NEFERTERI part Seven
Where does it come from?
For our Forrest Gump, the pages of National Geographic became the siren song of Neferteri, his Queen of the byroads.
Larry Pointer found himself a survivor of Y2K, retired, a widower, and a more or less empty nester. He needed a project. In this series, he shares his passion for all things “Streamline Moderne”, and how it all turned into a 13-year labor of love, to create “Neferteri“, his custom Diamond T truck.
By Larry Pointer with Rik Hoving
Neferteri, Part Seven
So there we were, grownups acting like kids acting like grownups. Sitting on a sheet of metal over a bare car frame, steering a broomstick with a paper plate for a steering wheel. And yes, I went “Vroom, vroom, vroom.” Adolescents Anonymous.
But I had big dreams for my disassembled Diamond T truck assembled by Charles A. Tilt’s Chicago assembly line. And I had my drawing to tease me along, like a carrot in front of a donkey.
Most kids had a passion for Dinosaurs. There was T-Rex (can’t spell the full name), and later Jurassic Park. I liked the Sphinx, the Camel on the cigarette pack, and exotic Egypt.
When citizens were urged to contribute to the War Effort through World War II, one way to participate was through the paper drives. In my hometown of Sheridan, Wyoming, folks would take their gathered up papers down to the platform at the CB&Q railroad depot. When my mother discovered an entire collection of National Geographic magazines stacked there, she couldn’t stand it. She cut a deal to trade paper, pound for pound, for those precious pages. And she did it.
Growing up BTV (before television), National Geographic was my entertainment. It could take me to faraway places, and back in time. I could be with Hiram Bingham, when he discovered Machu Picchu high in the Andes, or Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, in the Valley of the Kings as they opened Tut’s tomb (can’t spell his name either, but that’s OK, the Egyptians left vowels to our imaginations).
National Geographic photo by Hiram Bingham, in discovery of Incan city of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes on the left. Newspaper release, showing Lord Carnarvon (right) and Howard Carter at the opening to King Tut’s tomb, 1922 on the right.
The discovery of the treasures sealed for Centuries in that tomb re-kindled a World-wide passion and curiosity about all things ancient Egyptian. The timing of the grand opening of Tut’s tomb came at a pivotal point in all things Art. The curves and floral designs of Art Nouveau were being replaced in the Twenties by an Art Deco movement toward stylized simplicity. Geometric angles, stylized forms, mysterious symbols, and the saturated earthy colors found on stunning wall frescoes for King Tut’s enjoyment in the Afterlife sparked a wildfire of design passion. Egyptian Revival. We see it today in the Washington Monument obelisk, in architecture and furnishings, in the simplified line and form in graphics… and in classic automobile design.
The burial mask of King Tut found with the mummy of the King in the sarcophagus. Fresco discovered on the walls of Kin Tut’s tomb in 1922, by Howard Carter. Early hand-tinted postcard of the Washington Monument obelisk.
Pure Egyptian Revival automotive art is best found in the sculpted hood ornaments of the era. And no one has captured these artform expressions better than car photographer Jill Reger through the magic eye of her camera lense.
It was the Jazz Age, man, and it was SWELL! Ragtime night time wild times. Everywhere! Downtown, outa town. Dance halls and ballrooms; cabarets and discotheques. Back road joints and side-street Speakeasies. Bootleg hooch, bathtub gin. Uptown Brandy Alexander, Whiskey Sour, Sloe Gin Fizz.
And the music was hot, man. Insane syncopated sets driven to the drummer’s bump. Sizzle snares; double bass thump. Bringing it. Exotic rhythms. Call and recall, to the piano man, banjo man, the brass sax. Sick riffs from the licorice stick.
Beautiful painting of a Flapper girl of the Roaring 20s, all decked out, ready for the ball. Hilarious LIFE magazine cover, dancing to the Charleston in your Gatsby spats! Vanity Fair cover with couples dancing in the ballroom. Boop boop de doo!
Swingin’ out. Bringin’ it. Tango. Shimmy. Charleston. One step, Two step, Quickstep. Turkey Trot, Foxtrot, Lindy Hop. Stompin’ at the Savoy. In the mood, man. Oh, Bodie, Doh, Doh!
Back in the day, my dad was a banjo man, and drummer. Even stepped up to the mike for the crooner tunes. The band leader was his buddy, Glade Kilpatrick. They called themselves the Rhythm Venders. But then, thinking about it, they never quit their day jobs.
Under the glitter ball, the Gatsby in spats could shimmy and shake his naughtily nice Cleopatra Queen. Dressed to the nines, the Flapper girl. Sally shoes, short swish skirts, spit curls. Glamorized, accessorized in Egyptian Revivial STYLE. The bees’ knees, man. My mother wasn’t a bad looking Flapper herself.
But none epitomized the Queen of the Nile better than the sensuous seductive sirens that flowed from the pen of Erte, the tinsel town stylist of the Hollywood Star. Garbo, Lombard, Loy, Horne, Harlow, Lamarr, Lamour, Dietrick, Keeler, Dagmar, Montez, Mae “Come up and see me sometime, big boy” West! Yes sir, that’s my Baby!
(Left) Egyptian Revival costume design art by Erte. (top right) This Erte drawing in the Egyptian Revival style is titled “The Improvised Cage”. Oh Bodie oh, doh, doh! (bottom right) Another Erte costume design in the Egyptian Revival style.
Did I say it was all about the girls? Man, Oh man.
Sitting in my euphoric state, staring at the classic dash panel of my 1936 Diamond T, I had an epiphany. Valley Custom could have its Polynesian; the Barris brothers, their Grecian, Golden Sahara and Aztec; the Alexanders, their Victorian and Adonis; Bill Cushenberty, his Marquis and El Matador. I would have my own Egyptian Revival in this Diamond T: Neferteri!
Neferteri, Queen of the Nile. No, not Nefertiti. She was King Tut’s harsh step-mom. A beauty in her own right, but not my Queen of the Nile. Neferteri (Egyptian consonants, my vowel choice) was wife of Ramses II, and chronicled as one of antiquity’s most beautiful women.
As I stared at my Diamond T dashboard, my eye was drawn to paired cartouches flanking the handsome gauge cluster. They were fascinating streamline shapes, and they caught me up in visions of Egyptian images of deities and dignitaries. I could imagine wood carvings of Neferteri, facing each other across the panel, just as in ancient Egyptian depictions.
Wood, exotic wood. What wood that came with my Diamond T was far too gone for salvage. Rich grained mahogany was the choice for wooden boats of that Art Deco era. But mahogany is not readily available in Montana. There are, however, a variety of wood types to select from, thick planks imported from faraway places. Kansas is pretty far from Montana, so I picked out some appealing walnut boards. Pretty easy to carve, with deep, rich tones and interesting grain patterns. I spent some time carving my pair of Neferteri images for the dash panel: mirror image cameo side views, with hair flowing back along the wood grain.
Now I had a theme going. I next focused on the flat firewall. If I didn’t add a huge carbuncle of a brake booster, that firewall could remain flat: a perfect “canvas” for an Egyptian Revival graphic. I could even incorporate lettering to proclaim her name. Neferteri. With left-over 10 gauge, I covered the existing Swiss cheese facing the engine bay with a perfectly smooth, flat surface.
Inspiration. Those “Aha” moments in Life always announce themselves in the most unlikely and unexpected ways. I was thumbing through the slick pages of the Arts & Crafts magazines at the big box book store, and there it was! An antique art tile with a lotus flower design in the Egyptian Revival style. The art tile was even given the name “Egyptian Revival”. I could adapt that stylized design to create my firewall graphic.
I later learned that particular tile carried an impressive pedigree, and was dated to the very first flush of objects influenced by the 1924 discovery of King Tut’s tomb. It was designed and fired in the Boisenburger Plattenfabrik kilns, on the Elbe River, just east of Hamburg, Germany. Again, the “small World” aspect of our custom car culture comes around: Rik Hoving and his family recently spent their vacation time nearby in the city of Hamburg.
I went to the art supply store and purchased a transparent grid paper. The firewall form set the scale, and the grid helped me hold to the balance and symmetry of the graphic. It also was my guide in laying out the lettering for NEFERTERI in the Art Deco font I chose to copy. After sanding and priming the metal, I painted the firewall with a rattle can of cast gray. Next, I taped the grid paper in place, with carbon paper beneath, and traced my design onto the firewall. Voila!
But that was the easy part. For each of my six design colors, I had to mask off the rest of the area, spray the paint, peel tape away from edges before the paint set up, wait till it dried, then do it all over again for the next graphic color. Mask, spray, peel, wait. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I love how it turned out, so much so that it was a few years before I got up the nerve to add the Diamond T hood panels, and hide that NEFERTERI Egyptian Revival graphic!
Every Queen needs her bling. Yeah, but… Now I was entering dangerous uncharted waters. I had amassed two over-stuffed binders with articles of every sort. Kind of like Bubba Blue’s myriad shrimps in the Forrest Gump movie. I had stories that told all about, what you need to do, how to do what you needed to do, what parts you had to have…
In this Life there are those few who are blest with unique supernatural powers. Dotti’s cousin Clint Wildman is one such a man, who speaks in tongues known only to parts men. Another is Darryn Waldo, a dirt track racer whose gift is channeling into the deep mysteries of the Aftermarket, The things that you’re liable to read in the slick page bibles ain’t necessarily so. These were the billet times that tried men’s souls, and I definitely needed an Aftermarket guide. Replacement of worn out parts is Clint’s specialty. Finding the odd specialty item is Darryn’s forte.
First came the period style gauges. But they were a skosh smaller than the Deluxe panel had provided for in 1936. I built a template, then found a water jet service that cut holes to fit the gauges. I then inserted this adapter plate behind the chromed Diamond T façade.
Then there was that pristine firewall, now with the Egyptian Revival graphic. As well as a 10 gauge floorboard, now complete with a precision folded toeboard, courtesy Rick Sannon’s behemoth hydraulic brake with 16-foot jaws. The solution came in the form of an aftermarket 90 degree, under the dash swing pedal and brake master with booster. It worked. Eventually. But as Buzz Franke often had to counsel me, “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”
Did I mention this project was going to consume 13 years?
Aftermarket steering followed. The billet banjo wheel had a half wrap in pitiful plastic masquerading as wood. Arrrgh!
At this point in my wanders in the wilderness, Jim Erickson appeared. I had seen a wooden Model T steering wheel he had made from scratch. It was a dove-jointed marvel. I told Jim of my walnut wants. “No problem,” he smiled. “We can do that.” And he did.
In Jim Erickson is found the true “Jack of all trades.” His own Master, he’d smile and say, was but a humble Jewish Carpenter. A finer disciple, though, you’ll never find. Jim had cabinetmaker skills, among myriad others, and he kindly let me watch and photograph the process of creating a walnut half wrap for my steering wheel. Six rough pieces of my walnut plank material were cut to length. The diameter of the circle was his guide. The pieces then were dove-tailed together in a rough hexagon.
To work this bulky hexagon into a smooth circle, Jim created a perfect circle “lazy susan” jig to guide his work through a router, as it cut away excess. Slowly, the hexagon did become a circle. The half round surface came, and the flat side fit perfectly to the billet wheel. That walnut half wrap is one my most treasured elements. I marvel at Jim Erickson’s work every time I slide in and feel the smooth walnut to the touch of my hands.
I always had admired the sumptuous woodwork found in classic cars of the Roaring Twenties. I wanted Neferteri to give a nod to those coach-built elements, too. Jim also cut and shaped a curved walnut trim piece to finish the bottom edge of the Diamond T dashboard. Later, I would continue the theme, with walnut on doors below the stainless garnish moldings, and continuing on around the inside back of the cab and the same level.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
Next comes the story of the Auburn grille and the extended cab that Diamond T never had.
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