2005 Restoration of the Year Award

1952 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe

1952 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe One snowy day in January of 2005 school was cancelled in Morrisville. Janet, a first grade teacher in Morrisville, decided to “play” with her Studebaker. It was too cold in the unheated garage to work on the car, so she decided to do a little sleuthing for missing parts for the car and missing parts in its history. Having recently received the build sheet from the Studebaker museum that showed the car was shipped to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota on October 21, 1952, she decided to begin by calling information and getting a number for the Town Clerk’s office in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Several very kind people, some interesting twists and turns, and many lucky breaks later she was able to close the circle, learning all of the Studebaker’s owners and everywhere the car has lived in its 53 year old life!

Janet and her car will be featured in the upcoming Spring issue of Hemmings Classic Cars, with more about how she was able to crack the “mystery of its history” and a complete restoration article with photographs.


October 9, 1952: Factory order # 54536-4 written for model 3H-C5, color: Maui Blue, wheels: Cuban Red, VIN#8277068

October 21, 1952: Final assembly date, South Bend, IN

October 27, 1952: Car purchased at Lakes Garage, Detroit Lakes, MN, by Immanuel Nielson of Detroit Lakes, MN. for $2548.98.

September 10, 1954: Car traded in by Immanuel Nielson. He received $1462.18 against a new two-tone, model 5-H 1954 Studebaker priced at $2812.18.

September 10, 1954: Car purchased by Harvey Bakken of Lengby, MN. for $1290.00, less the $900.00 he received for the 1948 green Commander he traded in.

1975: Car sold to Bob Harmon’s junkyard in Lengby, MN. for $50.00.

1977: Car removed from junkyard by Mrs. Harmon’s Uncle Louis Trisler of Des Moines, IA.

February 3, 1986: Car purchased by Lawrence Stewart of Indianola, IA from Louis Trisler.

October 8, 1989: Car purchased by Brian Tellstone, Richmond, VT, from Lawrence Stewart, for $2900.00, plus $650.00 delivery charge.

October 1995: My late husband, Bob, and I went to Richmond, VT to look at Brian Tellstone’s 1951 Black Cherry Studebaker Commander 4-door. I noticed another car in the garage and asked to see it. It was covered and filled with bagged garbage, both inside and out. I asked if that car might be for sale also, he replied he was going through a divorce and everything was for sale. Bob and I went home and discussed the cars. He liked the ’51, I liked the ’52 (being a ’52 model myself). Bob and I decided to make him an offer on both cars.

October 14, 1995: Date on the bill of sale; cars were delivered the next day, October 15, 1995.

June 1996: Went to Munchy’s car show in the car with Glenn and Joanie Yankee in the back seat. Glenn noticed the arm rest compartments and asked if he could look inside. He discovered myriad letters of correspondence, extra parts and previous invoices.

September 21, 1996: Car went to Chelsea, VT to be filmed in the Stranger in the Kingdom movie.

October 20, 1996: Car is returned from Chelsea, scratched and missing one hubcap. Car was parked in cattle loafing shed in my hayfield.

October 15, 2003: The building the car was housed in blew down in a windstorm, never damaging the car. The car was sent to Dan Spencer’s in Orange, VT to be painted. Paint job was never completed.

April 2004: Chrome was taken to ReChrome in PA.

June 2004: Chrome was sent from ReChrome in PA, (unfinished) to NuChrome in MA.

July 2004: The car was taken from Orange, VT to Superior Interiors in Hooksett, NH.

August 2004: Called Gary Sassi, introduced myself, and asked for advice about my car.

September 2004: Had a new garage built to house my cars.

September 2004: Completed chrome was picked up by Gary Sassi and me at the Bennington Car Show in the torrential rain.

October 2004: Car was brought back from Superior Interiors as Gary Sassi had recommended I have Rene Hargood of Phantom Auto in Knoxville, TN, make a kit for the car’s interior.

January 2005: Upon Gary Sassi’s recommendation, I called Gary Scott to ask for advice about what to do with my partially painted car. Gary Scott came to look at it. After getting under the car, he said I had more problems than I was aware of and showed me how the car was rusted out underneath and was about to fall off the frame. To my surprise he said he would be willing to help me fix up the unfinished paint and the structural issues.

May 30, 2005: Car was delivered to Gary Scott’s garage in East Barre. He was to have the car three weeks to repair the exterior paint, make patches and repair the structural problems under the car, pull the motor and paint everything under the hood.

August 30, 2005: Car was returned to Plainfield. Paint was completed, structural faults repaired and engine and compartment cleaned and painted. In addition, the trunk was sanded and painted, chrome was installed, upholstery was installed, clutch replaced, manifold gaskets replaced, under car greased, and countless other unanticipated items repaired or replaced.

September 24, 2005: Car went to Bristol Car Show and won third place in its class, despite the hood release cable coming unhooked and being unable open the hood to show off the newly painted motor!

October 15, 2005: Car received the Outstanding Automobile Restoration Award 2005, Stowe, VT.

I am thankful for and grateful to the following people, as without the generous gift of their talents and time, this project would never have been possible:
Gary Scott
Gary Sassi
Dan Peterson
Ray Shatney
Robert Steward, my late husband


Edith Head

One of my most favorite designers was Edith Head. Her fashions and clothing styles exudes class and distinction. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05…

1907-81, American costume designer, b. Los Angeles, Calif. She began to design costumes for the motion pictures in the early 1930s, working at Paramount for most of her career and moving to Universal in 1967. She won eight Academy Awards for a variety of films, including “The Heiress (1949), “All about Eve” (1950), “Samson and Delilah” (1951), “A Place in the Sun” (1952), “Roman Holiday” (1954), and “The Sting” (1973). She was responsible for such classic bits of costumery as Mae West’s ostrich feathers, Dorothy Lamour’s sarongs, and Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina necklines.

She also is known for promoting “the little black dress”. Her styling was sleek and seductive in a very conservative ladylike manor. She was an expert in draping fabric to showcase any body shape that was presented. Every woman knows that the one perfect dress to have in her closet is a simple black dress, that can be “dressed up” into many stylish ways with a jacket, scarf, or a nice piece of jewelry. Many fashion trends have come and gone, but this one seems to be lasting forever.

I remember seeing Edith on the Arthur Goddrey television show, where he would bring her on stage to help some poor unsuspecting lady with her fashion goofs. The lady would have all of her fashion mistakes pointed out by Edith, and then sent on her way to do some shopping. Edith’s approach was simple and direct, and the returning lady was always correctly dressed from head to toe after her shopping trip. Of course, Edith herself was correctly dressed in one of her wonderful suits, that even as a kid I fell in love with. I miss those simple graceful lines in today’s clothing, that seems to be too tight, too short and not enough material. What a disservice the young woman today is doing to her over all picture.

Our two fashion shows have come and gone, and it’s time to start thinking once again about next year’s shows. They are lots of fun, and we need you out there giving us a hand and making these shows bigger and better. Won’t you consider participating to help us out? Just think – some of us may only have to look as far as our closets since 1980 is the cut off year.

My Experience at the 55th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Pebble Beach

I had never had the pleasure or situation where I could go to Pebble Beach or any part of the Monterey Festival which lasts over a week in August. Pebble Beach is considered the world’s premier gathering of classic motor cars which are “invited” to be on display during the one day culmination of a week of fantastic automobile pleasures! (Racing of vintage sports cars, tours thru a special parts of Southern California, fine automobile art exhibits, several high end auctions, corrals for the major enthusiast clubs, honoring of present and past automobile greats, etc.)

Andrea and I had arranged to get to Pebble for the Concours as part of our trip to California for a Rogers family reunion in Santa Rosa. Getting to Pebble Beach on Sunday meant getting up very early and driving straight for about four hours until we could park our rental car and walk several miles or take a bus to the site of the concours which is held on the area immediately between the Lodge at Pebble and the ocean next to the 18th hole. We eventually were “on site” after showing our tickets several times at about 12 noon!

Scott Sargent and Mike Lemire

We almost immediately ran into Mike Lemire and his friend, Olga. They were there because Mike and Scott Sargent, both friends, had just finished months of work on a gorgeous Bugatti cabriolet owned by Peter Mullin of Los Angeles.
In 2003 the car they had prepared won “Best of Show” at Pebble and this car was every bit as good, in my opinion. This time their efforts resulted in a 1st in class, a very significant award given the competition. In any case, for us it was a thrill to see my friends’ work so highly celebrated!

The featured marque was Delage but in addition twenty three classes of very special, rarely seen automobiles most of which were beautifully restored or maintained greeted our eyes, including a wonderful selection of rarely seen antiques such as a 1904 National or a 1904 Pope Toledo. Also some amazing vintage open wheel racecars such as a pair of 1916 Packard Twin Six and 1902 Napier Model D50 Gordon Bennett.

32 Alfa Romeo Spyder

What we will most remember was the variety of Alfa Romeos, mostly prewar, unbelievable in their variety of style and beauty but all stunning. It was also a special year for Alfa Romeo, a marque which has had a large presence at Pebble for many years. This year there were about sixty of the most famous Alfas in attendance, ranging from 1910 to 1956. All together there were about 200 plus cars, an ideal number for viewing in the time available.

1916 Packard Twin Six race car

A listing of the different makes of automobiles on display would be a who’s who of the great automobile manufacturers of the world. I was able to take about 40 photos a few of which are included, which indicate the variety and expressiveness of the assembled cars.

Finally it is important to mention that this one-day event is run with the utmost of professionalism. In spite of its exclusiveness, a pleasant and friendly atmosphere exists. I saw several people I happen to know from years of involvement in the hobby, among them David Steinman, a director of the VAE. It was a privilege to be on the grounds of Pebble and to share so many incredible cars with friends.

Feed Sack Fashions

In the 1920’s feed sacks for grain were made from an ecru colored muslin material. The name of the company was either stamped on the material or was attached at the time the sack was sown with a paper banner. Once the bag was emptied they were returned back to the miller for refilling. Some of the sacks didn’t make it back, due to the fact that the farmer’s wife could wash and use the muslin for kitchen towels, pillowcases and quilt backings, etc. The muslin bag made especially nice tea towels, as the material was of good substantial quality and the edges could be embroidered or crossed stitched. Nothing was wasted, and I remember seeing pillows with the imprinted manufactures name on the backs of many beautifully satin and fringed creations.

The 100 pound bags could yield a good size piece of material, that would make many towels, and if bleached would make many under garments. My grandmother once told me that when her church was having a baptism in the local pond, that her cousin was the talk of town after being dunked and her beautiful white dress once wet, showed through to her slip which had the local seed store’s name on it! Her aunt had not wanted to waste any material, and thinking that it wouldn’t show, had put the last piece of material on the back of the slip.

Somewhere along the way a particular miller got the idea that if he started using a printed cloth for his sacks, that just maybe the farmers would use more of his seed or grain. The printed bags were a big hit with the wives who quickly snatched up all that they could. As the prints became more desirable the more grain was being sold. (Who said women didn’t have power back then.) I can imagine the husband that came home with two bags of the same print was the highlight of the day.

The printed material consisted of many brightly colored patterns, stripes, fruit, and animal prints. I was the lucky kid that had many summer outfits and pajamas made from the many prints. Aprons and day dresses and quilt squares were consistently made from the saved pieces of material and are much sought after by collectors.

If you are a vintage apron collector, it’s quite possible that the material actually started its life as a flour, seed or grain bag. The use of the burlap bag brought a stop to the printed cotton bags around the mid 50’s. My husband, who once worked for Wirthmore Feeds in St Albans, states that he only handled printed bags on special orders and they were very limited at the time.

How can clothing tell about history?

Having a strong sense of history, every time I start this column, I try to think of something that will be of interest and informational to all. Yes, including the male gender!

How can clothing tell about history? It simply tells of the everyday lives of those early years and how people dressed to accommodate all of their actions during the day and evening. Those early years, depict to me a time of gentleness, grandness, of softer times with lots of fun thrown in. Maybe it’s just an illusion that presents itself to me from time to time, but it sure is fun playing dress-up.

Because of my age, I find it easier to write about the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. It’s not hard to write about the 70’s and 80’s, but in my mind I see those first years as relating to my growing up. Maybe that’s why all of you gentlemen, relate to your cars the way you do. We are trying to find that tangible connection to our past and besides, having the cars is fun and a great hobby.

As far as I am concerned, the two fashion shows that we put on each year, are a little like the frosting on the cake, and rounds out the story of our cars, and having fun being with other folks that like to have fun also. Your really missing the finishing touch to your story if you don’t participate in one of the shows or attend. We are only as good as you, and we need lots of participation, both in playing dress-up and watching the rest of us play dress-up.

The folks with the older cars have to search long and hard to find outfits that go with the era of their vehicles and should be commended for their efforts. When you see someone in an outfit of the Model T and before era, it is hard to imagine how people managed to stay looking clean and elegant by the time they got to their destination. The open cars were a challenge just to get from one place to another in one piece. No wonder they all wore long dusters and netting over their hats, as drivers and passengers were exposed to all kinds of weather. I’ve had the opportunity to ride in Rod Rice’s Model T, and found it to be a hoot, and if Rod is out there with his “ T ”, ask him for a ride. It’s a great experience, and you’ll begin to understand what that fashionable gear is all about!

The ladies that drove must have found it to be more challenging than the men, with those long skirts. It had to be hard to keep skirts up out of the way of the three pedals that control the “T”. Goggles were a must even with the windshield; no paved roads in those days. Just think about the yards of netting to keep that big floppy hat on top of the head, and I bet they didn’t wear white gloves to drive! I somehow think it was easier to sit stiffly in the passenger side all bundled up than to try and drive the big high autos.

A woman driver was a rare sight, and even today there aren’t many women who venture to drive the older cars. It takes lots of “arm-strong steering” and good long legs to reach the brakes that may or may not stop on a dime. Yes, ladies, it’s a lot more fun, to be the passenger, and arrive looking exactly like you just left your home, but only after you remove your duster and veiling.

Shelburne Fashion Show

The fashion show at the Shelburne Car Show was exceptional this year! The weather was beautiful and all of the contestants were beautifully attired. Many thanks go out to all that participated in the show, as it was a success because you took the time to make it special. I am beginning to think that there might be some people out there that don’t really understand what the show is all about.

It is a story… a story of what people were wearing in the times of the early automobiles. By that I mean anything 25 years or older, just like the cars we drive. That means that anything is acceptable up to the year of 1980 this year. Can you imagine that? And, your outfit doesn’t necessarily have to be the year of your car.

Some of us like a particular era and try to find something that fits, which is really hard as people were generally smaller in the early years. Some go for the forty’s, fifty’s and now the sixty’s, as the sizing is a little more easy to find, and the price a little more reasonable. Some of us only have to look in their storage closets or attics, for something to wear. I would like to see more participants, especially the male gender. So, ladies when you’re looking consider an outfit for your husband. Just ordinary daywear is also an option, after all people had to work too.

Second hand stores are popping up all over now, as the demand is getting high. The Internet is another source. Just take time to choose carefully, making sure the fabric is strong and clean, and that the item fits. Half of the fun is in trying to find something and the other half is showing it off, such as a costume party or a fashion show like the one we just had. No need to feel shy as everyone is there to have fun, and fun we do have. There is still time to find an outfit for the Stowe Show, but at Stowe you are required to wear something that is the year of your car.

Won’t you join us next year; we would love to have you participate!

1915 Cornelian – Motoring Moment

1915 Cornelian
…in some people’s blood… witness stock car racing as the world’s largest spectator sport. How about “blood” being in racing?

In 1915 Howard E. Blood got into American auto racing big time. To get his new cycle car off the ground, Howard had big plans for his little car. The car was the Cornelian, a cycle car of 500 lbs displacing 103 cubic inches (powered by a Sterling engine).

The big part came as Howard got Louis Chevrolet, recently of the Chevrolet Automobile Company and a seasoned and successful race driver, to agree to race the new car. The cycle car was well made and sported a uni-body, independent rear suspension and a “suicide front axle”.

Undaunted by it’s size and power, Louis qualified for the 1915 Indy 500 with Howard’s jewel. With a qualifying speed of 81 mph, the Cornelian was in. History reports that Louis was having a great, albeit little, ride when on the 77th lap he broke a valve and had to retire. It is interesting to note that the Chevrolet car grew out of the Little Motor Company… and that the little Cornelian grew out of Chevrolet’s race.

Post-race orders looked good for Howard and his petite product but after production of 100 units, the writing was on the wall and the Cornelian dropped from sight. Should you doubt this story, check the museum at Indy Speedway. The smallest car that ever raced at the Brickyard 500 is there, uni-body and all.

British Car Week

British Car Week has become an annual tradition that occurs during the last full week of May. This celebrated week has been chosen as a commemoration for the wonderful British automobiles of the past, and their enthusiastic owners, who have so proudly kept them maintained for all to see and appreciate many years after their production.

This special week is intended for all British car owners to get their British cars out on the roads in their little corner of the world, and give them the exposure they so rightly deserve. While not only heightening the awareness of these charming vehicles for new enthusiasts, it will also help assure their preservation for many years to come for others to appreciate.

For 2005, this event will take place during the week of May 28th through June 5th. The nice thing about the timing is that it will coincide with the weekend of the VAE Shelburne show! Please tell your British car friends to get the LBC out on the road and come to the Shelburne Museum for the show. If you don’t have your Shelburne reservation, get it now. See the “Drive Your British Car Week” web site at www.britishcarweek.org for more information on other activities for the week.

Stirling Engine – Motoring Moment

1820 Stirling Engine DiagramDo you think that modern technology can tease 200 horsepower out of 57 cubic inches of displacement? Wow, how fast would it have to turn and could you do it on standard fuel and would it pollute? Almost 200 years, around 1820 it was done… by a Scottish minister named Robert Stirling.

You may have heard of man and engine but to fully appreciate both read on. The Stirling engine is not an internal combustion engine… it is an external combustion (think heat) engine. Here is what Sam Julty had to say about the Stirling in 1974… long before there was the fuel and pollution problems of today.

“Unlike the Otto-cycle engine found in todays cars, the Stirling engine thrives on external combustion. That is, consumption of fuel takes place outside the combustion chamber where the power impulses are born. Thus when a constant fire is going at a steady rate, pollutants are already drastically reduced. The engine is noiseless and vibration free. It has no carburetor since fuel is fed to a separate firebox. It has no valves since fuel is neither introduced nor removed from the piston area. It has no flywheel since the engine has two crankshafts, which are turned by movement of the pistons. It has no muffler since combustion is silent and it occurs in a separate chamber.

The principle behind the Stirling engine involves the use of expanded and contracted gas working on the pistons. The gas may be steam or vapors from some exotic element. Each cylinder has two pistons, one above the other. Each cylinder has a small pipe, which runs from the top end of the cylinder to a point below the upper piston. When the lower piston, called the power piston, just completes a power stroke, it is in its lowest position in the cylinder.

The upper piston, called the displacer, is in its highest position in the cylinder. The gap between the two pistons is a fixed volume of gas, which is at a fairly low temperature. As the power piston starts to move upward, some of the gas is forced into the small tube and is piped to the head of the displacer. There, the gas is headed and in expanding, forces the displacer downwards. This forces more gas to the top of the displacer where it is headed and expanded.

At a certain point, the displacer blocks off the passageway to the small pipe, and whatever gas exists between the displacer and the power piston is trapped. As the displacer is forced further downward by the expanding gas, it pushes the power piston down to turn the crankshafts. The cycle then repeats. Note: There are no explosions driving the pistons. Rather there is merely a fixed volume of gas, which is heated and cooled. A 4 cylinder Stirling engine CAN produce 200 horsepower from 57 cubic inches.” Wow again.

BUT, you say, But is this really a steam engine? Not necessarily. Steam probably in 1820… but today we can get heat pretty quickly and efficiently from a variety of sources: atomic, chemical or electrical. I wonder who will be first to put a Stirling performer in their product? GM could use a boost.

Plattsburg Transportation Museum

Located on the former Plattsburgh Air Force base is the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum (CVTM). It is located in a building at 12 Museum Way on the base and it celebrated its first birthday in the Fall of 2004.

The concept for the museum grew out of the find of a Platsburgh-built Lozier Type 82 limousine. Dr. Anthony Vaccaro located the Lozier in Washington State and noted that there were not missing parts from the vehicle. He then transported it to Ontario Canada for total restoration. Three years later the Lozier was fully restored.

In 2000 the Museum was started by a group of history and auto enthusiasts. The original intent was to dedicate it to the Lozier Automobile, however the collection has diversified into many makes and forms of transportation including trains, airplanes (and a cockpit simulator) to other classic autos. Some of which are still being restored and prepared for display.

The Museum is a continuous work in progress and is housed in three of the Air Base’s buildings. The design of the facility is to make it a hands on show. There is a area dedicated to children which allows for child friendly activities.

As the museum is run mostly by volunteers, hours have been limited to weekends and by special appointment. Their web site can be found at: www.cvtmuseum.org or telephone them at: 518-566-7575.