In Case You Missed It

June’s Shelburne Show was a fine effort. Great weather and good crowds. The Dr. H. Nelson Jackson transcontinental epic reenactment was terrific. Avery, Bill E. and Ellen were very convincing in their roles… The club’s 50th anniversary items were unveiled at the show and proved popular, especially the utility-bag. Nice effort, Francine!

Other items included an anniversary logo patch, coffee mugs, jackets, and handsome polo shirts. Our regular June meet was held at Ray and Nomie Unsworth’s beautiful, newly renovated lakeside cottage in Shelburne. Nomie’s traditional ”Flag Cake” proved once again that calories take a back seat to patriotism for many. “Yes, I’ll have another little slice, thank you.”

July’s Classics and Chrome Meet at Thunder Road was actually held on July 27, but the planned promotional “Lap Around the Speed Bowl” on Thursday night featuring 10 VAE members in their vintage machines, July 24th, fell victim to cancellation of the race card because of inclement weather. The very same evening, over in Burlington, some 18 VAE drivers dodged the rain to shuttle some very important motor vehicle administrators attending a regional conference of AAMVA from the Sheraton to the Inn at Essex.

The 38 officials and their spouses were very appreciative people. Vermont DMV Commissioner Bonnie Rutledge later wrote and thanked VAE for “helping to make the AAMVA conference a huge success.” The VAE drivers and guests later enjoyed a fine couple of hours at the historic Lincoln Inn, site of many past VAE events. On July 26th, a handful of club members participated in the Barre Homecoming Days Parade.

The second annual “Classic and Chrome Meet” was held at the “Site of Excitement”, i.e., Thunder Road. Turnout of cars was down from 2002 possibly due to threatening thundershowers. However, no rain fell before we departed for home around 3:45 P.M. Gene Napoliello, event coordinator, reports that contributions collected at the gate and a couple of subsequent donations has put the total at over $1,000, all for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, the Colchester camp for kids with cancer. Lucille’s goodies, archival photos by Jim Sears and a productive business meeting made for a successful afternoon.

The passing of long-time member Joe Bettis just before the Stowe Show was indeed a sad loss to VAE. He was actively involved in the show for many years as a flea market vendor and as a highly knowledgeable technical judge. An admirer and collector of vintage Buicks, it seemed only fitting that Joe should request a Buick hearse for his last ride. One was located in Northfield. And the driver was none other than VAE treasurer Les Skinner, an employee of the local funeral home.

The Stowe show came off very well. How about the new printed show program! Thanks especially to Biddle Duke, publisher of the Stowe Reporter and his great advertisers. A good first effort and extra copies are still available. Tom Maclay and Dick Currier and their crew deserve kudos for their fine efforts.

The temperature was down right hot. Saturday night the sky opened wide and down came the rain. Come Sunday morning, the dampened grounds of spectator parking area forced a closing. However, a shuttle bus ferried show goers from the Stowe High School to Nichols Field and back all day long. Attendance suffered for that day but overall was estimated at well over 9,000 for all three days.

A Boston radio station, WBIX 1060 AM, interviewed Stowe’s co-chairs Tom and Dick “live” Sunday noon. Peter Swiriduk and his dad, John, co-hosts of Sweet Chariot, whose program’s stated goal is: “The Search For the Ultimate Vehicle” received some needed help to set up the remote. It came from our own Chris Barbieri and the folks at Stowe Area Association, especially Valerie Rochon, SAA executive director and Jo Sabel Courtney, the energetic liaison with VAE. Ken Squier of WDEV pre-recorded a segment, too. All in all, a keen PR effort by both VAE and SAA! Peter and John had nothing but praise for all the wonderful cooperation they received. They were openly impressed and said so.

Then there were the two Bob Bahre cars: one a red, ’62 Dual Cowl Cadillac and the other a deep mahogany colored ‘29 Duesenburg roadster. Wow! Yes, the cars came from the same Bob Bahre of Oxford, Maine, owner of the popular Maine racetrack. More recently, of course, he’s built the huge 80,000+ seat-racing complex at Loudon, NH. NHIS hosts two NASCAR races each year as well as Busch North and Craftsmen truck races and motorcycles, too.

Did you notice the New Vermont flag added to the flagpoles at the Courtesy Booth? And the new ticket booth at the spectator gate entrance! And finally, thanks to all our loyal (and new) sponsors.

Women in Automotive History

Florence Lawrence

Turn signals and brake lights are standard on all automobiles manufactured today—in fact, it’s hard to imagine cars without them. The inventor of the earliest versions of both was Florence Lawrence, who was, at the time, the highest-paid film actress ever.

Lawrence was born in 1886 in Hamilton, Ontario, as Florence Bridgwood. Her surname was changed when she was four to match her vaudeville actress mother’s stage name. Acting was, apparently, in Lawrence’s blood: she started in silent films in 1907 and by 1910 was so popular that she became the first actress to have her name used to advertise a picture. At the height of a career, playing heroines on the silver screen, she invented two key automobile safety devices.
According to Kelly R. Brown’s 1999 biography Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl, Lawrence was an automobile aficionado at a time when relatively few people owned cars. “A car to me is something that is almost human,” she later said in an interview, “something that responds to kindness and understanding and care, just as people do.”

She soon set about improving the vehicles she loved. By 1914, she’d invented the first turn signal, called an “auto signaling arm,” which attached to a car’s back fender. When a driver pressed the correct button, an arm electrically raised or lowered, with a sign attached indicating the direction of the intended turn. Her brake signal worked on the same principle: another arm with a sign reading “stop” raised up whenever the driver pressed the brake pedal—the essential concept behind today’s brake lights.

Lawrence’s mother, Lotta Lawrence, got into the act, too: she patented the first electrical windshield wipers, which used a system of rollers, in 1917. But her daughter’s inventions weren’t properly patented, and others soon came out with their own, more refined versions.

By the time the first electrical turn signals became standard equipment on Buicks in 1939, Lawrence’s contributions were long forgotten.

Alice Ramsey

Thanks to the re-enactment at the Shelburne Show we all know who made the first cross-country trip by auto in 1903. In 1909, however, the same trip was attempted and completed by Alice Huyler Ramsey; who made automotive history by becoming only the tenth person and the first woman, to drive across the United States. Ramsey made her trip in a sedan made by the Maxwell-Briscoe Car Company, and the trip took her and three female companions just 59 days, which was faster than any other crossing before that time. Her route took her from Hell’s Gate in New York City to the Golden Gate in San Francisco for a total of 3,800 miles. The same trip that took Ramsey nearly three months almost a century ago would be a mere 8 days today.

My First Car, 1927 Whippet Coach

Some time in the early 1950’s, when I was about 45” tall, I was with my dad in his sheet metal shop when he pointed to an unrecognizable (to me, anyway) pile of sheet metal and said, “There is your car”. Far be it from me to see anything in that pile of stuff that had any similarity to any car that I had ever seen.

Several years later, about 1965, as a teenager, I recognized that there was indeed a windshield and a radiator grill visible in the center of that pile.“ What the heck is a Whippet anyway?” With the help of some friends, I cleared away the junk and removed the car to an open shed, where we could change the oil, remove the gas tank, which was full of yuk, install a battery, fill the vacuum tank with gas, and with instructions from dad about hand throttles and manual spark adjustment, proceeded to start the little four banger. I then had to remove one tire and replace the inner tube.

For the next few years I played with the car on dirt roads and drove it in the local parade a couple of times, still with the 1951 license plates on it.

I graduated from high school in 1968, and my dad passed away that fall. The family business was going bankrupt within a year, and I was looking at the draft. With no place to store the Whippet, I sold it to a local mechanic and joined the Navy, to return four years later to find that the mechanic had sold it.

Jump to some time around 1994, at a friends wedding, in a conversation with another old friend, the whereabouts of the Whippet was revealed to me. Another few years passed before I had the opportunity to approach the present owner and actually see the car again. Turns out that he had never attempted to start the car, and had no idea if it would run or even turn over. Seems the last time that it was driven was when I had it in the Memorial Day parade in 1968. Anyway, he had given it to his sons and didn’t know of their intentions. It was another two to three years (October, 2001) when I was finally informed that they would be willing to sell me the car, still with the 1951 registration and inspection documents in my father’s name.

My intentions were to try to get it running as it was and take it from there. Well as it turned out, I found that the wooden sills were badly rotted, and got a little carried away taking it apart. Now I have a freshly painted chassis, a motor in Indiana, a transmission in parts on my work bench, body parts in a couple of different buildings, and dreams of driving a long lost part of my childhood to Nashville in 2005, with other members of the W.O.K.R.

History of the Winton Automobile

In October 1896, Alexander Winton, of Cleveland, (who is described as “a short-tempered Scotsman”) announced his first Automobile in “The Horseless Age” magazine. His machine weighed in at over 1000 pounds, which slowed its performance. A second Winton was introduced in February of 1897, and the Winton Motor Carriage Company was incorporated in March. The second Winton was longer and wider, accommodating three people across each of its two seats, the second seat facing rearward in what the French called the dos-a-dos (back to back) arrangement. (See picture.)

Leo Melanowski, Winton’s Chief Engineer invited Henry Ford to come to Cleveland for an interview at the Winton Company. Alexander Winton was not impressed with Henry and decided not to hire him. Henry went back to Detroit to continue working on his second Quadricycle. The Winton Company recorded its first sale in March of 1898 for $1000 dollars and by years end, 22 Winton’s were sold.

Winton was the first to use a steering wheel instead of a tiller; he put the engine in front of the driver instead of under the car; and he developed the first practical storage battery. He is perhaps best known now for the effect he had on others. James W. Packard, a maker of electrical products (whose firm later became the Packard Cable division of General Motors) visited Winton’s office in Cleveland to offer a few suggestions for improving Winton’s car. Winton blew his top and said: “If you don’t like the car, why don’t you build your own?”

By 1899, more than 100 Winton’s had been delivered, making Winton’s the largest manufacturer of gasoline powered autos in the United States. With the Winton starting to show a fair amount of success, the first auto dealership in the United States was opened in Reading, Pennsylvania by H.W. Koler.

The Truck Story

Truly, I need to start with my annual trip to the All-Chrysler Show at Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the second full weekend in July. This particular trip would have been in 2000.

Arriving on Wednesday PM prior to the show, myself and at least ten other friends were pleased to find a 1956 Dodge, Long Box, ½ Ton truck in the Car Corral. The owner had left a note with the truck stating he would not be on the field until Saturday AM. When I was able to make contact on Saturday, another customer already was showing great interest. Through the day, I kept returning to the truck just to find out that the interested person hadn’t made his mind up yet. Eventually the customer gave the owner a deposit and, though I was disappointed, I figured it was “meant to be”.

I left a phone number for the seller of the truck just in case he could shake another truck out of a barn in the West Virginia area he was from. The truck he sold appeared to be a fair truck for a fair price and was not getting a lot of attention because it was original and didn’t have a “Hemi” under it’s hood.

On Sunday evening, after arriving home, my stepson, Colin, said there was a message to call this gentleman in WestVirginia. I was surprised that he might have found another truck so quickly. It turned out that the Car Corral buyer arrived home to NYC and apparently found out that his wife wasn’t as “excited” about his purchase and declined to receive the truck.

The seller agreed to deliver the truck to me in Vermont for the asking price. He said he would grab his brother-in-law for the company, drive up Sunday, stay over, do the deal on Monday AM and drive home.

So… now I owned a 1956 Dodge, blue, Long Box, ½ Ton from West Virginia with 47,000 miles on it. Since I already owned a 1947 Plymouth Sedan, a 1952 Dodge ½ Ton, Low Side truck that I had previously restored, my “family” and “room” dictated that something had to go.

I placed an ad in Hemmings and my 1952 Dodge truck ended up with a wonderful family in Stowe, Vermont; when it could have gone literally “anywhere”. We were very pleased. I also had placed an ad in the Burlington Free Press, which I’ll refer to later.

So… I used this truck for the summer of 2000. Now we finally come to February 2001. Snow is everywhere. I receive another phone call from Joe, my newfound West Virginia Mopar truck supplier. He tells me that he went to an auction in Virginia looking to buy some lumber to add onto his car storage area. Well… in a building at the auction was a 1956 Dodge, Short Box, High Side, ½ Ton pick-up with 22,000 miles on it and a title to prove it. He offered them all he had in cash, but was $700 too short and they wouldn’t accept the offer.

While driving back to West Virginia, he thought of his Vermont “connection”. He just wanted to see someone who likes Mopars own and use this fine automobile. I thanked him for thinking of me, but my motor home and trailer were truly “buried” in snow and I really couldn’t afford it.

Well… after a week of me stressing over my premature decision, I weakened and returned a call to West Virginia. My new Mopar friend said he’d drive the 75 miles to see and I said that he shouldn’t go through all that. I suggested just a phone call, maybe.

A week later I called him again and he said he had looked into it again and it had been sold. I was so… disappointed. I asked if he knew to whom and he replied, “Yes to me”. After I sat down, he informed me that he couldn’t afford it either, but he paid the price, trailered it to West Virginia and was storing it in his garage until our spring, be it July or August, and I could come to get it.

I asked, “What if I can’t afford it?” and he said, “We’ll see what spring brings”. So… April 2001, Joe Paradis, another long time active VAE member, accepts my invitation to travel to Hedgesville, West Virginia and pickup a pick-up. The trip was a very memorable, fun time. One conversation was truly interesting though.

Joe asked me if I had seen this truck or a picture of it and I said, “No”. He said, “You mean we’re traveling to West Virginia to get a truck you haven’t even see a picture of?” and I said “Isn’t that nuts?” To which he replied, “No, I’ve done it a couple of times myself and they turned out just fine”.

We had left Essex Jct, Vermont at 8 PM on a Monday evening and were back at 11 AM on Wednesday. The truck has since been taken apart, blasted and repainted in and out with its original color. I have driven it for pleasure and to work for over 3,000 miles since its purchase. In July of 2002, shortly after its restoration, we went to Carlisle and received two (2) awards at the All-Chrysler Show. We’ll maybe see you there in 2003.

The truck is all it was “hyped” to be and more. I’ve met a great friend in West Virginia and had a great trip with a VAE friend to boot. Joe also was a big help with truck pick-up bed and sideboards. I guess you maybe thought he only did plaques.

Now… back briefly to my first ‘56 Dodge truck. When advertising my ‘52 truck locally, a neighbor five blocks away, answered the ad, but really wanted the ’56 because of its “long box” for bicycles. I told him it wasn’t “for sale”. Well, when I advertised the first ’56 upon returning from West Virginia a year later, this neighbor just about “ran over” and now owns it…. Bottom Line… Finally.

The ’52 Dodge I restored is in Stowe, Vermont, the ’56 Dodge I purchased through Carlisle is five blocks away and our candidate from Aroda, Virginia is with me, in Vermont. Who could ask for anything more… But, that sounds like a musical.

Memories of Herbert Ball

Herbert was Marvin’s grandfather and Marvin sent along this great picture of Herbert with his 1919 “T” Ford.

Marvin writes… “I have a snap shot of him and the “T” when it was near new. Scrap drive of WWII was the end of that Ford. My cousin and I played in it when I was a wee lad out behind the barn. My family settled in on the Long Point part of Ferrisburg in 1792. They moved from Bennington. Does this make me a real Vermonter?

Being on the lake, they sold “cool” to the blacksmiths, and later sold gravel to the railroad. The Ball family was one of the first to sell leases to campers at Long Point. My grandfather had several farms and two wives but not at the same time. On one farm he sold gravel to the town for years. The old timers would do anything for a nickel and lived well, back then. Others in the family had sawmills in Charlotte and Shelburne.

The Saxbys Remembered

Last month, our club recognized early members Bob and Marion Saxby in awarding them a “Big E for Auto Enthusiasm”.

We had lost track of these early members and wondered about them, thankful for their significant contributions in our beginning years. 3 members responded early with the news that both had passed on from their retirement home near Morrisville. The Lincoln, sold in NY State, had received a bit of a face-lift and appeared at Stowe some years ago.

Our thanks to Doris Bailey, Bill Billado and Adrian West for their responses and information. Adrian knows most about the family history, Doris about Bob and Marion personally, and Bill about their former great car.

Should our readers want to know more, these folks would be happy to talk with you. We just wish that we had recognized these true enthusiasts a little earlier.

Thunder Road Update

Emanating from Quarry Hill in Barre Town on the 27th of July 2003, will be the exhausts of classic and chrome vehicles of VAE members and guests. The 2nd annual cruise-in event on Sunday between 1 and 4 P.M. will raise funding for Camp Ta Kum Ta, Vermont’s camp for children with cancer.

The 2002 event raised $800. Member and track host Ken Squire will MC the action with a possible assist from Buster the wonder dog. Plan on being entertained under the tent with complimentary ice tea and having your vehicle photographed on the track for VAE’s archives. Ken will oversee the closing ceremonies, which include car door prizes and appropriate awards. Dash plaques will go to the 1st 150 cars that register. Ray Tomlinson, Gene Napoliello and Ken Squire are waiting for your call along with the children who will directly benefit.

If you can’t attend, make your donation check payable to Camp Ta Kum Ta- and send to:

Gene Napoliello, 169 Balsam Rd. Waterbury Center, VT 05677

Your gift will be acknowledged at the cruise-in and in Wheel Tracks. Thunder Road hats will also be given by the co-chairs to members participating in the Thursday evening, July 24th cruise around the track at intermission and the Barre Home Coming Parade on Saturday, the 26th.

Dash plaques for last year’s participants are now being retro-fitted as well. Plan to attend or donate to this special day for Camp Ta Kum Ta.

Best Restoration of 2002

What appears to be my last act as 2002 President of VAE is the selection of Best Restoration Award. First of all, I had no idea how difficult this decision could be!

There were six exceptional entries for this award, all deserving to be a winner. After studying photos, restoration information (even some albums of the rebuild process) my decision was made.

The award goes to Mark Bennet of Warren, who received a handsome plaque for his 1960 Thunderbird, retractable top convertible. A beautiful restoration of a very complex automobile. Mark is to be congratulated on his award, as are all of the entries in this past year’s event.

The time and expense spent on their projects are not to be taken lightly and shows a dedication and love of the hobby that is unique to the fascinating world of automotive preservation.

Car Estate Planning

In resent years, I have heard VAE members speak of how they want the club to go and to be remembered. I feel this opportunity is in our hands. The VAE members, who have been in the club for years, have done great things with their automobiles, which, in return, have provided them great pleasure.

In speaking with these people and going over to their shops, I find that they have great collections of “project” cars, trucks and lot of boxes of parts.

The overwhelming drive of car collectors to start new projects and the reality of “Not enough time and not enough Money” means many of these cars are going to be at Estate Sales. The other result is a spouse left with old cars and old parts and looking for any means of disposal.

I believe that the solution lies with those who have three or four (or more) car projects, which they will never get to. It is to seek out people, men or women, who are younger and have car interest. Go to High Schools, Vocational Arts programs, automobile repair or similar locations of education.

The first time I went to VT Tech for the fall VAE meeting, I was approached by two students, while I sat near my 49 Packard having a sandwich. Their interest was working with older cars. This was my first hand experience with younger people having an unfulfilled desire to restore and own old cars.

For those interested: Find younger people interested in cars and have them come over to your shop 2-4 times per month and work on a “project” car that you have most of the parts for, get it running, then give them the car with extra parts.

Another idea would be to give a car to an auto repair school and become an assistant to the instructor. This could do two things for you: help to clean out your shop or barn and give you the opportunity to teach and interact with younger people.

At this time, I think it will be difficult to find young people who are willing to spend $10K – $15K on a resorted Model A when they can get a old corvette for the same price. The early VAE members back in the 40’s & 50’s could buy any old car they wanted for $50 – $100.

I know everyone feels the favorite car has great value. The true value is only what someone else will pay. I would hope that the greatest value would be the value to a first time owner, at the beginning of their car addiction, when money may be scarce.

In closing, in order to avoid the termination of your passion for old cars at the time of your demise – do some Car Estate Planning and pass along the “Fever”! I feel we could and should now pass on cars, which we will never get too, to interested younger people. Pass on the passion and the car addiction while we still have some say on where and how it will go.