1903 Grout Model J Drop-front Roadster

Bill Cooke and Sarah Moon have a car they call “Tilly”. The car is a 1903 Grout. 

Above, is the completely restored Grout, a Model J Drop-front Roadster, of today. 

VAE Presidents Restoration Award
Bill and Sarah were presented the 2021 VAE President’s Restoration Award for this beautiful steam car.
Bill Cooke and Sarah Moon’s 1903 Grout, sleeping in a New Hampshire garage in the 1940s 

The story from Bill and Sarah 

Tilly, our 1903 model-J drop-front Grout, joined the family in the summer of 1967 in a group-purchase that included an ’06 Franklin, a ’23 Ford pickup, a ’16 Oakland, and a ’46 Chevy hauler. The previous owner was Harry Hopewell, a real estate developer from New Hampshire. He had purchased the Grout from a family in Maine in 1941, it had been in a wood shed from 1905. The lady of the house had “inherited” it and had a particularly bad day of driving the car, topped off with running over the neighbors cat in the driveway. 

Harry stored it in his father’s garage for the duration of the war, eventually putting it on display in Glenn Gould’s Meredith, NH car museum. Gould was in the process of moving his museum to Wells, ME when Bill’s dad, Frank Cooke made the group-purchase. At the time of purchase, Tilly was thought to be the last surviving Grout. However, a Mr. J. Beun had been working at his model J restoration since 1955. 

1903 Grout Model J  bill sarah

Tilly was running again in 1968, needing only a few mechanical repairs and eventually a paint job. The next 3 decades were pretty sweet. Lots of meets, shows, and a few cameos in local TV. Tilly made 2 ½ London to Brighton runs, 1979-81, and met another Grout in 1981, who also thought they were the sole survivor. The car kept putting away in central Massachusetts with the local car clubs calling her the only running Grout. Then in 2005, a boiler replacement project revealed a sag in the wooden frame that was threatening to break the car in half. 

The full restoration was started in 2013. The woodwork was done by Mark Herman in CT. He replaced the frame, and repaired the body panels that could be saved. The wheels were rebuilt at Stutzman’s Wheel shop in PA. We did the prep work for the paint on the body, wheels and wooden fenders, which was completed by Randy Beaudoin and Kenny Jacobs in MA. 

The boiler and burner were made by Don Bourdon in Woodstock, he also got us in touch with the man who made the copper water tank. The leather is original to the car. All the plumbing and mechanical restoration was done by us. Sarah made the boots for the top and the era inspired costumes for us. 


Bill working on the boiler 
Sarah sanding the body

Tilly enjoyed a full debut season in 2021, participating in an annual steam car tour, and 3 large car shows including the V.A.E. Waterbury show and a couple best in pre-war awards. 

Mr. Beun’s car has made it to Australia and is now active in the car community there. We now know of a dozen Grout cars world wide, and though the company started and ended with internal combustion vehicles, only the steam powered cars survived. 

1929 70A Willys Knight Sedan

Tammy and Charlie Thompson, (Daughter and Dad), are on their way to a parade in this beautiful 1929 Willys Knight Sedan.

1929 Willys Knight Sedan hood ornament

Tammy’s 70A Willys Knight is a sight to be seen! The lines are great, it was built during the height of the factory’s output (140,000 were built that year), and the engineering quality is among the best.

One other small detail is the type of engine that hauls this beauty around. The gent who developed this unique engine is Charles Knight. One requirement of his, if you wanted to use his engine, is that his name had to be added to the vehicle name: thus “Willys Knight”. The Knight engine does not use the normal valves we are use to. When he was thirty-two years-old, Mr. Knight purchased a vehicle in 1901 and was very annoyed by the sound of the slapping valve. He found financial backing and developed an engine that was added to a new automobile in 1906, called the “Silent Knight”. His cure for all that noise was to dump the old valves and add two sleeves inside each cylinder. Each sleeve had built-in holes and when certain holes lined up, the exhaust was allowed to leave. Another set of holes would be lined up when the gas/air mixture needed to get into the cylinder. Tammy’s Willys Knight model was built from 1914 through 1933.

Tammy purchased her Sedan about six years ago from a gent in Connecticut. She was influenced, in a small way, from her dad, Charlie Thompson, who has a Whippet, built by the same company; Willys-Overland. She fell in love with the brand while joining her dad to a national Willys-Overland gathering. Her car came up for sale and with the help of her dad and other WOKR Club members, she bought it. Beside the brand, the condition and the car’s history; there was one other important reason for her purchase….it was red, her favorite color.

1929 Willys Knight 70A Sedan

Tammy has become use to the 200-to-300-mile tours that happen when their WOKR club gets together. Asked about the longest distance she has traveled, driving her car, she said the trip from Marietta, Georgia to Jasper, Indiana was the longest. Her son, Ethan, and her dad, Charlie, joined her in the 800-mile round-trip. Except for a small emergency about a half hour at the start the trip, all went very well. The emergency was a fire from a dragging right-rear brake, which happens to be just inches from the gas tank. Ethan could smell smoke and it took a while to convince his mother it was coming from “her” car. A squirt or two from a fire extinguisher, a short wait for everything to cool down and a small adjustment to matched that mechanical brake to the other three, and they were on their way again.

She said her Willys Knight loves to cruise at 43 MPH. The Knight engines are noted for burning oil, and some, putting out lots of tail-pipe smoke while driving down the highway. You can see from the front page, as Tammy was gearing up to entering the highway, that her engine is not a smoker.

The only other mishap was when she had entered a rally race with her Willys Knight. Her navigator had to cancel at the last minute, so she decided to go anyway. All was going very well as she followed a competitor in his speedy little sports car; until “the corner”. She said the car requires strong arm steering, and while the little sports car sped around the corner, she went straight. She was very proud that she did not do a “wheelie” like she had done a few years earlier with her dad’s Whippet. She recovered and came in sixth place. (Tammy’s definition of a wheelie, in a car, is to have the two tires on the left or the right, off the ground.)

1929 70A Willys Knight Sedan interior

Tammy’s next project is a Vermont Willys Knight. A 1928 Model 56 Sport Coupe that had belonged to Gael Boardman from the mid-50s. There is a WOKR gathering in Huntsville, Georgia next June and she hopes to be driving it.

That “Coupe” has lots of VAE club history going back to when Gael was a young man and Pevey Peake was having his old-car adventures. If you do a little Wheel Tracks research, you can find Gael-stories about the coupe. One story he wrote is called “Takes a Licking, Keeps on Smoking”, where he mentions driving the car over 100,000 miles while he had it. This coupe now has a new life with Tammy and ready to make much more history.
Ain’t this old-car stuff fantastic?

Good luck in your travels Tammy. You don’t need to be told to have a good time, you have that part exactly right.

1957 Nash Ambassador

Richard and Mary Lou Hurd’s Nash Ambassador

Richard Hurd… “Why do I like Nashautomobiles, you ask?”

“One good reason is that I do not meet many of them when I am driving mine down the road!”

Richard Hurd and his 1957 Nash Ambassador

Richard was working in his Springfield, Vermont shop the morning that I called him. He was working on a boat seat; you see, he has been an upholsterer for over 60 years. This shop is where he has made his living the past 57 years. Asked if he has a specialty and he said he basically does it all, boats, cars, buggies, furniture, and on.

Lately though, he tries to only work from his bench. He has done many auto interiors and other than one problem, he could do them today. The problem, he says with a laugh, is that getting “into” the vehicle is no problem, but then, because “he is getting up there”, he can not get back out! We both laughed about having his wife, Mary Lou, bring him his supper to some vehicle he can not get out of.

Richard is 79 years old and was doing upholstery when he was in high school. I said, by this time he must know his trade and he calmly replied, “Well, I do have some people fooled”.

He has a small stable of antique cars. His first antique car, from many years ago, was a 1937 Ford Tudor that is in fine working shape and sits along side a 1957 Nash Metropolitan that he restored by using two to make one. He also has a 1930 Nash. I found one online and put the pictured left, so you have an idea of what it looks like, this is not Richard’s ‘30 Nash, but one that is similar.

Then there is his ‘57 Nash Ambassador pictured on the front page. Only 1800 pounds heavier than his Metropolitan (3640 lbs. vs 1850 lbs.), and only five feet longer (209 inches vs 1850). The Ambassador also has 327 HP compared to the 50 HP that the Metro packs. To the question about why Nash’s, beside his comment on the front page, Richard said it just makes it easier if they are all one brand. A very good lesson for beginners in this hobby.

Richard purchased his Ambassador when the Nash club had a meet in Massachusetts, about ten years ago. The gent he bought it from had a trailer full of club documents that was being towed by the car, and the Nash had to go home to unhitch the trailer before Richard could take possession. The Nash’s home was a thousand miles away in Illinois. Richard and a friend flew out and drove the car home to Vermont.

I am wondering if some of us have missed something while deciding what old car to collect. Maybe we should have thought more about the Nash brand! My math adds up to four one-thousand mile trips for this Nash, two of them with a trailer attached, before it arrived to its new home in Vermont.

My next question, seems a little silly now, but I asked him what kind of problems he has had with the car in the ten years he has owned it. There was only silence on the phone, Richard was trying to think of some. He finally said he had the engine rebuilt about four years ago after spinning a bearing. Even though the car only needed the bearing fixed, he thought he would play it safe and go through the rest of the engine. He said he has missed only one “Slow Spoke Tour” since it started and many of them have been in his Ambassador. Maybe the Nash advertising slogan was correct in 1927… “Nash leads the World in Motor Car Value”

Richard did tell about his Metropolitan letting him down once. He noticed a “different” noise one time, kind of a grinding sound. He soon found the reason when the front spindle broke and his wheel fell off. Seems to be more excitement with his smaller car!

Thank you Richard for teaching us a little about the Nash brand of automobile.

This from the Nash history books……

The Nash Ambassador is a luxury automobile that was produced by Nash Motors from 1927 until 1957. For the first five years it was a top trim level, then from 1932 on a standalone model. Ambassadors were lavishly equipped and beautifully constructed, earning them the nickname “the Kenosha Duesenberg”. The bodies of the 1952 to 1957 Ambassadors were designed by Italian auto designer Pinin Farina.

For the period between 1929-1934 when Nash produced a line of seven-passenger saloons and limousines, the Ambassador series was the maker’s “flagship”, and remained so following the Nash-Hudson merger in 1954.

From 1958 until 1965, the cars were named Rambler Ambassador, then from 1966 to 1974, as the AMC Ambassador. The continued use the Ambassador model name made it “one of the longest-lived automobile nameplates in automotive history.”

The Auto Technology Program at Cold Hollow Career Center

Meet a few of the folks in the Auto Technology Program at Cold Hollow Career Center in Enosburg Falls: Baxter Weed, pictured 2nd from left, is the instructor in the Auto Technology Program at Cold Hollow Career Center in Enosburg Falls. Pictured with him are four students of the 14 in his junior level class (he has an additional 13 students in his senior class). From the left… Preston Snyder, Baxter, Jacob Hulbert (the winner of the 2021 Golden Wrench Award), Matt Kirkpatrick and Devon Badger. 

Cold Hollow Career Center serves the high schools from Richford and Enosburg in the supervisory district of the five towns of Bakersfield, Montgomery, Berkshire, Richford and Enosburg. This relatively small center, along with Automotive Technology, also has programs in Agricultural Science, Business Leadership, Construction Technology, Digital Media, Diversified Ag, Forestry and a Medical Program. 

The two vehicles pictured here are projects in Baxter’s classes. The “Covid Year” presented lots of challenges for him but his students were able to complete much of the school year’s requirement with remote work at home and modified classes at the center. He created how-to videos for his students to view from home and even sent brake drums to the students homes to be worked on. The can-do atmosphere in his class is really something to witness. 

The 1976 Jeep CJ5 is a long-term project they have had in the program over the past 8 or 9 years. The vehicle was “loaned” to the program by another teacher with the understanding it would take a long time. Baxter says “maybe not this long”. The normal arrangement, when the program works on community vehicles, is for the owner to pay for all material with no charge for labor. 

Baxter says many students have worked on this vehicle over the years, it has been good to have a project like that on hand, that way if a student has time there is always something to do. 

It was in very rough shape when they started, the body was rotten, the engine smoked, there were no brakes, and lots of electrical problems with a ratty interior. The owner grew up learning to drive with this Jeep and was willing to slowly repair it. 

Here is the work/repair list the students have accomplished on the Jeep over the years…….. 

Rebuilt the engine, stripped frame and sent it out for sand-blasting and paint, replaced clutch, new fuel and brake lines, replaced the whole body except the grill shell, hood and windshield frame, customized bumpers, rebuilt the winch, rebuilt the 3-speed transmission and customized the front disc brake setup using Geo Tracker front rotors and calipers. 

The list goes on to adding a custom stereo with subwoofer, LED fog lights, seat upholstery and repair, lots of wiring repair and diagnosis, steering box, 4” lift kit, new soft top and doors. side steps, Holley Sniper EFI system and electric fuel pump, Mojave heater box and wiring, aluminum radiator, drum brake rebuild, front and rear axle reseal and Engine tune-up. 

The shop car is a 2007 Toyota Camry. Baxter needed to have an in-house project during the “Covid Year” where his students could work individually and he said this worked out great. The “project” was to add a turbo to this little 4-cylinder engine and a few things for general appearance. Adding a TURBO must have raised the excitement level for the students, even for those times during remote learning at home! 

Here is the Toyota work list….. 

Installing an Ebay turbocharger kit, added custom turbo piping and intercooler with straight-pipe electric exhaust cutout (donated from former student), front air splitter, modified stock bumper, added fender flares and 18” wheels and tires (donated by instructor (wheels) and a former student (tires). 

They also modified the fuel system, added new seat covers with some interior work, added a tach/gauge cluster and strobe lights, plus the cool rear wing. 

The class hopes to “dyno-test” the Toyota during their next school year to see the results of their turbo project. 

1931 Buick Series 91

Editor’s note….The B&W picture of the body, on the front page, was taken during a visit to the Auto Shoppe in June of 2011. It was a bit of a shock when I walked into Bill’s garage for this story. I knew I was going to see something very nice but the reality was unbelievable! I hope the rest of the club will see this beautiful Buick, in real-life, someday. 

From what you see to the left… To the “Buick Beauty” above…. With just two flicks of Bill Billado’s fingers! Well, maybe not just 2-flicks of Bill’s fingers…. 

Bill Billado’s Buick project really started, some 40 to 45 years ago. Dale Lake was a VAE member from the early 50s. He lived in the house he was born in, on a mountain road in Ripton, not far from Middlebury, VT. Over the years, Mr. Lake had accumulated a good number of old vehicles in and around his barns, across the road from his home. One of those vehicles was Bill’s 1931 Series 91 Buick (sitting outside). Dale Lake’s VAE titles back then was “Mr. Buick”. 

In a 2003 Wheel Tracks column, Gail Boardman writes about Dale Lake and quotes Bill Billado…….. 

“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 interest, so the battle began. As you can surmise, Dale was not the victor in this legal scrap.” 

The story goes on to describe a VAE gathering where Mr. Lake made a “tearful plea for the membership to ’come and get ’em’ before the crusher deadline arrives. Bill described the summer where every single weekend, good and bad weather, the gang was at Dale’s place, competing and negotiating for his “Old Iron”. The gang included Bill, Tom Beebe, Larry Johnson, Doug Kelly, Roy Martin, Kip Matthews, Tom McHugh, Rod Rice, Gardner Spencer, Ray Unsworth, Al Ward, Ed Welch, Clark Wright, and probably others. Gail’s column describes a side benefit for the “gang” that summer was Dale Lake’s story telling and tips on caring for old vehicles. Mr. Lake always drove old vehicles, some that might not be pretty to look at, but they were all in tip-top mechanical condition. Bill said Dale Lake’s property was cleared of “old Iron” when the gang was finished. Gail Boardman’s 2003 Wheel Tracks column was written after Mr. Lake’s passing. 

Bill Billado

The next period of the Buick’s history was Bill Billado’s description of its ride north, from Ripton. Tom McHugh had purchased the Buick from Dale and a few of his friends had helped him load the many parts and pieces of the Buick onto a trailer. Bill writes…… 

“It was so fragile that it was necessary to tie the rotted wood body to the chassis with rope before setting out on the trip north on the back roads (fewer cops) to Burlington. The car made it all the way to Charlotte (just north of Mt.Philo) when the web of rope called it quits. All hell had broken loose with 4 doors and the rest of the body panels spilling out all over the road. The crew consisting of myself, Tom, Tom’s brother Joe, Clark Wright and Kip Matthews managed to re-load the pieces, haphazardly, back on to the chassis and we then re-tied the whole mess. We decided at that juncture to take the car to my place in Shelburne (without wife’s approval). The chassis was dragged into the woods and the body pieces were then transported to Tom’s place. The car then did a Rip Van Winkle number until many years later.” 

Bill says, to this day, some great memories come back every time he passes that area near Mt. Philo, the day the Buick was spread onto the roadway. 

After many years with part of the car at Tom McHughs house and the rest in Bill’s woods, Tom asked Bill if he would like to take ownership of the Buick. That is when the restoration phase began. 

1931 Buick Series 91

General Motors in the Port Elizabeth plant in South Africa had reconfigured one Series 91 Buick into a “dual-cowl phaeton in 1930 and that is what Bill decided he would like to do to his ‘31. The only difference is theirs was based on the 6-cylinder engine and Bill’s is based on the newer 1931 straight-8 model. 

He drew one eighth scale drawings of his dual-cowl idea to see what it would look like, then began the project. Fourteen inches was added to the frame and the body was shortened by 1/4 of an inch to accommodate the “close couple” rear seat area. He said there were too many great businesses involved to list, that helped him create the Buick that we see today, but one key business was the Auto Shoppe in South Burlington. 

The level of detail in this automobile is amazing, and we doubt there is not a detail or measurement that Bill can not give you from memory today. 

Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

There were 7,853 Series 91 Buicks built in 1931. They weigh 4340 pounds and cost $4340 (over seven times the cost of a Model A Ford). 

* In-line 8-cylinders 
* Overhead valves 
* Cast iron block 
* 3.31x 5 bore & stroke 
* 344.8 CID 
* Compression ratio– 4.5to 1 
* 104 HP @ 2800RPM 
* Main bearing-5 
* Mechanical valve lifters 
* Marvel Carburator 
* 3F/1R sliding gear transmission 
*Rear-end ratio 
* Double dry-plate clutch 

The Shafer 8 Buick in 1931 qualified in the Indy 500 and came in 12th place. 

1967 Plymouth Belvedere II Convertible

A new addition in the family of Angle and Jeff Vos. One of 1552 Belvedere II Convertibles now lives in St. Albans, Vermont.

Jeff Vos 1967 Plymouth Belvedere II Convertible

You can see the pride in Jeff Vos’ face anytime he mentions his ‘67 Belvedere. Most likely, when he was growing up in the North East Kingdom of Vermont, this red convertible was on his mind.

After many years as a carpenter and his present career with his own house inspection business, he finally owns one. Thanks to the Hemmings publication, he found the rust-free Plymouth in Florida.

Chrysler made the Belvedere from 1954 to 1970. The Belvedere name was first used for a new hardtop body style in the Plymouth Cranbrook line for the 1951 model year. In 1954 the Belvedere replaced the Cranbrook as the top trim and became a full model line with sedans, station wagons and convertible body styles. The Belvedere continued as Plymouth’s full-sized car until 1965, when it became an intermediate, and was replaced after the 1970 model year by the Satellite, a name originally used for the top-trim level Belvederes. Jeff’s Belvedere is a II. The Belvedere I was the lower sub-model in 1967 and the next two up from Jeff’s was the Satellite and the high performance GTX added just that year.

1967 Plymouth Belvedere II engine bay

When first meeting Jeff’s Plymouth, especially if the engine is running, “high performance” is what you hear. Most likely because the 440 engine is telling you “it is ready to go! The smaller engine the car came out of the factory with, was replaced by the former owner, along with the normal carb and exhaust additions that come with a major change like that.

Jeff’s understanding is the Florida owner made a really good decision when he decided to sell the vehicle, but a very unfortunate outcome came from it. The carburator and intake manifold was replaced to better match the engine.

During the inspection that Jeff commissioned, the car performed wonderfully, and the decision was made to purchase it and have it shipped to St Albans. During the unloading in St Albans, the car’s engine started to show signs there was something wrong. When Jeff took the car to an engine shop, the first thing they did was take the oil filter off and the problem was found. The engine had been destroyed because someone had not removed a cloth rag in the manifold when they installed the new carburetor. If you have been part of discussions among VAEers over the years, you will hear similar stories of close calls. One story comes to mind of a mouse nest that was swallowed by an engine.

Jeff’s Plymouth is fine now and better than ever. The engine has been rebuilt by one of the top shops in Vermont. While he was at it, Jeff decided to add power steering and front disc brakes. So, the Belvedere Con-ertible that he has dreamed about is now in his garage and purring.

1967 Plymouth Belvedere II Convertible tail
1967 Plymouth Belvedere ad

The pilot episode for the television show
Adam-12 featured a 1967 Belvedere as the standard LAPD police cruiser.
Belvederes were used in police service from the 1960s to the early 1970s, when they were replaced by the Plymouth Gran Fury. They were prominent in both the LAPD and New York Police Department.

It uses the Plymouth B-body platform, 3120 pounds, 116 inch Wheelbase, 203.4 inches long, the 440RB 7.2L engine produces 375 HP at 4400 RPMs.
New price $2695

1905 Orient Buckboard Engine

I am finally running again! Some say it has been sixty years. Others say closer to 85 years. 

Good Morning…. I think this is called “first person”, when it comes to writing style. Well, this a little different and I am calling it “first engine” and I will be telling you this story. 

I was built in 1905, in Waltham, Massachusetts, one of around 2500 built from 1902 through 1907. I produce 4 HP and since I push only 525 pounds, I can go a fast of 35MPH. 

My owner is Gary and Nancy Olney of Derby Line in northern Vermont. Gary’s dad, Harry, found me in the 1950s, in a barn, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I spent many years in that barn with a Studebaker that was 6 years younger than me. My memories of the years before Mr. Olney found me, are very fuzzy. 

I do know, I did not start out life on the 1906 body that is waiting for my installation in Gary’s barn, because my exhaust is different from the ’06s. Theirs point toward the right and mine shoots straight back. We know the body is a 1906, because of the controls. I also know I have not run in a long while, because I have found I had a very rough life in the old-days. 

A while back, Mr. Olney made a deal with a restoration shop in East Fairfield, Vermont that is run byMr. Dennis Dodd, and you would not believe what he found. My cylinder space that my one piston was in, was egg-shaped! That is the main reason, Mr. Dodd believes, I had not run, since at least the 1930s or 40s, because my compression could be nothing more than zero in this condition. When Mr. Dodd finished with me, I now have a compression of 84 pounds, not bad huh? 

My back-side

My connecting rod was twisted and bent, and my piston was broken into pieces. My exhaust valve was shot and the seat needed to be bored out completely and replaced. I am now sporting a Caterpillar valve with a brand new seat and feeling very macho! All of my bearings were bad and have been replaced with new ones made of bronze. It was scary, but a shop by the name of RPM, was able to bore the egg-shape out of my cylinder and Mr. Rick, at RPM, found a 1940s Dodge cylinder, and new rings that fits me perfectly. Mr. Dodd did have to rework the piston a bit. The skirt had to be cut off and the wrist pin needed to be relocated a little lower because the piston was not going up high enough. 

My head was warped and that got fixed. I have two balanced flywheels and guess what…I was way out of balance and my main pins were toast. After some mill work and some time in a special jig made just for me, my balance is now perfect. I have a brand new push rod so the fuel and exhaust can work the way they are supposed to. And, speaking about fuel, my old carburator is now in a box. It never worked good even when it was new and after many hours, Mr. Dodd decided to put on a really nice Schebler carb, I now purr like a kitten. 

Mr. Dodd balanced the face of my transmission real nice. Someone had repaired the disc at one time and made me jump a lot when I was going down the road. About the only thing I had going for me was my timer. A little cleaning and adjusting, and it was ready to go! 


This is my timer. Someone forgot to put on my brand new cover that Mr. Dodd made from a big block of aluminum. 

There is a story from my fuzzy past, when a jeweler in Nova Scotia owned me. They say he was a very pious man, but would use lots of swear words while getting me started. I had lots of problems even back then. All I need today is a tickle on my new carburator and a half turn of the crank, and I am ready to go to work.

I would like to thank Gary Olney for sending me to the shop, and his wife Nancy for her patience (not with me, but with her husband). Mr. Rick Paya at RPM for his professional attention and Mr. Dodd for his not giving up on me. A gent by the name of Skip Minor was also at the other end of the phone line many times when Mr. Dodd had trouble figuring me out. Skip is a master at motor cycle engines and that is basically what I am. I will see you in the movies. 

Fred Webster 1921– 2021

fred webster

Fred Webster was just a few days from a drive-by birthday party, he would have been 100 years old when he died on January 17th 2021. Most of his years he resided in the Coventry, VT farmhouse where he was born. 

Fred leaves his wife Vivian and five sons and daughters, three of his children predeceased him. For many years, Fred taught vocational agriculture in high schools, mostly in Northern Vermont. 

fred webster woodstove

Fred’s life was a mixture of hardship and humor, the humor always kept his glass half full. He loved throwing humor at his guests. While heading out the door one day with a guest, he grabbed his wife’s shoes that were sitting by the door. Walking off the porch, the guest asked him why he had his wife’s shoes in his hands. Fred explained by saying, “Well, did you see that little pile of money on the kitchen table? I know it will be there when I get back because she can’t go anywhere without shoes”. Next was Fred’s great joy, watching his guest’s face processing his comment. 

Fred’s college long distance running record held for many years after he graduated from UVM in the 1940’s. Dancing and especially clogging was also a passion of his. In fact, he met his wife Vivian at a dance in Quebec, a match made in heaven, he would say. 

fred webster

His life made a small turn when he retired from teaching at 65 years old. He decided to start collecting antique farm equipment after seeing many pieces rotting in farm pastures. He was concerned the history would be lost if someone didn’t do something, he decided it would be him. From Canada to Nebraska, he started bringing old farm machinery onto his Coventry hill farm, until the buildings were full. Then he and his son, Dan, started tearing down old structures wherever they could find them and hauling the material home. Soon, there was 80,000 square feet of storage, and the hunt for antique farm machinery continued. There are hay presses, tedders, mowers, plows, harrows and corn pickers, all horse drawn. Snow rollers, wagons, rakes, seeders, manure spreaders, cultivators, reapers and the list goes on and on. He has the buggy he used, to go to grade school and even the sleigh his father, Percy, used to court his Mom, Hazel. When he more or less filled every nook and cranny of his barns he started building full sized stagecoaches, 7 or 8 of them while in his nineties. 

We will all miss Fred. We will all remember him and know by his example, that life does not end when we retire. In many ways, it is a bright, clean slate when we retire. Fred has proven this to us, beyond a doubt. 

This feature article was recently published for the U.S. American Legion…… 

Mr. Fred Webster, US Navy 1944-1945 

Have you ever heard about an organization by the name of SACO, relative to WWll? 

This 99-year-old gentleman pictured left was one of 2500 SACO Navy and Marine personnel during the war. He is Mr. Fred Webster and lives in the Northeast Kingdom. During a recent conversation he mentioned that he had been in the Navy during WWll. He said he had never been on a Navy ship accept to get to China, and back, in 1944 and 1945. Asked what he did in China, he had very little for a reply, accept to say, “just study these four letters, S-A-C-O”. This from a man who loves to talk. 

So, the “study” began…….. SACO stands for Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative Organization created in 1942 and a treaty signed by China and the U.S. was signed the same year. The beginning purpose for the treaty was to have accurate weather forecasts for U.S. operations in the Pacific. If we knew the weather in China, we would have an idea what weather would be happening in the Pacific, for our operations against Japan. 

A bit of history….. In 1942, China had been in a civil war for over 30 years. Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Army against Mao Tse-tung’s Communist army. The Japanese had very little opposition from this un-industrialized country that had very little remaining energy or resources to put up much of a fight. The Japanese Army basically had no problem occupying the eastern one-third of China, and some say, would have taken over the complete country, if they had not brought the United States into the war by bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

The SACO treaty was signed with the nationalists government and at its height, these “weather stations (camps) covered over 1700 miles of the China coast, all behind the Japanese’s lines. These 2500 Americans were totally immersed with the Chinese Nationalist Army and had a highly respected reputation. They were sometimes called the “Rice Paddy Navy” and if more honor was needed, they were also called the “What-the-Hell Gang”

It was not long, after the weather stations were in place and successfully operating, that other tasks were added to the “Rice Paddy Navy”. Scouting Japanese activity, demolition squads, advising and training Chinese soldiers, rescuing downed American flyers and intercepting enemy radio traffic soon became part of their operations. A few Americans scattered among the Chinese Army along the China coast from North Korea to Vietnam. Mr. Fred Webster was one or these Americans. 

1933 Chevrolet Master Eagle Phaeton

This 1933 Master Eagle Phaeton Chevrolet now belongs to Gary and Nancy Olney. Some of us travel to the other side of our nation in search of our treasured antique auto. For the Olneys, the car had been hiding in a barn only 20 miles away, since 1954.

The picture, right, is what a couple of VAEers found, the morning they volunteered to help move the old car to its new home in Derby Line.
The Chevy had been visiting this garage for only a short time, as its former residence was being sold. The Sandville family, who lives nearby, had agreed to care for the orphan vehicle until a new owner was found. The original family, who purchased it new in New York City, had passed away, the nephew, Mat, who inherited the car had also passed away and was now owned by his brother Klaus, who lives in Germany. This must explain the Phaeton’s sad face, in a strange home and an uncertain future.

The Chevrolet’s original owner was Roselle Brittain. Roselle was a makeup artist, in the early television days, in New York City. She later started her own cosmetics company in the city and called it Rozelle Cosmetics. Driving the Chevrolet to northern Vermont on a vacation, she and her husband fell in love with Waitsfield, Vermont and ended up purchasing a property on the Loop Road. Not much later, they moved to Waitsfield, along with their business. Rozelle Cosmetics still exists today, at number 4260 Loop Road.
As mentioned, when the Brittains passed, the property, the business and the Chevy, was passed down to family members in Germany. The Chevy even visited our August car show when it was in Stowe, while nephew Mat owned the car.

Now, eighty seven years after Roselle purchased the Chevrolet Master Eagle Phaeton in NY City, Gary and Nancy Olney of Derby Line owns it. Like always in the North East Kingdom of Vermont, there is a bit of mystery. How did Gary Olney hear about the car being for sale? There were no advertisements, no auction or no VAE gossip to help him. You see, Gary has a bit of a reputation in the Kingdom. He is known to be a bit of a car buff, well, there are better words of description, but we want to be polite here.
When the gent in Germany wanted to find the value and desirability of the car, he asked his friend, Jim McIntyer, of the Kingdom, for advice. Like everyone in the VAE, if we were asked that question, yup…Mr. Gary Olney would come to mind!

So, Gary’s life long love for old cars paid off for him when Klaus asked him for ad-vice. “Kingdom Communications” also helped.

Now for the star of this show… The 1933 Chevrolet Master Eagle Series CA.
There were only 543 Phaetons built that year and the only year the name master Eagle was used, according to the Standard Catalog of American Cars. The high-end Chevy built in 1932 was called the “Confederate” and in 1934, called the “Master Series DA”. There were two less expensive models in 1933 called the Mercury and the Standard. The company built 486,280 cars in 1933, and kept them in the number one in the US.

The Eagle introduced new styling that year with its vee-shaped radiator, rear slanting hood door louvers, skirted fenders and the beaver tail back panel. The Fisher body was called the air-stream and had a no-draft ventilation system.

The Eagle mascot stood proudly on the radiator. The engine is a six cylinder Ohv, 65HP with a carter carburetor. It had a 3-speed synchromesh transmission.

When Gary first heard about the car, it was said to be a 1934. The advice he was getting was to “run the other way”!

The Master Chevys from ’34 to 1938 had the “new Knee-action front suspension” and they were trouble. According to publications from that period, many Masters were converted back to the standard I-beam and the Knee-action was ditched.

When Gary found his Chevy and it turned out to be a 1933, and it was “all-ahead full”… that is a Navy term to go top speed using all propellers. And he did.

1918 REO Model F Speed Wagon

Mike Daigle and sons Domenico and Charlie have a new project at their home. The 1918 REO Model F Speed Wagon will be their winter project… And maybe beyond winter.

Asked why a REO Speed Wagon Mike Daigle said “Probably because of his neighbor Gene Towne.” 

Gene Towne died a few years ago, but he left a huge foot-print in our memories, especially Mike Daigle’s. It was visiting Gene’s place over the 16 years that Mike and his family lived as neighbors, that he caught the bug for ‘old stuff’. 

In fact, it appears Mike’s sons, Charlie, eleven years old and Domenico, 16, have also caught the bug. Domenico, recently, fired up his project in the family garage for the first time. A late 40s Oliver 66, wide-front-end tractor. Maybe that Oliver 66 could be a Wheel Tracks feature some day… We hope! 

Mike found the Speed Wagon in the back hills of East Wallingford. He said, after getting his trailer loaded, he had serious concerns if he was going to make it out. He did, as you can see, and the three have plans to get it, mechanically, in good shape but want to keep the same basic appearance that you see today. Mike’s background is mechanics while spending a number of years working at the VT. State Police garage in Colchester. So he knows his way around a tool box. 

The Daigle’s have the REO running. They were fascinated with the exposed valve tappets and the chain-driven starter. 

Chain-driven starter

The Speed Wagon is built for a top speed of 22MPH, while other trucks from that era was 5 to 10MPH slower. Its engine puts out 27 horse power. This is how the term Speed Wagon began. REO started building “Speed Wagon” trucks in 1915 and they advertised that their trucks “had long-term viability and theirs could go faster”. 

They were also known to go faster in stop and go city traffic because they had “Tall Gearing”. Tall Gearing (vs short gearing) simply means you do not have to spend as much time shifting because of the REO’s gear ratios. 

REO used the “Speed Wagon” term through 1939, they changed the term to one word in the later years. 

REO started making trucks in 1908, merged and became Diamond-REO in 1971 and went out of business in 1974. 

The Model F 1918 serial numbers started with #15000 and ended with #21543, which means REO built 6543 of these trucks in 1918. 

Another huge plus, if you purchased a REO truck, especially a Speed Wagon, it could be refitted for whatever special purpose was needed, and the REO Motor Car Company knew that was part of their appeal. They advertised the ease with which the Wagon could be customized and started building Wagons with bigger engines, heavier flywheels, and larger water pumps. If you needed something done, the Speed Wagon could do it. 

By 1925, the company had produced more than 125,000 Speed Wagons.