1969 Karmann Ghia Convertible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1927 Dodge – My Dodge has Feeling Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1930 Hupmobile S Sedan

Sid & Audrey Gough’s Hupmobile

1963 Valiant Wagon

The car is a 1930 Hupmobile Model S sedan with a 210cu-in Century 6 engine. The sales ads that year stated 70 horse power 70 miles per hour.

I purchased the car from a would be restorer in Pointe Claire, Quebec, in pieces, in 1980. A post card in the car stated it had originally been owned by the Graham family in Hawksbury, Ontario. I believe I am the third owner. Preservation work was slow as I had no idea of what a Hupmobile was. A chance meeting with Pevril Peake and his Hupp allowed me to learn the details of the car. Pevril’s Hupp had wire wheels but he wanted solid disc wheels like mine as he was tired of cleaning the spokes on his.

The first trip was to Stowe in 1984. That was one adventure I wont forget. We travelled from Pointe Claire Quebec a distance of about 150 miles. Every 5 miles or so the car would backfire and die. We made it to Stowe and even did the parade or at least we made it past the reviewing stand. By now we were keeping the mosquitoes away with the smoke. The car died again just over the bridge on Mountain road. It would not climb the hill. I removed a spark plug and found it totally carboned over. After cleaning the plugs we made it back to the Scandinavian Motel where we were staying. Sunday was spent under the hood with lots of help and advice from many car guys. Final conclusion; the float in the vacuum tank leaked and allowed raw gas directly into the manifold.

A few days in Bristol and the help of Pev’s friend Karl gave the car new life. We drove home at a nice steady 45 to 50 mph.

We attended several more Stowe meets with the car until I was transferred to Calgary Alberta in 1990. The car has since given me a few more headaches since arriving here. The higher altitude may be a factor. We are at 3000 feet ASL. In any event the car has been responsible for the opportunity to meet a lot of very wonderful people in the car hobby.

I look forward to the next visit to Stowe. I definitely miss the show and flea market. I am still trying to find anything like it here.

Sid Gough, Irricana, Alberta

1963 Valiant WagonEditor’s notes… Robert Craig Hupp, a former employee of Oldsmobile and Ford, found-ed the company with his brother Louis Gorham Hupp in 1908. Production began in 1909. Following disagreements with his financial backers Robert Hupp sold his stock in the Hupp Motor Car Company and established the short-lived RCH Automobile Company, later the Hupp-Yeats Electric Car Company. In 1912, Hupp would be one of two automakers pioneering the use of all-steel bodies. Hupp Motor Company continued to grow after its founder left. A new plant was purchased in 1924 as Hupp competed strongly against Ford and Chevrolet. DuBois Young became company president in 1924 moving up from vice-president of manufacturing. By 1928 sales had reached over 65,000 units. To increase production and handle the growth in sales, Hupp purchased the Chandler-Cleveland Motors Corporation (Chandler Motor Car) for its manufacturing facilities. Sales and production began to fall even before the onset of the depression in 1930. A strategy to make the Hupmobile a larger, more expensive car began with the 1925 introduction of an 8-cylinder model, followed by the discontinuance of the traditional 4-cylinder Hupmobile. While aiming for a seemingly more lucrative market segment, Hupp essentially turned its back on its established clientele. Unfortunately, the company made the same mistake that many other medium-priced carmakers were making at the same time. Namely, in an attempt to capture every possible sale, they offered many different models. With Hupmobile’s relatively low production volume, the result was that no model could be produced in sufficient quantity to keep manufacturing costs low enough to provide an operating profit.

Hupp abandoned its more conservatively styled product line and turned to industrial designer Raymond Loewy to design its 1932 Hupp cyclefender, a flashy roadster that did well at the track, but sales continued to decline. 1934 saw the introduction of a striking restyle called the “Aerodynamic” by Loewy, as well as the lower-priced series 417-W using Murray-built slightly-modified Ford bodies.

Despite technical innovations, squabbles among stockholders and an attempted hostile takeover in 1935 took their toll on the company. By 1936 the company was forced to sell some of its plants and assets and in 1937 Hupmobile suspended manufacturing. A new line of six- and eight-cylinder cars was fielded for 1938, but by this time Hupp had very few dealers, and sales were disappointingly low. Desperate for a return to market strength, Hupmobile acquired the production dies of the Gordon Buehrig designed Cord 810/812 from the defunct Cord Automobile Company in 1938. Hupmobile hoped that utilizing the striking Cord design in a lower-priced conventional car, called the Skylark, would return the company to financial health. Enthusiastic orders came in by the thousands, but production delays soured customer support.

Lacking adequate production facilities, Hupmobile worked out a deal with the ailing Graham-Paige Motor Co. to share the Cord dies, which would be built at Graham’s facilities. The Graham edition, called the Hollywood, differed from the Skylark in only a few minor details.

In 1939 the Hupmobile Skylark finally began delivery. Unfortunately, it had taken too many years to produce and most of the orders had been canceled. Production lasted only a couple of months, and only 319 Sky-larks were produced. Hupmobile ceased production in late summer. Graham-Paige suspended production shortly after the last Hupmobile rolled off the line.

Gary & Nancy Olney’s 1934 Aerodynamic Hupmobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Jane Dexter and her “Poppy Red” VW

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

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

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

This from Jim Sears…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1963 Plymouth Valiant Wagon

1963 Valiant WagonMany vintage car collectors tend to migrate to the cars that were special to us in the past… the cars we grew up with or that have special meaning like your honeymoon car or the one you learned to drive on. Our ’63 Valiant 200 station wagon falls into that category to a small extent, but not entirely.

I’ve always had a love affair with the A body Valiants from 1960 through 1966. My Dad had a 1960 Valiant that was a very interesting car with many new features. It was Chryslers first “compact” introduced in 1960, along with the Ford Falcon from Ford and the Corvair from Chevrolet. But the Valiant was different. It had very distinctive styling, a slant 6 engine and an alternator replacing the generator. I enjoyed driving that car very much. It was relatively quick and with it’s torsion bar suspension handled like a dream.

Fast forward to 1968 and the need for a second car to support a growing family. As a Mopar family the choice was a ’65 Valiant wagon secured from a used car dealer on North Ave. in Burlington. I loved everything about that car. It was the right size, reliable, easy to care for and fun to drive with stick shift and it’s peppy Slant Six. I never forgot that little wagon and over the years kept an eye out for another from the ’63 to ’66 body style era. Mostly what I found were either butchered into Rat Rods or rust buckets or both. Many of these wagons were produced but most were family haulers that paid their dues over the years. I was casually surfing the internet in 2010 and lo and behold up pops an original, low mileage, rust free, stick shift, top of the line 1963 Valiant wagon… and close to home, no less located in Nyack, N.Y. Three days later and we were headed south to check out the car. She was everything I’d dreamed of. Mint bright red original interior with a rust free body in white and a smooth running 170 ci engine only 41,000 original miles. The car was being sold through a broker. We took her out for a test drive around the local neighborhood and everything checked out. A few days later and the deal was struck. Our test drive had only been on local streets around Nyack but now it was time to drive her 300 plus miles on 20 year old tires. The shortest route was up the NYS Thruway, then the Northway to Lake George and onto mostly two lane roads to Vermont. My safety net was that my two brothers, both from Long Island, were planning a visit to Vermont and agreed to follow me home just in case. Valiant reliability and comfort came through and the trip back to home was a dream. Despite the intervening 47 years it’s amazing how easy it is to flashback to the 60’s ! The trip home was uneventful except for a blown 20 year old tire valve on I-89 just before the South Barre exit. Luckily the spare had air.

Very little work has been done to “Val” as she is named [ not very original but it fits ! ]. There was a tune up and new shocks. I expected trouble freeing the old shock bolts but after a little PB Blaster they spun right off. Then there was this oddity. The original radiator had a small “V” cut out of the radiator neck, enough so that the cap would not lock down. Here is one of the things I love about these cars. It took 15 minutes to remove the radiator for repair. Remove two hoses and 4 bolts and out she came. I’ve tried to trace Val’s history without much luck. Papers stuffed in the glove compartment indicate she was sold new by a Wisconsin Chrysler / Plymouth dealer and later spent time in Minnesota. This adds even more mystery to the car as there is absolutely no rust anywhere on the original body despite her snow belt beginnings. If only she could talk!

Station wagons of the 50’s and 60’s era were in their glory days. They were family work horses but not very sexy compared to the other options of the day like tri colored hardtops and convertibles of the 50’s and Mustangs, Corvettes and Barracudas of the 60’s. But I’ve learned first hand that they’ve endeared themselves to those who grew up with them. Two cases in point. At the WPC National Meet in St. Johnsbury a couple of years ago I had Val parked next to our ’65 Barracuda Formula S. The “Cuda” is a really nice car, but the Wagon got most of the attention. At the Stowe Show last August I had Val parked next to our ’64 Valiant convertible, also a very nice mostly original in red but it was the wagon most folks migrated to with tales of the Valiant wagons they grew up with.

I love Val… she embodies everything I like about the ’60’s A body Valiants. She’s reliable, easy to work on, kind of funky in her own way and always brings happy memories to those who meet her. Other cars will come and go but Val is a keeper.

1963 Valiant WagonEditor’s note… To the left is a Plymouth sales ad from 1963. The ad discussed the many factory tests performed before release to the public. It read:

“Hour after hour, hour after hour, the car was driven in the white-hot heat of the Arizona desert. They were driven 50,000 miles at top speed over all kinds of road surfaces– some 10 times the strain any ordinary car would ever have to withstand.

Horns were blown 58,432 times, turn signals checked 241,032 times and trunk lids opened and slammed 3,652 times. In all, our prototypes went through, beg pardon, hell and high water, but it was worth it to us and, more importantly, to you.

We uncovered 358 design flaws. Not just fixed or corrected, mind you, but improved– back to the drawing board– redesigned, rebuilt, retested, until the result was right. This we did in spades. Get on and start a great adventure story all your own.”

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.