Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sharing our automotive heritage with future generations

Once, while riding along on a club tour of southern Indiana country side, the discussion turned to the need to get younger people involved in the old car hobby.

Carl Fisher’s 1914 Packard roadster
Carl Fisher’s 1914 Packard roadster

Car shows and tours are great ways to nurture this involvement because:
• they are an affordable form of entertainment;
• they are a great way to share our interest in the old car hobby; and
• they foster an appreciation for the practice and enjoyment of technical skills in working on cars.

When talking about looking for affordable forms of entertainment, car shows and tours are winners. Many car shows and tours feature low cost or free admission for adults and free admission for children. In fact, the only cost for many club tours is lunch and fuel for our beloved steeds. What a great way to spend part of a day cruising on local two-lane roads taking in the passing scenery! Everyone involved feels this is relaxing. No computers or game consoles involved. Just you and Mother Nature.

Car shows and tours are also a great venue for sharing of our car culture. One item I particularly enjoy about some of our club activities is the sharing of various aspects of the car restoration process by our multi-generation members. One of our members discussed the wood-working techniques he was using to restore a 1916 Buick roadster. It was looking back in time to the skills and crafts of another era.

1933 Marmon Sixteen Coupe
1933 Marmon Sixteen Coupe

This discussion evolved to how car shows and tours can foster an appreciation for the value of the practice and enjoyment of the technical skills in working on cars for younger people. Many individuals derive satisfaction and compensation from the manual arts.

I believe it is time to pass on some of this appreciation to youth and get them involved in our great hobby. So, the next time you are heading out to car show or tour, take a child or a grandchild with you to continue sharing our automotive heritage with future generations.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Twenty years of Haynes innovation explored 1893-1913

When Elwood Haynes left Indianapolis with the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers’ Association Indiana-Pacific Tour on July 1, 1913, he was celebrating 20 years of automotive innovation. It is interesting to reflect on those first 20 years from our vantage point some 100 years later.

First, let’s look at Haynes’ “Pioneer” automobile that he demonstrated on the outskirts of Kokomo on July 4, 1894. Haynes conceived his idea of a “self-propelled vehicle” in 1890 while driving a horse and buggy and inspecting a natural gas field near Greentown, Indiana. After first considering steam and later electricity as motive forces, Haynes found a one-horsepower Sintz gasoline engine at the Chicago World’s Fair in the summer of 1893.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes in the 1894 Pioneer
Copyright Elwood Haynes Museum

In the fall of 1893, Haynes tested his Sintz engine mounted on sawhorses in the family’s kitchen. The engine ran with such speed and vibration that it pulled itself from its attachments to the floor. This prompted Haynes to design and build a much heavier chassis frame than he had originally planned. He also devised the test procedure to determine the amount of power and gear ratios necessary to move the machine at a speed of seven to eight miles per hour up a 4 percent incline.

On the afternoon of July 4, as the men rolled the strange-looking contraption out of the shop, men, women, and children rushed out and encircled the machine. Out of concern for the spectators, they arranged to tow the machine three miles from the center of town, to a spot along Pumpkinvine Pike. They started the engine, climbed aboard, and moved off at a speed of about seven miles per hour. Haynes drove a mile and half further into the country and then chugged all the way back into town without making a single stop.

Haynes’ innovation quickly took off. His second automobile built in 1895 introduced the first use of aluminum in automotive engine design. In 1907, he received patents for nickel and chromium alloys used in auto ignition systems. The Haynes Automobile Company was the first to equip an open car with a top, a windshield, headlamps, and a speedometer as standard equipment in 1911.

Haynes No. 13
Haynes No. 13
1913 IAMA Tour participant

A six-cylinder engine joined the Haynes line for 1913, and later that year the Vulcan Electric Gearshift was introduced for a short run on all models. Other standard features on these models included: hand buffed leather seating, an electric starting and lighting system with two large headlights, two cowl lights, a tail light, sight oil feed gauge, an auxiliary air pressure pump with gauge, rim wind clock, rain-vision ventilating windshield, coat and foot rails, electric horn, tire irons, full tool equipment, and one demountable rim. How’s that for a list of standard features?

In 1914, Haynes commented, “The best speed attained with the “Pioneer” was about eight or nine miles per hour. Whereas, nineteen years later, the Haynes “Six” Model 23, on which I was a passenger during the 1913 tour of the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers’ Association to the Pacific Coast, coasted into Columbia, MO, over a good stretch of highway, at 35 miles per hour.”

The Haynes Automobile Company of Kokomo, IN, was a good benchmark for automotive innovation during its first 20 years in business from 1893 to 1913. Thank you Elwood Haynes for your innovation in automobiles and alloys.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

From my Bookshelf-Summer 2016 Edition

If you’re like me, I know you’re continually looking for interesting auto related books. Here are some picks from my bookshelf for summer 2016.

Industrial Strength Design
Industrial Strength Design

One of the first things that draws me to an automobile is styling. In Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World, author Glenn Adamson documents Brooks Stevens’ career in Industrial Design from 1934 – 1979.

One automotive example is how Brooks Stevens customized his own Cord L-29 Cabriolet in 1938. Stevens made slight changes to the body and fender contours, finished off with a streamline paint job, and added a sloping windshield and chrome wheel discs over the stock wire wheels. Next, he removed the rumble seat and folding top and installed a seamless rear body with a rounded fin protruding from the center. (This may be the earliest tail fin to appear on an American car.) He dramatically transformed the front of the car with a bar type grille with sculptured chrome bumpers and teardrop shaped “wood lights.” Today, this car resides in a private collection.

Adamson yields a thorough look at Brooks Stevens’ influence on industrial design. The author provides insights about this creative force for over four decades.

Industrial Strength Design at

Umbrella mike

I am interested in stories that involve the Indianapolis 500. In Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500, author Brock Yates documents Mike Boyle’s love of high-speed automobiles that began at the age of 16 when he attended the Chicago Times-Herald race on November 28, 1895 (one of the America’s first auto races). This event later led to Boyle’s quest to win the Indianapolis 500. Boyle cars won the 500 three times, once with Bill Cummings as the driver in 1934, and twice with Wilbur Shaw in 1939 and 1940.

Boyle’s quest for new speedsters led him to the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island, NY, where he witnessed the dominance of European-built machines. Here he became further acquainted with Wilbur Shaw driving a Maserati. In early 1939, Shaw was assigned to drive the new Maserati 8CTF and drove this car to victory in the next two 500’s.

Yates provides an interesting look at Mike Boyle’s desire to be at the top of American auto racing. The author draws you into the action on the track.

Peruse Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500 at

Arsenal of Ddemocracy
Arsenal of Ddemocracy

I have always been interested in how the American automotive industry became known as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” In The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War, author A. J. Baime documents how Henry Ford and his son Edsel, with the Ford Motor Company, used automotive production methods to create the Willow Run aircraft factory. The facility was able to produce bombers at the unheard of rate of a “bomber an hour.” Ford’s initiative is a leading example of how the American automotive industry became known as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

The first Ford-produced B-24 Liberator rolled off the huge Willow Run assembly line on May 15, 1942. The B-24 Liberator remains the most mass-produced American military aircraft ever. Of the total 18,482 Liberators built during the war, 8,685 rolled out of Willow Run. At the peak of production, the plant employed over 42,000 workers.

Baime’s looks at the automotive industry’s quest to arm America and her allies.

Peruse The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War at

Built for Adventure
Built for Adventure

After reading Clive Cussler’s Artic Drift, I became aware of one of his nonfiction works – Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt

For a genuine car nut like myself, this book was a venture into cars from the classic era. The fact that 13 of the 58 cars highlighted in the book are Indiana-built didn’t surprise me. These included Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Marmon and Stutz models. My choice of the best Indiana-built car is the 1932 V-12 Auburn boattail speedster that is also featured on the back of the Artic Drift dust cover.

Author Clive Cussler does an outstanding job of documenting these classic cars from his collection. He presents a brief history of each auto producer, thoughts about what drew him to each car, and details about the features of each particular auto.

Cussler’s weaves a thorough look at these classic icons. The book’s production fits a classic theme with an outstanding layout and first class photography.

Peruse Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt at

So, if you’re looking for some different books about our automotive heritage, I invite you to peruse these. See you the next time from my bookshelf.

For more information on our bookstore follow this link.

What Everybody Ought to Know About Early Auto Advertising in the 1930’s

In the 1920’s, advertising became more lifestyle oriented with the use of lavish scenes like yachting, beaches, and gardening. In the early 1930’s, we saw a reversion to black and white printing with photos and sidebars. Tangible sales points were tied into product features.

Marmon Sixteen ad
Marmon Sixteen ad

An upscale Marmon Sixteen ad from 1931 is very trendy for the time. The Art Deco black and white illustration of the Sixteen is set off against a silver background. The minimalist copy touted, “The Marmon Sixteen is the modern automobile. Its beauty of line and appointment is the beauty of the simplicity and efficiency of today.” “Both in action and appearance the Marmon Sixteen redefines the motor car in terms of the present.” It included brief equipment specifications and pricing.

1932 Studebaker ad
1932 Studebaker ad

In the mid 1930’s, Studebaker produced The Wheel magazines for the auto show seasons. On the cover of the 1932 edition, we see a chic woman wearing furs showing a President convertible roadster to an older woman seated in a Studebaker electric. Inside the magazine there are eight pages of color illustrations interspersed with 12 pages of copy and black and white photographs of the “Triumphant New Studebakers.”

1933 Stutz brochure
1933 Stutz brochure

Stutz produced a 32 page brochure for its SV-16 and DV-32 models in 1933. The brochure had 11 full-page black and white photographs of its classy machines opposite descriptive copy of the SV-16 and DV-32 models. The copy advertises value, economy, and advanced design, along with two and half pages of new features. The brochure is very optimistic for a company facing the challenges of the middle depression.

He drives a Duesenberg ad
He drives a Duesenberg ad

Duesenberg introduced its lifestyle advertisements during the mid-1930’s. One ad emphasized an almost full-page illustration of a gentleman on his yacht braced against a storm with the minimum tagline, “He drives a Duesenberg.” Another showed a women talking to her master gardener with five other gardeners working in the background on a palatial garden. The Duesenberg in question is inferred, it is not shown anywhere. These are probably the epitome of automotive lifestyle advertising.

Most auto advertising of this era is more restrained, but in the upper end of the market we see the premier of lifestyle advertising.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.

Indiana’s Historic National Road Part 4

This installment continues our tour along Indiana’s Historic National Road ten miles west of Indianapolis where in the middle of Plainfield, the Van Buren Elm marker is on the south side of the street in the Western Yearly Meeting Park just west of where S.R. 267 turns north. Local legend says that in 1842, President Martin Van Buren’s stagecoach was overturned because of tree roots in the road. Ironically, Van Buren had recently vetoed a bill for federal funds to pay for improvements to the National Road.

A couple of blocks west, turn left (south) on Vine Street and go three blocks to the Terre Haute, Indianapolis, & Eastern Interurban Station built in 1907, at 410 S. Vine Street. Interurban trains were a popular form of transportation in the early 20th century until the automobile became popular. Then go west one block on Buchanan to Center Street and turn right (north) to return to the National Road.

You’ll find the Plainfield’s Oasis Diner on West Main Street. It serves ‘50s fare, including a pork tenderloin and pie of the day. What a great restoration effort.

Oasis Diner
Oasis Diner

Located on the border of Hendricks and Putnam counties on the south side of the road is Rising Hall Estate. Melville F. McHaffie built the Italianate home in 1872. The farm has served as a race horse breeding and training facility.

Putnam County has three original road sections. One section is at the southwest corner of where County Road 400 E meets the National Road. A brick road can be seen in front of the dilapidated Cedar Crest Motel. The bricks were placed between concrete curbing to keep them in place. Livestock sometimes graze in front of the motel.

At County Road 35 E, follow the Historic National Road marker to the north where the old road veers off behind the Walker Motel. This one mile section becomes County Road 550 S and goes over a reinforced concrete arch bridge over Deer Creek. Just south of the bridge, there is evidence of earlier structures that pioneers used to cross the creek.

In western Putnam County, follow the Historic National Road marker at County Road 700 W and turn right (north) for another section of original road and a concrete bridge over Big Walnut Creek.

Clay County Courthouse
Clay County Courthouse

Follow U.S. 40 into Brazil, which grew from a stage-line relay station to the county seat. The town’s historic district showcases examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture. On the north side of the road, the Clay County Historical Society Museum occupies the former post office.

On Brazil’s west side, go straight on S.R. 340 (W. National Road) where U.S. 40 veers left. This is an approximately six-mile section of concrete road that represents the highway before the four-lane improvement in the late 1930s

About a ¼ mile west of the traffic signal in East Glenn, on the south side of the road is the Twigg Rest Park. The park was one of the first “rest stops” along the road during the early days of auto travel. A little further west at the southwest corner of N. Hunt Street and the National Road is the Clabber Girl billboard.

Across the road at the west end of the Rose-Hulman Institute’s baseball and soccer complex is a 1930s cottage style gas station that was relocated to this site, which now serves as a snack bar. In the early 20th century, filling stations resembled cottages and homes.

Clabber Girl Museum
Clabber Girl Museum

At 9th and Wabash is the Clabber Girl Museum & General Store, which depicts the varied business interests of Hulman & Company. In addition to his Terre Haute company, Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., grandson of the company founder, purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November 1945 and made numerous changes to build the event known as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Visitors to the museum will see an actual Indy racecar on display, as well as other memorabilia from the famous speedway.

Stay on Wabash to experience the National Road through downtown. The Saratoga Restaurant on the corner of 5th and Wabash has served travelers since 1942. At 3rd Street in front of the Vigo County courthouse, turn right (north) on U.S. 41 and then immediately left (west) on U.S. 40.

On Terre Haute’s west end, The Paul Dresser and Theodore Dreiser Memorial Bridges span the Wabash River. Paul Dresser was a Broadway star and song writer who composed “On the Banks of the Wabash,” which became Indiana’s state song in 1913. Theodore Dreiser was a well-known writer in the early 20th century. In 1916, Dreiser’s “A Hoosier Holiday,” chronicled a two-week automobile trip from New York City to Warsaw, Indiana. The book is probably a forerunner of the American road novel.

The National Road continues through West Terre Haute and finally merges with I-70 west before exiting the state.

After traveling the National Road, I believe you’ll have a better idea of what it was like trekking cross country in the first half of the 20th century. This ends our journey across Indiana’s Historic National Road. Enjoy the drive.

Links to other parts of Indiana’s Historic National Road

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.