Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Star Cars and Reel Rides

Be sure to enlarge this pic and examine the detail. As you can see the designers had no precedent and were still heavily influenced by the Horse and Carriage days as this is truly a Horseless Carriage. The windows went up and down by pulling down on a leather strap and I'll bet there were no heaters to ward off the winter chill but this was very hi-tech for the day (I love this picture). Look at the etched glass (not tempered), the rotating door handles, headlights and all the hand crafted workmanship. The poor driver and doorman were left out in the elements! As you can see the designers were still heavily influenced by the Horse and Carriage days as this is truly a Horseless Carriage. The windows went up and down by pulling down on a leather strap and I'll bet there were no heaters to ward off the winter chill but this was very hi-tech for the day (I love this picture). Look at the etched glass (not tempered), the rotating door handles, headlights and all the hand crafted workmanship. The poor driver and doorman were left out in the elements!

O of my favorite cars. I'm sure everyone recognizes Senator GEORGE P. WETMORE from Rhode Island and his lovely wife Edith in 1906 (just kidding) simply because of their ride. Wouldn't it be fun to pull up for work everyday in this fab convertible? Of course only a politician or maybe a Supreme Court Justice could pull off the dignity and austerity of this. It wouldn't look the same if I arrived in jeans and a T-Shirt like I normally look!

Of course there were no CD players or even a radio much less air conditioning or a cell phone to distract from the ride. It was obviously meant for transportation and to be seen enhancing your dignity and stature (...and having some fun...). That's not to say there weren't distractions or even a drunk driver. This was of course BEFORE all such laws designed to inhibit such things. Even the thought of seatbelts was still many years away.

Harvard graduate Senator BOIES PENROSE could have used a bit more attention on the road in 1920 as you can see from his car that just took out a lamp post, mail box and stopped at the tree above. Of course we hope this didn't happen during his campaign and it does look like a slick rainy day, so it probably wasn't from partying all night.....

I've actually stayed at the Broadmore Hotel, the hotel he built in Colorado Springs in 1918!

Best available data on the left shows this as a 1914 Marmon Seven Passenger Touring Car and one fabulous ride. Click the Pic to enlarge it and look at some of the detail. Fabulous! This was the "Family Car" of the day for the wealthy and again it looks like lots of handmade parts. So if something broke I would imagine you would have to go to some sort of machinist to get another part made from scratch.

On the right take a look at this 1917 side impact of a car at a corner with no apparent stop signs and there seems to have been a disagreement over who had the "Right of Way". As most of these things were handmade and the designers did not have safety in mind. The seats seem to have come loose and I don't see a steering wheel. Hmmmm....... (Check out the wooden wheel rims!).

They didn't corner very well and the speeds were quite different but it was more or less the transition of our entire society to a more mobile state when those farm boys could get into a city and the girls weren't trapped in one place. That's Mrs. Guy Henry on the left sporting her 1908 Maxwell Tourabout (Click her to Enlarge the Photo). Look at that crank handle on the front. I'll betcha that puppy caused problems when it kicked back and the tires have NO tread!

1917 was good year for the movies even as PRESIDENT WILSON called for "...Peace without Victory..." hoping to bring an end to WWI raging in europe. Popular Hollywood stars of the day were the outrageous Miss Theda Bara starring in the current release of "Cleopatra" and exemplified feminine mystique and beauty. Specialty Vehicles were being designed and used for everything from hauling freight to cross country travel. Bear in mind this was long before America had an interstate highway cross country travel system and the roads were all local and interconnecting. Some dirt, some gravel while few were paved and passage was subject to prevailing weather conditions. A good map must have been impossible to find but folks did manage to get across as Americans are wont to do.

One of the good things about these vehicles was their versatility. If something fell off or broke or was otherwise damaged you could always improvise which has since become an American way of life. For example if you lost the convertible top on old "Betsy" like George and Joe did (George R. Wharff and Joseph Fossard of Old Orchard Beach, Maine) on their way back to Maine from Florida in May of 1922, well you could just pull over and improvise with some of those plentiful palm fronds. (Photo just below) Don't laugh! It kept the rain out and the sun from cooking'em. Pretty darn clever. The speeds weren't great and Old Gyp the wonder dog found solace on the bumper all the way back. Jumping off from time to time to relieve himself and catch an occaisional snack he could catch up and jump back on that comfortable bumper....

Looks like Joe had HUGE nuts! Coconuts that is.... ;) and "Gyp" really was the dog's name!

Looks like plenty of folks had nothing better to do and stopped by to get in the picture. I love that young soldier trying to look older with more authority with his pipe! There was quite a bit of equipment involved to take a picture like this so I imagine it drew a lot of attention, especially in front of a Vaudeville Theater with "Continuous Showing" of whatever was playing.

Of course one had to get these things repaired quite often and their complexity of operation was quite new to the American psyche. So the much revered and expert FARRIER evolved into the local neighborhood mechanic with a skill set that could build a wagon wheel for cart or car and still explain the turn signal like arm on the steering column that would retard the timing for starting with a crank and advancing the timing when you were ready to roll. Here they are just below at Semmes Auto Garage in Wash. D.C. 1926.

I love this Pic! A place where a man can go and literally smell the testosterone mixed with axle grease and cigar smoke! There's nothing better than a slippery craftsman tool combined with an almost magical understanding of internal combusting valve lifting overheadin' camshafting flathead spark pluggin differentialing U-jointed camaraderie! Truly a brotherhood of mechanized man-bonding! A Bromance of Tool Time Freds and Teds! (I am NOT gay) Hehehe....

I'm a Truck-Man myself and am always willing to take a look or a ride on anything that remotely claims to be called "TRUCK". Throw in "Four Wheel Drive" and we're friends for life....
Now here we are with Pat and Mike in 1927 with their FWD (Four Wheel Drive) lift bed dump trucks! And the BEST thing ? Look at the window in back, gas was only twenty cents a gallon! What more could a man want? I ask you....! (except MORE of the same!)

Here he is Mr. COOL himself, Bogey and Veronica Lake on the set of one of the Sam Spade productions with a Chevy convertible. The designers had made the transition and production lines were all the rage for manufacturing for the masses. I loved that Sam Spade character!

I'm getting ahead of myself there with Bogey, let's jump back a couple of years to 1934 and actor CARL BRISSON and his very important imported and elegantly Italian designed ISOTTA FRASCHINI.

Just on the left here and to give you an idea on how elegant these vehicles were is a beautifully restored 1928 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A S LeBaron Boattail Roadster from the Imperial Palace Auto Collections in Las Vegas (Click Photo to Enlarge). While I certainly appreciate such a fantastic design there is no way most of us could afford just to maintain such a thing. Just thinking of the cost of insurance gives me the willies!

Of course whenever you mix the words Hollywood and Car you are bound to wind up showcasing the flashiest and latest designs. Personality makes a big difference and the more conservative and level headed kept their cool. Here's a few examples:

On the left just above you can Click on Mr Gary Cooper with his 1950 Mercury and on the right is Tarzan himself, Mr Johnny Weissmuller with his 1932 Chevy Convertible (Click Photo to Enlarge). While just below is the flashy playboy ERROL FLYNN in his Super Charged Auburn Speedster Convertible.

Not to be outdone by us puny men those fabulous ladies of yesteryear were no strangers to the leadfoot lifestyle with the new found freedoms of mobility and Flapper influences such as actress Miss ELEANOR BLIVENS doing some serious speed shifting with a huge grin (Click her Pic to Enlarge). A remarkable woman that raced cars, flew planes and starred in movies!

No roll bars or flame retardant here, safety was not a big consideration. Just below is Miss Rita Hayworth proudly showing off her 1941 Lincoln Continental.

Just above is Miss Marlene Dietrich and her gorgeous 1935 Cadillac Custom and she is also reputed to have owned this 1935 eight cylinder Phaeton just to left here. Give it click and take a close look, it's fabulous!

One of very favorite actresses of this period was Miss Marion Davies. Her association with William Randolph Hearst is well known and of course she was portrayed as a complete bimbo in "Citizen Kane", but nothing could be further from the truth.

She was quite a well known and successful Hollywood star and became a millionaire in her own right, which was quite an accomplishment in those days. When William Randolph began to go bankrupt she offered all the money she had earned on her own to support him. A very interesting woman and here she is just below on the set in four different vehicles of the day.....

Click Pic to Enlarge

The four Pix just above are all of Miss Marion Davies on various sets (Mouse over the Pix for Descripition) and all are clickable to enlarge. I LOVE that Boat Tail number in the top left photo of Miss Marion on the set of "Cardboard Lover 1928"! There she is again getting pulled in common Ford (above right) in "The Patsy 1928". On the above left she is appearing with The Keystone Cops in another Ford Convertible.

We can't really finish up with the ladies without including the Joan. Miss Joan Crawford that is.

Mr. Clark Gable was a motorhead! On the left he's proudly sitting atop his beautiful 1935 Dusenberg while on the right sporting his 1938 Supercharged Ford V8 Speedster (I feel like an announcer at a fashion show). Obviously a man who enjoyed the manly mechanized arts of a motorhead! Cars of today have lost all that appeal of individual expression of character. Of course they run a lot better today and are much more efficient but have lost many of the design elements that made these old cars real works of art. Along with the architecture of the grand old victorians compared to the houses we all live in today, it's hard to tell one car from another today.

From a distance I couldn't tell the difference between a Honda and Toyota or even a Ford and Chevy today. They all look pretty much the same. I think this is the appeal. At this stage of my life I've become very interested in perhaps building a 1931 Dusenberg reproduction car out in the garage this winter.

Here's the one I would love to build.......

Although mine would be a reproduction car it would still be a fun winter project. Although Mrs Movie Classics would have fit, ...in the beginning! You never know I just might be able to convince her on the worthiness of such a project!

Jay Leno Videos

Jay Leno did a six part mini-series last year that got me all fired up. Unlike me he of course has unlimited funds to draw on and can afford the real thing. So here's a sample of his restoration of his REAL Dusenberg... Having been married for so many years my esteemed bride has a long memory and quite a history of garage projects that never really caught on. In broaching this subject I'm in for a good half hour of re-counting the many and varied garage projects that had altogether somewhat unexpected outcomes. She usually begins when I was six and was going to "get rich" by helping my own grandfather with one of his winter garage projects. The "Tandem Bicycle". There was of course a design flaw that seemed to be apparent to everyone but us. It was a great idea that was practically "stolen" from us and tweaked by another who "claimed" HE had invented our design when actually all HE had done was "round-out" a few of the rough edges.... This recounting will ultimately arrive at our most recent winter "garage project" invention; the Nun-Chuk Hammer! We ultimately got sued over this one as an entire construction crew apparently hurt themselves trying to frame out a subdivision in California. We were lucky the courts found we had "...no malicious intent..." and ordered us to only refund the cost of the hammers. Whew! Just kidding of course (thank you photoshop). Got to throw in a bit of humor along the way although Mrs Movie Classics rarely appreciates my humor. Hmmm... I wonder why? This will bring us almost to the end of our "Cars of the Stars" Blog. The Dymaxion (a portmanteau of the words "dynamic maximum tension")! You may have never heard of this very real vehicle but it captures the adventurous spirit of the times when things were not so complex. You could actually invent a vehicle that was both revolutionary in design and family oriented in performance. This was the original Buckminster Fuller design just to the right here (Click Pic to Enlarge). I love this design! If you would like to take a moment to see this car in action, there's even a shot of Amelia Earhart in the backseat, CLICK HERE. The design was exceptional and remains so even today. It "caught on" in the auto industry and intrigued many of the engineers of the day, although it was never mass produced. Here's one redesigned with the single wheel in front and a couple of small jet engines attached....

Just above is the Four Wheeled Version

Very "Deco" Styling! Although I'm sure the mini-vans of today are much more comfortable and fuel efficient they lack the obvious imaginative flare of the Dymaxion! And don't think fuel efficiency was a new idea! Even though some of these fantastic works of art may seem like giant behemoths of solid steel there was thought given to size and fuel efficiency as early as 1924. I'll leave you with the ride of Miss Mary Bay in late January attempting to make a left turn on a busy Washington D.C. street in 1924...

Life in the '50s (Click The Pix)!

Click On The Pic Above

Sept. 15, 1937 Miss Sally Halterman is the first woman to be granted a liscence to operate a motorcycle.

Above: 1939 BMW Cabrio 335 Classic

Movie Classics

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We love Vintage Hollywood! The likes of Errol Flynn, Richard Widmark, Cary Grant, Sterling Hayden and those magnificent ladies of yesteryear!
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