Vanity Plate Rule Upsets Editor

The following is a letter to DMV written September 9, 2004

Bonnie Rutledge
Agency of Transportation
Department of Motor Vehicles
120 State St
Montpelier, VT 05603-0001

Dear Ms Rutledge:

I am writing about the law that prohibits a vanity plate from containing more than 2 numbers. I would really like a good explanation of why this law is in affect.

My request stems from bitter disappointment that I was unable to purchase a vanity plate that I recently applied for – 80 HONDA – for my 1980 Prelude.

Even more disappointing is the fact that I will be unable to purchase the plate that is even closer to my heart – 65 HONDA – for my very rare 1965 Honda S600.

This plate – 65 HONDA – is used across the country by members of our club – the Honda Sports Registry. The plate is registered in New York to Brian Baker, in Maryland to John Deets, in Indiana to Ron Zarro and in California to Scott King. All these plates are on 1965 Honda S600s.

For four years now (ever since I bought my S600 and began restoring it) I have looked forward to the day when I could join the “club” and have my very own 65 HONDA license plates.

People applying for classic Honda plates are probably pretty rare but what about the Ford enthusiasts? This law applies to them to. There must be some very upset Ford owners out there who would love to have a plate like 49 FORD.

I think the “no more than 2 numbers” law needs to be reconsidered. The antique car club I belong to in Vermont – the Vermont Auto Enthusiasts – recently got a new law passed that applies to 1940 and older vehicles and the frequency of their inspection. Perhaps the removal of the “2 numbers per plate” law should be our next consideration for legislation.

Thank you very much for your time.
Ellen Emerson

“Younger Member” Insights

Every time you turn around someone is talking about our need to attract younger members. As a “younger member” myself I have some insights about this that I wanted to share.

The majority of younger members, are on a tight budget, some living paycheck to paycheck and week to week. This doesn’t allow for big purchases in the many thousand-dollar range (think 1/2 to one year’s salary) that seems to be necessary to purchase an “acceptable” classic car. This leaves younger people with two options:

  1. Don’t buy a car at all and use your paycheck for more practical items like food and the electric bill, or
  2. Buy, maintain and enjoy a car you can afford on your current budget.

Believing myself to be a true car enthusiast I have chosen the second option. While most of the club has been very nice about accepting my unconventional “old” cars, I sometimes feel the unspoken question, “Why doesn’t she have a ‘real’ car?” One answer to that question is “Money”.

With very little dough to spend on my hobby, I have a vehicle that was purchased inexpensively. If someone would like to offer me a loan or a gift of something they consider more “appropriate” I would be happy to take them up on their offer. (Strongly prefer convertible please!)

A second answer to this question is that I like my Hondas – a lot. The first car I ever owned that I really loved was my 86 Accord. Because of my enjoyment of this newer car I became interested in the history of the company and their earliest vehicles. Because of this interest in older Honda vehicles I am then more open to having an interest in other, much older cars. You can’t force someone to like a certain type of vehicle. All you can do it try to recognize the fact that they are enthusiastic about some type of car and to try to encourage and increase that enthusiasm to include other vehicles they may not be familiar with.

Because of all the “increase our younger member numbers” talk, I was very surprised about the discussion last month that considered limiting future show vehicles to the 1979 model year. This would mean that no matter how old a vehicle gets, if it’s newer than 1979 it would not be allowed in our shows and considered a collector car.

One of my “inappropriate” cars is a 1980 and I have been waiting (rather impatiently) for 6 years for this car to become eligible for shows. I’ve put a lot of my time and effort into improving the car and we will be completing a restoration this winter. If the 1979 rule goes into affect, it would mean that all of my time and effort would have been for nothing as far as this club is concerned. This would make me very unhappy. (The understatement of 2004.)

I can only assume that 1) other younger folks are in a similar situation as far as old car budgets go, 2) the vehicles they have been able to purchase are just “used cars”, and 3) the cars they are currently interested in may be newer than what some people consider acceptable. If you put a year limitation on vehicles eligible for show, you will be discriminating against younger members and the vehicles they can afford. If they cannot join the VAE and feel accepted, they are far less likely to ever become interested in truly antique vehicles. A little acknowledgement for a similar enthusiasm can go a long way.

One final “issue” is that many meetings are inconvenient for people who work and who do not live in – or close to – Burlington. The Board of Directors meeting starts at 7 and runs for 2-3 hours. When they finish at 10, I don’t get home until midnight. This makes for a very long Monday and tired Tuesday morning. The same is true of show planning meetings. Working people, and especially those with children, do not want to be out late on a weeknight when they could be home spending time with their family. Thank you for reading and for your consideration.

History of Duct Tape

Last month we took a look at WD-40 – the first of two items that are a must have for any toolbox. If it doesn’t move and it should we recommend WD-40. But what if it does move and it shouldn’t? Duct tape is the way to go! It comes in many colors to match the bumper you are trying to hold in place, the hose you are trying to stop leaking or the broken tail light you are trying to put off replacing one more day. Called racing tape by many, it’s a common site in the pits.

During World War II, the American armed forces needed a strong, waterproof tape to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, everyone referred to it as “duck” tape (now a brand name of Manco). This versatile tape was used as a mending material that could be ripped by hand and used to make quick repairs to jeeps, aircraft, and other military equipment. The Johnson and Johnson Company’s Permacel division, which had by then developed its own line of adhesive tapes, helped the war effort by combining cloth mesh (which rips easily) with a rubber-based adhesive, and then gave that combination of rubberized mesh a waterproof coating. No specific person or group of people at Johnson and Johnson has been named in the development of duct tape.

Following the war, housing in the United States boomed, and many new homes featured forced-air heating and air-conditioning units that relied on duct work to distribute warmth and coolness. Johnson and Johnson’s strong military tape made the perfect material for binding and repairing the ductwork. By changing the color of the tape’s rubberized topcoat from Army green to sheet metal gray, “duct” tape was born.

There are hundreds of uses for duct tape and more are added all the time. Shown above is couch that was refurbished with duct tape.

Some other uses found on the web that might be of interest to car folks…

  • Patch a rust spot at the bottom of a fender (works best on a silver car or buy the right color to match your vehicle.)
  • Patch leaking radiator hoses.
  • Hold up that window that fell off the track or tape the piece of clear plastic over it.
  • Patch the torn seat covers.
  • Tape the door shut when the latch breaks.
  • Hold up your falling headliner.
  • Patch the crack in your dashboard padding.
  • Cover the annoying “check engine” light that won’t go away.
  • Temporarily repair a universal joint (has been known to have worked for 3 days!)
  • Patch mufflers and tailpipes (needs frequent replacing).

Women in Automotive History

Florence Lawrence

Turn signals and brake lights are standard on all automobiles manufactured today—in fact, it’s hard to imagine cars without them. The inventor of the earliest versions of both was Florence Lawrence, who was, at the time, the highest-paid film actress ever.

Lawrence was born in 1886 in Hamilton, Ontario, as Florence Bridgwood. Her surname was changed when she was four to match her vaudeville actress mother’s stage name. Acting was, apparently, in Lawrence’s blood: she started in silent films in 1907 and by 1910 was so popular that she became the first actress to have her name used to advertise a picture. At the height of a career, playing heroines on the silver screen, she invented two key automobile safety devices.
According to Kelly R. Brown’s 1999 biography Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl, Lawrence was an automobile aficionado at a time when relatively few people owned cars. “A car to me is something that is almost human,” she later said in an interview, “something that responds to kindness and understanding and care, just as people do.”

She soon set about improving the vehicles she loved. By 1914, she’d invented the first turn signal, called an “auto signaling arm,” which attached to a car’s back fender. When a driver pressed the correct button, an arm electrically raised or lowered, with a sign attached indicating the direction of the intended turn. Her brake signal worked on the same principle: another arm with a sign reading “stop” raised up whenever the driver pressed the brake pedal—the essential concept behind today’s brake lights.

Lawrence’s mother, Lotta Lawrence, got into the act, too: she patented the first electrical windshield wipers, which used a system of rollers, in 1917. But her daughter’s inventions weren’t properly patented, and others soon came out with their own, more refined versions.

By the time the first electrical turn signals became standard equipment on Buicks in 1939, Lawrence’s contributions were long forgotten.

Alice Ramsey

Thanks to the re-enactment at the Shelburne Show we all know who made the first cross-country trip by auto in 1903. In 1909, however, the same trip was attempted and completed by Alice Huyler Ramsey; who made automotive history by becoming only the tenth person and the first woman, to drive across the United States. Ramsey made her trip in a sedan made by the Maxwell-Briscoe Car Company, and the trip took her and three female companions just 59 days, which was faster than any other crossing before that time. Her route took her from Hell’s Gate in New York City to the Golden Gate in San Francisco for a total of 3,800 miles. The same trip that took Ramsey nearly three months almost a century ago would be a mere 8 days today.

History of the Winton Automobile

In October 1896, Alexander Winton, of Cleveland, (who is described as “a short-tempered Scotsman”) announced his first Automobile in “The Horseless Age” magazine. His machine weighed in at over 1000 pounds, which slowed its performance. A second Winton was introduced in February of 1897, and the Winton Motor Carriage Company was incorporated in March. The second Winton was longer and wider, accommodating three people across each of its two seats, the second seat facing rearward in what the French called the dos-a-dos (back to back) arrangement. (See picture.)

Leo Melanowski, Winton’s Chief Engineer invited Henry Ford to come to Cleveland for an interview at the Winton Company. Alexander Winton was not impressed with Henry and decided not to hire him. Henry went back to Detroit to continue working on his second Quadricycle. The Winton Company recorded its first sale in March of 1898 for $1000 dollars and by years end, 22 Winton’s were sold.

Winton was the first to use a steering wheel instead of a tiller; he put the engine in front of the driver instead of under the car; and he developed the first practical storage battery. He is perhaps best known now for the effect he had on others. James W. Packard, a maker of electrical products (whose firm later became the Packard Cable division of General Motors) visited Winton’s office in Cleveland to offer a few suggestions for improving Winton’s car. Winton blew his top and said: “If you don’t like the car, why don’t you build your own?”

By 1899, more than 100 Winton’s had been delivered, making Winton’s the largest manufacturer of gasoline powered autos in the United States. With the Winton starting to show a fair amount of success, the first auto dealership in the United States was opened in Reading, Pennsylvania by H.W. Koler.

Auto Safety Through The Years

1920s Cadillac is the first car with safety glass windows as standard equipment. First electric windshield wiper introduced.

1930s Sun visors and electric turn signals were introduced on most models.

1940s Buick introduces front/rear directional signaling with self-canceling switch.

1950s Safety belts become optional equipment in some vehicles

1960s Federal law mandates front safety belts and head restraints in all passenger cars, and establishes crashworthiness standards for cars.

1970s Chrysler produces an early version of antilock brakes. GM produces first airbag. Federal law mandates front bumpers meet 5 mpg crash standard.

1980s Antilock brakes become widely available in passenger cars. First seat-belt use law enacted in NY. All 50 states pass laws requiring use of child safety seats.

1990s Dual airbags become standard equipment in all passenger cars, side-impact airbags are introduced. Daytime running lights are offered on some US cars. Better head restraints are introduced.

What’s Next? For more safety info visit,