Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

Auto Design & Fashion Design

Fashion design is greatly influenced by the automobile and the automobile has been greatly influenced by fashion design. One of the greatest designers was Raymond Loewy, 1893 – 1987, who is called the “Father of Design” it was his influence that started the American Institute of Industrial Design, and whose influence is still felt today with a strong presence on the international scene in the Loewy Group.

Raymond Loewy came to this country from France, and with a young family to support, started out as a window dresser for many of the top stores in New York City. From that point he started illustrating clothing, and many of his fashions made top magazines such as Vogue.

You have seen his designs, many of which are still present today such as the Shell logo. This design became so well recognized that Shell eventually removed its name from the logo. Another very recognizable design is the Lucky Strike packaging along with the Greyhound Bus, S-1 locomotive, Exxon logo, Coca-Cola bottle and many household utensils such as toasters and the Coldspot refrigerator that he designed for Sears Roebuck. He also designed the interior of Air Force One for President Kennedy, and was the designer for the interiors of Saturn I and Saturn V and Skylab. Things we all take for granted today.

Of course, my very favorite design was the Studebaker Avanti. This four-seater sports coupe went from design to production in 18 months and was meant to compete with the Corvette and to help save a dying auto producer. The design was way ahead of anything the other producers were doing, but the price was a little more than the average person’s wages could support, and was only produced for two years 1963 and 1964 under the Studebaker name.

So the next time you pick up a fashion magazine, stop and think that just maybe that illustrator may have a wonderful career designing other things that make our life easier and beautiful.

The Martin Wasp – Motoring Moment

1925 Wasp Touring CarDo you ever bet? Do you ever win? If you bet that the Martin Wasp was the only automobile ever produced in Vermont you might win – or lose.

Yes the Wasp was produced in Bennington, Vermont for a number of years by Karl Martin. But – there was also the Lane and Daley Steam vehicles produced in Barre, and this was much earlier (1901 and 1902).

The Wasp Was the Barre vehicle and automobile? Do we count it as one? The pictures I have seen of the vehicle show it transporting people and the info on the back says “as fast as 15 miles per hour”.

The last time the writer of this bet stood up for only the Wasp. And agreed to lose when presented with the Lane and Daley photo and info.

This lead to a more complete investigation of what might have been made in Vermont anyway. Early Vermont registration data for “automobiles” shows at least a dozen registrations prior to 1020 with unrecognizable names.

These turn out to be cars built by “enthusiasts” like us for their own personal use. Further research has turned up some data on a couple of these…

There was a guy in Poultney who build a car he registered as a Mahana. It was 1910 and the car was 16 horsepower and 4 wheel drive. He mentions that it worked well in the farm fields as well as going to town.

Then there was the Gore in Brattleboro, steam, in 1837. It ran well for years unlike its successor Al Gore. Or the Hooker in St Johnsbury, the Archer in Rutland and the Spear in Windsor.

Who says that Vermont didn’t have “enthusiasts” early on? They made their own fun. Oh and be careful what you bet on!

You can see a Wasp at the Bennington Museum. More info by phone at: 802-447-1571 or online at: www.benningtonmuseum.com

Enthusiast of the Month – Lloyd Davis

You may have noticed that rewards are not always immediately following performance just as punishments don’t necessarily happen right after crimes. It would be nice, however, to think that in the long run we all got at least what we deserve. Some of our “Big E” awards are a little late in coming but this month’s award is undisputedly deserved.

Lloyd Perkins Davis gets a BIG E for his 50 years with the VAE. Years ago some wag said that the L.P. in Lloyd P. Davis was for “long playing” (it might have been Bob Jones). Lloyd has been long playing, in its best sense, with our car club.

His own interests are wide and included in his personal collection are a Chalmers Detroit, Franklin, Ford T, a Packard and a very unusual Davis car. Like many members he probably also has a secret stash hidden away somewhere. As a charter member Lloyd has had a long and significant career with us.

He has held office, organized meets, helped us plan and has brought us help and experiences from some of his other affiliations: The Franklin Club (where he is an active and respected member) and the AUHV (the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley). The latter were a lot of help to the VAE in its early years and recently we have tried to involve them in our activities once again.

It was Lloyd that really helped got us going with our first “film night” in years last February and it was from his personal collection of old film that we got another look at Oliver and Hardy and other assorted mechanical mayhem from the silent film era. Many an early VAE meet came out of Lloyd’s archives of film and many a member came and stayed with the VAE because of his interests and example.

We don’t see Lloyd at as many meets as we used to… Rutland is quite a commute. But our older members know that Lloyd is just a call away for help and advice. We know that he will turn up, often a little late because of “chores”. We recommend that newer members get to know Lloyd. No one has more old car “enthusiasm” and Lloyd’s sense of humor makes any conversation a lot of fun.

Just ask him about the dog, the flat tire and the jack; all in greater Hardwick some years back… an adventure with Lloyd Davis Commentary. Lloyd could also tell you all about the Bomoseen Auto Museum, now closed and gone, as he was its advisor. Or some Glidden tours… or almost anything else.

Thanks Lloyd for our first 50 years of help and friendship.

We’re looking for many more. Here is a great BIG E for you.

Enthusiast of the Month – Avery Hall

Adding to our roster of Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts, this month the “BIG E” goes to someone who is already a “Hall” of Famer… R. Avery Hall. When you stop and think about it for a minute there are few who have devoted as much time and effort to the VAE as Avery. In addition to his club contributions, he has also managed to pretty well preserve several worthy vehicles.

His work is an inspiration for us all and having a national prizewinner at many of our meets is a big plus for members, guests and the hobby. None of this happened overnight. R. Avery (think “our” Avery) has had the bug for some time. Although he now tends to deny it, there is evidence in the 40th anniversary publication of an early interest… Avery appears in print in a Model A Roadster.

He denies a Ford-inspired old car career but we know better… Ford has always outsold Packard, Avery and look what a used Model A has done for you! This writer remembers Avery first attending VAE meets in 1954 at the Lincoln Inn in Essex Junction… often in the inspiring company of John (Hawkeye before Alan Alda) Hawkinson. Avery had a military crew cut, wore a black sweater and smoked a curved-stem pipe. Sort of a cross between Marlon Brando and Albert Einstein. John Hawkinson was revered as an auto guru and drove the cars to prove it. Avery was his quiet and wise sidekick. Time has confirmed the wise part. I wonder what happened to the quiet?

Avery grew up in the Charlotte / Burlington area and has long-term connections here. As a younger enthusiast he drove his “old car” as daily transportation. I remember running across Avery in the ’28 Packard sedan on a back road somewhere in south-central Chittenden county as he was transporting folding metal chairs… the Packard was stuffed with them… off to a church supper or wake somewhere. Always the organized and helping volunteer.

As I saw more of Avery, and Mahlon Teachout joined our car interest group, we had some interesting times together. Avery told us one time about moving back to Vermont with the family vehicle (think old Packard). The weather was very warm and Avery had questionable tires. Always the engineer, Avery told us that out on the highway in the daytime (it was cooler at night but then there was the issue of headlights), he always tried to drive so as to keep at least 2 of the tires on the white line.

He reasoned that the highway temperature would be lower on the reflective white line and that would be easier on the tires. Fortunately for all involved he made it back and has stayed to become VAE President, Board Chairman, Director and Meet Co-chair of major events at Essex and Shelburne.

Avery has raised money, written advertising, represented us to the media, judged, and attended hundreds of meetings. In odd moments he has operated Avery’s Garage, taken driving courses, attended technical schools for engine rebuilding, and produced some really nice restorations.

He has an additional interest in old boats and I saw him looking with considerable interest at an old airplane at Basin Harbor awhile back… and then there are sports cars. We have many great Enthusiasts in our VAE but few have proved it like “Our” Avery. A big collective thank you comes with this “BIG E” award.

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.

The Seldon Patent – Motoring Moments

Selden Motor Vehicle Company
In 1877, a lawyer named George Baldwin Selden (1846-1923) of Rochester, NY designed a “road engine” that would be powered by an internal combustion gasoline engine. A patent (number 549,160) for the engine was applied for in 1879. Due to legal technicalities, the actual issuing of this patent was delayed until 1895. History claims Selden kept that patent pending until more internal combustion engines were on the road. During this delay, a number of automobiles companies were already using the engine design.

The Selden patent specifically covered the use of an internal-combustion engine for the sole purpose of propelling a vehicle. The patent eventually wound up in the hands of the Electric Vehicle Company of Hartford, Connecticut. In 1900 this electric car company had started producing gasoline-powered cars with Selden’s engine patent. They agreed to pay Selden $10,000 for the rights of the patent and a royalty for every car based on his design.

To protect this patent, the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM) was formed. Several major manufacturers joined this group including Cadillac, Winton, Packard, Locomobile, Knox, and Peerless.

Henry Ford initially applied for membership, but ALAM rejected his application. The Electric Vehicle Company attempted to control all gasoline car manufacturers and did so for a few years while the case went through court. Due to the delay in issuing the patent, the original rights did not expire until 1912.

Several leading automobile companies took licenses under the patent, but others, led by Henry Ford, refused to do so. If you own a car made in the early 1900s, you may find a small brass plaque somewhere near the engine that reads “Manufactured Under Selden Patent.”

You will not find this plaque on any Fords. The case against Ford and other auto manufacturers dragged through court from 1903 to 1911. Few people had heard of Henry Ford, but the exposure the nine-year trial gave him helped sell his Model T. A final decision ruled that Selden’s patent was not being infringed upon because it was valid only for an automobile driven by a Brayton-type engine of the specific type described in the patent.

Selden had yet to build a car aside from his 1877 prototype model. While going through the courts, he did manage to produce two vehicles. The first car was put together by Selden in Rochester, NY. A second car was assembled in Hartford by the Electric Vehicle Company. These two cars currently exist. The Rochester vehicle can be seen at the Henry Ford Museum and the Hartford car is on display at the Connecticut State Library.

The Selden Motor Vehicle Company was officially formed in 1906 after taking over the Buffalo Gasoline Motor Company. “Made By The Father Of Them All” was the company’s advertising slogan. The first Selden vehicle was seen on the road in June of 1907. This four-cylinder car sold for between $2,000 and $2,500. Today, a nice looking Selden has a value of $25,000.

In 1911, Selden received the news that his patent was declared unenforceable. His factory also had a major fire that summer. In the fall of 1911 the company was reorganized with Frederick Law, who had designed the Columbia gas car for the Electric Motor Company, on board as the new Selden designer.

Selden cars had a small following and the company did well producing 850 cars in 1908; 1,216 in 1909; 1,417 in 1910; 1,628 in 1911; 1,211 in 1912; 873 in 1813 and 229 in 1914. The last Seldens were built in 1914. Seldens came in Touring, Runabout, Roadster and Limousine models. All cars were powered by a four-cylinder 30 to 40 horsepower engine

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.

Enthusiast of the Month – Willis Spaulding

This month’s big “E” award goes to Willis Spaulding with kudos to wife and grandmother Shirley. Grandson Matt is also a budding Vermont Auto Enthusiast, obviously mentored by Willis. This writer tricked Willis into providing some personal history for our pending 50th Anniversary Book… it appears below in his own words. Thanks Willis.

“I learned to drive on the farm in a Model T. I have always been a “car lover”. I learned of a local car club and decided to go to a get-together. I was surprised at the number of members that I knew. We, my wife and I, joined VAE in the early fifties, probably 1954. We decided that we needed an old car. Pev Peake had a 1926 Studebaker Standard Six Coach for sale. Our regular car was a Studebaker so it seemed like a good choice.

Our meets were very informal picnics, tailgate parties, etc. We saw pictures and films from our prior meets. One car that I couldn’t get out of my mind was Jim McLaughlin’s 1930 Studebaker Tourer. I asked Jim about selling it but it wasn’t for sale. About this time, Cena Galbraith and I became editors for Wheel Tracks. It was then a 1 page mimeographed copy. We put it out quite regularly. It was printed at no expense! How? At this point and time our club was so poor that we had to take up a collection to have enough money to mail the next meeting notice and copy of the newsletter.

Jim McLaughlin called me out of the blue and said that for X amount of dollars I could have the touring car. We were able to arrange a loan/gift from my parents to finance the car. They were not convinced that it was a great bargain but love is strong. Our family had a number of great times in this car. Most car lovers have to have or think they have to have more than one car. I went with friends to buy literature (shop manuals, etc) and ended up buying the car, another 1930 Studebaker sedan.

Dale Lake had a 1932 Studebaker Convertible Coupe that I had been admiring for some time. Dale said that he planned to restore it. Dale had many cars and was forced to liquidate due to new state laws relative to unfenced cars. He would sell me the convertible but I would also have to take a 1930 Studebaker sedan. A deal was arranged and I had more vehicles. When I towed the convertible home with a 1960 Studebaker Lark Wagon my kids comment was “Mama, did you let him pay money for that?”

We restored the convertible and were awarded the President’s trophy by President Alden Champan. I was honored to be the President of VAE for 1965. We have met many great people, made some great friends and have had many great times. My grandson Matt and I have spent the last few years restoring the 1930 Tourer to show status. We have been fortunate to win awards in VAE and SDC shows. Matthew is now a member of VAE and enjoys going to the meets and judging with me.”

Willis has only touched the surface of his enthusiasm with the above… The year he restored his convertible coupe he tore the end off the porch of his lovely Essex Junction home so as to be able to drive the car into the enclosed porch for winter restoration… and Shirley let him do it. And I can’t resist mentioning that some day when we are all telling stories, Willis, Pev Peake, and I could give you some fascinating history of the first “old car” that Willis mentions, the Studebaker coach. Willis… it’s been a great 49 years with your enthusiasm helping the club. We are counting on you, Shirley and Matt for many more.

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 50s (Part II)

Near the end of the decade there were two entirely different silhouettes. Dior designed the “Sack” dress, which later became the chemise, a no-waisted dress that was short and narrow at the hem. In 1958 Yves Saint Laurent produced the second, the trapeze dress, with narrow shoulders, no waist and a triangle shape.

In 1955 Roger Vivier, working with Dior, designed the stiletto heel, a much higher and slimmer look in high heels. The very slim high heel consisted of metal reinforcement and a very pointed toe. Fantastic designs appeared with embroidery, feathers, lace, beading, rhinestones, satin and even fur.

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield perpetuated this look, along the with eye shadow, penciled eyebrows and short haircuts. Many women wore half hats with their suits and cocktail outfits. Short veils on flowered hats and novelty beach hats were popular, as were turbans.

Handbags consisted of the Wilardy Lucite box, clutch bags were made of a variety of fabrics including alligator, lizard and snakeskin. Novelty designed included the three-dimensional straw animals and fish.

Menswear took on a conservative look. The “Mr. T” silhouette with narrow lapels and soft construction. Men chose gray or blue flannel suits worn with pinpoint collared shirts with narrow small-knotted stripe or solid ties. The all Dacron or rayon suit appeared and was worn year round. Hats had tapered crowns and narrow brims.

For the casual look, the fifties man had many choices. The Eisenhower jacket was a waist-length blouse styled jacket with slant pockets, zipper closure in many color variations. Madras sport jackets & polo shirts were popular as were Bermuda shorts in native prints. Colorful tapered resort slacks, Hawaiian shirts and the Ivy League look with button down collared shirts in a variety of fabrics and colors became very fashionable.

For the first time the style conscious American teenager had fashions designed especially for them. Rock N Roll star Elvis Presley and actor James Dean influenced teen fads from haircuts, to suede shoes and felt skirts.

Girls wore sweaters buttoned backwards and accented them with costume jewelry scatter pins. Cinch belts, bobbi socks, cuffed jeans and hair set in rollers. Boys wore pink shirts, khaki pants, leather jackets and greased hair. Beaches, drive-in movies and soda fountains were the new centers for teenage activity. The fifties led the way to the upcoming “youth explosion” of the sixties.

Are you ready? The Shelburne Fashion Show is just weeks away, and I am hoping to have an even bigger venue than last year. What a wonderful job you all did! Got a friend with an old car? Invite them to not only participate in the car show but also in the fashion show. We have a lot of fun and the best reward is seeing all the smiles.

(Missed Part I? Read it here…)