Oct 24, 2011

Village of Providence Car Show

Monty's car on left parked next to Winston, my 1932 Plymouth
Winston and I went to a Sunday car show at the Village of Providence, a small commercial and residential district on the West end of Huntsville.  I met Monty Love in his 1950 Chevrolet sedan delivery and we drove to the show together and parked in adjacent spots.  The hosts were raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and, judging by the crowd, they succeeded.  We represented one of the oldest cars in attendance, although there were a couple of modern reproduction '32 Fords with big V-8's in them.  I did see a 1924 Studebaker sedan and a couple of Model T hot rods.  Bottom line was that there were LOTS of muscle cars.  And somebody forgot to tell some folks to keep their stereos turned down.  At one point it sounded like a woofer competition.
A 1952 Pontiac with a period-correct restored teardrop trailer - Very Nice!
We saw Fred Scarborough, who was exhibiting his beautiful Jaguar convertible, with his wife Carolyn and daughter Caitlyn, also Clint Rankin and his lovely bride Sarah celebrating their one-year anniversary.  Oh, by the way, we won a door prize -- a $20 gift certificate to the Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant.  The weather was delightful for a Sunday outing and Winston made it home.  What more could I ask?

Oct 16, 2011

Flagship Detroit

Between June of 1936 and April, 1946, American Airlines took delivery of 94 DC-3's from Douglas Aircraft Corporation.  These were the pride and joy of the young company; the "Flagships" of their growing fleet.  On March 2, 1937, Flagship Detroit became part of that fleet.  It served the airline until 1946, after which it served as a Mexican executive aircraft, a cargo hauler (including some cargo of an illicit nature), insecticide spreader, and training aircraft.  In September, 2004, it was purchased by the Flagship Detroit Foundation from Eastern Mennonite University.  The stated goal of the foundation was to restore the airplane to its initial configuration as a passenger airliner in order to "Preserve the legacy of one of the most popular aircraft in American Airlines history."
Winston with DC-3 in background

Yesterday I heard that the Flagship Detroit, NC17334, was to be flying out of the Madison County Executive Airport.  That is only about 12 miles away.  I decided to drive Winston, my 1932 Plymouth coupe, to visit a 1937 airplane.  And besides, the weather was perfect for an an afternoon drive.

The restored airplane is stunning.  It is now the oldest flying DC-3 in the world.  The pictures tell it all.  Coincidentally, Deron Shady and son Daniel were there and had taken a flight.  I also ran into Paul Brinkmeyer, a gentleman I used to work with at Camber.  He is now a medevac pilot.  Small world...
The restored interior -- The height of luxury in 1937!

Oct 14, 2011

Another '32 Plymouth...

Jim Brackbill with his "new" finer 1932 Plymouth Model PB sedan

When I bought my 1932 Plymouth roadster in 1999, part of the deal was that I would acquire a 1932 sedan parts car and remove it along with the roadster.  I brought the car to Huntsville and placed it in dry storage.  I debated what to do with the sedan, which was far too deteriorated to be worth restoring.  The most likely scenario was to eventually build a boattail speedster using parts from the sedan and hand crafting a boattail body.  I even had corresponded with a gentleman on the west coast about doing an overhead valve conversion to the Plymouth 4-cylinder engine.  This fellow has gone over 120 miles per hour driving such a vehicle.

Then one day, I ran across a fellow on the Jalopy Journal Web site who had acquired a 1932 Plymouth coupe body and needed a usable chassis.  It was a perfect use for the sedan.  We corresponded, struck a deal, and he sent payment, sight unseen (I had sent lots of photographs).  This week, Jim Brackbill drove down from Pennsylvania, towing an empty trailer, to pick up the car.

As with all such adventures, there were a couple hiccups.  His trailer needed a few repairs after the bouncy trip so we took it to Russell Welding for the needed repairs.  Mr. Bud Jolly was highly recommended by Dan Shady and he did a beautiful job of repairing the trailer.  When Jim and I arrived at the warehouse, the car was barely visible behind a mountain of stored flooring materials!  Fortunately, Jim knew how to drive the forklift that was available and we soon had the car out of its long storage and on the trailer.

I called him up yesterday and was glad to hear that he and the car made it safely to PA.  Now I can't wait to get progress reports on the new "build."

Oct 6, 2011


J-101 in its current colors (2011)
The New York Automobile Salon in December, 1928, displayed all the latest car designs.  Perhaps the most impressive was the new Model J Duesenberg.   The car on display was a silver and black dual-cowl phaeton with coachwork by LeBaron.  It was the first and only Model J that had been completed in time for the salon show.  The chassis sold for $8,500.  Coachwork would add several thousand more to the price tag.  It was like nothing ever seen before and became the start of a legend.  Perhaps no other car in America's love affair with cars evokes the same awe as the Model J Duesenberg.  The car on display became the personal car of August Duesenberg, the younger of the two brothers who designed and built it.  It would remain in his possession until his death in 1955.

J-101 made headlines in the late 1960's when it changed hands for the then-unheard-of price of $235,000 at an Atlanta auction.  My brother and I were both car enthusiasts and I remember discussing that sale with him at the time.  We simply couldn't imagine anyone spending such a fortune for an automobile!

A few years later, probably about 1975, Bill and I went to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the annual Fall meet of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA).  We had a large trailer load of Lincoln-Zephyr parts to sell in the flea market.  As is often the case, it decided to rain on Saturday and the flea market area (unpaved in those days) became a quagmire.  We braved the storm, standing by our table of goodies hoping to sell some parts to pay for the trip.

On Saturday afternoon, a distinguished-looking older gentleman dressed in a yellow slicker and hood approached our table.  "Do you have any Lincoln Model K parts," he asked.  I admitted that Model K Lincolns were a little rich for my blood.  "Do you own a Model K?" I asked.  He replied that he had several.  (The Model K Lincolns were all hand built, all recognized as full classics, and were very expensive cars.)  I asked what other cars he might own.  He described a collection of nearly 40 cars -- Cadillacs, Packards, Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Pierce Arrows, Lincolns, Marmons, Chryslers, and a Duesenberg.  It was an impressive collection.  We inquired what year and body style the Duesenberg might be.  "I own J-101," he answered.  Bill and I were speechless.  What were the odds that we would ever meet the owner of J-101!?!

In spite of the downpour, this fine gentleman took the time to tell us the story.  His name was Walter Spilsbury and he lived in Huntington Station, New York.   He had learned of the Duesenberg sale several months before it took place and had told his secretary to remind him when the auction was to occur.  He told us that he went to work one morning and his secretary reminded him that the auction was to take place that very day.  He hopped on a jet and went to Atlanta.

As he related it to us, he simply got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the next thing he knew, he had bought the car.  At this point, he had not even informed his wife that he had gone to Atlanta.  She was home "dying Easter eggs with our two small boys."  Shortly after he bought the car a newspaper reporter from Long Island's Newsday called Mr. Spilsbury's residence and asked his wife what she thought about her husband having set a new world's record for buying the most expensive car up to that point.  She told the reporter that he must be mistaken; her husband was at work in New York City.

It was a great story as he told it.  He graciously invited Bill and me to come to his home to visit his collection and even drive the Model J if we were so inclined.  He was a most gracious individual.  We never did take him up on his offer, however.

J-101 ended up in the William Harrah collection in Nevada and upon his death was sold to General William Lyon.  I believe the car now resides in the Lyon Air Museum on the west side of the runway at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.  It is still a car that is an important icon in American automotive history.
I feel really blessed that I encountered, on a rainy field in Hershey, one who was privileged to serve as its caretaker.