Gary’s 1927 GMC Firetruck

L to R… Gary Olney, Gary F., Judy Boardman, Bill Erskine & Wendell Noble

There are two “innocents” in these pictures, and four “connivers”. Dixie the dog is one innocent, can you guess who is the second?

How do you match the joy of a young child tearing into a surprise birthday gift and discovering that it is just what he’s always wanted?

Well, how about seeing a fellow who’s er, well into adulthood, discover that the surprise anniversary gift from his wife is the rusty relic of a 1927 GMC firetruck that he has been lusting for?


So it has come to pass for VAE folks who took part in making this happen for Gary Fiske. The feature truck had been tucked away in Gael Boardman’s shed behind his tractor and some other machinery and under some other miscellaneous goods that simply needed a place to be. Following Gael’s passing, Judy Boardman sought to dispose of some of his memorabilia stuff into appreciative hands.

L to R… Judy Boardman, Gary & Sharon Fiske


This was accomplished with a very successful VAE auction in July. The firetruck remained, seen but not spoken for.
Sharon Fiske somehow sensed that Gary would like to own it and discretely let it be known to a few friends that she would like to surprise him with it as an anniversary gift. A plan was hatched, a ruse was devised and some bald-faced lies were told to get the surprise underway. It was so well executed that Gary unwittingly took part himself, by lending his trailer and helping to load it, thinking that Bill Erskine would be the happy new owner.


The tires held air, at least for the day, the wheels turned freely and the relic rolled onto Gary’s trailer. Once the truck was loaded for transport, Sharon was cleverly able to dispatch Gary on a wild goose chase while the conspirators trucked it to Gary’s yard. The surprise was total and joyous to witness. Gary just happened to have room under cover for his new treasure along with all the other vehicles that he’ll get to someday.


There is still much to be learned about the fire engine’s origin and history. Therein lies the joy of owning it. Is it a candidate for restoration? If so, to what? In the mean time, Gary can go out and sit in it and imagine that he’s responding to a fire, at 35 MPH, tops.


From the editor & the proud recipient of this little GMC firetruck

I want to thank everyone for this really nice gift, especially my wife Sharon. I kind of pride myself for being “plugged in” when it comes to things around me. I have to admit, I was totally off the grid in this case. When people ask how many project vehicles I need, most of the time I say that I need two more and they will take me to 120 years old. I think I am there.


Now to the fun part that Wendell spoke about. First to find the history on this truck and second to find exactly what I have here. Of course, working on it is the frosting on the cake.


As to the history, the first person I contacted was Gary Irish. Gary lives near the Boardman’s and I was hoping Gael might have mentioned the truck to him. Gary had nothing to offer except an apology; you see he is also one of those ’plugged-in’ folks. Gael’s wife, Judy, can only remember that it appeared one day. So, to all you friends and neighbors of Gael Boardman’s homestead, I would like to hear from you if you have some information.


Next is to find what I have. Dodge Brothers and Franklins are a bit where I come from, I know very little about GMCs. A book by the name of “The First Century of GMC Trucks by Donald Meyer claims there were 12,918 GMC trucks sold in 1927. The beginning for GMC started in 1900 with a single cylinder, chain-drive vehicle with a top speed of 10 MPH and a capacity of one ton.


It goes on to tell how ‘27 was the first year of the GMC T-trucks, the T-20, the T40 and the T50s. The T-50 was a 2-ton truck and had a worm drive rear-end…definitely not mine. The T-40 was a 2-ton truck with a bevel gear rear axle. I will have to look in the pumpkin, but I don’t think this is it either. The T20 is a 1-ton truck and that might be mine.


But wait, later in 1927, GMC started building a new model called a T-10 which was a half-ton delivery truck called a “Speed Wagon”. But no, Meyer claims the T-10s had a Pontiac engine and all the others have Buick engines. My engine is a Buick.


The Buick engine is a valve-in-head L6. The T-20 had a 207 cid engine and the T-40 and T-50 both had 274 cid engines. How can you tell the difference?


My dash plaque claims top vehicle speed is 35 MPH. I bet when I get done tweaking and peaking I will squeeze at least 36MPH out of her, but first I have to un-seize the engine with Gael’s favorite stuff called “Kroil”…….yes!
Can you imagine any more fun than this? I can not.

1967 Austin Healey 300 Mk III

A love story for the “VAE Books”. 

jane spender & 1967 austin healey BJ8

When John Spencer sent pictures to Wheel Tracks, he was asked about the young lady. 
He replied, “That is the girl I chased with my Healey!” 
The young lady is Jane Spencer.  John purchased this Austin Healey 3000 Mk-lll in 1970 and his plan worked… what a car… what a catch! 

This from John…… 

austin healey 3000

I bought the 1967 Austin Healey BJ8 in August 1970 from a family in Johnson, Vermont to chase a girl. I still have the Healey and the girl. 

I must give credit to Ed Rotax, an original member of the VAE. He had a vast collection of Dodge Bros vehicles. I had bought a 1924 Screen Side delivery truck from him. I drove it to Stowe that year. At the end of the show, he said let us go see this car you keep talking about. I said it is in Johnson. No problem we can go over the notch to Jeffersonville. That we did with my old Dodge Bros with only rear brakes and not too good ones either. 

john spencer - austin healey 3000

The Healey was my only car, and I was still milking cows on our dairy farm. I put snow tires on the rear and fought the snow drifts on my way to Burlington to see the girl, Jane by the way. It never failed me, but it was not the best in the snow. The car survived the many trials of our life including spending the winter outside. The exhaust was always being repaired. The fenders were patched, and the rocker panel replaced. It finally was retired to the shed for 10 years. 

Eight years ago, I figured I would get it going again and pulled the motor and transmission to repair the overdrive. I keep finding things to fix and I ended up going all the way to the frame. It took me six years to complete it with some help from some great people especially Rally Sport in New Haven. I did all the mechanicals and some body work. Others did the upholstery and paint. 

This is a driver as I am driving around Vermont to find other Austin Healeys. Jane and I are also doing the 251 club in the Healey. 

Any sharp-eyed Healey person will look at the picture of my Healey and say it can not be a 1967 because it does not have dual parking lights. But it is by the serial number and other features. I discovered after buying the car, it had been in an accident and the front shroud was replaced by one from an older model. I decided to keep it that way. It is a pleasure to drive and we plan to put some serious miles on it. See you on the road. 

austin healey 3000 front

I am now restoring my 1931 Ford Tudor, which I bought when I was 14. But that is a story for another time. 

There are twelve Austin Healeys listed on our VAE website, under “Member Vehicles”. 

Some listings might be old, we are sure the vehicles still exist, but their owners might have changed. 

We know of two Healeys not included, they belong to VAE members Dave Sargent and Ken Gypson

The Spencers are doing two things with their Healey that we all could adopt as nice adventures. One is to drive their car to the homes of the other VAE Austin Healeys for a friendly visit. What a great idea! 

The second is something other members have done and should be a club-wide challenge. 

That is to join the “251 Club” and visit all the 251 towns in Vermont, with your favorite “Old Vehicle”. 

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. 

1931 Ford Model A & Deluxe Model A History

I became a member of VAE just a few years ago when I registered my 1967 Austin Healey 3000 MK III . Although I have never participated in any of the events, I have enjoyed your monthly magazine. The pictures and articles have sparked many memories of my past challenges with automobiles. 

The Model A (Ford) is, without a doubt, the one vehicle that I would put in first place, as holding both, some of my fondest and most chilling memories from my early automobile experiences. 

When I was 14 my mother wanted a low spot in the lawn filled. Normally, that might have been a job that some young people would consider work. For me and my friend it was an opportunity to drive the “A” and to siphon a gallon of gas out of my father’s ‘37 Ford Coach to run it. We found a bank of soft dirt and easy digging that had been pushed up for a logging header. We commenced to load the back of that “A” with a good heavy load not thinking about the drive up a long hill that had a steep bank on one side, the capability of the brakes, or the power of the engine. As we got about halfway up the hill the engine ran out of power and stopped. The brakes did not hold. Then it started to roll backwards along with the engine turning backwards. My buddy bailed out but I stayed with it. Down the hill backwards the “A” and I went until we got to the corner at the bottom, there it went off the road and hit a big rock unloading the entire load of dirt. My first comment to my buddy with shaking legs and tears in my eyes was, “I’m never driving that thing again.” The next day I went down and drove it back to the barn! 

1931 ford model a

I always admired the Model A Roadster and always wanted one but I didn’t have the resources when I was younger. Then the busyness of working for a living, raising a family, taking care of our little mountainside family farm, and a wife with an illness made it difficult to think about getting an old car. 

Early last Fall, while driving along Route 7 to Brandon, VT, I saw a beautiful Roadster parked beside the road with a “For Sale” sign in the window. Believing it was one of those aftermarket copies, I didn’t give it another thought until my nephew visited me a week or two later. He said, “Uncle Dave, have you seen that Model A Roadster for sale on Route 7 in Brandon?” Of course I said “Yes”. I told him that I thought it wasn’t authentic. He was quite sure that it was. He said he would stop on his way home and look it over more closely. I received an excited call from him that evening, and he told me that as far as he could tell, it had been restored according to guidelines and that I should really consider buying it! 

I had a project to finish up here at the farm so it was a couple of days before I went to find out about it only to sadly discover, when I arrived at the place where it had been parked, that it was gone! I asked a neighbor who said she didn’t know anything about it. I was disappointed, but I didn’t give up. After some searching and a couple of phone calls, I received a reply from the owner. He told me that he hadn’t sold it but had put it away for the winter. It was still for sale and he said that he would meet me if I was seriously interested. We agreed to meet the next afternoon. 

When I arrived (early I might add) he was already there standing beside the Roadster with the top down and the rumble seat open. There it was, all shiny and glistening in the sun. What a beauty! Suddenly I was conflicted. I had the same feeling that I had when I was a boy standing in front of the candy counter of the local General Store wanting something that I thought I couldn’t have. But then I realized I had the same chance of taking my money with me as I did in taking the “A” with me when I died and that is zero! Yes, there was no reason I couldn’t have it. 

1931 ford model a

After careful inspection of the Roadster and continued discussion with the owner (including negotiating price) I said to myself, “I think I’m going to buy it”. Then he started it up and when I heard it crank and the musical sound of the exhaust – WOW – that was it! All those happy, carefree days of a youngster flashed before me. The deal was sealed! 

It is now stored in the barn and I am looking forward to Spring and a good Summer of touring and parades. 

Hopefully I will be able to join some of VAE’s outings. 

I have to thank my nephew, David Stone, for giving me the prod that I needed. 

Editor’s note….. Dave’s grandson took these wonderful pictures of the Model A. We thank you Johnathan. 

1951 Mercury

Ken Gypson’s Journey with His Mercury Creation 

The old car hobby has many facets, maybe too many. Grandpa was into Maxwells, early Buicks and Pierce Arrows. Dad was into British sport cars, open wheel race cars (midgets and sprint cars) and Franklins and Packards.  Me? I’m into all of the above plus vintage stock cars and traditional Kustoms. 

1951 mercury hot rod back

The 49-51 Mercurys are the holy grail of traditional Kustoms. (Yes, with a “K” as coined by George Barris.) 

I bought mine in 1988 for $3,500. It was already a mild Kustom. Nosed, decked and shaved. (Nosed – hood ornaments removed, decked – trunk emblems removed, shaved – all other non-essential trim and latches removed.) It had a modified ’51 Merc grill that I immediately replaced with a shortened ’55 DeSoto grill. Door handles were removed and replaced with ’57 Plymouth trunk locks. I also “frenched” the head lights (no outside trim rings). Shortly thereafter the stock flathead went south. In the course of a rebuild the flathead was bored 40 over, given dual Stromberg 97carbs, a Chevy 283 distributor and a one wire alternator upgraded to 12 volt negative ground. 

While the engine was out for machine work, I got the crazy idea to chop the top. I had no idea the task I created for myself. I took a perfectly good car and whacked it 5 and a half inches! 

1951 mercury hot rod paintjob

With such a radical lowering I had to get a donor ’50 Merc for the rear window. The ’51 window has a 90 degree corner and would have been 2” below the fender line. The ’50 is rounded and worked perfectly. 

I also slanted the door posts and removed the drip moldings over the rear quarter windows, and installed a ’49 Merc dashboard with brand new VDO gauges. I drove the Merc in enamel and lacquer primer until 2018. During this time I also installed a MSD electronic distributor and adapted a Chevy S-10 5 speed overdrive tranny to the flathead. 

1951 mercury interior

It was time to refresh the Merc. I was also determined to finally get an interior done up for it. All those years it had late Chrysler seats and NO other interior. My friend, Dave, and I took the ’51 Merc interior seats and panels from a local junk yard to Labaron Bonney 2 days before they closed their doors. The shop manager took the seats home with her and did a great job in her home shop. 

Dave and I stripped the car and did whatever minor body work was needed to paint it. We flush mounted the skirts and had a body shop friend shoot the car in SEM Products Hot Rod Black. It took 3 months to put back together and install the beautiful black and red Naugahyde interior. 

I now have at least 6 times the amount of money into the Merc than what I paid for it! And, I only got to drive it one day before the snow came! 

1951 mercury flathead

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.