VAE Bridge Celebration

ida wolcott wendellFrom Granddaughter Kris Trombley… ”My grandmother, Ida Wolcott Wendell, was 15 years old when she attended the Crown Point bridge opening in 1929. She has many memories of the day including having a picnic with her family. She remembers watching the parade at the foot of the bridge on the New York side and remembers seeing, then Gov. Roosevelt in the parade. She also recalls seeing soldiers and scouts in the parade. My grandmother grew up in Crown Point, NY and later moved to Ticonderoga. She married Thomas Wendell. They were married for 72 years before he passed away in 2006. My grandmother was a seamstress.
Long before the first Crown Point bridge opened, her grandfather, ran the sail ferry transporting passengers between NY and VT. I felt very proud and honored to spend the day with my grandmother as we rode in the parade celebrating the opening of the new Crown Point bridge. Thank you so much.
(This 29er and her Granddaughter rode with Gary & Nancy Olney)


bill james ford model TFrom Gary Fiske… I got lucky at the Bridge Celebration. Bill James of Bristol, VT. agreed to ride with me. I was able to learn just a little of this gentle-man’s 100 years and because of this I will remember him for the rest of my time. Bill will be 101 years old this July. He drives his pickup and Buick where he needs to go, in fact he told me he would be changing the oil in his Buick on Monday… himself! Bill told me while the 1929 bridge was being built he would come by after hours and walk the board cat-walks between the girders to get a close-up view. That is when he found he had no problems with heights and later spent his career as a lineman for the CVPS power company. Bill lost his wife of many years not long ago but has a daughter that he lovingly says ’bosses’ him around and watches over him. This was Bill’s first ride in a Model T.  I am not great in crowds but Bill is a natural, waving and smiling to everyone. Bill James made my day.


1929 plymouth Touring carFrom Wendell Noble… “Our participation in the Champlain Bridge celebration was a great experience for all of us. We wanted to get as many ‘20s vintage cars there as possible to contribute to the historic educational content of the event. Sometime during preparation I realized that my contribution would not be limited by the number of my cars, but finding people to drive them. By enlisting friends and neighbors, I got three cars successfully down and back. A wonderful couple of ‘29ers rode across the bridge in the back seat of my ’29 Plymouth touring car. The front passenger seat was empty though. My wife Mary was nowhere to be found. She had chosen to go up-scale and ride with Christina and Paul McCaffrey in their Bentley. For Lew Zeno, driving my ’29 Plymouth roadster, there were no ‘29ers left so he had a kilted bag piper riding in the rumble seat. Clark Wright did just fine with my ’28 Dodge Bros Coupe until the next day when it succumbed to vapor lock. On our way across the bridge, I heard one spectator say, “That’s amazing, none of them have broken down yet.” I scolded him for such talk.
crown point bridge opening

Infamous Lemons: 1950 Rover Whizzard

The Rover Whizzard was a turbine-engine car, and was first unveiled at Silverstone Airport, in England, in 1950. That such a conservative automaker as Rover would come out with a turbine car was a sign of the times, and in a sense, the car was a product of the transportation industry as a whole.

The question of motive power – not only for cars, but for airplanes and railroad trains – was much debated at the time. With aircraft, the advent of the turbine-jet engine promised a bright future, as jet aircraft attained previously unattainable speeds.

The automotive industry was facing a need for ever more efficient power plants that would deliver good performance even in lower-priced cars (thanks to the improvements in highways, and a post-war milieu that emphasized power and speed).

If steam pistons could be replaced with turbine blades in a locomotive, why not in an automobile engine? It would be wonderful for sales, too, directly borrowing the then-tremendous glamour of the jet aircraft as well.

Thus the impetus was supplied for Rover to design and realize a turbine engine for their Whizzard. This car represented a few modifications on the basic Rover shape of the time. The Whizzard, aka “Jet 1”, could achieve 93 mph but was gas-hungry, getting only five miles to the gallon.

Once Rover was awarded the DeWar Trophy for their engineering daring, the company went ahead with another turbine project, the “Jet 2” which featured a somewhat upgraded turbine in a sedan body that was the focus of much publicity.

In 1961 Rover brought out the T4 which seem to have borrowed much of its styling from the Citroen… Rover claimed they had almost solved the turbine problems with this car and to prove their point, ran one at Le Mans.

The T4 was the last domestic turbine car that Rover attempted… the cost of development was too high and the car’s performance did not justify its heavy fuel consumption.

State of the VAE

State of the club message for 2003 and the first 50 years of action since the club’s founding in 1953. Presented to the Board of Directors, January 5, 2004.

First let me thank and congratulate all those members that have helped establish the VAE over our history and especially in our golden year 2003. It has been a good term and I feel, a great year. Praise goes to our outgoing officers and an eager welcome to those incoming folks who will keep our banners flying.

Special thanks to Sandy Lambert, who with a little help from Ellen Emerson, has done a great job as Secretary. This is one of the more difficult jobs in an organization such as ours and her work is appreciated. She and Dan also gave us a great Christmas party. Thank you!

Conception Conti, Tom McHugh and Fred Cook gave us a great 50th Book along with an active committee with kudos to Jim Sears (the roster guy), Jim and Nancy Willett and Francine and Graham Gould. VP Ray Tomlinson was also there and helped with special products and running commentary.

Taking just the year 2003, my nomination for “Enthusiast of our Golden Year”, is Ellen Emerson. Responsible for Wheel Tracks and our web site, Ellen has also done much more… enthusiastically. She has taken a lot of the Shelburne Show weight (notice her last years work there), has filled in for Sandy, has made all kinds of meetings, has volunteered to host a monthly meet in 2004, etc. Ellen is always upbeat, fun and really likes cars. The club salutes you… Ellen.

Our two major car shows continue to be big and successful events. Stowe maintains its place as the premier Northern New England old car event. Tom Maclay and Dick Currier continue to be the primary force behind this event… with the help of many, many members. There are some concerns about Stowe, however. The club will be facing some decisions about our relationship with the Stowe Area Association… this needs work. Also there is always discussion about growth, location, events, and judging. Member input is welcomed. The Stowe Show committee meets a lot throughout the year. Those with interest should contact one of the co-chairs: Tom Maclay or Dick Currier.

Shelburne is new enough to continue to be a “work in process”. This show is unique in location and presentation and holds a big future for the VAE. Our relationship with the Shelburne Museum alone is noteworthy. Our future as a club interested in transportation is only enhanced by our friendship and co-operation with a transportation oriented museum like Shelburne. More about this in a moment… first thanks to our Shelburne founding co-chairs Bill Erskine and Avery Hall, who, claiming semi-retirement, are still providing the organization and leadership to mount this big project. There is exciting potential in the Shelburne Show… and now with an extended time and hub-tours bringing in new participants. I feel that Shelburne is just beginning what will make it a “Mecca” event for old car people.

The “little sister” event in our show calendar is Thunder Road. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Gene and Lucille Napoliello this event will become in 2004 an event beyond a monthly VAE meet. With help from Fred Cook and VAE founding member, Thunder Road owner/operator Ken Squire, this meet fills a need in the clubs activities. It is here that we can host cars and owners that haven’t historically been active parts of our club. Later cars, younger owners and a contemporary venue indicate our general automobile enthusiasm and the fund raising aspect is more than a worthy cause. I recommend that we all support Thunder Road and welcome the results.

Monthly meetings are the glue that holds our club together. I wish more members would get out more often as we have a lot of fun… and most of us get to drive some favored rig. But not having a car ready is no excuse for not coming. Show up “modern” and chances are there will be all kinds of places to ride in style with another proud member. Our roster lists over 400 families. Our average monthly meeting attendance is just under 50 people. If you talk the talk… you should try the walk… oops… the ride. Please come.

There are several additional concerns… Les Skinner, esteemed VAE Treasurer, is having a difficult round with the IRS. Non-profit organizations like ours are often subject to review. We do handle a lot of money due to our major shows and Les’ job is not easy. He will keep us posted as to the outcome.

As President through the past year I have heard a lot of comment and conversation about judging at VAE events. It appears impossible to please all – especially those having judging experience in other car clubs – and feelings run quite high. If you are unhappy with the results don’t go away mad. I thank those that have taken the time to write or call me about judging and I continue to feel at a loss as to just what to do about it. I am impressed with the work Gene Napoliello has done on a “judging manual” for general judging by novices. It explains just what the criteria are for any event that the manual is used for. Do we need to judge more? Less? “Owner-class” judge? I don’t know. I do know that those attending and asking to be judged expect to be judged, like to win and basically attend with this in mind. We need to have some major discussions on this topic – the sooner the better.

There has been some discussion this past year about the future of the VAE… direction, projects, membership, etc. Our Futures Committee has met and one large thing they have brought forward is the desire to think about and possibly plan for some kind of permanent clubhouse facility for our group. Talk has stretched this thinking over anything from a library room for auto related literature, VAE memorabilia, etc. to something much larger to possibly include available work space, car display area and general museum. Good thinking – all.

The Officers and Board have not yet officially heard from the Audit Committee. Long time members Dave Otis, Lou Young and Chair, Leo LaFerriere make up this group and have the task of making sure that our records are understandable and that our financial house and its reported status are in order. This year, in addition to being reactive to our records, Leo has raised some questions about fiscal policy and made some initial suggestions that may find their way into a formal report. Thanks, Leo and committee for the extra time and effort contributed to our club.

The Bylaws Committee (Fred Cook and long-time bylaw people Adrian West and Mary Jane Dexter) have made some suggested changes to our bylaws (published in the December Wheel Tracks) and after some discussion at the annual meeting are refining them for presentation to the membership early this year. It is important that we keep our governing documents current to the clubs needs and direction.

Before his unfortunate death, long time member Joe Bettis spoke to me about how good it felt to be remembered by the club with calls, cards, and letters…and from our Sunshine chair, Julie Greenia. Julie has done an excellent job reminding those with burdens that we old-car people are interested, friendly and concerned. It makes us a better organization. Thanks Julie.

As incoming Board Chairman, my interest in the future only increases. 2004 is my 50th anniversary with our club and I feel a strong personal investment in what has been and what I owe to the future. The following are my personal feelings and are offered to maintain ongoing thinking and conversation about what we might do in the time to come.

The largest looming question is membership. Although our 400 families appear to show interest and support for our club and hobby, we are aging. “Families” doesn’t seem to include our “kids” as much as we would like and we are not planning well for new torchbearers. People… we need to take this seriously. Old cars are great and another generation will discover them ONLY if we make it a guided discovery. Young people are hands on… we need to let them get their hands on… touch, ride, drive, listen, understand and want an older car.

A related topic might be the thinking coming from the Futures Committee. Jan Sander and company have generated a lot of interest in the clubhouse idea. If we build a clubhouse without new younger members to use and support it, it could look like a mausoleum fairly soon. The positive idea of making a large commitment to a major project is interesting and challenging. This mental exercise has started me thinking about how best we might plan in this direction.

First, I believe that there is probably some money available to fund a well-planned project. Gifts, grants, subscriptions, etc might actually produce quite a lot. The larger problem would be support and maintenance of any facility. We aren’t big enough or rich enough to do this. Here at the beginning of this thinking I would suggest the following… find a partner group or organization that could provide what we can’t. Fund the lion’s share of the upfront cost and rely on the partner’s resources to keep it going. For starters, if we were looking for just library and meeting room space, it could be a chamber of commerce, a corporation with automotive or historical interest, etc. If we wanted more… to include an automotive display area for example, if could be a fairground, theme park or museum. I haven’t turned the “available work space” corner yet, but there are probably possibilities out there as well. My early on interest favors the alliance with a museum… and you can probably guess which one.

2004 President Ray Tomlinson is very interested in a clubhouse project and has investigated several possible sites for our use. If you have thoughts or interest in this, contact Ray or Jan Sander. Ray may well continue with a Futures Committee and your contributions would be valuable.

To sum, I believe that the VAE is presently healthy, mostly happy and adequately wise. I salute our founding members, commend our present officers, and thank our active members. It has been fun to help steer in our 50th year, and as a board member I look for more in 2004.

Automobiles: Wasp

Excerpts from the book by Keith Marvin © 1961

The Wasp was unique in several ways. For one thing, it was designed for those who wanted something, which would transcend or surpass even the most personal examples of other makes. Custom coachwork could be had for a price, and purchasers of such high priced automobiles as Packard, Pierce-Arrow and the American built Rolls Royce were able to pay to satisfy their desire for custom-tailored, one of a kind coachwork, including such features as built in bars, special brocade or silk upholstery.

If a client couldn’t obtain exactly what he or she desired through the custom tailored approach on a given chassis, another make might be chosen in its place as a second choice. Such was not the case with the Wasp. There would be NO second choice. If the buyer wished for exclusiveness with no ifs, ands or buts, and the Wasp appealed, that was it. As such, it was perhaps the only American car of its time without a rival in this field.

A spin-off to this desire for exclusiveness sometimes entailed having a car built which looked like something else or nothing in particular. Such was the case with a noted financier who liked the appearance of the Mercedes, but in the period immediately following WWI did not want to own a German-made car. There was a simple solution: he had a special radiator made, directly copying that of the Mercedes, and attached it to his Packard Twin Six.

A second point that set the Wasp apart was its appearance, combining individuality in concept and an originality in every aspect of its design, a rather startling beauty without sacrificing utility and at the same time, avoiding eccentricity.

Third, the car was only advertised selectively as its builder had early in his business career come to the conviction that if such promotion was to be employed, it should be without cost. In point of fact, it should be free. Therefore, he successfully arranged for coverage with illustrations and text in the automotive press as well as in the prestigious magazines Vanity Fair and Vogue.

An exclusive design feature of the Wasp was its unique placement of the St. Christopher Medal on the dashboard of every car sold. There were two good reasons for this. First, Karl Martin had designed and struck a bronze St. Christopher Medal for Army and Navy personnel in WWI and had a number of these left over. Secondly, a religious man in his own right and a communicant of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bennington, he always carried such a medal in his personal cars and he wished Wasp owners to do likewise. It was said (but never proven) that he would have refused sale of a Wasp to any purchaser who objected to the presence of the medal.

Enthusiast of the Month: Rod Rice

Rod Rice 2003Hopefully our readers have followed the monthly “Big E” (E for enthusiasm as in the VAE) awards and have enjoyed remembering or meeting just a few of the outstanding people that have made our club the super organization that we all enjoy. All awarded are deserving… and many others are as well, but there can be no disputing this month’s winner.

From founding father to dependable cheerleader, this month’s winner tops any list. To find out “who” and “why” read now what Founder and First VAE President Ken Gypson has to say about our Enthusiast of the Month, Year, Decade, Golden Anniversary and hopefully for life.

Ken writes:

“As we go through life we, of course, meet and get to know many individuals. Some that in all honesty we could do without and others that make you glad knowing them and make life pleasurable. Happily, there are also those who, in knowing them, become extra special and close friends.

When Anne and I moved to Vermont – my taking a job with the now long defunct Burlington Daily News and Vermont Sunday News; we of course, severed geographic ties with the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley. One day when seeking to sell some display advertising space to a concern I somehow got introduced to a local automobile enthusiast who happened to be there.

After all these years I can’t recall the details of how it all came about, but it was to become the meeting of one of those extra special individuals.

As time passed and the friendship grew, the most interesting events began to unfold. One of the first, of course, was this gentleman’s help getting a birthday party organized by inviting fellow automobile enthusiasts. As most know, the party gave birth to the VAE. This camaraderie, naturally paved the way for even greater indulgence in the hobby.

Immersion in the hobby is bound to get one involved in all kinds of goings on – frustrating, humorous, expensive, interesting (to say the least) and rewarding – all to be shared with fellow enthusiasts. The gentleman I noted earlier and who became “extra special” had a keen sense of humor. When sometimes I would be deep in trying to sort out a problem on the Franklin, the silence would be broken by this gentleman proclaiming “Glad to see you doing something even if it’s wrong”.

As time passed I got blamed for being the one that got him interested in British machinery. Noting the Brit entanglement, one evening our family dined with the gentleman and his family. It was in the middle of winter and after dinner the kids were bedded down for a nap. Being a dutiful father I ventured out to warm up the Hillman Minx.

The Minx had a pull cable to engage the starter… so I pulled the knob on the facia (Brit for dashboard) and lo and behold, the cable just kept coming out! Our gentleman (smart too) despite the sub-zero weather got things hooked back up and soon we were able to head home.

Handling the fledgling VAE as its first President offered many challenges and fortunately this gentleman was always at hand to help give advice and step up to any given task. Every club has need for a newsletter. Our gentleman helped recruit the needed workers and spent many hours at the Daily News offices to put together the printed communications. (At this point I’ve got to add in reference to the newsletter – “You’ve come a long way baby”).

This gentleman had a bit of land and buildings in Starksboro. During one winter he wanted to “check” things there so off we went – I knew snow could get deep – but that deep?! It took so long just to navigate in and out of the territory that we needed nourishment. Finding a local shop open we regained our spirit eating Fig Newtons. It’s the one time in my life I’ve been able to stomach them but our gentleman relished them! One happening that clearly shows the mettle of this man began one evening…

Once again we were there for dinner when a phone call came from a mutual friend. It seems the friend had spotted a vehicle in a Vergennes commercial car shop that he believed was one that our gentleman had purchased – but was supposed to be still with the seller and to be picked up later. This vehicle was not one that could be called “mint” by even the slickest used car salesman but this was a situation that demanded action.

Rapidly collecting spares that might be needed, our gentleman, the mutual friend and I headed for Vergennes. It seems that one of those individuals we could do without had told a “cock and bull” story to the seller and had the Vergennes garage retrieve it–bringing it to the garage where our mutual friend had spotted it.

Arriving at the garage our (honest) gentleman tried to convince the garage proprietor that it was his car – not the fellow who had given him the order to tow it in. The proprietor was not about to agree with our gentleman but during the ongoing discussion feverish work on the vehicle was in progress. The proprietor finally went charging out noting he was going to get the gendarmes! With all quickly in order and our gentleman at the helm it was like the green flag dropped for “go”.

Naturally, nothing like this could take place unless the weather was bad. It was raining real hard, but our intrepid gentleman put on his leather helmet and goggles and headed for back roads. This vehicle had no top and if I recall correctly, no doors. It really was a parts car, period! We followed to provide some light for navigation. The sight from our dry comfortable seats was something to behold. Here, a picture would be worth a thousand words. I never knew so many back (and muddy) roads existed.

Finally our gentleman came to a friend’s farm – pulled in and tucked it behind a barn. We found out later that there was a search for our gentleman by the gendarmes – but obviously to no avail. There were many, many other times and events that could be recounted but it would need more space than Wheel Tracks can provide. The events described here, as with the unwritten ones, have a very special meaning because of sharing them with our gentleman.

He is a true enthusiast having served the VAE very well over the years and is extra special in every other way. I, of course, am talking about none other than Rod Rice.”

Lots of other members could share many interesting and fun things about Rod. Doris Bailey (Burlington’s first commercial lady automobile mechanic – story later) is a neighbor of the Rice Autoworks and offers the following:

“To me, Rod Rice has always been the quintessential automobile enthusiast. Over many years he has acquired a number of wonderful cars, from a 1913 Stevens-Duryea Phaeton (my favorite) to the 1954 MG-TF and including his redoubtable 1933 Harley. Being a good, careful mechanic, he has maintained his collection well. If you talk with Rod about your own automotive trials and triumphs, he will always bring a fund of relevant information or an anecdote pertaining to your particular vehicle. Our members are very grateful to both Rod and Ken Gypson for creating the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts in the format that has endured til today.”

Take a tip from Doris and when given the chance to talk with Rod do so. He is at many VAE activities and is knowledgeable, interesting and has a great sense of humor. And now from all the members, officers, and board let us join Ken and Doris, and with three cheers and one cheer more, award our 50th Year “Biggest E” Award to our friend and founder, Rod Rice. We really mean it.

Shelburne 2004 Planning Underway

The 2nd meeting of the Shelburne Planning Committee happened Tuesday November 18th and was attended by, Hugh Bargiel, Andy Barnett, Ellen Emerson, Avery Hall, Bryce Howells, Joe Rigg, and Jim Sears. Hugh hosted the event at his gorgeous establishment, The Strong House Inn in Vergennes.

Working from “the list” of responsibilities our group began to put names to items that need attention. Avery was pleased to announce that Julie Greenia will be continuing with Steve Skinner’s Registration Committee to take care of pre-registration tasks (Thank You Julie!). A quick phone also confirmed Ray Tomlinson to head up the Car Corral and Tom McHugh will run the Flea Market. (Thank you both!)

The committee also discussed how to best contact other car clubs to be invited and decided that we should compile a list of clubs and their contacts so that we can get in touch with them about the Shelburne Show. If possible we’d like to get a copy of their mailing list, to directly invite individual members. If that’s not an option we’ll simply ask that they place some information in their newsletters. If you are a member of another car club (I know a lot of us are) and you would like them to be invited, please contact me (Ellen) with the name and address.

Hugh mentioned that in addition to the 5 tours put on last year we will be adding an additional tour that will include a ferry trip over to Plattsburg. We’d like to put together a brochure for the tours alone that includes pictures, a list of all tours and who to contact. This could be a full size brochure or a smaller page that could be used as an insert.

Other items for discussion were the standardization of plaque sizes. We currently have 3 different sizes, which could be reduced to one size, which should save money on the wood for the backing. The committee will look into how we can best save money on awards without reducing the significance of a First Place versus a Third.

Awards will feature last year’s “Best of Show” winner, which is standard operating procedure. Dash plaques will use a picture from the museum, including the Ticonderoga, which is easily recognizable as part of the museum and which falls into the transportation category.

The committee will also look into purchasing something that can be given to all entrants who go through the parade but who do not place in their class. It was suggested that a blue ribbon imprinted with “Thank You For Participating” might be appropriate. Another suggestion was a small bottle of maple syrup since it’s representative of Vermont to many people, especially those outside the state.

The next meeting date has been set for Tuesday, January 13, 2004 where we’ll discuss the budget and hopefully add some more volunteer names to “the list”. If you’d like to volunteer please contact me (Ellen) and I will put you in touch with the proper person!

Enthusiast of the Month: Tom Maclay

[ November 2003 ]

Tom Maclay in 1989VAE records seem a little hazy in establishing the exact date that this month’s Big “E” winner joined our organization. Who would have thought on that date that this new member would bring so much to our hobby and club? This committee has been too embarrassed to ask Tom himself just when he handed over his first dues… but we are sure glad he did. This is what long-time member Mary Jane Dexter has to say about Tom…


“Maclay” is now synonymous with the Stowe Show. Scotsmen for centuries made enormous contributions to the modern Western world. And we have our own Scotsman in our midst who has an uncanny sense of how to make something work well at the Stowe Show. You can call him hardworking, able to organize, knowing how to systematize ideas, capable of getting people to work for him, and you would not be far from the mark.

Tom began his Stowe Show chairmanship with a vacation atmosphere, pressing his family into service for a “week in the country” on the show field! Members of the club were drawn by this kind of Maclay inspired fun/work plan, and the project was up and growing. He seems to be able to keep things under control, except the weather. Yet, even through the mists and showers, dust and mud, Tom always manages to keep his calm and finds the best possible solutions for the problems.

Hats off to Tom Maclay for his many contributions to the VAE, but most of all for his success in steering the cars in the right and proper direction during the Stowe Show.


Mary Jane has known Tom for years and years and knows where of she speaks. Fred Cook has known Tom for a lot less time but his following conclusions seem much the same. Fred is not usually known as being a man of few words… but he’s nailed Tom pretty well with the following 15…

Consensus builder
dedicated family man
compassionate
quick
seeks no glory for himself
fair
highly respected

Board Member, meet organizer, planner and general all around Big “E” guy. To quote him from our 50th year book he has requested that his last ride be in his White-Kress fire truck which is always in the Stowe parade with him at the wheel. Tom… the White has a lot of good miles left in it, and so do you. Thanks for all you have done, are doing and will do. Thanks for being a VAE Big “E”.

Early Automotive Milestones

1900 – Delco invents the first electrical distributor for automobile engines.

1901 – Olds begins production of the famous Oldsmobile Curved Dash runabout. Speedometers used for the first time. Ettore Bugatti designed his first car.

1902 – Henry Leland replaces Henry Ford as chief engineer at the Detroit Automobile Company, which is renamed the Cadillac Automobile Co.

1903 – Bathtub maker David Dunbar Buick starts a Buick plant in Flint, Michigan, and sells it to William Durant the next year. Glass windshields are used on autos for the first time. First cross country trip by automobile. Henry Ford founds the company bearing his name.

1904 – Studebaker introduces a gasoline auto. Cadillac is among the first to use a steering wheel instead of a tiller. First production Maxwells roll off the line in NY. Rolls-Royce Limited founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce in Britain.

1905 – First transcontinental auto race sponsored by Oldsmobile.
Cars could be purchased on an installment plan.

1906 – Ford uses vanadium on the Model N-a heat-treated steel that is lighter and stronger than conventional steel.

1907 – A four-cylinder engine with sliding transmission introduced by Buick.

1908 – Steering wheels moved to the left-hand side on most autos. First grooved automobile tire appears. Buick owner William C. Durant forms General Motors. Ford Model T goes on sale for $850: with 20 horsepower, top speed of 45 mph, & 30 mpg. It sold 10,600 units the first year.

1909 – Automobile storage battery invented by Thomas A. Edison.

Infamous Lemons: 1938 Phantom Corsair

1938 Phantom CorsairThe Corsair, based on a Cord automobile chassis, was more an out-right failure of styling than of design. The Cord Company had been responsible for some very good-looking automobiles. This was party because Cord chassis, with their high-performance engines and exotic front-wheel-drive configuration, were naturals for any designer with a yen for sleekness and and exclusivity. Among the designers Cord cooperated with were Gordon Buehrig and Carl Van Ranst, who turned out notable designs for the L-29, the 810 and 812 Berline.

There were, however, those designers who had dreams of beauty and elegance but were unable to realize them – either through their own love of idiosyncrasy, or through lack of talent. Perhaps the worst designs were those perpetrated by the designer with zeal but unclear purpose

The design was supposed to be a sleek, futurist bombshell of a car, powered by a high-performance Lycoming straight-eight engine. In a way it was ahead of its time with completely faired-in fenders, and a low silhouette. Its proportions, however, were all wrong, and the fender sides dropped straight down from the windows like the sand guards on British Crusader tanks of the period – an effect that was only emphasized by the full skirts on the front and rear wheels.

The headlights were like cat’s eyes, vertical slit units set in sockets that were molded bulbs of metal. They strongly resembled the eyes of a semi-submerged hippopotamus and evoked a sense of bemused loneliness. As a whole the car looked fat and behind the strange front end, the sides ran back in unbroken plainness, without even door handles in the seamless panels.

A limited production run was planned but never realized. This may be due to the car’s reception in its big chance at a public-relations coup… the car was featured in the 1938 Selznick International Films motion picture “Young at Heart” staring Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Janet Gaynor. The Corsair emerged from this venture with a new, popular moniker – “The Flying Wombat”.

Increase VTC Scholarship Donation

Vermont Life Magazine is partnering with the VAE to raise money for the Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund. Vermont Life is offering VAE members a discounted price for a one-year subscription, just $13.95. That’s $2.00 off the regular $15.95 subscription price.

And with every new paid subscription, renewal or gift subscription from this offer received by January 1, 2004 – Vermont Life Magazine will donate $5.00 to the VAE’S Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund!

Call 1-800-284-3243 by January 1, 2004 and give the operator code “VAE03” to subscribe, renew or to give gift subscriptions. Gift donors will receive gift announcement cards.

For each address outside the US, please add $6.00. Vermont Life Magazine accepts VISA, MasterCard, and Discover Card or if you prefer, you may request to be billed.