Enthusiast of the Month – Dale Lake

Mr. Buick, before Bob Jones saw the light and stopped restoring Model T Fords, was Dale Lake. Dale lived in the house he was born in on a rural road in Ripton. I suspect Pev Peake got him involved formally with the “old car people” but Dale’s interest had always been there.

Dale gets this month’s “BIG E” award, again, after his death. Many of us remember Dale, as does Bill Billado in the following recollection…

“Dale Lake had collected a whole lot of cars and parts and it was Dale that came up with what I needed to put my 1935 Buick 69-C back on the road. This car gained its collector car status at Dale’s in the mid-fifties and eventually found its way to St. Albans in the hands of two other early icons: Gael Boardman and Lanny McHall.
Dale provided the parts and also teased me with his extensive collection of “old iron”, none of which was for sale at that time.

As time passed, things changed in Dale’s remote neighborhood. Folks from “down-country” started buying up parcels of the beautiful acreage and when in sufficient numbers, they decided that they were not impressed with Mr. Lake’s hobby interests, so the battle began! As you can surmise, Dale was not the victor in this legal scrap.

It was at a VAE Meet at the Lincoln Inn where Dale made a tearful plea for the membership to “come and get ‘em” before the crusher deadline arrived. Well, that summer consisted of a season-long VAE hallmark event. Every single weekend, in good weather and bad, the gang was there, competing and negotiating for “who got what”. Among the regulars that I can recall were Tom Beebe, Larry Johnson, Doug Kelly, Roy Martin, Kip Matthews, Tom McHugh, Rod Rice, Gardiner Spencer, Ray Unsworth, Al Ward, Ed Welch, Clark Wright and myself. A lot of man hours were invested, but we got the job done and many treasures were spared the axe.

Anyone who visited Dale’s old iron mecca understood that it was an all day event. He had many a yarn to spin and plenty of sage advice on how to keep our cars in tip-top condition. On one such visit Dale admonished that if one ever had occasion to do a motor job on an Isotta Fraschini, one should seriously consider flipping the car onto its roof somehow, because that would afford the easiest access to the “innards”. He swore he’d done it from the bottom up and it worked real slick.

Although Dale was cordial to all who came to see him, he would always step outside as you approached, never allowing anyone into the house where he lived with his very elderly mother. You can imagine our surprise when during one of the last visits to Ripton, Dale invited our small group of “regulars” into his home. We all looked at each other with expressions of amazement and disbelief… We had finally arrived.“

Dale was Vice President and VAE President in 1959. He made almost all the meets in his only transportation, “an old car”. His “Well, you know…” preceded some of the most interesting and entertaining automobile comments I ever heard. He was a great guy and a 14-carat Enthusiast.

Enthusiast of the Month – The Saxbys

In this, our 50th year, the VAE is recognizing people, past and present, who have really exemplified our name – Enthusiast. In recent months we have cheered people, both living and dead, but this month our award goes to a couple who we have lost track of completely.

It is our loss, as Dr. Robert and Marion Saxby were super Vermont Auto Enthusiasts. In our early years, from their home on Brooks Avenue in Burlington, they were a steady force: keeping our records, arranging meetings and holding us on track.

With a young family of their own and all the pressures of a young doctor, the Saxby’s really helped us when they might have been honestly excused from such efforts.

Marion was club secretary for a number of years and Bob lent stability to the Board of Directors. Later the family moved to the spacious Beeman house on High Street in St. Albans, with its grand carriage house. Having this neat space, they bought (from Peveril Peake) their outstanding ‘33 Lincoln Double Windshield True Dual Cowl Phaeton.

It was a beautiful and quite original 12-cylinder Lincoln of real classic status. They deserved the car and we all enjoyed it at meets. We lost track of the Saxbys when they moved to upstate NY some years ago. There was a rumor that the Lincoln had been sold… we hope to another good home.

But most of all, we want to thank them more properly than we did when they were here with us… to do so, we award Bob and Marion Saxby a Great Big E. Thanks for everything you did for all us Enthusiasts.

Enthusiast of the Month – Peveril Peake

In keeping with our interest in identifying some of the most enthusiastic VAE member over the 50 year history of our club, it’s with that same enthusiasm that this month we recognize Peveril F. Peake.

Older members will remember Pev as a charter member and a super supporter of all our early activities. His picture appears all through our 40th year book, in a wide variety of cars over many years of events.

We could probably have a meet, or maybe a series of them, just to get together to tell Pev Peake stories. He even told a few to early Wheel Tracks editors… but the best ones are the ones you get while on an old car hunt with Pev himself.

Pev has lived and breathed old cars since birth and has probably owned over one thousand cars personally. He can discuss in detail the molding differences between models and years of any make that caught his interest… and that was most of them. Best, for the VAE, however, was his regular attendance at meets with his new “find”.

He had a nose for cars and would produce one great original condition car after another. Then, not only would he share his new prize by giving you a ride or letting you drive around the block… often he’d sell you the “last month’s” car. In this way Pev was a regular supermarket for us poorer hunters.

Even today when you look around at cars owned by club members, there are still quite a few that have those Peake transferable license plate traces and that famous “Peake Quick Restoration”.

Pev used to joke that a Peak restoration (usually on a really good original car) was to polish the dash, the left side of the hood and the top of the left front fender. Very satisfying for the operator… and he was one of the best operators we know.

Thanks, Pev, for being an early, strong and dependable enthusiast. Thanks for saving untold cars from worse fates… and thanks for your enthusiastic sharing. You brought many club members into the VAE and you will always be a part of our club’s success.

Enthusiast of the Month – The Jones Family

I’m sure that all VAE members are enthusiastic about our hobby. In this, our 50th year, there may even be more enthusiasm than usual and this is great.

When we paid our dues and signed up we joined the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts and here we are. Some of our members have really radiated that enthusiasm over their memberships and we are going to make some “Big E” awards.

There are many many deserving people but these “Big E”s are going to some folks who have been at it awhile, have served in varied capacities, have inspired others, and have been responsible for milestones in our 50 year history.

February’s “Enthusiast” Award goes to the Jones Family. This 3-generation family has been with us from the start and has always come through. Walter and Hazel Jones of Morrisville had the interest, the cars, and they had Bob.

Through their patience and generosity many younger members got off to a good start in our hobby and Bob speaks for himself… he always did, anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

Bob’s Wheel Tracks articles are collectible, his car knowledge outstanding, and his contributions to the club unending. Twice President and always active, he taught us how to judge and how to get your own car “judge-able”.

First Car Woes

I came into ownership of my first car in 1950. It was a ’32 model and I was a ’38. I would have preferred something older, a roadster or touring car, but the ’32 Chevy coach was attractive, was older than I was and was only $15 dollars.

In fairly rapid succession I then acquired a ’28 Chevy 4 door sedan, all apart but with good-looking tires, and a 1929 Viking Deluxe Brogham sport sedan. The latter was a big V8 that I never did get running very well.

The Viking was $22 dollars and it was really quite a handsome car. This was a GM product that was placed about equal to the Oakland (same V8, a very flat “V” and not a really proven design as was the LaSalle and Cadillac) with an Oldsmobile chassis and a LaSalle’s good looks.

Viking was offered in ’29 and ’30 and then faded fast. Mine came from an old guy in West Swanton, Vermont and goodness knows where he got it. I am not aware of any Northern Vermont dealer ever selling Viking. (Had I known Lloyd Davis at the time he would have put me on to a brand new ’29 Viking body in a shipping crate somewhere in his sphere… a convertible body… but we weren’t yet acquainted.)

I finally took a couple of the best tires off the Viking. (18″ on the ’32 Chevy. Strange about Chevy tires in those years: 1932 was the only year with 18″. The ’28 parts sedan has 21″, ’29 models had 20″ and most of the ’30s models had 19″ along with ’31 and ’32 models being in the 18″ range. In ’33 we had 17″ and it wasn’t too long before that great old rag of a 16″ took us to post war General Motors.

I sold the Viking to a guy in Manchester, Vermont for $100 dollars. I featured myself a tycoon until the check portion of his purchase ($50 dollars) bounced and I never did get that. Still, I reasoned, I had some tires and had doubled my money.

This caught the attention of Honest John Hart Macy, a weekend car dealer in Swanton, Vermont. At age 14 I began to work for him on weekends when his “We Finance” used car lot was open.

All that is another series of stories… but my point through all of this was to talk a little about first cars. OK, so it’s 1950 and I have this ’32 Chevy ready to join the family. My family had left the farm for an upstairs apartment in the middle of the city so there was no hiding it behind the barn.

After some significant discussion, I rented a dirt floor garage with no electricity on Bank Street in St. Albans and stuffed the queen of the fleet in there. I won’t go into detail as to where we hid the ’28 Chevy in pieces or the Viking at this point. Here is some of the “first car” stuff I meant to share.

The Chevy started hard and ran rough. The starting seemed electrical and I was somewhat overwhelmed so I thought that I would solve the other problem first. There were some high school kids around town, mostly Model A guys and some flat head Ford guys.

I picked the kid with the oldest car, thinking him sensitive in this area and asked him, cap in hand, if he would take a quick look at my car hidden in its dark garage and give me advice on why it ran so rough.

He agreed and came with some buddies, mostly to laugh I suspect, but after I finally got it started he listened and then pronounced, probably to impress his buddies, that the car needed an engine overhaul.

Yep, the engine would have to be rebuilt. I should have realized that a Model A guy would probably say something like that. What did he know about the extraordinary “cast iron wonder” – the Chevy 6? Actually, what did I know about that “wonder”? Not much. So I rebuilt it.

Someday maybe I can tell you of the wonder of a young boy opening up his first magical engine. With reverence and ignorance, through the winter, no heat, no electricity, dirt floor, flashlight and a set of really cheap New Britan tools from Dalton Auto Parts, I did it. In mid spring I borrowed a better battery and started it up.

The Carter Carb, the first year down draft for Chevy, was easy to prime and the car started pretty quickly… and skipped to beat hell. After a couple of days in depression I was mentioning this problem to the counter guy at Dalton. Cal Baker was a Ford man and had worked at the Ford plant but he was also a pretty good guy.

The conversation that I had with Cal changed my life. He asked me if the car was in time. I told him that my rebuild had not changed the timing gears. He said, no, no, how about the firing order… you know, the plug wires from the distributor cap.

I must have looked blank and it was then that the change occurred. He said “1, 5, 3, 6, 2, 4. Find #1 cylinder and be sure the rotor is pointing… “. Well you know the rest. “1, 5, 3, 6, 2, 4” – my new mantra.

I said it over and over again on the way to the garage. There, with my flashlight, the Chevy was “1, 5, 3, 6, 4, 2”. I switched two wires and fired it up. It still started slowly (that darn electrical thing) but it ran like a top!

Did your first car give you hallowed experience… like actually peeking into a differential or really actually seeing the oil pump? Did it have a strong effect on you? Do you have stories about those early experiences? I hope you do. It confirms the fact that you are an Enthusiast… and even better, if you are reading this, a Vermont Automobile Enthusiast.