Fred and BJ Gonet’s 1908 Type “E” Locomobile

fred gonetThe Locomobile automobile (1900-1929) finds its evolution linked to the indomitable and identical Stanley twins, F.E. and F.O. In 1896, after re-locating their successful photographic dry plate business to Watertown, Ma., from Kingfield, Me., the Stanleys started experimenting with a steam propulsion automobile and by 1899, were building cars for the public. In the same year, the Editor and Publisher of Cosmopolitan Magazine, John Walker, was also I interested in getting into the burgeoning automobile business, and approached the Stanley brothers with an offer to purchase their company. After repeated offers and their constant refusal to sell, the Stanleys were quickly tiring of the annoying Mr. Walker. In an attempt to get rid of him, they countered with an exorbitant price of $250,000 ( $7.1 million today) and a term of 10 days. To their surprise, Walker jumped at it, and along with Amzi Barber, ”the asphalt king”, purchased the company from the Stanleys and changed its name to Locomobile. With only a one-year “non-compete clause” in the sales agreement, the wiley Stanleys were right back in business.

1908 locomobile type eWithin the year, Walker and Barber split, after Barber discovered that he had been hoodwinked into paying the full $250,000, and Walker had invested nothing. Barber ended up owning Locomobile outright, and moved it to Bridgeport, Ct. Walker went on to build the Mobile steam car in Tarrytown, NY., but by 1903, he was finished. Barber desperately needed someone who knew more about automobiles than he did, so he hired an electrician/mechanic by the name of Andrew Ricker, who then traveled to Europe to “observe” automobile designs, specifically Mercedes. Locomobile continued with both steam and gasoline engines until 1905, when they switched to gas engines exclusively, fighting several Mercedes patent infringements along the way due to Ricker’s keen sense of “observation”. The “Type E” was designed for this year and continued through 1908, with many mechanical improvements. It utilized a 15/20 HP “T Head” four cylinder engine, dual chain drive rear axles, and a 3 speed sliding gear transmission, which evolved into a four speed selective gear transmission in 1908. Ignition was a “make and break” type running off the intake camshaft, with the hammer and anvil spark inside the combustion chamber. Spark timing was adjusted by sliding the cam back and forth. (Google “make and break engine” and watch Greg Cone demonstrate his 1908 Matheson’s “make and brake” engine). Locomobile’s slogan was “Easily The Best Built Car In America”. They were indeed, exceptionally well built and expensive, utilizing bronze castings for the crankcase, transmission case, steering box, etc. Although only a 15/20 HP engine, the “T Head” accelerates to a very comfortable cruising speed of 45 MPH, as was evidenced on my recent Fall day outing.

The story behind Fred and BJ’s Locomobile is filled with all sorts of characters. Soon after WWII, a widow from Wycliffe, NJ. contacted Henry Austin Clark, who owned the Long Island Automobile Museum, and wanted to get rid of her late husband’s 1908 Locomobile. She would be willing to part with it for $1, just to make the transaction legal. This was common at the time and many cars were acquired this way after the war. The famous opera singer and collector, James Melton had many people give him early cars. Remember, these vehicles were only 40 years old at the time and pretty well “used and abused”. Apparently Clark took the car and in ’52 sold it to Lou Schaffer, also of Glen Cove, Long Island. Schaffer spent the next 2 years “restoring” the Locomobile. Having only 1905 literature, he made fenders and acquired items that fit the earlier style. In the early ‘50’s, restorations would often copy the oldest styles trying to make them as “antique” as possible. Schaffer finished the restoration in time to participate in the 1954 Glidden tour. Ironically, Fred Gonet grew up only 3 miles from the Locomobile he would eventually own 30 years later. In 1956 it was sold to a John Snyder, who in turn sold it to his son in Scarsdale, NY.

Enter, the infamous character Morris Burrows who had a summer house in Springfield, Vt. Morris was a brilliant, yet quite eccentric mechanical engineer. He was known to have bought a new Porsche 911 when they were first introduced in 1963, ordering an extra engine with it so he could dismantle it to study how it was constructed. Being a subscriber to Car and Driver, in 1963 he came across an ad for a 1908 Locomobile. For some time he had decided he would like a brass era automobile and decided that Locomobile was a car worthy of him. He paid the lofty sum of $1200, and the Locomobile moved to Vt. Morris and his wife drove the car many miles over the next several years. In 1970, his wife passed away, and he re-married, but his new bride was afraid to ride in the car because it lacked front doors, so the Locomobile was put up on blocks in the basement. During this time, Fred Gonet had moved to Vt. and became involved with antique automobiles and motorcycles, eventually starting what is today known as G & G Restorations of Proctorsville, Vt., with his cousin John.

As time went on, Fred let it be known that he would like to find a brass era car. Every year, Harry Olney (Gary’s father) would register and insure his 1910 Reo for Fred to drive around during the summer, but he wasn’t interested in selling. Along comes Ruffus Estey, an old car guy who is a friend of both Morris Burrows and Fred. Morris is now in his 80’s and ill, and Ruffus informs him that he knows of a very knowledgeable young enthusiast that would be a good candidate for the Locomobile. Morris is kind of an irascible old fellow who was known to scold people if they ventured too close to one of his antiques, didn’t especially like children, and could otherwise be a grumpy old curmudgeon( like many of us). Morris agrees to let Ruffus introduce Fred. Being a quick study and fearing the worst, Fred does his homework on Locomobiles. After the introduction, Morris starts grilling Fred, asking him about his feelings on certain engineering aspects regarding the Type E Locomobile, what his plans for the car would be, what he thought about the incorrect 1905 style fenders and the other incorrectly dated items on the car, etc. After a few hours, the meeting ended. Several days later, another meeting, and more questions for Fred. This goes on a few more times, and now Morris wants to meet BJ, Fred’s wife. The meeting goes well, and Morris actually asks BJ if she would like to sit in the car (still up on blocks). BJ looks at Fred, he shrugs, and so up she climbs into the Locomobile. Morris is concerned that she might feel uncomfortable about the lack of front doors, but BJ is unfazed. As the meeting draws to a close, Morris states he would like to meet their 2 children. Knowing of his unwavering love of children, Fred and BJ agreed, and hoped for the best. Well, as it turned out Morris liked the kids, invited them to also sit in the car and the rest is history. Fred and BJ finally signed the adoption papers in 1985, and enjoyed driving the Locomobile for the next year. At the end of 1986, Fred started a total frame up restoration.

1908 locomobile type eUsing cardboard templates, he was able to recreate the correct compound curves on both the front and rear fenders before hammering out new ones. Finding an original 1908 owner’s manual (with Morris) at the Bennington car show, Fred was able to fabricate all the other correct pieces for 1908 that he needed for the restoration. Through good luck and perseverance, he was able to find the original box of discarded “make and break” items that had been taken off the engine in 1952 and eventually sold to Walter McCarthy. If you look on page 893 of The Standard Catalog Of American Cars, you will see a picture of Fred’s 1908 Locomobile taken by Henry Austin Clark shortly after its “restoration” in 1952. Notice the 1905 style ”chopped off” fenders. There are only 7 surviving examples of the Type E Locomobiles, and only this one for 1908. To date, Fred, BJ and family have driven over 40k miles throughout New England and Canada, a true testament to Fred’s meticulous restoration of an exceptional automobile.

Bill Sander’s “other hobby”

General Motors SW1500 Diesel

Bill's Lionel Train LayoutBill Sander got the “green light” from his wife Jan, about 10 years ago….at least he went with his interpretation.

Bill had been into the Lionel train hobby for some time when one day there was a comment of him maybe getting a full sized train. Jan made a comment about “that happening will be the day he could find one that fits into his garage” Bill says that was the day he envi-sioned his “mission” and of course that led to a step-up from Lionel… the 7 1/2 inch gauge model train! It fits into the garage just fine and you can ride on it.

The red locomotive on the front page is a model of a General Motors SW1500 Diesel. This unit and a second Elco RS3 model that Bill has were the two main work horses used on Vermont rail roads. They were built much closer to Road Switcher specifications and not yard switchers and were very capable of pulling their loads through our hills and valleys. There were 808 SW1500s built by GM from 1966 to 1974 and the 1500 HP engine was capable of reaching speeds of 60 MPH. The Alco RS-3 is the 3rd design variation and continued to the RS-11 design. The RS-3 was built by the American Locomotive Company and the Montreal Locomotive Works and has a 1600 HP engine. Between 1950 and 1956 there were 1418 built, 1265 for American railroads, 98 for Canada, 48 for Brazil and 7 for Mexico.

Bill’s SW1500 locomotive is powered by a gas 17 HP Briggs and Stratton engine and rides of tracks seven and a half inch wide. The 7 1/2 inch tracks are used mostly in the western states and is said to follow the example of Walt Disney’s layout in California. The eastern modelers mostly use 7 1/4 inch tracks….. Bill went with the western tradition. Bill’s model is hydraulically powered by both the wheels under the locomotive and the wheels under the second car, it has reverse, lights and a recorded sound track of the real deal as he moves along his 450 feet of track.

1910 Stoddard Dayton 10H Roadster

1910 STODDARD-DAYTONThe Stoddard-Dayton Motor Car Company started out, as many early auto manufactures did, as a farm implement company in 1875 originating in Dayton, Ohio. As the automobile craze grew in the 1890’s, John and Charles Stoddard caught the fever and by 1904, with the help of a young English engineer, H.J. Edwards, launched their pilot model with a 4 cyl. Rutenber engine. Stoddards were a well-built automobile and soon orders outpaced production.

Unfortunately, in 1910, Stoddard made the fatal mistake of joining the automobile conglomerate of Benjamin Briscoe’s United States Motors, an eventual failed attempt to compete with Willy Durant’s General Motors. By 1913, the high-end Stoddard was dropped from the line and only Maxwell remained. Today, there are approximately 30 Stoddards known to exist and only 3 Stoddard Roadster 10H’s.

For the 1910 production year there were 3 different engines; 30, 40 and 50 HP, and 8 body styles; roadster, baby tonneau, coupe, touring, torpedo, landaulet*, limousine and town car. This Stoddard Roadster 10H has a 3 7/8” x 4 ½“ hemispherical combustion 4 cyl engine developing 30+ HP. The valves are 2”, each pair operated by a unique single rocker arm on top of the cylinder jugs, resembling a walking-beam steam engine when in operation. It has a true twin ignition using a Bosch magneto, Connecticut coils and 8 spark plugs. It sold new for $1500, compared to a Model T at the time for about $800.

The history behind this car is that it was discovered in an abandoned mine property in the West around 1940 and being recognized as a quality early automobile, was spared from the scrap drive of WWII. It passed through several hands until it ended up with the infamous antique car dealer, Art Burrichter in 1967. A collector from Pa. purchased it, and then sold it to his son 2 years lat-er. The son spent the next 9 years scavenging for parts and fabricating the ones he couldn’t find. Fortunately, in 1970, a sister Stoddard 10H was unearthed in upstate New York, so any needed patterns became available. In 1978, the restoration was completed and the Stoddard was taken to Hershey where it was awarded a National 1st Prize. Having only been driven a few times around the block, it was sold to another collector in Pa. who had seen it at Hershey. Apparently this gentleman took the car out once and had a carburetor backfire which scorched the side of the hood. After re-painting part of the hood, he parked it, and the car languished in a corner of his barn for the next 32 years. When the owner died, his family started slowly selling off his automobile collection and this is when I got wind of the Stoddard. Fortunately, one buyer was dealing with the family quietly and fairly, so the word never got out about the sale of these vehicles, or even the existence of this Stoddard. After a couple of years of patiently waiting, the family finally agreed to sell the car and I wasted no time.

After getting it back to Vt., I started calling all the Stoddard collectors to find out more about the car. To my amazement everyone had lost contact with this car and wondered what had ever become of it. I feel very fortunate indeed to have been in the right place at the right time. Presently, the engine is out and apart, aluminum pistons ordered, the transmission mounts modified to handle the twisting, the shifter shaft and transmission re-aligned, the clutch relined, the rear end adjusted, etc. I felt the 7” headlights were too small, so I set about procuring the 10” Gray and Davis ones on it now. I pounded out the dents and converted them to the early magnifier-type headlights by taking the lenses out of a couple of magnifying glasses and making the brass bezels and tri-pod supports to hold them in place. The convex lenses are from a clock-parts supplier in Oregon. A little buffing, and “Voila”, new headlights. And so, as you know, on and on it goes!

1988 Buick Reatta

14 year old VAE member, Jason Warren and his Reatta, are winners at our 58th Car Show in Stowe

Jason Warren and his ReattaI was very excited to find out I had won 3rd place with my 1988 Buick Reatta having entered it in class 21 for non-Ford, Non-Chevy, all, for 1966-1990 model years.  I had my car entered for judging last year, but was not available during the judging process and I think this may have hurt my chances. This year I made sure to be with my car because the judges had a lot of questions.

I bought my Reatta in 2014 with money I had earned from a part time job I’ve had since I was 11 (I’m 14 now). I found the car in Fairfax, VT and paid $640.00 for it. The body of the car was and is in very good condition mainly because the front fenders are made from a plastic polymer and the remaining body panels are double sided galvanized steel. With over 185,000 miles on the car, the complete suspension, braking, and exhaust systems needed to be replaced. As my dad completed repairs on one side of the car, I would try to repeat the process on the other side. Sometimes things worked out, sometimes not so much.

I think I chose to buy a Reatta because our family already had two 1991’s and I thought it would be neat to have my own. I like the styling and all the digital instrumentation including a fully functional CRT touch screen that controls the radio, climate control, gauges, trip computer, and full onboard engine diagnostics.

1988 was the first year of production for the Buick Reatta and 4708 were hand built that year at the Craft Center in Lancing, Michigan. All Reattas’ are front wheel drive and used GM’s popular and “bullet proof” 3.8L V6 engine with a 4spd automatic transmission. The engine produces 165HP but the car weighs 3400 lbs so with these specs, it’s performance although acceptable, is lack luster compared to its sporty appearance. I am real happy with my Reatta, but if I could choose any vehicle to own, it would be a Mercedes Benz Unimog.

I will be a Freshman at Lamoille Union High School this fall and have plans to enter into the Auto Tech Center for my Junior and Senior year. My favorite subject in school is science and I think I would like to have a future in either automotive or motor sport repair. I like all things with engines especially if they are vintage. I’m already looking forward to working at and bringing my car back to the Antique & Classic Car Meet next year.

Our Big Shew

A little history about our 58 year-old Car Show in Stowe

Using available records, the August 1960 show was advertised as the “VAE Third Summer Invitational Rally at Stowe”. That year the gathering was a two-day event with a Back-road Tour and a supper barbecue on Saturday the 6th. After supper a WC Fields movie was viewed called “Hurry, Hurry, Hurry”. Later a barbershop quartet performed and a square dance was called by Mr. Bill Chattin. On Sunday was the auto judging and award presentations.

Wheel Tracks has no records of the 1st and 2nd Rally in Stowe. If anyone would like to share their records for 1958 and 1959, that information will be published.

Our next glimpse at the Show in Stowe is 1971, billed as the “14th Annual Stowe Meet”. Over 300 cars were on display. There was mention of a new parade route, causing some confusion, but all was forgiven when everyone enjoyed the “banner supper and the film viewing” Saturday evening. It was reported that the “new flea-market was well vendered and well attended, although falling victim to frequent rain showers”.

The Fall issue of Wheel Tracks, 1980 is our next view of the show. There were 361 cars in attendance with over fifty Woodies among them. Mr. Russ Snow was the chairman and reported a record was set with 250 flea market spaces. 1980 was Russ’s second year as chair and he announced that he would like to have someone take his place the next year.

The next Wheel Tracks that mentions the show in Stowe was the 1984 issue. It had become a three day event by then and that year Dave Gonyon was chair. An “antique clothing fashion show” on Saturday was planned and chaired by Ginger Lacombe. Other plans were a cheese and wine party Friday night and a concert on Saturday. Just like this year, 2015, there were many requests for help.

By 1987 we had adopted the name that we call the show today. That year it was billed “The 30th Annual Antique and Classic Car meet” and it took place on the Topnotch Field on the Mountain Road. It also appears that the newsletter “Wheeltracks” was a single word then and had changed from a 4-season publication to monthly. Tom Maclay was by then the Show chair and in a letter to the VAE Board he rec-ommended a hand-book should be published so everyone knows how to set up and run the show at Stowe. He also spoke of the huge lack of help and the difficulty of running the show short-handed. No other details were published about the 1987 show in Stowe. The car pictured to the left on the ‘87 show flyer was the “Best of Show” the previous year, a 1940 Ford Deluxe Convertible owned by Jonathan James of Meredith, NH.

Now, please, Fast-forward to 2015. Our 58th show at Stowe and our President Dan Noyes’ 1923 Model T mail truck is on our flyer. It will be happening in just a few days and “One Way or Another” our two show chairs will have a great event for us to enjoy. Bob Chase and Duane Leach, like always, are asking for your help in our show. Even if you have an hour or two to spare, they can use you. Call either one of these numbers and let them know when you can be there…. 802-253-4897 or 802-849-6174.

Wheel Tracks asked the guys what advancements they are most proud of on their watch. They replied with many. The new Display Ramp, ATM service, the very popular Crafter’s Tent, the Dragster Display, the Valve Cover Racing and the Matchbox Race just to name a few. One of the greatest advancements is our Innovative Educational Events. The VAE became a non-profit 501C3 organization a few years ago, the non-profit arm is called the VAAS, and the club has very effectively focused on education and our Vermont school students.

Come to the SHOW and enjoy three days of fun. Better yet, give us a hand for a few hours and we guarantee you will have even more fun.

1954 Dodge Power Wagon

1954 Dodge Power WagonIn the fall of 2006 I acquired a 1954 Dodge Power Wagon truck while out driving the back roads of Vermont, route 109 to be exact. A rusty old truck next to the road caught my eye. The owner happened to be mowing his lawn so I stopped . I must have been blinded by the Rust Flu for I could not see how much work this truck really needed. I seemed to miss the broken frame and the fact that two cylinder walls were cracked. The head to the 230 ci motor was resting on the front seat. Someone had cut the last two inches off the bed with a torch. Inhabitants plagued the cab like a condo running amuck, five mouse nests, two bees nest and a dead snake, biohazard site for sure. The nests rotted out the wiper cowl area and lower doors. This old wood truck had its share of running into objects, bed sides bowed out no doubt from being overloaded. Previous owners must have been amateurs at throwing wood and used the back of the cab as a backboard. The Rust Flu was hard at work, swaying any rational thought, letting passion and desire overrun common sense. Gazing googly eyed into pitted headlight buckets. Trying to justify the legitimacy of restoration or delegate the vehicle to mere parts car status.

Why a Power Wagon? Just a work truck, a tractor with a cab, born out of the World War II WC trucks. My interest in vehicles isn’t just the flow of the lines, blending of panels, 50 shades of gray, horsepower, and chrome bumpers, its the history of the vehicle, stories, development and researching parts manuals and shop manuals. This truck was legendary for its toughness and durability like the men who used it. From combat to farms both environments demanding, it answered the call. Restoration started with disassembly, the endless labeling & bagging. The parts list continued to grow. While tracking down parts, I met some great people and contacts, this is the other joy of our hobby. The down side is the endless sandblasting and expense. Many restorations fail at this point and keeping the spark and drive alive can be tough. I stayed involved by attending rallies and online forums, gaining knowledge I needed for the restoration. Each vehicle has its unique quirks, you know what I mean. Before the Shelburne show I had only driven a Power Wagon once before, an M37 military equivalent, it had a synchromesh transmission and mine doesn’t. It left an impression of crude but purpose built machine, rugged and overbuilt. I was hooked. Hooked enough to endure 10 years worth of, on and off again restoration effort. I kept pecking away at it. Locating a good frame, salvageable block and a lot of bed pieces. A tough process for a vehicle that the aftermarket reproduction companies tend to ignore because there isn’t a healthy profit in it. I was use to Mustangs, parts available anytime, anywhere and reasonably priced,…. Down to every nut and bolt. I found Power Wagons have a true and devoted following. Make a few connections and used parts and advice can be found. So I set monthly goals, little tasks and kept working at it. March of 2015 I had the bed done, April wiring and May the brakes. The Shelburne Show was the maiden voyage with the truck, still not complete, but I attained the goal. I do all my own work except for a few select things, I’ll be the first to admit “jack of all trades master of none”. It’s a battle when everything is twice as heavy and damaged. The old truck was well received and many nice comments. People stopped to tell stories of their Dodge experiences. Timber handlers, farmers, uncles, dads and Veterans all had something to say about a Power Wagon, invoking memories of the past. Listening to the stories only added to the event. Now, if I could only manage more than 35 mph, or as I like to say” I can go anywhere in the world at 30MPH……… VIVA LA POWERWAGON…

1933 Dodge Coupe

1933 Dodge CoupeWhile a student at Norwich University, a classmate of mine, “Bud” Hooper, had a nice old 33 Dodge Coupe that he had used primarily to get from his home in Hoosick Falls, NY to Northfield Vermont.

As we neared graduation in 1958 I was in the market for an inexpensive car. When Bud mentioned he was getting a new car for graduation and was selling the Dodge I bought it for $300. That at the time was a lot for a car that old but the car had only 5400 miles on it and ran well. I had almost $300 in graduation gifts from various aunts and uncles, borrowed the balance from my father and had my “wheels”.

Before reporting for active duty in the Army I worked in Cambridge, MA at a supersonic wind tunnel and took graduate courses at MIT and also courted my wife to be, who was a senior at Wellesley College.

My active duty station was at Fort Belvoir VA. The old Dodge made the trip from Middlebury to Fort Belvoir many times. Driving time was thirteen hours as this was before interstate highways and much of the trip was down old US Route #1.

After completing my active duty we were married and lived in Georgia, Vermont. Four children had fun playing in it while it was up on blocks with about 75,000 miles on it.

I planned to restore the Dodge but working and traveling as a mechanical engineer for various companies postponed that for about 40 years. Restoration started in 2005 at White Rock Sports in Bristol with “Eli” Elithorpe.

The 33 Dodge is the only car I have had that I have “feelings’’ for. It has always served me well and I think looks great. All other cars were just an expensive necessity.

Gary wanted me to tell a funny story about the car, like my wife giving me a tow to start a dead battery and tearing off the front bumper. But I am not going there! We have been happily married for 55 years and hope to make it to 56!!

Editor’s notes…

As the editor I feel this “story” is a very important learning tool for the old-car-crowd and needs to be told. I have also observed that Pat & Bill’s union is very strong (they are a wonderful couple) and can surly weather this tale of the day the bumper came off the Dodge.

One day when the Mraz 33 needed a tow Bill explained to his wife Pat what is needed when towing a vehicle . As he mentions above, he is an engineer, so I am certain his explanation was very thorough. And, from what I understand, Pat did exactly what she was told. You are to start out pulling very slowly then speed up. That is what Pat did… all before the chain got-tight. So, when the chain became tight Pat was in the “speed-up” mode and the bumper came off. Ooops!

I hope this does not ruin my chances of getting the inside story in future feature stories and I hope the Mraz family is still speaking to me.

There were over 106,000 Dodges built in 1933 and 9500 of them were business coupes like Bill and Pat’s. Of the options available the Mraz coupe has front and rear bumpers (most of the time…), a heater and a rear-view mirror. Other options available but not on this car were dual sidemount spare tires, metal sidemount cover, chrome sidemount trim bands, rear spare metal cover, radio, clock, cigar lighter, radio antenna, trunk rack, spotlight, outside rearview mirrors, dual trumpet horns, dual taillights, dual windshield wipers and a license plate frame.

The DP series Dodge was new for 1933 with it’s 6 cylinder engine and offered two wheel base sizes.. 111.3 inch & 115 inch. The DP line was not offered in 1934 when the company changed to series DR, DS and DRXX.

This info came from “American Cars Catalog”

1958 Mercedes Coupe

1958 Mercedes CoupeIn Nov, 2007, Emily and I were returning from Syracuse and at the time I owned a 1957 Mercedes Benz 220S 4 door sedan. We were driving on a back road when all of a sudden Emily said, “There’s a car up there that looks like yours.” We went back to take a closer look and she was right. The fronts of both cars looked the same, but from the headlights on back were distinctly different cars; this was the rare coupe. My sedan was a nice car, but this coupe had really nice potential. From 1953 to 1962 fewer than 1250 of this body style were made. This one was even rarer since it had a sliding metal sunroof, and a Hydrak (clutchless) four speed, manual transmission.

The car had had a rough life the last few years and by the inspection sticker it hadn’t been driven since 2002. Emily indulged me and a month later it was mine. The engine barely ran, the brakes were locked up, the windows were stuck part way down, the sun roof wouldn’t move, and who knew what else was wrong with it at the time. No surprise, I trailered it home.

I soon remedied most of the above problems – or at least made them livable. Along the way there have been a few surprises. The two biggest surprises occurred in the first real trip we took with the car. After a tune up the engine was running reasonably well although still liking to stall out at stop signs and red lights. The brakes were no longer frozen, although the car pulled to the right due to a leaking left front wheel cylinder that kept that brake from doing much. My car would now move and stop pretty well most of the time. How much more does one need to take a trip to Maine with the Mercedes Club? I was anxious to be on the road!

In sunshine, Emily and I left Bristol heading for Maine. In New Hampshire it started to rain and by the time we got to Maine it was a torrential downpour. It was then we learned that two of the four sliding roof drains were blocked. Water was coming in rather quickly. Unable to dismantle the roof pillars to get to the drain tubes, we needed another solution since Emily was getting wet and the headliner was getting soaked. Emily would dry but I did not want the headliner being damaged. We solved the problem with some wide blue paint-er’s tape which I carefully applied over the gap around the sliding roof. I received a lot of compliments on that decorative pin striping job! At least the interior waterfall was stopped for now.

As I’d never had the car out in the rain before, the roof leak had been a surprise and a nuisance, but readily fixable. Unfortunately the rain also precipitated the need for windshield wipers. I hadn’t thought to try them before, other than to see that they worked to pass inspection. They did work, at least for a little while. As the rain increased, the driver’s side wiper started to slip and not return. After several attempts to tighten the wiper arm onto the shaft the rain let up and I decided to deal with it after returning home. The rest of the weekend went relatively well and I was gaining faith in my little coupe.

Returning home, half way across New Hampshire, a new rainstorm caught us with the failing wiper getting worse. It was also getting dark and seeing the road had become very difficult. Emily’s knuckles were white as she clenched the hand-hold on the dashboard. Her conversation reflected a degree of concern. I remembered my dad describing a wiper failure on his honeymoon. They tied their shoelaces to the wiper blades and in through the windows. Back and forth they pulled on the laces and the wipers moved in sync. Emily was knitting and so we tied some yarn between our wiper blades. Her side was working normally and mine would go to the left but not return. With the yarn in place, Emily’s wiper would pull mine back to the right. A pretty good fix – until the yarn broke. Thinking along the same lines, Emily pulled some dental floss out of her purse and we replaced the broken yarn. Dental floss is apparently much stronger than yarn as it did get us home that evening. In the garage, I was able to tighten a nut on the wiper mechanism. It was a simple solution but very difficult to get to under the dashboard.

This past winter I had hoped to straighten some damage to both front fenders, paint the car, get some chrome work done, and maybe even replace the leather upholstery, but somehow life got in the way. And here we are now ready to start another summer of interesting adventures and pleasant new memories.

Kenneth Barber, VAE Photographer Laureate

Ken BarberKen Barber’s title, “VAE Photographer Laureate”, has been decided upon by a committee of One… and that is me.

I believe 100% if you were part of that committee you would agree with me. Photography has been a huge part of Ken’s life and it just so happens old cars and VAE car shows, all the way back to Spruce Peak, has been some of his main subjects.

I had heard about this “photographer gent” from Barton, Vermont but had never met him. Then, I received two photos in the mail one day and a nice note from him giving me permission to use them in Wheel Tracks. Those photos take us back in time to 1917 during a special period in the automobile history (they are on page 2 of the last two issues).

Whenever I visit the NEK (Northeast Kingdom) it is always a treat to me and when I met Ken at the Parson’s Corner Restaurant in Barton a few weeks ago it became a special treat. I know more than got my head in the door when Carmon Brown called me by name and directed me to his table. Carmon is a waitress there and if only I had her ability to remember names and be ‘that happy’; I would have it made. I doubt if it was two minutes after meeting Ken that I knew he had a very special talent and I also knew that he was going to be one of those long time friends I would always learn from.

Ken spent most of his career as a machine operator in an area machine shop. Other than an adventure as a young man when he worked for Douglas Aircraft in California for a short time, he has spent most of his life in the NEK. The camera that you can see at his right elbow was his first real dive into photography, it is a Mamiya twin lens reflex and the “dream camera” in it’s day. The camera led him to a very good fortune one day when he rented a space for a darkroom at a local business. The landlord asked Ken if he would take some boxes off his hands that were in his attic. The boxes had been left behind by a photographer many years before. It turned out to be hundreds of glass negatives from the early 1900s.

Producing photos from those negatives and from the thousands that he has taken with his Mamiya has been Ken’s passion over many years. The bridge pictured to the left is one of his Mamiya photos from the 1960s. Ken said he waited for hours to get that shot. Photographers have a very special way of watching life’s everyday happenings and picking out scenes that you and I would never pick as important… but are very important. That is why Ken Barber is so interesting to talk to and learn from.
Ken has also been struck by the same fever that many VAEers are afflicted with. He says now that he is 86 years old, he seems to be bothered by it less these days. If you have ‘the fever’, you are required to seek out and drag home any object that even looks like a gas powered vehicle… even diesel powered will do. I remember asking Ken when we first met if he had brought any old cars home, in his days. I got the impression there had not been many. As the conversation went on and a second visit to his home plus a few phone conversations, I have determined there have been many “barn-finds” in his life…

I have seen pictures of piles of steel “basket-cases” on his trailer, only his explanation allowed me to see that it was, in fact, a car of some sort. There was a picture of a collapsed barn with a vehicle hiding in it’s shadows. Ken dug that car out and if I have correct notes, he drove that car for a number of years. Another hint that revealed his true identity was the folks he has kept company with over the years. Gael Boardman, Dave Maunsell, Gary Olney, A.K. Miller and Pevy Peake… I needed to hear no more.

Ken is flying to Arizona to visit his brother soon and speaks about his friend wanting to go on a balloon ride while out there. I challenged him (sort of) to doing the ride also, I will ask when he returns to the NEK. What photographer worth his salt would turn down a new adventure…

Cars, Trains, Boats, And…

“The mission of the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum is to preserve, interpret, exhibit, and educate regarding transportation history and artifacts in the Champlain Valley.”

The CVTM Diecast Room


Hmmm, very familiar kind of logic. Part of our VAE mission statement reads “dedicated to the preservation, protection, promotion and appreciation of automobiles history and technology.”

Plattsburg Air Force Base was decommissioned (closed) on September 25, 1995. It covered 3447 acres and was a cold war Strategic Air Command Base. It’s 11,750 foot runway (compared to Burlington’s 8320 foot runway) was built to accommodate the B-52 Stratofortress and a backup landing choice for our space shuttle program. The base was also the center of a 50 mile circle of twelve missile silos for the Atlas F missile built in the 1960s. The base was established in 1814 as a 200 acre military reservation and has a very interesting history through those 181 years. After the base was decommissioned, the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC) was created to manage the facility with tenants ranging from the Pratt & Whitney Industrial Turbine Services and Bombardier and to GSM Vehicles (vintage trailer restoration) and the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.

The Champlain Valley Transportation Museum is one of those tenants and is housed partially in the base’s old motor pool. Plattsburg hosts five museums, the other four are the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, The War of 1812 Museum, the Kent-Delord House Museum and the Battle of Plattsburgh Interpretive Center. The Champlain Valley Transportation Museum (CVTM) was founded in 2000 by a group of car and history enthusiasts from the Plattsburgh area. What began as an automobile museum has grown to cover many more forms of transportation.

The foundation of CVTM is the Lozier Motor Company, a Plattsburg automobile manufacturing business during the early 1900s that built some of the most exquisite and expensive vehicles during that time period (more on the Lozier can be found on page 10). The museum is trying something new this year by staying open during the winter months even though most of the buildings are not heated, they have been very happy with their choice. In fact there was one of those days where 42 people passed through the gates.

There are a couple of vehicles in the museum from “this side of the lake”. Bryce Howells has his “27 Packard there and a 1911 Kissell that belongs to Steve Dana is also on display. Dick Soper is in the hopes they can make room for a couple more VAE cars in the near future. A plan Dick would like to institute is a more in-depth maintenance program for the many vehicles at the museum. A check-off list that covers everything from tire pressure and oil levels to cleaning and display that would be used regularly to watch over the many wonderful old vehicles. He suggested maybe the VAE would be interested in helping him build a proper maintenance program.

Even though the museum has been around for a number of years they are continually upgrading and adding new displays. The Kid’s Station is a recent addition to the museum where an interactive and hands-on environment has been created. A recent addition is an old fashioned Doctor’s Office complete with the doctor’s buggy. Children…and adults have fun climbing into the Vulcan Locomotive built in South Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. The diner restaurant display will take you back to the 50s.

Visit the CVTM Museum at 12 Museum Way in Plattsburgh, NY and soak up some wonderful history