Clarence's Car Journal (2012)
Comments on living with cars and/or anything else with wheels.
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Factory Design Models
08/09/12...I have known Sam Sandifer for several decades now. Sam has an interest (near obsession) for models used in styling exercises and development of upcoming cars. He has quite a collection of these and has in recent times devoted an effort to reproducing them. The 1951 Ford is one such effort. You just might want one of these for your collection. I am providing this information as a favor for a friend. I am in no way receiving a commission or any material benefit from this so please contact Sam at the number listed if you have an interest. PS. I have inspected these cars and they are really very nice in design and execution.
07/11/12...PMC models were made by Product Miniature Company. PMC had contracts with Chevrolet to manufacture promos from 1951-1957--standard Chevrolets from 1951-1956, Corvettes from 1953-1955, trucks 1956-57. PMC contracted with other car manufacturers but for this article Chevrolets are the focus.
Chevy Number One.
After lo, these many months.........I FINALLY both remembered to take a camera home AND had the time to do some photos of my oddball '53 Chevy hardtop. A re-run about this car: I bought it from the estate of a long-time promo collector with NO story behind it whatsoever. Wish I had been able to ask the obvious questions!
Things of note about it include:
A...The spare tire has obviously been there for a very long time in view of the "corona" of discoloration on the deck lid--just like around the wheel openings which is typical for these models.
B...The plastic wheel matches the rest of the wheels on the car. In 1953 PMC made the wheels in the same color plastic as the body so I'm thinking that either someone cannibalized another car to get the matching wheel which is not very likely in my opinion OR they had access to extra wheels like at the factory, the more likely.
C...The questions I have are:
One...Has anyone else ever seen one done this way?
Two...Does anyone know for sure how this promo came to be?
Three...Was it produced at the factory or could it have just been the brainchild of someone who worked at PMC and snagged an extra wheel/tire out of the parts bin? Was it done for Chevrolet as an experimental "answer" to the '53 Ford Indy Pace Car convertible?
What a great car!
I agree with Point A.
Regarding Point B: I follow your line of thought and my comment here regards the speculative part of it. I might add that there were some folks who had access to plenty of promos--anyone connected to Chevrolet dealerships--dealers, factory representatives, salesmen, secretaries, mechanics, etc. and the kids of these people as well. This leads to a story--a rabbit trail aside from the issue at hand--some of which I have revealed in Clarence's Car Journal a year or two earlier.
My dad bought a new 1953 Chevrolet Belair 4-door sedan in Woodland Green Metallic over Surf Green in the fall of 1953. He bought it from a salesman who along with his wife and family became friends to my family. Robert had two daughters and one of them, Susie, was my age and she and I attended grade school in the same class. Our families visited one another several times in 1954. Susie's basement was heaven. There were at least a couple of case lots of promo Chevys scattered around down there from 1951-54. For Susie, they were just there. A few years ago, I reacquainted with Susie. She did not even remember those cars being down there! I can't get over it!
Now back to Point B. In the promo collecting world almost everyone knows something or another about Bob Wingate who collected fifties Chevy promos back in the day. In order to get a greater number of variations Bob acquired lots of additional promos specifically for the purpose of "improving" and expanding his collection to additional 210's and maybe 150's. When the 1955 Chevys came out Bob must have acquired cases of em because most of his earlier Chevys with blackwall tires got 1955 whitewalls which fit perfectly on the older Chevys. I personally screwed up my very first Chevy promo by removing the front tires which were not flexible and thus damaged when removed. I had no extra 1955 Chevys but the flexible whitewall tires came off easily and were not damaged going on or coming off. I never figured out how to get whitewalls onto the rear of the 1953 Belair promo because of the skirts and the tight fender wells. Bob must have done something creative and destructive to manage the rear tire changes.
Oops. How easily I meander along those rabbit trails!
Now, regarding the questions. Number One...No I haven't seen another Chevy like your 1953. Number Two...I have never seen or heard a discussion about a Chevy promo like this or heard of one even existing. Number Three...Some things are lost to history. It will be difficult to ever know if this car was done somewhere within the Chevrolet company or outside.
Again, we do go into a lot of detail over something that many folks would find b-o-r-i-n-g. But then those folks would not be promo people. The only real proof of anything that will occur is for someone to come up with some old factory photos or memos that authenticate this car as being the real deal. One of the pleasures of collecting promos is in the discussions about them.
Readers, what do you think about this nice looking Chevy with "continental spare tire?" Readers’ responses are welcomed.
Chevy Number Two.
In the process of talking about the 1953 Chevy above, NN and I got into a discussion relating to the variations in the 1956 Chevrolet four-door hardtops. We know of two variations. One is more detailed and correct than the other. We assume that the incorrect car is an early production example. Why and how did this happen is the question. Will it ever be discovered?
Notice the red and white car with an appropriate drip rail over the side glass area and an accurate rear door line.
Then notice the rather wild looking drip rail on the blue and white car. One has to wonder if perhaps Chevy originally penned it this way or if PMC tried an easy way out of a molding problem? The rear door line is considerably different from the actual 56 design.
Now one more question comes up. Is there a version out there that is between the two of these? Is there a version out there with a correct drip rail but an incorrect door line? Is there a version out there that has the wrong drip rail but the correct rear door?
We know of none, but who was looking? Well, now we are and we are also looking for other variations on these cars and their siblings: wagon, two-door hardtop and four-door sedan.
If you discover anything, let us know and we will share.
Don't Mess With History
03/12/12...The past two weeks were hectic. This last week was so busy that going to town and the grocery store was put off three days. On Friday, a day off was in order, at least to get to town and buy some food...and...check out a local auction. The auction house offered a pleasant surprise--a promo and some old built kits as well as a few other items that might make a dollar.
Later in the day I returned to the auction house and sure enough there sat #585 (number changed to protect the guilty). That's the guy, nice though he is, who is my bidding nemesis. Oh well, there's nothing else to do on a Friday night.
Sometimes you get lucky and this time somehow I made the winning bid on the lot. Most likely #585 was in the restroom or diverted by pretty young things parading on the stage behind the auctioneer.
Left to right: Red 1939 Maserati 8CLT, white 1956 Thunderbird, blue-white-silver 1954 Greyhound bus, red (52-54?) Ferrari 342 America, cream 1951-53 MG TD, red early 1950's Schuco Mirakocar (with original box) and military green Jeep.
The primary thing at Clarence's Car Journal is the promotional model car, but there is a part of me that really likes old built kits that were well done and have survived. The Maserati has tires with painted whitewalls. The driver's seat has two center panels painted silver. Both features are incorrect but the car is so beautiful that it really looks great this way. The Ferrari would not likely ever have had white racing stripes but somehow they don't look out of place. The MG looks very natural although that red grill might be just a little bit too bright. The bus and the Mirakocar are very nice toys and are pleasing to most eyes that like older items. The Jeep, well, it has good wheel hubs.
The promotional 1956 Ford Thunderbird was nicely detailed with silver paint. This included painting the original white hubcaps with silver. Also, some customizing transpired. Short lake pipes were added. The friction motor was removed and chassis adjustments made to lower the car body closer to the ground. White was painted on the tires to give it the whitewalls it deserved. AMT, the model manufacturer, did not offer whitewall tires in 1956. The points on the front bumper guards were painted black simulating rubber bumper tips introduced on Chevrolets and Cadillacs in 1957. This Thunderbird could, with some effort, be returned to original condition, but it really seems to stand on its own very well. The customization duplicated what an owner of an actual drivable 56 T-Bird might have done. Most likely it would have been done by the second or third owner.
These cars are more than just replicas of real cars. They are images of a time past--sweet for Babyboomers--and informative for later generations.
I won't be the person to modify any of that.
Big Thing? Little Thing?
02/14/12...It's your point of view. It's a big thing or it's a little thing. Well, maybe it's not a big thing...unless...you are a promo collector.
Last year CY Autohobby purchased several promo collections one of which included a model that brought up a familiar question, "What is the rest of the story?" This particular model was a Chevrolet, a 1954 Bel-Air convertible made by PMC to be precise. That Chevy is the subject of our little quest here.
When one of the collections was received and examined, the cars in it were found to be as nice as the seller had portrayed them as being. It's always nice when that happens. The Chevy seemed to be particularly nice but had a few specks on it here and there. I suspected that I knew what those specks were. In 1954 the Chevy promotionals came in a "wine" box type of container. Observe the 1953 photo on the right. The cars were protected during shipment in sealed transparent cellophane bags. If the cars were left for an extended period in that sealed cellophane capsule, the cellophane would stick to the car where the car and the bag touched. I had seen this situation before and at first didn't think too much about it as I knew some tricks for its removal.
I then "cleaned" the car, removed the specks and removed a firmly attached metal license plate from the rear bumper that someone had rigged up on the rear bumper. "Why do people mess up good cars that way?" I thought. Actually, the license plate was neatly attached and obviously had been in place for a very long time. All that remained to do was a quick wipe with a damp cloth.
This car obviously had never been dusty, ever, which prompted an email to the seller, "Did you by chance remove a yellowed cellophane baggie-thing from the Chevy convertible?" He responded right away. "Yeah, I did; it looked ugly in a piece of crappy cellophane that someone had wrapped around it." There was a groan from me when I read this. I sent a polite thank you note for his quick response.
The car was photographed and it went onto the CY Autohobby website.
Then it hit me. Hmm, that 54 Chevy convertible was still in its original wrapper when the seller got it. The seller got the car from his grandfather's estate. The seller told me before the sale that he had no interest in his grandpa's cars and could use the money. That license plate. That license plate that I so flippantly popped off the car. It could well have been on this promo model since it was new. Grandpa didn't have enough interest in the car to remove it from its original bag. This car was untouched for half a century at least.
Here are three views of the formerly rear-mounted license plate. Left..The numbers might be hand-painted or from a hand-stamping device. Center.. Some sort of glue/liquid soldering is evidenced on the bottom. The license plate attachment extended under the car somewhat like a trailer hitch mounting. Right.. Notice the precision of the cuts and bends of the metal. There is an optical illusion with this photo. The outside number portion of the plate is down and the pointed portion is standing and pointing upward.
There will likely never be a way to know the answer to this one. Some things are lost to history forever. This is the only Chevy of the "cellophane" era that I have ever seen that had a license plate!
Who, what, where, when and how?
One...It would be nice to know if PMC assigned internal numbers for each model variation of the 1954 Chevy line. For example, was the 1954 Chevy convertible in Turquoise internally known as #332 and the Romany Red convertible known as #331? If such a situation existed, there might have been reason for some cars having numbers attached. Let's say Chevrolet personnel had to approve the models at a final meeting before production could begin. If something was wrong with one of them, a number might have been helpful with quick problem solving.
Two...Could it be that some cars were numbered for display at, perhaps, regular new car shows, special Chevrolet or PMC exhibits (fairs, trade shows, etc.), the famous Motorama, PMC and/or Chevrolet office headquarters?
Three... Could it be that the numbered models (Actually we only know of one at this moment.) were used for promotional photography for Chevrolet or PMC or even the aftermarket like Simonize Auto Wax?
Above Right.. Observe the rear bumper. The dark spot slightly off center to the right is where the license plate was firmly attached. The license plate was properly centered.
I ran my thoughts by a collector friend and he remembered seeing some circa 1954 photos of 1954 Chevrolet promos with license plate numbers. So, at this moment, Theory Number Three might be the best explanation. Wouldn't it be great to find such a photo and then discover that one of the convertibles had license plates similar to Number 332?
Well, again, what is all the fuss? What is the big deal?
Most collectors collect for their own personal satisfaction. Many collectors become somewhat competitive: "I have something rare that you don't have. Nah nah neh nah nah!"
There is fun in all this and there can be money in it too. If one could find a photo or interesting bit of corroborative information on this and provide that information with the car, this promo's value would be increased. Actually, finding another model with a similar plate would help as well. If you find one, please don't pop the plate off.
So it's a big deal. It's a nothing. Take your pick. It's a point of view.
PS. If you have theories of your own, those are always welcomed. If you have some facts, well then, maybe you can make promo collector history.
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