by Ken Gypson
When asked to provide some recollections of the VAE and related matters of the “earlier” years, I felt it a privilege, with, however, the provision that specific dates, places and all names did not have to be noted – after all roughly 30 years have gone by and I’ve never laid claim to having a very good memory.
As you all know, Rod Rice has a Cadillac touring car. Well, it seems he found a similar model (made into a truck) in the hills – and bought it. Not too long after the purchase (and before bringing it home) Rod mentioned it to a party (not a VAE member) who evidently becamse extremely interested and wanted desperately to own it.
A change of scene to a short time later – Rod and Sena Gailbraith, Anne & I were at the Rices’ having dinner. Right in the middle of the meal the phone rang. A mechanic friend of Rod’s in Vergennes (who knew Rod had bought the “parts” Cadillac) was calling because he believed a Caddy that had been towed by someone to the garage appeared to be the same one Rod had told him about.
Cutting short the pleasantries of the evening, wheels and other basic parts were gathered and we were off to identify – and, if necessary, reclaim the car.
When we arrived at the garage, sure enough, it was Rod’s. So the next step was to get the car (truck) ready for a quick journey, but this wasn’t quite what the garage owner saw for the Caddy’s future. After all, he had money tied up in towing it from the hills. It seems he got his orders from the fellow who had wanted it so desperately.
This fellow had also told the people Rod bought the car from that he had purchased it from Rod! No amount of discussion would persuade the garage owner that it was Rod’s right to take it – and he, the garage owner, felt the police should be involved.
During all this conversation, we readied the car for the road. When the garage owner took off for the police, we got the Caddy running and took off for the hills! As usual, things had to be as difficult as possible – it was raining cats and dogs and the Caddy had no roof!
The earliest racers had nothing on Rod that night. Following him with full headlights (none on the Caddy) provided quite a site – Rod in white cloth motorcylce helmet and goggles driving flat out through the rain. And, not desiring a big disussion with the police, it was all back dirt road running. The rain never let up and finally the roads became a sea of mud.
Coming finally to a friend’s farm, Rod swung the mud-laden Caddy in the driveway and behind a bar – out of site. We found out later, the garage owner carried througth with the police and there was, evidently quite a search for us. Fortunate it was that Rod knew all the backroads! A tough evening, but the Caddy was kept by the rightful owner………
Anne and I made many trips to Albany and back traveling 22A. At Addison we had spotted the Franklin 11-A Boat tail sitting by a barn (now torn down). It was covered with chicken feathers, etc, and in obvious disorder. Though we stopped every time we went by, no one was ever at home. As best I can recall, this went on for over a year.
Finally, one week-day when things had slowed at work, I decided to make a quick run to Addison on the chance someone would be at home. I was in luck, the owner was there. Inquiring about the Franklin, he said that just that morning he had sent a description of the car to “that radio station in Burlington that has the swap program.”
Needless to say, the conversation was pursued until it became ours. (We still have the car – and one of the best aspects of having it is that it is part of our happy years in Vermont)……
The early meets were usually a bit different from those today – the “automobile club” then was truly a common ground for enthusiasts, regardless of what their particular specialty might be. It was this mixture of sports and vintage cars that on an early tour departed from Burlington, headed south on Route 7 and then turned west to catch the Charlotte Ferry to New York.
All was going fine until an MG just coughed and quit. No problem – not when the entourage is comprised of automotive experts! It didn’t take long before the experts were analyzing, theorizing and adjusting things.
The next step, dismantling, was well underway until someone suggested a look in the gas tank. Sure enough, empty… many faces were almost as red as the gas can that carried the cure……….
Rod Rice, the Vice-President that first year and his wife, Emily, are very hospitable folk, and had invited Anne, myself and the kids to dinner one evening. The night was one of those that a man made freezer couldn’t match.
We duly arrived in the ’52 Hillman Minx, had a great support, and relaxed with pleasant conversation. When it came time to prepare for the ride home, I thought it would be appropriate for the family’s welfare to warm up the car.
Dashing to the car, I put the key in the switch, turned it on and pulled the (neat!) cable starter dash know. I can’t recall the exact length of the cable now, but I could that night – the whole thing came clean out of the dash like a snake. Right then someone could have owned a Hillman real cheap!