Enthusiast of the Month: Rod Rice

Rod Rice 2003Hopefully our readers have followed the monthly “Big E” (E for enthusiasm as in the VAE) awards and have enjoyed remembering or meeting just a few of the outstanding people that have made our club the super organization that we all enjoy. All awarded are deserving… and many others are as well, but there can be no disputing this month’s winner.

From founding father to dependable cheerleader, this month’s winner tops any list. To find out “who” and “why” read now what Founder and First VAE President Ken Gypson has to say about our Enthusiast of the Month, Year, Decade, Golden Anniversary and hopefully for life.

Ken writes:

“As we go through life we, of course, meet and get to know many individuals. Some that in all honesty we could do without and others that make you glad knowing them and make life pleasurable. Happily, there are also those who, in knowing them, become extra special and close friends.

When Anne and I moved to Vermont – my taking a job with the now long defunct Burlington Daily News and Vermont Sunday News; we of course, severed geographic ties with the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley. One day when seeking to sell some display advertising space to a concern I somehow got introduced to a local automobile enthusiast who happened to be there.

After all these years I can’t recall the details of how it all came about, but it was to become the meeting of one of those extra special individuals.

As time passed and the friendship grew, the most interesting events began to unfold. One of the first, of course, was this gentleman’s help getting a birthday party organized by inviting fellow automobile enthusiasts. As most know, the party gave birth to the VAE. This camaraderie, naturally paved the way for even greater indulgence in the hobby.

Immersion in the hobby is bound to get one involved in all kinds of goings on – frustrating, humorous, expensive, interesting (to say the least) and rewarding – all to be shared with fellow enthusiasts. The gentleman I noted earlier and who became “extra special” had a keen sense of humor. When sometimes I would be deep in trying to sort out a problem on the Franklin, the silence would be broken by this gentleman proclaiming “Glad to see you doing something even if it’s wrong”.

As time passed I got blamed for being the one that got him interested in British machinery. Noting the Brit entanglement, one evening our family dined with the gentleman and his family. It was in the middle of winter and after dinner the kids were bedded down for a nap. Being a dutiful father I ventured out to warm up the Hillman Minx.

The Minx had a pull cable to engage the starter… so I pulled the knob on the facia (Brit for dashboard) and lo and behold, the cable just kept coming out! Our gentleman (smart too) despite the sub-zero weather got things hooked back up and soon we were able to head home.

Handling the fledgling VAE as its first President offered many challenges and fortunately this gentleman was always at hand to help give advice and step up to any given task. Every club has need for a newsletter. Our gentleman helped recruit the needed workers and spent many hours at the Daily News offices to put together the printed communications. (At this point I’ve got to add in reference to the newsletter – “You’ve come a long way baby”).

This gentleman had a bit of land and buildings in Starksboro. During one winter he wanted to “check” things there so off we went – I knew snow could get deep – but that deep?! It took so long just to navigate in and out of the territory that we needed nourishment. Finding a local shop open we regained our spirit eating Fig Newtons. It’s the one time in my life I’ve been able to stomach them but our gentleman relished them! One happening that clearly shows the mettle of this man began one evening…

Once again we were there for dinner when a phone call came from a mutual friend. It seems the friend had spotted a vehicle in a Vergennes commercial car shop that he believed was one that our gentleman had purchased – but was supposed to be still with the seller and to be picked up later. This vehicle was not one that could be called “mint” by even the slickest used car salesman but this was a situation that demanded action.

Rapidly collecting spares that might be needed, our gentleman, the mutual friend and I headed for Vergennes. It seems that one of those individuals we could do without had told a “cock and bull” story to the seller and had the Vergennes garage retrieve it–bringing it to the garage where our mutual friend had spotted it.

Arriving at the garage our (honest) gentleman tried to convince the garage proprietor that it was his car – not the fellow who had given him the order to tow it in. The proprietor was not about to agree with our gentleman but during the ongoing discussion feverish work on the vehicle was in progress. The proprietor finally went charging out noting he was going to get the gendarmes! With all quickly in order and our gentleman at the helm it was like the green flag dropped for “go”.

Naturally, nothing like this could take place unless the weather was bad. It was raining real hard, but our intrepid gentleman put on his leather helmet and goggles and headed for back roads. This vehicle had no top and if I recall correctly, no doors. It really was a parts car, period! We followed to provide some light for navigation. The sight from our dry comfortable seats was something to behold. Here, a picture would be worth a thousand words. I never knew so many back (and muddy) roads existed.

Finally our gentleman came to a friend’s farm – pulled in and tucked it behind a barn. We found out later that there was a search for our gentleman by the gendarmes – but obviously to no avail. There were many, many other times and events that could be recounted but it would need more space than Wheel Tracks can provide. The events described here, as with the unwritten ones, have a very special meaning because of sharing them with our gentleman.

He is a true enthusiast having served the VAE very well over the years and is extra special in every other way. I, of course, am talking about none other than Rod Rice.”

Lots of other members could share many interesting and fun things about Rod. Doris Bailey (Burlington’s first commercial lady automobile mechanic – story later) is a neighbor of the Rice Autoworks and offers the following:

“To me, Rod Rice has always been the quintessential automobile enthusiast. Over many years he has acquired a number of wonderful cars, from a 1913 Stevens-Duryea Phaeton (my favorite) to the 1954 MG-TF and including his redoubtable 1933 Harley. Being a good, careful mechanic, he has maintained his collection well. If you talk with Rod about your own automotive trials and triumphs, he will always bring a fund of relevant information or an anecdote pertaining to your particular vehicle. Our members are very grateful to both Rod and Ken Gypson for creating the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts in the format that has endured til today.”

Take a tip from Doris and when given the chance to talk with Rod do so. He is at many VAE activities and is knowledgeable, interesting and has a great sense of humor. And now from all the members, officers, and board let us join Ken and Doris, and with three cheers and one cheer more, award our 50th Year “Biggest E” Award to our friend and founder, Rod Rice. We really mean it.

Shelburne 2004 Planning Underway

The 2nd meeting of the Shelburne Planning Committee happened Tuesday November 18th and was attended by, Hugh Bargiel, Andy Barnett, Ellen Emerson, Avery Hall, Bryce Howells, Joe Rigg, and Jim Sears. Hugh hosted the event at his gorgeous establishment, The Strong House Inn in Vergennes.

Working from “the list” of responsibilities our group began to put names to items that need attention. Avery was pleased to announce that Julie Greenia will be continuing with Steve Skinner’s Registration Committee to take care of pre-registration tasks (Thank You Julie!). A quick phone also confirmed Ray Tomlinson to head up the Car Corral and Tom McHugh will run the Flea Market. (Thank you both!)

The committee also discussed how to best contact other car clubs to be invited and decided that we should compile a list of clubs and their contacts so that we can get in touch with them about the Shelburne Show. If possible we’d like to get a copy of their mailing list, to directly invite individual members. If that’s not an option we’ll simply ask that they place some information in their newsletters. If you are a member of another car club (I know a lot of us are) and you would like them to be invited, please contact me (Ellen) with the name and address.

Hugh mentioned that in addition to the 5 tours put on last year we will be adding an additional tour that will include a ferry trip over to Plattsburg. We’d like to put together a brochure for the tours alone that includes pictures, a list of all tours and who to contact. This could be a full size brochure or a smaller page that could be used as an insert.

Other items for discussion were the standardization of plaque sizes. We currently have 3 different sizes, which could be reduced to one size, which should save money on the wood for the backing. The committee will look into how we can best save money on awards without reducing the significance of a First Place versus a Third.

Awards will feature last year’s “Best of Show” winner, which is standard operating procedure. Dash plaques will use a picture from the museum, including the Ticonderoga, which is easily recognizable as part of the museum and which falls into the transportation category.

The committee will also look into purchasing something that can be given to all entrants who go through the parade but who do not place in their class. It was suggested that a blue ribbon imprinted with “Thank You For Participating” might be appropriate. Another suggestion was a small bottle of maple syrup since it’s representative of Vermont to many people, especially those outside the state.

The next meeting date has been set for Tuesday, January 13, 2004 where we’ll discuss the budget and hopefully add some more volunteer names to “the list”. If you’d like to volunteer please contact me (Ellen) and I will put you in touch with the proper person!

Enthusiast of the Month: Tom Maclay

[ November 2003 ]

Tom Maclay in 1989VAE records seem a little hazy in establishing the exact date that this month’s Big “E” winner joined our organization. Who would have thought on that date that this new member would bring so much to our hobby and club? This committee has been too embarrassed to ask Tom himself just when he handed over his first dues… but we are sure glad he did. This is what long-time member Mary Jane Dexter has to say about Tom…


“Maclay” is now synonymous with the Stowe Show. Scotsmen for centuries made enormous contributions to the modern Western world. And we have our own Scotsman in our midst who has an uncanny sense of how to make something work well at the Stowe Show. You can call him hardworking, able to organize, knowing how to systematize ideas, capable of getting people to work for him, and you would not be far from the mark.

Tom began his Stowe Show chairmanship with a vacation atmosphere, pressing his family into service for a “week in the country” on the show field! Members of the club were drawn by this kind of Maclay inspired fun/work plan, and the project was up and growing. He seems to be able to keep things under control, except the weather. Yet, even through the mists and showers, dust and mud, Tom always manages to keep his calm and finds the best possible solutions for the problems.

Hats off to Tom Maclay for his many contributions to the VAE, but most of all for his success in steering the cars in the right and proper direction during the Stowe Show.


Mary Jane has known Tom for years and years and knows where of she speaks. Fred Cook has known Tom for a lot less time but his following conclusions seem much the same. Fred is not usually known as being a man of few words… but he’s nailed Tom pretty well with the following 15…

Consensus builder
dedicated family man
compassionate
quick
seeks no glory for himself
fair
highly respected

Board Member, meet organizer, planner and general all around Big “E” guy. To quote him from our 50th year book he has requested that his last ride be in his White-Kress fire truck which is always in the Stowe parade with him at the wheel. Tom… the White has a lot of good miles left in it, and so do you. Thanks for all you have done, are doing and will do. Thanks for being a VAE Big “E”.

Early Automotive Milestones

1900 – Delco invents the first electrical distributor for automobile engines.

1901 – Olds begins production of the famous Oldsmobile Curved Dash runabout. Speedometers used for the first time. Ettore Bugatti designed his first car.

1902 – Henry Leland replaces Henry Ford as chief engineer at the Detroit Automobile Company, which is renamed the Cadillac Automobile Co.

1903 – Bathtub maker David Dunbar Buick starts a Buick plant in Flint, Michigan, and sells it to William Durant the next year. Glass windshields are used on autos for the first time. First cross country trip by automobile. Henry Ford founds the company bearing his name.

1904 – Studebaker introduces a gasoline auto. Cadillac is among the first to use a steering wheel instead of a tiller. First production Maxwells roll off the line in NY. Rolls-Royce Limited founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce in Britain.

1905 – First transcontinental auto race sponsored by Oldsmobile.
Cars could be purchased on an installment plan.

1906 – Ford uses vanadium on the Model N-a heat-treated steel that is lighter and stronger than conventional steel.

1907 – A four-cylinder engine with sliding transmission introduced by Buick.

1908 – Steering wheels moved to the left-hand side on most autos. First grooved automobile tire appears. Buick owner William C. Durant forms General Motors. Ford Model T goes on sale for $850: with 20 horsepower, top speed of 45 mph, & 30 mpg. It sold 10,600 units the first year.

1909 – Automobile storage battery invented by Thomas A. Edison.

Infamous Lemons: 1938 Phantom Corsair

1938 Phantom CorsairThe Corsair, based on a Cord automobile chassis, was more an out-right failure of styling than of design. The Cord Company had been responsible for some very good-looking automobiles. This was party because Cord chassis, with their high-performance engines and exotic front-wheel-drive configuration, were naturals for any designer with a yen for sleekness and and exclusivity. Among the designers Cord cooperated with were Gordon Buehrig and Carl Van Ranst, who turned out notable designs for the L-29, the 810 and 812 Berline.

There were, however, those designers who had dreams of beauty and elegance but were unable to realize them – either through their own love of idiosyncrasy, or through lack of talent. Perhaps the worst designs were those perpetrated by the designer with zeal but unclear purpose

The design was supposed to be a sleek, futurist bombshell of a car, powered by a high-performance Lycoming straight-eight engine. In a way it was ahead of its time with completely faired-in fenders, and a low silhouette. Its proportions, however, were all wrong, and the fender sides dropped straight down from the windows like the sand guards on British Crusader tanks of the period – an effect that was only emphasized by the full skirts on the front and rear wheels.

The headlights were like cat’s eyes, vertical slit units set in sockets that were molded bulbs of metal. They strongly resembled the eyes of a semi-submerged hippopotamus and evoked a sense of bemused loneliness. As a whole the car looked fat and behind the strange front end, the sides ran back in unbroken plainness, without even door handles in the seamless panels.

A limited production run was planned but never realized. This may be due to the car’s reception in its big chance at a public-relations coup… the car was featured in the 1938 Selznick International Films motion picture “Young at Heart” staring Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Janet Gaynor. The Corsair emerged from this venture with a new, popular moniker – “The Flying Wombat”.

Increase VTC Scholarship Donation

Vermont Life Magazine is partnering with the VAE to raise money for the Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund. Vermont Life is offering VAE members a discounted price for a one-year subscription, just $13.95. That’s $2.00 off the regular $15.95 subscription price.

And with every new paid subscription, renewal or gift subscription from this offer received by January 1, 2004 – Vermont Life Magazine will donate $5.00 to the VAE’S Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund!

Call 1-800-284-3243 by January 1, 2004 and give the operator code “VAE03” to subscribe, renew or to give gift subscriptions. Gift donors will receive gift announcement cards.

For each address outside the US, please add $6.00. Vermont Life Magazine accepts VISA, MasterCard, and Discover Card or if you prefer, you may request to be billed.

Where Is Your Gasoline Coming From?

Are you buying gasoline from the Middle East? The Saudis are boycotting American goods right now so perhaps we should return the favor.

Every time you fill up the car, you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia. Just buy from gas companies that don’t import their oil from the Saudis.

Major companies that DO import Middle Eastern oil:

Shell, Chevron/Texaco, Exxon / Mobil, Marathon / Speedway, Amoco

Major companies that DO NOT import Middle Eastern oil:

Citgo, Sunoco, Conoco, Sinclair, BP/Phillips, Hess

A Brief Ford History

Henry Ford started his working life as an engineer with the Edison Lighting Company Detroit, in 1884. Ford by chance, came across a science journal written by Nicholas Otto, a German engineer who was developing the internal combustion engine. Ford became very interested, some say infatuated, and he decided to build his own.

He soon got to work, building and developing a car in his spare time in a small shed in his garden. His car, the “Thin Lizzie” was completed in 1896. Ford was now desperate to start his own motor company; by 1899 he had secured enough investors to begin a production run. Initially his first attempts were unsuccessful, he failed to produce a car that could be sold.

Eventually however, Ford produced the Model A, sales were good, by 1908 profits soared to over one million dollars. In 1909 Ford decided to concentrate production on the Model T, he wanted to mass produce this car, and build each unit in the shortest time possible, and as inexpensively as could be achieved. By improving his production methods he went on to build each car in just 90 minutes, and at a price of less than four hundred dollars his competitors were left floundering.

His famous “you can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black” arose because black paint, was the only color available in America that was quick drying. By 1926 Ford had sold over fourteen million Model T cars. On April 21, 1931 they reached twenty million.

The Ford GT40 was a product of the merged interest of Ford USA and Lola Cars, for one aim – to win the Le Mans 24 hr race. Ford after having their bid for Ferrari turned down, set to work on the GT40. Unsuccessful at first, Ford then handed over control to Carroll Shelby. Eventually, Ford in 1966 gained their greatest ambition and won Le Mans. Ford then went on to dominate the race for the next few years, with four successive victories in total.

The Ford Mustang is one of the great American success stories, a sporty design which appealed to all and caught the spirit of the times perfectly when it was launched in 1964.

The Mustang went on to become one of the fastest selling car of all time, over 400,000 in the first year of production and one-million units sold by 1966. In all 2.2 million Mustangs would be sold during the production run, 1964-73. A range of options were a great selling point, from a straight 6 to a V-eight – 2790cc to a monster 6997cc giving 395bhp, and 135mph.