Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

1939 Plymouth Coupe

The first couple of chapters of the existence of this 1939 Plymouth coupe have been lost to history. We can only speculate that the first chapter was that of a proud new owner caring for his prized new ride.

The second chapter was most likely that of a used car owned by someone who also took good care of this once proud ride. It may have involved multiple owners as the car got used up and its roadworthiness declined.

Eventually, the third chapter was inevitable. The car became worn out and was relegated to a junkyard. Parts were removed to help keep other cars on the road. With most of the usable parts gone, the car sat in the junkyard and deteriorated to the point that it was not worth much.

1939 plymouth coupe bill erskine
Les Erskine, and his Coupe, doing a victory lap

That brings us to the coupe’s fourth chapter. Here is where my involvement begins. I grew up in a dirt track racing family. Nothing big, just local small time racing. My father, Les, had been racing since he was 20 or so. My brother, Dave, and I had helped on many projects, but the build of the ‘39 coupe was the first where I really had more input and more hands-on involvement. It was 1974, making me 17 years old. The previous race car had been raced for a few years and suspension technology had progressed from stock frames with stock suspension to purpose built frames and purpose built suspension. It was time to build a new car using the latest technology. The frame and suspension was engineered, designed and built. While that was going on it was time to figure out what body to use. Most others were using Pintos, Chevettes or Gremlins. We wanted something different. We went to a couple of local junkyards and found this 1939 Plymouth coupe. It was just the body shell on a frame. The engine, transmission, axles and front clip were all gone. The glass was broken out and the bottom 6 inches of the body was rusted away. It was perfect for what we wanted. We gutted the body, cut about 10 inches out of the width, cut off most of the bottom and put the body on the new chassis and we’re off racing, Dad as driver and me as chief mechanic. We raced it until 1978. I was in college and went off to a summer intern job in NC. Without a chief mechanic, Dad decided to end his racing career. The Old Coupe got passed to my brother. 

Now for chapter five of the coupe’s journey. Suspension technology had again progressed so my brother, also being a racer, cannibalized the Old Coupe to build a new car. Parts and pieces got scattered to the winds. The Old Coupe faded into just a memory. Now jump ahead to last year. After a long struggle with dementia, my father passed away at the end of September. In looking through old photos for the funeral, we came across many pictures that brought back all those fond memories. Among these pictures were some of the Old Coupe. Like me, my brother found it hard to get rid of anything. He said that there were still some parts of the Old Coupe around. The body had been given to a guy that was going to build it into a vintage race car. The intake manifold, Malery racing distributor and the performance camshaft were in my fathers garage. The frame, rear axle, front axle, and fuel cell were in my brother’s barn. I told my brother that if we could get the body back, I would rebuild the car as a tribute to Dad. He contacted the guy who he had given the body to, to see what had happened to it. The guy had not done anything to it except let it deteriorate outside. The guy said he would have to check with his sons to see if they were ok with its return. A couple of days later it was returned to my brother. He called me and the resurrection was a go. Tragedy struck again and my brother passed away at the end of October. The project now became of highest priority. All the other projects can wait. Others would consider the Old Coupe just an old race car. It is much more to me. It represents my relationship with my dad and brother and all the time we spent working on cars of all sorts. It was my first true engineering project that took me down the path to becoming an engineer. I believe that describing the engineering and build of the race car was instrumental in my initial hiring at IBM and a 40 year career there. The Old Coupe was a major part of my life and will be again, for a long time. 

We are now in chapter six of the Old Coupe. That is, its rebirth as a functioning race car. My plan is to build this car as close to its racing configuration as possible. I am using all the original parts and as many period correct parts as I can find. I want it to look as it did in its glory days. The old pictures are being used as reference. My hope is that all future chapters are not as tragic as chapter three and five and that it lives happily ever after. 

1939 plymouth coupe frame
There is a ways to go yet, but you can see where this coupe is heading.

I dedicate this project to three of the most influential people in my life. First to my dad, Les, who instilled a love of all things mechanical, who taught me many life lessons, who put family above all else, who instilled a strong work ethic and who supported me in sports, education and life. Secondly to my brother Dave who had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I ever knew. His grandchildren say that he could do anything. Although he was a very accomplished mechanic and could do most everything, I think it is more that he would do anything for anyone. He went through many hard times but always moved forward with dedication and humor. Thirdly, to my mom, Janice, who supported my dad, two sons and three daughters unconditionally. She instilled dignity and respect for all. She, also put family above all else and sacrificed so that her children would have what they needed. 

Do I Put It In The Recycle Bin?

If you’re anything like me, when you’re traveling a great distance, you stop at rest areas to take a break from driving, use the facilities, or maybe get a candy bar out of the snack machine. And just inside the door generally you’ll find a rack or two (sometimes three or four, or sometimes a whole room) of different  pamphlets devoted to and promoting the scenic wonders of the area, places to eat, sleep, shop, recreate, and visit. 

It doesn’t make any difference what town Don and I are driving through, I have to check out the entire rack just in case I miss the greatest things to do in the area or county or state. Even if we’re just passing through one state and not even stopping, I’ve got to pull those pamphlets out of their nice cozy slots and take them back to the car where I peruse them and then toss them on the floor of the back seat. 

At the end of whatever trip we’ve taken, as we clean out the car, I stack up all those pamphlets and usually toss 80% of them in the recycle bin. So why do I take them when, clearly, I may never be back in that area? I guess it’s my way of saying to myself that maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn something from reading the pamphlets and hopefully we’ll be back to explore the area and I need to be prepared. 

I pick up camping brochures, restaurant, museum and shopping cards, pamphlets with pictures of beautiful waterfalls and majestic nature tours, lakes where you can swim or hike around. And don’t forget the wax museum and weird art display, the chocolate factory and symphony music hall. I also pick up brochures on car museums, of course, and anything related to cars for Don. The list goes on and on. Now, admit it: You’ve picked up a few pamphlets yourself. 

Right now I have a stack sitting on my desk that I haven’t gone through since we got home from Arizona. Plus there’s an even bigger stack on a shelf in the closet where all our travel maps and magazines are that I plan to go through one of these days. I know what will really happen. A time will come when the whole shelf gets swept into the recycle bin because our days of travel will be  over. I hope that’s a long ways off. Until then, I’ll keep picking up and saving those travel cards and pamphlets! 

1925 Maxwell

What a deal!
“Buy my house and I will throw in my 1925 Maxwell. I will throw in a free car if you buy my house.

Steve Hornibrook & 1925 Maxwell

It sounded like a pretty good deal at the time. Buy a house on five acres, next to a golf course, only ten minutes away from the airport in Burlington. And get a free car! I am kind of a car buff anyway, so we agreed.

Carla and I adopted a 1974 MGB convertible ten years ago. We were living in Reno, Nevada and the MG was for sale in South Carolina, just a ways from a friend of mine. I asked my friend to test drive the car for me and he said it was a gem. I have wondered ever since what I had done to my friend to make him turn on me. The car was not a “GEM”, but in time I will make it one.

Anyway, back to the current question. The car I inherited with our new home is a 1925 Maxwell, 4-door sedan. It has been garage parked for 43 years. Being “garage parked” is usually a good sign on “Chasing Classic Cars.”

Apparently the garages on that show are free of mice. My garage was not so lucky. Mice had consumed three quarters of the roof and both the front and back seats.

“Not a problem!”, said my new car guru friend, Wendell Noble. “There is a chance if we put some fresh gas in it and get a new battery, this beauty might start right up!”

First “Not a Problem!”… When I reached down to pull the distributor cap, it crumbled into dust. This was my first introduction to pot metal.

1925 Maxwell front

Second “Not a Problem!”……. 1925 Maxwell distributors, distributor caps, and distributor castings do not fall off the parts tree. Fred Gonet and Wendell have been invaluable at finding replacement parts.

Nothing happens now until we get together and install our version of a rebuilt distributor. Gary will provide the pictures. We will keep you posted.

Maxwell was an American automobile manufacturer from 1904 to 1925 when Chrysler purchased the company. Maxwell production began under the name Maxwell-Briscoe Company of N. Tarrytown, New York.

The company was named after founder Jonathan Maxwell who earlier worked for Oldsmobile, and Benjamin Briscoe, an auto industry pioneer. For a time, Maxwell was considered one of the three top automobile firms in America, along with General Motors and Ford.

There are many years where the production numbers are unavailable. Ten cars were produced the first year in 1904.

Well over 860,000 Maxwells were produced through 1925.

Lucky Dogs

The other day I was stretched out on the couch in front of the wood stove looking at the cobwebs (it’s worse when the sun is shining) when it sounded like a herd of elephants coming into the room. It was just dogs Sally and Charlie who live here; two granddogs, Winnie and Chelsie; and the neighbor’s dog, Grady. I tell these dogs often how lucky they are to live here: They don’t need to be on a lead because we live in a rural area. They can come and go as they please because we have a doggie door. There is always a pool of water on the big rock near the back door in case their water bowl is empty. And they can go for a swim in the little stock pond down near the barn.

The neighbors that walk by frequently with their dogs know us all and we know their dogs too. There is always a pocket of dog biscuits nearby. Dixie, who some of you remember, wandered the neighborhood frequently. She had a beautiful smile and loved people. She would often go to the neighbor’s house for a swim, then go inside for a rest before hiking up the hill home. The hunters that we would see once a year always asked for her, and they would often share their lunch with her.

Sally #1 was a hound so she would make the rounds on the property every day but you knew where she was because of her barking. On occasion, when another neighbor’s dog would come to visit, she would sometimes stay for an overnight. We would call the neighbors to let them know she was here.

Then there was Phoebe, who loved balls. There were balls everywhere and no one came without throwing a few balls for her. When it would get slimy, she would rinse it off in the pool of water on the big rock and then start all over. Phoebe was the reason we put in a doggie door. We were both working, and even though the dogs, Phoebe and Phyllis, had beds on the porch, on occasion there would be a thunderstorm and Phoebe would jump at the screen door to get inside. The doggie door solved that problem.

A few years ago some new people moved in down the road. We hadn’t met them yet. One morning I came into the kitchen and there was a beagle sleeping on the couch. I had no idea who she was or where she came from. I stuffed her in the car and went around to neighbors’ houses, but no one knew where she belonged. I finally stopped at the house with the new people in it and, sure enough, she was one of their dogs. She came on occasion to visit but always went home on her own.

Charlie, who is here now, loves sticks, small and large. With the windstorm we had a few weeks ago, there are sticks everywhere, and she is loving it. I’d like to think she will help me pick them up in the spring, but I have my doubts. And Sally #2 is like my shadow, never leaving my side. I think of myself as her security blanket, and if that is what she needs, so be it. All rescue dogs they are, and what lucky dogs they are too.

2009 Pontiac G8

This is not a quiz, just a question… What country do you think built and exported John Malinowski’s Beautiful 2009 Pontiac G8?
Plus, what is with “U” John?

I grew up in Western New York, in a town called Elma. One of my first jobs was at a beer distribution company, I worked as a beer truck mechanic.

Later I took a job at IBM as a field service technician working with Selectric typewriters. From there, we moved to Yorktown Heights, NY where I joined IBM’s Research Center before finally landing in Jericho, VT in 1996.

2009 Pontiac G8 John

I have a mechanical curiosity that came from my father. My much older brother kept coming home with a variety of Mach 1s and Boss versions Mustangs and that got me hooked. Once I got my license, I picked up a ’73 Chevelle and a ’67 GTX, spending many hours keeping them going with minimal funds and the skills I picked up at the BOCES tech center in East Aurora. I earned an ASE autobody certification after high school, and found painting was fun and rewording once done right.

Somehow, I went for a hands-on mechanical life to “Imagineering” as I started a 40-year career in semiconductors where you need a scanning electron microscope to see what you were building. Yet, I still had the drive for hands on-work.

One day in Vermont, with our family growing, I spotted a remarkable new vehicle sitting in a lot in St. Albans. It was a 2009 Pontiac G8. I fell for the looks and performance immediately. RWD, a 6.0-liter LS V8 engine weighing only 4000 pounds. At the same time, I figured with my daughter going to school in Boston, we needed a reliable vehicle, newer than the 2000 van we were driving…… what a coincidence!

Not only was the G8 stunning and powerful, but it was also an import. GM had a subsidiary called Holden, in Australia, manufacturing a world car called the Commadore. Manufactured in LH and RH drive versions it was marketed in the United Kingdom (Vauxhaul VXR8), China (Buick Park Avenue), South Africa (Chevrolet Lumina SS), South America (Chevrolet Omega) and South Korea (Daewoo Veritas). The chassis is known as the “Zeta Platform” which is the same as used in 2010-2015 Camaros with most chassis and engine parts interchangeable.

After a few years, the car had been driven less and became a weekend/fun car, a unique car with daily driver manners. This G8 was built in Elizabeth, Australia on 10/22/2008. It is 1 of 1527 built in Red Passion Metallic (Sport red in USA) with premium options.

A 6L80 six speed automatic transmission sends power to the independent rear suspension.

2009 Pontiac G8

From Wikipedia…… By December 2008, the rear wheel drive G8 had not become the expected sales replacement for the previous front-drive models, with 11,000 unsold G8s in the inventory and just 13,000 sold. During the 2009 global economic downturn, market prices had dropped by $3000–5000 below GM’s sticker price for the car. By July 2009, there were only 5,000 unsold G8s in inventory, with almost 30,700 sold.

With the imminent demise of the Pontiac brand, a result of GM’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the 2009 model year marked the end of all Pontiacs, including the G8. However, in July 2009, Bob Lutz made an off-hand comment during a press review that the G8 would be revived as the Chevrolet Caprice. Subsequently, Lutz retracted this statement, citing market conditions. Nevertheless, General Motors announced the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) in 2009, which Car and Driver described as a successor to the G8.To fill the gap left by the G8, GM announced the Chevrolet SS, a RWD V8 powered sedan for 2014 based on the Holden Commodore (VF). Editor note…… A few Caprice Police Vehicles even made it to Vermont.

Joy in Giving

Hopefully, I haven’t been spending too much time in my writings on the fact that I am aging, and it seems to be at a much faster rate than I had ever thought possible in my “younger” years. But as they say, “It is what it is,” and so here I go again.

Probably a good share of you who are reading this have, like me, lived well over half of our lives and have thoughts that go with this time in our lives. I have been thinking of what I have that my children and grandchildren would like to have handed down to them to enjoy. If you have ever visited me, it is obvious that I have a tremendous amount of “stuff” but am certain that probably 98% needs to find its way into a yard sale or most likely a dumpster.

What I do have that is special are a few antique pieces, some of which are from family, and both my boys and grands love family-related things. They seem to become more loved if they have been fortunate to meet the family members and have seen them in use with them. I have a few pieces of nice jewelry (very few because I have never been a “jewelry person,” and I am married to a man that thought that “investing” in jewelry was a poor investment!)

In thinking of what to “hand down” and to who had been on my mind for a while but had not put any of the thoughts into motion. It all started quite unexpectedly this past Christmas. Our family celebration was split this year between families; as you all know, one is working, or the day was not working for all to get together, so we had two get-togethers.

The first was on the Saturday before with our youngest son and family. We went to the Eastside restaurant for a wonderful meal and then back to our house for a few gifts. My granddaughter, Addison, noticed I had a ring on that she had never seen before. I had not worn that ring for several years. It was a gift from my sister I would guess 20 years ago. It was silver with four diamonds. She tried it on and said how much she loved it and maybe I could put it on “the list.” (We have mentioned to the family that if they see something they might like, we should have a list.) I could see how much she liked it, so I said, You can have it! She said, You mean today? (I guess she was expecting it might be hers when I passed on to another place.) She left with her ring and leaving a very happy Grandma to remember the look on her face and how happy she was with this Christmas surprise.

As I said, Christmas was split, so on Christmas day we went to celebrate with our oldest son and family. A slight dilemma: I have a second granddaughter (Addison’s cousin, Grace), and I hoped that Grace had not gotten a text from her cousin about the ring. We had a great day, a wonderful meal, exchanged gifts, and when everyone thought it was coming to an end – Grandma gave Grace one last gift. I had wrapped up my diamond engagement ring and my wedding ring. (Believe it or not, I had the original box.) I can still see her beautiful face when she opened it and what a look, and then she burst into tears and said, I cannot talk.

It made me happier giving the rings than them receiving them. To think I could have missed seeing their reactions if I had waited and they got them as “part of the estate.”

Now my thoughts are what I can give my grandsons. Maybe cars would fit that bill.

Everything Was Aligned That Day!

If you’ll all allow me to gloat this month, I want to tell you about a very special young woman here in Vermont, and that’s my niece, Michelle Archer. You may not recognize her name, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the events of December 17 where two children fell through ice on a pond in Cambridge, VT. One child was pulled from the pond by the elderly landowner, but the second child still needed to be saved. On that day, Vermont State Trooper Michelle Archer was in the right place at the right time and went into that pond and rescued the little girl, who thereafter made a full recovery after a short stay in the hospital.

What I’m sure you haven’t heard about is that Michelle, the youngest daughter of my brother Tom and his wife, Beth, grew up in Milton, and after taking a very circuitous route after college graduation, then became a Vermont State Trooper. She is unassuming, kind and considerate, unflappable, helpful, tough, and stubborn! When she puts her mind to something, it happens. Michelle will probably kill me for telling these stories, but to prove the point of her stubbornness, when she was young, maybe 4 years old, this trait exhibited itself in numerous ways, one of which was when her grandmother would pick her up from daycare and they might stop at the grocery store for an item, Michelle would want candy and be told no, not today. Michelle would then sit in her car seat in the back seat of the car and not say one dang-blasted word to Grama on the ride from the store all the way to home. Not one! No cajoling could make her break her silence.

Another time, when she, her sister and parents were at my folks’ house for dinner and it came time to go home, even though her father would ask her/tell her/plead with her/threaten her to put her winter boots on because they had to leave, she would… take… her… own… sweet… time, whether it be 5 minutes or 15! Boy-o-boy was she stubborn.

Fast forward to today: If you google “Trooper Michelle Archer,” you will see and learn all about the rescue, but what isn’t mentioned is the fact that Michelle is barely 5 foot two inches tall and the pond where the little girl was, was 8 feet deep. You also may not see in her bodycam footage that she had the presence of mind to immediately unhook and drop her utility belt holding her gun, baton, flashlight, and who knows what all else, just before going into the 40-degree water that had thin layers of ice on it. Now, she was fully clothed in her trooper uniform, all the way down to her black boots that have got to weigh 3-4 pounds! Yet she knew she had to swim to that child and swim back to shore with her in her arms.

Michelle spent her summers growing up on the shores of Lake Champlain in Milton where our family camp is. She, being the youngest of 4 siblings at age 9, persevered to outdo them all when she got up on water skis first and skied around the lake with this big, goofy, smug look on her face. And when the time came to “put the water in” in May, she would help her dad with the chore, braving the mid 40-degree water. Just maybe that chore prepared her a little for the rescue.

Michelle’s brother has a maple grove, and she and her sisters help him place thousands of taps in the trees, so there’s always maple syrup around. Well, if you watch the video of the rescue, as Michelle reaches into the back of her cruiser for the flotation device, there sitting squarely in view is a half gallon of Vermont pure maple syrup. She is a born and bred “Vermont” state trooper.

Michelle has been called a hero, justifiably so, along with Trooper Keith Cote, who arrived on scene in time for Michelle to hand the child off to him, who then ran the child to the waiting ambulance. Their boss has recommended them for the department’s lifesaving award. Also, Michelle is now a finalist in a group of 4 for the Trooper of the Year Award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, awarded in San Antonio, TX, on March 14. She has been interviewed on WCAX, NBC5, Fox News, Inside Edition, WVMT talk radio, along with much more press coverage on local TVs and newspapers across the country, and it’s spread online throughout the world on social media.

But Michelle is the same trooper today that she was on patrol on December 17. And she’s still that cute-as-a-button, smart, kind, considerate, humble….and, of course, stubborn kid that I’ve known all these years. She doesn’t think she’s a hero; she was just doing her job, and, as she has said, everything was aligned that day!

Many thanks to Beth Nichols and Laura Nichols for the photographs.

1929 Whippet Engine project

After much deliberation, we decided that the “spare” engine should move into the “boat anchor” category. You can see on the front page, we have installed the anchor chain.

Pictured is Charlie Thompson and Rosie’s engine. They are discussing the future and singing their tune

Despite being rebuilt in its past, the “anchor” appeared to have run many hours since. The deciding issue was the unacceptable amount of out-of-round and taper of the cylinders. They had already been bored 0.030” oversize and to correct this issue, they would have to be bored again to 0.040” or more oversize. One of our experts noted that .040” oversize pistons are not available and would have to be custom made at exorbitant cost.

If you recall, Gary’s suggestion in last month’s Wheel Tracks was to equip Rosie with a nice air-cooled Franklin engine. You would think if air-cooled was so great, they would have put them in airplanes. Oh, that’s right, they did!

So, back to the Whippet’s (Rosie’s) original “lunch” engine. It is, by the way, not original to the car. Based on serial numbers, it is a 1929 engine in a 1930 car. No problem, those two years of Whippets were identical. Having pulled the engine from Rosie, it now sits in Gary’s shop next to the boat anchor. The bad bearing that we had surmised was a main bearing based on the sound – thump, thump – turned out to be a rod bearing. All else looked acceptable with a bit of adjustment of the bearing clearances. The bad rod bearing was repaired by using a rod from the spare engine.

According to the 1933 Motor’s Repair Manual, the main bearing clearance should be 0.002” and the rod bearing clearance should be 0.001”. Adjustments to remedy bearing clearances greater than that are made by filing the bearing caps. Most of Rosie’s bearings were close, needing only a little filing to achieve the desired clearance. We preferred to stay in the range of .0025—.002.

Of greater concern was the worn timing chain which was “toast” according to Dennis Dodd. (I’m not sure if that is a technically correct term, but you get the picture.) I just happened to have, in my garage, a cigar box with 3 timing chains.Been there for years. One was new, but only 71 links instead of the required 85. A second chain was worn. Both had “master links”. So, we set about cannibalizing extra links from the worn chain to bring the new chain up to 85. We learned how these chains were made and the difficulty of disassembling them.

Gary found a beautiful new 85 link chain on the internet, but unfortunately it was a “center guide” instead of an “edge guide” required by Rosie. These chains are one inch wide. A center guide has links in the center which ride in a groove in the gears. The edge guide has similar links on each edge which capture the gears between them. I still have two more parts engines here which might have better chains but must get out in the cold to disassemble them. We have been cleaning engine parts and Gary has applied paint to the engine block and head. I had been told that the original engine color was a grayish green. Without that color available, Gary bought a can of “racing green” from NAPA. With that Rosie will feel pretty sporty as she cruises along at her usual 35 to 40 MPH!

1930 whippet “rosie”

From Wendell Nobel:

Let’s introduce the Franken-engine syndrome. We have two fatally disabled engines which were identical when new. They are disabled for different reasons. Therefore, it should be possible to assemble one good flawlessly working engine from judiciously selected parts, leaving the other as a boat anchor. I’ve got my fingers in two of these cases right now. One is Charlie Thompson’s ’30 Whippet and the other is my own ’29 Plymouth. The judicious decisions are driven by the economics of expensive outside specialist machine shops, if they are to be found, and new parts. Meet Miss Rosie. Ain’t She A Beauty?

Swapping a good crankshaft to another engine means rebabbitting bearings and line boring, if available within driving distance. Regrinding out of round or damaged crankshaft journals can’t be done in Vermont. Getting correctly sized pistons for oversized rebored cylinders is doable but expensive. With help from a faithful lab assistant, Igor, we will ultimately breathe new life into both car’s engines. We’ve got a good supply of Igors, but a limited supply of funds.

From Gary Fiske:

Like Wendell, we all have engine “stuff” going on. I might have mentioned something about a Franklin I recently brought home from Toronto. I got a good deal on it, and I am glad I have it, but… I need to find out why I have low compression in three cylinders. These old cars always have surprises!

We less experienced mechanics, with confidence issues, are always looking for early ways to test our engine before completing assembly. A few of Rosie’s valves were found to leak a bit by using compressed air and Windex bubbles. Those bubbles were also used to find over-worn valve guides. Some simply put the engine upside-down and squirt a little gas into the backside of the valve head. A good valve and seat will hold the gas back very nicely. A compression check is also planned the minute Rosie’s engine head is fitted in place.

Do you think we give enough credit to the early 19th century engineers and mechanics who had no “experts” guiding them?

1914 Cadillac Touring

Bill Fagan’s beautiful 110-year-old Cadillac has some stories to tell. That includes being found in this Maine barn, to the left, when the 2nd owner came along in 1943 to buy it.

There is a picture of the Caddy (below) when Bill became the 4th owner.

Do you remember the Cadillac engine story from the March 2020 Wheel Tracks? It was about an engine that Fred Gonet restored. There is even a video, on our VAE website, of Fred starting the engine for us. I remember the sound was fantastic!

1914 Cadillac Touring in the barn
When the 1914 Cadillac came to Bill’s Barn

That engine is now back in its home of Bill Fagan’s 1914 Touring Cadillac, and Bill has completed his multi-year restoration project. The second owner had driven the car until the mid-1950s when it was put into storage for many years. The family had tried, unsuccessfully, to get it running when they damaged the rear engine seal, so it continued to languish until it made its way to Bill’s barn in 2007.

Bill told how he was on a Brass Era Frostbite Tour in Massachusetts when a friend said he had just run across this barn find ‘14 Caddy.

“I was interested, needless to say, and drove to his place in NH the day after the tour to make the deal. Because the car sat in the barn with a damp floor, the fenders, splash aprons and wheel rims were quite rusty and had to be repainted. The body and upholstery are original and in excellent condition. I’ve gone through the running gear and the frame, painted them and the wheels and nickel plated all the bright work.”

1914 Cadillac Touring

The car made its debut at our Waterbury car show this past August, winning 1st place in the brass category. You could purchase this car for about $2000 in 1914 when a Ford Model T touring car sold for about $500. That was when Henry Ford was in his second year using an assembly line to build his cars. Henry often bragged how he could build a model T in 33 minutes at his factory. 202,667 Ts came off the assembly line that year.

There was no assembly line for these beautiful Cadillacs. They were hand built in 1914. A total of 14,000 Cadillacs were built that year.

Age is Just a Number

Maybe it was the fact that the year turned to 2024 and we were inundated with all the happenings of 2023 that got me thinking of my age. I admit, I dwell on it more than I did 40 years ago, but do not think I obsess about it, knowing full well I cannot do anything about it and am extremely grateful, especially when I am with my grandchildren, that I am “still aging.” Because if you stop, well, you know what that means. My sister and I talk about when we stopped being able to do such and such and wonder why we did certain things like store your favorite salad bowl on the top shelf and now must ask your son to get it down or do not use it this time.

I do not think I thought about a broken limb as I traversed the Alps in Austria and Switzerland years ago, but now going from my house to the car, or car to store, I think about it. I have a “plan” for every scenario. Like I have my cell phone in my pocket with a car and house key when I am taking out the trash on pickup day. If I go down, I want to be able to call someone. Or if the house door locks by accident, I can get in. I have a lot of these “little plans.” Did not have them 40 years ago because I did not think I needed them!

Last Tuesday I was confronted by my “age” big time! We have had a problem with blocked calls (calls we DO NOT want blocked), and I have spent hours on the phone with Xfinity trying to correct the problem, to no avail. So they sent Tony, an Xfinity technician, to help us out. Within 15 minutes he found the problem: US! We were hitting the “Block Call” button in error – thus, blocked calls!

To somewhat redeem Gary and I, I had thought of that but could not find any place to unblock. I even went to YouTube to see if there was an answer for it, like when I could not open the panel on my dryer, YouTube showed me how. Anyway, in 30 minutes tops, Tony had unblocked my blocked calls; taught me how to get on Netflix, Amazon, and any other app that might suit my fancy; tested the wiring (suggested upgrade); showed me how to record shows, delete all the shows (we didn’t know we had recorded); looked on my computer and found the password I was needing for my Wi-Fi but thought I had changed. Must admit, I was embarrassed as I watched him do all this as easily as I could read a recipe and hope I have not forgotten something! Gary is always saying, “Why don’t they make a start-to-finish instruction book now?” The reason is that most young people do not need all the steps. They know them.

There will always be a gap between ages, what the young ones know as “common knowledge” and some of us “born earlier” trying to catch up. Of course, the young nowadays do not realize that they too in a few years will be trying to catch up.

Another subject, AI, or Artificial Intelligence: What most do not realize is that it isn’t new. Artificial intelligence has been around longer than me!