Driveshaft Fail – Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Absent any questions this month, I will share a story about how costly it can be to ignore warning signs and delay needed maintenance

0819 broken driveshaft

A friend of mine has a towing and recovery business. He recently picked up a Subaru from out of state after it broke down on the interstate. The owner told him to keep the car. Why did the Subaru break down? The center drive shaft bearing failed, and the driveshaft came undone from the carrier bearing, flung around, came out of the transmission, hit the pavement, and punctured the floor. The drive shaft punched through the floor and up between the front seats, at highway speed. 

Fortunately, nobody was injured. This problem most likely made considerable noise for some time before it catastrophically failed. This could have been a $100 repair, taking less than a half hour to fix. Someone decided to ignore the warning signs, and ended up walking away from the car. 

I considered buying the vehicle and repairing it. I probably would have, but looking at the car it was very clear the car had never had any maintenance. I don’t think it was ever washed or vacuumed out. 

I can not understand how anyone can invest thousands of dollars in a vehicle and not maintain their investment. 

Been there, done it in a Probe

I admit it. I’m not that into cars. If it has 4 tires and a steering wheel and can get me to where I want to go safely, I’m happy. My husband, on the other hand, is what you’d all call “a car guy.” Over the years he’s purchased antique (I say old) cars and trucks. He does a little bit of general maintenance on them himself, but the big stuff he leaves to the professionals. That I’m happy about. I liken it to, if I want a new electric outlet installed, or want that damned breaker fixed that keeps tripping, when I run my laptop, printer and label maker all at the same time……well, let’s just say I’m still waiting for him, and not the car mechanic, to get around to fixing it. 

All that said, it was somewhat surprising to me what happened one day of a month-long camping trip, we took beginning mid June with the end result of arriving in Salt Lake City, for the International Barbershop Singing Convention and then returning home by July 15. We were driving our F-350/camper and towing a 1997 Ford Probe acquired last fall. We traveled down through the eastern U.S. and then over to Branson, MO, and then continued going west by way of Pueblo, Durango, Moab, and finally 

ending up on the correct date at the KOA in Salt Lake City. 

The biggest highlight of our trip (not necessarily the best) for me: We drove up Pikes Peak in Colorado, which is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. It comes in at 14,115 feet above sea level. (To put it in perspective, Mount Mansfield is 4,393 feet above sea level.) The drive is approximately 19 miles from visitor center to the summit. 

Don was driving. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and puffy white clouds. We were informed that we’d have to leave the car, at the lot, at mile marker 16, and we’d be shuttled to the summit. 

As we got to mile marker 16, Don casually remarked, “Uh-oh, I think there’s something wrong with the clutch.” Ya think? What the heck does that mean? Get me out of this car. How are we going to get down? I’m going to die on Pikes Peak! All of those thoughts raced through my mind. 

Don casually maneuvered the car into a parking spot, turned it off and started getting out of the car, all the while I’m internally panicking, thinking about calling AAA for help or my mother to say goodbye and to take good care of our kitty, Millie. But, no, I too made my way to the shuttle and up and away we went. 

I must say the peak was awesome! spectacular! breathtaking! gorgeous! No words can capture the magnificence of that part of our American landscape. I am truly glad we made the trip up, but now we had to get down off this damned peak. 

We were shuttled back down to 16 and got in the Probe. Don started the car, and it “appeared” that things were OK. He then finally said something about somebody telling him about hydraulic clutches, and how they can overheat and not work and need cooling off, which did nothing to calm my nerves of possibly going off one of those S-curves at 95 mph. All I thought about was clutch/brake, clutch/brake, clutch/brake – they’re right next to each other. Maybe the brakes won’t work either. 

As we started the drive down, though outwardly calm, my stomach was in a knot, and every time he stepped on the gas I wanted to throw up. I think the door handle needs replacing as I was gripping it so hard; either that or the floor where my feet were. Suffice it to say it was the longest 16 miles of my life. 

We did make it down the mountain. When we stopped for the mandatory “brake check” by a Park Ranger, he let us know the tires were great, and all I wanted to say was, “Yeah, but what about the &*%$!@$ clutch? 

OK, so I can say I learned a little about hydraulic clutches that day, but I can also say with regard to Pikes Peak: Been there, done that, in a Probe! 

Been there, done it in a Probe from Anne 

Saab 900

Absent any questions this month, I will briefly discuss some cars in my shop this month. Both of my sons now have cars. I wanted their first cars to be something durable, safe and inexpensive. Somehow, each of them ended up with a Saab 900 four door. 

When I learned how to drive, people maintained their own cars. Times have changed. Today, people don’t work on cars; they either take it to someone to have it repaired, or they replace it with another car needing less work. 

My older son has a strong interest in cars, and has a nice 900 Turbo. It needed some work when we got it, and while fixing it he was able to learn some basics on how things work and how to maintain a car. My younger son was just looking for basic transportation, and he found it with a base model 900 with an automatic transmission. This car needed a lot of work, and he and I have been working on it for the past year or so. This car was not really worth saving, but was almost too good to scrap. 

These projects are teaching basic auto mechanic skills, like brakes, suspension, electrical and exhaust and also more advanced body work skills with rust and dent repair and painting. They will not only learn skills to maintain a car, but also will have some personal investment in their cars. 

These projects also provide an opportunity to spend time with them. Cars come and go, but quality memories last a lifetime. 

1926 Ford Model T Speedster

There is a new “muscle car” in town and hang-on Lucy if you want to race! 

This Ford Model T Speedster is the creation of VAEer, Dennis Dodd of East Fairfield, Vermont. Dennis has the Patience of Jobe, as this #7 is his 2nd version of the same speedster and has just recently exited his garage, complete and ready to run. He had completed his project a number of years ago but was not happy with the result, so, some 14 months ago, he started over. You have to admit, the car is stunning! 

In the days of old, these Model T Speedsters were built with three transmissions and a more powerful engine and could race at 90 to 100 MPH. This “Number Seven” is built for only 50 to 52 MPH……… 

Number Seven is built on a 1926 platform and the same year engine. The engine has “60-over” pistons with a “domed-head” and a “3-needle” carburetor. The horse power has increased from 22 to around 32HP. 

26 ford model t speedster

Dennis has added a Warford truck transmission which is inline with the original T transmission and gives him five gears forward. The truck model allows both “under-drive” and an “over-drive” gear ratios. He spoke about the folks who drive speedsters with three transmissions and how difficult it is to remember the shifting sequences. The wrong shift usually leaves parts on the road behind you. His 2-transmission combo, is a bit easier, although it takes practice to shift on the fly successfully. 

Dennis is the fabricator and quality control part of the organization and his wife Linda is the aesthetics-control person. The car did not leave the garage until she approved the public ready-ness. Linda also had to push the speedster project along as her bug-eyed Sprite is next in-line……she hopes. 

The “number-7 Speedster will be at the Shelburne Show this June and hopefully at our August show in Waterbury. 

1926 ford model t speedster

What Things Have Changed?

Every time I go to Williston and pass by Friendly’s restaurant, I remember my days in X-Ray school when we would collect our paychecks (second year students were paid $80/month plus call pay, usually amounted to about $160) and we would head out for Friendly’s for a cheeseburger deluxe and milkshake. The burger used bread for the ‘bun’ and added lettuce and tomato and of course, cheese. 

I can’t figure out if it was really that good or that we ate hospital food for 3 meals a day and going out was a once a month treat. I haven’t tried to order one, in about 15 years, but at that time they had stopped making them the way I was use to. So, the question is – has my memory been playing tricks on me? 

Another food item that has changed – the tomato. I know that you can buy them year-round, but my advice is not to. It seems that the last great tomatoes were in my garden 18 years ago (haven’t had a garden since). I do most of my shopping at the Farmer’s Market from May to October and I buy pounds and pounds of tomatoes, but rarely get the fabulous taste, that once was (or at least what my memory says). The only exception is the Heirloom tomatoes which are scarce in the NEK. I will have to branch out to larger markets this summer in search of the heirlooms and pay premium for the experience. 

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about and that is the change in Vermont’s gold crop – Maple Syrup. I am not talking about the silly names they want us to use – Golden Delicate (think that was called Fancy in my day) and so on, but what I noticed was the taste. Unless you can find someone, who taps, uses buckets, gathers, boils (no osmosis) with wood fire – you aren’t getting the true taste that is real Vermont Maple. 

Some say I’m crazy (a lot might agree on many levels), but I believe I’m right and am sticking to it. We found a man in Enosburg who still gathers with horses (that makes a difference I’m sure) and I have found another hold out from Brownington. He agrees I am right about the taste but he says he is fairly limited in how much he can make, doing it the ‘old fashion’ way, because as he ages it is getting harder and he may have to give it up all together. In a lot of things, change is good, but in Maple Syrup – not so good. The only remedy that I can see for me is to have Wendell (Noble) dust off his buckets, fire up the evaporator, and did I mention find plenty of help to assist doing it the right way?! 

The Classic Auto Festival at Shelburne Museum

A collaboration between the museum and our VAE, June 15 & 16.

The first was in 1969 and it was called the “Shelburne Vintage Automobile Exposition”. Different name, same great fun. 

classic auto show shelburne museum

June of 1995 was the 17th VAE Annual Vermont Auto Expo at the Essex Jct. fairgrounds and it’s last. From old Wheel Tracks archives, the weather was great but for some reason Les Skinner was forced to leave his position as ‘The Weather Chairman’. (We will not ask Les about this, as we doubt we will get an accurate answer). 

The January 1996 Wheel Tracks announced, a successful contract was complete, and the June show will change addresses to the Shelburne Museum. Bill Erskine recounted his negotiations with the museum in a one page announcement and description of the new expo in Shelburne. He and Tom McHugh had been co-chairs at Essex and would continue. Bill commented on successfully convincing the museum of the importance of a flea market and a car corral, a well attended show depended on them to draw the public. Bill reported in the July Wheel Tracks that the show was a total success. He reported there were a few “unplanned stops” in the parade from Battery Park. There were countless comments about the museum’s “spectacular setting” and the owner of the ‘Best of Show’ was quoted as saying during the 20 years of going to car shows, this had been the best one. Financially, the club broke even the first year. 

July 1997 Wheel Tracks, Mary Mazur reported a bit of a problem in the Shelburne show parade. The 150 cars in the parade down Church Street was too much for the Police Department to handle!….Yes, one hundred and fifty cars!! The 1996 car count at the museum was 246 and this year it was over 300. There were over 3300 people who went through the museum gate that year. Dick Messier combined three expo shows in Essex and the two in Shelburne on a video tape and made them available for $5.00. (Does anyone have one of these tapes for one of our gatherings?) 

The May 1998 business meeting minutes, as reported by Fred Cook included a request from show co-chair, Bill Erskine, urged everyone’s help with the weather aspect. Fred added…”I think he means pray”. Mary Mazur reported in July the show was, again, a success. The weather was cloudy and a bit chilly but the car and spectator attendance was similar to the previous year. The parade was sorted out and “a good one”. It had been reported the flea market vendors and car corral had been unhappy the first two years because of location and a dusty parking lot. This year nothing had changed that we can find but Mary reported everyone was happy. She explained that it might have something to do with Mr. Rick’s Chuckwagon and Ben & Jerry’s vendors were added to the flea market area. Mary reported that Carol Lavallee’s fashion show was “fabulous”! 

August 1999 Wheel Tracks reports the May board minutes and the decision to change the Shelburne show name to “The Vermont Vintage Auto Exhibition”. 

The July 2000 Wheel Tracks has some of Avery Hall’s ‘observations’….. The weather was great! The 300 car number was added upon by 45 tractors for “The Antique Tractor Pull”. Frank Mazur and his crew greeted and got the cars to the right places in the upbeat spirit of the event. Tom McHugh had successfully “grown” the flea market. Fred Cook and Willis Spaulding & crew manned the Courtesy Tent and he had never seen it more busy. Rick and the Ramblers with Shana Antoniuc entertained the crowd with Western and Auto related music. Steve Dana gave rides and thrills to lucky folks in his Kissel Speedster. From Avery…” Speaking for myself, I had a great time driving around the grounds in my Packard Phaeton…I truly think the moving cars added, a new spirit to the event since people love to see them in operation”. 

November 2006 Wheel Tracks. It appears the June 2006 show at the Shelburne Museum was the end of that eleven run. The VAE board minutes simply noted, “ Since the Shelburne Museum venue, no longer appears to be available, discussion turned to other possibilities…..” 

So..this year, 2019, our show at the Shelburne Museum will be Number 14….a very good number! 

Some Serious Cleaning!

Circumstances, here at home, have forced me to do some serious cleaning. I always said that Gael was the hoarder, but I have added my name to that list. When you live in a house for fifty years, things accumulate, especially if you have room in closets and spare rooms. 

That’s the case here. I think of friends that have neat homes with no clutter and wonder where all the stuff is. I guess it isn’t, it gets tossed. I just made two trips to the recycle place in Jericho and took a car load of things (I won’t call it junk yet) to the church Clutter Barn. I saw Gary Irish there helping! 

We have had to eliminate two closets where the overflow from the kitchen went. Those things that were on sale at the grocery store and it was too good a deal not to purchase. I often wondered, on my rare trips to Costco, where people store those 48 rolls of toilet paper or paper towels. Under a bed? Not at my house. The places under the beds are already filled. 

I think it all started when we purchased our first home in Underhill. It was partially furnished with a lot of things that belonged to Gael’s grandparents. Along the way we added things from my parents house and Gael’s mother’s house. Toss in three kids and their things and, presto, you have stuff everywhere. 

I’ve discovered a number of things that I have forgotten about, so it is also a trip down memory lane, if you will. I found the first issue of Wheel Tracks with a lengthy article that Pev Peake wrote, about one of his famous trips with a friend in an old car. Very funny!! Lots of photos of old cars and car parts taken over the years. They are being kept. How about calendars going back twenty years. They are going in the recycle bin next. Twenty five years of tax returns. I’ll just save the last seven and the rest goes in the wood stove, which is still being used. Then there are the buckets of pens and pencils that haven’t been touched in years. They are going out too. Nobody wants textbooks any more, so they are going. That free up a book shelf. Christmas wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons. Knitting needles, old thread, sewing supplies, parts to a sewing machine that’s been gone for years. Most of that went too. Gael’s electric typewriter is staying and I found a few new typewriter ribbons that are still good. It’s a daunting task but needs to be done, so I’d best get back to it. Would anyone like to buy a great old pine corner cupboard? 

The 12,806 Mile Quest for Old Cars by a couple of VAEers….

Gary Olney and Vin Cassidy have “the old car syndrome” that most of us have. Our level might be called a “melody”, theirs might be called a “fever level”….just an opinion, mind you. 

Here is an attempt to track their travels that took place in about a period of one month. Please excuse us if this sounds like envy. 

#1…Gary leaves his home in Derby Line the first part of March to meet Vin in Rowley, Massachusetts (2). They are heading out early because a snow storm is heading in and they need to be in New Jersey (3) to meet Fred Hock and check out all his Mercers. 

Then off to Mitch Gross’s garage in New York (4). Mitch is in a deadline race to finish his White steam car and get it on a ship bound for China. The steam car will be the first to do the 9300 mile Peking to Paris race, that will be taking place this June to August. You can watch the race progress on the internet. 

Then, off to Richmond, Virginia (5) and Reggie Nash’s Nash collection. The truck/tractor museum in Southern Virginia was next. A needed break for sleep happened in Kingsland, Georgia (6) then on to Amelia Island in Florida (7) and their big annual auction. A couple of $800,000 old cars sold and a couple of others for only one million and oh, did we say the two VAEers are pulling a trailer? The trailer was handy when someone asked if they could haul a 1906 Pope Toledo back to New Jersey. So the two, head back to New Jersey (3) for the delivery and back to Rowley (2). 

In Rowley (2), they load the trailer up for the Chickasha show and head for a stop in Buffalo, New York (8) and Pittsburgh, PA. (9) for a ‘few car-parts purchases” of the show. Next, a sleep-over in Perrysburg, OH (10) and then on to St. Roberts, MO (11) and Edmond, OK (12) for a few more purchases. And….finally their destination, Chickasha, Oklahoma for the Annual Spring pre-war show and parts sale (13) Sadly, next year is the last Chickasha Swap Meet. A spring shackle breaks and the trailer is stopped in its tracks. Along comes a gent by the name of Ryan Ersland from the swap meet. A welder is produced, the repairs are made and they are on the way again. Ryan would not accept proper payment for his work because “he will not take advantage of someone broken down”. Vin and Gary both agree there are really good people everywhere in this world. 

There were a few more stops over the next three days before arriving back in Rowley , Mass. (2). The end of their east-coast motoring….but there is still a little more….they were not done yet! 

They got on an airplane and headed for another car show and swap meet in Bakersfield, California (14). There was also a ‘luxury break’ in Hermosa Beach (15) to view the pacific and remove some road-dust. They then went home to their respective homes,……and they were done! All 12,806 miles contained antique cars and parts that were picked up and delivered all over the United States that only Vin and Gary can keep track of. Can you imagine the stories that can be published from these adventure; maybe if we had 100 more pages! 

A Celebration of Family

For eighteen years, the Austin extended family have toured the Northeast U.S in their old cars. Above is part of their 2006 tour that included the Champlain Transportation Museum in Plattsburg. The young-ones are “trying out” the museum’s pedal car collection.There is something always planned for everyone, young and older.  

A Celebration of Family, from Jim Austin and The Austin, Danahey and Jarvis Families. 

As a family we have been touring for 18 years. This is a quote from one of our nieces who went on to describe our annual family vintage car tour this way: “The antique cars take us back to simple times when family was more important than careers, electronics and social media.” 

The tours start at different locations throughout New England depending on the area we will be visiting. Usually we all get together some time in the afternoon on Thursday. At this time, we prepare a buffet lunch because everyone shows up at different times. This is the time when we are handed an agenda for the weekend activities. It describes the places we will visit as well as the driving route, and places we will eat. 

First thing Friday morning, after breakfast, we have a short meeting telling who will lead the tour and who will be last in case of breakdowns. Thanks for cell phones. We also go over the rules of the road so as not to make other drivers dislike our slower moving vehicles. We do not travel as a bunch, traveling in groups of three or four leaving room for others to pass. 

At 8:30 we are on the road. One tour in 2006 started in Chazy, NY at a sister and brother-in-law’s place on Lake Champlain. Having a large lawn backed up to a huge apple orchard made it ideal for camping. So out came the tents, travel trailers and motor homes. Naturally we also took over their house as well. 

Our tour started from their home to visit a gentleman’s collection of John Deere farm tractors. From there we traveled to the Plattsburg air base to visit the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum. This was a small collection of vehicles featuring the Lozier automobile which was made in Plattsburg. There was also a collection of model cars and trains. The kids really liked the pedal cars to drive around the parking lot. Next was a trip down to Ausable Chasm,the Grand Canyon of New York. The trip would not be complete without a raft ride down the river. There were many views of the Chasm bottom from the top. Next, we headed back to the base at Chazy for our social gathering and dinner. 

We then traveled to Canada through customs and on to Park Safari. This is a big wild animal park with many things to do, we spent the day there. Going back thru customs wasn’t too bad, then back to home base for another wonderful meal. 

The Shelburne Farm tour in 2016 was also memorable. We were treated to a guided tour of the grounds in our antique cars. A nice thing was having our cell phones and speakers in each car so we were connected to the guide who explained each event as we traveled around the grounds. 

Another time we started in North Conway, NH. We were privileged to visit a wonderful collection of horse drawn vehicles and wagons. There were over 90 wagons including two from the Queen of England’s stable, 6 Concord Coaches, Military Wagons, hearses, Peddler’s wagons and many more, of all kinds. 

Other places we went to, included Six Gun City in Jeffersonville, NH. There we were invited to drive our vehicles into the old western town village and park them on their main street while visiting all the other sites inside Six Gun City. Many tried their skills in the mini auto racing cars. 

Visiting Clarks’ Trading Post, in Lincoln, NH was a real treat for the kids as well as the adults, especially watching the trained bears and the steam train ride. The Wright War Museum in Wolfeboro, NH was very interesting. While in Wolfeboro we visited two exceptional private auto collections. At one of these collections, one young boy, 5 years old was fascinated by a high wheel bicycle. He looked it over many times and then had a question. He went up to the owner and said “Sir, how do you put training wheels on that bicycle?” 

We visited the wonderful ABC auto collection in Chocorua, NH. Today, it no longer exists. Another wonderful collection of cars located in Newport, NH has been sold and is not available any more. It was in a restored brick factory building holding the Rugar auto collection. 

What a great ride our family has had. Every year is a treat, from the places we stay, events, the museums, car collections, displays, parks, card games, you name it, they are all amazing and enjoyed by all ages. We are very fortunate to have a family that enjoys being together. Young and old we all look forward to the next family tour celebration. We usually have 32-35 family members on the tour, the most we have had is 44. They come from Oregon, Arizona, South Carolina, New York, MA, NH, and VT. 

To quote my daughter-in-law: “I now understand why my kids were so excited every year about the car tour and learned the attraction, fun and adventure. We all have built relationships with the family that they never would have without the tour. The family has become great friends.” 

Shelly Nolfi, Needham, MA. “What my father created is truly a legacy that I hope will continue on for generations. We’re so lucky to have a family, that takes the time every year, to be together for 3 days for a family reunion on antique wheels.” 

A Positively Good Idea

Recently I attended a SCCV driving event. Part of their pre-event inspection is verification of a cover for the hot battery terminal. I checked my car a few days before, and realized the positive battery terminal was not covered. I spent a minute thinking of all the possible ways the positive terminal could be accidentally shorted to ground. If nothing else, when working on the car, a wrench or other tool could easily be accidentally dropped, causing a direct short. 

The positive terminal is just a few inches from the aluminum A/C lines, the inner fender, and numerous bare nuts and bolts. I can understand the concern, the battery could easily be accidentally shorted out. 

I went to the local auto parts store and bought a pair of universal battery terminal covers. I had to cut it a little to make it fit my car. Just for good measure, I used a red zip tie to hold it in place. 

I passed the safety check with no issues, they checked to ensure the battery was securely held down, that the hot terminal is covered, the front end was tight, and there was nothing loose on the body of the car. 

I have also decided that the hot terminal of all my cars will be covered, as an extra safety measure. The $5 spent for terminal covers is cheap insurance and piece of mind. These covers can easily and quickly be removed for display on show cars.