1960 Hillman Minx

1960 Hillman MinxHillman is a name not well known in the automotive field anymore. Hillmans are British and like most British manufacturers of automobiles, the Hillman Motor Car Company is defunct. The last Hillman imported into this country was the Super Minx of the mid 1960s. The company was still being run by Lord Rootes, a founder, at the time. The Hillman Motor Car Company began in 1907. Previous to that, the company had made sewing machines and bicycles. Hillman played a role in pioneering the American automobile market, opening doors for other makes back in the days when those funny foreign cars drove a lonely road in this country.

Hillman had been importing small sedans since before World War II, but after the war, the small car market became more competitive. To get a leg up in styling, Lord Rootes hired the designer Raymond Lowey (think Studebaker Hawk of 1953) in 1948 to design a new car. Thus came about the shaping of my car, which takes styling cues from the 1953 Studebaker and the 1955-56 Ford. To further compete in the American market, Rootes sought a technical advantage as well. After all, some American manufacturers were starting to build “compact” cars, bidding for sales with fresh new packages. Consider the Ford Falcon or the Chevy Corvair. In 1960, Hillman was offering a product that no one else had-a fully automatic transmission that did away with the power loss associated with ordinary automatic transmissions of the day. Acceleration of a Hillman does not suffer as a result of the Easidrive option. This was important in 1960 because thousands of drivers in this country didn’t want small cars because of the bother of shifting gears manually. The Easidrive was a significant small car development in the days of oversized Detroit sedans and small, slow American cars optionally equipped with automatic transmissions.

I bought my car in 2002 from an antiques dealer in Wiscasset, Maine. It had been acquired by him as part of an elderly man’s estate. It had 40,000 miles on it then and I have taken it 24,000 sort-of carefree miles since then. My initial test drive of the car did not inspire confidence. Looking behind the steering wheel I noticed it had….an automatic transmission? I had always feared foreign automatics of the post-war generation since they could be weird and prone to trouble. Oh well, the car did start right up and sounded solid and quiet. The gear selector quadrant is minimalist in nature: D 2 N R in that order. There is no P position and I assumed the handbrake was a dubious instrument as evidenced by the rock placed behind the rear wheel. The car moved forward in D but would not shift into a higher gear. I stopped and gave it another try. This time, at about 15mph, I lifted my foot off the throttle and heard a distinct “clunk” and then we were in 2nd gear. At about 27mph the car shifted automatically into 3rd which felt like top gear. I could live with this. I came to a full stop and tried reverse. There was a slight grinding of gears to be heard as I shifted the lever. What the hell kind of automatic was this???

Thus begins the tale of what makes this car different. Here in layman’s terms is the Easidrive story. Remember the science experiment back in elementary school in which iron filings placed on a piece of paper were arranged in lines of magnetic flux by a magnet placed beneath the paper? If you can visualize that experiment, you have the basic idea of Easidrive. Easidrive uses a magnetic powder coupling in place of a friction clutch. The transmission itself is a regular sliding gear type 3 speed transmission. Imagine a drum bolted to the flange on the rear of the crankshaft. Then, imagine a slightly smaller drum which fits inside the aforementioned drum and is connected to the transmission input shaft. These drums are separated by a small air gap filled with an amount of iron powder. In neutral, as the crankshaft turns, this powder is thrown harmlessly by centrifugal force against the inside of the outer (crankshaft) drum. Now surround these drums with a stationary magnetic coil mounted in the transmission’s bell housing. When this coil is energized, the iron powder organizes itself in columns of magnetic flux between the two drums, forming a solid coupling between the engine and transmission. The advantage to such a coupling is that there is little or no slippage. There is no hydraulic torque converter to waste power, an important consideration in a 57 hp, 2375 lb. car such as the Hillman. This represented a design coup, applying a fully automatic transmission to a 1500 cc car.

But the devil is in the details, of course. All this stuff under the floorboards is con-trolled by the troublemakers under the bonnet, or hood as we Yanks would put it. This trouble includes: an electric gear selector switch, a governor which monitors road speed and throttle position, a gearshift solenoid and a control unit (black box) which contains eight 2 way relays, a thermal switch and a rectifier. Maintaining this lot is no problem if you’re an electrical engineer, which I am not. Fortunately for me and my Minx, my brother is. All the above-mentioned electrical units are wired closed with lead seals from the factory. Even Hillman mechanics were not allowed to open them up and investigate what might be wrong inside. Units were tested and if found faulty, replaced. Even the experienced garage mechanic in the early 1960s had no idea what he was looking at when he got under the hood of an Easidrive Hillman Minx. It was just another weird foreign car that nobody, including the dealers, wanted to deal with. This contributed greatly to Hillman’s demise. As the Easidrive reputation spread, dozens of new Easidrive cars sat in dealers lots unsold for years.

My car has experienced burned relay points and a broken wire in the control unit as well as another broken wire in the governor. My brother was able to decipher its woes from among the 96 symptoms and numerous wiring diagrams featured in the Easidrive repair manual. We broke into the sealed units fearlessly and solved my Easidrive’s problems. It wasn’t easy. It took about 8 hours, but I’ve been lucky. Most Easidrives were converted to normal Hillman 4 speed manual transmissions or simply scrapped. And that’s a shame because it is a nice car on the road or in town. I’ve driven without trouble to Ohio and back for 3 different “Hillmans on Holiday” car events, cruising at 65 mph with no trouble. I only know of one other Easidrive in the country, in Washington state, which is still running. I doubt we’ll ever meet car to car.

’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)

1928 Chrysler Model 72

This vehicle is an old movie car. Having been driven by Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, George Jessel, Vera Miles, Darren McGavin and a host of other movie stars, it was owned by Warner Brothers studios. Movies included were “The Spirit of St Louis”, and “The Story of Mayor Jimmy Walker” in the late 50’s.

The car was sold in 1954 from a widow in Connecticut to the Murchio Museum in Greenwood Lake, New York. There it sat for many years being admired. In 1974 the Murchio Museum was altering inventory and Mrs. Murchio decided to sell the car to a friend of my father. The car left NY and headed to Owl’s Head, Maine. Not the Owl’s Head museum but a private garage where it sat for only a few days. Visiting his friend, my father left from his weekend in Maine with the Chrysler. The odometer read 18,000 miles which I am quite sure is real miles! Because this car was used primarily in movies, every time the doors closed, paint fell off. That was because it was never prepped right for a paint job. It was sprayed for color only.

In 1979 the car finally made it’s way to Vermont where it’s been enjoyed since then. I have put hundreds of miles on it over the years. Five years ago or so, I had the car painted because there wasn’t much paint left on it. There was no real need for restoration because is was sitting in the museum all those years. No rust at all. It may have never been rained on. The body shop that painted it was shocked at the condition and the method of manufacturing. Wood framing in the doors and the shear amount of hand work is impressive. The convertible top and all side curtains are original and in prefect condition. The passenger side has a little golf bag door where you slide your bag into the rumble seat compartment. The windshield lays flat giving a real sporty look. Wood spoke wheels add a very classy look. The chrome work is still very nice. I find that polishing old chrome once a year or so keeps it from rusting away.

The suspension is rather unique. The driver seat is independently sprung for a cushioned ride and the suspension is something to be enjoyed. I have a 1928 Model A as well. Comparing the rides is like comparing a Cadillac to a VW! The instrument panel even has Walter Chrysler stamped on it. All instruments are in working order. The only change I made was to add an electric fuel pump for ease.

The engine remains untouched. It’s called a “red head” engine. The head should be painted red, this one is not by accident. The “red heads” were very desirable. They offered higher compression taking the Chrysler from 60 hp to 75 hp. A nice increase. It also has dual points! A bit unusual for that era. Cruising at 55 today is no problem.

The original price in 1928 was $2700.00. My father bought it for $3000.00 in 1974. Not a bad deal back then. With another season here, perhaps you’ll see it around Lake Champlain.

Bringing a 1965 ROVER P5 from Scotland

A schematic of the modifications for ROVER
A small group of us in the VAE fell in love with English cars in our youths. One car, that never sold in volume in this country, was the ROVER P5. In 2011, I made a trip to Scotland to acquire the car shown on the cover. Before I tell about that trip, I want to tell you what is planned for the car. It will end up as a fully equipped rally car with a 13 inch Mac computer in the instrument panel and a PATHFINDER infrared driving light system, just to make sure I can see 700 feet ahead at night.

Modifications for ROVER include a 3.0 liter BMW N55 engine with turbocharger, tuned to achieve 384 horsepower at 5,700 RPM. Power will be transferred to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual BMW transmission with a “Guibo”, a flex disc, at the output shaft. The drive shaft is from an extended cab FORD F150. An adapter plate, machined by Paul Gosselin of HYDRO PRECISION in Colchester, fits on the front SPICER U-joint yoke and bolts directly to the Guibo.

The back of the drive shaft is connected to the differential with a especially made SPICER 1330 to 1350 U-joint adapter. The differential is a stainless steel and chrome plated FORD 9”, 39/13 ratio. Jaguar inboard brakes are also stainless steel, as are the swing axles. The entire unit, made by Kugel Komponents of La Habra, CA, is being installed in the ROVER unitized body by MARK’S AUTO in Monkton. This is the first time that a Kugel unit has been placed in a unitized body.

The trip to Scotland to buy the car was fraught with missteps, coincidence, and incredible luck. I rode a CONTINENTAL flight from Newark to Edinburgh, where I left my shaving kit in the airport men’s room. After retrieving it from lost and found, I took a train to Berwickshire, where the exit door jammed and wouldn’t let me off. Ten (10) miles further, I got off in a strange place that had no station agent and a phone that required a British credit card. Fortunately, a landscaper working on a yard close by had a brother in Philadelphia. He called out……“What kin I doo fur ya, Yank?”

A cell phone call summoned the antique car dealer and the whole thing turned around. The dealer drove ROVER and I rode in it for the first time. I was treated to lunch at a café in North Berwick. Over lunch, I discovered that a Scottish lady at the ta-ble was good friends with a couple in Essex Center that she has known for 45 years!
“My husband, Lyle, plays in the Berwickshire pipe band. Our American friends come every August so that he and Lyle can play bag-pipes at the Edinburgh Tattoo,” she said. “When we come to Vermont, we stay with them in Essex Center.”

Author’s note: It’s a good thing I didn’t go over there to meet another woman! By noon, 3200 miles away, my cover would have been blown…..
Having had lunch, the dealer and I went out to find a crowd around ROVER, admiring it. A little Scottish boy approached and put his hand on the right-front fender. His father, horrified, yelled: “Dinna touch the car, lad ! Dinna touch the car” !

At that point, I realized that I had to have ROVER.

1926 Buick

The St. Albans Fire Chief’s 26 Buick is found!

Alden ChapmanIf you remember, Wheel Tracks had a really nice story about a fire truck from St. Albans, VT that was turned into a ‘Speedster’ back in the February issue. A question was simply asked at the end about the car in the picture that was “the fire chief’s car. “What make and year is the car?”

Well, did that go places! There were a number of calls from folks who claimed the car was a 27 Buick, just like a few of the guesses that had come in earlier.
Then a call came in from this gent pictured to the right, Alden Chapman of South Barre. Alden is the famous VAE member who has a lifetime collection of over 2000 diecast cars. You might remember a short article about his collection in the August 2011 issue of Wheel Tracks. He confirmed the chief’s car was a 26 Buick Roadster and told me a little about it being re-stored some 43 years ago. His last comment was the Buick was stored in a garage and he knew where!

Greg SabensThe Buick is owned today by Sue and Greg Sabens and the “garage” was just up the road from Alden’s home. Greg’s Dad, Dell, had purchased it from Charlie Arnholm on August 12th 1965, Charlie was a longtime VAE member and club president in 1961. A meeting was set up and Jim Sears and I went South to find this garage. You can see the garage on the front page with the Buick looking out from the shadows. As it turned out, the gar-age is at the home of Dell’s wife, Helen, who was the person who did all the leather and fabric work for the Buick restoration. The family lost Dell some fifteen years ago, but it was easy for us to know a little about him from seeing his part of the loving restoration on this car. Charlie Arnholm was known for his great abilities with the pin-striping brush and the Buick carries some of his work. Charlie Arnholm was also the second
owner of the Boardman/Teachout Speedster.

Greg told us with pride how his Dad won the Governor’s Award at the 1970 Stowe Car Show and how Governor Davis presented the award to his father, Dell.

Greg and Sue became the new owners in 1998 and he speaks of the many trips he has made to the Stowe Show since then….and some of the repairs he has made on the 86 year-old car. From our conversation, I think he knows a thing or two about how to keep this roadster on the road.

There were over 255,000 Buicks built in 1927 and around 10,000 of them were coupes like this one. Around 12,000 Country Club Coupes were also made. They had 207 cu. inch engines that produced 63 HP and average cost was $1100.00.

In trying to make a 100% connection between this Buick and the St. Albans Fire Department, I asked Greg haw he knew it was the Buick in the fire station picture. The Buick part, we know is correct and the 1927 part is also correct. The positive connection with the fire house was made from the fact that the “St. Albans Fire Department” logo was still on the car’s doors when Dell brought the car home.
There are two remaining mysteries and we would like to hear from you if you have any information……

  1. When and who was the Buick sold to when it left the St. Albans FD, and how did it spend it’s time before 1965?
  2. Where is the Boardman/Teachout Speedster? Where did it go when Charlie Arnholm sold it?