Friday, May 31, 2013

It Drove Into His Life

Rick Jenkins wasn't really looking to buy another car since he already had one. He had seen a rare Mercury Meteor before and had even talked to the owners but then one day about a year ago the car literally drove into his life. "It just drove right into my drive-way," he said.

It seems that the owners found themselves in a tight spot and needed to sell the car. "I didn't really think about it," Rick said, though he admitted that he probably should have. "But I'm glad I bought it."

The Meteor name only existed for three years as a Mercury (for many years it was released as a Ford in Canada) from 1961 through 1963. The first year it was planted on Mercury's low end full-sized cars and for the last two years was a stand alone mid-sized car.

Mercury chose the name in an attempt to latch onto the excitement generated by the space race. For this division of Ford it didn't work. At the time Mercury was going through something of an identity crisis as the suits at Ford didn't really know what to do with it. The brand was trying to make itself more affordable and chopped off the two most expensive cars in its line and replaced it with an entry level full-sized model, the Meteor.

The next year the folks at Mercury decided to place the Meteor name on a new line of mid-sized cars based on the Ford Fairlane, which itself was based on a long wheelbase version of the Ford Falcon. Because of what seemed like constant indecision at the top, Mercury eventually dropped the Meteor name and elevated its Comet marque to take over all of its mid-sized cars.

"You see a whole lot more Farilanes out there because basically they were cheaper," said Rick. His 1962 Meteor is a pretty rare car. "Other than this one I don't think I've ever seen another one on the road."

He didn't have to do a lot of work on the car which is a good thing because parts are hard to come by. "The engine, the mechanicals, they're all Fairlane parts so those are easy to find. It's things like the trunk and the carpets, the upholstery that you can't find.," Rick added.

Parts such as hubcaps are almost impossible. Rick told of a guy who claims to have over one million hubcaps and promises a set for every kind of car. It took Rick three different trips through the vast sea of hubcaps to find a set. "I used to throw those things away and now I'm finding myself having to pay stupid money for them," he added with a laugh.

The car is pretty much original but there is one addition Rick made, putting in seat belts. "These cars didn't come with seat belts but if I wanted to drive my grand babies around I had to put some in," he said. "It was a good investment."

Though he drives the car mostly to shows he will take it out to run errands as long as the weather is nice. It's not his every day driver but since it does get 20 miles per gallon he isn't afraid to put it out on the road. In fact, he admitted, he drives this more than his other classic car.

"I'm glad they picked my drive way to pull into," he concluded. Not bad for a car that literally drove into his life.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Some Familiar, Some Not

It is especially true for shows I get to just about every year but I end up seeing a lot of the same cars and talking with the same owners. Nothing wrong with that. Part of the fun of this hobby is running into people you haven't seen in a while and catching up. Such was the case with some of the cars and owners at the recent Annual Glen Este Classic Car Show. But for every Dave Krieger and his hand made Woodie, there are a bunch of cars I've never seen before, like the Volvo P1800 that was just this side of being a rat rod. Aren't car shows fun?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Support the Arts

The Annual Glen Este Classic Car Show is a large fundraiser for all of the bands and instrumental music programs at both Glen Este High School and Glen Este Middle School. I am a bit invested in the arts and music programs. While none of my kids attended Glen Este schools they were all involved in various arts programs. My oldest son was in charge of low brass when he was in high school and was chosen to be part of a state-wide scholar band that toured Europe. My daughter was in instrumental music but went further with both theater and vocal music. My youngest son did the same as my daughter. Beyond what my kids have done with music and arts, my nephew is in 8th grade at Glen Este Middle School and he play percussion in the bands. For me this is a worthy cause to support.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Glen Este Classic Car Show

Recently the Annual Glen Este Classic Car Show was held on a surprisingly cold and bleak Saturday. The show, which is good weather years, regularly draws about 100 classic rides, suffered from a constant threat of rain and a biting wind that made the 50 degree temperature seem much cooler. This year the highest number on an entry's windshield was 46, several of which were very new cars only a couple of years old. Personally when I go to a car show I prefer to see vehicles that I can't see at the local shopping mall parking lot. But even with the low turnout and despite the newer entries there were a lot of great cars on display.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Last From Chrome Show and Road Rally

Here are the last of the cars that showed up for the Third Annual Chrome Show and Road Rally. Hope you've enjoyed them all.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Victim of the Depression

The Great Depression saw the demise of a number of the great luxury auto makers in the USA. They all seemed to suffer the same fate. They were smaller firms building magnificent machines with steep prices that were adored by the upper and upper middle classes.

It wasn't just the Depression that doomed these manufacturers prior to the onset of World War II. Part of the blame was the fact that, unlike the Big Three in Detroit, these luxury manufacturers were building cars that were of such high quality they didn't need to be replaced.

Such was the case with Buffalo, NY firm Pierce Arrow. Founded in 1901 when they rolled off a single cylinder, two speed (neither of which was reverse) car called the Motorette, the firm was the offshoot of a household items company called Heinz, Pierce and Munschauser. The older company was noted for such things as birdcages. In 1900 they failed in their attempt to manufacture a steam powered car. By 1903, though, they were making a two-cylinder machine they called the Arrow.

Soon they were making larger and more powerful cars that were winning awards, particularly in running endurance races. In 1909 they garnered the type of publicity any company could only dream of when President William Howard Taft ordered two of the latest models. Other presidents, such as Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding followed suit in owning or traveling in a Pierce Arrow.

By 1928 Studebaker had gained control of the company which was a benefit on one hand but began spelling the downfall of the company on the other. The problem with lack of repeat buyers was already being felt. Studebaker, though, felt that if these very high quality cars were available to more potential customers then there could be more sales. With that in mind they ramped up manufacturing slightly and made some changes to the car so that it could be sold in Studebaker dealerships.

One of the biggest changes was to retire what had become a venerable power plant for the Pierce line. It was a classic straight six that had gradually grown in power over the years. It was replace with an L Head straight eight that displaced 366 cubic inches.

The new marketing scheme put into place by Studebaker didn't really work as the bottom fell out of the economy Oct. 1929. By 1933 Studebaker pulled out it's backing and the people running Pierce made a radical decision. Instead of downsizing their machines or pulling further back toward the dwindling middle class, they decided to go in the opposite direction with the Silver Arrow.

Grossly expensive at over $10,000, the Silver Arrow was a concept car that was shown at the 1933 New York Auto Show. Only five people were brave enough to place an order and the project rapidly died. But one major positive came out of the Silver Arrow experiment and it kept the company limping along for six more years: a 462 cubic inch L Head V-12 that pounded out 175 brake horse power and could easily push that large luxury car over 100 miles per hour.

That engine went on to power such cars as the 1240A Convertible Coup shown here. Sitting on a 139 inch wheelbase this three speed beauty weighs in at over 5000 pounds and is believed to be one of only four examples still remaining.

In the end the fact that Pierce was the only luxury brand in the USA that didn't field a lower priced model to help with its cash flow, eventually became its downfall. By 1939 the Buffalo plant was shuttered. It was the end of a another great luxury line of great American cars.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I'm familiar with Northern Kentucky University, a relatively new institution of higher education located in Highland Heights, KY. NKU started as an extension university of the University of Kentucky in 1948 and became its own entity 20 years later. More recently my oldest son graduated from there. Over the years I've worked with a number of NKU graduates and have even used several as interns.