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. 

The Dymaxion Car

From Dave’s guest this month, Don Tenerowicz 

The Dymaxion car was designed by American inventor Buckminster Fuller during the Great Depression and featured prominently at Chicago’s 1933/1934 World’s Fair. Fuller built three experimental prototypes with naval architect Starling Burgess – using donated money, as well as a family inheritance. This was the ground-taxiing phase of a vehicle that might one day be designed to fly, land and drive. 

The Dymaxion’s aerodynamic bodywork was designed for increased fuel efficiency and top speed Its platform featured a lightweight hinged chassis, rear-mounted V8 engine, front-wheel drive, and three wheels. With steering via its third wheel at the rear (capable of 90° steering lock), the vehicle could steer itself in a tight circle, often causing a sensation. 

Fuller noted severe limitations in its handling, especially at high speed or in high wind, due to its rear-wheel steering (highly unsuitable for anything but low speeds) The limited understanding of the effects of lift and turbulence on automobile bodies in that era, allowing only trained staff to drive the car. Shortly after its launch, a prototype crashed after being hit by another car, killing the Dymaxion’s driver. Subsequent investigations exonerated the prototype. 

Despite courting publicity and the interest of auto manufacturers, Fuller used his inheritance to finish the second and third prototypes, selling all three, and dissolving Dymaxion Corporation. One of the three original prototypes survives, and two semi-faithful replicas have recently been constructed. 

Editor’s note….. Don Tenerowicz also sends Wheel Tracks the “Trivia Column” each month that appears on page 14. He recently sent this short message along with the photo to the right….. 

“I am enjoying life after successful heart surgery. (I was) Transported by Sky Health from St Francis Hospital in Hartford CT to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, LI, NY.” 

It has been a little while since he had his helicopter ride. He is doing fine today, like he says, he enjoys life a bit more now. It’s a heck of a way of getting a ride on this big beautiful flying machine!! 

What a difference a year makes

It is hard to believe, but it has been a year since COVID-19 reared its ugly head and put us in lockdown. Though I think it was around several months before that, we were made aware of it, and during that time of ignorant bliss, were totally naïve of the “train” that was speeding at us and what damage we were about to witness. 

Even if I had been told what was coming, I do not think I would have had a clue how to prepare. I wonder if I would have ‘stocked up’ on toilet paper! Probably not! So, guess I for one, would be in the same spot I am now. 

What a year it has been. Gary and I have not put more than 30 miles a week on my car. The year before, we put at least 500 miles a week going to our grandson’s basketball games. I now try to shop once every week or week and half. Before, I would run to the store almost everyday for something. I tend to make lists now and plan for meals, so I do not run out or come up lacking when preparing meals. 

I had picked up my mail when it struck my fancy but now I go about 4:00 in the afternoon when I am more apt to have the post office to myself, at that time of day. 

“In the old days”, the family gathered for holidays, birthdays and just plain gathered. This year is the year for Zoom. My daughters-in-law are good about setting that up. Last year I cooked, baked and cleaned for those get-togethers but this year not so much. When I do cook or bake (no cleaning), I would fill my long-lost pie basket with a meal and leave it outside the door of a single friend of mine. 

We were able to see everyone’s face back then, and this year there is almost always a mask covering it. I remember over the years seeing people, mostly Asian, with masks and thinking how odd it looked and wondering if they were embarrassed to wear them. Gary, who spent 2 years in Japan, says that masks were worn out of respect for others, when the wearer had a cold or something, that might be given to someone else. Just a way of life for them. This year I must admit I have become a mask vigilante. I have not taken up telling people to put on a mask, but my eyes have! 

I can hardly wait to be able to meet people and HUG them. I want to go out for breakfast where we used to go and meet friends and sit and talk, laugh and yes, HUG! 

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. 

One Hand on the Lever

Shift Fork

This month’s question comes from Wendell Noble. Anyone who knows Wendell and Mary know they have a preference for manual transmissions. Wendell asked me if I knew why his owner’s manual advises not to keep a hand on the gear shift lever while driving. 

The answer is, yes, I know. The gear shift lever is connected to the shifting forks inside the transmission via a mechanical linkage. The shifting fork slides an engage-ment dog to lock the gears together when you shift. The en-gagement dog spins with the gears, the shifting fork remains stationary. When the operator rests his hand on the gear shift lever, some force is transmitted through the linkage to the shifting fork. This force creates friction between the shift fork and the engagement dog, causing wear. 

Often, when a vehicle gets some age and use, the transmission linkage can develop a rattle. This can sometimes be silenced by holding the gearshift. This often is the genesis of a long lasting bad habit of resting a hand on the gearshift lever. To fix a rattle, the linkage can usually be repaired, either by tightening loose hardware, or replacing worn bushings. 

My Window Feeder

Last Fall I bought a new bird feeder. 

From Judy’s window
From Judy’s window

I have quite a collection of feeders, bird seed and suet, in various stages of disrepair in the cellar and because I can’t throw anything out, they are mounting up. A lot of them claimed to be squirrel proof. No such thing! 

Occasionally, I would hang a feeder in a different location, forgetting about the possibility of three feet of snow. How many times have I gone into the woods in the summer to find a Christmas tree, forgetting about snow and then being unable to get to it the week before Christmas because of deep snow. Well. 

A number of years ago, I found bird feeders that hitch to the windows with suction cups. I bought two and put them up on two kitchen windows. I love them. I can sit in my recliner and watch the birds a few feet from my chair. The cats enjoy them too. They do attract other critters besides birds though. Once in a while a bear or two wanders through the yard and checks them out. What a treat to be sitting two feet away from the window and watching a bear get to the seeds. 

Probably like you, I get my fair share of squirrels too, both red and grey. I had wide window sills and the squirrels were able to jump up on them and then empty the feeders in jig time**. They are fun to watch too but what a nuisance they are. Then there are the chipmunks. So cute, but real pests. It seems like everyone was inundated with chipmunks a year or two ago. There were hundreds of them in the yard. They were living on the porch, getting into the cellar, the cat was bringing them live into the house. They were eating my flowers, or I should say, biting the flowers off at the stem and leaving the flowers on the ground or in the pot. 

Last summer I finally gave up and let them go at it. Then, for some reason, the population diminished greatly and I haven’t seen one in quite a while. 

Back to my bird feeders that were turning into squirrel feeders. Last fall, I had the siding on the kitchen replaced and also had the men replace the window sills. After fifty years of bear, squirrels and chipmunks clawing their way to the feeders, the sills were in pretty bad shape. I didn’t think of it at the time, this was before the birds were visiting the feeders in earnest. The new sills are so narrow they can’t get to the feeders. Now the cute little things have to settle for the seeds that get spilled onto the ground and for the crumbs under the suet feeder. Poor squirrels! I’m buying about half the amount of sunflower seeds than in years past. 

A few weeks ago, I purchased a third feeder. As I am typing this, the chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and redpolls are having breakfast and the woodpeckers are busy eating suet. No sign of squirrels. I actually had a pileated woodpecker at the suet feeder a number of times. Soon I’ll be looking for the rose breasted grosbeaks. 

**Editor’s note……”Jig Time” definition: 
Extremely quickly; in a very short time. Derived from the Celtic music/dance known as a jig, which is typically triple-time. 

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. 

Dave has a guest this month…

Paul Baresel from Buxton, Maine 

I have never not known a car enthusiast pass by an old barn, or even a collapsing old barn, and ask themselves “What old car or car parts are hiding in there?”. 

My big break came for me this summer after day dreaming what buried treasures are waiting for daylight in this big barn down the road from where I live. I had watched a huge wagon beside the barn disintegrate before my eyes, trees collapse on an old van, and a farm tractor sink into the earth. The day came when I was driving by and saw a door open to the barn and an elderly man dragging some old wood boards outside. I seized the opportunity and introduced myself to him and asked if there were any old car parts inside. I waited with bated breath and “Yes” he said, “but you can not see it!”. “Why not?” “ Just look in the barn” he said. So I did. I thought the term hoarder was the name of a tv show, and here it is in real life. My eyes beheld boards of all shapes and sizes, tables, chairs, books, ancient televisions, refrigerators, and stoves. I asked him “There are car parts in there??!!!” 

The old gent told me that, somewhere in there was a 1930 Model A doodle bug that was put there 30 years earlier. 

1931 ford model a doodle bug

The gentleman was an actor and his life has been spent in a Portland, (ME) theater. When the theater burned down, many years earlier, he had asked if he could salvage the items that remained. The barn contained all that he had rescued and now he had the task of cleaning it out, because it had been sold. 

He was so sentimental about the theater, that he had rented storage units and planned to move the barn contents into the units. I offered to help in exchange for the Model A and he agreed. 

After a lot of work we uncovered the doodle bug. There it stood gleaming like the Holy Grail, flat tires, broken steering wheel, and broken head lights. It was love at first sight. 

The ultimate challenge was how to get the thing out of the barn. He had built walls around it to hold all of his junk! 

The day came when a friend, the gent, and I began the job of getting the doodle bug out of the barn. The tires held air, we got the transmission free, and the brakes were not frozen. So far, so good until I pushed from behind the bug. 

The ground caved in under my feet, the back wheels began to settle into the cavern. I found my self standing in two feet of porcupine crap! I knew that they would destroy wood, but tunnel? This was a new experience for the three of us. 

We tried to moved the truck again and the front wheels joined the rear wheels sinking into the porcupine tunnels and poop. Using jacks, old boards, and big crow bar, we finally had the vehicle outside for its first day-light in 30 years. 

We had gone through a dozen or so face masks, a container of hand sanitizer and two 6 packs of beer. 

Local people who had heard of the barn commotion, came by just as we pushed the buried “Treasure of Buxton”, on my car trailer. They looked inside the barn with a disappointment. They too, had wondered about the mysteries of the old barn and found only porcupine poop, the junk and this old “jitterbug” (the local term for a doodle bug). I was not allowed in the house until I showered with rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. I even had to burn the clothes I was wearing! 

Several local people came by my home to stare at the golden radiance of the truck. One comment…..“I always wanted to know what was in that barn?” The look of disappointment and disbelief was amazing, as they left shaking their heads. I was thinking of charging people to gaze upon the “Treasure of Buxton” to recoup my efforts. 

The “ Treasure of Buxton” is sleeping, awaiting Spring to start its engine. 

A Different Kind of Pandemic Story

Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my maternal grandfather. His name was Maurice J. Villemaire, M.D., and he served the town of Milton, Vermont, as a general practitioner for 40 years. He was born in 1902, grew up in Winooski, went to medical school at the University of Vermont, did his residency out of state, and came back home to marry a cute nurse. They settled down on Main Street in Milton, hung out his shingle, and started practicing medicine in the early 1930s. until his death in 1972. His home and office were one and the same. 

All this background leads me to the early 1980s when, after my grandmother passed away. My mom and family were cleaning out my grandparents’ house, getting ready for sale. I remember we discovered heavy cardstock signs, 12 x 5 inches, with words like “mumps,” “German measles,” and “scarlet fever” on them. My mom told me the Vermont Department of Health provided these to doctors around the state for when they made house calls and diagnosed one of these dreaded diseases. She remembers my grandfather would nail the appropriate sign to the front door of a house as a quarantine measure. I always found it amazing that any of these signs survived, but under the front stairs were a stack of them! 

Science has come a long way: German measles (rubella) is no longer constantly present in the U.S. thanks to a vaccine developed long ago. Likewise, smallpox, a highly contagious, disfiguring and often deadly virus, was also eradicated decades ago after a worldwide immunization program. The World Health Organization considers it one of the biggest achievements of the time, in international public health. Whooping cough (pertussis), though not eradicated, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is easily preventable by vaccine. 

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the U.S. In the early 1950s, before the polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year. Do you remember seeing pictures of people lying in an iron lung? 

Following development by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955 of the polio vaccine, the number of cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s. 

His name was Maurice J. Villemaire, M.D., and he served the town of Milton, Vermont, as a general practitioner for 40 years. 

This brings me to the date of May 4, 1954, when my grandfather, Doc Villemaire, administered the first polio vaccine shot in Vermont to a child in Milton as part of national testing of the vaccine! I’ve often wondered what was going through his mind at the time? Would it save lives? Was he doing the right thing? 

Now, here we are, in 2021 with our very own version of a pandemic that has killed so many worldwide. I’m sure you’ve all read or heard news about the unprecedented research, development, time, money, and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

1954 polio shot
Boston Herald, May 5, 1954 Sandra Smith of the Checkerberry School in Milton, VT gets her Salk anti-polio shot from Dr. Villemaire. Milton was the 1st VT town to start the trials.

I still marvel today how men and women so many, many years ago, without the high-tech computers and modern-day scientific tools, were able to discover and produce those older vaccines that are still in use. 

I’m so very proud I can say that, back in his day, he was on the front lines and helped save lives! This also goes to show just how far the human race has come, yet how far we still have to go. 

UPDATE: With regard to my last article about the woodchuck, it seems he got into our neighbor’s shed and met his demise! I didn’t ask cause of death. 

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