Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

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.” 

Timing Is Everything!

A co-worker of mine just had an expensive experience with her Volkswagen. 

vw 5v timing

The car has the two liter twin cam engine, with a timing belt. The car had 85,000 miles on it, and had the original belt. This engine has five valves per cylinder, and it is an interference engine, meaning the valves will hit the pistons if the camshafts turn out of sync with the crankshaft. 

Unfortunately, the timing belt broke. When the belt broke, the valves hit the pistons, bending the valves. What should have been a several hundred dollar preventative maintenance repair, just became minimally a $1,200 repair. Minimally, the head needs to be rebuilt with new valves, if it can be saved. The head may well have to be replaced. The pistons could be damaged as well. 

If your car has a timing belt, it is not worth delaying the timing belt replacement, especially if it has an interference engine. A proper repair may involve replacing the water pump, camshaft seals and the front crankshaft seal. 

I Am Now Retired!

By the time you read this article, I will have been retired for all of five weeks, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what I’ve been doing for the past 40 ½ years and also give a plug to a career that is in desperate need of people all across our country. 

A little background: I was born and brought up in Burlington, attended Rice High School and then went on to Champlain College in their Court Reporting Program, graduating in 1978! Yep, I’m a court reporter, or maybe you’ve heard the term “court stenographer.” I am one of those people that sit behind that funny looking machine, you may have seen on TV, and make my fingers dance across the keys. 

For the first 10 years after graduation, I was a freelance court reporter in Rutland, which means I was hired directly by attorneys where I would go to a particular law office, and “report” the questions and answers asked by the attorneys and answered by witnesses in court cases. I’d also report contentious school board hearings, arbitration hearings, and even fill in a court because their court reporter was away that day. In 1988, I was the luckiest person in the world! I was hired by Judge Albert Coffrin to succeed his retiring court reporter. That meant a move back to the Burlington area and family & friends; and since then I’ve been reporting nonstop for 30 years and 7 months at the United States District Court until my retirement on March 30. 

Daily, I reported to work and was in the courtroom whenever there was a hearing scheduled (be it jury trials, motion hearings, sen-tencings, etc.) taking down – reporting — every single word spoken by anyone in the courtroom. One may ask how is that possible? Well, as the name implies, the shorthand machine has 20+ keys on it, and each key corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and you, in essence, create a shorthand system. I always say it is much like playing a musical in-strument. I learned how to play the piano when I was young, and if you think about a piano with so many keys, you strike one key and it sounds one way, you strike 2 or 4 or up to 10 keys all at once, it sounds another way. That’s the way the shorthand machine works. 

I’m sure none of you have ever been to a gym or a bar and watched the TV screen with the translations at the bottom of the screen!?! Well, that’s a court reporter, a closed-captioning court reporter. TV stations by law have to closed-caption news and sports — like the Super Bowl or the World Series, and many other broadcasts for the hearing impaired, in what’s called “real time”, and the only way to do that is to have a court reporter, probably at home in his/her jammies, getting a live feed from the TV station to their home. The reporter then writing what they hear through their headphones onto their shorthand machine, that being translated back into English by the specialized software, and then the feed going back out to the TV station and, in turn, being broadcast out to your TVs. Whew! Seems like a lot of extra work, doesn’t it? Why don’t they just use voice recognition software you have on your iPhone and be done with it? Because, ultimately, court reporters are the gold standard for accurate, instantaneous translation. Only the human ear and brain can discern the difference between “pahk the kah” and “park the car.” 

The last part of my job is to return to my office and, when requested, prepare a certified written transcript of the proceedings. A full day in court will produce on average 280 pages of transcript! I will use my specialized software to translate the shorthand “gibberish” back into English and then correct spellings (is your name spelled Brown, Browne, Brawn); punctuation, paragraphing, identifying speakers; homonyms, unless you write them differently (their/they’re/there, to/two/too); and then be able to certify that the transcript is a true and accurate record of the proceedings.

My career has spanned an amazing 40 years, and I am truly grateful to Judge Coffrin for hiring me 30 years ago and bringing me back to my family and friends and the city that I love. If you know of anyone who’s looking for a great career that pays very well, has an aptitude for the written word, a good work ethic, a good ear, a desire to learn every day of their working lives, by all means have him/her get in contact with me and we can talk further! 

To the right is a picture of the paper that would have come out of the machine “in the olden days” with the interpretation on the right. Today, it’s all electronic and the steno machine simply down-loads into a computer, 

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. 

25th Anniversary Milestone

Anne was unavailable this month for her column, so instead, we have gone back in the Wheel Tracks archives to the 1980s. Enjoys…… 


Al Ward’s 1982 “25th Anniversary Milestone” Poem. 

Some 25 years ago at a lovely place called Stowe 

Stood five old cars pushed all in a row. 

The occasion of which was a picnic, I’m told.

And started the VAE as a club to take hold. 

Each year we have prospered under super direction 

Now each gathering held in close perfection. 

Our meets take place in august as we all know 

And features flea markets and a wonder show. 

The town is jam packed with enthusiasts galore 

Who arrive from Canada and the New England shore. 

They keep coming back year after year 

To take part in the show and give us a cheer. 

Who would have thought that from such a small start 

This club would have grown and we all could take part. 

In putting on tours and sponsoring meets 

Or just milling around while munching on sweets. 

Over the years, the scenes have change 

The designs of the cars have greatly ranged. 

At first they were mostly all in the teens 

But now it’s the fifties and in-be-tweens. 

The success of our club is due in part 

To those dedicated few who gave it a start. 

And also to those who have carried on, 

Through there 25 years we look back upon. 

And now on the anniversary of our very small start 

It give us great pleasure and comes from the heart 

To thank all those who through these glorious years 

Are most deserving and have earned these three cheers. 

Cheer, cheer, cheer! 


1980 Glidden Tour with, 1929 Silver Annie 

“She’s not much to look at” by Cliff French 

After being on the 1968 Glidden Tour in Pocono, Penn., I wanted to go again in 1980 in the White Mountains. I pulled the motor out, and out of 4 motors, took the best of each and made a motor that sounds like a bucket of bolts. This motor runs nice and uses no oil. With a 1927 Marvel brass carburetor, I get 14 miles to a gallon of gas. 

I was accepted on the 1980 Tour with number 67 out of 341. 

Esther and I left Bradford in the rain, September 14th, arriving in Brenton Woods at the Mt. Washington House about 3:30PM. We were to stay across the road at the Bretton Woods Motor Inn. We spent the rest of the day visiting and admiring the other many cars arriving, coming from across the United States and Canada. 

Editor’s notes…. Taken from the 1981 Spring issue of Wheel Tracks. Cliff’s column goes on describing their eight days on the tour. We do not have the room to print the complete article but if you make a request, we will mail it to you.

Cliff ends his column with this……. 

When I saw and heard about the many fine cars that threw rods, clutches and rear ends, to name a few, it made me feel good that Silver Anne made the 775 miles and the only problem was a leaky manifold gasket.