Allard and Crosleys at auction

Yes, I know this is supposed to be another post about the Great Willys Picnic, but that will come after this one.¬† be patient, please ūüôā

My friends Bobby, Mike, George and I went out to dinner and then to a local auction this evening.  Our big interest was seeing the 1949 Allard that was up for sale.  Despite all of the cars looking rather decrepit we were still drawn to see what they went for.  There was an Allard, a 1964? Mercedes, and three Crosleys.

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While the Allard was covered in surface rust, the steel was complete without any rust through.  Over all much of the car was present amongst the parts piled beside it.  It originally came with a Ford flathead V8, but was outfitted at some point with a Cadillac V8.  The lines of the car are quite striking and it must have been beautiful when new.  The Allard sold for around $18,000.  Next up was a 1964(?) Mercedes.

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This car probably ran when it was stored.  It was the second time for the auctioneer selling this very car.  He sold it to the owner of the estate back in 1984.  Doors shut with a satisfying clunk, the interior wood was in great shape, and the car was complete.  It sold for a very reasonable price of $8,000.  I assume this was because they did not start it.  Finally came the Crosleys, led by a 1949 Hotshot.

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This was quite an eclectic collection all coming from one estate.¬† The Hotshot was complete, and not in too bad shape for a barn find.¬† This would not be a hard restoration though I think it sold a little too high at around $1,700.¬† If it had been running and in this shape I could have seen that price.¬† These cars actually became popular in racing circles in the 1950’s.¬† They were designed so that windshield, bumpers¬†and lights could be stripped down easily for racing.¬† Even after Crosley’s demise in 1952 these cars were outfitted with a wide variety of engines to play on the race circuits.¬† I would like to play with one of these someday.¬† Finally there were a 1947 pickup and convertible.

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If I had spare time of any sort and any money whatsoever I would have bid on the pickup.  It needed ALOT of work but would be a cute little parts runner.  It went for $650.00 which seems quite fair.

Okay, stay tuned for more of the Great Willys Picnic next time!!

13th annual Great Willys Picnic

This past Sunday was the Great Willys Picnic held this year at the WK&S Railroad (http://www.kemptontrain.com/) in Kempton, PA.  This was my first time attending and Hanson Mechanical was one of the sponsors.  After getting very lost (my fault!!) I made it there by noon.  When I signed in I was the 63rd Jeep to arrive.  Just after me another WW2 Jeep showed up.

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The lineup of Military Jeeps was mostly MB’s and GPW’s, all nicely restored.¬† Along with an M38 or two in the mix.¬† I loaded my Jeep up with the usual British/ Canadian Para equipment including the BSA folding bicycle on the front bumper.¬† MIne was the “beater” of the lot.¬† Every five years or so it comes time to tear my Jeep down and redo it.¬† I think it is coming time for a new paint job.¬† I figure if you have a Jeep drive it!!¬† It will not remain pristine that way but it will feel loved.

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The selection of civilian Jeeps was quite varied, from CJ2A’s to forward control Jeeps.¬† Quite a few Jeeps were there with pto’s and the various accessories.¬† I will include photos of those in my next posting.

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Since we were at a vintage railroad many of us opted for a train ride.  I was wandering around when I received a call from my friend, Mike Hardesty, of jeepchasm.com  He was on the train and so I ran down and bought a ticket just in time for a ride.  The train went through a village maintained by the local Historical Society, and on down a few miles of line.  The cars were well maintained and it was a fun trip.

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I cannot recommend this event enough! At the end of the day we took several Jeeps for a convoy around some local roads.  The location was wonderful, the WK&S were great hosts and the array of Jeeps and vendors was fantastic.  If you like vintage Jeeps then this is a show to attend.  It will be at the same location next year and should once again be the second weekend of June.

M715 is on ebay

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The 1968 M715 is now running and for sale on ebay.

Follow this link to the listing: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261037884909&ssPageName=ADME:L:LCA:MOTORS:1123

The listing has a full description, links to more pictures and a video of the vehicle driving.  Looks like it is near reserve so I am hoping for a sale soon.

Almost a phoenix: Bobbi-Kar part 2

S.A. Williams’s problems were growing.  Not only was the SEC investigating him, but his prison record for a prior scam came to light.  Williams started hunting for a new state to run his scam out of.  After Delaware fell through he decided on moving the Bobbi-Kar works to Huntsville, Alabama, far away from the prying eyes of the California Commissioner of Corporations.  Plus Williams found another vast, empty factory in Hunstville which he managed to lease.  In mid 1946 Bobbi-Kar headed to Huntsville

Meanwhile Liefield hired Keller. George Keller had a stellar reputation as an honest man, and he had real automotive industry experience with Studebaker.  Williams found out in Alabama that he was not allowed to run a company there as his history had followed him.  Keller stood up against Williams and set about a small revolution that re-organised the company.  Williams was bought out by investor Hubert Mitchell of Huntsville.

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The new Bobbi-Kar company briefly became the Dixie Motor Car Corporation, but it was nearly broke.¬† Hubert Mitchell was the next person who set about making things right.¬† Mitchell was originally interested in the car company as a place to sell seats from his furniture company.¬† But as he learned what a mess the company was in, and grew to like the staff who he said were,‚ÄĚ innocent victims,‚ÄĚ he set about a plan.

Mitchell worked with Keller to create a new company out of the ashes of the old.  Mitchell saw the experience and enthusiasm in Keller, Liefield and the rest of their compatriots.  Mitchell also suggested that the new company be named Keller Motors, as he saw that George Keller was the driving energy behind this group of automotive designers.  To his credit, Keller had pushed for the company to be named after Mitchell.

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The original Bobbi-Kar was re-worked slightly as a display model.  Then, partially based off of designs for a woodie Bobbi-Kar wagon, the Keller car was designed.  The Keller Super Chief was made largely of wood.  This meant that they could use less expensive materials and labor to produce a slightly larger but affordable car.  The rest of the car was made out of readily available components.  In a car starved United States the prototype Kellers received rave reviews.

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As Tucker, Playboy, Davis and others battled the SEC, so did the new Keller Motors corporation.  While trying to build initial cars, and while raising money from possible franchisees, Liefield and his staff also fought with the SEC to be allowed to issue stock.  Finally the SEC grudgingly gave approval, and Keller Motors went into motion for their initial stock issue.  In September, 1949 the stock went public and sold well.  The little group of dedicated automotive men celebrated with a big dinner on October 4th.  It looked like all their trials were over, and their little company would have the funds and dealer base to build and sell cars.

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The morning after their celebratory dinner George Keller did not come down for breakfast.¬† They found Keller dead of a heart attack in his hotel room.¬† With the Keller staff despondent, the stock sales were pulled.¬† There was enough money left in the company to pay off all debts.¬† The stock brokers gave the company 90 days to find a replacement for Keller.¬† But the company was built around George Keller, his drive, honesty, and enthusiasm.¬† Liefield said without Keller,‚ÄĚ we had no spark plug left in the engine.‚Ä̬† Keller¬† Motors shut down after producing only eighteen cars.¬† The roller coaster ride that began with an honest idea, and a swindler, almost came to fruition only to be shut down by Keller‚Äôs tragic death.

If Keller had survived the little company would have had an uphill struggle.  Even Crosly Motors, with the deep pockets of Powell Crosley subsidizing losses, only survived until 1952.  Oddly though, only a few years later in 1955, the Volkswagen Beetle would begin selling successfully in the United States.  Perhaps these little cars were a good idea too soon.

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Sources for this article were the original Bobbi-Kar press release of 1946, articles in the Jan/ Feb 1975 and Sept/ Oct 1975 Special Interest Autos, and this article from Huntsville rewound: http://www.huntsvillerewound.com/HSVkellercar

The road to hell is paved with good intentions: Bobbi-Kar part 1

If you have seen my main website you can tell that I enjoy the the story behind each automobile, motorcycle, or engine that I work on.  I have a 1952 Crosley Super sedan which I will restore soon, and because of that I ventured into researching the small cars of its era (1939-1952).

A year or two ago Christian Sturgis (of Sturgis Antiques http://www.sturgisantiques.com/ )  asked me to research a file that a customer dropped off.  The file was the original 1946 press release for a small auto company called Bobbi-Kar.  I delved further and further into the story of this odd little car and eventually purchased the file.  I also amassed a collection of OLD car magazines with articles on this little oddity.

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With limited availability of new cars after WW2, many aspects of rationing still in effect, and a whole bunch of GI’s coming home wanting new cars¬†several small companies popped up hoping to cash in.¬† Some wanted to cash in by producing small, inexpensive, gas sipping cars for the market.¬† Some just wanted to scam possible investors and run off with what money they could.¬† Sadly the Bobbi-Kar was the brainchild of an engineer, John Liefield, who was introduced to scam artist S.A. Williams.

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Liefield was a young man who had worked for Chrysler, and then Convair during WW2.  Liefield had an idea for a small car that he hoped would secure a good living for him in the post WW2 workplace.  Williams just saw a chance to make a buck.  The photos here show the first Bobbi-Kar prototype which was built in San Diego.  Williams was the one who arranged for the newsreel studios to take footage to promote the new car.  You can see a camera towards the rear of the photo above.

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The concept was simple.  The car used many available mechanical parts.  The engine was a Hercules XB which was readily available.  The drivetrain was designed to be removable as a unit.  This would allow for the unit to be swapped quickly so that the Bobbi-Kar owner could keep driving while his drivetrain was in for repair.

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As Liefield was designing and perfecting the prototype Williams built up his scam.¬† He managed to lease the now empty Convair plant from the War Assets Administration.¬† Liefield and his small operation moved into this huge plant and Bobbi-Kar signs were installed outside.¬† Williams began marketing franchises and sold around 800.¬† The key clause in the franchise agreement was that franchisees would be able to sell the car “if and when it was produced.”¬† Soon Williams was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Comission.

There were several other startup car companies which fell under investigation by the SEC as well.  The Playboy (and yes, the magazine was named after the car), the Davis, and the most famous of all, the Tucker.  Luckily while Williams was scamming and being investigated a new person appeared on the scene.  That person was former Studebaker VP George Keller.  Mr. Keller was interested in the small car, and wanted to see the little company make a go in the market for real.Image

Next:  Bobbi-Kar becomes the Keller car.

Vintage pedal cars

I have gathered up some photos between the spring Carlisle show and the Aberdeen proving grounds show.  I love vintage pedal cars.  But I am willing to admit that I own FAR too much stuff, so I am happy to take pictures of some neat toys instead.

The first one is (I think) a 1920s’s Gendron pedal car.¬† My friend Mike spotted and identified this one at Carlisle.¬† It was all original and the paint was aged perfectly.¬† The fellows selling it said their father had brought it home and they had played with it as kids.¬† Obviously they played nice for it to be in this condition.

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This next one spotted at Aberdeen is a modern take on the WW2 Jeep.¬† These bodies are readily available and can be mounted in a variety of ways.¬† Recently I saw one beautifully done on ebay with a matching tiny Bantam trailer.¬† The seller wanted $10,000 though!!¬† I believe he was smoking crack.¬† For that much you can get a rather nice WW2 Jeep and take your children for a ride in it!¬† The cool thing about this one was that it was mounted on a lawn tractor, and it used an old military oil can as a “jerry can”¬† The can also was the fuel tank.¬† The builder also used a full size seat from a WW2 Jeep, so an adult could toddle about on this.¬† I would not mind throwing a mower deck under one of these to use on my mini farm.

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Our final entry for today is a nice vintage Jeep pedal car with great original paint.  I could picture my twin nephews in this.  Sadly I did not have $650.00 to throw at it though.  This one was also for sale at the Aberdeen, Maryland Military Vehicle meet.

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The meaning of Memorial Day

A little while back I posted some pictures of a project we were working on.¬† The project was a Jeep named Kilroy that a WW2 veteran I know flipped last summer.¬† He has a guardian angel because while his nephew sustained broken ribs, and other injuries requiring surgery, old Joe just found himself standing on the neighbor’s lawn wondering what happened.¬† He only had some bruises.

The Jeep on the other hand looked like this:

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All I can figure is that Joe went nose over and and then rolled after running off of the road and into a ditch.¬† Last week the whole gang pitched in and we aimed to finish and deliver Joe’s Jeep¬†by Saturday.¬† As usual the Jeep gods¬†threw a monkey wrench in that and made the final work a challenge for us.

This Jeep had MANY items missing or improperly installed when it was first “restored”.¬† John found that the oil filter only had one line installed, we all found that things like dash and marker lights were not wired in, John and Bobby found various areas missing major mounting bolts.¬† The missing bolts and welds¬†probably contributed to the amount of damage and frame twisting in the accident.

As delivery day loomed over us the gang was working hard.

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But we felt like we were getting close to the finish line.¬† Then we tried to start the Jeep.¬† With a BRAND NEW battery the engine barely harrumphed over.¬† We gave the battery a boost with the same result.¬† Finally I called¬† Joe’s family to check if there was a rebuilt starter in the Jeep.¬† Apparently there was, but I remembered that this Jeep was always slow to start.¬† NOW the Jeep gods smiled upon us.¬† I happened to have four starters from junk Jeeps laid out on the floor.¬† Happily one of them purred happily when connected to a battery.¬† Thus we yanked the “rebuilt” starter out and installed the junkpile starter.¬† Vavoom!! It turned over beautifully and then did not start.

“Kill me” I thought…. Then followed a couple hours of John, Mike and I checking continuity, checking spark and voltage and calling my father who is a retired engineer. Finally I believe checking the distributor condensor’s ground did the trick.¬† Old Kilroy fired up and purred.¬† Hurray!!!

The following morning I awoke early, Mike came by, and we finished the job.  Stencils were painted on, misc. items were installed, and then we went for a test ride.  On the test ride I began to worry because the oil pressure meter was reading NOTHING!!!  When we took a look in the engine compartment we found that lo and behold the former idiotboy who restored this Jeep had not installed an oil pressure line.  Reason 193 at this point to find that man and take away his tools.

Eventually we were ready for the road. By 3:00 we were in Pasadena, Maryland and delivering the Jeep.¬† Here is a photo of Kilroy at the “scene of the crime”.

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I felt it was right to take a photo of the Jeep re-restored at the scene of its accident.¬† A moment of triumph for Kilroy!¬† Mike had the idea of unloading the Jeep outside of Joe’s family’s gated community and driving it in for the sake of presentation.¬† Here is Kilroy heading back home down his driveway.

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We drove down the driveway honking Kilroy’s horn.¬† When we arrived at the house first Joe’s daughter came out and then Joe.¬† Joe was walking with a cane but grinning proudly.¬† He opened the hood, looked over the engine, walked around the vehicle and did a thorough inspection.¬† Then he threw his cane in the passenger seat, climbed in and drove off¬†up the driveway.¬† Joe reminded me of a boy getting his favorite toy back after he thought it was lost.¬† And seeing him sit proudly in his Jeep and then drive off made me feel like we had done our good deed for Memorial Day weekend.¬† We had made a veteran happy.Image

Thank you for your service Joe, and enjoy your Jeep in good health!!