by Althea Travis
The idea for a Mini-Model Antique Automobile Show was created in order to add a bit of joy and levity to an otherwise long winter away from our real love – our antique and classic cars. Another part of the planning was that members would get to share their car stories with each other and not by chance, but by design, get to know a broader group of club members. The Mini-Model Antique Automobile Show was a concept first developed by Janet Lowry, an active member of the Mustang Club and the Peconic Bay Region, AACA. Janet brought the concept to the Peconic Region
this past month.
Our Greater New York Region (GNYR), AACA March meeting featured our first Mini-Model Antique Automobile Show. As predicted, the members told many interesting stories about their vehicles. The meeting started with club members putting their models, or photographs, on display. The display included a broad range of models. After the members had seen the model cars as a group, people got their desserts and coffee and sat down to hear the stories of the cars. In many cases, people sat near the person with the model that they wanted to know about. Stories of these vehicles and the members’ attraction to them, were told. Some people told stories about the unique vehicles that they had longed for or had owned. One member, Steve Wepprecht, spoke of the many hours that most of us would spend, as youngsters and also as adults, building models from kits or from scratch. Steve mentioned that that kind of activity seems to be a lost interest. Another member suggested that maybe it would interesting for us to learn more about model making, not only as a pastime and for relaxation, but also about how professionals create their models for car design purposes.
As a way of introducing our members and their vehicles to our members who couldn’t get to talk with every model car owner at the mini-car show, and for the club members who could not attend, we will have some photos and a story in this months newsletter, and feature additional stories in the coming months.
The response to our first show indicated that this show could be a very popular attraction at future meetings.
Our First Mini-Model Car Show Story: “1929 Ford Rumble Seat Convertible Roadster
– How a $5,000 Car Became a $10,000 Car”
Tom Vitale brought the model of his 1929 Ford Rumble Seat Convertible Roadster to the show. The actual car was the Ford anniversary car built for the 50th anniversary of the car’s construction. Tom was lucky enough to find the car in Milford, PA near the house that he had in the Poconos. The car was built in
1980 by Shay, the company that built fiberglass cars for Disney.
When Ford developed the idea of making an anniversary car of their 1929 Ford Rumble Seat Convertible Roadster, they approached their customers about their interest in purchasing the car. The dealers asked for a down payment on the vehicle, with a projected final price of $5,000. Ford approached Shay, the
company that built fiberglass car bodies for Disney to build a replica. There was very little metal in the car – the only metal components were the hood, the chassis, and the engine – they used a Pinto engine. With the prototype complete, Ford went to the government for approval.
Since this was the 1980s, safety being an issue, mechanical brakes had to be replaced with a hydraulic system and the gas tank had to be relocated to the rear or the car. The government told Ford that they could not have the gas tank under the dashboard as they did in the old Model A’s – instead manufacturers had to have the gas tank in the rear of the car and underneath it. In addition, the manufacturers were told that they couldn’t have a straight axle – you had to have an A frame like the newer Fords To top off the long list of requirements, it was necessary to have safety glass, a feature that was not available in 1929. It was good news to learn that, at least, the manufacturer could have the exact same shape as the 1929 Ford. Finally there was permission to build something like the original, even if it was only the shape of the car. The new anniversary car was named The Shay in honor of its manufacturer.
In order to get government approval, the final price of the car ended up being $10,000, double the original projected cost. As a result, 70-75% of the public canceled their orders.
Tom bought the car in 1997 and paid $7,790. The car had only 5,000 miles on it. The only reason he got rid of it was because it had canvas side curtains, that you had to snap on – you couldn’t see through them very well – and when you would un-snap the side curtains and take them off, rain and wind would blow into the car. The car just had too many inconveniences.
Tom traded the Shay in at the same garage in Pennsylvania where he bought it. In exchange, he got the 1953 Chevy Belair, painted powder blue on the bottom and dark blue on the top, and $1,000 besides! Now, is that a Good Deal?! Tom thought it was. The next part wasn’t easy.
It took Tom a long time to solve some electrical problems with the Chevy – eight long years! The car has been a pleasure to drive ever since then. You often see Tom in that Chevy today. A few years back, the author of this article had the privilege of riding in this car from Bayside to midtown Manhattan when the GNYR participated in the Veteran’s Day parade up Fifth Avenue. What a fantastic memory – and a joy to ride in. Wow! Did that car give a thrill to all of the onlookers!
From Lou Sasso: My ‘49 Mercury (the car and the Danbury Mint Model)
As a teen-ager growing up in the 1950’s, The 1949 Mercury was an instant favorite of my generation. (especially after movie idol James Dean drove his ‘49 Black Merc. In the movie “Rebel Without a Cause”).
In December 1990, while searching for the car of my dreams, I cam across an ad in Hemming Motor News for a two-door coupe, located in Pennsylvania. I immediately made a phone call and much to my delight, the car was in stock condition (not modified). And the color was black. Just what I was looking for. I set an appointment for the following day and my wife, Brenda and I were on our way.
We arrived at the location and the homeowner led us to the car where he and I removed the car cover. I was pleased and excited to see how nice the car was and that he accurately described the car to me. The only thing I noticed that was not original were the blue-dot taillights, but that was OK with me.
After a brief negotiation, a price was agreed upon. At that point, he further told me that the Danbury Mint had recently sent representatives to check out the car because they were going to produce a die cast metal replica of one of America’s
greatest cars. They wanted to use this particular car because of its originality.
After I took ownership, I sent the Danbury Mint a letter indicating I was the new owner and if they needed more information, to contact me.
I also asked if they could send me a letter stating that the car was used as the model.
The Danbury Mint sent me a letter confirming this fact. When the model became available some months later, I looked it over closely and found that they had copied my car right down to those blue-dot taillights. I can honestly say that after all these years when I open the garage door and see my Merc., I enjoy it as much as I did on that day in 1990 when the previous owner and I removed the car cover. Part of the History that goes with the car is that it was selected by the Danbury Mint to make its replica model car. That to me is the icing on the cake.
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