Category archives: Other Features

Horseless Carriage Club celebrates the class of brass

On the road in Arizona with the Horseless Carriage Club of America | Photos by Jim Resnick
On the road in Arizona with the Horseless Carriage Club of America | Photos by Jim Resnick

The chuffing and clattering charm of pre-1916 automobiledom comes alive when The Horseless Carriage Club of America gets together. Their “tours” with Brass Era cars saunter throughout America and soon, internationally, with rumors bubbling of a tour through Ireland. Part rolling museum, part living history, part mobile art, these automotive elder statesmen are all of the above.

In mid-February, Ford Model Ts, Buicks, REOs, Cadlliacs, Abbot Detroits, Chalmerses, Mitchells, Maxwells and Renaults gathered their owners for a week-long fling in the Arizona desert where they can flex their low-rpm muscle. Pre-selected low-traffic routes to and from a home base in Sierra Vista, south of Tucson, recapture an era before world wars, before fuel injection and before an Interstate highway system siphoned most of the challenge, adventure and romance out of the road.

The most significant component of pre-1916 automobiles’ charm –- and simultaneously, their biggest limiting factor –- is no uniformity in configuration or engineering.

IMG_4523 - 2“There was little commonality in the industry,” Alan Travis, a member from Wisconsin, said during a little confab before setting off for a long day’s drive.

In that era, if you manufactured a car, you literally manufactured just about every part on the car, except perhaps its tires. There was an enormous variance in engineering solutions to common issues. One extreme example was the Adams-Farwell, which used a rotary engine, but not like the rotary we understand today. It had a stationary crank mounted vertically in the frame and the engine’s cylinder cases rotated around it like satellites. Clearly, the brass era was an engineer’s delight.

“Also, if you wanted the best car in 1905, you bought European,” said Travis. “The business climate there was much better for success with these new contraptions. Imagine that in 1905, Cadillac only had single-cylinder motors. Several years later, though, they were ‘The Standard of the World’ with the first electric starter, ignition and lighting, and then the first with a series-produced V8 engine.”

Often, if you do need parts, you’re going to machine them yourself.”

— Bill Ottemann

 

Until 1912, most cars in the United States were actually right-hand-drive for several reasons. First, horse-drawn carriages were always controlled from the right side. Second, road conditions and signage was universally suspect. Most roads were still dirt or worse. You needed a very clear line of sight to the roads’ edge, especially when oncoming traffic approached to see what kind of trouble awaited you. Third, European cars –- which were about 10 years’ more advanced in metallurgy, engineering and organization at the time than domestics –- were largely right-hand-drive.

When Ford’s Model T debuted in 1909, it was left-hand-drive and the T’s bombshell success steered almost the whole industry.

“This Brass Era section of the old car hobby has been pretty level, perhaps gaining somewhat,” said Bill Ottemann, the Horseless Carriage club’s president. “Where most clubs have gone down in memberships, we’ve increased slightly, but this hobby is kind of limited. Most people don’t have the time to devote to it. It’s more time-consuming because there are so few specialists really conversant with how these cars work. They all work differently! Often, if you do need parts, you’re going to machine them yourself or rely on another owner with the tools to machine them.

Horseless Club members dance to the beat of a different drum.

Better put, they drive to the rhythm of a slow-turning engine. And the world’s richer for it.

About The Horseless Carriage Club of America: Started in 1937 in Los Angeles, the club has always been keenly interested in welcoming even non-owners to socialize and find which cars appeal most to prospective members. Members are tinkerers, engineers, some who have no mechanical ability and some old hot rodders. But the common thread among members is that everyone loves keeping these old Brass Era cars running. The National Club does three to four tours per year. Through the 40-50 regional chapters, the club holds a total of around 200 local tours each year. see www.hcca.org for more information.

1909 Sears
1909 Sears

Four for the road:

Jim & Donna Bunch of Glendale, Ariz., were miraculously reunited with a 1909 Sears that had left Donna’s family for 55 years. On a lark after joining the Horseless Carriage Club, Donna searched for the car her grandfather owned back in Pennsylvania when he was a big political campaigner. After verifying a few details, they knew they found the exact car. Her grandfather had painted his name on the back, his initials across the sides and the Sears had two Pennsylvania state inspection stickers under the seat. They began a campaign of their own, lobbying the then-present owner to sell it back to the original family. After a multitude of calls and e-mails, the owner relented: “Between you, your family and all the others always calling, I can’t take it anymore! I’ll sell it to you for what I have in it.” Three years hence, Jim and Donna bring it out for special occasions, though it’s too slow even for Horseless tours, so they trailer it to events.

1911 Chalmers
1911 Chalmer

Keene Brewer bought his 1911 Chalmers Model 30 M Touring after it won the Ansel Adams award at Pebble Beach in 1996, but he found it wouldn’t go up a hill very well. It won at Pebble but you could tell it had no grease anywhere and was a looker, not a runner. Brewer redid the entire car mechanically and is now a regular on Horseless Club tours.

 

1912 Abbott-Detroit
1912 Abbott-Detroit

Robert Trenley restored his 1912 Abbott-Detroit roadster in the early 1990s. It’s powered by a 350-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine rated at 44 hp whereas a Model T of the time made 20 hp; very powerful for the period. This Abbot-Detroit won the President’s Choice award at the 1996 Tour of the Century in Wisconsin, competing against more than 200 other Brass Era cars.

1911 Cadillac
1911 Cadillac

Bill Paul’s 1911 Cadillac Model 30 had been in dead storage for 80 years. The car’s second owner bought it in 1927 to deliver newspapers in Beverly Hills, Calif.,and Bill has the photos to prove it, along with the original sales receipt from the Cadillac dealer in Los Angeles. The only items replaced on the car from new are the mats on the running boards (they turned to dust), the top (replaced in 1960) and the tires. It is otherwise completely original with the paint brought back to life with tons of elbow grease and the brass revived with treatments of muriatic acid. As for the engine, Bill freed it up and rebuilt the original parts. It fired up on the second crank.

 Editor’s note: Tune in Saturday for an ‘Eye candy’ photo gallery from the Tour.

Irvine Cars and Coffee is classic, exotic car showcase

Photos by Vince Bodiford

Cars and Coffee in Irvine is likely the worst-kept car secret in Southern California.

“We prefer to keep it low-profile and not stir up lots of media attention,” is how John Clinard, semi-retired Ford Motor Company media rep, explained things to me. Ford “hosts” the event early Saturday mornings at the parking lot sandwiched between the Ford and Mazda headquarters. To make things easy on your GPS, it’s at 7905 Gateway Boulevard.

Considering that manufacturers often “secretly” show up with world-premiered concept cars, and about 300 other SoCal exotics and collectibles arrive each Saturday at the crack of dawn, plus several hundred enthusiasts, I think it’s safe to say that the cat is out of the bag.

I don’t mind getting up so damn early.”

— Ezekiel Wheeler

There are lots of Cars and Coffee gatherings around the country, but the Irvine gathering is the froth at the top of the event espresso. For example, last weekend Nissan dropped by with the IDx Freeflow and IDx Nismo concepts, cars which had made their world debut at the North American International (Detroit) Auto Show just a few weeks earlier. On a quick tour of Southern California, which included a stop at Motor Trend headquarters, it became clear that carmakers consider this Irvine cars and coffee crowd something of a focus group. As they well should — many of them have offices and design centers just minutes from this weekly gathering.

Among the big stars such as the Nissan concepts and a few million-dollar Ferrari’s, there is a large assortment of interesting cars that speaks directly to the spirit of the Southern California car culture — American muscle cars alongside vintage Porsches, alongside lowriders, next to European collectibles, beach cruisers, motorcycles, and everything in between.

Since I live in SoCal, this is my “local” Cars and Coffee and I’m always impressed how different the cars and people are from week to week. On this particular Saturday, I was most impressed with the owner of the custom hot-rod who brought his Girl Scout daughter along. She set up a stand selling Girl Scout cookies — which, I might add, sold out by the end of the morning.IMG_20140201_070403

As car folks go, this crowd is in the top 1 percent of the hobby.

“For me, Cars and Coffee is an oasis for enthusiasts, and you never know what’s going to turn up. It’s also one of the last gatherings where you can watch kids and adults alike fall in love with cars,” said Ezekiel Wheeler, himself a top automotive editor and photographer, adding, “which reminds me of why I don’t mind getting up so damn early.”

More information about Cars and Coffee Irvine can be found at  http://irvine.carsandcoffee.info/

(Editor’s note: Do you have a weekly or monthly gathering of the car clan in your area? Please use the Share Your Story tab to let us know about it so we can share your show with everyone.)

Leake’s Sevenoaks: New generation starting to drive collector car marketplace

New generation riding in on cars it wanted in high school | Leake photo
New generation arriving in pursuit of cars (such as this ’78 Trans Am) it wanted in high school | Leake photo

There’s a generational shift taking place in the classic car marketplace.

“If you drove into high school parking lots in the late ’70s and ’80s and into the early ’90s, everyone was into four-wheel (4×4) stuff and what were called ‘rice rockets’,” said Richard Sevenoaks, president of Leake Auction Company and, for our purposes, our lecturer for what we’ll call the Classic Car Marketplace 101.

Once upon a time, Sevenoaks reminded, classic cars were only those produced prior to World War II.

“It wasn’t until the early ‘80s that we start seeing the advent of the post-war car,” he said. “Prior to that, cars of the ’60s and ’70s were just used cars.

We’re seeing guys who were in high school in the ’70s and ’80s.”

— Richard Sevenoaks

 

“But suddenly we start seeing young folks — at least they… well, we were young then — who remembered the ’68 Shelby or the Firebird that Joe had in high school and who came to auctions and say, ‘that’s what I’m going to get’.

“Now,” Sevenoaks added, “we’re seeing guys who were in high school in the ’70s and ’80s.”

And, he said, it’s not just at auctions such as his.

“Go to a cars and coffee. We had a booth at cars and coffee in Dallas and in Oklahoma City last weekend. The demographics are 18 to 34 years of age. It’s amazing how young the folks are.

“There’s a whole new generation coming that we in the auction business have to capture. We just approved a budget for digital advertising in the social media world that skews young.”

Sevenoaks compared the auction companies’ position to that of a surfer riding big waves.

“All the auctions, ours included, have had record years,” he said. “We are riding the proverbial wave.

“But you paddle out, ride the big one, but then you have to paddle back out and hope you can ride the next one. You’re always looking over your shoulder for the next big set coming in.”

Fortunately for the auction companies, it doesn’t look as though they’ll have to wait very long for the next big wave to arrive.

And it’s not only happening among car collectors, Sevenoaks added. His family-owned company is entering its third generation as well. His father-in-law, Jim Leake, founded the auction company (officially in 1972, though he’d held a couple of stand-alone sales starting as early as 1964).

Sevenoaks and his wife, Leake’s daughter, Nancy, have been in charge since 1989. Now their children and children-in-law are taking on important roles — and bringing along their friends.

Friends who remember fondly those 4x4s, those hot imports, the now-classic pickup trucks and those Smokey and the Bandit Pontiac Trans Ams they couldn’t have back when they were in high school.

But the surge of new and younger classic car customers isn’t the only wave Leake auctions is riding at the moment.

Leake opens its 2014 auction calendar February 21-22 at Oklahoma City and then goes to Dallas for a sale April 25-26.

“Because of the oil economy, Oklahoma City is a boom town,” Sevenoaks said. “We go through these cycles every 15-20 years in Oklahoma and Texas. Oklahoma City has a new 60-story tower (building) in downtown, and the Thunder basketball team is going great. Dallas is another boom town because of the oil economy. We’ve done an auction there in the fall and we’ve added another and we’ll do two there for the foreseeable future.”

Leake’s Oklahoma City auction has grown so much it now has cars in three buildings at the OKC fairgrounds. But that will change, Sevenoaks said.

“At the end of this year, they’re knocking down one of the three buildings we use and building a new 250,000-square-foot building. That will allow us to put all the cars in one building instead of three. That will be a big plus for us.”

In the meantime, and to move 500 cars across the block in two days, Leake will have two lanes selling at the same time both days of its Oklahoma City auction.

“We’re doing that instead of having to start on Thursday or to take only 30 seconds per car. We want to take our time and give every car a fair shot at getting sold.”

It’s a really big dog in the Model T world.”

— Richard Sevenoaks

 

Among those cars are a rare 1921 Mercury Speedster, a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, several 1950s-late-1970s pickup trucks, a “good selection” of customs and street rods and, for those of a certain age, a ’78 Trans-Am and a 1977 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser.

Sevenoaks said that when Leake began advertising the ’21 Mercury, “we started getting telephone calls from people asking us if we knew what we had. The Horseless Carriage people were calling. The car is built on a Model T chassis but went to the Mercury factory to have a special Mercury body that made it a Speedster. There are documents and it’s a really big dog in the Model T world.”

Sevenoaks said every classic car collector in Oklahoma and Texas wants a classic pickup truck. “There’s a lot of interest right now in 1970-73 Chevy C10s,” he said.

Two other highly modified vehicles at the auction deserve some special mention, he said: a 1935 Ford Radical show truck and the 1940 Ford “Imagination” custom show truck with a supercharged 455-cid V8 engine mounted not under the hood but in the pickup bed.

 

Silver shines in its niche in Copper State’s classic car auction marketplace

Four Peaks frame Silver Auctions site in Arizona | Photo by Larry Edsall
Four Peaks frame Silver Auctions site in Arizona | Photo by Larry Edsall

Another in a series of previews of classic car auctions in January

Mitch Silver likes his niche in the classic car marketplace.

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photo by Larry Edsall

“It’s great to see million-dollar cars, but I’m not a participant there and most everybody I know isn’t either,” said the college professor turned auctioneer (see photo) who founded his classic car sales company some 36 years ago.

“I go [to the other auctions and] look at those cars, but then I come back where I can play,” Silver added.

Where Silver and his customers play is with cars priced not at seven-figure elevations, or even rarely at six, but in the five-figure range. Last year at his 16th annual January auction in the Phoenix area, the average sale price at Silver’s event was right around $14,000.

“I look at the sales that grab the headlines, but I don’t see myself ever collecting those cars, and that’s the case for a lot of people,” Silver said at the time. “They’re fun to see and to talk about, but what I’m looking for is to buy a 1950s convertible or muscle car.”

Silver’s annual January sale at the Fort McDowell resort and casino in Fountain Hills will offer 350 — or a few more — vehicles over two days of bidding. While some of the high-end auction houses tout vintage Ferraris, rare Duesenbergs and gull-wing Mercedes 300SLs, Silver’s headliners include:

  • a 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser,
  • a 1960 Plymouth Fury convertible,
  • a 1963 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop,
  • a wonderfully preserved, “rock stock” 1956 Chevrolet BelAir convertible,
  • a 1940 Mercury coupe,
  • “a lot of nice trucks,”
  • “early Ford V8 convertibles.”

In other words, classics that are affordable, that fun to drive and to take to local car shows right now, and that could be candidates for restoration somewhere down the road.

Photos courtesy Silver Auctions

Silver always liked old cars and had bought and sold a few, including some he chased others down in barns and backyards. Then he saw an advertisement for a classic car auction in Seattle.

“I went and it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” he said.

Silver went back to Spokane, staged his own auction, and then others and 10 years later he left Eastern Washington University and turned Silver Auctions into a full-time business.

But he’s never really left teaching behind. As each car crosses the block at his auction, he often shares the history of the marque, the model, or even the specific vehicle.

Where else, he’s said, can you sit down and have a classic car come past you every three minutes and have someone who knows about those cars tell you the vehicles’s history and technical information?

“It’s a very efficient way of shopping,” he said, adding that all the while, “you’re learning.”

To make that shopping more efficient, Silver trimmed what used to be a four-day auction to two days.

“We’re running about the same number of cars,” he said. “We just made longer days.”

This year, he’s also streamlining the opening hour of his sale, which is devoted to automobilia.

“We tried to pack a little too much into that hour in the past,” he said of trying to push through as many as 120 items in an hour. “We’re backing that down to 60 to 70 items this year. We have a lot of pressed-tin toys, some real nice stuff, and all at no reserve.”

But Silver won’t be the only one selling automobilia on the Fort McDowell property this month. The new Automobilia Scottsdale, a room full of vendors, will be set up in the resort ballroom not far from Silver’s auction tent.

“I think that is outstanding,” Silver said. “I’ve very happy to have more activities there and new people coming. I’ll be over there taking a look myself.”

Silver also said that he’s eager for those attending the new sale to discover “that Fort McDowell is close [to Scottsdale] and easy to get to.”

And, he might have added, a place to buy very reasonably priced classic cars.

Artist explores the ‘birth’ and destruction of classic sports cars

Disintegrating-03_Lres

Don’t worry, no classic cars were harmed in the making of Swiss artist Fabian Oefner’s images.

Oefner is known for his ability to fuse art and science. His latest work involves classic cars — their creation and their destruction.

“What you see in these images is a moment that never existed in real life,” he said in a news release from the MF&B M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva, Switzerland, where Oefner’s work is on display through May. (M.A.D. is short for Mechanical Art Devices.)

“What looks like a car falling apart is in fact a moment in time that has been created artificially by blending hundreds of individual images together. There is a unique pleasure about artificially baulking a moment… Freezing a moment in time is stupefying.”

The images in Oefner’s Disintegrating series show the demise of three classic sports cars — a 1967 Ferrari 330 P4, a 1961 Jaguar E-type coupe and a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SRL Uhlenhaut coupe.

On the other hand, his Hatch series explores “the birth of a car” as if the car was actually hatching.

Oefner said Hatch was inspired by an image he saw of a hatching chick. He wanted to explore how it might look if a manufactured object was born like a living organism. His choice of object was a Ferrari 250 GTO.

For Disintegrating, the news release reports, Oefner “first sketched on paper where the individual pieces would go, before taking apart the model cars piece by piece, from the body shell right down to the minuscule screws. Each car contained over a thousand components.

“Then, according to his initial sketch, he placed each piece individually with the aid of fine needles and pieces of string. After meticulously working out the angle of each shot and establishing the right lighting, he photographed the component, and took thousands of photographs to create each Disintegrating image.

“All these individual photos were then blended together in post-production to create one single image. With the wheels acting as a reference point, each part was masked in Photoshop, cut and then pasted into the final image.

“These are possibly the ‘slowest high-speed’ images ever captured,” he said. “It took almost two months to create an image that looks as if it was captured in a fraction of a second. The whole disassembly in itself took more than a day for each car due to the complexity of the models. But that’s a bit of a boy thing. There’s an enjoyment in the analysis, discovering something by taking it apart, like peeling an onion.”Fabian-Oefner-working_Lres

In Hatch, Oefner “presents his interpretation of how cars might be ‘born’. The first two images show a Ferrari 250 GTO – again a detailed scale model – breaking out of its shell. The third image shows one of the empty shells left behind among several others yet to hatch”

Oefner started with a latex mold of the model car. The mold was filled with a thin layer of gypsum to create a shell.

“Several dozens of these shells were made in order to complete the next step: smashing the shell onto the car to create the illusion of the vehicle breaking out. This step had to be repeated a great many times until the desired results were achieved.

“To capture the very moment where the shell hit the model, Fabian connected a microphone to his camera, a Hasselblad H4D, and flashes, so that every time the shell hit the surface of the car, the impulse was picked up by the microphone which then triggered the flashes and the camera shutter.

Oefner, who turns 30 in 2014, was 14 when he saw Harold Edgerton’s photo of  a bullet piercing an apple.  The photo inspired Oefner to buy his first camera.

“I have always experimented with all different kinds of art forms,” he said. “Photography turned out to be the form of art that I was most interested in.”

His previous work includes photographing “nebulae’”formed in a fiberglass lamp and bursting balloons filled with corn starch. He has photographed crystals of color rising in reaction to a speaker’s sound waves, captured the patterns created by magnetic ferrofluids pushing paint into canals, and taken color-crazy photos of paint modeled by centripetal forces.

“I am trying to show these phenomena in an unseen and poetic way,” he pauses, “and therefore make the viewer pause for a moment and appreciate the magic that constantly surrounds us.”

Oefner shared his ideas and artwork during a TED Talk, which includes several of his non-automotive of his images.

Mecum eyes 3000 vehicle plateau at Kissimmee auction

David Newhardt photo courtesy Mecum Auctions
David Newhardt photos courtesy Mecum Auctions

Another in a series of previews of classic car auctions in January.

When Dana Mecum staged his first classic car auction in Florida, it was held in conjunction with the annual Florida Corvette show at Cyprus Gardens.

“We started out with 40 cars in the parking lot behind the laundry at the Hilton Hotel,” said Mecum, whose Mecum Auctions returns to Florida in January, 2014 for an auction that will offer a quite few more than 40 cars.

“The auction doubled in size every year,” Mecum said, explaining that it wasn’t long before the original venue could provide no more than 250 places to park the auction cars.

“But we had consigned 400 cars so we had to move,” Mecum said.

Mecum moved from Cyprus Gardens to Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, a community known for hosting lots of visitors (Osceola Heritage Park is a 12-mile drive from Disney World).

Again, consignments doubled each year. Well, until the last couple of years, when the growth slowed, though for good reason. After all, there are only so many classic cars available for sale at any given time, and last year Mecum’s Kissimmee event offered up bidding on 2,500 of them.

Cars, cars and more cars.
Cars, cars and more cars.

“But 3,000 is our goal,” said Mecum, adding that consignments for the 2014 auction are running ahead of the pace they arrived for the 2013 event.

“That would be something to brag about,” he said of reaching his goal of 3,000 cars at a single auction.” That would be something our company can do and no other company has the infrastructure to put together and handle that many cars.”

To put the scope of Mecum’s Kissimmee event in perspective, that one auction offers about the same number of cars as all six sales taking place during the Arizona Auction Week.

“The whole industry has settled around Arizona,” Mecum said. “We sat down one day and said, ‘there’s a lot of cars east of the Mississippi, too’.”

Now, he added, Kissimmee “has become our flagship.”

But it’s not only the number of cars available at the Kissimmee auction that has doubled and then doubled again and again. Mecum recently signed a three-year contract with NBC and its Sports Group of channels to televise many of his company’s auctions, starting with Kissimmee.

“For more than 20 years, we lived with our main media partner being Hemmings, and it still is our primary print partner,” Mecum said. “But it has 250,000 subscriptions.

“We went from that to Discovery/Velocity [TV outlets]. When we started, there were  15-18 million households [with those channels available]. It has grown to be in the 35-40 million range.

“But now we’re moving to NBC Sports and moving from 35-40 million to 80-90 million. We’re doubling our exposure. It’s a very big deal.”

Mecum also is expanding his company’s exposure by adding new events. The inaugural sale at Harrisburg, Pa., will be July 24-26 and plans are being made for another new sale, this one in Seattle.

realmcoy1
‘The Real McCoy’ 1956 Chevrolet Corvette racer

But first come the MidAmerica motorcycle sale Jan. 9-11 in Las Vegas (Mecum is buying the long-time motorcycle auction house from its founder) and the Kissimmee sale that runs from Jan. 17-26.

With nearly 3,000 cars available at Kissimmee, there figures to be something for everyone. Mecum grades cars from general to featured to stars to “main attraction.”

This year the big attractions at Kissimmee include a couple of Duesenbergs, a couple of L88 Corvettes, a Boss 429 Mustang and the auction superstar, “The “Real McCoy” Corvette.

Mecum says his Florida auction “started as a Corvette auction and our roots are very much Corvettes. Last year we had 700 Corvettes at Kissimmee.”

The Real McCoy car is a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR prototype that some will tell you is the car that kept the Corvette in production. Ford launched its two-seater, the Thunderbird, for 1955 and sold 16,000 of them while Chevy found buyers for only some 700 of its fiberglass-bodied roadsters.

Chevrolet engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov knew his pet project was in jeopardy, so he stuffed a special V8 engine under the hood and headed off to Daytona Beach, where, on the eve of General Motors’ big Motorama show in New York City, he set a two-way, flying-mile speed record. Duntov then worked with three-time Indy 500 winner Maury Rose and legendary mechanic Smokey Yunick to prep the car for the Sebring endurance race, in which John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove to ninth overall and first in their production sports car class.

Chevrolet touted the car as “The Real McCoy” in an advertising campaign.

“The Real McCoy,” said Mecum. “This is the car that saved the brand.”

Subscribe below to be notified of the next in this series of January auction previews.

 

It’s like Stonehenge, except made from cars

carhenge

‘There are no big stones out there,” Jim Reinders said of the Nebraska Sandhills where he grew up on the family farm. “But automobiles are about the same size as the stones at Stonehenge, and they’re easier to move because they have wheels on them.”

Reinders’ work as an oil exploration and production engineer took him to England for much of the 1970s. While there, he became fascinated with Stonehenge, a circle of intricately positioned slabs of bluestone which ancient people somehow transported and then assembled in what may be an astronomic calendar, a cemetery or some sort of religious site.

“Whenever visitors came to see us, we went to Stonehenge,” Reinders said, who was fascinated to the point that, “When I reached retirement age, I thought it would be nice to duplicate it out of something.”

That something would be automobiles. While we don’t know the reason or purpose Stonehenge was constructed, we do know what Reinders and his friends and relatives were doing, they were creating a memorial to Reinders’ father, who died in 1982.

Five years later, a sort of friends and family reunion was held to create Carhenge in a field at the corner of the Reinders’ farm. Carhenge is made from 38 automobiles positioned to mimic Stonehenge. The circle is nearly 100 feet in diameter.

Since it’s creation, the Carhenge site has expanded to include an automotive art gallery, the Car Art Reserve which includes several other large sculptures made from cars and car parts.

Carhenge is located a few miles north of Alliance, in the Nebraska panhandle that reaches up above Colorado and bumps into Wyoming. Alliance is east of I-25 and north of I-80.

At first, officials in Alliance saw the structures as an eyesore and (even though the farm and structure were outside the city limits and their jurisdiction) they sent the sheriff out to figure out how to tear it down. However, others in town recognized the structure’s potential as a tourist attraction.

Ownership of the site eventually was transferred from Reinders to the Friends of Carhenge, and in the summer of 2013 to the city of Alliance and its visitors bureau.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help cover the nearly $40,000 a year in maintenance costs. Even though it’s 80 miles from the nearest Interstate exit ramp, Carhenge annually attracts some 80,000 visitors.

 

Presents delivered, Santa swaps reindeer and sleigh for some classic horsepower…

Photo by Larry Edsall
Photo by Larry Edsall

Now that he’s put away the sleigh and fed the reindeer, Santa’s swapping his tall back snow boots for his favorite pair of Pilotis and he’s heading out on the road in his classic sports car for a nice long drive. What classic car activity are you doing this holiday season? (Tell us about it in the “Share your thoughts!” box below.)

Regardless your ride — be it a classic or brand new — from the Jolly One, and from all of us at the ClassicCars.Com Blog, have a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

Congratulations to our pre-launch grand prize winner!

Congratulations to Gary Loar from Cresson, Pa., on being the grand prize winner in our pre-launch drawing! Gary has won a great prize package for a classic car fan:

  • An autographed copy of Larry Edsall’s Masters of Car Design
  • A handsome ClassicCars.com stainless steel travel tumber with velour bag
  • A ClassicCars.com mouse pad
  • A set of ClassicCars.com ball-point pens

Gary was kind enough to share his story about his beautiful 1954 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe, which we posted earlier today.

Gary, we hope you’ll enjoy all of the above every day as you visit the ClassicCars.com Blog!

We’re walkin’ in a Willie’s wonderland

(Editor’s note: One of the features we hope to include as a regular part of this blog are  photos and stories from those often unexpected but usually very pleasant surprises found while exploring the rust and dust of the old roads. Let us know if you’ve come across such places so we can share your stories and photos as well.)

Photos by Larry Edsall
Photos by Larry Edsall

Bobby Troup wrote about Flagstaff, Kingman, Barstow and San Bernadino, and for some reason he didn’t forget Winona, though I’ve been there and saw nothing that might be a reason for memorialization in a song. Unless, perhaps, Winona wasn’t just the way station between Gallup and Flagstaff but a woman who shared the town’s name?

Regardless, Troup didn’t include Newberry Springs in his lyrics for (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, perhaps because even back in 1946 Newberry Springs was little more than a watering hole in the Mojave Desert (they wouldn’t film the movie Bagdad Cafe there until the mid-1980s), or maybe because Vartan “Willie” Kalajian had yet to establish his business in Newberry Springs.

We were driving the California section of old Route 66 when we spotted what appeared to be an auto salvage yard hidden behind trees and protected by a big fence. However, it never — well, not usually — hurts to see if you can get in, so we followed a long, sandy driveway to an open gate.

There sat Willie himself, wrenching on a spotless white Karmann-Ghia he was building up for his daughter.

Willie mind if we wandered around and took some photos?

Help yourself, he said.

Later, we got to chatting and realized that if we’d have asked to stay for dinner, Willie likely would have been accommodated.

Willie’s business is Willie’s On & Off Road Center, which specializes in Volkswagens and in using VW parts to build dune buggies, he said. After our trip, we checked his website (www.williesoffroad.com) and learned he also scouts locations for movie shoots, and provides vehicles for those movies and location support for film crews working throughout the region.