Clarence's Car Journal (2009)
Comments on living with cars and/or anything else with wheels.
Clarence Young Autohobby Homepage Clarence's Car Journal Homepage
December 25, 2009
I sure was surprised this morning. Thanks for the t-shirt which was too big and the 1949 Tonka dump truck which was too small. Santa, I know this could not have been your fault, so please tell those elves to get it straight next year! Thanks anyhow.
P.S. Do you know my friend David Crowe?
The Year's Wrap-Up at CCJ
12/15/09...Hindsight on 2009 as it passes into the history books.
Re: Tough Times
I don't know anyone who hasn't been touched by the current economic situation which means that I don't know George Soros. One night last month around 11 PM I drove through my hometown, Weaverville, and noticed something eerily reminiscent of long ago. There was not a single car parked on Main Street nor were there any cars moving on the street. It reminded me of the late forties and early fifties--in other words, not much economic activity. I thought to myself, "So this is what a recession-depression looks like." I say this over and over as I see empty storefronts in strip malls and factories with empty parking lots. I saw very few car carriers with new cars on them this year. A lot of people will be ringing out 2009 with great enthusiasm. Nevertheless, in every crisis there are opportunities. In my own situation I spend a lot of time thinking of new ways to do things.
We hear a lot of talk about creating new jobs. That might be incorrect terminology. I have numerous jobs, already created, needing to be done yesterday, but what I lack is the capital to fund them. Our government is prolonging all this misery by increasing taxes and regulations thus reducing available capital to get things going again. Until the government reduces taxes and burdensome regulations, the acquisition of capital is not going to be easy. I plan to work longer, harder, smarter for the rest of my life.
Re: Spring Cleaning
I promised a tribute to Pontiac. It didn't happen in 2009 but hopefully sometime in 2010 it will. Your patience is appreciated.
Re: Good Riddance
In this one I concluded, "Wouldn't it be nice if license plates could now be color-coordinated?"
Who knew? Texas just released a bunch of license plate designs for vanity plates with COLOR choices!
A private company is doing this for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
Wouldn't either one of these look good on my black 88 Saab 900 Turbo? Too bad I don't live in Texas.
Re: Walter Mitty Named CEO of GM
In this one I outlined the salvation of GM. GM has concluded that I was totally wrong. They have dropped the Pontiac and Saturn brands and are close to killing Saab. They are taking all references to "GM" off their current products as they feel that people will associate "GM" with the car company that went bankrupt. Most people don't know a GM brand when they see one. I will, however, grant that "GM" has come to be known as Government Motors. Time will tell. Now if GM could only keep upper management for more than a week or two, they might get somewhere.
Re: When Did It Come Out?
New introduction dates have been added. Check out the links in that entry. The neatest thing I stumbled upon in this regard is that my conceptions about Metropolitan branding were not correct. This info came as a result of searching for introduction dates. The Metropolitan officially came out in March of 1954, very close to the merger of Hudson and Nash. As a result the little "Nash" Metropolitan was also sold in Hudson dealerships that year and some were titled as Hudsons. This continued to the end of the 1956 model year. In 1957 the Metropolitan was its own brand. There is no end to the joyful learning experience in this hobby.
My Autohobby customers dropped the ball on this one. Yeah, I know. Blame the customers. I knew nothing about Twitter and didn't do a good sell on it. Truth is, I wasn't so sure myself. It turns out, there is way more to it than meets the eye. So what happened? I have two people who follow me on Twitter that have been reading the website for years. It's quite a pleasure to have them aboard. I have several "car people" who follow me. Twitter has also helped me follow my additional interests beyond cars. I get very good local news on it that I would never get otherwise. And in the automotive world it has lead me to many interesting websites and people not likely found through search engines. You can use Twitter as a search engine of a sort. Try searching #cars and of course @autohobby.
I have a personal account on Facebook and am thinking about going rogue. Oops! I mean I might set up a fan page for Autohobby, but I'm not going to do it unless ten people promise to become fans right away. I'm guessing it will happen in 2010.
That pretty much wraps it up for this year. At the end of the year all the material on this page will shift to a 2009 CCJ page thus joining the already archived 2008 page. Expect more ramblings as the new year of 2010 begins. We have survived a tough year and are probably the better for it.
I wish every one of you and yours a happy holiday season and improved prospects for 2010!
Small Treasure Trove Found
12/09/09...During the years 1998-2000, lots of promos were flowing in and out of Autohobby and duly reported here on the website. In a reorganization of the site several years ago this information was "lost" but not forever as the notations have just been found hiding in the caverns of this vast website. Let's archive them here in CCJ.
Fun Acquisitions/Finds 2000
1953 Chevrolets in an original case. I never really expected to find one of these again, but recently in purchasing a GM collection, there was just such a find. I am not certain that this container originally contained 53 Chevrolets. It might be a shipping container for Chevrolet models as late as 1956. No shipping dates remain on the box. These cars originally were sealed in cellophane and shipped in cubicles as seen in the pictures.
The cars in this grouping were taken out of their cellophane packages long ago and the box was allowed to sit open in storage for years. The cars came out of coal country and you can surely tell this when you examine the photos. The box is missing one top flap and is dirty although I will vacuum it out as best I can. Notice that there is a 51 Chevy, 54 Chevy, 55 Buick and 59 Opel in this case. (Update 12/06/09: The Opel is "lost" in the garage somewhere. I have yet to find a grill for it.)
1960 Ford Starliner in solid red with friction motor and metal chassis. This was the first one of these confirmed to be a dealer promo rather than a retail trade version. It was part of a never previously released estate sale from a Ford dealership. It parallels the metallic green 60 Ford 4-door hardtop friction with metal chassis which is a solid color as well. There is a solid silver 4-door hardtop also.
1957 Plymouth Belvedere 2-door hardtop with Season's Greetings from Ray Anthony printed on the roof. This car was Desert Gold Iridescent over beige. Were there other colors for the Ray Anthony car? Plymouth had an advertising campaign during Christmas of 1956 (might have been '57) that included a tie-in with Ray Anthony and his orchestra. One of the items was this 57 Plymouth promo and possibly a record album of Christmas music by Ray Anthony. Sorry, no picture on this one as I bought it and sold it in the same day. Should have taken my camera!
1965 Buick Wildcat 2-door hardtop in radio format without an interior. Some radio promos are quite common (Ford Thunderbirds abound) but the 65 Buick Wildcat in and of itself is a tough car to find. I never even knew that a radio version existed. Finding cars like this make this hobby great fun.
Fun Acquisitions/Finds of 1999
1954 Plymouth taxi in cheapie form--without windows, the roof sign or rear sign or silver paint on grill.
1959 Desoto Fireflite 4-door hardtop with Desoto promotional advertising stickers. Very few of these exist. Sticker 1: "everything you see...everything you touch...is NEW!" Sticker 2: "Flair-Stream Styling." Sticker 3: "FASHION VOGUE INTERIORS." Sticker 4: "CHOICE OF 2 GREAT ECONOMY ENGINES." Sticker 5: "Sports Swivel Seats." Sticker 6: "Level-Cruise Ride." Sticker 7: "Drive it Today." This promo is featured in the Museum.
This 1964 Pontiac dealer display case was designed to display 15 promos. This one was probably used in the years prior to 1964 as well as that year. All that had to be done to update it was to insert a specially designed cardboard flyer into one of the cubicles. This one was obviously last used in 1964. The upper right cubicle has a moderate dent in it and that may explain why it's use was discontinued. The frame of this unit matches the frames that contained dealer placards of individual Pontiac cars. These items don't come along very often. Pictures can be found in the Museum.
1957-60 Jeep FC-170 US. Mail version. This item is not a common piece and finding one was not of any great note; however, this specific one taught me something new and pointed out something very rare. This one had a snowplow! In a flash it dawned upon me why all those Jeeps that I have had in years past had a hole in the center of the front bumper. I suspect they all had snowplows. The one just found did not have any method of fastening the snowplow to the truck. My guess is that the snowplow was easily lost. The challenge then becomes finding one of these with the plow! One other point with this one is that it has dual wheels on the back. I have never seen this but on one other. Was it contrived or an option? The more you learn, the more questions you have.
1959 Imperial Crown 2-door hardtop coupe, not a rare car, except when found as a dealer car as opposed to a retail trade version. This one was a factory painted car, which was the primary tip off. The retail trade cars were clear coated but not painted as this one was. In fact, this is the only the second 59 Imperial dealer car I have ever seen! Neat find.
1955 Desoto Fireflite 4-door sedan in tri-colors. This is a mid-year promo as the chassis features neither Ideal Models nor Johan logos. Sometime in late 1954 or early 1955 Johan, formerly known as Ideal Models, was persuaded by the friendly lawyers of Ideal Toy Corporation to desist from using the Ideal Models name. Anyway, it is speculated that Desoto added tri-color schemes as a spring selling incentive. One very special Desoto was the Coronado which came as a tri-color in various combinations of Surf White, Black and Coronado Aqua. There is probably a promotional version of it less the Coronado badges. The promo pictured is Lexington Green over Cove Green with black sidespear. Apparently the tops were painted separately from the sides. It is possible with this promo that the Johan painter mistakenly created a tri-color by assuming that the top was black and therefore painted the sides black.
1958 Edsel box. Yes, a box. These cars came in four different boxes. The retail trade versions came in a generic two-color box. The dealer cars came in plain white boxes, colorful green and white boxes and now the latest find: a colorful green and white box as just listed but with a shiny sticker added. This could have been a dealer add-on. A picture can be found in the Museum.
1962 1963 1964 Ford...1/25th scale dealership made of cardboard. This item measures 17 x 10 inches when assembled. This one has never been assembled. The height is close to 7 inches. It features a one-car showroom and a three-bay service area. A rooftop sign is included. The signage of this item determines the years of possible usage. I have never seen another one of these although I have seen other cardboard dealer promotional dealerships. (Unfortunately I somehow deleted the pictures for this one.)
Just found a 62 Plymouth Sports Fury with printing on the top that might lead one to believe that this car was a factory promo instead of a dealer promo. The printing reads, "QUALITY, DEPENDABILITY AND HIGH FASHION FOR YOUR FLEET." This promo may have been sent to dealers to give to their fleet customers or it may have been a direct giveaway from Chrysler Corporation to fleet owners. It may have been distributed both ways. At any rate it is not a common piece.
In 1958 Ford introduced the four-seater Thunderbird somewhat in the middle of the model year. Mid-year promos are not common. Ford did authorize a promo version of the Thunderbird hardtop only. I recently found one of these which I think is the only one I have ever seen in black with white seat inserts. The color of this car makes it rare also as solid black was not an important color for car dealers to feature in displays etc. There are abundant retail trade versions of the 58 Thunderbird and likely some in black but the interiors feature gold seat accents instead of the white.
Fun Acquisitions/Finds 1998
1959 Pontiac Bonneville coupe with "Wide Track Demonstrator." Only a handful have ever been found. The chassis is different from the 1960 version which is not rare. I have physical pictures somewhere and will post them in the Museum when I do.
1961 Oldsmobile Bing Crosby Golf Tournament car. First good one I'd ever owned. There is about a 15-year consecutive run of these Oldsmobiles--not sure what year it started or finished.
1953 Ford convertible Indy Pace Car without the decals--an oddity.
1951 Henry J bank. See The Pleasure of Collecting for more info and a picture.
1968 Chevrolet metallic gold pickup truck--50th anniversary of Chevy trucks. Never knew it existed until I found this one.
December 02, 2009
Thanks for the t-shirt last year. I liked it so much that I am still wearing it.
All my entire life I have been wanting a dump truck. I loved the Buddy L wrecker truck and the Nylint Hough Payloader you brought me when I was a kid, but this time I want a real dump truck. I am sending you a picture of a big red one that I really, really want.
This truck is very heavy and might not fit in your sleigh. If that happens, I am sending a picture of my second choice. It's white and is smaller and should fit no problem in your sleigh.
Oh, and I would really like another t-shirt, just make it a little smaller this time.
I have tried to be very good this year.
Your friend forever,
Great Time With ACME
11/18/09...Last weekend Autohobby set up shop at Smyrna Community Center near Atlanta, GA. Model car shows are just like people. They are all different. Atlanta Car Model Enthusiasts (ACME) provided the venue. They always do a good job and their southern hospitality is always first rate.
Lots could be written about the trip down and back but let's just hit the show highlights.
A somewhat familiar face got my attention at the show with a reminder that he had purchased a less-than-perfect 69 Cadillac Coupe de Ville from my tables at the Clemmons show this summer. At that time he told me that he was going to customize the Caddy. Actually, I admit that I hadn't thought much about it in the meantime. He invited me to take a look at the results in the "customs" section of the model car contest. I caught a break shortly thereafter and searched it out. I was amazed how nice this car turned out with first-rate craftsmanship. Model Cars Magazine liked it well enough to seek it out for photos. Caddy photo is a thumbnail.
Later on I was visited by a SC car dealer whom I had not seen in a few years. Gary is a car guy and now only trades in collectible cars. Years ago he was almost exclusively Mopar but now he has a couple of AMC cars in premium condition for sale. Well, they are in the Mopar family. Gary also collects dealer promo cars and doesn't sell or trade them the way he does "real" cars. However, a few months back in order to get some promos that he wanted, he purchased a case lot of 1974 Mopars. He sold me three of these which were duplicates for his collection. They will be offered soon here at Autohobby. No show is a success without taking something home.
Towards the end of the show something really special happened. Daryl P. and his son Alec visited the Autohobby vendor tables. Alec is a car guy just like his dad and knows his cars. We chatted a bit and they moved on to another table. I must say that I was touched by these two. Their visit reminded me tremendously of the days when I was a kid tagging along with my car-guy dad. It gave me a lump in my throat and almost a tear in my eye. I watched for them to come back my way and they did. I asked if I could trade a car for a picture. The picture shown here is Alec looking at his "new" original issue 1968 Camaro by MPC. He was shocked to receive it.
It could not have gone to a better home!
A Postcard From The Fair
11/11/09...Well, this item didn't just fall off my desk. It did, however, fall out of a brochure I was readying for web site presentation. When I first saw it, I smiled. "This postcard is just like the one I got when I was a kid."
The Reading Fair (in Berks County, PA) used to be a very big deal back in the 1950's. School closed for it. When the fair was running, absenteeism was very high for about a week. School officials got smart and closed school for Reading Fair Day and everyone came back the next day with stories of the fair.
My memories of the fair are little visual scenes--usually not quite complete nor in a context. Sounds and smells almost define the fair more for me. There were merry-go-rounds, bumper cars, clickety-clankety rides, glass washing machines, animals (big and small) and throngs of people to consume the food, food, food. Cotton candy was the number one junk food for the venue. Cotton candy never did appeal to me, though. It was sticky, gooey, went away before you knew it and felt kinda raspy on the roof of my mouth. Ugh!
Superman was there once. There was a grandstand that faced the dirt raceway and out in the center of the track were various towering poles and platforms where high-wire acts were performed. That's where they put Superman--doing a high-wire act. It was a little hokey even to most of the kids my age. The kids a little older started screaming, "Fly, Superman, fly." I giggled along with my friends but sort of felt sorry for the guy.
I don't remember new cars at the fair, but then it was Mother that herded us around. Pop had to tend shop. The fair generally was held a week or two before most new cars came out. Almost always there was a thrill car show and it was always a hoot--cars running through flaming hoops and rolling over and engaging in comedic mischief. The stunt companies had connections with major car companies and featured only those brands. Some moms and dads probably went home determined to purchase that brand of car because it took so much abuse and still kept running.
But, I digress. There were always displays of interesting and historical things spread around the fair. One year, a special car was there. It was "The Fabulous $100,000 Rolls Royce Sports Car" with round doors. It was in an enclosed trailer with a wooden plank walkway up to it and then out and down the other side. It cost a buck to get in. The sounds of people's feet cobbling up the wooden planks and their hushed tones of near reverence are still with me. The car was roped off but it could be touched and a few people did. I considered it but couldn't do it. "I am not worthy. I am not worthy." On the way out I bought a large post card of this huge monster of an automobile.
WE INTERRUPT THIS RAMBLING DIGRESSION WITH BREAKING NEWS!
Folks, most of the time I do my research. I was just getting ready tell you what the postcard says on the back side. And, I'm still going to do that, but...I did my research. It turns out that this car was a "carney" hoax.* We paid money to see this car which was once owned by King Edward VIII who upon abdicating his throne in 1936 for a married woman, gave up the car. Well, er, except, he didn't. He never owned the car nor ever saw it--unless he went to a "carney."
*To be fair, the promoter-owner probably was convinced that this car was once owed by the famous king.
AND NOW BACK TO Regular Rambling
Anyway, I got a postcard of a rather fabulous car despite its hyped provenance. It is now known as the 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 Jonckheere Coupe. This car has a storied past that is almost worth a chapter in a book and it is a grand automobile. It was rebodied in 1935 by Jonckeere Carrossiers.
Search for it on your favorite search engine and you will get lots of details and perhaps some unanswered questions.
Oh, and one last note. When I first started to pay attention to the information on the back of the postcard I saw it: "Clarence Young Strausstown, Penna." rubber stamped on the card. This WAS the card that I got so very long ago. It wasn't rubber stamped exactly. For the Christmas that followed this particular fair I got a toy printing press and I ran this card right through it. Who would have guessed that a kid, who bought a postcard at a fair fifty-some- years ago, would one day write a story about it? And who could have imagined the medium that would broadcast it to the entire planet?
Addendum: I am downsizing a bit. This item is now for sale. 03/23/13
Halloween Post Mortem
11/05/09...Halloween seemed a lot different this year. More people attended the activist class than were expected given that it was All Hallows Day. Surprisingly, the class included more younger people than anticipated but there was comfortable seating for all the attendees who listened intently to the monotone voices of the presenters. The meeting room, however, was cooler than would have been conjured, in fact cold. I fell asleep anyway, something I almost never do.
The class lasted longer than predicted but no one seemed to mind as most had napped a bit throughout the 9 to 5 session. Finally it ended. I went to my office and found more work to do than I had hoped for or fathomed. At 9:35 pm I managed to leave the office and there was no rain which the weatherman said was 100% eminent. Who expects the weatherman to know anyway?
The weatherman was right, though, as I got into the two-wheel drive Cherokee, the deluge began much to my own surprise. I stopped at Wal-Mart on the way to the cabin and all the parking lot lights were off. Yes, when have you ever seen that? You would expect no big deal out of that kind of situation. It was horrible, wind blowing, driving rain, water drops on the glass, people walking around in dark clothing. I don't think I ran over anyone. Maybe they didn't remove the speed bumps after all like the paper said they were going to do.
Eventually the shopping was done and I was on the road again. The cabin is twenty-three miles away. I did not see one trick or treater the whole trip--unusual, but then the evening's persona was beginning to be everything a Halloween night should be--dark and dreary with a blowing hard, cold rain and surprises. I never saw a Halloween like this ever before and never expect to ever again. It was the 100-years' Halloween.
As I cranked the steering wheel around the sharp curve at the beginning climb near Whisper Mountain something else manifested and it was spectacularly beautiful and amazingly untypical of what you normally see on a highway. The roadway was covered in leaves--totally covered. No road markings were visible. The rain had pasted the leaves, numbering a tad fewer than the national debt, to the magical highway. I drove slowly and enjoyed every moment of this rare occurrence but then driving slowly was required. The roadway had become something supernatural. It seemed to be the stagecoach pathway it once was a century ago. Where was the headless rider? The pumpkin head? We should expect that, no?
Finally the last tight curve appeared and then my paved driveway--fully obscured with leaves. The drive is steeper than most people can easily climb. I took a running go at it and made it nicely up to the gate, stopped, switched the engine off, snicked the hand parking brake to the final notch-up. The Cherokee was in lock-down. I climbed out into sheets of pouring rain, unlocked the gate and then secured it to the dogwood tree. I got back in and considered that likely the wheels would spin a bit and then take hold. True to expectations the wheels did spin but unexpectedly they did not take hold. In fact the Cherokee slipped backwards a bit. What to do? One could expect anything on this wild and crazy night and surely something unimagined would be the result.
The plan conceived was to put the two-door Jeep in neutral and ease it backwards to a point where there was traction. Easy to plan but not easy to execute. I could not comfortably see where to back. I braked and the Jeep skidded and scooted. Then I got off track a bit and tried to correct the path. The Jeep started sliding sideways. It's tough enough steering into a slide forwards but now which way should I steer it going backwards? The rate of speed was thankfully slow as the Jeep was skidding and sliding in lurches. Closer and closer I came to the left-hand ditch. That ditch led to a ravine. I had to get my steering wheel pointed correctly and at the last moment everything came together and I was out of the ditch and sitting in the highway. I let it drop back a bit more. No traffic out here. I put the manual transmission in first and pushed the gas pedal hard. The running go was good and I sallied right up and into the carport. Home free. My cell phone showed 11:59 pm. Whew! Glad to see you, November.
Three 1955 Mercury Short Stories
One...Even though Don, a NAPA road salesman, was a Mopar guy, he somehow wound up with a 1955 Biltmore Blue Mercury Custom 4-door wagon, the one without fake wood. One rainy morning before daylight, around 1960 or so, Don met my dad and me at the car lot. We were off to a NASCAR race and it was all exciting for me including the idea of riding in a Mercury wagon. Unlike most kids, I always thought wagons were special. And my dad enhanced that idea saying that wagons had a better weight distribution and therefore handled better. Also, lots of relatives had wagons so they were just a fact of life. The memories of that Mercury trip are sparse but the one thing I remember is that Don talked about how his Merc always ran better in the rain and my dad agreed. I still don't know if that is true, although my cars always seem to run better in the rain too. And they run better just after being washed or waxed! There are a lot of factors to consider and maybe modern fuel injection changes everything anyway. The Merc wagon was a nice ride. Maybe someday one will find my driveway.
Two...Uncle Ralph was always a perfectionist. He had nice cars. One of them was a Sunglaze 1955 Mercury Monterey two-door hardtop (based on the tall 55-Ford hardtop body). He picked up on the fact that I was good, very good, at cleaning and waxing cars. This was before I could legally drive so arrangements were made for me to be dropped off at the car lot on a holiday thus having the clean up facility all to myself. His Mercury was there waiting for me. I worked all day on this desirable car and felt I had done a job even Uncle Ralph would approve. And, he did, except for one thing. He told me that next time that I should be sure to wax the door jams. Oops. Somehow I never got the second chance.
Three...I used to pass through Erwin, Tennessee for business and family reasons fairly often. On several passes through I admired a 1955 white over black Mercury Montclair two-door hardtop sitting in front of a modest home. Then on one trip through the Monty hardtop was in the yard with a "for sale" sign in the windshield. I stopped and looked it over; drove it around the block. The owner and I struck a deal. I would come back in a few days with the money and a driver. When I got home, I talked a good friend, Paul, into going to Erwin on the weekend and taking delivery of the Mercury (pictured in the article below). Paul arrived early at my place on Saturday morning and I hopped into his 1960 Dodge Seneca. "Go up to the filling station at five corners," I told him. "I'll fill up your gas tank and I'll buy you lunch later on." He looked at me a bit quizzically. After we filled up I told him to turn right and take the on-ramp to the right. He looked at me quizzically again. Then he asked, "How are we going to get to Erwin on this road? It's the wrong way."
I responded, "Well, Paul, this is the only way to get to Erwin, Tennessee, that I know of." He laughed and said, "Oh, now I see, Erwin, Tennessee, not Erwin the local high school district!" Our trip started with a laugh and we had a good day bringing back the Mercury.
How Did They Do It?
With a million stories to tell and very little time to get around to them, how does CCJ choose a subject? Easy. Whatever falls off the cluttered desk is the next story.
Take one 1955 Ford 4-door body shell (shown above) and dress it up in Mercury skin. Then slice the roof off and...
...add one Montclair 2-door hardtop roof.
Develop two new doors (see article below) and you have a very classy, exclusive 4-door sedan.
In the 1950's Mercury was Ford's Oldsmobile. It was "flash" and "go" and something "to be seen in." All the chrome on these cars told the world that not only could you afford a car, you could afford more than just a Ford or Chevy.
Of course, in the case of the Mercury, it was a glorified Ford. Ford sold lots and lots of Fords and no so many Mercurys and even fewer top-line Montclairs. Tooling up a noticeably different car was expensive even in those days. How was it, then, that in 1955 Mercury was able to have exclusively styled four-door sedans, Montclairs, that appeared to be very different from the lower-priced Monterey and Custom sedans?
Here is what FMC did. They married the roof of the 1955 Montclair two-door hardtop (also the roof for the 1955 Ford Crown Victoria) to a four-door body. So far engineering and tooling costs were insignificant. Then Mercury borrowed a Nash design approach--door stampings that went no higher than the window sills. Nash attached lightweight aluminum frames to its doors, which saved lots of money, and one door stamping could be used for both sedans and hardtops. Mercury went a step further by dropping the window sill on these new doors for even more exclusivity. Add-on window frames made an economical difference first for Nash and then for Mercury.
There was another reason that these new exclusive 1955 doors were developed as they were. In 1956 Mercury introduced it's first ever four-door hardtops and those models used the same 1955 Montclair sedan doors, minus the frames of course. The mission of exclusivity was accomplished and at the mere cost of developing two new doors.
Caveat. Just by having a general knowledge of these cars, I have extrapolated all the above. I wonder if the hardtop roof and the sedan roof measure out at the same length. (I think they do.) I also wonder if the frames for the sedan door windows were aluminum like the Nash or if they were steel stampings. If anyone out there has additional refinements for this article, your comments are encouraged.
This article evoked an additional one and it will be coming next time--1955 Mercury Stories.
AutoKnack the ClareVoyant
For the older generations, Johnny Carson was the king of late night TV. One act that he performed was "Carnac the Magnificent." Carnac could place a sealed envelope up to his forehead and instantly know the answer to the question asked therein.
Too bad that the name "car"nac is taken (or maybe not). I have Carnacian skills or you might call them ClareVoyant. I can place an old photograph, which must include an old automobile and at least one person, up to my forehead and then tell the story behind the photo. Since I have a knack for understanding old cars and some people the name must be AutoKnack.
Here goes the first AutoKnack installment. Maybe there will be more someday as more old photos surface.
Helen is younger than she looks in this picture taken in 1939. She was born in 1909 just when the Model T Ford was being introduced to the world. In the spring of 1929 she met Johnny at a speakeasy in Denver. No one lasted on the dance floor longer than Helen and Johnny. Everyone loved Johnny and no one more than Helen. Johnny was a go-getter. He worked incredibly hard and he played harder. He had more energy than anyone could imagine. He drove a 1928 Ford Model A roadster and was a man "going somewhere."
Helen and Johnny married on Labor Day, 1929. The DOW set an all-time high the next day--a mark not to be seen again until 1954. This marriage started with great expectations--a man and a woman with the energy to conquer the world.
And here she sits tired and almost worn out leaning on her tennis racket. They drove a day and a night to get here. She was just finishing the putting-up (canning) of corn and beans when Johnny came in and asked Helen to wrap it up as soon as she could. They were going to Tahoe. By mid-afternoon they took off, top-up and top-down along the way, according to heat and dust conditions. Their ride was a very stylish 1938 LaSalle convertible.
Johnny went modern with his farming and was one of those guys who could even make money in a depression. He still drank hard, worked hard, loved hard and played hard. Sometimes he frightened Helen with his driving. Johnny usually bought top-of-the-line Cadillacs but not when he saw that LaSalle. It was better looking than a Caddy and it was just as good a car. Those low headlights were the sharpest.
When they arrived at the Tahoe Inn, they checked in quickly. Everyone there knew everyone. Good times went back to the speakeasy days. This place had some history and not all of it the best. Baby-Face-Nelson used to be a regular. Johnny immediately went to a card game. Helen drank a little at Pop's Corner Bar and chit-chatted with some of the locals. Then she went to bed totally exhausted. She knew the next day would be full plus lots of tennis.
Sometimes she just wished she could escape, just for a short time and really get some rest. She still loved Johnny with all her heart but she didn't feel quite as peppy as ten years ago. It was taking its toll. And this was a depression that didn't want to end. There was no place to go, physically or emotionally. Working ten-hour days was the rule on the farm and considering circumstances she realized how very lucky she was.
A Tale of Two Falcons
Addendum at end....03/23/13 (adjYR)
09/10/09...One of the greatest joys of running one's own business is the challenge of making good decisions often.
Recently I purchased a small collection of Ford promos. In the group was a white 60 Falcon. I already had two red ones and one brown one. All of these cars are very good originals.
Originality is important for me. Generally, I prefer a good original to an over-restored "perfect" example. That's just me. But that's not me absolutely all the time. Sometimes something comes along that is not original and excites my taste buds just as much as an original. Sometimes it's my own fault.
The first Falcon is an excellent design but not necessarily an exciting one. On top of that, the promos came in solid colors with same-color interiors.
Problem One... I have two really great original red Falcons. (In my promo market, having two cars of the same color is a lot like offering just one promo. It will take one buyer to take the first one and yet another to buy the second.)
Problem Two...I have one white original Falcon which is very nice but in this color is very bland.
Problem Three...My idea is to switch interiors red to white and white to red. How will value be affected?
Solution (right or wrong)...I'm going to do it. It will permit Autohobby to offer four distinct choices as opposed to the original three. I have done this before on one occasion with another car and found value not to be negatively affected.
Of course, there has to be some expertise in doing this without damage but it is a simple job basically and should turn out fine and no glue will be used in this process.
The picture (above) shows the "before." The picture below shows the "after." What do you think? Would you agree that while some originality was lost, that the enhanced appearance made up for it? Do you want one a little more than before?
Ironic twist: This article was written about a week ago but not published until today. Two days ago I sold the solid red-red Falcon.
Addendum: Parts, including green/silver and white/silver interiors, are available. 03/23/13
Addendum at end....09/10/09
09/06/09...It was late summer when my dad brought home a brand new 1953 Chevrolet Belair four-door sedan in Woodland Green Poly (metallic) over Surf Green. To my amazement he announced that the 1949 Ford had been traded in and the Chevy was ours. I think this caught my mom off guard also. Pop never claimed to like Chevy cars. Somehow he excused Chevy trucks from this and we even owned one.
Anyway, my first question was whether the Chevy dealer had any little ones. The answer was affirmative and since the new car was going back to the dealership the next day for servicing, one would be coming my way. And surely enough it did. I was grateful when Pop came back and presented me the promo (a term unknown to me for decades) but inwardly I was a bit disappointed. My Chevy was a four-door just like the new family car but in a solid Madeira Maroon Poly and it lacked the poly thus looking something like shoe leather. It was just not flashy like our real car was. As a side note the 1953 Chevy brochures featured a solid Madeira Belair four door as the highlight of the line. I have never seen one and I'm doubtful Chevy ever produced the Madeira car in this solid "no side stripe" color. I made no complaints and settled.
Recently Autohobby received an email from GB. How many parallels do you see?
"I have bought items from you before at Toledo. I liked your story on how you got started collecting. Here is mine. In 1949, my father took me with him to J.D. Smith Ford in Brazil, Indiana. I didn't know at the time that he was buying a new Ford. I noticed a shadow box display case on the wall back towards the parts department filled with models. Dad bought a grey one for me. (I was three years old.) The next week he came home with a new dark blue two-door. I have a picture of Mom and Dad standing by the left front fender with me holding the grey model. When dad went back for service I went along and asked the salesman, Lee Hyde, whom Dad called "Skinner" if I could trade my grey one for a blue one.
I lived in that town for fifteen more years and when Lee would see me he would tell whoever he was with, "There goes the youngest car trader I ever dealt with."
I still have the blue promo and in recent years I bought a grey one to go along with the picture from long ago." --GB
Thanks for the email, GB. You probably hold the world's record for "youngest wheeler and dealer."
And Another Parallel
09/07/09...Clarence: I enjoyed the CCJ entry (09/06/09) on your first (actually my second-ed) promo. Coincidentally, my first one also was a 1953 Chevy. Of course, I already had some toy store models, National Products, AMT etc. My dad traded a 1947 Frazer at Village Chevrolet in Wilmette, Ill., for a 1951 Kaiser Deluxe in March 1953. The salesman had been a partner in the by-then defunct Kaiser Frazer agency. I saw that carousel with dozens of toy cars in the showroom and wanted one. I bugged dad until he finally asked the guy for one, a two-door Belair, Indigo Ivory over Horizon Blue. Like you, I preferred something flashier - red convertible or mustard hardtop. But, I also gladly took the two-door. You won't be surprised to know I still have it. --KI
And A Contrast
09/10/09...When I was a kid, I saw promos, but never had any. In a way, I'm buying them now to make up for a rather low income childhood. --BG
Great Time With CKM
08/24/09...Congratulations to Carolina Kustom Modelers for a great event August 22nd. Some events come and go with not much afterthought. This one was different. Everything about it showed great organization and cordiality on the part of the event hosts. The delightful venue made it possible to renew lots of friendships and do some buying, selling and trading as well. The show area implemented tables that were raised several feet higher than usual. As a result viewing the large number of high quality model cars was easy on the back and the eyes when "zooming" in for the close-ups. Thanks, CKM, I'm already looking forward to next year.
Showtime in North Carolina
07/25/09...What goes around comes around again. I will be selling Autohobby stuff at a show this summer. In 1986 my business was begun and most revenues from it came from traveling all over the east coast and selling at model shows and car shows with a few antique shows thrown in from time to time. The Internet changed all that.
Meeting customers face-to-face was always a pleasure. This pleasure will be revisited August 22, 2009, at the Carolina Kustom Modelers show held in Clemmons, NC. Go to CKM's web site for all the details: www.carolinakustommodelers.com
My plans are to bring lots of things that are not on my web site. If you are planning to attend and desire to look at something from my web site, please let me know. I will try to bring it along. Since this is a North Carolina event, I will be charging state sales tax. Since I use only PayPal for web sites, I cannot take credit cards. Please bring money. Bring lots of money! I can take checks from people known to me.
The picture above shows me at a show in Raleigh, NC, in 1990. It seems like yesterday.
I am looking forward to meeting old friends not seen in years as well as making new friends and customers.
As things evolve so does the language. "Ragtop" back in the nineteen-fifties meant a convertible car with a cloth top. Today, the younger generation generally refers to "ragtop" as a sliding sunroof made of vinyl which looks like cloth. The following piece refers to the earlier meaning.
07/20/09...A new automotive body style was born just a couple of years after I was. It was first called the hardtop convertible and later just hardtop. Seeing lots of ladies in retro VW Beetle convertibles and guys in Mustang convertibles brings it all back. They are riding around ragtop-style on days when the sun is skin-burning hot while the air is still cool and comfortable. In other words the tops are up on their cars and all the windows, including the back ones, are down. Later in the summer as the heat increases, the windows will go up and the air conditioning will be maxxed.
The retro VW Beetle has always been kinda cute. It has never fully grabbed me as beautiful. But seeing one running ragtop-style, its appearance gains lots of visual points. I appreciate the mixture of materials. The steel and wood of a woody wagon grabs me visually and quite pleasantly so. The same happens when cloth and metal come together. The two-tone effect of a colored cloth top and contrasting metal body color is surely part of the effect.
In the late forties and into the early sixties ragtop riding was the common person's air conditioning. It still works and the advantage of fresh air swirling and eddying all around is wonderfully pleasant. Big cities and interstates aren't the place for it. Small local communities and country roads are the perfect habitat for ragtop riding. The drivers have enhanced ability to see and much more importantly can be seen.
Ragtop riding was so popular in the late forties that some clever automotive marketers wondered, "Wouldn't it be great if we made a "hardtop" convertible with roll-down "no post" windows?" Cadillac and Buick got the ball rolling in 1949. The rest of GM came aboard in 1950 as well as most Chrysler brands. In 1951 Hudson and Plymouth joined in and Ford barely made it in mid-1951 with the Victoria, a true convertible body with a hard top welded on. By 1952 all major car companies had hardtops and the hardtop was to reign as a most popular design for many decades.
Most baby boomers easily recall rolling down all the windows to see and be seen cruising the local drive-ins. Around Asheville it was Babe's or Buck's and there was loyalty for one or the other. Just before sundown it was likely the crowd thinned a bit as the Dreamland drive-in theatre was nearby. At the drive-in theatre the car windows stayed down until the dew started invading the interior and then up they went. Windows fogged. The movie ended and then a couple of circuits were made through Babe's and Buck's to conclude the evening. Cars with door posts failed to get the respect and admiration of hardtops.
So what happened? Air conditioning improved and became standard equipment. Rollover concerns bothered automotive consumers more and more as they became more safety conscious. Increased tolerance of crime had its effect on open windows as well. And finally, there was an increase of body styles available from more and more manufacturers. There just were not enough sales anymore to justify the tooling expenses for making hardtops.
Gradually, the novelty of hardtop riding faded away. And yet, I question, when I see modern convertibles riding around top-up, windows-down ragtop-style, if maybe one day, history might repeat itself and some enterprising auto company reinvents the hardtop?
If not, be consoled. The convertible is still here and it features top-up, top-down and ragtop-style motoring-- more than any hardtop ever could.
A Special Holiday
07/06/09...A redneck trailer as defined by the Autohobby Dictionary is a small trailer usually constructed by cutting a pickup truck in half and configuring the rear half to function as a utility trailer.
The term "redneck" is not used disparagingly here. Only people of the ruling class are allowed to use the term that way. They get to pick the diversity that is "in" or "out."
Enough for politics. Many years ago I saw a neat old Studebaker pickup pulling a trailer that was identical to the bed of the puller. It was, as they say, like seeing déjà vu all over again. Some things just won't leave my head. I have even thought about chopping up a dead Saab 900 and hooking it to the back of my 88 Turbo or decapitating a two-door Jeep Cherokee to match my work vehicle.
Since my ill-fated 85 Ford pickup dropped its tranny, I have had no easy way to haul lawn mowers, wood, chain saws or any of the other toys I like to play with. My cheapest way out in a tough economy would be a redneck trailer. The tranny would cost way more. The coolest thing would be to find one identical to my 85 Flareside pickup. So far, there has been no luck on that one. However, a month or two ago I did see a 74 F-100 redneck trailer beside the road for sale. I bypassed it a few times but finally decided to check it out. It had lots of extras--custom wheels, custom bumper and custom airflow tailgate.
I called the phone number. Gary answered and agreed to meet me in a few minutes. Gary is a redneck with holes in his t-shirt and the appearance of a hard life. He can do things I can't do. He can weld. He told me how this trailer came to be. He just happened to have an old rusted-out dead 74 Ford pickup. And he just happened to have the hitch from a mobile home laying around. He got out his welding gear and torches and-voila! He eliminated the springs and welded the frame to the axle. Springs just bottom out when you rick em anyway. Autohobby Dictionary defines rick as an Appalachian word for rounding a load of wood.
Naturally, he had duct tape for covering the rust holes. He also happened to have black paint and gray paint as well as a girl friend who could use a paint roller. She rolled the gray while he brush painted the frame and touched up the wheels.
Gary and I agreed upon a price and I took it home. This trailer has served me well and so far has not bounced out any wood or lawn mowers onto the highway.
Little did this trailer imagine that its new owner would take it on to fame and glory. On July 4th, 2009, its picture was on the front page of the local regional newspaper alongside the headline, "Sarah Palin Resigns." That edition is certainly a collector item yet-to-be.
About a month ago the local town of Weaverville dropped its traditional Independence Day event from its budget. I agreed to help a friend save the Fourth of July. My small offering turned out to be providing an old-fashioned stump speech venue with some modern variations. I used the trailer as a podium with a stump for anyone who wanted to sit while they spoke. I also provided a few stumps for those interested enough to listen to the speakers.
This turned out, not to my surprise, to be one of the less popular venues provided. A discussion about linguistics was held as well as one regarding Sarah Palin. Nevertheless, it was a holiday celebration filled with great bands, unhealthy food and a personal poignancy for me. And, it all happened with the help of a redneck and his little trailer that helped save the Fourth of July.
07/01/09...My folks were self-employed business people. That meant that family vacations were far and few between. We did lots of business-related travel and those trips were actually more fun for me. The reason for so few trips was that a day away from the car lot or the dry cleaners was a day without pay. There are no paid vacations for the self-employed.
Anyway, the vacation we took in 1961 took us from Western NC to visit friends in Pennsylvania and then northward to Canada. My dad wanted to see the St. Lawrence Seaway newly completed in 1959, incidentally celebrating it's fiftieth anniversary this year, 2009.
Our trip began with the selection of a car from the car lot. My dad chose a 57 Desoto Firedome 4-door sedan in red and white. The car was partially packed the night before departure so that we would be ready to go fairly early. The next morning dawned bright and beautiful but really hot. The Desoto did not have air conditioning. I'm not sure why we did not get off to an early start but by eleven that morning we finally rolled onto the main highway. All of a sudden my dad wheeled the car into a parking lot, did a "uie" and headed in the opposite direction. Pop explained with the appropriate expletive that it was "too __ hot" to drive all day in the Desoto. Red cars are just about as hot as black ones.
"I'm going to Steve's Place," he said. Steve's Place was a country store. The owner, not named Steve, was my dad's silent business partner. Grady had "bought" a 55 Imperial with air conditioning from the car lot. The Imperial was an exciting car to me and my dad but the general buying public shunned it. It was on the car lot forever and did not sell so that is why Grady wound up with it. We traded cars at Steve's Place and took off. We gained air conditioning and one other thing in the trade--a "safari" hat left on the back window shelf.
The trip went well enough for this typical dysfunctional family. My brother was very popular in Pennsylvania with the girls. They liked the eighteen year-old a lot better than the fourteen year-old brother and on top of that I struck out literally as a guest at the local little league games. But, as we left the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania we stopped at Roadside America and there I acquired a 61 Chevy four-door hardtop friction promotional model--good enough compensation for me.
So we were on the road again and headed to Canada. The Imperial had a horn that sounded like a fog-horn. Pop rarely used a horn, but on this trip, we were suddenly upper-middle class. "Outta-the-way, mindless drivers!" I was probably the worst one in the family cajoling Pop to blow the horn. Sometimes I reached over the back seat and blew it myself. And, hey, we were in New York. It's a way of life there.
Most of my vacation memories related to cars. The cars in Buffalo were all rusted out heaps. Even cars a couple of years old were showing lots of evidence of cold and salty winters. And then we entered Canada and it just had a little bit different feel to it. Actually, the feel it had was a British feel with slightly different word usages and spellings on billboards as well as road markings etc. Oh, and the hobby stores didn't have any promos, although they did have lots of Corgi's, Dinkys and Matchboxes. I looked at them with some longing but not enough to turn loose of cash. I already had a new 61 Chevy after all and it was the "proper" size.
This trip introduced me to environmental concerns. The St. Lawrence Seaway was an amazing feat of engineering and continues to be an economic resource for the US and Canada today. The water there, however, appeared yellowish and was spotted with the iridescence of lubricating oils. The water even looked thick and soupy and worst of all it stank.
We returned home safe and sound and eager to do our own things. The picture above shows me, my mom and my brother (left to right) and we don't look all that happy. Well, remember that safari hat? It was a constant source of trouble between two teenage brothers. The picture was taken just after a "safari" dispute. I have no idea how I lived to wear it in the picture and still be able to tell the tale.
Wheels and Deals
06/22/09...You probably didn't notice that I changed the subtitle for this column a while back to Comments on living with cars and/or anything else with wheels. Just like the dog that chases anything down the street with wheels I have always paid attention to anything with wheels. I even like wheelbarrows and the motorized ones are even more fascinating, of course.
When my son was around ten years old I took him to a birthday party at the local skating rink. At first I sat on the benches around the rink. Boredom quickly set in. I had two hours to go.
"I used to skate," I thought. "Why not give it a go?"
That I did and haven't missed skating at least once a week since that long-time-ago experience. Okay, yes, I did give it up for recovery time for the pulled hamstring obtained on my 60th birthday on brand new Quadline birthday skates and then again a year later when I cracked a couple of ribs. Just like broken-up motorcycle addicts I could not wait to get back to it.
I took my skates with me recently (see photo) when I visited a friend from my college days. I wanted to skate his driveway. He still lives in the same house where I visited him for the first time in 1967 or 1968. The first time I drove down East was in a 1961 Volvo 544. This time I took my 1988 Saab Turbo. How is it that this individualist likes Swedish Saabs and Finnish tires?
Anyway, Larry and I are car guys. We do what we have always done. We go visit new car dealers. Certainly at the end of any tire kicking day we have examined a thousand cars. And always we find at least a few super bargains. This time there were more than usual. We saw discounts up to $12,000. That was on an 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible. Last year we saw a Mazda 6 wagon discounted down to $17,000. And the year before a Chrysler Crossfire coupe stickering for $32,000 plus was offered for $25,000. I was truly temped to rob retirement savings for that one and I still hope to own a good used one someday. The Crossfire stylistically is as interesting as a 1958 Chevy Impala but manages a more coherent placement of the geegaws.
Sadly, we also saw a new phenomenon--lots of closed dealerships. I have long been an enthusiast for automotive architecture from the inception of the automobile up through the nineteen-sixties. After that the dealership buildings were invisible to me. Somewhere through recent decades dealership structures started taking on dynamic forms. I never really saw this until suddenly a dealership was vacated and it stood there without the distraction of cars! Some of these buildings are Taj Mahals.
Recessions come from booms. Booms and busts are good for us in a lot of ways. The booms permit us to actualize our wildest dreams and busts remind us that we are mortal and do have limits.
06/18/09...Twitter. At first it seemed absurd. Now maybe it's something that would serve you and me very well. What if I twittered every time I updated the web site? It would be a way for you to know when to visit. I'm not sure at this point how it all works. I need a few followers--especially people already familiar with it. I think you can receive your twitter by Internet or phone. Let me know your thoughts.
When Did It Come Out?
06/09/09...Back in the fifties and sixties the introduction of "next year's" cars in the autumn was a big deal. Reference Childhood Automotive Memories. On any number of occasions I have sought the exact dates for specific cars. This is not easy information to find. Today in preparing a 1975 Ford newspaper supplement for sale on this website, I realized that this item included the introduction date. This sparked a "Better Idea" from Ford.
Why not set up a web page here that references introduction dates? I need your help. Help me find the introduction dates for as many cars as possible. You might even find the advertising slogan used that year. Buick used annual slogans in the forties and maybe even earlier. Please validate the information you find. Your memory might be as faulty as mine, Oldtimer. Wink.
So there is your homework for the summer. Let's see what you find and thanks for taking an interest in this.
The results will be found in the Autohobby Museum.
Walter Mitty Named CEO of GM
05/25/09...I wrote something about restructuring GM a month or two ago elsewhere. I have now reviewed it and heavily revised it. Actually, I am just talking the product side. The GM “system” needs management changes big-time and that is beyond my comprehension. It also is beyond the abilities of the current Politburo administration, but they don’t know that.
Product goes a long way so I will just "Walter Mitty" that part for fun.
Here goes. I read a “learned” commentary that concluded that the GM “stepping stone” theory worked way back when but does so no more.
Really? Toyota used this system to become what it did. It is totally clear in my mind that the Yaris goes to Corolla to Camry (Solara) to Avalon and then on to Lexus variations. Scions are low-cost off-shoots of Yaris. Before the Yaris were the Echo and Tercel. Nevermind, they were clearly the beginning of the chain when they were available.
I fall into a sea covered in thick fog when it comes to GM. Let’s see, there is the Aveo first. Then, it would it be the Chevy Colbalt or Pontiac Vibe or Saturn Astra? Then comes the Malibu. Then the G6 Pontiac and a Buick LaCrosse show up. I wonder what the price spread is in those? Then comes the Chevy Impala and then uh, uh, a Buick LaCrosse again or maybe not yet. Oh, the G8 Pontiac would be in there somewhere. Then come the Cadillacs. I forgot Buick Lucernes which might go above the G8?
My point is simple. I know the hierarchy at Toyota but not at GM. The stepping stone hierarchy still works.
If the buyer is going to move up the automotive ladder, he/she needs to have a clear idea of the next rung.
My plan for GM is this. The priority is to save money by keeping all GM dealers happy—no lawsuits. Introduce and sell one brand name--GM. All current dealers will sell all GM cars. All GM products go by the name GM. Current brand names will become series. No badge engineering will be allowed. Chevy trucks and GMC will become GM-C.
The cars should be named and designed according to price range or specialized niche.
Saturn becomes the price leader and for 2011 and should offer cars priced for $21,000 or less.
Chevrolet becomes the $21,000 to $31000 brand.
Corvette is now on its own. It might take the Sky-Solstice as a baby Vette or maybe those could merge into a Sky or Solstice series. Please put a trunk in them or kill them. Maybe the resulting car could become a Saab Sonnet.
Pontiac could become a niche BMW fighter or a “Boomer” muscle car with the G8 including the ute variation pickup.
Buick could come in at $31,000 to $41,000.
Cadillac covers the top end from thereon out.
New series could be introduced for new segments—crossovers, hybrids, whatever. The Volt could be its own series. Even fondly remembered cars could be brought back such as the LaSalle or Oldsmobile or even Oakland. Imagine the LaSalle Holiday GT pictured above.
No cars will share body parts but they can share platforms and engines and transmissions as well as bit parts like door handles, gauges, etc.
Of course, all this is simplified drivel but overall, I believe, the concept would work. It would save face and money.
PS. I chopped up a Chevy sedan concept car to make the LaSalle above.
04/29/09...I am almost done cleaning windows and making my abode fresh and clean and ready to enjoy the nice weather coming. Perhaps doing that put me in the mood to "spring clean" this journal a bit.
I've been wondering for a while how to organize my journal. At what point do I start a new page? Well, why not do it just like I do my promos for sale--by the year? The journal page might open a bit faster for you now. All the entries for 2008 have been shifted to a separate page. You go there by linking at the end of the stories on this page.
In the process of creating the new page I have quickly reviewed my 2008 entries. A few things are worth noting so here are bits and pieces of updates.
Let's work all the way from the earlier entries first.
From "A Friend Goes Away"...The Miata I sold is still running around town here and looks very well-kept with very sharp new wheels. "I hope she kept the originals," groans my purist blood.
From "The Last Bargain"...I was thinking that $4 gasoline was going to be a fact of life. Is it not amazing how much things change and so quickly? Let me add that it is my theory that the $4 gas is a major factor in our current economic mess. No doubt most everyone was living on the edge financially. All it took to tip the apple cart was a dramatic rise in the price of a single commodity. This also gives credence (for me anyway) that monopolies cannot sustain forever their power over their customers. One cannot starve the golden goose that feeds you. Now the oil barons are paying a price. I know. I know. The futures traders did all this, but the barons benefited.
From "Riding Around the Internet"...Sadly the Saturn Astra Slot Car Race link is dead. Will the Saturn brand join the orphan car shows soon?
From "A Miracle on the Mountain"...Well, miracles do cease to happen. My Ford truck adventure didn't last long. The automatic tranny dumped it's bowels upon my garage floor. It awaits the improvement of my monetary situation.
From "So Many Promos, So Little Time" and "Childhood Driving Experiences...The 55 Pontiac"...The promo article features pictures of 56 Pontiacs and the childhood story features a 55 Pontiac. The brand has died and gone up into the great sky. Expect a tribute to the marque here soon.
04/27/09...Sometimes it's the little things that bug us. North Carolina state automobile inspections have come and gone and come back again. This is a neutral issue for me. The little thing that has always bugged me is the windshield sticker itself. Over the years the colors of the stickers have changed from one ugly shade of something to another ugly shade of some other color. The corner sticker is UGG-LEE and doesn't always look right on a pink Edsel or most anything else. To make matters even worse the annual ritual involves the inspecting station half-way scraping the sticker away and then plastering the new one over the residue.
There is a new policy now in North Carolina. The sticker has been eliminated. Hallelujah! The computer has saved the day. Inspections and license plate renewals are now linked. To renew a license plate, an affirmation of inspection must show on the computer file in Raleigh.
And now my cars can be just a bit more esthetically pleasing. Wouldn't it be nice if license plates could now be color-coordinated?
A Visit to the Charlotte Autofair
04/06/09...A few months ago Dale and Steve, friends from Pennsylvania, gave me a call and asked me to meet them at the Charlotte Autofair on April 2 or 3. The plan was to walk around and imbibe in automobilia. Back in the days when I was a roadie and did lots of car shows, these two friends were often met buying, selling, trading. We compared notes often and learned a lot from each other about variations of promos and interesting automotive toys and cars in general. Dale rescued me once when a rear wheel bearing went out on my low-mileage 72 Maverick purchased a year earlier from Steve. It had only 4000 miles on it when Steve bought it (maybe in 2000). He put 15,000 miles or so on it and then sold it to me. I put another 10,000 miles on it before I sold it. It had a 250 cubic inch six in it and would easily peel rubber. It was a really great car with one negative. Its steering wheel required six turns lock to lock. That meant it would take four lanes (or more) of highway to make a u-turn.
Anyway, I got up early on the 3rd with misty rain threatening to make the two-and-a-half hour drive a bit more challenging. I had planned to take the 88 Saab but decided that the threat of downpours in the afternoon did not bode well for an old car with a sunroof. I took my new car, a 96 Cherokee two-door. Four-door Cherokees don't count in my book. It sounds like a common vehicle but it's not. It has a four cylinder engine (2/3rds of an AMC six) and a five-speed manual. I have recorded 27 miles per gallon with it but only got around 23 this time. I took a new short cut that might actually have saved time since I didn't get lost and I enjoyed the plus of passing through the town of Troutman for the very first time. I treasure small-town America.
It was maybe five years since I had been to the Lowe's Motor Speedway where the Autofair is held. I saw not one sign on any roadway indicating this significant venue. And signs I needed. The area has grown so fantastically quickly that my old road markers were gone or altered beyond recognition. I saw some guys (street rodded fox-body Mustang and 70 Wildcat) obviously headed to the speedway take a left turn off Harris Boulevard. "Those guys took the wrong turn," I muttered to myself. Then I drove and drove wondering if those guys made the correct turn after all. Ah, finally I intersected with US 29 and made my left turn. And I saw something familiar at the next intersection. The Mustang and Buick intersected there and went sailing through, crossing over to the back gate. "Well, they didn't save very much time with that one," I chuckled.
Dale and Steve were stuck in a slow restaurant somewhere so they advised me to go on and find a parking spot. I did and was grateful for the few minutes rest and the time to change shoes and eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Just in time as I finished I got the cell call that they had entered the gate and there they were. It had been a couple years or more since we had seen each other.
The show on Thursday cranks up slowly. This was hard for "Yankees" to understand. I explained to them that this is the South and the pace is still slower down here even with all the northerners who have moved here. The on and off rain didn't help. This brought out a story.
My first show up north was an eye-opener. It was a one-day toy show at Macungie, Pennsylvania. I was astonished to see vendors packing up around noon well before I was finished setting up. I had only done southern shows and the pack-up usually began around 3 PM with vendors malingering for socializing and trading. Northerners do that before shows sometimes in the dark with flashlights!
On our walkabout we started with the flea market area. Steve began to tire a bit before Dale and I did and on one sparsely-settled row he wanted to cut through to the next row. Something told me not to bypass the vendor down at the end. I urged my friends to cut through and I would catch up.
The booth beckoned. I just had a feeling. Actually, this was probably not a supernatural call. It was experience surfacing. So here comes a rabbit trail. Once in Hamburg, NY, that would be close to Clarence of the same state I might add, I set up a vendor booth at the Erie County Fairgrounds. When business slowed, I would roam the grounds looking for things to buy both for resale and my collection. I eventually walked the whole show grounds, well, almost. I skipped one lone booth way down at the end all by itself. Later in the day a customer-collector-friend dropped by to show me his "find of the day." It was a new-in-the-box 65 Mustang promo in Tropical Turquoise, a color which shows up not very often. "Where did you find it?" I asked. He answered, "You know way down on the far end..." That's all he had to say. I had learned my lesson. Leave no stone unturned.
I entered the booth and nothing out front looked promising. And then I saw them almost hidden and tucked in behind most of the other display items. I needed some nice correct hubcaps for my 85 Ford pickup. These were nice but were they the right size? There are two, maybe three, sizes of these. The vendor had a tape measure and the hubcaps checked out to be the right ones, 10.25" diameter. I had revealed to the vendor that these were the right ones. The items weren't tagged with a price. Would the vendor jack up the price? "How much?" I asked. He needed $5 each for them. Whoopee! No need to ask for a discount. This was fair enough. Twenty bucks and I had solved my wheel-hubcap problem.
Misty conditions changed to rain and my friends sought the indoor booths. All the stuff in there was new. New stuff rarely grabs me. I knew that these guys weren't going to care much about the AMC's at the auction. There were maybe twenty or thirty of them from one collection. I excused myself to go look at them. I liked all of em and couldn't pick a favorite although the 74 hatchback kinda grabbed me. I wished that I had the money to stay over and buy one the next day. Well, maybe it was a lucky thing that I didn't.
We looked at the cars for sale around the track and then went to dinner. The day had passed too quickly. We discussed favorite cars that we wished we could take home and swapped stories about recent great finds. One of those stories will appear here in the future. Darkness was approaching and I had to take leave.
Good friends, cars in abundance and a bag of dog dish hubcaps always make for a good day. In spite of the continuous rain and eighteen-wheelers spraying road grease on my windshield, the drive home was a big smile all the way home.
Hello Mr. S,
Thanks for the email and pics.
I agree that models are a nice digression from the news. That might bode well for the hobby.
Personally, belt-tightening times are probably good for us in a psychological way. Young people around here have never seen times like these. A job has never been important to them. That might change. I keep hearing that "this and that" are the worst since 1982 or 1967 or whatever the "record low" of the moment is. I thought those were pretty good years! When everything gets back to 1932 I might start worrying a little, but hey, that was the year Ford introduced the V-8 in a low-priced car.
Times are what we make of them assuming that we are warm and have enough food. I am quite grateful for the wonderful life I have had.
Glad you found another PMC. I love em in spite of their lumps and wiggles.
03/02/09...Sometimes a person gets lucky. That's a big part of the fun of collecting older things. Back in the Exciting Eighties I got a call from a gentleman in Texas. He scavenged around for old car parts that had never been used. Often these items were found in small town auto dealerships and body shops. He had been lucky enough to find a treasure trove of old parts from a Ford dealership closed in the fifties.
He comfortably knew what to do with all the great NOS (new old stock) parts except for one. In a dusty dry corner he found a couple of cases of promotional 1953 Ford Indianapolis Pace Car kits made by AMT. He did a little research and found me. The picture provided is the picture he sent me. He knew that he had something special.
What did he have? For many advanced promotional car collectors and for many model car kit builders these kits were the holy grail. Most collectors (not me) consider this kit to be the first single-car kit offered by AMT. Not only that; it is a double promotional model and it is a multiple collectible. A double promo promotes two things. With this item Ford is being promoted as is the famous Indianapolis Memorial day race. It is also a multiple collectible. Three collecting groups come to mind right away: promo collectors, kit collectors and Indy collectors. All these factors come into play to increase collectible value.
This kit was unassembled and included everything to complete the task including paint, paint brush and water slide decals. It has one feature that all AMT 53 Ford convertibles have that aggravates my sense of accurate modeling. It has the narrow door of a four-door sedan instead of the wider door that a two-door car should have. This likely resulted from a penny-pinched project which used the four-door master as the development model.
Anyway, I was lucky enough (happened to have enough money at the time) to purchase these cars. I sold them all except for one which I have retained.
Now having said all that you'd think I would be happy. Well, I'm always happy but not always satisfied. It's a human condition. Remember that I do not consider this car to be the first single car kit by AMT. For me that would be a 1950 Ford sedan. It came in a promo box and was not assembled. The box was specially printed for Boy Scouts. Copy on the box suggested that the Cub could learn how to use a screwdriver assembling this toy car. The box may have contained a small screwdriver.
How do I know about this car if no one else does? Well, I have seen it. I have touched it. I have smelled it. It appeared at a hobby swap meet in Atlanta in the late seventies or early eighties. It was for sale. The vendor asked $30 which was a lot at the time. I offered $25. He refused my offer. I thought about it a few hours and went back to pay the price. It was gone.
Sometimes a person gets lucky. And sometimes they just trample all over their good fortune.
02/21/09...My childhood summers and early autumns were spent in Pennsylvania. Just after Halloween my parents shut down our summertime gift shop and we headed to the South along with flocks and flocks of birds overhead. The trip of 1951 or 1952 left me with a personally important automotive memory.
We traveled US 22 West and then US 11 South. Most of the roads then were two-lane with occasional three-lane stretches and still fewer four-lanes. The two-lane section often took the traveler through the middle of small towns. Somewhere in Virginia we stopped for gas at a small-town Ford dealership. The gas pumps were only a few feet from street. Outside it was cold and gray but inside there was a warm one-car showroom. My dad showed me the new 1951 Ford within--a gleaming example of modernity and even more--the future, the good life. His automotive endorphins spilled out in his smile. I knew that this was something beyond the ordinary and imprinted his enthusiasm. A little car nut was in the making.
It is the first new car I ever remember seeing sitting in a showroom. I still get good feelings from all those intermingled memories of family and cars.
01/01/09...It has always amazed me the quantity and quality of small details designed into cars of bygone eras.
It further amazes me that many of these fine details escape the eyes of most beholders. Why did the designers bother? Generally, the person who would see them most might not even care. That person might be the car-wash boy or the bodyshop repairman. All the extra fillips and filigrees were just extra labor to clean or repair.
One person whom it did impress was this kid who worked on his dad's used car lot. Shown above is a picture of an unused new-old-stock piece for the center grill bar of a 51 Ford. It was attached behind the center chrome grill bar and painted silver when installed. We have all read that an automobile is some sort of semi-sexual thing for a guy. Imagine waxing the back center bar and feeling the hand glide over the ripples of its design. But, did the designers put it there for that reason? Doubtful. Automobiles are an artistic effort and when there is sufficient design funding, the avid artist will take his/her project to the limit. In 1951 the era of Art Deco was ending but not yet dead.
Observe the photo to the right from an early 1951 Ford brochure. It looks like the family has gone for a spin in the sand. Maybe they are on Christmas break driving up the sandy lane to Grandpa's grove in Florida. What effect does the grill have on you? Those double jet intakes are eye candy and in an orchestral way demand your full attention. The little backstage flutes twitter and may or may not even be there as far as your eyes are concerned. But now that I have pointed them out to you, perhaps, you will never again see this grill the same way.
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