Fashion Shows

Can you believe that our two main shows have come and gone? Seems like we were just making plans to get them off and running.

Both fashion shows have been a great success, and I’m sure that Jan Sander will tell you all about the Stowe Fashion Show. I was asked to help with the judging at Stowe, and it was a lot of fun. I was especially pleased with the gentlemen of the military club, who also participated in the fashion show, and hope that they will do so again. It is truly amazing to see the different articles of clothing that were necessary for their particular type of job in the military.

These shows would not happen if it were not for the participants, and I also mean those of you who take the time to come see. A fair amount of work goes into one of these shows, and without some interest in those of you who come to see, it would not be much fun.

Shelburne Auto Festival had the distinct pleasure of having some of the most wonderful vintage fashions being donated by Marg Hobb from NH. These great articles of clothing were actually from her husband’s family and dated back to the late 1800’s. They have kept them in wonderful condition, and should be in a museum. Fortunately for us, my granddaughters and a couple of their friends came to help with the show. The problem with vintage clothing is the size. One has to be about the size of a toothpick in order to get into some of this clothing. Now my granddaughters are not very big, but we did have some concerns about fitting into these great dresses and doing damage.

We also had some wonderful participants, who came with various outfits, according to the years of their vintage vehicle. All of them were stunning, and demonstrated the many changes through the years. Fashion and the automotive industry are a partnering of history. Just look at some of the old advertisements for the new models of cars, and you soon realize that the models standing by the car are displaying the latest fashions of the time.

Many thanks go out to everyone who took the time to either dress, donate and participate in our shows. You make the shows!

The Value in Becoming a Member of VAE

Let’s see. Should I join an old car club: ____YES or ___NO?

This may not have been a pressing question for you and you may or may not have done so. I did, in 1954 and I’m glad I did. Let me tell you why.

First, we should assume that you have a pretty strong old car interest. (I can’t imagine how any reasonable person wouldn’t but that may be the part of what my 50-plus years with the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts has done to me).

At 16 years of age I was probably the auto nerd of my high school. My interest wasn’t speed or noise, it was age. The day that Jimmy Davis sold his Model “T” for scrap, (I viewed it in the junk yard but it was painted barn red, probably with the barn broom and I decided against any resurrection attempt), I then had the oldest car in the school.

It was a ‘27 Chevy Superior Landau Brougham; a pretty nice original car. I also had a ‘32 Chevy, most of a ‘28 Chevy and a ‘29 Viking out of parental sight in charitable garage space around town. Too many cars, too little money resources, not enough knowledge and encouragement, no parts sources, and no general support group to network with.

I proudly took my Superior Chevy to a summertime parade in town that first “licensed” year… and my life changed. I met two nice older guys that admired my little Chevrolet and offered to sponsor my membership in an “old car club”. The dues were cheap; they had monthly meetings and the occasional newsletter. They accepted me as a true enthusiast (who else had a ‘29 Viking?) and really encouraged me. Now
weekends weren’t times to get into teenage trouble, they were for road trips to distant, formerly unknown junk yards. Better yet, maybe helping somebody with a new barn find. Often just a drive around giving you a chance to drive somebody else’s car. My first experience with a full-fledged Rolls Royce came that way. ‘Never would have happened without the “old car club”.

I could go on and on telling you about what I learned and enjoyed from our monthly meetings. The peers here were a bottomless source of history, technical stuff, places to find what you thought you needed, entertainment, support and fun. There were members into period music, movies and prominent people. I learned more history here than back in my high school classroom.

The reason to share this with you is two-fold. First, I hope that my enthusiasm comes through and might encourage your membership in our Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts, Inc. or a local club or chapter of a national club. Good.

Second, we need your help in securing the future for our auto interests and our auto clubs. Statistically, club membership is aging. We are not doing for the younger folks what the VAE did for me. Part of this is our fault as maybe we have not shared enough with younger people.
Maybe we assumed that they weren’t interested. Let any kid drive a Model T and chances are they would get interested… but we haven’t done enough of that kind of thing.

If you have made it this far and you are a younger person… we’d like to share with you. Approach members at the show and mention an interest. Ask questions! We love to talk about our cars. Want to ride or maybe try driving an old car? Speak up! If you are a little older – same deal. If you are part of a multi-generation family, why not sign-up older and younger members.

Oh, by the way, this isn’t just a “guy” thing either. The VAE has many lady members including Stowe Show workers, a senior Vice President (soon to be president), our newsletter editor, the Shelburne Car Show chairpersons, Vintage Fashion Show coordinator, etc.

The whole family can have a great time sharing the history and fun with our hobby and we urge you to try it. Many members start with no car and no real specific interest, and find both over time, through VAE events.

Let’s go back to the top of the page. Check the “YES” box and sign-up today. We’re expecting you at our next event.

Stowe Show: VT Chamber’s “Top 10 Summer Events” List plus Street Rods

VAE’s 49th annual Antique & Classic Car Meet and automotive flea market will be in the spotlight again this year when this popular event returns to Nichols Field, VT Rte 100, south of Stowe Village, August 11-13.

Chosen “One of the Ten Top Summer Events for 2006” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, this year’s event will be hard to beat. Few summer recreation events can top the “Stowe Show’s” location, entertainment value and family fun factor with spectator tickets just $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and children under 12 admitted free.

All this and the scenic backdrop of Mt. Mansfield, the state’s tallest peak (4,393 ft) and the picturesque village of Stowe with its world-class resorts, restaurants, unique craft and quaint gift shops. Don’t forget the Stowe Recreation Path, great for biking, walking and strolling!

And for the first time in the history of the Stowe show, Street Rods will be a featured class among the 48 classes of vehicles displayed on the field.
These handcrafted, innovative, and uniquely engineered vehicles have become an American icon and are crowd-pleasers whenever they are shown. Additionally, a special exhibit will feature a 1912 Model 36 UU 4-passenger Pierce Arrow Touring Sedan whose first owner was a Mrs. Daniel Cady of Burlington.

Open all three days for spectators are the 400-vendor automotive flea market, a car corral, the Stowe Firemen’s food tent and the VAE’s souvenir sales tent. On Saturday, the popular Fashion Show returns with costume judging. In the afternoon, the antique car parade will winds its way through town, with activities capped off Saturday night with a Street Dance, complete with DJ, at the Stowe Post Office parking lot. Sunday brings the judges’ breakfast (7:30), actual technical inspections/judging and finally, the awards ceremonies by mid-afternoon.

Souvenir sales have been moved to a tent near the Stowe Firemen’s food service where one can purchase tee shirts, past event posters, dash plaques, and 50th anniversary memorabilia including coffee mugs, and a 50th anniversary publication that showcases the VAE from 1953-2003. Makes a great coffee table addition! Just $20.

For more show info visit our Stowe Show page.

Thoughts on the Mini Cooper

Some time back my wife Judy saw and admired the new BMW resurrected Mini Cooper. She likes small cars and really liked this one. “It shouldn’t be that expensive”… she thought… but it was. Admittedly they were kind of neat I thought… but quite beyond budget. “How about one of the originals?”, I suggested. They can’t be that much. Driver John Buffam brought a brand new one, in the 60’s, to our VW dealership to be “set up” for rallying purposes. VAE Friend and rally master Bill Moreau was a mechanic there at the time and it was his interest that got the car delivered to our shop. Bill did great work on the car… except for the “Hydrolastic” suspension. Wow. He did something and the car collapsed on the shop floor never to rise again. Several days later we quietly rented a trailer and took the darn thing to a shop in Montreal where they quickly fixed the problem. We spiffed the then-ready car up and delivered it to John who did quite well with it on the rally circuit. I think that Bill went along as navigator, not as a suspension mechanic, and the team became Canadian champions. Should I look for one of these “originals” for Judy? I checked Hemmings. They are kind of neat, I thought… but they too seem now, to be “quite beyond the budget”. And then there is the “Hydrolastic” thing. With Bill living in nearby Waterbury there might be a risk.

More on Trucks

After covering the introduction of trucks to the transportation scene in the early 1900’s, in a previous issue of Wheel Tracks, it becomes obvious that we are not talking about trucking as we know it today. They were not the recreational vehicles that are enjoyed today in our fancy pick-ups. No mag wheels, chromed exhaust stacks or hood scoops; strictly business was the standard of the day in the earliest years of the revolution of rolling commerce. The first years were serious business devoted to the work at hand.

It did not take long for many segments of work a day businesses to realize that there were many benefits in these mechanical marvels. In addition to industry and commerce, someone else was looking over their shoulders at the new mode of mobilization of materials and personnel, the United States military. Captain Alexander E Williams, a tall West Pointer from North Carolina became a dedicated proponent of the motor truck for military purposes. The year… 1911.

Captain Williams noted a small advertisement in a periodical of the day, promoting a new vehicle, which the builders in the military town of Clintonville Wisconsin, made, remarkable claims pertaining to its usefulness. Permission was granted to the good Captain to visit this company – “ The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company”, where company driver, 24-year-old Frank Dorn gave the visitor much to look at.

The Captain was amazed at the performance of his vehicles, really nothing more than a stripped down “Scout Car”. Returning to his superiors, the Captain extolled the virtues of the 4-wheel drive marvel. FWD offered to give the government vehicles to test drive, but the U.S. Military decided to buy the conveyance and have it shipped to Fort Myer, VA. where it was fitted with a wagon box.

In 1912, an extensive Army road test that encompassed a 1,500-mile trek from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA and then to Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis proved the torture that these vehicles could endure. While every truck did not finish the trip – a White, an Autocar and a FWD did complete the entire route and set the stage for a giant revolution in military logistics.

The horse was on the way out, but they were still used through the Mexican Campaign and WW1. The First World War was the most mechanically mobile in history and when the Armistice was signed thousands of military vehicles became surplus commodities which were gobbled up by commerce and private individuals. The United States, in particular was on its way in the trucking industry.

The 4 Mile Car

Back in April of 1988 I bought a 1922 Dodge Touring that had not been run in 12 years and had been owned by a little old lady who — wait! — No, it had been owned by Ed Rotax who had had at one time or other about every old Dodge Brothers car in the state of Vermont.

Ed sold me the Dodge that was stored in one the many little outbuildings on the farm. This one had a ceiling so low that the car had to be stored with the top down. Ed drove it to NH for a car meet in 1976, and then parked it. Ed said there would be no problem starting it. He poured in a little gas, found a very tired old 12v tractor battery (he hated to let it go with the car, but I insisted), and sure enough, it started. Silently, as Dodges with starter-generators did in those days.

It had only one flat tire (after 12 years!) We pumped it up, put the top up, found the back bumper for it, and I was good to go to drive it the almost 4 miles home. I did eventually put new tires on it, the others seemed pretty original with Non-Skid tread and red rubber tubes. Ed asked for them back when I got the new ones. (I saved one for a spare.)

The main part of this story is coming up, though. Number 698132 is in mostly original condition. It was “repainted” (brush) some time in the late ‘40s when the top was put on, but the rest is pretty original. It was sold (I have the order form) for $995 (cash) by Bishop, McCormick and Bishop’s Dodge agency in Queens, NY, a stone’s throw from Broadway in NY City. They were still in the Dodge business as late as the 1960s. How that car remained pretty much untouched until Ed bought it off a truck in Albany, NY, in 1954 I don’t know. Untouched, but not unused. It’s now an 84-year old car. There are fender wrinkles here and there, a dent or 8 or 10, worn linoleum, tired leather upholstery in places, but mechanically it looks as if it has never been apart in the two or three times-around-the-earth mileage I think it has on it. It’s going to stay that way. You just can’t restore them to that condition. It’s a strong runner, and thereby hangs the tale.

This Dodge Brothers car would run beautifully for 3.9 miles, then stutter and quit during that last tenth and roll to a stop. (I lived in North Ferrisburgh then so all this took place on dirt roads—not Route 7 or 89.) The first 10 or 12 times this happened, I figured it is an electrical/gasoline problem. You know it takes only electrics, gas and air to make a motor run. I figured the air was okay.

A car that has problems sure helps to get you rapidly acquainted with its components. Over a six-week period I checked spark plugs, wiring, terminals, (new) coil, rebuilt the starter switch (it did poop out), cleaned the fuel system, and made new gaskets for the vacuum tank. (I wore out the old ones taking it apart often to see if it was the culprit.) Still a 4-Mile Car.

I consulted Ed Rotax. Ed is stumped. (First time in 70 years, he said.) I took the carb apart lots of times. Actually once a float had given up. That’s part of the problem—once in a while a real problem would show up. But not THE problem.

“There! By Jeezum, I bet that’s fixed it!” I would holler, and my wife would hop in and away we’d go— for about 4 miles. She would walk home and get a tow vehicle; the neighbors would snicker (again) as we rolled into the yard joined by our nylon umbilical cord. It runs so well! The best vacuum tank in New England, and cleanest carburetor. A perfectly timed hot-spark, smooth idling, 65 lb compression 4-cylinder engine. We can go anywhere in it. But not over four miles. Things hit a new low when I got towed home (backwards) by a neighbor with his little John Deere garden tractor. Even the dog was ashamed.

It took a while to figure out that it was a modern problem in an old car. Then one time it stopped and I was quick enough to raise the hood and hear the gurgle. HEAT SOAK! FUEL BUBBLE! What the hang was it called? VAPOR LOCK!! EUREKA!!!

Today’s gas has many lighter ends than the gas of even the 1950s. It is much more volatile, so vapor lock can be a real problem in old cars. A piece of aluminum flashing to shield the carb and gas line from engine heat was all it took to solve the Dodge’s problem. Now that smooth tucka-tucka-tucka from under the hood will take us anywhere past the 4 Mile Limit we want to go–as long as it is under 40 mph and on a back road.

30s Fashion

With the Wall Street Crash, the Depression Era began and with it a complete change in how people dressed. No more reckless shopping for clothing; turning instead to the sewing machine to make what clothes were needed. Clothes were mended and patched until they had to be replaced.

The boyish look of the twenties was completely changed to a more feminine look. Hemlines were dropped to the ankle and waistlines were again at the natural waist. Necklines were lowered with wide scalloped edges or ruffled collars. Buttons were so expensive that zippers were now the preferred closure. Silk and rayon stockings replaced the woolen ones.

Paris styles were too expensive for all but the very wealthy and eveningwear was following the movie stars’ lead. Floating evening gowns, with empire-waist and ties at the back and large puffy sleeves. The most popular materials and patterns were cotton, wool, silk, acetate, rayon, velvet, georgett, crepe, organdy, satin, jacquards, tapestries, chamois, chiffon, and flecked tweed.

The most popular colors were powder blue, maize, gray, navy, and rose for teenage and young girls. Black was only used for evening gowns that were accented with white. Fur was much in demand for capes, stoles, wraps and accessories and trimmings for women and girls’ clothing.

The basic sportswear consists of sport suits, leather jackets, and middy slacks. Hats were worn at an angle, with the basic shoe styles,
slip-ons, pumps and flats.

Even a change in jewelry, with broaches becoming bigger, dress clips are fancier, rhinestones and glass stones were being put into many pieces.

Of all the fashion eras, this is my most favorite one. With the styles more genuinely feminine and softer. Thirties fashions are hard to come by, but if your handy with the sewing machine there are many patterns available for you to make a complete outfit.

The Dawn of Motor Trucking

I have always thought of trucks being an offshoot of passenger vehicles. I guess that comes from seeing turn of the century spindly looking conveyances that have no space on them for anything, but a couple of suicidal minded persons. Actually, in pursuing information for this short article, I primarily used a 1966-copyrighted book “That Was Trucking” by Robert R Karolevitz, a 192 page hardcover book covering commercial vehicles from the first quarter of the 20th century. The first crude wheezing gasoline powered trucks to those of the early twenties.

What is surprising is the fact that the appearance and the models of these early trucks changed little during these first years of the 20th century. While the earliest trucks exposed the operator and any passengers to the elements, this was thought to be inconsequential because of the short distances that these first movers of commerce and industry were capable of traveling, many on nothing more than steel rimmed large wagon wheels. What did become very apparent after only a few years of using these machines in place of horses, was the undeniable fact that much bigger loads could be hauled for smaller investments in equipment, and for less time spent tending to the machines over the horses.

Huge trucks dominated the trucking industry from the start. In pursuing the article on types of trucks and sizes, it was truly amazing to see the height obtained by stacking the products being moved. It certainly is obvious that many of the ancient trucks were overloaded even by today’s standards. This has to be a testament to the durability of the wagon makers, turned truck body manufacturers. The mechanical components of these earliest trucks appeared to be forged into solid steel components making an extremely heavy machine. Those early large commercial conveyances were probably susceptible to sinking from sight in the highways turned to mud troughs during spring thaws.

I have tried to cover the truck in its infancy in this article, and I would like to do a couple of other articles on commercial vehicles, around the home, the farm, commercial and industrial plants during the early days of transportation by truck. After all, the railroads who had a monopoly on long distance freight would soon see in the coming years a big change. To be continued…

Food for Cars – Motoring Moment

This “moment” may be food for thought… but more exactly it’s food for the car. Food for most cars is gasoline and today we are going to give this wondrous stuff some thought. Well, not really the gas so much as the way the vehicles gets its “food”. Most of the early cars with their “up-draft” carbs got gas the Newtonian way… gravity. The gas tank was located in a higher plane than the carb and the gas ran downhill to the vaporizer. Fords kept this primitive practice probably longer than any other major brand with the Model A gas tank located in the top of the cowl right in front of the front seat passengers.

A plus was the fuel gauge… it was a float gauge right in the tank sticking through the dash and visible right there above the other instruments. Although simple there were other problems with the gravity system: Steep inclines often defied gravity… or actually they didn’t and the climbing car would have to turn around and back up the hill as the tank was usually behind the engine. Higher quality cars… read that as more expensive… solved the problem another way: They pressurized the fuel system. The tank was sealed and from a small hand pump in the dash, the operator “pumped up” fuel pressure, usually 2 or 3 pounds.

The only way out for the gas was up (or down) the fuel line to the carb. After the engine was running, a small mechanical pump driven by the camshaft would take over for the dash hand pump and the car would generate its own fuel pressure. This system, like Rod Rice’s Cadillac and many other cars of the teens and twenties, required 3 fuel lines, pumps, tight seals, etc. Stewart Warner discovered the vacuum tank. This marvel was loved or hated by the majority of car owners lasting slightly longer than the pressurized style.

The vacuum tank was a clever tank within a tank that mounted on the firewall of your car. Most cars were still “up-draft” so the vacuum tank was well above the carb. Running off vacuum from the intake manifold, the vacuum tank sucked gas from the cars main rear tank and stored it in the bottom of the vacuum tank. Then it was Newton again as gravity fed the lower carb, controlled by the carb float and needle and seat. Using our esteemed mentor, Rod Rice, again, he threw the vacuum tank from his quality Stevens into the bushes and put on an electric fuel pump. Others too have had “vacuum tank problems”. A certain Willys Knight in the club for years doesn’t have enough manifold vacuum to assure not running out of gas… and it often does.

Recognizing that all these systems could be improved on, most manufacturers by the end of the twenties were installing mechanical diaphragm fuel pumps. These units would suck gas from the tank and push it up hill to the newer top-of-the engine mounted downdraft carbs. They were pretty trouble free and you have one on almost any US made new car today. (Proof reader notes that current model vehicles use electronic fuel injection instead of a carb.)

I did mention that some cheats have installed electronic fuel pumps on their older cars. Largely a European idea… Jaguar even mounted two of these electrical wonders in the gas tanks of some of their cars… and doesn’t Saab continue to do so? JC Whitney will sell you a 6-volt electric fuel pump and you can hide it under the backseat of your old car… but the clicking sound as it builds up pressure will give you away. How do cars eat? Pretty much as we’ve mentioned… the way they were brought up… just like peopl