Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

Enthusiast of the Month – Dale Lake

Mr. Buick, before Bob Jones saw the light and stopped restoring Model T Fords, was Dale Lake. Dale lived in the house he was born in on a rural road in Ripton. I suspect Pev Peake got him involved formally with the “old car people” but Dale’s interest had always been there.

Dale gets this month’s “BIG E” award, again, after his death. Many of us remember Dale, as does Bill Billado in the following recollection…

“Dale Lake had collected a whole lot of cars and parts and it was Dale that came up with what I needed to put my 1935 Buick 69-C back on the road. This car gained its collector car status at Dale’s in the mid-fifties and eventually found its way to St. Albans in the hands of two other early icons: Gael Boardman and Lanny McHall.
Dale provided the parts and also teased me with his extensive collection of “old iron”, none of which was for sale at that time.

As time passed, things changed in Dale’s remote neighborhood. Folks from “down-country” started buying up parcels of the beautiful acreage and when in sufficient numbers, they decided that they were not impressed with Mr. Lake’s hobby interests, so the battle began! As you can surmise, Dale was not the victor in this legal scrap.

It was at a VAE Meet at the Lincoln Inn where Dale made a tearful plea for the membership to “come and get ‘em” before the crusher deadline arrived. Well, that summer consisted of a season-long VAE hallmark event. Every single weekend, in good weather and bad, the gang was there, competing and negotiating for “who got what”. Among the regulars that I can recall were Tom Beebe, Larry Johnson, Doug Kelly, Roy Martin, Kip Matthews, Tom McHugh, Rod Rice, Gardiner Spencer, Ray Unsworth, Al Ward, Ed Welch, Clark Wright and myself. A lot of man hours were invested, but we got the job done and many treasures were spared the axe.

Anyone who visited Dale’s old iron mecca understood that it was an all day event. He had many a yarn to spin and plenty of sage advice on how to keep our cars in tip-top condition. On one such visit Dale admonished that if one ever had occasion to do a motor job on an Isotta Fraschini, one should seriously consider flipping the car onto its roof somehow, because that would afford the easiest access to the “innards”. He swore he’d done it from the bottom up and it worked real slick.

Although Dale was cordial to all who came to see him, he would always step outside as you approached, never allowing anyone into the house where he lived with his very elderly mother. You can imagine our surprise when during one of the last visits to Ripton, Dale invited our small group of “regulars” into his home. We all looked at each other with expressions of amazement and disbelief… We had finally arrived.“

Dale was Vice President and VAE President in 1959. He made almost all the meets in his only transportation, “an old car”. His “Well, you know…” preceded some of the most interesting and entertaining automobile comments I ever heard. He was a great guy and a 14-carat Enthusiast.

The 50s (Part I)

After the war, women left their wartime factory jobs and returned to the role of homemaker. Families thrived in the suburbs with station wagons, picture windows, backyard, casseroles and Emily Post. Donna Reed was the perfect picture of the happy housewife dressed in the standard daytime shirtwaist with full circle skirt, and belted waist.

A fancy apron was added to wear at home in the kitchen. Of course, she never left the house without the short white gloves, flowered hat perched on the back of the head and suitable handbag.

Taffeta strapless ball gowns, many in black, with full skirts and wide-collared evening coats, extravagant cocktail dresses in lush colors, fabrics and accessories, were worn for evening wear, along with elbow length gloves and coordinating hats. Mink stoles, cashmere sweaters with fur collars, and jeweled embroidery were the coordinating features.

Chanel returned to designing with her signature cardigan suit and low sling-back shoes. Skirts were mid-calf and pleated at the waist to give fullness. Pucci designed silk scarves, dresses, blouses and stretch bathing suits in bold patterns of purple, pink and crimson.

Poodles were top dog, and appeared on skirts and jewelry. Costume pearls were worn as every day jewelry. Rhinestone-studded sun glasses were the crowning touch to any outfit.

Toreador or Capri pans worn with appliquéd sweaters and ballet slippers were the mainstay of the casual outfit. Circle skirts were made in felt with appliqués of everything from poodles to plants and lobsters.

(Read more in Part II)

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.

Enthusiast of the Month – The Saxbys

In this, our 50th year, the VAE is recognizing people, past and present, who have really exemplified our name – Enthusiast. In recent months we have cheered people, both living and dead, but this month our award goes to a couple who we have lost track of completely.

It is our loss, as Dr. Robert and Marion Saxby were super Vermont Auto Enthusiasts. In our early years, from their home on Brooks Avenue in Burlington, they were a steady force: keeping our records, arranging meetings and holding us on track.

With a young family of their own and all the pressures of a young doctor, the Saxby’s really helped us when they might have been honestly excused from such efforts.

Marion was club secretary for a number of years and Bob lent stability to the Board of Directors. Later the family moved to the spacious Beeman house on High Street in St. Albans, with its grand carriage house. Having this neat space, they bought (from Peveril Peake) their outstanding ‘33 Lincoln Double Windshield True Dual Cowl Phaeton.

It was a beautiful and quite original 12-cylinder Lincoln of real classic status. They deserved the car and we all enjoyed it at meets. We lost track of the Saxbys when they moved to upstate NY some years ago. There was a rumor that the Lincoln had been sold… we hope to another good home.

But most of all, we want to thank them more properly than we did when they were here with us… to do so, we award Bob and Marion Saxby a Great Big E. Thanks for everything you did for all us Enthusiasts.

Where Is Your Gasoline Coming From?

Are you buying gasoline from the Middle East? The Saudis are boycotting American goods right now so perhaps we should return the favor.

Every time you fill up the car, you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia. Just buy from gas companies that don’t import their oil from the Saudis.

Major companies that DO import Middle Eastern oil:

Shell, Chevron/Texaco, Exxon / Mobil, Marathon / Speedway, Amoco

Major companies that DO NOT import Middle Eastern oil:

Citgo, Sunoco, Conoco, Sinclair, BP/Phillips, Hess

Enthusiast of the Month – Peveril Peake

In keeping with our interest in identifying some of the most enthusiastic VAE member over the 50 year history of our club, it’s with that same enthusiasm that this month we recognize Peveril F. Peake.

Older members will remember Pev as a charter member and a super supporter of all our early activities. His picture appears all through our 40th year book, in a wide variety of cars over many years of events.

We could probably have a meet, or maybe a series of them, just to get together to tell Pev Peake stories. He even told a few to early Wheel Tracks editors… but the best ones are the ones you get while on an old car hunt with Pev himself.

Pev has lived and breathed old cars since birth and has probably owned over one thousand cars personally. He can discuss in detail the molding differences between models and years of any make that caught his interest… and that was most of them. Best, for the VAE, however, was his regular attendance at meets with his new “find”.

He had a nose for cars and would produce one great original condition car after another. Then, not only would he share his new prize by giving you a ride or letting you drive around the block… often he’d sell you the “last month’s” car. In this way Pev was a regular supermarket for us poorer hunters.

Even today when you look around at cars owned by club members, there are still quite a few that have those Peake transferable license plate traces and that famous “Peake Quick Restoration”.

Pev used to joke that a Peak restoration (usually on a really good original car) was to polish the dash, the left side of the hood and the top of the left front fender. Very satisfying for the operator… and he was one of the best operators we know.

Thanks, Pev, for being an early, strong and dependable enthusiast. Thanks for saving untold cars from worse fates… and thanks for your enthusiastic sharing. You brought many club members into the VAE and you will always be a part of our club’s success.

Auto Safety Through The Years

1920s Cadillac is the first car with safety glass windows as standard equipment. First electric windshield wiper introduced.

1930s Sun visors and electric turn signals were introduced on most models.

1940s Buick introduces front/rear directional signaling with self-canceling switch.

1950s Safety belts become optional equipment in some vehicles

1960s Federal law mandates front safety belts and head restraints in all passenger cars, and establishes crashworthiness standards for cars.

1970s Chrysler produces an early version of antilock brakes. GM produces first airbag. Federal law mandates front bumpers meet 5 mpg crash standard.

1980s Antilock brakes become widely available in passenger cars. First seat-belt use law enacted in NY. All 50 states pass laws requiring use of child safety seats.

1990s Dual airbags become standard equipment in all passenger cars, side-impact airbags are introduced. Daytime running lights are offered on some US cars. Better head restraints are introduced.

What’s Next? For more safety info visit, www.libertymutualinsurance.com

The Junk Yard

In the early 1940s a junkyard which included all sorts of very old vehicles and eventually comprised both sides of the street where I lived (about ¼ mile from my home located in the city of St. Albans) was established by the Shapiro Brothers.

This yard was formed as a source for their used parts store located on Federal Street. If there was anything in my life that started me down that one-way road to a deep affection for old vehicles, it must have been Shapiro’s Junk Yard. It was a virtual Disney World for a “junkie” like me.

Through my formative years, and despite the best attempts of the Shapiros and the pleas of my parents, a siren song and musty smell of those old vehicles and fascinating piles of junk drew me into that playground of obsolete and rusty “toys”.

I soon learned the skills of running at full speed among the car bodies and piles of iron as I eluded the Shapiros who were in full pursuit.

Ah, it was wonderful! Eventually I did grown up and became pretty good friends with the brothers, and of course, after purchasing my first car, a 1938 Pontiac, used the yard frequently to keep my car on the road.

The yard lasted into the early 70s, and even though the brothers (there were three) are gone, as I write this I can look out of my kitchen window in the same house where I lived as a child and see those fields straddling Aldis Street. Both are still void of any structures, but with just a little imagination I can see my “playground” in all its glory.

Enthusiast of the Month – The Jones Family

I’m sure that all VAE members are enthusiastic about our hobby. In this, our 50th year, there may even be more enthusiasm than usual and this is great.

When we paid our dues and signed up we joined the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts and here we are. Some of our members have really radiated that enthusiasm over their memberships and we are going to make some “Big E” awards.

There are many many deserving people but these “Big E”s are going to some folks who have been at it awhile, have served in varied capacities, have inspired others, and have been responsible for milestones in our 50 year history.

February’s “Enthusiast” Award goes to the Jones Family. This 3-generation family has been with us from the start and has always come through. Walter and Hazel Jones of Morrisville had the interest, the cars, and they had Bob.

Through their patience and generosity many younger members got off to a good start in our hobby and Bob speaks for himself… he always did, anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

Bob’s Wheel Tracks articles are collectible, his car knowledge outstanding, and his contributions to the club unending. Twice President and always active, he taught us how to judge and how to get your own car “judge-able”.