For English Car Owners

Doris writes: “Inspired by Gene Fodor’s British Car dicta, I thought you might like an addition in Wheel Tracks. I have had this tacked to the garage wall for several years and every word of it is true.”

You probably own an English car if…

  1. You know that:
    • A “bonnet” is not a lady’s head covering
    • A “hood” does not cover the engine
    • A “spanner” does not span anything
    • A “boot” is not a cowboy’s footwear
  2. You always automatically distrust anyone named Lucas.
  3. You always park facing downhill.
  4. People ask how many cars you own and the number contains fractions.
  5. Any discussions of a trip, long or short, always contain references to breakdowns.
  6. You tell your spouse you were out until 3 am because your car broke down – and they believe you.
  7. You call Moss Motors and they recognize your voice.
  8. You reply immediately with month, day and year when asked when your car was manufactured but have to stop and think how old your kids are.
  9. Your idea of a perfect gift is a part for your car – it doesn’t matter what part, as you will eventually use it.
  10. You buy Castrol by the case – not because it’s on sale but because you need that much on hand.
  11. Your favorite TV network is PBS, not because it’s intellectually stimulating but because with all the BBC programming you get to see a lot more British cars.
  12. You actually like the smell of Liquid Wrench.(Courtesy of Mini Owners of America).

“Younger Member” Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenneth F. Gypson

North Greenbush — Kenneth F. Gypson, 79 died suddenly Thursday, August 19, 2004 at his residence. Born in Albany, he was the son of the late Lowell H. Gypson and Janet (Dyer) Gypson. He was the loving husband of 56 years to Anne (Gutkowski) Gypson. He had resided in North Greenbush for 45 years and was a graduate of Milne High School in Albany and Pratt Art Institute in NYC. Mr. Gypson was employed as a communications officer for Key Corp. Holding Company in Albany for ten years, retiring in the late 70s. Prior to that he worked for the Burlington Daily News, Knickerbocker News and founded the public relations departments at Hudson Valley Community College and Samaritan Hospital. Ken was a former member off the Kiwanis Club of Troy and a member of the Disabled American Veterans.

Active in antique auto circles, he founded the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts in 1953 and was a past president. A Gypson Trophy is still presented annually. Ken was co-founder and past president of the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley. He was also a member of Atlantic Coast Old Timers, a vintage racing organization and Slow Spokes, a vintage car-touring group. He was an Army Infantry veteran of W.W.II, stationed in Italy and North Africa. Ken had a deep love of music, especially Hawaiian, and played several instruments. He actively participated in the Poestenkill jam group. Survivors in addition to his wife include a son Kenneth J. (and his wife Nancy) of Poestenkill, a daughter, Karen J. Patten (and her husband Davis) of Brunswick, and two grandsons, Joshua and Seth Gypson. He was predeceased by a brother, Lowell Gypson, II.

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to Disabled American Veterans
Gift Processing Ctr
P. O. Box 14301
Cincinnati, OH 95250-0301

Takes a Licking, Keeps on Smoking

With apologies to the Timex people, here is another chapter in the 76-year-old life of this Willys Knight coupe, model 56. As pictured in the VAE 40th commemorative book as the car with the most VAE member owners it seems to have been adopted yet again.

Some history would include that fact that the Knight came to Vermont in 1954, from a junkyard in NY I think, as a birthday present to himself… by VAE founding father Peveril F. Peake. $35 and some tire work and he drove it home. As a coupe and with a heater, PF thought it would make a good winter car. With 9 quarts of oil in the sleeve valve engine it was not that good of a choice. It cranked over painfully on those below zero mornings in Bristol.

The Jewette touring car was in the garage as the queen of the Peak fleet so the Knight languished in the driveway. The first time the longest owning (to date) member saw the car, it was headed into the Lincoln Inn parking lot white from the belt molding down with Vermont road salt. When questioned about this unusual punishment Pev mentioned that it was, after all, his “winter car”. That was December 1954.

That was then. We figure that the car was driven about 100,000 miles in the next 3 plus years and consumed untold 2-gallon cans of inexpensive oil and a lot of time “on the road”. Retired to the way back of the barn it sat idle until 1996 when it was reawakened to go the owner’s 40th high school reunion. It rained so hard that it didn’t make the event and quickly went back to sleep.

This is now. Enter Charlie Thompson, the Willys, Whippet, Willys-Knight VAE member. Congratulations to Charlie and the Overland guys.

What we need now is for Charlie to tell us what really happened between the first photo and the last. I bet that Wheel Tracks readers would also like to know more about the Willys Overland Registry and their interest and activities. Call Charlie and urge him to confess.

Rambling Rose

Armond Menard of Oxford, NY (south of Norwich) owned a collection of approximately 70 collector cars and over 200 parts cars. That is until he auctioned them off in September 2002. Armond is known, in part, for his collection of Crosleys. The Crosley was the first production sports car made in the USA between 1939 and 1952. However, this story is not about Mr. Menard and his car collection, although it would make a great story. It is about one very special car and his granddaughter, Lisa Rissberger from Lake Placid.

When Armond decided to divest himself of his collection and as you can imagine, it was a difficult decision in many ways, certain members of his family wanted specific cars. Through several family discussions, it was agreed that the fairest way for all was to create an equal playing field by letting the family bid on the cars they wanted at the auction. Lisa said, “In retrospect, this really was the best way to deal with this.”

As a child, Lisa has fond memories of playing at her grandfather’s business – Menard’s Garage in Oxford. She remembers playing in and around the many different cars and creating make-believe houses in them. Throughout her childhood, there was always one special car to her, the pink and black 1958 Rambler Custom 4-Door Sedan. Lisa believes the attraction is based on the simple fact that pink is her favorite color. As Lisa grew older, her memories are of attending her high school prom in the Rambler and riding in it on her wedding day with her husband Todd. She said, “This is a car I always wanted to own someday.”

The Rambler was a featured car in the national advertisements for the auction and it attracted a great deal of interest, given its outstanding condition. When the bidding for the Rambler began, Lisa was too nervous to bid. Todd bid for her. As they stood next to the car, the bidding was down to them and one other person. Lisa and Todd had a limit. They had scraped together all the discretionary money they had to buy the car. They were sure they were not going to get the car when suddenly the competition between them and the other person ended.

They were successful. Overcome with the emotion of the event, Lisa and other family members broke out in tears at their victory. As Lisa made her way through the crowd, drying her eyes as she moved along, the man bidding against the Rissbergers stopped her and said, “I came here from Indiana just to buy this car. During the bidding, I asked my wife – “Why is that young lady bidding against me?” – The woman behind me, over hearing my comment said that the car was your grand father’s. I stopped bidding at that point.”

The Rambler is a perfect example of a 1958 car in outstanding condition. The seats still have the factory installed plastic covers on them. The interior is so nice, it received an award for best original interior. Lisa is technically the second owner of the car. It was purchased new in Utica. When her grandfather bought it, it was never registered. He always drove it with his dealer plates.

There is a rather nice list of equipment on the car. It includes a push button automatic transmission, AM radio, power brakes, power steering, fog-lights and a feature common to Ramblers of this era, a fully reclining front passenger seat.

The only work that has been done to the car since it was purchased was the installation of a new heater core. This is a task Lisa did herself, much to the surprise and delight of her uncles who still operate the Menard Garage. Spare parts for the Rambler come from a parts car that was part of the sale. Other work will be the installation of seat belt so their son Curtis (6) and daughter Carsyn (2) can ride safely in the back seat. Lisa also needs to determine the correct color of the wheels – pink or black. They are pink now.

The Rambler will be making its trip from Oxford to Lake Placid in June where I’m sure the Rissbergers will make a statement as they cruise the North Country roads. One thing that would make this beauty stand out even more would be a nice wooden boat being towed behind it. This could be a reality.

Todd owns TLC Restorations in Lake Placid. He specializes in classic wooden boat restorations. Until then, Lisa has begun a collection of anything with the name Pink Rambler attached to it. Her first purchase, appropriately, a Pink Rambler Rose Bush.

I hope you enjoyed the preceding article by our special guest author – Gary Wilkinson. Gary is a car enthusiast and collector who writes a weekly column that appears in many local papers in NY and Vermont. Gary would be very happy to meet some of our members and showcase them, our group and our vehicles. You just need to get in touch with him and let him know you are interested. You can reach Gary at 315-682-2315 or 315-447-8396 or by email at

2003 President’s Award

Winner of the 2003 President’s Award for Best Member-Restored Vehicle

As is VAE custom each year the President of the years gets to award a special trophy for a member-restored car that he/she feels is a great restoration… and quite often a car of period that the President is somewhat partial to.

2003’s winner is hereby announced by 2003’s VAE President and in light of the above it may come as a surprise of sorts. Rumor has it that Gael believes that no car younger than he is, is really an “old car”. He has also disparaged some quite respectable marques, especially those with flat head six cylinder engines. This is probably more to tease some specific club members… doesn’t 2004 President Ray dote on those Mopar marvels?

Back to what may be a surprise. 2003’s winning car wasn’t off the assembly line when Gael graduated (yes, he did), from high school. But time has passed and 1957 was an interesting car year. The trophy goes to Gary Sassi of Barre, Vermont for the super restoration of his 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk. You’ve seen his Stude Speedster and admired its perfection… well the Hawk is even better.

Gary claims that he learned a lot on the speedster to the Hawk’s benefit. Gary’s enthusiasm is contagious and I’m sure that he would welcome you, as he did me, into his garage and workspace and let you see just what kind of concerted effort he invests in his cars.

He does a majority of the work himself and gets a hand with paint, plating and other things that are hard to do in a garage that is actually an extension of his living room. So thanks Gary, congratulations, and a tip of the VAE hat for a great job on a neat car. What’s next?

A British Car Tale

Reference to persons is purely coincidental. Edited and enhanced from Brit Car Week email

Once upon a time, there were three people very much alike. Harry, Jennifer and George. They lived in different parts of the State but shared a common link in that they liked to tinker with the car, spending time at home, have an occasional Bar-B-Q and channel surf the TV or the Web. But, they each knew that something was missing. They were all in the doldrums of life.

After a day’s work, they each drove home in their family type car and would think of what there would be to do when they got home. Each realized the options were somewhat limited, they thought. So, they would decide to have an early supper, take care of the kids, watch some TV and go to bed.

But this day, during this repetitive and rather boring routine, Harry spotted a slick little sports car heading toward him. As it drew nearer, Harry could see the driver was wearing not only a baseball cap turned backwards but also a massive smile on his face. Just about the same time, Jennifer saw a similar car. Neither had seen a car like that in years, actually Harry hadn’t seen one since his military days. “WOW”, they thought to themselves. “That guy looks like he is having the time of his life.” Harry waved as the little car passed and the car’s driver gave him a thumbs-up and a bigger smile. Jennifer did likewise. “Boy, I could sure have fun in a little car like that”, they thought.

Over the next week, both spotted the cars again, but this time they noticed many other little sports cars with women and men drivers. Their drivers looked just as happy as the original fellow they had seen. By now each was starting to get curious. The following week, as luck would have it, Harry spotted four cars at an outdoors restaurant and being a little curious, he decided to stop and talk to the owners. Jennifer saw a similar group the next day and experienced the same curiosity. They stopped in their individual towns and met the car’s drivers and their passengers. Harry and Jennifer wanted to know all kinds of things, like “where can you buy one, what the costs were, were parts available, how to find a good one” and so on.

They learned that there were several British specific car clubs and a club for all makes in the area. Both were invited to attend meetings where they spoke to club members and decided to join the club that was for all makes and two British specific make clubs, one local and the other an international club. They made new friends at the meetings, found books on the car hobby and learned more about British cars. The next project was to locate a car, which Harry found listed in a club newsletter and Jennifer found through one of the members. Harry became a proud “owner” (but, he looked at this as not an ownership but as a historical artifact’s caretaker) and serious participant, as did Jennifer.

Later they learned what got all those little British cars on the road the day they saw the first one. It was Drive Your British Car Week. So now there was no longer any doubt as to what they would find to do after a day’s work and on many weekends by themselves or with family.

Oh yes, George. Well George is still at home after returning from another humdrum day’s work, having had an early dinner he is sitting on the sofa watching TV and thinking about getting ready for bed. Be sure to mark your calendars and tell your friends that the 9th annual Drive Your British Car Week is the week of May 22nd through May 30th, 2004.

Visible Gas Pumps

I came across this old photo recently and it got me to reminiscing about visible gas dispensers. We have all seen them in museums or may have one on display in our own shop or garage. They were the most convenient way to dispense gasoline before the calculating electric pump came into use. Probably not many of our VAE members have been served from one of these tall rugged beauties. I have used these actual pump as I worked as a very young boy at this busy little gas station in my hometown of Hartshorne in southeastern Oklahoma.

This station was across the street from my home and a natural hangout for me, so the owner, a very old and lame man, put me to work whenever I showed up after school and weekends. That was in the 1940s. When I left for Vermont all three pumps were of the old visible gravity flow type. This photo was taken on a return visit in 1951 and one electric pump had been installed in my absence.

The clear glass container on top held 10 gallons and the drill was to replace gas sold by pumping the large handle after each sale as the attendant in the photo is doing. To prevent theft all the pumps were drained back into the underground tanks each night and the pumping handles were padlocked. Of course, we had to pump a total of 30 gallons back up on opening the next morning, which was a good workout.

Numbers to measure the gallons were visible through the glass starting with zero at the top and number 1 through 10 in gallon increments down to the bottom. The most common sale was 5 gallons and a gravity feed hose with nozzle similar to today’s nozzles controlled the flow. You had to keep your eye on the gas level and stop the flow exactly on the marker for the desired number of gallons sold.

During the time I worked there, the price of gas never changed. It was 16 cents for white gas, 17 cents for regular (we called it bronze), and 18 cents for Ethyl. To calculate a sale there was a piece of paper taped to each pump listing the gallons multiplied by price for the attendant and customer to refer to. Speaking of prices, everything was much less in Oklahoma than I found in Vermont. We sold bulk motor oil in those refillable glass bottles with the metal pour spout.

That oil went for 35 cents per quart of 3 for a dollar and many of those old cars would take 3 quarts when they came in. We sold kerosene for 10 cents a gallon and soda pop out of the icebox for a nickel. Other items of interest were that no cash register was used and the attendants carried and made change out of their pockets, as was the norm with the other stations in town.

We were paid daily. The full time attendants were paid one dollar a day and the part timers got 35 cents with free sodas but everyone got a 25 cent bonus for each flat tire repaired. There was very little bookkeeping.

The climate was warm so the lube and oil change rack was an outdoor wooden drive-on ramp on the other side of the building. The war was on and tires were unavailable. To keep the cars on the road amidst frequent blowouts, vulcanizing, reinforcement boots and inner liners were used.

Though only a kid, I became proficient in repairing large blowout holes in tires and inner tubes. Every evening there was a rash of flat tires to fix when customers returned home from work at the bomb and ammunition factory in nearby McAlester. To change a tire many attendants never bothered to remove the wheel from the car. We just jacked it up and with tire irons pried a tire off the wheel and levered the repaired tire or replacement back on. Great time saver.
The majority of our customers were driving Model A Fords, Chevys, Dodges and Plymouths of the 30s and 40s. I never saw a Model T drive in as they went out of favor quickly in the wide open spaces of the West. Antifreeze? We never heard of it. If a rare cold night was expected, cautions people drained their radiators overnight. I never heard of a cracked block due to freezing.

Happily, when I took over my own station in Wells River in 1956 for a 41 1/2 year run, things were a lot more modern. Many of the basics I learned in that old place came in handy and perhaps that’s why I can relate so well to the antique car hobby.

The man in the 1951 photo is Johnny Zelnick who had become owner of the station with his brother known only as “Smiley”. They were both employees when I worked there. The car is my Uncle Earnest’s 1948 Chevy.

Cruisin’ Around Shanghai

Living in Shanghai is simply a hoot! This city can best be described as a combination of Adventureland, Saturday Night Live, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It’s the fastest growing city in the world, and playing “catch up” in all the products, services, and lifestyle creature comforts that we as Americans have taken for granted for many years. With all the neat things about Shanghai, what it lacks for a car collector is collector cars, and all the spinoffs that go with our hobby.

Yet, there is still some interesting “car stuff” going on here and we’ll explore some of it in this periodic column. The only way to explain China’s current automobile industry is the word “explosive”. Chinese auto production was up 81% in 2003 from the previous year, and is expected to grow by “only” 52% this year. As Chinese incomes increase, rather dramatically in some cases, the demand for cars has mushroomed. Shanghai is now a city of contrasts, with bicycles as the major mode of transportation now sharing the road with motor scooters, motorcycles, and numerous Chinese and foreign built vehicles. There are many auto assembly plants in China, building both domestic branded as well as foreign brand cars and other vehicles.

In the Shanghai region, both Volkswagen and GM operate facilities. A quick glance at the car scene here, and one immediately notices that probably half the vehicles on the road are VW Santanas, a model I don’t recall seeing in the US. It’s a “tight” 5-passenger vehicle, and compact by American standards. Why so many on the road? Well, first of all when VW was considering a China plant the city of Shanghai went all out to land the plant. “All out” in this case meant the City fathers promising top VW officials that if they chose Shanghai, every taxi in the city would be required to be a Santana! There are 42,500 taxicabs in Shanghai; there are 42,500 Santana taxi’s in Shanghai… well almost. [More on that later.] Added to that is the fact that the Santana is a reasonably well-built vehicle, right sized for a big city like Shanghai, competitively priced and they have become a popular choice for many car buyers as well.

Two models are seen… a 4 door sedan, by far the most popular choice, and a nifty 4 door wagon. Now, why almost all the cabs being Santanas instead of all of them? Well, for years it was a Santana cab, or no cab. But last fall, the Shanghai City Fathers responded to a growing number of Westerners visiting the city, people who, like this writer are rather cramped in the rear cabin of a Santana. As a test, the city is permitting a limited number of small model Mercedes and a few Buick [made by Shanghai GM] taxis to hit the road. To date, I’ve seen two of the cute Mercedes, and one of the Buick cabs. In one of the city’s many efforts to ease the air pollution problem in Shanghai, every single cab in this city is fueled by lp gas… as well as many busses. That’s it for this installment… until next time, keep Crusin’ Shanghai!

History of Duct Tape

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

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

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

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

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

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