Friday, November 30, 2012

End of the Week

          To wrap up the week, here are a few more spectacular cars from the Citizen's Motorcar Company, better known as America's Packard Museum. This is the last of the "guided tour" posts but not the last of the cars from the museum. I've set aside four very special cars that I will profile starting on Monday, including a piece of true cinematic history.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Little Something for Everyone

          With all of the amazing cars on display at America's Packard Museum, housed at the Citizen's Motorcar Company in Dayton, OH, there is surely something for just about everyone's automotive tastes.
          You have probably heard the last name of the person who owned this car, a 1933 Seven Passenger Super Eight Touring car. The owner was William Proctor (his family of Proctor and Gamble fame). Though this was without a doubt a luxury car, Proctor didn't want to flaunt his wealth. So anything that would have been done up in chrome was painted black so as not to attract attention. This request, though, made the car stand out even more.
          Another unique vehicle on display is this classic Packard pick up truck. Check out the solid rubber wheels. There was no real suspension so that the driver felt every bump along the road. No other information was readily available but the date on the side of the truck says 1918.
          This last car is a Seven Series 1930 Boattail Speedster. This model came in a number of different body designs including a Phaeton, a coupe, a sedan, and, of course, this Boattail model. Because of the Great Depression, this was one of the last years for the Speedster from Packard.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Travelling Through Packard History

            The Citizen's Motorcar Company in Dayton, OH is absolutely spectacular. Filled with classic Packards, including some very rare models, you soon realize as you make your way through that you are literally walking through the history of motoring in America.
          One of the truly unique cars in the collection is this 1928 Jesse Vincent Speedster. Vincent was the architect behind the famous Packard Twin Six engine. He also designed the Liberty aircraft engine which essentially won World War I. In the mid 1920s he was instrumental in the development of the Packard Testing Ground and then, under his guidance, had this spectacular racer built. It was clocked as going 139 on the test track. Legend has it that Charles Lindberg drove this car at 112 miles per hour the first time he ever got in it.
          One of the first ever Speedster bodies every to drape a Packard was on this 1925 Phaeton Speedster. This car was a custom body design for a New York customer with the outer shell being built by LaBaron Carrossiers. Priced at $10,000 this car was loaded with every luxury item available at the time.

          1928 was the last year for Packard's inline six engine. The following year they began rolling out the larger L Head Eight. This 1928 Convertible Coupe was the very first Packard owned by museum founder Bob Signom.
          This last picture is a perfect example of what you can see at the Citizen's Motorcar Company. I love the classic Packard in the foreground but beside it, hanging from the ceiling, is one of the magnificent Packard Twin Six motors on display.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Tour Begins

           The Citizen's Motorcar Company is officially known as America's Packard Museum for good reason. The moment you step in and are greeted by a Concours quality 1936 Packard Twelve Model 1407 Speedster. The car is a one off model, based on the classic Packard chassis with their Packard Twelve engine that had been tweaked to produce more than 200 horse power.
          What really sets this car off, though, is that it is a custom boattail design from Fernandez and Darrin. These two were noted for their work on such automobiles as Bentley, Maybach, Mercedes, Bugatti, Duesenberg, Rolls Royce and other luxury lines. Mostly they concentrated on building limos but this Boattail speedster is a beautiful piece of machinery.
          Designer Howard Darrin dissolved his partnership with Fernandez, left Paris and returned home to Hollywood, CA. There he set up shop and proceeded to make 16 Packard Victoria Convertibles. Here is a 1938 Darrin Super 8 Victoria Convertible.
          Packard has had a long history of developing spectacular engines. As one of the oldest car companies in the USA, having been established in 1899, Packard was noted for the quality of their motors. Initially using a large displacement six cylinder engine, they, like many luxury brands who were spurred on by Cadillac's growing infatuation with size, were soon up to using a massive V-12. This 1932 Twin Six Phaeton with a body by Murphy, is an example from the first year Packard used this 445.5 cubic inch engine that generated 160 horses and pushed the car to over 100 miles per hour.
          Also in 1932 Packard released the Ninth Series of its Standards and Super 8 models. Though  in the grip of the Great Depression, Packard managed to sell over 8700 cars that year. Most, though, were the cheaper, entry level model dubbed the Light Eight. Here is an example of a 1932 Club Sedan. Originally this car sported a phaeton body but an owner replaced it with a Twin Six Club Sedan body that had become available.
          Here is an example of a 1914 Packard 4-48. It is believed that fewer than 10 survive today. This is a Concours car and it's easy to see why. With a massive 525 cubic inch L Head inline six engine that produced all of 60 horse power, this car featured standard items such as a speedometer, a clock, a horn, and a power tire pump. In 1914 it retailed new for $4750. Luxury indeed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Citizen's Motorcar Company

          Back in 1917 a Packard dealership opened up in Dayton, OH and took the name the Citizen's Motorcar Company. The dealership thrived as the word of the quality and luxury of the Packard spread. But, like the car maker itself, competition from the Big Three soon relegated the Packard, along with its sister car the Studebaker, to second class status. Finally, in 1958 the Packard run came to an end.
          For most Packard dealerships this was the end of the line. They either switched brands to something more viable or they simply closed shop. But not so for the Citizen's Motorcar Company. Yes the building sat empty for some years and served a few other purposes but in 1992 a local attorney and car buff named Bob Signom bought the building and restored it. Then he did something totally amazing: he turned it into a Packard Museum.
          Today the museum, housed in two buildings, hosts over 50 different examples of these amazing cars. Plus there are various other pieces of Packard history, including airplane engines.
          Recently my sons and I took a trip to Dayton and checked out this amazing monument to some of the most iconic luxury cars this country has ever made. For the next couple of weeks I'm going devote the blog to many of the fantastic cars on display at what Car Collector magazine called one of the top 10 museums in the country.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hollywood Magic

Jamie Schworer's classic 1964 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III (photo by James Rollo)
          Anyone who has read this blog knows that I'm a car guy. I like cars; all kinds of them. While cars and this blog are a passion, they don't, unfortunately, pay the bills. What does pay the bills, may people seem to think is pretty cool as well. I make movies.
          You've probably never seen one of my pictures. Most of them are documentaries and shorts made for corporations and businesses that need to somehow get a message across. Some of what I have done can be seen on television in the form of commercials. Some of it is seen only on line. A lot, though, you either have to be an employee of a certain company or a client in order to have seen my work.
          Sure I've been involved in a number of feature films, just about all of which have had some type of run in theaters. Some have had their run in home video sales and rentals and more recently some have had VOD, or video on demand, sales. But none ever featured a big name star or won an award at Sundance.
          When I'm out at a party or other social gathering and people ask me what I do for a living the easy answer is always, "I own a small media production company that specializes in corporate communications." Yeah, that sounds pretty boring. What I usually tell them is, "I play with expensive toys and spend other people's money." That sounds like a fun job.
Me outside the car watching camera operator Anthony Pesce at work. In the back seat is actress Carrie-Ellen Zappa (photo by James Rollo)
          There's a bit of insanity that inhabits the minds of people in this industry. Most of us work for ourselves; we're freelancers the way the old unindentured knights were. We go from job to job, client to client without a safety net. But we like it.
          Something else that sets us apart from most other types of industry is that quite often, on our weekends, you just might find us doing something most "normal" people would never consider. We will be doing our jobs for fun and for free.
Producer Farooq Ahmad with his back to the camera, me and the versatile Mike Hon waiting for the next take. Anthony Pesce and actress Carrie-Ellen Zappa are in the car.
          A while back my daughter, who is a dance education major in college, made the comment that she would like to someday be a zombie ballerina. This was back when the cries against the one percent were still being heard. This got me thinking of a story that could be told in the form of a short film. Together, she and I wrote the script.
         I called in some friends, both professional actors and professional production people, and we set forth shooting the short that will be called Corpse de Ballet. We shot half of it on a recent Sunday while the other half will be shot in a few weeks when my daughter is home from college. To say the least, it was a blast.
          OK, so what does a short film about a rich, self absorbed couple going to the ballet in the midst of a zombie Apocalypse have to do with classic cars? Simple, one of the stars of that first day's shoot was a classic 1964 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III.
A shot, courtesy of Jamie Schworer, showing her car in the classic film Cannonball Run. That's her father, James, wiping down the car and the fantastic Sammy Davis, Jr.
          If that car sounds familiar it should as I've written about my friend Jamie Schworer's fabulous car before ( And considering it's pedigry, such as it being in the classic Burt Reynolds movie Cannonball Run among others, this car fit right in.
          What most people don't realize is that when they see some characters talking in a car that is driving down the road, most of the time that car is being pulled by a truck with lights and cameras and sound gear. That involves getting all sorts of permits and frankly having the kind of budget that our little short just couldn't afford.
Actor Chris Singleton, on the left, me, boom operator Ian Klute and producer Farooq Ahmad ready the next shot as actors Carrie-Ellen Zappa and Mike Dennis get ready to act in the back seat (photo by James Rollo)
          To solve that little problem we turned to the magic of Hollywood and the beauty of the green screen. As you can see from some of the pictures that James Rollo of Rollophotography, one of the many fantastic pros who helped out with the shoot, took during the shoot, we pulled the Rolls into my garage and set up the green screen behind the actors.
          A few days before, one of my friends, Mike Hon, and I drove around to a few locations. Mike first sat in the back seat and shot out the right side of the car since the Rolls is a right hand drive. This footage would look as though it was passing outside the window as actor Chris Singleton drove. Then Mike climbed in the back of my SUV and, with the back hatch open, shot at to 45 degree angles to give the perspective of scenery moving behind our other two actors, Carrie-Ellen Zappa and Mike Dennis. This footage will be layered in during post production so it will look as though the car with the actors was driving down the roads Mike and I were several days earlier.
          Hollywood Magic.
          To a lot of people this whole process, putting together the pieces to make the motion picture, are really cool. To the people on the set, the coolest thing for them was when Jamie rolled up in that classic piece of automotive history. Everyone there wanted to get their picture taken with the car. Just more Hollywood magic.

The crew around the car getting ready for the next shot. Jamie Schworer is in the pink coat. (Photo by James Rollo)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

          On this truly American holiday we all give thanks for the things in life we are grateful for. At the top of my list, as with so many people, I'm thankful for my family. And that is why, on Tuesday, I hopped in the car and to drive nearly 400 miles round trip to pick up my daughter from college so that we could all celebrate Thanksgiving together.
          Wanting to time my arrival as close to her getting out of class as possible, but also wanting to miss as much of the morning rush hour as I could, I set off at about 7:45 am. I chose, for this trip, to drive my SUV. Yes, long trips on the highway are better in that sporty sedan but I also knew that as the weather was changing, my daughter would probably have some of her warmer weather clothing and items that needed to come home with us. 
          Leaving town the traffic was exactly what I had expected, steady but easy to navigate. I got on the four lanes heading north on I-75 and found it to be the same. At that I was able to do a steady 10 miles per hour above the speed limit while blending into traffic with ease.
          Close to an hour in I hit my first delay but again, it was expected. The perpetual construction through the traffic death trap that is Dayton didn't surprise me much at all. In fact, I appreciate those workers who are out there repairing our highway system so that we have safe roads on which to drive. And, to my surprise, there were actually a great many of those worker actually doing work. That isn't always the case you know. There was one stretch of I-275 around Cincinnati where "workers" made almost no progress on road repairs and adding a lane for nearly five years.
          For those who aren't familiar, I-275 is the longest circle freeway in the United States. Begun in 1958, it not only circles Cincinnati but does so by traveling through three states, six different counties and 25 municipalities. It intersects with the combined I-75/I-71, I-74, then I-75 again, and I -71 again and finally with I-471. Essentially it is 88 miles to nowhere.
          The reason for all of these states and counties is quite simple: money. The various politicians who conceived and championed this loop freeway all did so for money. In fact, many of the areas that have grown up outside the 275 loop didn't exist or were tiny specks on the map beforehand. In fact, the entire Eastgate area, east of the city, travels through land that was at one time owned by one of those politicians.
          I'm thankful for our politicians. Without these greedy bastards who would we be able to blame for all of our governments going to hell in a handbag?
          As I inched my way through the clogged artery of Dayton, I realized that I was moving even slower than normal. So I began flipping the radio dial to see if I could find a traffic update. Sure enough, a dog had been struck just north of the construction that was further impeding traffic. Thus my timing was slowed, dampening my hopes of making it on time to meet my daughter as she left class.
          Eventually I made it through the congestion and saw some daylight. I began pressing the accelerator a little harder as I easily moved in and out of patches of slower vehicles. I wasn't the only one, though. In fact, there were several cars, an Audi, a Jag, a Vette, and a few more, that were outpacing me with little trouble.
          Anyone who is familiar with this stretch of I-75 knows that eventually the four lanes drop down to three and then down to two. The speed limit along this road is 65 miles per hour. Being one of the major roads connecting many industrial centers of the north to Florida, it is one of the most heavily traveled roads in this half of the country. Especially by trucks.
          I'm thankful for trucks and the people who drive them. My cousin is a trucker. Now he does the shorter hauls so that he can spend more time at home but he used to own his own rig and do the long, cross country hauls. People like my cousin are responsible for moving vast amounts of the materials we all use and need from various points throughout the country. Without truckers, I might not have had that turkey that was sitting in my refrigerator to be cooked on the grill using alder wood on Thursday.
          The trouble with truckers in this day and age, though, is that they are heavily regulated (by those same politicians). Truckers used to be able to literally haul ass down the highways, hitting whatever speeds they could in order to get to their destinations in the shortest amount of time. Now their speeds are restricted. What this means is that quite often, on two lanes, you encounter one truck driving in the right lane at 65 miles per hour and another in the left lane trying to pass him at 67 mph. This makes it impossible for someone trying to make up time on their trip to pass either truck in a timely manner.
          So as I waited and then jetted around trucks when I was able, I really wasn't making up the amount of time I had hoped. Unfortunately for me, the water I had been drinking had little trouble in making it's way through my body and soon I found myself having to pee.
          Thankfully, because of those politicians who all wanted one in their area, I-75 between Dayton and Toledo has what seems like a rest stop ever 30-40 miles. As I pulled into one, hopped out and made my way to the men's room, I was quite thankful indeed.
          I was also quite thankful, and very surprised, that when I hit the highway after losing a little water weight, that the road was pretty much open. In fact, as I hit the freeway and was getting up to speed, an Infinity sedan carrying two women, zoomed past. I immediately fell in behind them, easily keeping pace.
          What I expected was for us to catch up to the tangle of traffic in which I had been driving prior to my pit stop. But we didn't seem to find it. Instead the road was pretty much open. The left lane rarely had anyone in it and as we would approach anyone who was there immediately fell into the slow lane. I soon found myself taking lines through turns, drifting back and forth between the two empty lanes, driving more sleekly than the pace setting Infinity.
          As I did this, my mind drifted back, longing for that old Jaguar E-Type that I loved so much. But I also realized that the cost of upkeep on that classic car was equal to large chunks of college tuition. Then I was thankful for the guy who overpaid for it.
          We were moving with ease, just south of Findly, when all of a sudden I saw a State Trooper pulling onto the highway, down the ramp. I was a little peeved, knowing that having an officer of the law this close would hamper my driving, especially my speed. But I'm thankful to law enforcement. I have a number of friends who are police officers.
           I have one friend, a SWAT member, who has been my gun wrangler on a couple of shoots, including the feature film Dead Horse. In fact, in the scene where Dan Von Bargen's character is arrested, my friend is the only real police officer that we used (the rest were stand-up comedians).
          Another of my friends is the chief of police in the small town where we shot a good portion of that film (as well as a couple of shorts prior to that). He once took me on a night time ride around that same I-275 loop in his brand new department issued Dodge Challenger. There was no electronic damping on its engine. I will admit that he got it up to 10 miles per hour faster than I dared take it. I only topped out at about 122.
          Still another friend who is with the police has a small range near his house. We went there to shoot close up footage of a rifle firing for a documentary film about some feuds down in Kentucky. While there, he broke out some of his toys for us to shoot. Trust me, if you ever get the chance to safely shoot a fully automatic Uzi, take it.
          On the web series we're in the process of making, Wise Guys?, one of the actor's day gig is as a police officer for one of the areas around Eastgate. He's a great guy, great actor and very, very funny. He showed up for our first read through with a black eye and some other cuts and bruises that he received from an unruly drunk driver he was having to arrest. Trust me, the drunk looked a lot worse.
           So you see, I have a lot of friends who are police and I respect what they do. And I had respect for that State Trooper who pulled up beside me, shot me an angry look, and pointed that I should pull over. I gave him the OK sign, nodded and slowed to work my way to the shoulder as he hit the lights and pulled over the Infinity.
          Suddenly in my mind I heard Sammy Hagar singing. "Write me up for 125. Post my picture wanted dead or alive. Take my license, all that jive. I can't drive 55." Well on this day it was obvious that I couldn't drive 65.
          He went to the Infinity first and that gave me time to dig out my license, registration and proof of insurance. As he walked my way he no longer had a scowl but was trying to hide a bit of a smile. I greeted him, handing him my information and offered no argument when he told me a place had clocked us at over 80. To be honest, there were times when we were going quite a bit faster than that.
          The officer processed me first and as he had me sign the ticket he went through the drill of how I can either pay or show up to court. He asked why so fast and I told him the truth, I was picking up my daughter from college. I fell in behind the Infinity and was making good time on a nice day. He asked if I knew the women in the Infinity. When I said I didn't he smiled again. "They're trying to talk their way out of it, aren't they?" He just smiled and said, "Have a nice day and slow down."
          I didn't have any further incident on my way to pick up my daughter or on our trip back home.
          A little later today I'll take that turkey and put it on the grill for around six hours, letting it soak up the smoke of the alder wood. Then the whole family will sit down at the table and, as we eat too much and talk about everything in our lives, I'll look around and know that I will eternally be thankful for my family.
         And this year, I'll be thankful that my speeding ticket was only $125.
         Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Glen Este Mo Par

          I love the fact that there is now a bigger market for classic Mo Par cars. Due to a lack of available after market parts for years you hardly ever saw one of these fabulous vehicles at a show much less on the road. That's all changed over the past few years and you're seeing more and more of these great machines. And I, for one, couldn't be happier. Check out a few that were on display at this spring's Glen Este High School Car Show.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Rest of Them

          Here are the rest of the Mustangs that were on display at this spring's Glen Este High School Car Show. Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Early Season Mustangs

          These early season shows, such as the Glen Este High School Car Show, are very dependent on the weather. For a couple of years in a row this show suffered rain outs, pushing the date back a couple of weeks and keeping some who would have attended away. This year's show was different. With beautiful blue skies the lots beside the school were packed with owners who wanted to not only show off their rides but help the instrumental music program.
          There are always those models that are going to be well represented. This year Mustangs were out in force. Check out some that were on display.