Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

A Celebration of Family

For eighteen years, the Austin extended family have toured the Northeast U.S in their old cars. Above is part of their 2006 tour that included the Champlain Transportation Museum in Plattsburg. The young-ones are “trying out” the museum’s pedal car collection.There is something always planned for everyone, young and older.  

A Celebration of Family, from Jim Austin and The Austin, Danahey and Jarvis Families. 

As a family we have been touring for 18 years. This is a quote from one of our nieces who went on to describe our annual family vintage car tour this way: “The antique cars take us back to simple times when family was more important than careers, electronics and social media.” 

The tours start at different locations throughout New England depending on the area we will be visiting. Usually we all get together some time in the afternoon on Thursday. At this time, we prepare a buffet lunch because everyone shows up at different times. This is the time when we are handed an agenda for the weekend activities. It describes the places we will visit as well as the driving route, and places we will eat. 

First thing Friday morning, after breakfast, we have a short meeting telling who will lead the tour and who will be last in case of breakdowns. Thanks for cell phones. We also go over the rules of the road so as not to make other drivers dislike our slower moving vehicles. We do not travel as a bunch, traveling in groups of three or four leaving room for others to pass. 

At 8:30 we are on the road. One tour in 2006 started in Chazy, NY at a sister and brother-in-law’s place on Lake Champlain. Having a large lawn backed up to a huge apple orchard made it ideal for camping. So out came the tents, travel trailers and motor homes. Naturally we also took over their house as well. 

Our tour started from their home to visit a gentleman’s collection of John Deere farm tractors. From there we traveled to the Plattsburg air base to visit the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum. This was a small collection of vehicles featuring the Lozier automobile which was made in Plattsburg. There was also a collection of model cars and trains. The kids really liked the pedal cars to drive around the parking lot. Next was a trip down to Ausable Chasm,the Grand Canyon of New York. The trip would not be complete without a raft ride down the river. There were many views of the Chasm bottom from the top. Next, we headed back to the base at Chazy for our social gathering and dinner. 

We then traveled to Canada through customs and on to Park Safari. This is a big wild animal park with many things to do, we spent the day there. Going back thru customs wasn’t too bad, then back to home base for another wonderful meal. 

The Shelburne Farm tour in 2016 was also memorable. We were treated to a guided tour of the grounds in our antique cars. A nice thing was having our cell phones and speakers in each car so we were connected to the guide who explained each event as we traveled around the grounds. 

Another time we started in North Conway, NH. We were privileged to visit a wonderful collection of horse drawn vehicles and wagons. There were over 90 wagons including two from the Queen of England’s stable, 6 Concord Coaches, Military Wagons, hearses, Peddler’s wagons and many more, of all kinds. 

Other places we went to, included Six Gun City in Jeffersonville, NH. There we were invited to drive our vehicles into the old western town village and park them on their main street while visiting all the other sites inside Six Gun City. Many tried their skills in the mini auto racing cars. 

Visiting Clarks’ Trading Post, in Lincoln, NH was a real treat for the kids as well as the adults, especially watching the trained bears and the steam train ride. The Wright War Museum in Wolfeboro, NH was very interesting. While in Wolfeboro we visited two exceptional private auto collections. At one of these collections, one young boy, 5 years old was fascinated by a high wheel bicycle. He looked it over many times and then had a question. He went up to the owner and said “Sir, how do you put training wheels on that bicycle?” 

We visited the wonderful ABC auto collection in Chocorua, NH. Today, it no longer exists. Another wonderful collection of cars located in Newport, NH has been sold and is not available any more. It was in a restored brick factory building holding the Rugar auto collection. 

What a great ride our family has had. Every year is a treat, from the places we stay, events, the museums, car collections, displays, parks, card games, you name it, they are all amazing and enjoyed by all ages. We are very fortunate to have a family that enjoys being together. Young and old we all look forward to the next family tour celebration. We usually have 32-35 family members on the tour, the most we have had is 44. They come from Oregon, Arizona, South Carolina, New York, MA, NH, and VT. 

To quote my daughter-in-law: “I now understand why my kids were so excited every year about the car tour and learned the attraction, fun and adventure. We all have built relationships with the family that they never would have without the tour. The family has become great friends.” 

Shelly Nolfi, Needham, MA. “What my father created is truly a legacy that I hope will continue on for generations. We’re so lucky to have a family, that takes the time every year, to be together for 3 days for a family reunion on antique wheels.” 

Timing Is Everything!

A co-worker of mine just had an expensive experience with her Volkswagen. 

vw 5v timing

The car has the two liter twin cam engine, with a timing belt. The car had 85,000 miles on it, and had the original belt. This engine has five valves per cylinder, and it is an interference engine, meaning the valves will hit the pistons if the camshafts turn out of sync with the crankshaft. 

Unfortunately, the timing belt broke. When the belt broke, the valves hit the pistons, bending the valves. What should have been a several hundred dollar preventative maintenance repair, just became minimally a $1,200 repair. Minimally, the head needs to be rebuilt with new valves, if it can be saved. The head may well have to be replaced. The pistons could be damaged as well. 

If your car has a timing belt, it is not worth delaying the timing belt replacement, especially if it has an interference engine. A proper repair may involve replacing the water pump, camshaft seals and the front crankshaft seal. 

I Am Now Retired!

By the time you read this article, I will have been retired for all of five weeks, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what I’ve been doing for the past 40 ½ years and also give a plug to a career that is in desperate need of people all across our country. 

A little background: I was born and brought up in Burlington, attended Rice High School and then went on to Champlain College in their Court Reporting Program, graduating in 1978! Yep, I’m a court reporter, or maybe you’ve heard the term “court stenographer.” I am one of those people that sit behind that funny looking machine, you may have seen on TV, and make my fingers dance across the keys. 

For the first 10 years after graduation, I was a freelance court reporter in Rutland, which means I was hired directly by attorneys where I would go to a particular law office, and “report” the questions and answers asked by the attorneys and answered by witnesses in court cases. I’d also report contentious school board hearings, arbitration hearings, and even fill in a court because their court reporter was away that day. In 1988, I was the luckiest person in the world! I was hired by Judge Albert Coffrin to succeed his retiring court reporter. That meant a move back to the Burlington area and family & friends; and since then I’ve been reporting nonstop for 30 years and 7 months at the United States District Court until my retirement on March 30. 

Daily, I reported to work and was in the courtroom whenever there was a hearing scheduled (be it jury trials, motion hearings, sen-tencings, etc.) taking down – reporting — every single word spoken by anyone in the courtroom. One may ask how is that possible? Well, as the name implies, the shorthand machine has 20+ keys on it, and each key corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and you, in essence, create a shorthand system. I always say it is much like playing a musical in-strument. I learned how to play the piano when I was young, and if you think about a piano with so many keys, you strike one key and it sounds one way, you strike 2 or 4 or up to 10 keys all at once, it sounds another way. That’s the way the shorthand machine works. 

I’m sure none of you have ever been to a gym or a bar and watched the TV screen with the translations at the bottom of the screen!?! Well, that’s a court reporter, a closed-captioning court reporter. TV stations by law have to closed-caption news and sports — like the Super Bowl or the World Series, and many other broadcasts for the hearing impaired, in what’s called “real time”, and the only way to do that is to have a court reporter, probably at home in his/her jammies, getting a live feed from the TV station to their home. The reporter then writing what they hear through their headphones onto their shorthand machine, that being translated back into English by the specialized software, and then the feed going back out to the TV station and, in turn, being broadcast out to your TVs. Whew! Seems like a lot of extra work, doesn’t it? Why don’t they just use voice recognition software you have on your iPhone and be done with it? Because, ultimately, court reporters are the gold standard for accurate, instantaneous translation. Only the human ear and brain can discern the difference between “pahk the kah” and “park the car.” 

The last part of my job is to return to my office and, when requested, prepare a certified written transcript of the proceedings. A full day in court will produce on average 280 pages of transcript! I will use my specialized software to translate the shorthand “gibberish” back into English and then correct spellings (is your name spelled Brown, Browne, Brawn); punctuation, paragraphing, identifying speakers; homonyms, unless you write them differently (their/they’re/there, to/two/too); and then be able to certify that the transcript is a true and accurate record of the proceedings.

My career has spanned an amazing 40 years, and I am truly grateful to Judge Coffrin for hiring me 30 years ago and bringing me back to my family and friends and the city that I love. If you know of anyone who’s looking for a great career that pays very well, has an aptitude for the written word, a good work ethic, a good ear, a desire to learn every day of their working lives, by all means have him/her get in contact with me and we can talk further! 

To the right is a picture of the paper that would have come out of the machine “in the olden days” with the interpretation on the right. Today, it’s all electronic and the steno machine simply down-loads into a computer, 

A Positively Good Idea

Recently I attended a SCCV driving event. Part of their pre-event inspection is verification of a cover for the hot battery terminal. I checked my car a few days before, and realized the positive battery terminal was not covered. I spent a minute thinking of all the possible ways the positive terminal could be accidentally shorted to ground. If nothing else, when working on the car, a wrench or other tool could easily be accidentally dropped, causing a direct short. 

The positive terminal is just a few inches from the aluminum A/C lines, the inner fender, and numerous bare nuts and bolts. I can understand the concern, the battery could easily be accidentally shorted out. 

I went to the local auto parts store and bought a pair of universal battery terminal covers. I had to cut it a little to make it fit my car. Just for good measure, I used a red zip tie to hold it in place. 

I passed the safety check with no issues, they checked to ensure the battery was securely held down, that the hot terminal is covered, the front end was tight, and there was nothing loose on the body of the car. 

I have also decided that the hot terminal of all my cars will be covered, as an extra safety measure. The $5 spent for terminal covers is cheap insurance and piece of mind. These covers can easily and quickly be removed for display on show cars. 

25th Anniversary Milestone

Anne was unavailable this month for her column, so instead, we have gone back in the Wheel Tracks archives to the 1980s. Enjoys…… 


Al Ward’s 1982 “25th Anniversary Milestone” Poem. 

Some 25 years ago at a lovely place called Stowe 

Stood five old cars pushed all in a row. 

The occasion of which was a picnic, I’m told.

And started the VAE as a club to take hold. 

Each year we have prospered under super direction 

Now each gathering held in close perfection. 

Our meets take place in august as we all know 

And features flea markets and a wonder show. 

The town is jam packed with enthusiasts galore 

Who arrive from Canada and the New England shore. 

They keep coming back year after year 

To take part in the show and give us a cheer. 

Who would have thought that from such a small start 

This club would have grown and we all could take part. 

In putting on tours and sponsoring meets 

Or just milling around while munching on sweets. 

Over the years, the scenes have change 

The designs of the cars have greatly ranged. 

At first they were mostly all in the teens 

But now it’s the fifties and in-be-tweens. 

The success of our club is due in part 

To those dedicated few who gave it a start. 

And also to those who have carried on, 

Through there 25 years we look back upon. 

And now on the anniversary of our very small start 

It give us great pleasure and comes from the heart 

To thank all those who through these glorious years 

Are most deserving and have earned these three cheers. 

Cheer, cheer, cheer! 


1980 Glidden Tour with, 1929 Silver Annie 

“She’s not much to look at” by Cliff French 

After being on the 1968 Glidden Tour in Pocono, Penn., I wanted to go again in 1980 in the White Mountains. I pulled the motor out, and out of 4 motors, took the best of each and made a motor that sounds like a bucket of bolts. This motor runs nice and uses no oil. With a 1927 Marvel brass carburetor, I get 14 miles to a gallon of gas. 

I was accepted on the 1980 Tour with number 67 out of 341. 

Esther and I left Bradford in the rain, September 14th, arriving in Brenton Woods at the Mt. Washington House about 3:30PM. We were to stay across the road at the Bretton Woods Motor Inn. We spent the rest of the day visiting and admiring the other many cars arriving, coming from across the United States and Canada. 

Editor’s notes…. Taken from the 1981 Spring issue of Wheel Tracks. Cliff’s column goes on describing their eight days on the tour. We do not have the room to print the complete article but if you make a request, we will mail it to you.

Cliff ends his column with this……. 

When I saw and heard about the many fine cars that threw rods, clutches and rear ends, to name a few, it made me feel good that Silver Anne made the 775 miles and the only problem was a leaky manifold gasket. 

M37 Military Truck

Bob Chase seems the happiest when he is around Military vehicles, like this moment when he was unloading an M37 truck at the show field. 

He has been a co-chair of our August show since 2004. 

Duane Leach joined him in 2010 and together, they have exceeded all our expectations. The two live on opposite sides of Mount Mansfield and in the hundreds of phone calls they make to one another, Bob usually starts his conversation with…. 

“Hello, from the other side of the hill.” 

1937 Dodge MC Pickup

Mike Felix’s 1937 Dodge MC Pickup

From the build sheet I obtained from Historical Services at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, I have determined: 

My 1937 Dodge MC was built on June 23, 1937 at the Chrysler Corporation, Dodge Truck Division, Hamtramck plant in Michigan. When it left the factory it was shipped to Perth Amboy, New Jersey with the following options installed: shock absorbers, front and rear ($9.50), interior sun visor ($2), auxiliary windshield wiper ($4), a tire lock ($2.50) and a rear chrome bumper ($8.50). These accessories are still with the truck except for the tire lock, but the hole where the tire lock shackle would be locate is present in the hub where the spare attaches to the fender assembly. 

1937 dodge mc pickup profile

Curiously, two items on the build sheet remain unresolved at this time. The first is the abbreviation, “sov”, in the list of options contained in the build sheet. Accordingly, the truck was built with three “sov” and I currently have no idea what the “sov” abbreviation identifies. Secondly, I can not determine if the truck left the factory with the utility box. The build sheet indicates the rear body as a “2”, unfortunately I am unable to determine what the “2” refers to, when describing the rear body. And the “rear fender” option is left unchecked on the build sheet. As you might expect, the truck has no rear fenders. If you know of anyone with knowledge of the coding used in Dodge build sheets from that era, I would appreciate their contact information. 

1937 dodge mc pickup back

I have had several automotive professionals analyze the utility body to determine who manufactured it. In addition to being unable to locate a makers mark, these individuals all concluded that the box was made by a manufacturing concern and not a one-off built by a local craftsman. The gauge of the metal and the accuracy of the stampings indicate to them, that the box was built by, an unnamed industrial manufacturer. The wiring and fittings used to secure the box to the frame rails also indicate the truck probably left the factory, with this box attached. If you know of anyone with knowledge of utility boxes and their manufacturers, I would appreciate their contact information. 

1937 dodge mc pickup interior

The history of the truck from the time it left the factory until somewhere in the 50’s is unknown to me. The individual from whose estate it was purchased, in the 50’s, is identified in the faded black paint on both doors – Hans Kuhn, Builder, Grand Gorge. Grand Gorge is located in rural New York as is the farmer I pur-chased it from in 1977, who worked a dairy farm in Franklin, New York. During my college years I had seen the truck occasionally moved around the farm and noticed it did not have license plates on it. The story goes that the farmer bought the truck to use on the farm and for his boys to learn how to drive. The boys had no interest, so the farmer did not register it for the road. He used the Dodge to drive around the farm for approximately 20 years. So a few years out of college I got enough courage to ask him if it was for sale, we struck a deal and I towed it home a week or two later. 

When I purchased the truck it was not drivable, the engine was seized, the interior was unusable, the windshield was delaminated, the rear window was broken and it had 107,960 miles on the odometer. I intend-ed to restore the truck and have fun with it. Over the years I never had the time or resources to devote to the truck. Fast forward from 1977 to 2015, the spring of ‘15, my son motivated me to get the truck running and usable again. Each of the trucks systems were evaluated and all parts that needed to be replaced were, so it would become a reliable driver. The Dodge passed Vermont state inspection in October of 2015 and I have been using it since. It does not have special antique plates, but regular truck plates, so I can enjoy it whenever possible and not have to worry about the restrictions imposed on vehicles with antique plates. 

The truck is as original as I could keep it and still be a reliable driver. The inner surfaces of the utility box has its original paint as does the fenders and firewall. Some-where in the 50’s a previous owner hand brushed the light green paint over the stock dark green paint. Inside one of the utility box compartments are the two remaining original sliding wood trays used to hold tools. 

The Dodge is used for weekend chores and has successfully taken me on one 320 mile round trip excursion in under 24 hours. What fun it is to experience the response of people as I pull into a shopping area. Most rave about the originality and patina of the truck, the uniqueness of the utility box and implore me not to change it. Double clutching to and from my weekend destinations has become something I very much look forward to and hope to continue enjoying for years to come. 

Birds of a Feather

Friday night (February 1, 2019) we lost a good friend and the area lost a knowledgeable, passionate historian in Ken Barber. 

ken barber

Ken was a VAE member and has contributed to Wheel Tracks many times. If you didn’t know him, I wouldn’t be surprised. He didn’t inject himself in the running of the operation, not to say he didn’t have opinions about its “runnings”. I think some of the reason was that things tended to annoy him, so he stayed away. 

He was an avid collector of information in the form of books, papers, magazines and photographs. He loved printing photo-graphs of local history from some glass negatives which he had collected. And with them, he had great recall and knew facts which, I fear, without being written down, will be lost forever. 

His knowledge spanned a huge number of things, from town and village history and changes, antiques, old tools, trucks and of course, cars. Recently Ken wanted my husband, Gary, to take him to Maine to get about 200 Life magazines from the 40’s and 50’s. After Ken looked them over he passed them on to Gary and they now reside under my dining room table! 

Ken was as concerned as Gary, about the loss of history, when things get thrown away or by people passing away. This would include the loss of skills, that at one time, many could do. I know Gael Boardman was impressed with Ken’s skill in producing hand hewn beams for a house Ken built for his family. I also know Ken would give Gary items knowing he would ‘hang on to them’. 

One of the reasons I liked Ken, so much, was that if Gary suggested going somewhere and I didn’t really want to go, I would say, ‘why don’t you ask Ken’. Gary and Ken, being like-minded, enjoyed the outings with each other and I enjoyed seeing them go! 

Ken could be kind of cranky and believe it or not, so can Gary. That along with their common interests and we have “Birds of a feather flock together”. Another ‘bird in the flock’ is Gary Fiske. Gary and Ken had become great friends with common interests. I can’t believe, however, that Gary ever gets cranky. Ken you will be missed by Gary and I, maybe not wholly for the same reasons but thoroughly missed none the less. 

Rest in Peace, dear friend. 

Wheel Tracks note…. Ken’s two sons, Glenn and Scott, while completing the obituary, decided to asked if someone would like to make a donation in Ken’s name, they can donate to the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts. Our treasurer, Don Pierce at 203 Colchester Pond Road, Colchester, VT 05446 is where it can be sent. 

My rear disc brakes with the emergency drum brake

disc brakes with emergency brake
An example of a drum emergency brake with regular disc brakes. 

This was the good news! Something strange happened to me last week. I loaded the garbage and the recycling into the minivan to do the Saturday trip to the transfer station, and the right rear wheel locked up when I backed up. As this happened, the rear axle made unpleasant noises. I thought the parking brake was seized, and was relieved when the wheel moved ok going forward. 

On the way home, the right rear wheel locked up while driving forward, making horrific noises. Again, I thought the noise was originating from the rear axle. I definitely heard the differential banging against the frame cross member it is mounted on. I drove up my driveway, with the wheel seized. I googled the problem, and found many stories of the rear differential failing, causing a rear wheel to lock up. Fortunately, the part is available rebuilt, but they are expensive. 

I planned on removing the differential to verify it was in fact bad before I purchased a used or rebuilt unit. I thought I should check the right rear hub first to rule out any problem there. Fortunately, I found the problem. This vehicle has four wheel disc brakes, with the parking brake on the rear. The parking brake has conventional brake shoes on a drum in the center of a “hat” type rotor. Somehow, something came apart with the parking brake assembly, and the whole assembly broke apart and jammed against the rotor. I have to replace the backing plate, caliper mount, rotor and the whole parking brake assembly. It is bad, but infinitely better than a bad differential. I have never seen anything like this before. 


A few more points about BEARINGS 

Pictured below, and the following is an article from the December, 1960, “Science and Mechanics” magazine. 

Bearing Lubricates Itself 

wheel bearings

Designed to replace ball bearings and have several times their life expectancy, this new Hy-Film bearing never requires relubrication. It utilizes the phenomenon of hydrodynamic oil film. The diagram at left: (1) Oil is drawn from reservoir through bearing window; (2) rota-tion of inner tace under load generates hydrodynamic oil film, supporting race without metal contact; (3) oil forced to bearing ends by film pressure lubricates thrust washer and (4) oil is picked up by slinger and returned to retaining cup, where it is reabsorbed by Permawick in oil return hole. Tann Bearing Company of Detroit, Michigan, designed and developed the bearing. 

What is hydrostatic and hydrodynamic bearing? Hydrostatic bearings are externally pressurized fluid bearings, where the fluid is usually oil, water or air, and the pressurization is done by a pump. Hydrodynamic bearings rely on the high speed of the journal (the part of the shaft resting on the fluid) to pressurize the fluid in a wedge between the faces. 

What are the types of bearings? There are many types of bearings, each used for different purposes. These include ball bearings, roller bearings, ball thrust bearings, roller thrust bearings and tapered roller thrust bearings. 


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I am running out of ideas on what to write about in this column. If you have any ideas, or any questions you want me to answer, please let me know. 

Dave’s Garage…email: dasander@aol.com 

How do I know I am getting a good upholstery job?

From CostHelper.com….. 

How much does it cost to reupholster a car interior? 

For car owners interested in a complete makeover, car owners can buy vehicle reupholstering kits for about $800, plus an additional $750 for a professional to install, Zalewski says. A custom upholstery for an entire car can cost about $2,500. There are also options for carpet repair. 

How much does it cost to reupholster seats? 

car seat frame

Having the car seats professionally reupholstered (not just adding slip covers, but completely replacing the old material with a chosen fabric, adding foam or batting where needed, and repairing springs if needed) typically costs $200-$750 per seat, or about $500-$2,000 for two bucket seats and a back bench seat. 

From Paulina at Rayco Upholstery… 

Plan ahead. Finding an upholstery shop early on, in the process, will ensure you get a better cost estimation, along with an experienced interior craftsman, who can provide pointers on making sure body fabrication or paint work will match up with the interior work. 

Use Quality Materials. Our #1 advice – DO NOT think you can save money on the materials that you bring to the shop on your own. More often than not, it will end up costing you more than you thought. Nobody will know better, on what kind of covering materials your car will need to make it look and work best, than the upholstery experts at the shop. If you decide to go with your own materials and something goes wrong, you’re on your own. 

From Ron at Goodguys Upholstery.. 

SHOPPING FOR A SHOP… Finding the right shop to do your interior work is important. “Experience is king,” Ron told us. “Look at the shop. Is it clean and organized with well-kept machinery? Also check out some of their previous work but pay close attention to the details and the final pieces that really stand out and make a difference. Get your agreement in writing. A firm price might not be possible but a “firm range” is always possible. 

If you belong to a car club and know some members who have had their cars worked on, they can be your best bet to get the initial information that you need. If there is someone in the club familiar with the process, and you are a beginner, then ask if he would go along with you. 

Choosing the material can be fun and a bit overwhelming. After looking through the 10th sample book your eyes might glaze over. You might get as much information as you can from the shop, then go home and study a bit. If you are reupholstering in leather, many times, there are sales where you can buy the three or four hides that you need for your project. Ask the shop for the hide dealer if you want to ask more questions. 

If it is cloth you are using, and you want to use the same as what came original to your car, then find the very best sample from your vehicle. 

Remember to ask for the left-overs. You have already paid for them. They can be valuable years later in making small repairs. 

What to watch for while your car is being worked on….Look for straight seams, and smooth lines on cushions, not puffy/uneven work. Don’t utilize an upholsterer who smokes unless you like the smell of smoke in your car….forever. 

Take photos of the pre-upholstery. It can help the upholsterer immensely while sending the message that you are a ‘detail person’. If you plan to do some of the dismantling, it is important the upholsterer sees your car beforehand, even if that means an extra trailer trip to his shop. Save all material that you take from your car so the shop has examples of stitch types and stich designs. 

And lastly……The shop has your car as collateral and will also most likely ask for an advance. All OK. But, be sure you have a fairly good sized “hold back”. It is surprising the misunderstandings that can happen during a project like this.