Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

A 1949 Indian Roadmaster makes it back on the road.

With a little help from Wendell Noble and an assist from Fred Gonet

For as long as I have known him, my friend and neighbor, Dallan Baker, has owned an all original 1948 Indian Roadmaster motorcycle. That’s at least 30 years and I only recall seeing him ride it once. When he recently mentioned that he wanted to sell, I found it merely interesting. I’m not a motorcycle guy so the thought of buying it didn’t immediately spring to mind. I did ride a little motorcycle briefly in the ‘70s but I gave it up. Unfortunately, I was going around a corner at the time. However, the idea of owning this wonderful piece of motoring history did gnaw at me. I finally made him an offer which I thought was reasonable and better than any offer he had had at the time. We are both very happy with the results.

1949 indian roadmaster motorcycleIt’s great to acquire something like that which comes with plenty of provenience information. The first owner, who bought it new in the Springfield, Vermont area, put 194 miles on it before he took a spill and then put it in his bedroom for the next 10 years. Dallan, who was 18 at the time, bought it from the deceased owner’s estate in 1958. He rode it regularly until he went into the service a couple of years later. We don’t know the actual amount of mileage on it now because the speedometer drive gear has been broken for a while. The odometer now reads 5,413 miles. Owning it is one thing, learning to ride it is another. Wendell Noble

Editor’s notes…… A nice phone conversation with Dallan Baker uncovered a few other details in the life of this Indian. Asked if he had ever taken a spill on the bike, Dallan recalled a day when he was a passenger while his cousin was slowing down on wet pavement to enter his driveway. A little too much rear brake was applied and they went down. He recalled how his cousin jumped up, pulled the bike back on its tires and quickly pushed the Indian into the garage. All the time leaving Dallan lying, unhurt, in the middle of the road. He guessed he might have put 15,000 miles on the bike, with his longest ride being the 300 miles from Arlington to Essex and back one day many years ago. He had done very little to the bike during the time he owned it. The seat was changed to allow room for a passenger. Before that, the passenger sat on a blanket on the fender rack with one foot resting on the kick starter and the other on a part of the frame….that was where he was when his cousin hit the rear brake too heavy. He also said because the bike had sat for 10 years when he bought it, the engine compression was very low. He had the engine overhauled with new rings and etc.

Dallan Baker's 1949 indian roadmasterAnd where does VAE’er Fred Gonet of Proctorsville fit into all this? Soon after Wen-dell purchased the Indian, Fred got word and was anxious to make his way North to see it…..he has this huge “thing” for Indian motorcycles. In the mean time Wendell and Dal-lan had spent some time unsuccessfully getting the bike to run. Fred did come North and found the main culprit was a bum condenser and the bike was soon making it’s beautiful sound.

The bike controls are…. Left hand throttle, right hand spark, left foot clutch and right foot brake. When asked, Fred explained how to stop at an intersection with your left foot occupied and not tip over. It goes like this….You hold the brake with your right foot, the clutch with you left foot and keep the bike from tipping over with your

1948 indian roadmasterThe Indian Chief, built in Springfield, Massachusetts by the Hendee Manufacturing Co. and the subsequent Indian Motocycle Co. from 1922 to the end of the company’s production in 1953.

The Chief was Indian’s “big twin”, a larger, more powerful motorcycle than the more agile Scout used in competition and sport riding.

Engine is a four-stroke 42 degree V-twin, 1210 cc, 40HP. Top speed 85MPH.

Transmission, 3-speed hand shift, chain final drive.

Suspension, girder fork, weight 550 lbs., fuel capacity 3.7 gal., new price, $800 without sidecar.

Tank Ooze

gas tank oozeAbsent any questions this month, I will share something interesting with you. Recently I drained and removed the gas tank on the Datsun 240Z project. This car was parked in 1982. I removed the drain plug, but no gas came out. I poked at the hole with a screwdriver, and felt a thick tar like substance. I poked through it and very dark, varnished gas began to dribble out.

After removing the gas tank, I stood it up on end. About a gallon of thick, black asphalt like substance oozed out the filler neck.

I googled it, and learned that gasoline literally turns back in to crude oil after sitting for a long time. After 35 years, it does not resemble gasoline anymore.

Special Days

By the time this goes to print, Mother’s Day will have passed and Memorial Day and Father’s Day will be on the horizon. Let me say, before I really get going, that I probably have written about the subject before and hopefully you are a bit like me and can’t remember and to those who can, just use it as a reminder, if you remember and have followed my past suggestions, a giant kudos to you!

I have wondered for years why we make such a big deal about what I consider very important certain subjects one day a year. Take Mother’s Day, which has just passed, many people took some time and took Mom out to eat, gave her candy, flowers, jewelry, cards and I’m sure the list would include a huge assortment of things, some of which would have been more appreciated on – well, let’s say a Wednesday. Those things are vacuums, brooms, new dust cloths, ice scraper or maybe a gift certificate to the car wash. Nothing says I love and appreciate you like a gift certificate to the local car wash! Don’t get me wrong, remember I am writing from my prospective and I realize there are women out there that tools would be at the top of their list, I’m just not one of them. Another thing about these days, like Mother’s Day, that I think of is why are those mothers running around and waiting on me. It does create some guilt in me, even though I have worked in a profession which required working on holidays and I certainly didn’t want any (well I won’t say any) one to feel guilty, I was away from my family and hopefully helping them out.

This can apply to all our “special days” such as Father’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Veterans Day, Easter, Christmas, Labor Day, and President’s Day (combo of Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, for those of you who didn’t know or have forgotten). Some of these days have become just another day off from work with no mail and no banking and no thought to why it is a special day. And of course, some always fall on a Sunday. When I was in grade school (yes, many moons ago) onMemorial Day we marched to the cemetery, sang songs like America, Battle Hyman of the Republic and read a list of veteran’s names ending in a 6th grader (who had been chosen with great honor) to recite the Gettysburg Address. Yes, I said recited from memory. There wasn’t a child in that school that didn’t want that privilege and honor. I am not saying not to have any of these ‘special days’ but I bet mothers, fathers, veterans, workers would really appreciate a little more recognition, hand shake or a smile and a kind word all throughout the year and not just on ‘their day’. And let’s not forget those who don’t get a day, kind and helpful neighbors, door openers, people who let you go first, those who are there if you fall, those who give when something bad or sad happens to you, those who give you a hug when it is most needed, people who push your car when it is stuck or stops running and I remember once trying to fit a dresser into a way too small car (at the entrance of University Mall) where there was an abundance of onlookers) the Salvation Army bell ringer stashed her buck-et in the front seat and spent time and a lot of muscle trying to thread this needle – to no avail, then, a woman from a Fence Company in Orleans, ran back to her truck and produced enough rope to tie the dresser to the trunk, success – looks great in my house!

I guess what I am saying that once a year isn’t enough. Make a pledge to try and do something no matter how small each day. A kind word goes a long way and I bet if you get in the habit of doing this that if by chance a special day gets here and gone without you – you will be forgiven!

John Johnson’s Pro Street 1967 Camaro SS

john johnson 67 camaro ssA few in the VAE have heard about John Johnson and his Mountain View Auto Body & Sign company in Sheldon, Vermont.

If you see the logos on our show trailers, they were made in John’s shop. There are also some beautiful member vehicles that have departed John’s shop ready for the show field.

67 camaro ss pro street supercharged engineThis ’67 Camaro had been a “full dragster” in its earlier life. A quarter mile in the 9 seconds comes out about 150 MPH, and this Camaro had a reputation of beating most anything that wanted to go up against it. John says the car was showing its bumps and bruises when it came to him in 2005. A worn out paint job, a weird painted figure on its side and fist-bumps on its roof where maybe the former owner was teaching the SS to behave…. It also had no engine or firewall and the inside was gutted. You can see in these pictures what John has accomplished. His attention to detail is abundantly clear, all the way to the 100 hours that was spent to redo the hood into exactly what he wanted.

Superchargers were originally built for aircraft during WWII. Essentially, it is a large pump that compresses air and forces it into the engine’s air intake resulting in a horse power I increase of 50 to 100 percent. John has a supercharger that produces 9 pounds of boost on top of his 502 Chevy engine and when he wants to, he can produce HPs in the 700 range. Having a supercharger means it will not affect the engine’s reliability, longevity, or fuel economy under normal driving conditions but when you want to press your right foot down, all hell is let loose! Wheel Tracks has just learned about the term “Pro-street”. John’s Camaro is street legal and at the same time if he wants to do “some screaming”… the car is ready and willing. A “double barrel shot gun” is what they call the supercharger air intake that you see on top of the engine, another one of those terms an old antique Dodge and Franklin guy might never use.

67 camaro ss pro street interiorThe SS was about a two year project from ‘05 to ‘07 and John can still show you items he wants to add or change. To allow the engine to be as low as possible the mounts were special made. A Dano 60 rear-end was installed along with a whole new rear suspension system to accommodate the extra power. The paint job is a work of art, and all one can imagine is all the work unseen, when you walk up to a car like this……and the work continues.

There is a possibility we will see this Camaro at the VAE/Shelburne Car Show on Father’s Day Weekend. Another Camaro that has come out of John’s shop is the one you see on Wheel Tracks (page 16), the McDermott Camaro. Mark “Blue” McDermott will have his beauty at the show along with many others that have been invited. We see these wonderful ‘finished’ automobiles, and Ernie Clerihew & Don Perdue, hopefully, will have a surprise for us at the Shelburne show. The show’s co-chairs have found a true “barn find” ’67 Camaro for the show that will demonstrate the amount of work involved when we use the word “restoration”.

1967 camaro ss tail

Memories from Mary

1939 chevrolet pickupMost folks may not realize it but that is a picture of me (a loooong time ago) in the 2017 Shelburne Show flyer, in front of my Dad’s 1939 Chevrolet, which made me think of some of his other vehicles.

He plowed our dirt road with an old Army truck (also pictured in the flyer) and usually had me and our current dog with him. He had a Dodge coupe, a couple of sedans (Chevrolets, of course), and a Willys pickup truck, which he drove over, around, and through everything.

Dad liked to accumulate vintage cars, not to restore or show, but to drive for fun. He had a ’35 Packard limousine which was given to him in lieu of rent by a neer-do-well hippy type kid from down country. He discovered a ’28 “barn find” Dodge Brothers coupe that was a real “cream puff”, from a lady who could no longer drive. We now have that ’28 Dodge. When we brought it home to Vermont (from New Hampshire), we discovered all of the old registration paperwork in the trunk, indicating it had been registered in my name all that time, but I have never driven it. As I may have pointed out before, driving an old car as a teenager in the 1950`s, no way!

Our son now has the Packard in his garage and hopes to find time to work on it at some point. With his job and raising a family, it won’t happen right away. Wendell’s Dad wasn’t particularly mechanically minded, but he was impressed by the tandem bicycle Wendell and his friend constructed – and rode. Wendell’s Mom also had a Model T she drove in the teens and ’20s.

barn cat
This is a picture of the “practice”, not on Mary’s family farm.

And now back to my Dad – he had to milk our cows by late afternoon, by hand, offering squirts of milk to the barn cats. The milk was put into milk cans to be picked up the next day, including the morning milk. And now up to the present. All of the above (except for the cow milking) explains our interest in old cars. Currently, a 1948 Indian motorcycle is being worked on by Wendell in our garage. We’ll see where that goes!

Spring is supposed to be here, but until only recently it has felt like it. The snow we never shoveled has melted so we can see the leaves we never raked. I found one crocus in bloom and the daffodils are coming up, so there is hope. This is Vermont, however, so any kind of weather could happen! And probably will!!!

Project Updates – MGB & Datsun 240Z

Absent any questions this month, I will give a brief update on the projects I am working on. The MGB project is progressing nicely. The front suspension has been rebuilt. All the metal parts have been wire brushed, cleaned and painted. The cast parts were painted with a coat of “cast blast” lacquer to replicate the look of clean cast iron. The steel pieces (brake dust shield, lower A arm and all hardware) were painted with POR black paint. This will provide a durable and long lasting paint protection.

1972 Datsun 240Z
The ’72 Datsun 240Z “Gift-wrapped”

The entire brake system has been overhauled. Many metal lines were replaced with Nickle-Copper lines, affording an opportunity to learn how to shape hard lines and how to create bubble and double bubble flares. All the rubber hoses were replaced. The calipers and master cylinders were rebuilt, and the shoes, pads and rear wheel cylinders were replaced. Brakes were adjusted and the wheel bearings were repacked with new grease seals.

The generator, distributor and carburetor were rebuilt. Last week the car was started, the first time it has run in 30 years. We let a mixture of ATF and Acetone soak in the cylinders for some time before we changed the oil. The engine turned over easily. The engine started right up, however, some of the valves were sticking. We let it run for about 20 minutes, then slowly poured seafoam into the carburetors. This week we will set the ignition timing, and adjust the carbs and the valves. We will also set the front wheel toe-in alignment using two parallel strings strung through the axle center line and a dial caliper. We will move on to the rocker panels and the floor pan replacement.

I have another project in the garage, my son bought a 1972 Datsun 240Z. This car has rust in the usual places. It is getting new rocker panels, floor pans and rear quarter panels. Fortunately, the car came with all the body panels. This car will be a father/son restoration project. The car is solid enough, but will probably end up being a full ground up rotisserie restoration.

The driver’s side floor and rocker panel have been replaced. Most of the rust repair on the left side has been completed. After the rear quarter panel is done we will test fit the front fender and the door, adjust all the gaps, then move on to the right side. Once all the welding is complete, the engine, transmission, front and rear sub frames, the front and rear suspensions and the rest of the interior, will be removed. The car will go on the rotisserie for all the body work and final painting. Stay tuned…

Get a Bigger Hammer

A few days ago, I was rummaging about in the cellar, looking for something, and I came across my X-C skis. They are the old wooden kind that you had to wax every time you used them depending on the weather and conditions. I also found my bamboo ski poles that I had used occasionally, when the ice replaced the snow in the yard. Then, there were my old shoes that I could never fit into now!

Over the next few weeks I started to think about all the X-C skiing that I once did. Mostly here in town, with friends, the kids or the dogs, on ski trails or bush-whacking here on our property (before the era of cell phones, horrors!) I recall one specific winter when we had purchased an old VW bug from a neighbor. It was orange and beat up enough so that a few more dents or scratches didn’t make any difference. A good car for us! For a number of years a friend and I ran a Bill Koch ski club here in town for kids and we would meet every Saturday at the local school. From there we would ski all over, on ski trails that were in existence everywhere then. Somehow, we managed to fit three to four people in the VW along with our ski equipment. No big deal! One particular Saturday, Gael was getting ready to drive to Florida to visit his brother and the kids and I were getting ready to go to the Bill Koch Club to go skiing. Gael’s parting comment went something like this… “If the car won’t start, crawl under the car and hit the starter with a hammer”. No problem. It sounded easy enough. Gael leaves and we get into the VW. It won’t start. So I crawled under the car and looked for the starter. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, so I called a neighbor who came over and we proceeded to crawl under the car together with a hammer. He showed me where the starter was, hit it and I crawled out, got into the car and it started. Whew! I thanked him and we drove off to our skiing afternoon.

For the next few weeks, I carried a blanket and a hammer in the car and had to use it quite a few times, but it always worked. I also dis-covered that, with a push from someone or something, I could usually jump start the car that way. Another reason for having kids! If I had to venture out of town to the grocery store, I usually took our son and quite often a friend of his with me, just in case! I would park in the grocery store parking lot in such a way that, with a push from the two boys, the car would start. It usually meant that the boys would have to go into the store with me, but we separated when inside, me to get the groceries and them to do something to kill time. One time I happened to see rolls of toilet paper being tossed over isles and I know they had found something to amuse themselves. I don’t remember what happened to that car or what replaced it. It might have been another VW bug with the driver’s seat on a piece of plywood or a Saab that came from Joe Kaelin. Both of these cars have unique stories to go with them. I’ll save those for another time.

To the editor…..

I don’t know if you take reader’s responses to articles, but Nancy’s article brought back vivid memories of sliding down the “Mary Fletcher Hospital” hill in Burlington. We used to go down to Sears on Church St. and get cardboard washing machine boxes, pile in 2 or 3 of us and blindly bomb down the steepest part of the hill, trying to see if we could make it all the way to Colchester Ave. and possibly get run over. Ah, the good olé days of being put out with the dog and told “don’t come back till dinner time!”

Bill Fagan

MG Update

I have not received any questions this month, so I will give an update on the MGB project I am helping the high school student with.

When we adjusted the valves, I was able to use my camera scope and explain how a four cycle engine works. The principle of the carburetor operation was easy to understand while rebuilding the carburetors.

I have taught her how to rebuild the brake master cylinder, the brake calipers, and the clutch master. I have taught her how to cut and form metal brake lines, make bubble flares with a flaring tool, replace brake pads and brake shoes, and how to adjust drum brakes.

Together we replaced the kingpins in the front suspension. Taking the suspension apart, I was able to show her how the suspension worked. She got hands on experience disassembling, rebuilding and then reassembling the suspension.

We disassembled the generator, soaked the bronze bushing in engine oil, dressed the armature, replaced the brushes, cleaned, paint-ed and reassembled it. We polarized it, then tested it before installing it back on the car.

More hands on experience was to be had when I walked her through how to replace the wheel bearings. She was able to knock out the old bearing cones and install the new ones. This was followed up with packing the bearings and installing new grease seals.

We even successfully banged out a good size fender dent. We may weld in new floor pans and rocker panels.

I am so impressed with how quickly she is able to learn new skills, and master these tasks. All through the project she is learning how to properly care for tools, and keep all the parts well sorted. We are carefully saving all of the old parts, and every work session ends with carefully wiping the tools down with a rag, then putting them away, clean.

The MGB is a great car to learn from. It is simple enough to use as a model for explaining and demonstrating how the systems of a car work, yet modern enough to be relevant.

We need to continue projects like this one to keep our youth invested in the hobby. In a few weeks this MG will be ready for her to drive it to school. Amazing, considering the car had been parked outside for years before she was born, and has sat idle her entire life.

mgb brake calipers

Yup, the calipers both looked like the one on the right, now they look like the one on the left. Cleaned, and new pistons, seals and dust seals.

1930 Ford Model A “Tudor”

Does anyone know why Henry Ford decided to call this Model A a “Tudor“? Read on for a couple of theories…

Don Pierce's 1930 ford model a tudorDonald and Anne Pierce found this 1930 Ford Model A in the 2015 VAE car show “Car Corral”. The purchase took them back another 25 years, toward the beginning of the auto era for them. Their oldest at that point was their ’55 Dodge panel Truck. Don’s Model A was restored by John and Chris Center of West Rutland in the 1980s. Don purchased the car from Bill Pinkham of Monroe, New Hampshire. He had wanted an older vehicle and is very happy with his Ford choice. It’s a very reliable car, he says.

The Ford Model A was the second huge success for the Ford Motor Company, after its predecessor, the Model T. First produced on October 20, 1927, but not sold until December 2, it replaced the venerable Model T, which had been produced for 18 years. This new Model A (a previous model had used the name in 1903-04) was designated a 1928 model and was available in four standard colors.

1930 ford model a tudorBy February 1929, one million Model As had been sold, and by July 24th, two million. The range of body styles ran from the Tudor at $500 (in grey, green, or black) to the Town Car with a dual cowl at $1200. In March 1930, Model A sales hit three million, and there were nine body styles available.

Model A production ended in March, 1932, after 4,858,644 had been made in all body styles. Its successor was the Model B, which featured an updated 4-cylinder engine, as well as the Model 18, which introduced Ford’s new flathead (sidevalve) V8 engine.

There were 376,271 Tudors built in 1930. They weigh 2348 pounds and the L-head 4-cylinder engine produces 40 brake horsepower at 2200RPM (rated horsepower is 24)… see footnote.

1930 ford model a tudorDon is our VAE treasurer and in his spare time operates three businesses. There is Melody Electric, his residential company and Middlesex Electric, his commercial electric company and finally Kerin’s Sign Service. Don started his electrician career in 1973 as an apprentice and got his journeyman’s license in 1977 and his master electrician’s license in 1979. In 1983 he started his own business. Don’s wife, Anne, is in her 28th year as a court reporter in the federal court house in Burlington. Wheel Tracks was told Anne has not driven the Model A yet, maybe we will see her driving it at one of our events this summer…

Footnote… What is the difference between rated horsepower (HP) and brake horsepower (BHP)?

Horsepower was figured “back in the day” when, mostly, four legged creatures were used.

Invented by James Watt, one horsepower originally was measured by the amount of work, that a horse lifting coal out of a coal mine, could do in a minute. Back then, one HP equated to 33,000 foot-pounds.

So, what is BHP? Well, if you take all the items off the car that the engine needs to power, like the transmission, the water pump, the generator… everything , you have an engine with no work to do and all kinds of extra power. That is brake horsepower.

This Model A Ford needs 16 of its horsepower, out of the 40 HP it produces… just to sit and idle.

You pick… Henry Ford used the Tudor name because…

  1. The House of Tudor, the royal house of Welsh and English origin, descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland from 1485 until 1603. Henry Ford thought that was cool.
  2. It was a marketing ploy. Manufacturers had pet names for different body styles. The model T touring car became a phaeton on the model A. It sounds better. The tudor (2-door) and fordor (4-door) were marketing terms designed to stick in the minds of the public.

All Lined Up (2)

Several months ago I received an email from a Vermont high school student through my MG club’s website. This high school senior ex-plained that to graduate from high school, the school required seniors to complete a senior project. This project required an adult to mentor them and guide them through the project.

The project is a 1964 MGB that has been parked in a wood shed for decades. The car was not put into storage, it was simply parked. To get the car running, all of the fluids needed to be changed, the front suspension needed to be overhauled, the carburetors needed to be rebuilt, the fuel pump and fuel lines needed to be replaced, the radiator and the water pump needed to be replaced, and the brakes needed a thorough overhaul.

I have assisted this high school student with the project for the last few months. The car is almost road worthy. The initial startup is only days away.

This project is very important to me for several reasons. It is very rare to find a high school student with an appreciation for auto-mobiles, and an interest in learning how they work and how to maintain them. I am enjoying the opportunity to teach a teenager how to maintain a car, and I am also glad to be returning another MG sports car…. back on the road.

The really nice part of this story? This high school student knows how to drive a standard, and she is a woman.

The picture below is one found by Wheel Tracks on line. What a beauty.

The car to the left might be like this someday.

How many of you would like to know more about this high school student and her plans for the future. Is she at one of Vermont’s Career Centers.

Maybe if we ask Dave ‘real nice’ he could ‘author’ something for us.