Neferteri Part Ten

 

NEFERTERI Part Ten

 

For our Forrest Gump, it has been a long and dedicated mission. Now, in this final episode, Neferteri… his Queen of Egyptian Revival… receives her Majesty’s regal raiment.



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 Ten

Time flies. If you’d told me it would take 13 years to build my streamline dream, I wouldn’t have heard you anyway. Dotti calls it selective hearing. But I was retired, having fun, and wasn’t really agonizing over “what’s next” anxieties. What I was doing had pretty much become who I was. And it was a comfortable feeling.





I keep remembering those words in the movie, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.





Or, the words of friend Jack Whittington, at each next challenge in the mechanics of the Neferteri build, “It’s all good.




It was all good. Partly because I had heeded wise advice to start with the comforts. “All the comforts and convenience of a sedan,” Diamond T had advertised. Early on, my buddy Buzz had upholstered a pair of 80s bucket seats in matching wine hues of velour and Tandy leather. Sadly, it would be his last contribution to the cause, before cancer took him away. Continuing our “comfort and convenience”, Kirk Grantham stitched up velour panels for the doors and cab panels behind the seats, tucked over three-inch wide foam rolls. The wider rolls really nailed the Art Deco era of opulence. Kirk completed his work in a headliner of velour, and matching wine carpets over the floor, firewall and that raised shelf behind the seats, which hid the air conditioning unit that Darryn Waldo had plumbed in.

The seats were upholstered by Buzz Franke.
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Drivers door panel upholstery. (The metal piece on the walnut garnish molding is my “Forrest Gump” safety latch.)
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It was nothing short of sumptuous, and I was glad we had started with last things first, by conventional standards. But then, “conventional” would never have been a word to come up, in polite society, to describe this old “Forrest Gump” character. Through primer times in coats of many colors, Neferteri had proudly paraded past the occasional “rat rod” benedictions, to shock her critics flat-footed once her doors swung open to reveal the “box of chocolates” inside.

Burn The Point parade 2013.
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There, too, are the “unconventional” touches. Sill plates of walnut are planed down to shape, and a pair of brass “Diamond T” hood-side plates are countersunk into the surfaces to greet the eye. Which next is drawn to the door handle. The venerable old exterior door handle became the interior handle, but now mounted on the side of the seat base, and connected via cable to the door post latch.

Door sill plates of walnut with brass Diamond T lnlays. On the right a better view of door handle attached to seat base, walnut trim pieces.
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Console, walnut surface. The air vent exits forward at front of console.
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From the heating/air conditioning plant, air ducts are routed forward to either side of the seats from the face of the raised shelf, and centrally between the seats through a narrow console, topped by a walnut arm rest.

Pvc piping up the door post and forward beneath the upholstery above the door frame would route defroster air down over the windshields. Awaiting one of those “round Toit” times.

Toaster/fuse box under dash closed and open.
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Wiring and fuse box are tucked inside a bread toaster, located under the dash panel precisely where the old heater would have ridden. Yep, a toaster. The back door removed to create the fuse box space; the shiny front door, a drop down panel to access those wiring necessities.

Interior “dome” lights would be discovered at each rear corner inside the cab, atop a pair of walnut staffs carved into stylized Egyptian cobras. The golden lenses of their Egyptian eyes are re-purposed RV side lights.

Dome light on “cobra” stanchion. Green glass bud vase in center of walnut trim divider in upholstered back panel.
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Flanking the chromed gauge panel are those hand-carved walnut images of “Neferteri”, in cameo profile. Dash knobs of a diamond embossed design are re-purposed from the hardware aisle of a big box home improvement store.

Neferteri cameo carved in walnut, right side of dash cluster.
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The above panel with its open glove box, courtesy the Diamond T Motor Car Company…just like the one the hay crew hid their smokes in…was retained as-is. A reminder of why that first taste of tobacco would satisfy my curiosity for a lifetime. It’s all good.




Gauge cluster with the raised diamond on surface of the dash knobs.
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Grinders give grace to ungainly welds,” had become my mantra. God bless the saint who invented the flap disc for grinders. Coming in a variety of sanding grits, and infinitely less aggressive than stone, these gawky looking wonders can smooth out even the most embarrassing of gloppy molten weld. A true testimonial.

 

No excuses here. No poser pretenses of master craft, just a Forrest Gump guy, enjoying Life’s box of chocolates. But that’s the point. That Neferteri drawing…my streamline moderne fantasy…could easily have gone no further. Just a colored pencil doodle, tossed in a box chock full of fanciful “what if’s”. One of those “one day” daydreams. Waiting until… Until WHAT? My ship came in? I hit the jackpot in a lottery I never picked a ticket for? I could hire somebody who was Somebody? Or I just woke up one day, skilled and really crafty?

Sheridan 2010 KARZ car show 44. Neferteri in primer at July 4th car show, Sheridan, Wyoming.
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No delusions here. Nor apologies. Nor pretentious intentions. Not a super spit and polish show car. No “Do Not Touch” signs. No ten foot tall trophies. But Neferteri was going to BE. She would be all I could make of my dreams. She would have her warts, her scars. And her scars would be seen, and they would be beautiful. And little kids could crawl over her, and into her cab, and go “Vroom, vroom, vroom”, as this Forrest Gump had done back in the day. It just didn’t matter. It’s all good.

Ford autumn red, Pt cruiser sunset bronze pearl, 2013 Porsche in auburn metallic.
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Seven, come Eleven. Seven years into the build, I had brought home the paint for Neferteri. Ford Autumn Red. Chrysler Sunset Bronze Pearl. Porsche Auburn. Then, eleven years and counting, I retrieved those sealed cans from their time capsule, the crawl space under my humble abode. The paint still was good, but Time was running out on the painter: planned obsolescence. I had exactly two years to get that paint to grace the surfaces of my streamline dream, or… The paint company was discontinuing the line. Better living through chemistry. Not only were they ceasing to manufacture it, they were completely changing their chemistry and, in the process, removing from their shelves the old line’s paint toners, reducers, and hardeners all. If I wanted to activate my paint, I had to activate the painter. Me.

I had come kicking and screaming into the 21st Century’s brave new world in automotive paint technology. What was wrong with lacquer, I whined. So what if you could get a little high in a misty lacquer haze? With this new paint, you could die!

I painted some test panels in autumn red, auburn and sunset bronze pearl. The real colors don’t show up to well in this picture.
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And what was so wonderful about the wet look of clear coat? What had happened to that wondrous mile-deep surface that lacquer had given us for generations? Where did that go, to be replace with the snake-skin-peeling clear coat? Tell me that!

Why, I’d even used rattle can lacquer for my firewall, cast iron grey. There, and on all the chassis parts. Why could I still get lacquer in a rattle can? Nearly every surface of Neferteri sported rattle can lacquer of one primer patch or another. As a symbol of Rebel Without a Clue protest, I painted the beltline in rattlecan cast iron grey. Lacquer. Harumpf!

Hold on there, Rip Van Winkle. Try the new high build primer fillers. Wow! Miracle in a can. Never did a long board do so much for so little effort, back in the lacquer day. I became a believer. And there’s no believer like a new believer. No going back now.

Still, there was all that peeling clear coat. Automotive dandruff, with no Head and Shoulders shampoo to cure it. All the King’s horses and all the King’s salesmen tried to convince me it was all good. “If you…. You need… Works best if you… Then you… The pot life… Be sure you… And the window is only… Or… Or…” “Try it. You’ll love it.

I stubbornly resisted their siren songs. At the court of last resort, I handed down my decision: Urethane? OK, ok. But single stage, only single stage. Done, and by Golly, done.

Well, not quite. It would take two summers of weather willing opportunity to paint Neferteri, one panel at a time. Montana’s Big Sky was my paint room. I removed what fenders and parts I could, and drove Neferteri out onto the driveway. With tarps for containment, I masked off the cab to begin painting her, section by section.

The cab without the doors were painted outside.
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There are a lot of single-paint-cup sized sections to a full figured Diamond T truck. But soon a syncopated rhythm developed in my jazz dance around my Egyptian Queen. I was like… like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, right out of Walt Disney’s Fantasia…
Ok, Ok, his name was Mickey Mouse. So what. It was my second childhood; I could fantasize if I wanted to.




Getting there…. Autumn red above, auburn belt, cast grey belt, fire red pinstripe, sunset bronze pearl bottom.
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Fantasy met Reality in my little world with each gust of wind and each cloud rolling in. There had to be a better way to control my paint spray. Not to mention mayfly hatches, cottonwood cotton, and dust from the gravel road. Then the little grey cells began to kick in, beneath my moon suit hoodie. I needed a paint booth for the removable parts. A booth I could roll out onto the drive. A booth of panels. Panels that could be assembled, and disassembled. Think, think.

Aha, I had it! Sketches, calculations, measurements. Then, off to the big box home improvement store. There, I picked up pvc pipe for a framework, caster wheels to make it a roller, clear plastic sheeting for panel sides and roof, home furnace filters on the air intake end, fans on the other to exit the isocyanate fumes. Brilliant!

Home made portable paint booth, and the inset photo shows a fender freshly primered inside the portable paint-booth.
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It did work. Like eating the elephant: One bite at a time! Sundry and all parts moved in and out of the visqueen booth. Primer, that “miracle in a can”. Color, in crowning glory! Panel by panel, piece by piece.

Me with the freshly painted and assembled gas tank, freshly painted grille shell and headlight.
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Drivers side front fender, just out from the portable paint booth.
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Inset photo; hood-side striped in fire red, and the hood installed on the car. Passenger door still needs paint.
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Rear view, it is now all coming together, rear fenders are just painted, but not installed yet.
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Freshly painted rear fenders, just out of my home made spray-boot, and now ready to gt installed on the bed sides.
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Rear view with the rear fenders installed.
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It took two summers, but by Labor Day 2015, Neferteri was ready to regally glide in copper and wine finery, 1Shot fire red pinstriping, and a Larry Watson tribute roof, paneled in Porsche Auburn.




Cab front view in paint. This shows auburn roof panel, pinstripe. Corner windshield frame clamps on the passenger side are still missing.
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Close up, left front with fender, hood, grille, door done.
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And finally, most treasured of all came the crowning touch. Scott Stalick presented me with a plaque he had made expressly for this occasion. It was not just any plaque. It said “Conquistadors Car Club, Sheridan“. What made it really priceless was that Scott had found the plaque of my mentor Harry Larsen, and had mine cast from that very special piece of my own personal history.

Full frontal view of Neferteri, ready for Burn The Point parade debut, 2015
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Front 3/4 view and ready for its first car show as a finished truck.
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“Burn The Point” parade… here we come!
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And the final detail…. A Conquistadors Sheridan plaque from Scott Stalick, cast from Harry Larsen’s original.
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Show time! Down the “Burn The Point” parade route in Billings, Montana. It was our crowning car event of the season. From the crowd I heard a voice call out,
“#%& &?%#! Look at that truck! Beautiful! What IS that thing?”
It’s all good.


B’dee, B’dee, B’dee, That’s all, Folks!







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Neferteri Part Nine

 

NEFERTERI Part Nine

 

In this, the next to last episode in the Neferteri saga, our Forrest Gump tackles the challenges of scaling down the full figured Cadillac of Trucks.



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 Nine

In this, the next to last episode in the Neferteri saga, our Forrest Gump tackles the challenges of scaling down the full figured “Cadillac of Trucks”. Those sleek smart ads of streamlined Diamond T trucks stylized by graphic artist Storr Baldwin would be his fount of inspiration. Inspiration, he would find, also can come in the most unexpected moments, and from the most unexpected places.

Inspiration …
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Diamond T front fenders were, well, HUGE. Charles A. Tilt wanted substance. His early motto was “The Nation’s Freight Car”. He also was deeply into streamline styling. It was said that “all Diamond T designs are personally originated and carried to completion by C. A. Tilt, President of the Diamond T Motor Car Company.” A familiar quote of his was, “A truck doesn’t have to be homely.”

C. A. Tilt, President of the Diamond T Motor Car Company.
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Tilt also was into boats in the era of Gar Wood, Chris Craft and Hacker. In 1939, he had Mandell Rosenblat, a naval architectural firm, design a 107-foot yacht, “Trouper”, built by Robert Jacob and Sons, City Island, New York. He didn’t get to enjoy it for long, as it was commissioned by the US Navy as a submarine chaser in 1940. As PC-457, the vessel tragically sank north of Puerto Rico after accidentally colliding with the freighter Nortuna. C. A. Tilt would later have a second, smaller 44’ sport fishing boat of strikingly similar, scaled down design built for him in 1942 by Hubert S. Johnson of Bay head, New Jersey.

The Mandell Rosenblat, designed 107-foot yacht, “Trouper”, built by Robert Jacob and Sons, City Island, New York for C. A. Tilt.
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Credit for industrial styling often was accredited to the head of a company or styling studio. How “hands-on” Tilt was in Diamond T design isn’t clear. In the case of Tilt’s first “Trouper”, a letter to Mandell Rosenblat, due credit was given:

“Dear Rosie:

Thank you for designing for me the most beautiful yacht in the world.
Yours,

C. A. Tilt”



The fenders of “The Handsomest Truck in America” were being die-formed by the mid-Thirties. Their exaggerated pontoon forms were pointed up in advertisements of the day as “sweeping lines flowing from the wide center drop bumper, in deeply skirted fenders.” Advertisements of the day were illustrated by Storr Baldwin, in long, low forms, tweaked in artistic license to pattern the patter of the text. “The styling leader among trucks.” “Striking a brilliant style”. “Extremely fast and extremely good looking.” And, if all that was lost on anyone: “Beautiful.”

Diamond T huge front fenders…
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The pontoons that graced my 1936 model were the first of the “fat fendered” styling. Like the rest of the assembled “Cadillac of Trucks”, they were outsourced. The cabs had been built by McLaughlin Body Company, of Moline, Illinois. But I never determined if those fenders were part of the McLaughlin supply line to Charles Tilt’s assembly line in Chicago. What I did discover is that other makes of the Depression era shared some of Diamond T’s body parts. Various fire engines, and the Autocar trucks of the decade…themselves assembled back East in Ardmore, PA…also sported these self-same “beautiful” front fenders.

Beautiful”, the pontoon pantaloons I fished out of the back lot of Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop, were not. Under an ancient dry sea bed of cracked Bondo mud, they were pretty solid, I consoled myself. Save for the expected tatters from vibrations over many roads, and the whumps and bumps of ¾ of a Century of use, abuse and neglect. Repairs were expected, and the next order of business.

The fenders on my truck were, well used and abused, and in need for a lot of love. The inset photo show the similar fenders used on an Autocar truck.
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But why just repair and restore, when all else was being restyled? I always admired the Packard cars that were restored by Conquistador Gary “Slim” Richards, and his protégé Blaine Murphy. The round bead that smartly outlined the wheel openings especially seemed classic. Why not use this accent to point up the smartness of the wide openings of the Diamond T?

Packard inspiration…
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Did I say, wide? I mean WIDE, accommodating 20-inch Dayton wheels with commercial grade balloon tires, back in the day. Besides, those tatters and tears would best be repaired and stabilized with the added strength of round rod. Industrial strength, 3/8” round rod. Arrrr!

Minneapolis-Moline Tractor with beautiful body created at the same factory where the Diamond-T bodies came from.
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McLaughlin Body Company, in Moline, also sourced body parts to the Minneapolis-Moline Tractor Company. When I looked head-on at the pair of Dumbo ears that flanked my Auburn styled grillework, I have to admit it. They looked like they would have been more at home with Minneapolis Moline down the corn rows, than announcing the handsomest truck in America.

The repaired and restyled with added center peak, front fenders on my truck. In bare metal on the left, and later in red oxide primer on the right.
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I studied the classic cars of the era in earnest. What often caught the eye in a full frontal view of these frankly massive motor cars, was a subtle styling line. It was called the “bow wave”, borrowed from speedboat prows. A slight peak to strike a divide over the curved fender form. It was just enough of a break to give “snap and life” to their sweeping shapes.
Yep, I welded a length of 3/8” rod dead center, up and over each pontoon fender, and, trusty grinder in hand, massaged my own bow wave accent where no Diamond T had gone before.

A better look at the fenders I created with the added center peak.
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I also scored a “wide center drop bumper”, in two pieces scrounged off the bumper pile at Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop. I have no idea what it graced originally, but something really, really wide. Once I welded the two face plate pieces back together, I had to fabricate side extensions to my frame with heavy square tubing to line up and hold their hefty irons.

I can still hear Buzz counseling me, “If it was easy, everybody would do it.”

Samples of the skirted bedside on the 1930’s trucks I liked so much and wanted to use for my truck as well.
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Today, even Storr Baldwin’s handsome illustrated Diamond T ads are actively collected. As attractive as were the distinctive cabs, the overall integrated sweep of streamlining from front to rear is simply mesmerizing. The McLaughlin cabs were paired with a variety of commercial bodies supplied by yet another Moline-based company, Maremont. Stake, panel, and van bodies were illustrated in attractive color combinations, “but unlike anything that has been seen before,” the ads chirped. “Instead of rough and exposed chassis under the bed or platform, this area was skirted or enclosed by a drop panel. Neat, streamlined fenders swept over and around wheels. Upper stake sides of the body were flush with the top of the cab, to form a continuous ‘flow’ or ‘streamline’.

Before I created the bed in metal I made numerous sketches and designs, figuring out the best way to create the design I had in mind.
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That drop skirt panel, riding evenly with the running boards, did much to clean up a commercial work-a-day truck body. Too, the beltline, flowing through hood, cowl, door and cab, was continued in a sweep down the entire length of the truck body. “Brilliant”.

The fact that Maremont’s truck body design matched a Diamond T cab, line-for-line up to the roof horizon, did not go unnoticed. C. A. Tilt’s early attempt to keep secret their construction coup was to no avail. He had scored a scoop, but…grinning like Alice’s proverbial “Chessie”… that cat sprang out of the bag. Streamlined truck bodies soon were all the vogue. Every marque boasted its own trucks of progress. With the repeal of Prohibition came smartly styled “Beer Bodies”, rolling billboards for a burgeoning beverage industry. Van sides were adorned in sparkling streamline lettering that accentuated their stylish form. Cargo everywhere was carried in smart style. It was “modern”; it was the “future”.

I wanted Neferteri, my tribute to the era of streamline styling, to express this same feel. That drop skirt. Lines that flowed in a continuous sweep from front to back. Once my drawing captured the look I was after, next came the hard part. Reality.
“What was I thinking?”

Measuring tape in hand, and graph paper at the ready, I laid out the options for dimensions of the truck bed. What I discovered right away was that the realities of my GM chassis didn’t fit that long, low Storr Baldwin graphic I coveted. The bed length in front of the wheel opening was quite longer than that from the rear wheel to the rear bumper of my donor truck. To esthetically balance my bed length fore and aft, I saw I needed to extend Neferteri’s derriere a full 19 inches. So, I did.

Now: How was I going to create a truck body behind the cab, to continue those forms and lines that would carry on through its shape? First, I fabricated a ladderwork superstructure of square tubing to ride over the chassis frame. Over this tubing “armature”, the sides of the bed would be formed from sheet metal. Rounded corner caps at the front would come from lengthwise slices out of exhaust tubing. I had a metal shop roll skirts of sheet metal to mimic the outline of the running boards.

I fabricated a ladder-work superstructure of square tubing to ride over the chassis frame.
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That all seemed straightforward. Clamp. Weld. Grind. But how to create the top surfaces of the low bedsides? Remember those all-important sideboards I had drawn? Those handsome panels needed a wide, flat surface from which to rise up, slip through the air stream, and fall away to the rear. Hold on there, Buckwheat! Great idea, but I’d drawn my cartoon into a corner. Blast!

It was 2005. My son Rick and I were in Phoenix, Arizona, backseat passengers on our way to the annual NASCAR race, our first to see in person. My daughter navigated, as son-in-law Grant cut NASCAR maneuvers through traffic. In such situations, attention deficit can be a blessing. A pickup was towing a dual-axle trailer, hauling a car down the Interstate beside us. At that moment I glanced over. Voila! There, rolling mere inches from my wandering eyes, was the answer to my design dilemma. Trailer fenders! They had the perfect form to top off my streamline truck bedsides. Eight inches wide, I would find, with rolled edges. Solid construction of strong sheet metal. Back home, I bought six of them. And began whacking them into lengths and curves to match my dream design. Six panels became seven, as I created the “cloud lift” over the rear wheels, to accent the arc of the rear fender design.

Trailer fenders, the base for my streamline truck bed sides.
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Fabrication of the bed sides over the square tubing frame work I made.
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To cover the seam between the top and the flat panel of the bed side, I again got out the 3/8 “ round rod and began a marathon run through tanks of welding gas and spools of wire. The precept of “a good grinder gives grace to pucky-doodle welds” was driven home again and again, down that streamline sweep line. Held at a 45 degree angle to the seam, the grinder worked even better. Thanks for the advice, Ron Tesinsky.

By this stage of things, I had that inner armature structure built up of square tubing to hold each bedside in place. A regular Erector Set. The floor now could ride level, between the sides. To finish off the bed interior, I found diamond plate aluminum for my Diamond T. Floor surface, and inner fender panels were trimmed out. And, turns out, it was “period perfect”. Diamond plate, I discovered, had come into vogue at the same time as the streamline moderne movement. Not only conspicuously on fire engines, but in a variety of applications throughout the trucking industry.

Diamond plate aluminum, as used in vintage fire trucks would form the floor and inner fenders on my truck.
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Here, on the flat floor of the bed, also would rest a handsome Potter trunk of the classic car period. I had discovered it nesting quietly under a table at the local antique store. This smartly outfitted trunk would hold, not matching leather Gucci luggage for madame, but a hidden tank of Ethyl to serve my Queen, Neferteri.

The aluminum gas tank for Neferteri which I would “hid” in a Potter trunk which I found at a local antique store.
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I searched and agonized over locating the perfect teardrop shaped rear fenders, to continue the streamline theme. But it didn’t turn out to be a quick trip to the repop store. Pickup fenders of the era just didn’t serve up quite the right continuous curve. Panel truck fenders would have fit the flat side panels, but they were scarce as hen’s teeth. I even scored some really swoopy rear fenders off a vintage bus. But they were pancake flat.

Early stages of the rear fenders, 1937 Plymouth units.
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I finally found the shape most like what I was looking for: the rear fenders on a portly Plymouth, 1937 vintage. Perfect in every way, only… The flat lip pressed into the wheel opening was, well, flat. Not to worry, there always was the old 3/8” round rod to rescue me from that quandry.

Then, when I draped the found fender over my artillery wheels for a look-see, it turned out to be too short for those sweeping bedsides. Blaine Murphy came up with a longer pair of 1939 Chrysler pantaloons. My son and daughter threw in together and got me an English wheel for Christmas. I was off and running, cutting, wheeling, welding, grinding. It took seven assorted pieces, finally, to create each of the long teardrop rear fenders, to mimic and match their front counterparts.

Might I here digress to pass along a word of caution to the budding English wheeler? There’s but fingernail room…no full finger accommodations… between those rollers. You might could come away with the finger pads of a tree frog. To paraphrase the wise sage, “I may not be a smart man, Jennie, but I know what pain is!”





And that 19” bed extension beyond the chassis frame? It served up the perfect location for a step, just like those for firemen of old, hanging onto the hook and ladder trucks in answer to the alarm. I would find it the perfect bench seat for striking Rodin’s “The Thinker” pose, in contemplating how to solve each next challenge I’d created for myself.

On the theme of fire trucks, or boats, or oil and gas tankers, or tow trucks…or funeral flower cars some might add… a pipe and ball rail was an accent I always thought looked sharp. I’d already committed to swoopy sideboards, but now with the step-down at the rear, I could accent the transition with a “tail gate”, a literal drop-down gate of pipe. Round metal balls were added to cover each intersect. Johnny Sprocket found the orbs for me and drilled them out to allow assembly. His shop also would mill the base plates for the gate’s uprights, as well as for the stanchions I needed to support those exotic wood sideboards.

Skirted bed sides topped of with the cut and refitted trailer fenders.
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The Plymouth rear fenders with the new skirted bed sides. This is an older photo and the front fenders had not been restored and restyled yet.
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With some fresh coats of primer.
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The teardrop sideboard extensions in wood first were patterned in cartoons on butcher paper. The forms then were transferred onto Masonite for rigidity in mock-up, before attempting those forms in sawn and sanded walnut. Finally, it was the moment of Truth. And I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What if I butchered those precious, pricey boards of walnut? Ron Daigle, a friend with finish carpentry skills, stepped up to do the honors. Once cut, I was able to sand to my heart’s content, smoothing out the edges, bringing out the grain. And what beautiful grain it played into the light, as I waxed and buffed each gorgeous board by hand.

Those stanchion base plates fashioned by Johnny Sprocket next came into play. The uprights, three per side, were cut and assembled of round tubing. An inner leg was cut to length, then a series of slightly bigger diameter tubes were slipped over this core, punctuated with O-rings between each joint. Square channel was then hung horizontally at each of those breaks, to cradle the precious walnut panels.

Side board stanchions.
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Each stanchion was capped in regal style, through another chance “Aha” discovery. At Scott Clark’s shop was a humungous hydraulic Piranha punch. When Scott would pop holes through thick metal, the resulting plug that was cut out had a unique dimple, created dead center by the force of the punch. One of those dimpled plugs would come to cap off each sideboard stanchion.

In my original drawing of 2003, the tail lights I has sketched in were of a teardrop shape, like on mid-Thirties cars, and mounted at the end of the bedside surface, before it dropped over to meet the rear bumper. That carbuncle concept mercifully never made it off the drawing board.
One day as I was driving home, a motorcycle passed me. As it braked for the stop light, its tail light lit yet another little “Aha” bulb in my fevered brain. What was that motorcycle? That teardrop tail light was the epitome of “streamline moderne”! I had to have it.

It was a 2003 Victory Vegas, and it was not cheap. Twice that, over the parts counter please, for a pair of them. They were all plastic, no metal bezel adorned them. Never mind, I had to have them. Soon, I was cutting a hole in the slope of each rear fender. I cut and filed, very carefully, until the plastic bucket slipped into place.

2003 Victory Vegas bike taillight lens was the base for the taillights on Neferteri it fitted by dream design perfectly. The taillight lacked a bezel, so that I had to create myself.
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That done, I next addressed the naked truths of those naked red lenses. First, to be a proper period concept custom, a teardrop bezel was essential, I was musing. Second, came the disappointment of learning motorcycle lights were not of your garden variety 12 volt auto light bulb. Not to worry, off to Dietz salvage to pirate a pair of 1157 bulb receptacles. Out came the trusty Dremel tool and into the resulting hole went the receptacles. A little JB Weld and mission impossible was complete.

But I still hadn’t solved the bezel bamboozle. I graphed out a pattern, then cut a base plate out of 1/8” steel plate, to snugly surround each Vegas lense. For more definition, I then bent ¼” round rod to ride atop the base plate, further defining the opening for the lense. A lot of hand filing went into the finish, before those bezels were ready for the chrome plater. Before I broke my arm patting myself on the back, I chanced upon a magazine feature on the Ridler Award winner of that very year. You guessed it: the tail lights on that car were none other than 2003 Victory Vegas motorcycle lights. I wonder if they JB welded 1157 receptacles in their application? Not saying, but just saying, somehow, I doubt it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, chrome plater. Tail light bezels were ready. The dippy front bumper was welded together now. But what to do about a rear bumper? It was time for another “Aha” moment of discovery.

Nothing available seemed to turn my crank. Then, one day while tripping through the Dietz auto and truck salvage yard, what did my wandering eye discern? The bumper of my Neferteri dreams! Voila!!

Well, you really had to look, to see what was there. I was ogling at the rear bumper of a school bus. You know, those ribbed, guard rail road barrier-like bumpers? The ones engineered to protect precious screeching cargo from impact with incoming scuds of the belated screeching brake kind?

The school bus bumper was pressed into three horizontal ribs of industrial strength steel. If I were to have Scott Clark slice those ribs apart with his trusty plasma cutter, why, I would have three choices of bumper stock to select from. So, we did.
And I had my bumper. As a finishing touch, I cut rectangular notches in the lower edge to either side for placement of the exhaust tips (more recycled rectangular tubing), and detailed the openings with ¼” round rod.

The school bus bumper that formed the base for the bumper I created. The bus bumper was cut in three horizontal sections, of which one was used, cut to size, and reshaped with exhaust tip notches.
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Now my Neferteri pieces were ready for a visit to the chrome plating shop. All that was left was, well, lots of things. And a paint job. One panel at a time in a home-made paint booth, of sorts, in my driveway. That, and more, as they say, in our next and finally final episode of Neferteri.

Neferteri in the Labor Day Parade, 2012.
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Neferteri Part Eight

 

NEFERTERI Part Eight

 

Herein, our Forrest Gump embarks on a quixotic crusade in search of elements from the Golden Age of the Classics.



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 Eight

Forlorn is about the best could be said of my 1936 Diamond T grille shell. No Art Deco waterfall grille in shiny stamped sheet metal graced its open maw. But that’s not a bad thing. Frankly, I wasn’t a fan of that historic hiccup, before the Cadillac of trucks morphed its face for the Forties into a 1938 Buick on steroids. The 1936-37 grillework definitely was Art Deco, but more like the face of a drive-in speaker than any rolling sculpture.

From left to right; 1937 Diamond T, 1938 Buick grille, 1948 Diamond T grille 
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Drive-in Speakers, common items for those who crew up with the drive-in theater’s. (many younger viewers never have seen a drive-in movie.  Sad)
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Instead, I had borrowed Gordon Buerhrig’s 1935 facelift for the struggling Auburn flagship to grace my own Art Deco dream. What better streamline concept truck than a marriage between Auburn and Diamond T? For help in scale and proportion, I threw myself on the tender mercies of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum. There, archivist Jon Bill came to my aid. With stretched dimensions in hand, I was off and running. I had the WHAT of what I needed; the HOW still continued to elude me.

Original 1936 Diamond T grille shell I started with.
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1935-36 Auburn grille…
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Example of grille surround created from large diameter tubing by Barris Kustoms on the left and using some smaller diameter tubing by the Valley Custom Shop used on Jack Stewart’s Oldsmobile “Polynesian”.
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If George and Sam Barris and the Valley Custom boys could create their grille surrounds in exhaust tubing, it was the way forward for me. First though, I needed an inexpensive mock-up. Quite by accident I discovered the cardboard tubing inside Christmas wrapping rolls was exactly the same diameter! And a lot cheaper to whack into the required lengths, angles, and curves I envisioned. Once it was laid out and adjusted to the Diamond T height and width, I was ready for Darryn Waldo to pass over the real steel for cutting and ticky-tacking.

Christmas wrap tube on the left turned out ideal to mock up my new grille surround before I bought the actual metal tubing and had it bend in shape. On the right you can see the roughed in exhaust tubing clamped to front of my Diamond T shell.
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The handsome expanded stainless screen of bygone days was no more. Scott Clark showed me an alternative, though. And it stood literally in my face on a daily basis as I went in and out of his shop. The behemoth Peterbilt tractor-trailer rigs sported a frontal grillework that was almost a dead ringer for that sported by the Auburn boat-tail speedster. After a few visits to repair shops and salvage yards, I was able to score one that hadn’t played block and tackle against a four-legged foe, or worse.

Peterbilt truck with the stainless screen I used in building my “Auburn” grille. The Kenworth truck on the right shows the style of bars and “teeth” I carved down for my grille.
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The center bar and teeth I was able to clone from yet another 18-wheeler. This time the vertical aluminum grille bars of a Kenworth. It didn’t take long for me to gain a deep appreciation for the values of an open faced file, in the task of whittling down the pieces for the three cross bars of the Auburn’s trademark dental work.

Buzz Franke studying the bare shell and how to incorporate the new panels and exhaust tubing surround. On the right photo we can see Buzz Franke forming a template for bottom of the shell.
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The finished tubing grille surround now tacked to the 37 Diamond T shell.
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Yet, that all turned out to be the easy part. The Auburn’s vertical face was straight, and raked back to a jaunty angle. Jaunty hardly described the bulbous bustle nose of the Diamond T shell. Buzz Franke stepped in to direct the match-up of this odd couple. His studied eye in fabrication was a clinic in customizing, a privilege I never will forget, rest his soul. Finally, to achieve the crowning touch, Ron Tesinsky drug out his English wheel to create the cap of the structure. It came out much like a big brother to the iconic 32 Ford grille shell, as well as that of Buehrig’s classic Auburn.

Close up of the lower grille section, piecing together the shell with the tubing. On the right Buzz with partner Jerry Lafountain checking alignments.
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Lower piecework, adapting tubing to original grille shell on the left and on the right the Grille is now ready for fabrication of top of shell.
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Shaped rod clamped in place to determine form of top of shell, followed by Paper templates in place for shaping top of grille shell.
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Ron Tesinsky with completed grille shell, bare metal. Ron shaped all the sheet metal on the grille surround with English wheel. On the right, grille back home on stand.
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I was so proud of what we had done, I built a stand for our bare metal “sculpture”, and stood it in my bedroom.

Until…., well… Two years later Dotti and I were married. It was no contest. Neferteri moved out to the shop. A girl thing, I think.





Fast forward to 2013. That bucket list we all carry. Wishful thinking. Without Dotti, much of my bucket list only would have remained a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” wish list. Dotti was on family history quest, and we planned out a trip, retracing back her family’s migration West to Montana. Well, along the route through Indiana…umm, almost on the way…was Auburn, and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. After a short detour, I found myself standing in front of that very Mecca of Classic Car celebrants. Soon, I was shaking hands with Museum archivist Jon Bill, the very man who, a decade before, had helped me scope out the dimensions I needed in creating Neferteri’s “Auburn” grille. That day stands out as one of those “most memorable” moments of Life’s special treasures. And to have Jon request images of Neferteri for the Museum archive was…beyond words!

Me in front of ACD Museum, 2013. and on the right Me, on the left, with Jon Bill, on the right, archivist at ACD Museum who ten years before, in 2003, had helped me come up with conversions to adapt the 1935-36 Auburn grille dimensions to the larger Diamond T grille shell.
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As I looked back over the progression of the project, visions of perk charts danced in my head. Jack Whittington had started the wiring, and in tidy Air Force style, he ran wires through lengths of brake line tubing to hide them. The idea to hide the fuse box inside a kitchen toaster masquerading as an Art Deco heater under the dash was, well, my idea. John Stroble took on the brakes. And Darryn Waldo came to the rescue in configuring the air conditioning components to avoid defacing my firewall mural space.

Air conditioning? You ask. Didn’t the Diamond T have individual roll out windshields? And cowl vents down on the sides, in front of the doors? Yes… but. Dotti surprised me with the gift of a complete Aftermarket system. In another compromise, the new hidden hinges Darryn had scored meant the cowl vents had to go.

The solution that we worked out was to run hoses under the firewall and floor to a mounting position behind the seats, on the extended floor board. Venting then later could face forward, beneath a raised platform behind the seats and through a console between the seats, as well as up and over the door frames to that above-windshield glove box panel, via pvc piping.

AC unit on bare floor of Neferteri.
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But that would be later. Actually, years later. Thirteen years and counting; I still don’t have the system charged, nor the defroster vents louvered in above the windshield. My bad. But is a custom ever done? Really DONE done? Those roll out windshields are working really swell, though.

Jack Whittington, who wired Neferteri on the left, and John Waldo and father Darryn Waldo crimping AC hoses on the right.
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How to build an extended cab? I still had the poster board pattern I had used to saw out my 10 gauge floor. Scott Clark had salvaged some heavy duty bakery racks, and I glommed onto one. I surgically removed its base on wheels, to then began assembling parts and pieces of the four C. A. Tilt truck cabs I had purloined. To align the parts and hold everything in position, I built a cage of braces in bracketed ½” tubing. It looked like a Rube Goldberg cartoon, but it did the job.

Top left shows the Bakery rack frame I used parts from for cab gurney The other two photos show the stock cab on bakery rack gurney.
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Buzz guided me on extending the cab length. One set of quarter panels were sliced vertically behind the stamped door frame. Another set was cut parallel to these, but 4” back. For backing, we tacked a narrow strip behind the cutline to hold the pieces in line, then I slowly welded up the long seam.

Buzz Franke studying cab extension. Extended and reinforced to hold its shape cab on gurney.
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Quarter windows. With tried-and-true poster board, I cut out several variations of shapes for the quarter windows I wanted. Standing back, I studied each, with a door clamped into position for proportioning. Then, to create window openings consistent with those of the doors, I actually used doors as donors. Each quarter window surround is made up from the rear portion of a pair of door window frame elements, left and right, set facing each other and welded in the middle.

Quarter window template.
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The center back panels of the cabs I had gathered all were worse for wear. I sliced out the best beltline, then added new sheet metal panels above and below, attached to a 1/2” square tubing frame on the inside. At this juncture, everything was pretty much held together with C-clamps. Perhaps the best advice I received along the way was, “You can never have enough C-clamps.”

Diamond T’s had a small, square rear window. In my humble opinion, they looked more like they belonged on an orchard tractor than the Cadillac of trucks. In stark contrast, all of the classic cars of the era sported long and narrow rear windows. They just spoke “elegance” to me. So, I cut up what rear window frame stampings I had, and built my own long, narrow, elegant rear view. Then I centered and welded them into that new flat sheet metal I’d grafted into the rear of the cab.

From left to right on the top; Original Diamond T back panel,  1/2″ tubing inner framework for new cab back panel, back panel with template for new rear window. The picture on the bottom shows the back panel installed with new much wider rear window opening.
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Welding. The roof was next. I sorted through the roof panels and selected a pair least ravaged by the collateral damage that came with time in service. You know, hay bales, logs, amateur hip-hop dancers. One panel was sliced off, just above the new quarter windows in my cab. The second panel was laid up from the rear alignment. I picked a line of consistent loft in the sandwiched panels and cut a horizontal slice down through them together, from one side of the top to the other, to create an extended top. As with the vertical quarter panel extensions, I cut out a narrow strip from the leftovers, for support beneath the seam. Thanks to the genius who invented Cleco pins! Welding the seam across that roof expanse was made much easier.

By now, the cab gurney had given way to actual construction onto the floor base plate now securely bolted to the chassis. Running boards were next. That lattice framework beneath the floor included outriggers that, as well as for catching shins daily, now served for attaching the running boards. Again, each running board was extended lengthwise, thanks to the sacrifice of a second set of boards for the added length.

The extended cab is now back on the frame with the fender installed we could extend the running boards to fit the longer cab. (This photo was taken prior to 3/8″ rod drip rail replacement)
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Thanks to Charles Tilt’s cab of assembled parts, I was able to adjust individual panels at will. To finally attach the extended roof, I trimmed and clamped it down for final welding. At this point, a little “chopping” was in order. The stock Diamond T cab rose up rearward into an annoying peak at the rear. From a side view, this uphill slope really disrupted any “streamline” flow in styling, front to back. It had to go away. I pulled the roof down in back, and trimmed it off at the dripline. Tilt also had made the drip channel a separate piece, tacked into a wooden header strip inside. Following this alignment, the Diamond T stampings were now fully replaced with a molding I bent to form with 3/8” rod.

Roof extended, rear 3/4 view with the new drip rail in place. On the bottom an aerial view, extended cab, with seams filled.
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More welding. Lots and lots more welding ahead. I was becoming a frequent flyer to the local welding gas supplier.

Up front, the original Diamond T roof panel had been bolted to the top of the cowl, through the A posts and below the windshields. A length of welting was sandwiched between the metal panels to eliminate squeaks. Here was my opportunity to suck the roof down a bit more, and wipe out the ugly gasket distraction interfering with that coveted “B-17” flow of the windshield lines I so admired. While I was at it, I formed a Duvall Vee piece for emphasis, bottom center between the windshields. I continued the Vee theme in striking a sharp line down each A pillar to taper into the belt molding at the cowl. Duesenbergs, Packards, Marmons, and best of all: the Stutz Monte Carlo. The classic cars of the period all had that wind slicing aircraft/speedboat look I wanted Neferteri to share.

1930 Stutz Monte Carlo.  This is the A pillar bottom shape I wanted, as it flows downward and forward into the beltline extending out into the hood panel.
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Close up, original cab A pillar.
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Close up, Duvall-like center pillar piece.
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My reshaped A pillar (A little ahead in sequence, I only had a good image of it already in paint!)
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Stylin’! That 2003 drawing was beginning to emerge in 3D. I was on a roll! And I was only six years into the build. The words of my uncle Willis whispered in my ear, “You don’t holler Whoa in the middle of a horse race.








Next, we will clean up those front fenders, attach the doors, and streamline the scene behind the cab…. Stay tuned.













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Neferteri Part Seven

 

NEFERTERI part Seven

 

Inspiration.
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.

Larry, testing sitting position, with mocked up Diamond T cowl, hood and original grille shell.
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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.

Diamond T factory worker de-burring openings in a Deluxe dash panel, and Larry’s design of Neferteri, custom Diamond T truck.
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National Geographic picture showing the Sphinx and Pyramids of Gisa in background. The things I liked as a kid, and still do today.
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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.

Photo of the Sheridan railroad depot, c early 30s, where Larry’s mother traded paper, pound-for-pound, for a set of National Geographic magazines donated for the War effort.
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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.
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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.
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Exterior of the Egyptian Theater, DeKalb, IL. Interior of the Peery Egyptian Revival Theater, Boise, ID.
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Example of Egyptian Revival styling used for posters and of the juke box.
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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.



Jill Reger photos.
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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!
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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.

Photo left: Kilpatrick and Rhythm Venders.  Larry’s dad, Les, is the tall guy,on the right. Photo right: Kilpatrick and his Rhythm Venders.  Glade Kilpatrick, Roy Kopisch, Les Pointer, Inez Depue.
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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.

Larry’s mother, Freda Headley Pointer, 1931 high school graduation photo.
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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.
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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!

Wall fresco from the tomb of Neferteri, queen of Ramses II. (Right) Bust of King Tut’s harsh step-mom, Akhenaten’s wife Nefertiti.  NOT my beautiful Neferteri.
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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.

Dashboard cameo cartouche Larry carved of Queen Neferteri.
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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.



Raw cowl/firewall of the 1936 Diamond T, below that the bare firewall with flat steel plate added, and on the right the firewall in primer, ready for graphic.
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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.

This is the art tile, entitled Egyptian Revival, Larry found illustrated in a magazine.  It was created, c.1924 at the Boisenburger Plattenfabrik factory near Hamburg, East Germany.
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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!

Larry’s graphic drawing, “NEFERTERI” for the Diamond T firewall and below that the painted graphic on the firewall.
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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!

Larry’s research binders.
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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.

Dashboards, cartouches, Classic gauges, mock-up.
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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.

The 10 gauge toeboard bent on a huge brake by Rick Sannon. The aftermarket horizontal brake pedal/booster assembly, and on the right the bracing inside the cowl to support dash and brake assembly.
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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.

Jim Erickson with jig, clamps, to form the walnut steering wheel wrap. (Right) Dove-tail joints securing six pieces of walnut for steering wheel blank.
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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.

Jim Erickson cutting out the steering wheel wrap with his router jig.
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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.

The walnut half-wrap, pictured with a Neferteri cartouche.
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Mock-up, dash, steering.  All but the lower walnut dash trim.
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Close-up, Neferteri dashboard gauge cluster, with lower walnut dash trim added.
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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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Neferteri Part Six

 

NEFERTERI part Six

 

What are you thinking?
Friends and family began to have serious concerns our Forrest Gump was a hoarder headed for the looney bin, as he kept dragging odd and assorted rusty parts and pieces home.



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 Six

Caution: Graphic scenes may be disturbing to the purist. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’ll get. Adult discretion is advised.






“Here’s the Deal,” the quirky TV detective Monk would say. Before unravelling a knotty tangle of clues to drive a line to Truth in each mystery.
I had a dream, a drawing, and a forlorn tangle of tin and kindling, with no driveline at all.

Conquistador Dick Holcombe’s words kept ringing in my ears: “What are you THINKING?

Here’s what I think. Car guys have this unhatched teenager inside them. Adolescents Anonymous. They go to garages, gather around shop projects, group in cruises, gaggle in lawn chairs at the Show and Shine. And yes, click into online forums for mutual support. Long live Custom Car Chronicle.





A few bricks short of a load, describes a lacking in the brain department. In addition to the obvious, I was a few building blocks short in my project, too.

Had I one, the Diamond T chassis had a flat frame, straight as a fireman’s ladder. But I didn’t. And that dog tag on the firewall said “49 mph”. I needed a more modern drivetrain. And a ton and a half hauler wasn’t what I had in mind. Maybe a long wheelbase pickup would fill the bill. I haunted vehicle graveyards, back alleys and farm fence rows, tape measure in hand. And after all that, the answer was sitting just across the street from me all the time: A 1983 GMC the neighbor kid was herding back and forth to school; a hand-me-down from his beet farmer uncle. I got it, then, pretty much for the price of the 700R4 he shifted it down the road with.

Diamond T flat frame chassis, straight as a fireman’s ladder.
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Maximum speed of 49 MPH… of the original Diamond T would not do it for me.
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The 1983 GMC donar car… and stripped frame.
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My original sketch with longer cab and rear quarter windows.
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In my drawing, to keep proportions balanced, I had stretched the cab length and added a pair of quarter windows for interest. The design balanced out the long hood. Easily done on paper, not so much in metal. I needed more pieces. While I was looking, I might as well search for one of the later all metal structures from 1939 to 1949.

Forlorn cab in Buzz and Jerry’s boneyard.
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All metal 1939 cab from Bob Ulrich.
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I scored an all metal cab from a local collector of all things Diamond T, Bob Ulrich. It was stashed on its back behind his house. Bob also had a full figured 1948 Diamond T truck, mounted on a Chevrolet chassis, and I learned a lot from just how he made it fit together.

Then I had another lesson in just how small a World it is, after all. Ken Warren was a draftsman who had worked with me years before. He also was a car guy, and even before all that, he told me he used to hang out at Howard Edwards’ machine shop in Sheridan, Wyoming. That’s Conquistador mecca to me, and today is the shop of CCC contributor Scott Stalick! From Ken I learned of another early truck with the low windshields, a 1937 model, in his dad’s farm boneyard up on Montana’s High Line, only eight miles from Canada.

CCC member Scott Stalick in his shop,which is old Howard Edwards shop.
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Gregg Clark, Larry, and Mr. Warren with the 37 “lemon hauler” gruck cab.
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CCC readers, here’s another “Small World it is” point: Ken’s dad told me that he had gotten his Diamond T from an over the road trucker, and that it had been used, back in the day, to haul lemons from Los Angeles to New York. It even had gone through Death Valley in its journeys. When, now years later, I told Memo Ortega this story, he told me this:
“When I was a kid, I used to go down to the loading docks and load oranges and lemons into trucks. There was this old guy, he was really nice to me, and he had a Diamond T. It had a low windshield like yours, looked chopped. I always remembered how nice he was to me, and his Diamond T stuck in my memory because of that. He hauled lemons and oranges back East.”

From left to right: Larry Pointer, Terry Ortega, Memo Ortega.
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Is it possible that the truck Ken Warren found for me way up on the Canadian line could have been the very truck Memo Ortega had loaded with oranges and lemons in LA, to go “back East”, maybe to New York, as Guy Warren had told me. Coincidence? I have to tell you, both Memo and I had tears come to our eyes.

Citrus packing house.
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One more: Britton Wicks, down my street, also is a car guy. He took notice of my hunter/gatherer behavior. “I have a photo of an old Diamond T like yours. My uncle drove one through Yellowstone Park, hauling new cars to Montana.” Then he shared his photo. Here were two Diamond T flatbed trucks, loaded with brand new 1936 cars, standing at the top of Beartooth Pass outside Yellowstone Park. Could one of those actually be the very Diamond T I first found, at Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop?

Two 1936 Diamond T model 212 trucks hauling new cars.
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Jerry LaFountain had purchased this truck from Lee Otis, a biker who built trikes for bad boys. Lee passed away right after, and many of the trim items for the truck never were located. Lee’s widow Deb is a waitress at the Hog Wild eatery, and she told me of the trip she and Lee had made to Deer Lodge, Montana to pick up that truck. The details there and back were pretty much faded images. On the hood panels, though, I almost could make out some painted sign letters. Turns out Deer Lodge Lumber had just such a truck in years past, and I could almost decipher lettering that could have confirmed it.

Diamond T logging truck.
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The metal cab from Bob Ulrich came from up the valley at Columbus. A service sticker, though, was a clue that in an earlier life it had been a logging or mining truck up north out of Libbey, Montana.


Cab pieces and fenders in my shop.
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More Cab pieces…
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My pile of parts was growing. Now I had three cabs, two sets of running boards, some extra fender tatters for patch panels, and even sundry pieces from yet another cab Buzz Franke’s carpenter friend Ron Daigle found up a draw from a ranch house he was remodeling, down on the edge of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

Then I discovered Leroy Gurganus. Leroy was the guardian angel of Diamond T’s. A retired trucker living in Jasper, Alabama, he had taken on a project of securing Diamond T production records, chassis number sequences, by year and by model and, through contacts with owners, a running record of survivors among those “Cadillacs of Trucks”.

I gave Leroy the information I found on the record plates located on each of the cabs I had collected. Soon, he wrote back with detailed information as to just what I had.

The Buzz and Jerry Rod Shop Diamond T, chassis # 205178, cab # 1663, was a model 212AD, a 1 ½ Ton Deluxe model (the D stood for deluxe). It was number 802 of 4899 built, and most probably was off the line in November, 1935. New, it cost $595.

Leroy Gurganus letter with all the info on the parts I had.
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The all metal cab I had gotten from Bob Ulrich was a 1939 Model 406, number 739 of 911 built, and also a 1 ½ Ton model. It cost $950 new.
That lemon hauler possibly from Memo Ortega’s LA…picked up from the Warren family in northern Montana…was a 1937 Model 360, a bigger 2 ½ Ton truck, but also a Deluxe. It was produced late in the year, and sold for $1675. It had the low windshields of the 1937 model year and the highly desirable Deluxe dash.

From the beginning I documented the whole process, and every little details of the plans I had for the Diamond T.
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I may not be a smart man, Jenny, but I know what love is.” These simple words from Forrest Gump pretty much sum it all up. Leroy Gurganus was a selfless, sharing man. Qualities we most admire. He helped countless ones along the way. Without a second thought, asking nothing in return.

Leroy Gurganus, Buzz Franke, Memo Ortega. Friends found unexpectedly along the way. Brilliance dwells in every one of us. We only have to remain open to be blessed with the light from others. I remember Forrest Gump scrubbing floors with Bubba Blue, and staring transfixed as Bubba rattled off his many ways of preparing shrimp. There have been many who have shed light on my awkward Adolescents Anonymous path.

As the Olympics played out on the World stage, the most memorable snapshots we tuck away are not the litany of medals and ribbons, but the human stories behind the hype and glory. The struggles to arrive and achieve, the sacrifices, and those unsung heroes who stopped and helped others who had fallen. The story of Neferteri is not an “I did it all myself “ tale. In large part it is a tribute to friends; my small way of passing it on.





Scott Clark is another to offer the helping hand. Scott came from a jack-of-all-trades ranching background. He has the ability to visualize everything in 3D. With the opportunity, he would have been a mechanical engineer, but the school of Life gave him skills that no formal education could offer. Scott’s Mobile Welding, he called his small business. I was ill prepared for this excellent adventure that would consume me for the next awkward thirteen years of my perpetual adolescence. My dented Monkey Ward toolbox dated to the Sixties; the tools sundry and assorted survivors. My own skill set, suspended in the lacquer mists of Time. I rode shotgun in Scott’s welding truck to jobs large and small, and watched him straighten, form, and attach metal in myriad ingenious ways. Along the way, we would stop by pawn shops to add to my tool set.

I soon had what had once been the neighbor boy’s daily driver stripped down to a bare chassis in my driveway. Shuffling my disassembled cab pieces, with poster board I laid out a template for the base of an extended cab. Scott helped me visualize a platform of square tubing for the Diamond T cab to bridge the dip in the GMC frame. Solid stanchions were fabricated in 1/8 “ steel to support the cowl, and the whole works located for critical clearances. I then cut a floor plate out of 10 gauge steel, with the trusty solid-foot Sawsall that Buzz Franke had taught me to use.

The platform of square tubing I fabricated for the Diamond T cab to bridge the dip in the GMC frame.
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The GMC small block served mock-up early on, but was a pretty tired mill. Over in the corner of Buzz Franke’s shop, I spied a 350 engine on a dolly. “That belongs to my son,” Buzz told me. “But I think he’d sell it.” Turns out the high compression engine had been built by a legendary local street racer nicknamed “Rev”, and purchased with the idea of putting it in a Camaro for Eddie Franke’s step-daughter. The teenager had just gotten her driver’s license. Then her mom learned of Eddie’s plans with the hopped up motor. It was one of those “What are you thinking?” moments. She shut him down.

Yes, the small block was on the sale block. I bought it.

Jack Whittington working on the engine.
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“It takes a village to raise a child” it’s been said. Too true, especially for one such as me, stuck in perpetual puberty. Back in the Seventies, our babysitter was the boy across the street. By the 21st Century, Jack Whittington was an Air Force veteran mechanic with a pair of boys of his own. When we re-connected he was twisting wrenches alongside his brother-in-law John Stroble, an ace transmission rebuilder. They both became infected with the Neferteri virus, and took on her mechanical systems. Once I cleaned up the GMC chassis, assembly began in earnest. John rebuilt the 700R4 and my Chevrolet orange engine was nestled into its new home.

It seems like every moving part on that GMC was worn out. Scott Clark heated up the U-joints and their seals melted out like 4th of July firework snakes. Then he put in new U-joints and carrier bearing. John and I took on the brakes. Jack changed out the rear end pumpkin with a 3.73 gear set and began running wires through metal tubing for an Air Force sanitary set-up. I built lowering blocks to drop the rear, and Jack installed dropped spindles up front for that just-so stance.

Top photo: John standing on the left and Jack under chassis. Bottom photo: Jack, brother in law John Stroble, and me.
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Almost a roller. Wheels! How could I make this “streamline moderne concept” truck look like it rolled out in 1936? The original Diamond T’s had some handsome cast Budd six-spoke wheels. Those big truck wheels were 20”, though, and wouldn’t adapt to the 83 GMC.

What to do? I shied away from the billet aluminum Aftermarket offerings. They didn’t’ fit at all with the Art Deco look. I really liked the spoked and scalloped artillery wheels that were all the rage into the mid-Thirties, then seen no more. I scored a set of 1936 Buick artillery wheels at Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop. Perfect, almost. They were 16”, with the right bolt pattern, but too narrow to take tires designed for today’s highway traffic.

Artillery wheels.
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Then I had an idea. I drilled out the rivets that attached the centers, then got some 16” rims from Dietz Salvage, and removed their centers. Johnny Sprockett at Sprocket Welding (honest, that’s his name) then welded the 1936 centers into the wider Chevy truck hoops. He changed the offset on the rear wheels, to correct the different front and rear track widths of the stock 83 GMC chassis. I never did understand why track widths on utility vehicles had that quirk. And now, the rear wheels even had that deep, reversed, look. Almost like I was running duallies.

A set of baldie hubcaps and there we were. I had a complete rolling chassis, a cowl and floorboard. What I needed next was something to sit on. Back to the salvage yards to search for the perfect car seats.

What are you thinking, you ask? Of all the advice along the line, perhaps the best in building a vehicle from scratch is to start with the comfort zone. If you are cramped in the cabin, if the steering, pedals and controls are not within easy, relaxed reach, you never will be happy. If you are humped over the steering wheel like a monkey hugging a football, you twist in contortions to squint for traffic lights, your head scrapes the ceiling, and you bang elbows with your shotgun rider, no good!

Buzz Franke showed me a seat frame he had built. It was a simple angle iron rectangle. You could bolt seating onto it, and move it over the floorboard until you had the most comfortable location. I had marked out my floor with lines that showed the square tubing grid the floor was resting on. I could then locate some brackets to secure the seat frame solidly to the chassis frame below.

Plain floor board and the simple angle iron rectangle seat frame.
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Meanwhile, from the final position of the Diamond T cowl on the 83 GMC chassis, I was able to mock up front fender placement and, from the hood length, just where the grill shell had to be mounted. The original Diamond T fender brackets then were bolted to the frame, and a crossmember was built to mount the radiator cowling.





Next, I cut a length of wood dowel and tacked a pie plate on the end for a steering wheel. Then it was time to find that comfort zone. The mid-80s GM bucket seats I had scored (three sets before I was done!) were bolted to the angle iron frame. I C-clamped the set-up to the floor, and invited any and all to have a sit-down: Jack Whittington’s boys, my daughter Nicole, me, and Dotti Green. After 11 years of single cussedness, I found my soul mate in Dotti. We were married in 2005. I got her, two cats, and her saintly mother; she got me and a Diamond T. Pretty fair trade agreement.

My wife Dotti testing the first set of seats I found.
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Daughter Nicole test fitting another set of seat.
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Cole and Eric Whittington set fitting the state of the art steering wheel.
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Larry Pointer, our Forrest Gump… ” i’m driving…”
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Next, back to the future in the Egyptian Revival of Queen Neferteri.






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Neferteri Part Five

 

NEFERTERI part Five

 

A custom car guy is, if anything, an opportunist.  And optimistic. Clinically illogical.  Terminally so, friends and family would say.  As they seriously considered intervention. What if I were an industrial designer in the heyday of the Art Deco era.  What if. . .
Our Forrest Gump had found his mojo.



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 Five

We had just made it through the henny penny “sky is falling” panic of our Y2K departure from the 20th Century. Larry Douglas was hosting a pig roast for all car nuts hanging around Sheridan, Wyoming. This Forrest Gump was flitting about, visiting with any and all.

Gary Richards’ counsel still was ringing in my ears: “If you want a project, why don’t you look for a Diamond T?

Then I ran into Bob Carson. He said he had a Diamond T. It was for sale, and he was happy to show it to me. He took off out of town in his 39 Packard street rod, and I followed.

There it was, a post-War Model 201, a one-ton pickup. $4,000. Or, I could work it off, finishing bodywork on a fat fendered Cadillac restoration that had stalled.

Well, there you go, Larry. Or not.

Frankly, I was disappointed. This pickup just seemed, well, awkward. I loved the grillework; it reminded me of a 1938 Buick. But the hood seemed too short in context. The windshield glass was tall. That whole pickup was tall, really tall. So was the box behind the cab. Like a Buster Brown shoe box.

Diamond T Model 201, similar to the one I saw at Bob Carson’s place. The truck was not as elegant as some other models I remembered. The grille reminded me of a ’38 Buick.
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Opening the door, the cab in comparison seemed cramped. The proportions just were not speaking to me. This was not my streamline dream.

Then I spotted the dash, a Standard model; paired gauges behind curved watch glass. Above, two shiny handles to individually crank open each of the separated windshields. Centered high above, was a glove box.

That “cubby hole” triggered a memory. When I was 15, friends Howard and Kenny already had their driver’s licenses, and had gotten summer jobs stacking hay for the PK. In the evenings, they’d take the ranch flatbed truck home, parking it on the hill above my home. That truck was a Diamond T.

Diamond T Standard dash and above the windshield glove box.
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Unlike the pickup, the 509 model was long, in every respect. The hood, the bed, the wheel base, long and low. Up in the glove box, we fished out a pack of cigarettes, long forgotten by one of the older ranch hands. When one of the boys found a match, we soon found out just how long forgotten, and dry, that stale tobacco tasted. Yuck!

But I did remember just how elegant that Diamond T seemed.





The big trucks always had been more elegant, better proportioned, and more streamlined. Some of my best summer memories as a tow-headed kid were the visits to the Montana ranch of my mom’s best friend. She had kids the same age as my sister and me. “Little Joe” and I were constant pests to Sonny Boyd as he went about his ranch work. Sonny had a WWII era International flatbed truck, and its styling had even more Art Deco class than old Angelo Tomasi’s 1937 International pickup that I had admired.

Larry Pointer (the blonde), Sonny Boyd, “Little Joe” Boyd, c 1943.
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The PK ranch Diamond T was, in my memory, even more streamlined and elegant yet. Maybe I’d better dig more deeply into those “Cadillacs of Trucks”.

Diamond T, I learned, first was a shoe company. The diamond for quality; the T for Tilt, the name of the businessman. When this man’s son, C.A. Tilt, launched a motor car venture in Chicago in 1905, he appropriated his father’s logo. The venture stalled, with all the intense competition, and beginning in 1911Tilt instead found a niche in the commercial truck industry. Quality is what he did deliver. Tilt’s trucks were assembled; his business model relied on parts supplied from a variety of other manufacturers. The engines generally were Hercules, but Buda and Continental also powered some Diamond T’s over the years. I would find that the curvaceous front fenders were shared by Autocar and some fire engines.

Early Diamond T advertising.
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Style and grace” characterized the Diamond T’s, and Charles Tilt himself took credit for the design of his attractive trucks. Even if they were jobbed out for construction. “A truck doesn’t have to be homely!” Tilt exclaimed. Cabs were coach built, sheet metal formed to fit onto ash or oak framing until just before WWII, when technology brought full metal structure to vehicles across the industry.

1930-31 Diamond T’s
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Even the boxy 1930-31 Diamond T’s were handsome, with distinctive grilles featuring chromed vertical bars. Hoods had external latches that prominently advertised their solid construction. On each hood side these spring loaded latch loops flanked an inset solid brass plate that displayed the Diamond T name surrounded by a tooled art nouveau border.

1937 Diamond T hood sides.
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From early on, the various bodies added behind the distinctive cabs were given streamline styling. Each panel was curved at the edges and corners. The curved theme defined their handsome van bodies. Even boxes with racks had an aerodynamic look. Distinctive Diamond T magazine ads showed utility trucks with styling that looked like poetry in motion.

Diamond T advertising was always very elegant.
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By 1932, the Diamond T grille shell looked for all the world like that of the 1932 Ford, or more to the point, Lincoln. Grille bars uniquely were now laid out horizontally.

1932, the Diamond T.
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1933, the Diamond T.
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In 1933, the cabs were given a raked back pair of windshields, again transforming their smart appearance. This look, including front fender skirting, would remain intact through the 1934-1935 Depression years.

1934, the Diamond T.
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1936-37, the Diamond T.
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Interestingly, as tough as times were, 1936 would be Diamond T’s best year, with 8,750 new truck registrations. It also would see the most streamlined form yet for the marque. Nearly everything on those chassis was sculpted in voluptuously rounded curves. The tall shoe box of the Model 80 pickup even had sides formed to roll over their wooden framework in a pleasing “modern” look. The slim windshields of the 1936 and 1937 models were their most notable feature: They gave those cabs the low profile look of a chopped custom. To me, they looked like a B-17, a Chris Craft speedboat, or even Gordon Beuhrig’s Twenty Grand Duesenberg.

The Diamond T windshield frame always reminded me of some other great design classics.
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Gene Autry, the singing cowboy star of cinema, was my matinee hero. For his horse Champion, Autry had a special streamlined 1937 Diamond T tractor-trailer rig built. Together, they toured the country, with appearances at county fairs and parade celebrations throughout America’s heartland. One day far into the future, this Forrest Gump would get to meet his movie hero, at a Cowboy Hall of Fame banquet.

Gene Autry toured the US in is specially designed streamlined 1937 Diamond T tractor-trailer rig.
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Handsome those full figured models were back in 1936, but a bit impractical with their low ceiling of vision. By 1938 Diamond T raised the windshield height by a full two inches into the existing roofline. As assembled, those cabs, now fully metal, then remained unchanged through 1949!

The 1938 Diamond T’s had a grille very similar to the 37 Buicks.
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1938 Diamond T.
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The waterfall grille of the curvaceous 1936-37 models also was abandoned. In 1938 the front sheet metal was re-tooled to feature a grille of thin horizontal bars similar to the 1937 Buick. These in turn gave way in 1940, to a very solid front featuring divided pair a handsomely sculpted chrome grille bars that now echoed the 1938 Buick. This would become Diamond T’s most recognized appearance. Following a production hiatus to create military vehicles in support of the War effort, all post-War models through 1949 would carry this trademark grille. Immediately after the War, the distinctive grilles only were available in painted form, but by 1948 chromed dental work again would shine.





Market competition was tough. After the War, into the Korean Conflict, the industry felt the bite of an economic slowdown. Diamond T then began sharing cabs with International Harvester on their chassis, and you had to do a double take to distinguish between the two marques. In 1958 White took over the faltering company and merged it with former competitor Reo. Thus came about the Diamond Reo.

1952 Diamond T on the left used the same cabin as the International Harvester pick up fro the same year on the right.
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The legacy would end in 1966. As the school kid quipped at the end of the hymn in church, “That’s all she wrote!” And like Forrest Gump at the end of his jogging marathon in the movie, I’d run all I wanted of Diamond T research.

Then, one day in June of 2002, as I was leaving the annual Roaring Twenties swap meet I stopped up the road at “Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop”. Inside a shop burrowed into the hillside, Buzz Franke was working on a 1935 Chevy tudor street rod. I asked a few questions, and was immediately struck by how Buzz responded. No matter how lame my questions…and there was no hiding how naive I was…he looked me directly in the eye and quietly explained each step of what he was doing. Buzz was a natural teacher, patient, honest, and careful to catch whether you got it. Right there, we struck up a friendship, and an apprenticeship for me that would last through the years.

Buzz Franke with the 1935 Chevy tudor street rod he was working on when I went to his shop in June 2002 to check out the Diamond T he had.
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Buzz gave me permission to prowl around among the many old cars he and Jerry LaFountain had gathered for their rod building shop. And it was out there among the rusting hulks in the yard that I spotted it: a Diamond T.

This is how the 1936 Diamond T sat at the Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop in June 2002.
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What first caught my eye were the narrow windshields in gleaming stainless frames. That cab had to be a 1936 or 1937. Looking inside, I could see that it was a Deluxe, with gauges set in a classic plated panel that would have been right at home in an Auburn. Garnish moldings of stainless also signaled this had been one of Diamond T’s best. And above the windshields, there was that panel with the glove box, just like I remembered from long ago.

“Best” wasn’t quite be a term that came to mind as I took stock of the relic remains, sagging over a Ford chassis of unknown vintage. The wood of the cab coachwork was badly rotted. Most definitely, this was not an all-metal cab of the 1940s. Parts and pieces were lying on the floor: headlights, handles, broken glass and trim. The hood parts were all there. Both front fenders, barnacled in Bondo. There was a curved grille shell, but the waterfall grille had long since departed this life.

1936 Diamond T factory photo.
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The 1936 Deluxe Diamond T I was looking at had this gorgeous Auburn like dashboard I had always admired so much. Of course the one in my truck did not look anywhere this nice back in 2002.
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Auburn Dash to compare with the Diamond T dash. And Auburn grille, which was a big inspiration for the grille shell I created.
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So, it wasn’t much. But it was a beginning. Most of the major body pieces were intact, or at least present and accounted for. The stainless and the gorgeous Deluxe dash panel were the clincher. Here was my Streamline dream. I had to have it.

I closed the deal with Jerry LaFountain in September, three months of self-torture after first discovering this Diamond in the rough. Scott Clark volunteered his truck and trailer, and we pulled into Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop yard to load her up. Buzz said he’d be right up to help load her. But when he got there, he cast about with a puzzled look.

Where is it?” he asked, straining his eyes.

Ummm. We already loaded it,” I sheepishly answered, pointing to a low pile of tin and kindling lying forlornly on the trailer floor. Scott couldn’t stop grinning. One look down at that heap of rusty pieces, and you never would ask again what C. A. Tilt meant when he advertised his Diamond T’s as “assembled”.

I had “disassembled” myself one of Tilt’s most prestigious Deluxe “assembled” models.

Blaine Murphy once wryly commented on my remarkable talents. “Larry is very good at taking things apart.” Yes, and more: Little did I know…nor would anyone I knew bet… I would spend the next 13 years putting this Deluxe humpty dumpty back together again.

Now, a custom car guy is, if anything, an opportunist. And optimistic. Clinically illogical. Terminally so, some friends and family would say. As they seriously considered intervention. But here’s the deal: If C. A. Tilt could have cast about for parts and pieces to assemble a truck by his own design, why, so could I. On my shop floor, I already had a head start.

The windshield shapes I had admired for so long, very similar to the one on my Diamond T.
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Coke beverage trucks showing the low, low bed level and the rails in back of the Seagraves fire truck, all elements I incorporated into my Neferteri design.
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What if I were back in time, an industrial designer in the heyday of the Art Deco era. And I had the opportunity to create a Streamline Moderne concept design for a truck. It would be a utility vehicle like no other, yet like all the classics, styled in Jazz Age syncopated rhythms. Style lines that would catch you. Lift you. Carry you. In currents along voluptuous curves, to a vanishing point back of beyond your wildest imaginings. Leave you light-headed giddy, breathless, heart pounding, wondering, “What the Hell was THAT?

Final design of my 1936 Diamond T “Neferteri”.
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And so I got out my books, my copier, my scissors, tape, and colored pencils, and came up with my Egyptian Revival Streamline Queen, Neferteri. She’d be part Auburn, Delahaye, Duesenberg; part barnstormer Lockheed, WACO, even B17 Memphis Belle; part Gar Wood, Chris Craft, Hacker Craft speedboat; part Zephyr, Hiawatha, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Warbonnet Express; part Delivery Express, Beverage Truck, and Fire Engine. Part Tanker, to “Roar With Gilmore”.

Yep, all that. In a two-tone livery of Tuscan red wine and Southwest Sunset. I can see Gene Autry on old Champion right now, strumming his guitar, ridin’ down the canyon.





Sigh! Mostly though, Neferteri is a 1936 Deluxe Diamond T model 212AD, maximum speed 49. Says so on the cowling side.

No worries! I was having my second childhood.
This Geppetto could build his Pinocchio any way he wanted.





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Neferteri Part Four

 

NEFERTERI part Four

 

Larry Pointer, our Forrest Gump of the Conquistador Car Club, carries us along in his journey through the era of streamline moderne styling.  These were the influences in the build of Neferteri, his hand-built custom 1936 Diamond T truck. The full figured styling of commercial vehicles was to give us some of the most unique icons of those exciting times and designs.



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 Four

Streamline Moderne. Pretty heady stuff. Duesenbergs, Auburns, Packards, Cadillacs and Cords. The Exotic Bugatti’s and cars whose names I couldn’t pronounce. An expensive private world of the rich. I could only marvel and wonder, hardly able “to afford to pay attention”.

But in those War bond years of sacrifice most of us made do with that which was left over from Depression’s hard times. A bare-foot boy could find the odd summer job, and squeeze that nickel till the Buffalo groaned. His imagination, though, could stream an Art Deco world of possibilities through his head.

An old man lived up the hill from me, out on the edge of town. An old man and his German Shepherd dog. Inseparable. I never knew much more than his name. Angelo. That, and he worked as a forester through the summer months, up on the Bighorn Mountains. Each spring, he would load up his bedroll and supply of food items in the back of his truck, carefully tucking it all securely under a tarp. He’d readjust his ever-present pipe between his teeth, cluck at the dog, and the pair of them would climb onto the seat, fire up the old truck and head for the mountain. Leaving an envious boy staring down the dusty road. Oh, the wonders and adventures I imagined, up on that mountain.

As the days would grow shorter, I would anticipate the day when Angelo and his German Shepherd would come down off the mountain. I can still see them coming home, lumbering up our high school hill, that Depression survivor truck growling slowly along in “low-down-low”. Angelo never seemed to hurry. Perhaps, somehow, he sensed he would have 92 years to do what he had to do.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-1937-international-harvester1937 International truck, similar to the one Angelo drove when I was a kid, only his was not so nice and shiny anymore.
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If you would ask me what Art Deco looked like to me, the answer would be simple. Angelo Tomasi and his dog, side by side in that faded and battered old 1937 International truck. Those three…the old man, his dog, and his truck… just went together, merging in my childhood memories to forge an image that imprinted on my very soul.

That 1937 International pickup was different, even distinctive in its bulbous Art Deco styling. It had pontoon fenders with a bit of a peak up through their centers. The grille work was wide with a center prow and a series of thin, horizontal slots on either side of center, punctuated by a tastefully few stainless strips. The headlights were born on stands, convex rounded glass lenses set into short egg-shaped pods. The hood had long slits down the sides, continuing the theme of the grille. The windshield was divided, to repeat the shape of the grillework nose.

It would be almost a lifetime before I would find more of Angelo Tomassi. He was born in Austria before the turn of the Century, had migrated to America to seek the American Dream, and to send money back home to his parents and many siblings. He became a naturalized citizen in Camp Davis, “renouncing absolutely all allegiance and fidelity to Charles, Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary,” before shipping out with the US Army to fight for America in WWI. Later he would find his own American Dream among the mountains and streams of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. Angelo, his German Shepherd dog, and a tired…but elegant to me…’Cornbinder” truck.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-desakhnoffsky-40-nash1940 Nash designed by Count Alexis de Sakhoffsky.
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Art Deco design had many carry-overs, most in taken-for-granted forms that went about their functions daily all about us. Art Deco’s streamline style was not at all exclusive. All about us were motor vehicles of the workaday world that just had that streamline “thing”.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-desakhnoffsky-truck-01Count Alexis de Sakhoffsky’s styling for the torpedo front 1937 White trucks.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-desakhnoffsky-truck-02Alexis de Sakhoffsky desing for the COE White Truck.
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Streamline design for the working truck owed much to the creative mind of the émigré Count Alexis de Sakhoffsky. His styling for the White company especially captured the imagination. Perhaps the most distinctive grille in the industry was that of the White trucks and the buses for our National Parks, from the drawing board of de Sakhnoffsky. That design rivalled the noble Packard nose, in my humble opinion, and without a flapping cormorant. De Sakhnoffsky instead added a simple tapered ornament in a nod to the streamliner trains. What also made that tall, vertical sculpture in stainless stand out, were the crisply incised and exaggerated pontoon fenders to either side. The very low location of the headlight pods allowed the grille full attention, and did draw the attention of countless hot rodders who would mount the headlights on their gow jobs as low as was legally allowed back in the day.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-white-park-busSakhnoffsky designed perhaps the most distinctive grille in the industry for the White buses for our National Parks.
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Perhaps de Sakhnoffsky’s crowning achievement in utility design is the swoopy streamline for the matching tractor and trailer rig of Canada’s LaBatt’s Brewery. This rolling art has become an icon of industrial design. (Richard Spiegelman photos)
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From de Sakhnoffsky’s drawing board came a raft of futuristic forms to fit any number of cars, trucks, and busses. He even provided the practicality of oil and gas delivery a proper challenge, with long rounded fender pod extensions from the cab to the sloped tail, which concealed the piping and valves for fuel delivery.
In 1933-1934, Texaco upped the ante for fuel trucks with their tubular “Doodle Bug”, contracted from the independent Diamond T Company out of Chicago.

Not to be trumped in the marketplace, Chrysler answered with their air-streamed Dodge tanker with the distinctive Airflow waterfall grillework.


ccc-neferteri-part-4-gas-trucks-01Air-streamed design for the oil and gas delivery truck. Chrysler’s Dodge tanker with Airflow waterfall grille on the color photo, and the “Doodle Bug on the top right”.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-gilmore-neonThe Gilmore Oil White truck with gold, red and blue neon lights.
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Roar With Gilmore!” This was the famous slogan for the Gilmore Oil Company of California. The company engaged in a variety of publicity stunts, including circus performers and lions on the payroll; sponsorships of racing ventures from the midget tracks to Indy; and a Yosemite Economy Run, between 1936 and 1940, between Los Angeles and Yosemite Valley. To promote the event, Gilmore secured the design services of Wellington Everett Miller, a former Packard stylist. The promotional truck was built by Advance Auto Body Works on a White Chassis. Gold, red, and blue neon tubing was formed around the truck by 20th Century Fox special effects man, W. C. James.


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ccc-neferteri-part-4-gilmore-02A second W. Everett Miller streamlined truck for Gilmore was bodied by Standard Auto Body, over a Mack chassis. This later design was even more streamlined than the first.
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Fire engines

What kid of the day didn’t thrill at the sight of a long, low ladder truck pulling out of the firehouse. A bright ship-shape Ahrens or perhaps an American LaFrance in fire engine red with goldleaf lettering, shiny brightwork, black hoses and sturdy ladders. Firemen in hats and gear, standing at their stations, hands upon the brass rails.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-fire-trucks-011938 Aherns-Fox fire engine with beautiful chrome grille.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-fire-trucks-021941 American LaFrance fire engine.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-fire-trucks-03Seagraves fire trucks.
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The mighty Seagrave most imprinted on my impressionable young mind. Just standing on the station floor, those massive machines moved me. They had an all business look about them. The huge, waterfall grillework. The long, long hood, beneath which beat the heart of a 12 cylinder Pierce Arrow powerplant. When that fire engine went through the gears on the way to its service, the rumble and the roar were unforgettable. To me, those mammoth but graceful Seagraves looked like Alpha Romeos or Auburns on steroids. Size does matter; in the design of fire engines, it is their perfectly proportioned length and mass that leaves indelible impressions.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-everett-miller-01W. Everett Miller designed delivery van.
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There were delivery vans with enclosed bodies, some integrated into the cab itself. Their sides served as rolling billboards for the wares they carried. One design by W. Everett Miller featured open door entries and a covered spare tire mounted on the body side.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-diamond-t-1937-adDiamond T with beautiful ice cream body advertising.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-38-reo-van1938 Reo Film Service cargo body matching the cab body.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-38-international-ad1938 International fender skirted Coca Cola beverage truck magazine ad.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-coke-fountain-truck-02Coca Cola fountain truck.
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Beverage trucks brought innovation to the scene, as well as carbonated soft drinks. Or something stronger for the adult customer. Streamlining helped promote instant recognition. It seemed there was no end to the creative use of streamlining in customizing the utility vehicle. Grilles, skirted fenders, curvaceous bodies, step decks, ladders and hand rails of brightwork that spoke of speedboats and streamliners. Most of all, those workhorses of industry proved that full figured models could be just as voluptuous as the boat-tailed speedster.


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ccc-neferteri-part-4-miller-beer-truck1941 Dodge COE Miller Beer truck with a Custom streamlined body.
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I needed a project. We’d survived the panic of Y2K. I was a retired civil servant, a widower, and more or less an empty nester. I had gutted a 1970s tract house, moved walls to create an open living space, and tiled floors and countertops, learning as I went. And wherever things turned out a bit rustic, I just called it “Santa Fe Charm” in Montana. Now, I wanted to design and build my own streamline modern custom. “Unique is what we seek,” my friend Barry Wright would say, “bizarre is what we are.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-international-fuelInternational-tuel-truck with streamline body.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-1937-international1937 International Harvester pickup.
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My mind kept going back to that old I-H truck of Angelo Tomasi. I began to look about. My biggest mistake was to share this emerging vision with my old Conquistador friends. No one was very encouraging. In fact, some were downright disparaging. “Why a Cornbinder, Larry?” Gary “Slim” Richards would caution. “They couldn’t keep up with traffic back in the day; they were hard to steer, and they rode like a lumber wagon.” It was true, like Roger Dangerfield, they couldn’t get no respect.

Why don’t you start with something that has value? If you’re going to spend all that time and effort, not to mention money, why not a Diamond T, the ‘Cadillac of trucks’? There’s still a few of them around. Then you would really have something when you were done.
Gary was right, he most always was, and I knew it.

In counterpoint, I would turn to humor, just to stall the inevitable. Wicked humor is most righteous at times. “But that D Model of International is just cute,” I’d protest. “Reminds me of a cartoon. Elmer Fudd could have driven a 1937 Cornbinder. Why, he could even keep his cork gun in the gun rack behind the seat.

ccc-neferteri-part-4-diamond-t-19381938 Diamond T Oil truck and pick up.
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ccc-neferteri-part-4-sketchThe sketch I made before I started the work on my Diamond T project. The inset photo is from an Diamond T fire truck, another inspiration soars for the final shape of my project.
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Well, fantasies and scenarios are one thing, Forrest Gump, hard work and limited money were quite another. Gary won. If I wanted something Streamline Moderne, I best be serious. I went looking for an old Diamond T truck to adopt.

Next time, The Diamond T, Cadillac of Trucks.



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Neferteri Part Three

 

NEFERTERI part Three

 

Larry Pointer, our Forrest Gump of the Conquistadors Car Club, marvels at Europe’s Golden Age of the coach built automobile, and influences that would ripple across the Atlantic Pond. From carrossieres to customizers, the distance is not so very far.



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 Three

Growing up in Sheridan, Wyoming, I didn’t have a sense of the Streamline Moderne world of the previous decade, especially the realm of the European coach builders. I did have a toy Jaguar XK 120 in grey plastic. And much later a love/hate relationship with an apple green XJ6 sedan.


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ccc-neferteri-part-3-stearmanStearman spray plane dusting the fields.
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Streamline Moderne style was all around, however. Mostly in hand-me-downs. Streamline tricycles. Streamline Schwinn bicycles with the swoopy headlight and a teardrop tank between the nut-buster bars. Indian and Harley motorcycles roaring past in unforgettable cacophony. Stearman spray planes buzzing the neighborhood, just cuz they could.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-bicycle-01Early exposure to streamline Moderne.
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ccc-neferteri-part-3-bicycle-02Streamline Schwinn bicycles and later the Indian and Harley motorcycles.
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But the beauty of it all is that essential difference between art possession and art appreciation: no remorse. No maintenance and upkeep headaches. No fears of calamity, burglary, or the thief in the night. I could appreciate the art of Progress all about me, without limit or consequence.
Satchell Paige used to advise: “Don’t look back; somethin’ might be gainin’ on you.” And I wanted to see it all; do it all. Well, still do, for that matter.

To my growing awareness of the motor car world, European coach building came across the Pond in some measure with two individual stylists: Howard “Dutch” Darrin and Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-darrin-cable-packardDutch Darrin Clark Gable Packard.
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The operative word here is “individual”. I don’t think you could get more “individual” than the irrepressible Dutch Darrin. Darrin’s creativity was distinctive in the very least. Early on in Paris, he and Tom Hibbard combined as coach builders, and after Hibbard returned to the US to form the Lebaron enterprise with Ray Dietrich, Darrin joined with an Argentine furniture entrepreneur in Paris to build custom automobiles for high society and celebres, on top end chassis they acquired abroad and from the US. As the clouds of War gathered, Darrin pulled out of Paris and popped up amonst the movie guild in Hollywood. Of the cars Darrin designed and built, the model that most gets my Adrenalin going is the special Packard Darrin, with the “Darrin Dip” in the doors, appropriated from the race cars and sportsters of the Jazz Age.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-sakhnoffsky-cordAlexis de Sakhnoffsky little blue coupe designed on a Cord chassis.
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One outstanding car designed by the émigré Alexis de Sakhnoffsky was a coupe that could put the “Little Deuce Coupe” of the Beach Boys album cover to shame. Working in the Hayes studios, de Salkhnoffsky laid out his low-slung design over a Cord chassis. This little blue coupe became the first American made motor car to win the coveted Grand Prix trophy at the 1929 Monaco Concours. More of de Sakhnoffsky in the next episode of my learning adventures.

 

But to this impressionable kid out of Wyoming, it was the Duesenberg, the Auburn, the Cord, and the designers of those absolutely gorgeous coach built bodies that burn like a fever in my brain. Of the brothers, Augie would put the Duesenberg out front on the race tracks. Speed demanded Streamline. The Duesenberg Special, piloted by Ab Jenkins and dubbed the “Mormon Meteor” WAS streamline. On Utah’s famed Bonneville Salt Flats, Jenkins streaked to records that would hold up to challenges for long into the future.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-mormon-meteorAb Jenkins “Mormon Meteor” Duesenberg.
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A more sedate Duesenberg commanded attention in its debut at the 1933 Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair. The “Twenty Grand” was designed in-house by Gordon Buehrig, and built in Pasadena by Murphy coach builders, This smartly appointed silver torpedo sedan with its dual sidemounts caused quite a stir in the industry. Of Buehrig’s design, to my eye, most attractive was the divided windshield, laid back to fold smartly into the roof line. From all angles, however, the coach craft spoke of elegance.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-20000-duesenbergThe Twenty Grand Duesenberg designed by Gordon Buehrig, and built by Murphy coach builders.
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Then, in thumbing through Rob Wagner’s book, Classic Cars, I spied a long, low Walker LaGrande Duesenberg SJ convertible. Pictured perfect in a California wine country setting , it had a chopped windshield, and was painted in the very livery of wine and red-orange that had gotten me all fired up with the Graber Duesenberg on the Continent. Those were going to be MY colors!

ccc-neferteri-part-3-walker-lagrandeWalker LaGrande’s georgeous Duesenberg SJ painted in the colors I would later choose for my project.
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Still, wanting to see and absorb it all, I moved on through to Duesenberg’s stable mates, the Auburn and the Cord. More of Buehrig was to come, but when I came across the drawings and Auburn cars that came to life off the drafting table of Alan Leamy, Babe, I couldn’t get much higher.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-alan-leamy-designsAlan Leamy Auburn designs.
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Most memorable in my bucket list has to be a trip I was able make in 2013 to include the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, and a visit with archivist Jon Bill. There, I was mesmerized with the drafting studio; the clay models and the tools that shaped them; the exquisite laminated wooden fender bucks.

On the second floor, there also stood a re-created Leamy-designed cabin sportster. Now there was a no-nonsense laid-back windshield, set into a shortened torpedo body that looked like it would barely ripple a wind tunnel.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-alan-leamy-02Auburn clay model, tools and laminated wooden fender bucks in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum.
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ccc-neferteri-part-3-alan-leamy-auburnRe-created Leamy-designed cabin sportster in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum.
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Leamy’s L29 Cord, especially in the phaeton body, was an unbelievable work of art, as well. Sadly, as he was just coming into the best of his career, it would seem, this gifted designer’s life was cut short by blood poisoning, in 1935 at age 33.

Rolling sculpture is the only term to address the body of work created by Gordon Buehrig. The 1935 Auburn, with its hurried, low budget facelift in the form of what to me was the most beautiful grille and surround EVER.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-auburn-grilleGordon Buehrig 35 Auburn… The best grille and surround ever designed and created.
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On its heels came Buehrig’s 1937 coffin-nose Cord with front wheel drive. This car has to stand as one of the crowning achievements of American automotive design. I run out of words.

Or not. I have one axe to grind. Back in 1970, a Hemmings ad for a 1929 Buick close-coupled sedan caught my eye. The price was right. It was in Concord, NE. Why, that was nearly next door! I borrowed my dad’s 63 Chevy with the load-leveler hitch, hooked onto my rickety trailer, talked Rocky Moore into riding shotgun, and set out to retrieve this gem of wood-frame coachwork.

Once back home, I began gathering parts and literature, and discovered this year model Buick, with a distinctive bulge below the beltline, had been dubbed “The Pregnant Buick”. By whom? I indignantly demanded to know. By Howard “Dutch” Darrin, no less. Buick was suffering severely enough with the Great Depression. Darrin’s tag stuck, and it nearly jettisoned Buick sales. The 1930 models were quickly re-tooled to eliminate the full figured form.

When later I learned it was a young Gordon Buehrig who had designed the instrument panel in the 1929 Buick, Darrin’s hurtful remark turned to outright sacrilege. I’ve never thought much of that dippy Darrin since. Harumph!

ccc-neferteri-part-3-29-buick1929 Buick dubbed “The Pregnant Buick” by Howard “Dutch” Darrin.
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ccc-neferteri-part-3-29-buick-dashGordon Buehrig designed the beautiful dash panel in the 1929 Buick.
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I’ve had a life-long love affair with Buick styling that came out of Harley Earl’s Art & Color studio. In one way or another, every year model from 1929 through 1954 has touched my “Forrest Gump” life. If I had to pick a most favorite, it would be the phaeton. And from the years 1936-1941. Yes! A 1941 Buick Century four-door phaeton, the “hot rod” of the industry. What could have been, we can only imagine, had not WWII flipped the Art & Color train off the tracks. Sigh.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-41-buick-phaetonHarley Earl’s 1941 Buick Century four-door phaeton.
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Ask the man who owns one,” reads the advertisements Packard offered in the magazines of the day. Two of my friends, Gary “Slim” Richards and Blaine Murphy, have had life-long love affairs with Packard motor cars of the Thirties. And at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, it was not the Twenty Grand Duesenberg that gained the title, “The Car of the Dome”. It was an elegant bronze Packard close-coupled sedan by Ray Dietrich. I have to admit that Packard sport sedan was the cat’s meow.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-33-packard-domeRay Dietrich designed Packard Sport Sedan.
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My own favorites of the Packard line came shortly later. The long, low profile phaetons of the 1935-39 model years spoke Elegance. They had a raised crease over the tops of the front fenders, to split the light. Subtle, but similar to the boat bow, creating a visual “bow wave”. All four pontoon fenders had a round bead rolled into the fully circular wheel opening. Solid. Proudly drawing attention to chromed spokes, and the red Packard hexagonal hubcaps. The distinctive “arrow” tips to the side moldings, that streamed back along the long, long hood, not unlike the arrow at the front of a Mercedes 540’s artful belt molding. That unforgettable Packard grille and crisply formed shell. Which drew your eye to the sculpted form of that long divided hood, a graceful pair of wave forms, vee-ing outward from the artfully profiled nose, back and further back, to become one with the cowl. You always recognized a regal Packard gliding by. With, or without, FDR waving from the sumptuous leather seat in the rear.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-33-pierce-arrowPhilip Wright’s aerodynamic Silver Arrow from 1933.
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From the Pierce Arrow and Studebaker studios, came Philip Wright’s aerodynamic Silver Arrow, and one more favorite for me, the 1936-37 Studebaker coupe with the bat-wing rear window. Now, THERE were cars in which I could imagine Batman and Robin to be running down crime in the streets.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-36-studebaker1936 Studebaker Coupe.
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One of my most treasured “Forrest Gump” memories of Sheridan, Wyoming is a car Mike Grotz created. It started out a late Thirties Packard convertible. Grotz grafted onto this fair weather car a 1937 Studebaker coupe’s turret roof, complete with those distinctive batwing rear windows. It became a “hardtop convertible”, long before GM would trot out its new 1949 models from its Art & Color stables. If only I could find photos of that classy War-time custom, born of Wyoming winter necessities.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-packard-studeThis is what Mike Grotz did to his 1939 Packard Convertible, turning it into a “hardtop convertible”… it was stunning.
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Aerodynamic. The Chrysler and DeSoto for 1934. Those Airflows personified aerodynamic, from their waterfall grilles right on through their slippery uni-bodies. It would have been a risky venture in the best of times, but the Depression years were the worst of times. The best, perhaps, that could be said? They definitely were ahead of their times. As would be Preston Tucker a decade later.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-chrysler-airflow1936 DeSoto Airflow.
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I admit I never really appreciated those Airflows, until my old work mate, Casper, Wyoming’s Neil Jaquot spent retirement years lovingly restoring a 1936 DeSoto Airflow sedan back to life. You can spend hours studying and appreciating all the Art Deco details entailed in those unique motor cars.
Edsel Ford’s creativity can’t be ignored, either. Channeled through the pen of E. T. “Bob” Gregorie, the Zephyr and the first series Continental were a Statement: This was not your father’s Ford! To me, the pre-War Continental was, right off the showroom floor, all a traditional custom car could be. The long hood came to a crisp point, to define a pair of grilles flowing out below in gently curved thin bars, perfectly proportioned. The front bumpers accentuated each fender with its fully integrated headlight, yet remained separate. A pair of chrome bars was all that bridged the separation, allowing the speedboat prow to slice through the air.

There were no running boards, the body channeled fully over the chassis framework. Those Continentals were skirted, the soft curve of the rear fender uninterrupted, and fully complementary with the rounded body. Then came the surprise of that trademark Continental spare tire mount integrated into the rear deck.

The flat Continental windshield looked chopped, and the wonderful cloth top had crisp angled openings over the doors. But, no quarter window openings. Brilliant! Here, from the factory, was a custom Carson convertible top. The body and roof fully repeated each other’s fully rounded forms. Try calling the Lincoln Continental “pregnant”, I dare you.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-39-41-lincolnE. T. “Bob” Gregorie’s clay model, the first Continental prototype from 1939 on the left and the ultimate 1941 Lincoln Continental on the right.
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OK, I was stuck in the Thirties. I admired ALL of the streamline moderne elements that vaulted off the drafting tables and over the bucks of the coach builders through those golden years of the carrossiere, in Europe and closer to home in the US of A. But if I had to pick just one? Wellll, OK. It would have to be Gordon Buehrig’s masterpiece, the 1935-36 Auburn boat-tailed speedster.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-36-auburnThe ultimate Auburn Speedster.
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But the beauty of it all is that the “looky-loo” aficionado doesn’t have to choose. Maybe that’s why my choice is Gordon Buehrig and that Auburn speedster. To me, that automobile embodies all the design elements that had inspired me from the Art Deco, Jazz Age, Streamline Moderne era of industrial design. It all comes together in one rolling sculpture.

Aircraft? Just look at the front of that Auburn. Forrest Gump, that car runs like the wind, like a Lockheed Vega. Check out the no nonsense instrument cluster tucked beneath the aircraft cowling.

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Speedboats? The “bow wave” bumpers. That jaunty, raked-back split windshield frame would inspire generations of George DuVall hot rodders. The tapered boat-tail rear, picked up from Alan Leamy and fully integrated. Here, too, your speedboat stance, in “The World’s Fastest Stock Car”.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-36-du-vallGeorge DuVall’s design for the Hollywood Wheel Disc Shop from the early 1940’s.
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The European Carrossieres? Here were Figoni’s enveloppantes; the rear wheels enclosed in full teardrop forms of pure sculpture. Those gleaming rippled exhaust pipes barked Mercedes 540 decibels to me. “Exclusive” “Distinctive” “Individual” read the ads of the day. “Arguably”, wrote Auburn archivist and author Jon Bill, “the most dazzling Auburn ever built”. Ahhhhhhh.

But wait, there’s more! as the infomercials are want to chirp. There is one additional area of industrial design from the period that we haven’t touched upon. Most powerfully, those forms of function in the work vehicles of industry speak in throaty tones that resonate through and through to this “Forrest Gump” of the Conquistadors Car Club of Sheridan, Wyoming. Fire engines. Delivery vans. Beverage trucks. In our next, and last, installment of the inspiration series, let’s follow the lead of designer Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky in exploring this last best segment of Streamline Moderne.


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The Dowry Monterey

 

THE DOWRY MONTEREY

 

This 1950 Black and Canary Yellow Mercury Monterey was the perfect wedding gift to Larry Pointer from a College teacher and colleague in 1972.

 

By Larry Pointer and John Stroble



The first weekend in June the Roaring Twenties Club of “all original” car enthusiasts would stage their annual auction and swap meet outside Billings, Montana. It was 2006. Alone, I pulled into the lot to walk up the line of cars awaiting the auction block. All the predictable models were there, with visions of Barrett Jackson bids dancing in owners’ heads. Then, what should my wandering eye behold? A certain car up the line caught my eye.

Tears soon unabashedly spilled down my cheeks! Here was MY old car. Perhaps the most special, symbolic period car I was ever to embrace and celebrate: this was a 1950 Mercury Monterey. Twenty-two years before, I had been forced to sell this very special car. Career and life would take me far away, then back again. But, unquestionably here she stood. I stepped up the hill to her in silence. Beyond the auctioneer’s prattle, we held our reunion. Recollections came rushing through my brain.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-05Larry’s Mercury Monterey in 1984.
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Twenty-two years in the passing. My life seems to go in elevens. Eleven year periods, phases, and cycles. From where this story of life’s twists and turns begins, I once was given the care of this very special Mercury Monterey.

The car was a wedding gift. In 1972 when I married Patsy Kay Samelson, we were given this car by its first owner, a very remarkable lady. Pat Hamilton and I go way back in life’s quirky journey. She was one of those larger than life, electric energetic people with attractive magnetism. It didn’t hurt that she was a tall, statuesque blonde. Her infectious enthusiasm for life gifted her as a teacher, mentor, and rodeo coach.

Yes. A woman rodeo coach. She launched a rough and tumble career path for many, not the least of which were the World Champion and western songster, Chris LeDoux, as well as Conquistador Harry Larsen’s little brother, six-foot-six Fred, “King of the Cowboys” in the movie Buffalo Bill and the Indians. She was a motivator, and her encouragement energized in so many of us that certain spark of life and accomplishment beyond whatever seemed possible.


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Pat Hamilton taught at Sheridan College, both when I was a student there from 1958-1960, and when I returned to teach there from 1963-1966. She and I would share shared an office there. She would roll in from her ranch in a cloud of dust behind her 1950 Mercury Monterey, slide to a stop, jump out, run into the office, shut the door, change from her ranch jeans into a proper dress and nylons, and stride off to give the day’s lecture. The nylons always were at the ready, draped over her office chair. The dress, my favorite, a black leather sheath.


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Ahh, nostalgia. That Mercury! The Mercury Monterey always was a personal favorite car to me, on the nostalgia side, but it really was a most remarkable automobile. Perhaps the SYMBOL of the Fifties. Hot rods, custom cars, movie cars… James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” used a jet black Merc, mildly customized. There was “Something about a Mercury”, as Alan Jackson would sing. They just captured the romantic vision of those rock-n-roll Happy Days. It seems few survivors today remain unchanged from the original. Chopped tops are the new norm. But the Monterey… They were rare. Possibly 850 Monterey models that first year for the option. And today, very, very rare.


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GM had come out with the “hardtop convertible”. No side “B” pillars or door posts. When all side windows were rolled down, there was free open space from the windshield posts back to the rear window frames—like a convertible, with its top up. Ford/Lincoln/Mercury were caught flat-footed behind the advancing times.

To counter, while feverishly retooling to a Gordon Buehrig designed Victoria “hardtop” to break out late in 1951, there was a scramble to come up with a stop-gap adaptation: the Mercury Monterey and the Crestliner of Ford. What they did was cover the Tudor top with a vinyl or, even in some, leather upholstery. Glued right over the top of the roof. And with color coding to match the upholstery of the interior. Chrome garnish moldings dressed up the interior cabin.

CCC-1950-mercury-monterey-colorFoMoCo factory photo showing the 1950 Mercury Monterey black with Canary Yellow vinyl top. A stunning car.
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The color combinations were few. There was black on black; black vinyl over a tomato red body. And then the color combination on Pat Hamilton’s Monterey: Canary Yellow vinyl over a black body. Striking. Garish? Eye catching for sure!

So, in 1972, Patsy Kay and I started our life journey together with this gift, Pat Hamilton’s one owner, low mileage 1950 Canary Yellow and Black Mercury Monterey. It had been left sitting beside Drew Jackson’s garage and gas station in Ranchester, Wyoming. We hooked onto it with a chain, my new bride steering, and me towing with our new 1972 Ford ¾ ton truck “Mallard”. We dragged that car for twenty miles, over the dusty gravel foothill roads from Ranchester to Soldier Creek to the Heights Ranch, past the fairgrounds to my folks’ place in Sheridan.

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CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-03Black and white photo taken in 1973 Riverton, Wyoming back yard.  The nose of the Merc showing, behind the small, dirt-floor garage in which I painted the 1967 Ford T-bird for Vic Svilar in trade for his mechanical work on getting the Merc on the road again.
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Life does strange things to us in our journeys. I was then teaching and coaching rodeo in Riverton, Wyoming. There, in Hudson, Wyoming I traded labor with Vic Svilar (one of Conquistador mentor Cecil Wentz’s old dirt track racer crowd). Vic soon had the old flathead running like a clock. He overhauled the carburetor, put in a new voltage regulator, spark plugs and wires, belts and hoses. In return, I painted his 1967 Thunderbird a metallic Ginger brown.

Pat Hamilton still was providing encouragement along the way. We would merge our rodeo teams to share travel and lodging expenses down the road. Chaperone their activities, cheer their successes, stand by them in hospital emergency rooms. Listen to charismatic Chris LeDoux try out his ballad compositions.

Then, once again it was time to move on to new “Forrest Gump” episodes in my life. Schooling in Denver; a new job in natural resources in Biillings, Montana. The Mercury waited at my grandfather’s farm until it could join our family now of three. I did some bodywork on the car. The passenger door had sheared a hinge pin, so I replaced it. Those doors are heavy! I stripped off the tattered fragments of vinyl from the roof, and gave it all a coat of black primer. A rusty wine colored cloth was draped over the cracked leather of the front seat.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-071984 The Mercury Monterey in Larry’s Billings, Montana driveway with the new black top. Fit and finish, not great. She was far from pristine, but she sure had History.


CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-06The rear sat too high, especially with the original fender skirts Gary Richards had scored for me.
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CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-02Larry had draped a rusty wine colored cloth over the Canary Yellow cracked leather of the front seat.
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My wife would drive our son Jade and his little friend Sarah Lewis (now a medical doctor in Seattle!) around the neighborhood. She had to have wooden blocks added to the pedals so she could reach them to drive. The seat didn’t go far enough forward. To a five-year-old son, those rides were exciting; to the same 39-year-old today, precious memories.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-04Larry’s boy Jade is carrying his Easter basket.
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In 1984 I was transferred to Phoenix, Arizona, into an exciting job creating training videos and materials for civil servants managing our public lands in the West. With career opportunities and the uncertainties that came with them, a painful decision was made to sell that Mercury Monterey. I sold the car, for what? Maybe $1200.

“Don’t look back,” Satchell Paige used to say. “Somethin’ might be gainin’ on you.” Well, that doesn’t make those choices less easy to swallow, especially when you are all choked up watching your Mercury drive away. Time and miles had taken their toll. The front springs sagged, the rear sat too high for the original fender skirts Gary Richards had scored for me. Fit and finish, ummmm, Not. She wasn’t pristine, but she sure had History.

Away. As I stood staring at that same Mercury on the auction block, a lot had gone Away in those intervening 22 years. Pat Hamilton had died, much too young, of a brain tumor. My wife Patsy had passed on unexpectedly in 1995. Even our balladeer Chris LeDoux was gone. I and my son had relocated back to Billings in the aftermath. In 2002 I began the build of my 1936 Diamond T “Neferteri”. Occasionally, I made inquiries after that Mercury Monterey, but came up empty.

But here she stood, her number in queue for the auction taped to her windshield.

AND the name of the present owner! Neil Schlaeppi. I was dumb-struck. Neil was a major player in the Roaring Twenties club. I had even gone to his nearby place to view his extensive Montana license plate collection. I was wanting to restore a pair of 1936 plates for the Diamond T.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-13The Mercury Monterey at the auction in the first weekend in June 2006. The Roaring Twenties Club of “all original” car enthusiasts staged their annual auction and swap meet outside Billings, Montana.
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How close had I been to that Mercury Monterey that day? It had been there, just feet away from me, behind garage walls.

I nearly fell over myself tripping back down the hill to go find Neil Schlaeppi. We had quite a conversation, as I would learn what all life adventures the Mercury had undergone in those 22 years. Turns out Neil had bought it from the fellow to whom I had sold her: Bob Walker. Bob had frenched the headlights, shaved the decklid, then in turn, the meticulous Neil had obtained the proper Canary Yellow material and had the upholstery and roof redone, before repainting the car jet black. She was refurbished with shiny new bumpers and grille parts.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-08Bob Walker, the guy bought the Mercury from Larry had completely redone the car as a mild custom. Frenched headlights, nosed, decked and new black paint with Canary Yellow top and yellow to orange flames by an unknown painter.
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CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-122006, the three surviving owners of the Dowry Monterey:  Larry Pointer, Neil Schlaeppi and Bob Walker.
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And given a flamed paintjob, fading from bright yellow to tips in red. Hmmmm.
But mechanically? She was exactly as Vic Svilar had made her whole in 1972! But with a more proud stance.

Neil told me what his reserve was. Quite beyond my capabilities. So too, all bidders by the end of the day. It didn’t help when, seeing my forlorn look, in parting Neil Schlaeppi told me, “Tell you what, Larry. I’ll sell you back the Mercury for $10,000. You can even make payments.” I left the auction, agonizing. Decisions! How could I come up with what Neil fairly wanted? I already was committed—and deeply into—the build of “Neferteri”, my 1936 Diamond T “streamline moderne dream”.

CCC-neferteri-larry-pointer-01Larry’s 1936 Diamond T “Neferteri
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The next day I first stopped by Buzz and Jerry’s Rod Shop just up the road. It was there that I had bought Neferteri’s beginnings. There, we had sparked a lasting friendship. Buzz was a meticulous fabricator, metal man, and upholsterer. Jerry was a car guy too. A lawyer, a decorated Vietnam veteran, founder of Montana’s exemplary Purple Heart Memorial, a series of black granite monoliths inscribed with the names of our fallen and our wounded in service to our Country. “Jerry has done more for people quietly behind the scenes,” Buzz once confided to me, “than we will ever know.” Behind that tough lawyer patina is a solid bronze American.

Who also happened to own a radical chopped custom 1949 Mercury. “That car,” Jerry responded when I would ask about it, “is just an ordinary car. I just drive it. It won’t die. It’s been from Creston, British Columbia to Algodones, Mexico. I take it to Phoenix each winter. Americruise in Lincoln, Nebraska, three times there. And “Jimmy Dean Days” in Spokane. Been there, done that.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-09The contrast between Jerry’s wild chop and the Monterey’s old near stock proportions was too much to pass up such a “photo op”.
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CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-10Jerry’s Mercury has a narrowed ’54 Pontiac grille bar and ’55 Pontiac bumperettes, shortened, front and rear.
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The Wanderer” is the lettering hand-brushed on one rear fender. The car wears a weathered coat of DP90 black primer, and a really wild set of flames across the front and back to the doors, in yellow fading to orange, to red.

Six different people butchered and chopped on that thing,” Jerry pointed out. “The basic body modifications were there, we just finished it up.” The body has been shaved of trim. There is a narrowed 54 Pontiac grille bar. 55 Pontiac bumperettes, shortened, front and rear. The trunk has a wicked recess built into it, and extensions out over the rear bumper. Volkswagon tail lights sit sideways low on either side of the deck lid. Then there is that “bad” chop. Jerry grins mischievously as he describes the reactions he gets, even from experienced custom guys. “The 1950 rear window and frame are upside down. Thant’s why it flows so well. That is the secret!

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-14The top on Jerry’s chopped mercury flows nicely with the shaved drip rails and rounded door corners. 
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Jerry goes on to explain that the car isn’t really even a Mercury. “It’s a 1977 Oldsmobile! We had that body on and off that chassis and floorpan 13 times before it sat right.” The donor was a low mileage, 32,000 mile Delta 88. Now the odometer read 140,000 miles.

The day I arrived at the shop, Jerry was putting new wheel discs on his “not-a-Mercury”, these smooth caps were from a 1960 Buick. He only had three of the hubcaps, so he thought we could go up to the Roaring Twenties swap meet to try to score one more. So, we jumped into Jerry’s three hubcap custom and headed over to the clubhouse.

I had my camera. We convinced Neil to place the Monterey nose-to-nose with Jerry’s car. The contrast between stock proportions and Jerry’s wild chop was too much to pass up such a “photo op”. Then a voice hollered out.

Hey, Jerry. Did you hear? I just bought my old car back!” A big fellow came striding up to us, smiling from ear-to-ear.

What?” Jerry answered. My jaw dropped. Jerry turned.

Bob Walker, I’d like you to meet Larry Pointer. He’s the guy you bought this Merc from back in 84.”
Now Bob’s jaw dropped. Matching the Mercs? How about matching the dropped jaws of all three surviving owners out of four ever to own this unique 1950 Mercury Monterey!

And now it was going back home. Not to my home–as I was almost on the verge of negotiating–but back home to Bob Walker, its 3rd ever owner. Elevens. 22 years to lay to rest this quest.
Tender mercies.

CCC-mercury-monterey-pointer-012006, the three surviving owners of the Dowry Monterey:  Larry Pointer, Neil Schlaeppi, Bob Walker and Jerry LaFountain, the owner of the chopped black and flamed Mercury.
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P.S. Bob Walker and his son still own the Mercury Monterey. Jerry LaFountain has his custom Merc, now with a Mercury Maurader mill. Neil Schlaeppi still is at the forefront of the Roraring Twenties. And I am approaching the start of my 77th year. Elevens!
Sadly, Larry’s son Jade Pointer, recently passed away May 8, 2016.


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Chop-A-Top

 

CHOP-A-TOP

 

Chop-A-Top, is the photo essay narrative for Ron Tesinsky’s documentation of the steps he took in chopping Gerald Brantz’s 1950 Mercury.



By Larry Pointer, 1987 photos by Ron Tesinsky
Sheridan, Wyoming Conquistador Gerald Brantz chose to take his restored 50 Mercury to Ron Tesinsky at West Side Kustoms outside Billings, Montana for further work. In taking this nicely restored coupe into that otherworldly realm of the full custom, Tesinsky first addressed Brantz’s request for a full, but well-balanced top chop. Ever a meticulous craftsman, Ron documented each and every step in photographs. Ron chopped the top on Gerald’s Mercury back in 1987.


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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-01To prepare the car for surgery, he removed window glass, garnish moldings, headliner and upholstery.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-02Carefully, he cut away the rear window, intact with an ample surround of metal.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-07The rear window, then, was protected with thick paper stock, and set safely aside.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-03Each pillar in support of the roof was marked in preparation for the cuts that would follow. A pair of tape lines were laid down, 3 ½ inches vertically apart. The same was done for the tops of the doors. The top then was detached along the line of the upper taped lines, lifted off and set aside. The same was done for the doors.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-05Next, the A-pillars were cut  along the bottom tape mark, and the roof panel was lifted onto the car and aligned at the A pillars. Material was removed from the C pillars until the rear of the top dropped to the desired profile. This resulted in the top being slid forward, in compensation for the 3 ½ inch drop in elevation. Like a cone cut in the middle, the flow of taper no longer matched, top to bottom, front to back.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-06View from the back. The top portion of the B pillars (the pillar stubs) up to the drip rail, has been removed completely at this point.
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Another result of the forward placement of the roof panel was that the B pillars of the roof section now were too far forward to realign with the base of the B pillars on the car. Carefully measuring out a calculated distance forward and rearward from the roof’s hanging B post, Ron cut the pillar stub out of the roof panel.

CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-08At the rear of the quarter window opening, Ron re-formed a smooth, tight, curve into the attachment of car body with roof panel. The separated roof section containing the rear window now could be tacked into its new home. This, however, also required some adjustments. The sloping curve of the main roof panel, along each side down to the replaced rear window piece, now also did not align. To create a smooth transition curve in these areas, Ron made a series of slits up into the main roof panel, at each side above the rear window piece. This then allowed him to re-splice these compound curves into a pleasing flow of curvature down to the rear window.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-09This surgery trick, however, only goes so far in dealing with the disruption of the compound curvature of the bulbous Mercury roof, Ron pointed out. The rear sail panels presented a much more complicated problem in geometry. To solve this dilemma, Ron made a set of templates, right and left, and adjusted their shapes until he was pleased with the flow of these critical roof sections. At this point, he transferred the outline of each template onto fresh 20 gauge sheet metal. 
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-10The sheet metal then was shaped with an English wheel, Ron deftly working curvature into the metal until each laid smoothly and integrally into position.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-11Between the two new sail panels, a new center piece was cut and shaped to join them below the rear window. Now the chopped top flowed smoothly into the deck lid surround.
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Sliding these post pieces forward into alignment with the post stubs on the car body, Ron then reattached the two segments together, re-creating the original vertical alignment of the B pillar. Others have taken a different approach at this point, slanting the B pillar forward to compensate for the unavoidable roof offset, and slicing pie-shaped pieces out of the corners to effect a smooth forward slant. Ron, in this case, chose to keep the original vertical alignment intact. The resulting gap in the roof panel below the drip rail, forward of the realigned post, then was filled with a patch taken from material removed in the previous step.

CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-12The top of the B pillars are now in place, time to do the door tops.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-13The top pieces of the door frames were reattached in their chopped configuration, then the top rear corners of the doors were rounded. This same curve then was done in complementary fashion to the forward section of the top of the B pillar.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-14It was decided to completely remove the drip rails from the car. In their place, Ron later shaped a sculpted line of 3/8 inch rod. At the rear of the roof, however, instead of the abrupt stock Mercury drop of the drip rail down to the beltline, Ron carried the sculpted line rearward in a gentle bell-shaped curve taper. This is one of the most striking custom touches to this example of what otherwise might be considered a pretty standard chop to a Mercury top.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-15A look inside with reworked brackets, next up are cutting up and reshaping garnish moldings to fit the lower and reshaped window openings.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-17Garnish moldings for doors, quarter windows and windshield now were chopped and refitted into the interior of the new vertically smaller window openings.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-19With all the metal work done and checked outside to make sure everything was as planned Ron started to prep the body for filler and primer.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-18Ron is a believer in the new (1980’s) epoxy and polyurethane filler products on the market. They are much more flexible than that old hard Bondo that first came onto the market back in the day. Given that neither lead nor filler lasts forever, Ron weighs in on the side of safety and ease of application of the new fillers.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-23As to trimming out the top, Ron offered this bit of caution. For exterior trim around the quarter windows, he had secured some aftermarket “chrome” material, instead of trying to silver solder or reform stainless trim. That material hasn’t held up well, especially if a car is subjected to the elements over time.
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CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-21Once Tesinsky had achieved the smooth curvatures he was seeking, he shot the work areas in epoxy primer, fitted new glass in the car’s altered openings, and installed window trim.
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At this point, work was temporarily halted, and the car returned to Gerald Brantz. Gerald epoxy primered the complete car and made it ready for some serious cruising prior to subsequent phases in the evolution of this remarkable 1962-period-perfect custom 1950 Mercury.
More progress on Gerald’s 1950 Mercury Custom will follow soon in part 2.


CCC-pointer-chop-a-top-22The Mercury after the black epoxy primer was added. Gerald drove the car around for some time before taking it apart for phase two, “the Shadow”.
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(this article is sponsored by)

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