Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

Shelburne 2004 Planning Underway

The 2nd meeting of the Shelburne Planning Committee happened Tuesday November 18th and was attended by, Hugh Bargiel, Andy Barnett, Ellen Emerson, Avery Hall, Bryce Howells, Joe Rigg, and Jim Sears. Hugh hosted the event at his gorgeous establishment, The Strong House Inn in Vergennes.

Working from “the list” of responsibilities our group began to put names to items that need attention. Avery was pleased to announce that Julie Greenia will be continuing with Steve Skinner’s Registration Committee to take care of pre-registration tasks (Thank You Julie!). A quick phone also confirmed Ray Tomlinson to head up the Car Corral and Tom McHugh will run the Flea Market. (Thank you both!)

The committee also discussed how to best contact other car clubs to be invited and decided that we should compile a list of clubs and their contacts so that we can get in touch with them about the Shelburne Show. If possible we’d like to get a copy of their mailing list, to directly invite individual members. If that’s not an option we’ll simply ask that they place some information in their newsletters. If you are a member of another car club (I know a lot of us are) and you would like them to be invited, please contact me (Ellen) with the name and address.

Hugh mentioned that in addition to the 5 tours put on last year we will be adding an additional tour that will include a ferry trip over to Plattsburg. We’d like to put together a brochure for the tours alone that includes pictures, a list of all tours and who to contact. This could be a full size brochure or a smaller page that could be used as an insert.

Other items for discussion were the standardization of plaque sizes. We currently have 3 different sizes, which could be reduced to one size, which should save money on the wood for the backing. The committee will look into how we can best save money on awards without reducing the significance of a First Place versus a Third.

Awards will feature last year’s “Best of Show” winner, which is standard operating procedure. Dash plaques will use a picture from the museum, including the Ticonderoga, which is easily recognizable as part of the museum and which falls into the transportation category.

The committee will also look into purchasing something that can be given to all entrants who go through the parade but who do not place in their class. It was suggested that a blue ribbon imprinted with “Thank You For Participating” might be appropriate. Another suggestion was a small bottle of maple syrup since it’s representative of Vermont to many people, especially those outside the state.

The next meeting date has been set for Tuesday, January 13, 2004 where we’ll discuss the budget and hopefully add some more volunteer names to “the list”. If you’d like to volunteer please contact me (Ellen) and I will put you in touch with the proper person!

Enthusiast of the Month: Tom Maclay

[ November 2003 ]

Tom Maclay in 1989VAE records seem a little hazy in establishing the exact date that this month’s Big “E” winner joined our organization. Who would have thought on that date that this new member would bring so much to our hobby and club? This committee has been too embarrassed to ask Tom himself just when he handed over his first dues… but we are sure glad he did. This is what long-time member Mary Jane Dexter has to say about Tom…


“Maclay” is now synonymous with the Stowe Show. Scotsmen for centuries made enormous contributions to the modern Western world. And we have our own Scotsman in our midst who has an uncanny sense of how to make something work well at the Stowe Show. You can call him hardworking, able to organize, knowing how to systematize ideas, capable of getting people to work for him, and you would not be far from the mark.

Tom began his Stowe Show chairmanship with a vacation atmosphere, pressing his family into service for a “week in the country” on the show field! Members of the club were drawn by this kind of Maclay inspired fun/work plan, and the project was up and growing. He seems to be able to keep things under control, except the weather. Yet, even through the mists and showers, dust and mud, Tom always manages to keep his calm and finds the best possible solutions for the problems.

Hats off to Tom Maclay for his many contributions to the VAE, but most of all for his success in steering the cars in the right and proper direction during the Stowe Show.


Mary Jane has known Tom for years and years and knows where of she speaks. Fred Cook has known Tom for a lot less time but his following conclusions seem much the same. Fred is not usually known as being a man of few words… but he’s nailed Tom pretty well with the following 15…

Consensus builder
dedicated family man
compassionate
quick
seeks no glory for himself
fair
highly respected

Board Member, meet organizer, planner and general all around Big “E” guy. To quote him from our 50th year book he has requested that his last ride be in his White-Kress fire truck which is always in the Stowe parade with him at the wheel. Tom… the White has a lot of good miles left in it, and so do you. Thanks for all you have done, are doing and will do. Thanks for being a VAE Big “E”.

Early Automotive Milestones

1900 – Delco invents the first electrical distributor for automobile engines.

1901 – Olds begins production of the famous Oldsmobile Curved Dash runabout. Speedometers used for the first time. Ettore Bugatti designed his first car.

1902 – Henry Leland replaces Henry Ford as chief engineer at the Detroit Automobile Company, which is renamed the Cadillac Automobile Co.

1903 – Bathtub maker David Dunbar Buick starts a Buick plant in Flint, Michigan, and sells it to William Durant the next year. Glass windshields are used on autos for the first time. First cross country trip by automobile. Henry Ford founds the company bearing his name.

1904 – Studebaker introduces a gasoline auto. Cadillac is among the first to use a steering wheel instead of a tiller. First production Maxwells roll off the line in NY. Rolls-Royce Limited founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce in Britain.

1905 – First transcontinental auto race sponsored by Oldsmobile.
Cars could be purchased on an installment plan.

1906 – Ford uses vanadium on the Model N-a heat-treated steel that is lighter and stronger than conventional steel.

1907 – A four-cylinder engine with sliding transmission introduced by Buick.

1908 – Steering wheels moved to the left-hand side on most autos. First grooved automobile tire appears. Buick owner William C. Durant forms General Motors. Ford Model T goes on sale for $850: with 20 horsepower, top speed of 45 mph, & 30 mpg. It sold 10,600 units the first year.

1909 – Automobile storage battery invented by Thomas A. Edison.

The Presidents Perk

To yet again quote a VAE founder, Bob Jones, “A good president should do nothing.” This re-occurring thought has served this year’s President pretty well… thanks to the exceptional efforts of the other officers, directors, show chair-people and those contributing to the committee work necessary to operate the VAE.

There are, however, several tasks that do need attention and are also really interesting. One is to select a favorite from VAE member restored cars.

This should be a car restored or at least completed in the current year by a member who was seriously involved in the restoration personally. This doesn’t mean that the owner did all the work them self… or polished a high-point car that somebody else has resurrected.

The award should be eligible to a this-year’s restoration that was overseen by the owner and where the owner contributed personally where his or her talents allowed. That said, there should be a number of candidate-qualified vehicles to be considered.

The President should then look at the cars, get the restoration story from the owner and make a personal decision on the car (or vehicle… could be a truck, bus, etc) and award a Presidential trophy.

Here is what you need to do. Nominate yourself and vehicle if you could be a contender. Or if bashful, nominate someone you think is deserving. Send those nominations to: Gael Boardman, 252 Upper English Settlement Road, Underhill, VT 05489 and please do it soon.

What a great opportunity for the President guy to get to see some great stuff up close… and what fun to win some recognition for a great job on a great car. Do it today.

VAE 50th Anniversary Book

Have you bought your copy of the VAE 50th Anniversary Book yet? If not, you’re missing out on an extremely interesting book of information on your club and it’s members. There is still time, and the book would made an excellent gift to someone. This is Vermont history in the making.

If you turn to the very last page, you will see some wonderful pictures of the Skinner family. Especially interesting is the picture of Phyllis who is decked out in her Easter finery. Her attire speaks volumes about the 40’s style.

I spoke with Phyllis about her outfit, and interestingly enough, Les remembered more about the colors. She is wearing a dress with a matching hat, short swing jacket with a Peter Pan collar, white gloves, and MaryJane shoes.

The lack of a purse makes me guess that it is in the car. It’s lots of fun to guess the colors of her dress and jacket, and the first person that can guess the correct colors will receive a VAE 50th Anniversary Mug from me as a gift.

When I asked Phyllis if her stockings had a seam in the back of them, she told me a story about a friend who went shopping at Filene’s.

There was a great sale going on for nylon stockings. She couldn’t wait to get home to try them on. Much to her dismay, she realized why they were such a good buy … the stockings had been made with the seam in front!

The thing I disliked the most about nylon stockings, is the fact that they never seemed to stay up properly, and the garter belts were very uncomfortable.

We have a much better deal today with pantyhose. And ladies, did you realize that your pantyhose might someday come in handy to keep your car on the road?

In an emergency they will make a great belt for your cars engine if it should break. It wouldn’t be the first time that an article of clothing or hairpin came in handy, and saved the day getting an engine running again.

The Heine-Velox in Hemmings – Motoring Moment

It might be assumed that many old car “enthusiasts” probably see, and at least scan, Hemmings Motor News on a fairly regular basis. You may have caught the ad in the July issue on the top of page 501. Some person at a ten-digit phone number was offering a Heine-Velox for sale. The ad says it’s a 1921, 148” wheelbase, one of five made and it is “to restore”. He’ll trade for pre-war cars or trucks. Interesting ad. Heine-Velox – it sounded familiar somehow but how?

1921 Heine-VeloxMemory (senior moments aside) and some research recalled that the Heine-Velox was an early example of hydraulic brakes by Lockheed and probably why the name was a little familiar. Sort of like Rickenbacker, Jordan and some other early “juice brake people”.

But – the Heine-Velox story itself is really a lot more interesting than Lockheed brakes. It seems like the Heine Piano Company of San Francisco was doing well in 1903 when its owner got the car bug and became one of the first Ford dealers on the west coast.
In 1904 he added “Queen” to his agency and announced that he would build a car of his own design as well. In the next couple of years he planned cars priced from four to eight thousand dollars (what were his Fords selling for I wonder?) Actually he did manage to build and sell a few of the less expensive ones – and planned a big production run of 50 cars for late 1906… now called the Heine-Velox.

God stepped in and the great San Fran earthquake wiped out his plant, production and plans. The piano factory was lost as well and Mr. Heine went back to the key product, rebuilding the piano factory but having set aside his auto interests.

Time passed and it was now 1921. The Heine-Velox returned. This time it was no Ford or Queen… or even the earlier Heine-Velox. The new version was a 12 cylinder by Weidely to Heine specifications on a huge 148” wheelbase. Not only big… but this was an expensive car. The sport model was priced at $17,000 with the custom built versions priced up to $25,000! Wow – this was 1921 and the US was struggling with post war depression. According to the Standard Catalog of American cars only 6 of these giants were produced… a sporting Victoria, 3 sedans and an unfinished limo.

Mr. Heine gave away these cars… never keeping one for himself – he probably couldn’t afford it. In 1923 the Heine-Velox company was dissolved.

And now… here is a Heine-Velox in Hemmings on page 501. You could trade a pre-war car or truck and have an example of the most expensive American car offered for sale in 1921. If it were the sporting model it would be the biggest 4-passenger car offered as well. Boy… would you look slick at Shelburne and Stowe. Could the Hemmings car be the only “sport model”? Do you want the phone number? As May West said… “He who hesitates is last.”

Another motoring moment brought to you by your old car club.

Enthusiast of the Month: Tom McHugh

Tom McHughRegular readers will know that during our 50th year (2003) Wheel Tracks has been sharing information on some of our most special members… those that have by their time, ability and continued work, have won our “Big E” award. We all are Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts and the Big E is for Super Enthusiasm.

This month’s nod goes to a two time president who is still young enough to do it again… except he has been so busy doing so many other things for the club that there hasn’t been time. Our 1979 President, Gen Morgan, endorses this Big E as follows:


Who is Mr. Flea Market of the VAE? It’s Tom McHugh of course. Tom has been doing the flea markets for all shows for many years. Before completing requests for vendor spots for the Shelburne show, he is also receiving requests for the Stowe show. It is now small task to handle the correspondence, phone calls and emails.

Tom goes to Stowe a week previous to the event to get everything organized. For instance, he draws a good size map, which shows the location in the field of every vendor. It is a most convenient sort of reference. The trailer has become an information center.

Tom joined the club in 1971, did the offices and served as president in 1974 and again in 1989. He has hosted home meets with chicken BBQs, planned mystery tours, and worked on Wheel Tracks to name a few activities. In other words, you name it and he has done it for the club.

With his committee, he has just finished the Book of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Club. A lot of hours were spent on this project. As a result, we have a wonderful book of VAE history, which also includes many fine photos. The membership is gratefully appreciative of all the work and effort involved. Tom is retired from General Dynamics but has gone back to work for the company again.

Besides his interest in Antique Cars, of which the Oldsmobile is his favorite, he also collects antiques and is interested in genealogy. Somehow he finds time to be a volunteer tour guide for Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington.

Tom is a busy person, but never too busy to help or chair an event for the VAE. Oh, and don’t forget his bean hole beans!

The Club extends condolences to Tom and his family on the recent death of his granddaughter, Jennifer.


Congratulations Tom for work well done and thanks Gen, for reminding us that it is people like Tom McHugh that keep the “E” in the VAE.

Infamous Lemons: 1938 Phantom Corsair

1938 Phantom CorsairThe Corsair, based on a Cord automobile chassis, was more an out-right failure of styling than of design. The Cord Company had been responsible for some very good-looking automobiles. This was party because Cord chassis, with their high-performance engines and exotic front-wheel-drive configuration, were naturals for any designer with a yen for sleekness and and exclusivity. Among the designers Cord cooperated with were Gordon Buehrig and Carl Van Ranst, who turned out notable designs for the L-29, the 810 and 812 Berline.

There were, however, those designers who had dreams of beauty and elegance but were unable to realize them – either through their own love of idiosyncrasy, or through lack of talent. Perhaps the worst designs were those perpetrated by the designer with zeal but unclear purpose

The design was supposed to be a sleek, futurist bombshell of a car, powered by a high-performance Lycoming straight-eight engine. In a way it was ahead of its time with completely faired-in fenders, and a low silhouette. Its proportions, however, were all wrong, and the fender sides dropped straight down from the windows like the sand guards on British Crusader tanks of the period – an effect that was only emphasized by the full skirts on the front and rear wheels.

The headlights were like cat’s eyes, vertical slit units set in sockets that were molded bulbs of metal. They strongly resembled the eyes of a semi-submerged hippopotamus and evoked a sense of bemused loneliness. As a whole the car looked fat and behind the strange front end, the sides ran back in unbroken plainness, without even door handles in the seamless panels.

A limited production run was planned but never realized. This may be due to the car’s reception in its big chance at a public-relations coup… the car was featured in the 1938 Selznick International Films motion picture “Young at Heart” staring Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Janet Gaynor. The Corsair emerged from this venture with a new, popular moniker – “The Flying Wombat”.

Increase VTC Scholarship Donation

Vermont Life Magazine is partnering with the VAE to raise money for the Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund. Vermont Life is offering VAE members a discounted price for a one-year subscription, just $13.95. That’s $2.00 off the regular $15.95 subscription price.

And with every new paid subscription, renewal or gift subscription from this offer received by January 1, 2004 – Vermont Life Magazine will donate $5.00 to the VAE’S Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund!

Call 1-800-284-3243 by January 1, 2004 and give the operator code “VAE03” to subscribe, renew or to give gift subscriptions. Gift donors will receive gift announcement cards.

For each address outside the US, please add $6.00. Vermont Life Magazine accepts VISA, MasterCard, and Discover Card or if you prefer, you may request to be billed.

Enthusiast of the Month – Hugh Durnford

Fifty years can generate quite a lot of history but like any history there are defining moments. As the VAE reflects on our past 50 years there have been a number of things and people that have shaped our direction and progress. We have mentioned several of these people here in Wheel Tracks during out golden anniversary… all true great Enthusiasts. This month’s task is harder than usual because of the size and scope of the subject.

We wish to recognize our “Canadian Connection” and the help and support we received from our Northern friends in our beginning and as they continue to be a big part of our major car shows.

Thanks to one and all of you enthusiasts. That said and meant, history reveals that there were a group of really outstanding Canadians who contributed to the VAE very early on. They showed us how to organize our fledgling Stowe car show and what to do to attract participants and the public. They taught us about classes and judging and lent a general sophistication that we might have never developed without them.

They also had some outstanding cars. The following may bring back memories for some of our older members: Ian Jameson, Ian Hodge, Hugh Jockel, Don Kelso, Louis Gravel, Diddie Dunn, George Stead, Steve Weid, Ron Pickering (still an active member) and Hugh Durnford.

Hugh DurnfordIt is the latter that gets this month’s Big E Award, however. Hugh Durnford got a lot of hands-on car club experience as a founding member of the Vintage Automobile Club of Montreal and was eager to help out the new Vermont car club, the VAE. At the time his “driver” was a ’29 Packard roadster and the project was an early Dodge Brothers touring car. There was also a Kissel Gold Bug 1923 and a 1919 McLaughlin (think Buick) in the wings. Hugh went on to become the authority on McLaughlin. (VAE member Ray Unsworth has one of these sturdy cars.) At the age of 12 Hugh wrote an essay on Vintage cars; at 16 he owned his first example.

He co-authored the book “Cars of Canada” and made many major contributions to the hobby. Hugh’s death at 48 in 1979 was a shock. The old car hobby in both the US and Canada owe Hugh a lot… but the VAE and its members owe him even more. Recognizing Hugh Durnford with our Big E is little and it’s late but it’s truly deserved.


Hugh Durnford, managing editor of the book department of the Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) and for 20 years, a Montreal Star reporter, writer and editor, died suddenly Friday at the Montreal General Hospital. He was 48.

Hugh Mckenzie Elliott Durnford was born in Montreal in 1931, the son of Col. And Mrs. Elliott Durnford. He was educated at St. George’s School, Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario and McGill University, where he graduated in 1953.

Hugh served the Star in various capacities from 1954 to 1974 and then joined the Digest as a book editor. An ardent lover of Canada, he took special delight in heading the team that over a two year period produced Heritage of Canada, a popular history that was subsequently published in French as Heritage du Canada.

Mr. Durnford was a founding member and former president of the Vintage Automobile Club of Montreal and for years edited its magazine, Le Chauffeur.

He is survived by his wife Nancy, three daughters, Sally, Megan and Kendra, his mother, Mrs. Amy Durnford and a sister, Mrs. Jacis Stead, all of Montreal.

Funeral service will be at 2pm Tuesday at St. George’s Anglican Church, thence to the Mount Royal Crematorium.


It is interesting to note that both Lloyd Davis (VAE President in 1958) and Marion Saxby (Treasurer in the same year) who signed Hugh’s membership card for that year, are also both “Big E” award laureates. Hugh was in good company when he joined us in 1958. Ron Pickering with some help from Graham Gould and Hugh Durnford’s widow, Nancy, have agreed to work on an additional article about our Canadian Connection. Look for this interesting history in upcoming Wheel Tracks issues. If you have anecdotes or information about our Canadian friends, the VACM, or events we shared, please send them along to Ron, Ellen Emerson or Gale Boardman. We’d love to share the information. And look for another “Big E” (for super enthusiasm) in next month’s newsletter.