the Lovejoy shocks were probably it. The ride is great and his car never breaks down.

So when Dave heard about the CJ Roadster for sale in 1979 he had great plans to be driving one again. The day Dave purchased the col-lection of parts there was no paper to be found to write a bill-of-sale so instead of paper a hub-cap was used. The Saxton River gent turned out selling what he called a “complete car” with a few important parts missing and no matter how hard Dave tried to get the parts he was not successful.

Dave was later able to find what he needed for parts in Monticello, NY; a rumble seat lid and many of the rear steel body parts. Asked where the bill-of-sale hub cap might be and Dave said it got miss-ing years ago.

You can see in the picture to the left the Chrysler CJ is now continuing it’s restoration journey. Finish assembly, the electrical, the upholstery, some chroming and maybe even a new top. Dave Maunsell said, in jest, that he should have included in the sale agreement that he be allowed to have the finished CJ to drive for three weeks…..wouldn’t that be a hoot!

AACA Hershey Fall Meet

What is a mile long, about a third of a mile wide, has just under 2000 vendor stalls and a car corral with 450 really neat cars for sale?

Yup, that is the “AACA Hershey Fall Meet”, “Fall Hershey Show” for short.

1906 Wayne
A 1906 Wayne waiting it’s turn on Stage. 2000 Waynes were made, this is one of eight remaining.
1929 Studebaker House Car
1929 Studebaker House Car. It weighs 12,500 Lbs., can sleep 4 people and has a bath tub. For Sale for $165,000

Remembering Bill Turner

1937 FordsBill had been looking for some time for a 37 Ford like he had in High school and one day in the mid 70s his friend Don Adams found this Ford Cabriolet in a barn on Dairy Hill in South Royalton, Vermont. Bill purchased the vehicle from Joe Dow for $1.00 and the promise to someday give him a ride in it. Joe had used the car for racing and had added the flashy red racing stripe.

When Bill purchased the car it was missing many parts, including the engine. He found a flathead V-8 and began to restore the Cabriolet. He was a machinist by trade and a wood worker (by hobby) so many of the tasks in fabricating the parts he needed came natural for him. Some 15 years later, in 1990, his body-off restoration was completed. The upholstery was done by LeBaron Bonney from Amesbury, Mass. The paint was done by Phil Gates of Royalton, the engine, transmission and all mechanicals were rebuilt by Bill.

Bill went on to show his car and return home with 1st and 2nd place ribbons in the two years after completing the restoration. He pass away in 1992. The car has since been maintained by his widow, Marge Turner, of East Bethel with necessary maintenance being done by close friend, Ken Best. Bill and Marge, his wife of 62 years, had been VAE members since the 70s and Marge has continued her membership since loosing Bill. Bill’s brother Richard was 2nd Vice-president in 1976. Bill even had plans to fly one day when he purchased his own plane in 1990 but never go to pursue his dream.

Years earlier, a short time after Bill got out of the military he worked for Ted Green Ford dealership in Stockbridge and continued a close relationship with them over the years. When the dealership celebrated it’s 100th anniversary this summer general manager Joanne Green Mills wanted Bill’s Ford Cabriolet to be part of the celebration. It was a great day for Marge and their beloved 37 Ford.

The VAE Mobile Museum & Classroom Vision

Started with a seed of an idea to “have our own museum”. During one of the discussions Gene Fodor spoke of a car club in New Jersey that has a “Museum on Wheels”. It was the Vintage Automobile Museum in Beachwood, N.J. (they are the folks whose museum was devastated by Hurricane Sandy just a few days after their grand opening). The idea started a chain of events that started with looking at everything from step vans to even fifty-cent tours of the UPS trucks you see driving around town. Gael Boardman was the chairman of the VAAS Board at the time and probably mentioned the exciting idea a few times at home when his son Owen happened to find a Bluebird bus for sale in the Plattsburg, NY area.

Thus, the picture you see here and on our Wheel Tracks front page. The VAE membership voted to purchase the bus at last November’s annual meeting and the journey was started!

The bus found it’s first temporary home at Duane and Marnita Leach’s home in Fairfax and then after leaving it’s mark (huge ruts in the Leach front yard) it made it’s way to Vermont Technical College to get a “look over” at the school’s auto tech garage. After a few repairs at VTC it moved to Tom Mchugh’s yard for a while and currently it is parked at Wendell and Mary Noble’s home. In the few short months since the VAE has owned the bus it has been cleaned up very nicely, some signs have been made for it’s exterior and some display cabinets have been installed. A tow hitch has also been installed if an old car needs a trailer ride to a classroom event.

It’s first big outing was at the Stowe Car Show where you might have seen it proudly parked by the front gate. It was open to the public in it’s “beginning form” for all to see and to share their vision of how we might proceed in our mobile museum and classroom project. Some visitors thought there should be lunch pails and books around, others thought we should have a gift shop and ice cream bar inside. Another was that we should have videos of past parades and car shows to view. Some advice on outside painting was to leave the yellow and paint the lower area green. Another idea was to do the outside in a vinyl wrap with old cars and car parts.

So now how does the ‘mobile museum project’ go forward? As you can see there are some great ideas and if you have been around the block a few times you know those ideas will give birth to other great ideas. A discussion with a Vermont career center auto tech instructor said it all. When he was told about our plans and how we could someday roll into his facility pulling a trailer with an antique car prepared to show his class “how they did it back then”. His response was that we could have his classroom as long as we would like. During the seventeen Golden Wrench Award presentations this year we met many top notch high school juniors and seniors with amazing abilities. One wonders if being exposed to our hobby if some of those students might get into the lucrative world of restoration?

Now we have to throttle back to the one-step-at-a-time pace. Where will our museum be parked, what color will it be, how will the inside be arranged to best serve our needs, who will drive it through the hills of Vermont?

Mobile MuseumHow do we raise the funds to complete our mobile museum? Checking with our treasurer there have been about $3000.00 contributed to date. You will soon have your chance to throw a few coins into the contribution pot. A fund raising campaign is being prepared as we speak.

If you would like to write a check today just write it to the:

VAAS
c/o Dick Wheatley
PO Box 180
Underhill, VT 05489

(Oh, by the way, you can write your contribution off on your taxes.)

White Kress Fire Truck

Tom Mclays’ White Kress Fire Truck

White Kress Fire TruckI first discovered the fire truck in 1974 in a shed in Washington, Vermont. It belonged to Frank Bushey, a school teacher from Bloomfield, Conn. Frank had purchased it to use in his Gremlin Camp for Young Boys. Instead it had rested in the shed for 23 years. I had surveyed and designed a pond for Frank at the time. A couple years later I was working on two more ponds in Orange and Washington and I stopped to visit with Frank while traveling by. I inquired when he was going to get the fire truck out and get it running? His answer.. “I’m going to sell it”. I agonized for a couple days and much to my wife, Shirley’s objections I bought it….I still loved her though . The date July 29, 1976. When I went to bring the truck home Frank said he would get the headlights. He had hidden them in a closet under a pile of house-hold goods, so as he said, “old man Miller couldn’t steal them” (A K Miller the Stutz man lived a mile away.) The lights were Gray and Da-vis 1912-13 Cadillac brass. My son, Tim, and I towed it home and began working on it. We tinkered on the motor and had it running in short order. Then began the process of restoring it. We disassembled the body, fenders and sand blasted everything. It was painted and put back together. As fate would have it, the fire chief from East Berkshire, Norm Lavallee, was at the Middlesex Fire Equipment where Tim worked at the time and he mentioned I had their first fire truck. Norm looked up some old pictures of the truck and told me to come up and we could search in the old fire house. We found most all of the old brass rails and fittings that had been taken off the truck when they sold it. What a discovery!!

Each summer Shirley and I would vacation in Maine. In my inquiries about White Kress Fire trucks I was referred to Harold Walker in Marblehead, Mass. Harold knew all the fire departments in Maine that had White Kress trucks and sent me the list. So each year we traveled to different locations and visited with the fire departments. Finally information came out that the truck came from Augusta. With that in hand we came up with old pictures of the truck. The folks in Augusta believe it was their first motorized fire truck.

It was fun to search and find missing pieces for the truck. The hose bracket came from an old Plainfield fire truck. The siren came from Roxbury. I found lanterns and nozzles at flea markets. A good friend from Suncook, NH sold me the lantern brackets I needed.

The steering wheel was an interesting event. When stored under the high drive** to the barn a beam broke one winter and fell across the steering wheel and dash board breaking the wheel into eleven pieces and gouging out a part of the dash. Frank had saved all the pieces of the wheel and I had them welded back together. When it came time to reassemble the wood parts of the wheel I found one was missing. For some reason I was looking over mechanical parts and there was the missing piece on the inside web of the frame. Talk about luck!

The truck is now back in Augusta Maine. I donated it to the Fire Department. I know it’s in a good home and will be well taken care of. I still miss it when I walk into the garage but it was more than I could handle at my age.

* Tom’s Pumper is the 2nd from the left pictured here in it’s early home in Augusta, Maine
** Some folks in Vermont call a ‘high drive’ a ‘wharfing’….it’s the ramp where one would drive a load of hay into the barn “hay mow”. The Picture at the top is of the Hartford Fire Station in Augusta, Maine early in the fire trucks history.

1928 Ford AA Dump Truck

The 1928 Ford AA Dump Truck“Don Adams’ Doodlebug”

These are some possibilities that Don Adams would not have his Doodlebug parked in his garage today…

  1. That our Vermonter Calvin Coolidge had not left a nice ‘surplus’ in our U.S. Treasury when he left his presidency in 1929.
  2. That our Washington politicians had not voted to give ‘war bonuses’ to all of our veterans returning from WW1 and then reneged on their promise.
  3. That our stock market crashed in 1929 and the ‘Great Depression’ took up most of the 1930s.
  4. The November 1927 flood did so much damage, especially in the Winooski River watershed area in central Vermont.

    Don Adams bought his Doodlebug from his brother-in-law, Bob Rowe of Montpelier, in 2008. Bob had done a lot of work on the vehi-cle since he purchased it in 2003. The story goes that the vehicle was purchased by a Cuttingsville gent at a government auction after the Waterbury dam was completed in 1938. The Cuttingsville gent bought a number of the construction dump trucks but they were in such bad condition he made Doodlebugs out of them. Doodlebugs at the time were used by many farmers to replace horses. You can see an ad on page 12 where for only $195 you could buy a “Staude Make-a-tractor” kit and plow with your Ford the next day!

    Don’s Doodlebug was made from a 1928 Ford AA one and one half ton dump truck (serial # AA65814). It has 40 Hp, a 4 speed transmission and very stiff suspension. No one knows when this truck was put to work on dam construction but we do know there were three dams involved and 184 dump trucks were leased by the Corps of Engineers when the first dam construction started in 1933. The first dam to be built was the East Barre Dam, the 2nd was the Wrightsville Dam and the last was the Waterbury Dam. When did Don’s AA start work…we don’t know, but we do know that between 1933 and 1938 some 4 million yards of material was hauled to build these dams. A lot of trips for trucks with a 4 yard capacity!

    So….“who” built these three dams? Most everyone thinks they were built by ‘civilians’ in the Civilian Conservation Corp. Very few ’civilian’ were involved, but instead were veterans from WW1. When the veterans started returning from the war they started lining up to get their promised “war bonuses” but there were none. The politicians had disappeared with the promise and the bonus. Coolidge had built a fairly nice treasury surplus during his time as president and the Congress and Senate spent much of their time figuring ways to spend it to make votes. The mi-nute Coolidge left, the war bonus was passed with much funfair. When a large group of war vets marched on Washington in 1932 for their war bonuses they were ’run off’ causing much embarrassment to the folks in power. The next year President Roosevelt decided to allow these older vets into the CCC which was designed to put young non-vets to work. Some 25,000 (out of the 4 million) WW1 veterans were allowed into the CCCs to earn a living. A very large group of these veterans came to Vermont from all over the United States to live in CCC camps and work on the dam construction. Vermonters of-ten made comments about how lucky they were to have these ’older’ vets in the work camp instead of ’young rowdy’s that many other states had to deal with. In fact over the five years that some 15,000 war vets came and went in the camps, other than some public drunk-enness there was only one crime reported. A prize chicken was stolen in the Barre area and blamed on someone in the camps.

    When construction began there were very few mechanized vehicles to help do the work. Some 2500 men used axes, shovels, picks, grub-hoes, bars, sledges, drills and 600 wheelbarrows to do the work. Then came the 184 dump trucks, 16 steam shovels, 4 draglines, the bulldozers and the huge cement rollers to pack the earth. All three dams are packed earth structures with Waterbury having the largest in the country at the time. Most of the men had wives and kids at home and they were able to make a living during the terrible depression. The dams were built be-cause of the 27 flood devastation and the decision to bring in the war vets. You wonder how many families survived the depression because of Don Adams’ Doodlebug…

    (From the editor, some depression and CCC facts vary depending on the publication)