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.

ccc-neferteri-part-3-36-auburn-dash1936 Auburn dash.
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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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Neferteri Part Two

 

NEFERTERI part Two

 

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

Streamline Moderne. In looking at Jack Juratovic‘s paintings titled Road & Track, November 1935, those images of the Milwaukee’s Hiawatha racing with the best of motor cars just define “streamline moderne“.  Motion by design.  Progress.  And yes, Hope.

Hope for better times. America in 1935 was a nation half a decade into the Great Depression. Cities of soup kitchens and “Hey, Buddy, have you got a dime?”

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Great-DepressionThe Great Depression, is search of better times.
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In the Grapes of Wrath bread basket turned Dust Bowl, bitter fruits indeed. Streams of jalopies looking nothing like streamline moderne were streaming out across the forbidding desert, laden with children and precious possessions salvaged from foreclosures, following the sunset to California, the land of milk and honey Promise.

Lucky were the youth signed up with FDR’s public works programs; the Civilian Conservation Corps, repairing and re-building America, its infrastructure, its National Parks. Sending money earned with sinew and sweat back home, in promise of better times, “a chicken in every pot”.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Jack-Juratovic-The-Race“Road & Track, November 1935, a painting by Jack Juratovic.
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In looking at Jack Juratovic’s paintings, and especially the one with the coach built Packard, we can’t but be impressed with just how Exotic it looks. A motor car like no other. Custom built. As in the exclusive shops of the European Continent. The pioneer coach builders, the “carrossieres”.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Today, we still can see the best of those one-off customs for the rich and famous, restored to their former grace and beauty or better, at Concours d’Elegance gatherings. At Pebble Beach each August. My own “Forrest Gump” connection to that ascot world would be much more humble, a bucket list visit to the Pebble Beach resort and golf course. Not in August when the classics rolled over the grass, but There, just to stroll around and imagine what I’d seen in after-the-fact magazines.

My wife Dotti began to chuckle. “What?” I asked, coming out of my reverie of ecstasies missed. “Here I am,” she beamed, “walking over Pebble Beach lawns in my Walmart shoes.”

CCC-neferteri-part-two-baker-Reinhart-dansJosephine Baker, Django Reinhart, the Lindy Hop and the Charleston.
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Sifting through images of the exquisite streamline moderne coach-built motor cars, it is a wonder so many have survived. Untold numbers were destroyed in the blitzkrieg of WWII. Others were sacrificed to the scrap drives to supply the War efforts. What comes through is that those of the privileged class, traveling in style on the Continent, were not stricken so much by the Great Depression that dragged America down. The night life flourished in Paris. Those who would drive up, or be driven up, to the cabaret night clubs and dance halls, could celebrate in lavish style, entertained by the exotic dancer Josephine Baker, or to dance the light fantastic to the Gypsy Swing of Django Reinhart.

But it would be those custom made automobiles, custom made to individual taste by the exclusive coach builders, “carrossieres”, that would live to be celebrated long after those who “owned” them would slip away in the mists of time.

That swoopy Packard in Jack Juratovic’s painting mirrors the best of the carrossieres of Europe, deep into the decade of the Thirties. I could find a Delage, built by Letourneur and Marchand that had very similar lines. Figoni and Falaschi coachbuilt a 1937 Talbot Lago in that style. And a variety of Bugatti’s of the 57 base model from the same era compare well.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-letourneur-et-marchand-delageLetourneur et Marchand Delage.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-talbot-bougatti

CCC-neferteri-part-two-cars-of-the-Jazz-Age-02A few more xamples of manufacturer cars of the Jazz Age.
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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is fun to pick out the similarities among the European coach built cars of that Jazz Age. They were found with a variety of badges, chassis from such makes as Alpha Romeo, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot Lago, even marque’s of American manufacturers, especially Duesenberg. The demands of high roller customers who wanted not just to “keep up with the Joneses”, but to out-Jones the Joneses, could explain repeating shapes and forms.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-westergard-mercHarry Westergard created this 1940 Mercury for Butler Rugard in the early 1940’s.
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Back in America, we can look at the 1940 Mercury built by Harry Westergard and see in its styling, especially in the shape of the hood nose, definite echoes of those very European styling cues. This car was invited to be shown at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concourse, among the few “seminal” customs of the traditional era deemed significant enough for such an unprecedented inclusion amongst the recognized classics.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-similar-noseSimilar style nosed as on the Westergard Merc can be found on these Coachbuilt cars.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-saoutchikSaoutchik created this 1948 Cadillac in black and purple, and the brilliant blue 1949 Delahaye 175 S.
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In studying the works of individual coach builders, there are recognizable distinctive signature shapes that can be identified. Saoutchik, especially, stands out, whether the base car was a Delahaye, or a later model Cadillac.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-vanvooren-BugattiAchille Van Vooren Bugatti for the Shah of Iran.
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But when the nation of France chose to honor the future Shah of Iran in 1939 on the occasion of his pending wedding, the Bugatti that was chosen first was delivered not to one of the most well remembered builders, but to Achille Van Vooren. The design executed by the Van Vooren coach builders, was based on that of Figoni and Falaschi, and originally meant for a Delahaye chassis. This car, today can be seen in the Peterson Museum, after narrowly escaping being scrapped in the aftermath of the collapse of the Shah’s regime. It has been considered among the very best examples extant of the coach built motor cars of the Continent.

Who were those guys, the carrossieres, or in Italy the carrozzerias? Coachbuild.com offers The Chachbuilders Encyclopedia, a biographical list of 104 coach builders. Ettore and son Jean Bugatti were designers in their own right. Others came up through the trade guilds that were rooted in the carriage and coach building industry of hay burning horsepower. Horsepower, and motor car racing, came to be a huge attraction and, with wins at Le Mans or the Mille Miglia, unequalled marketing power for the competing auto manufacturers. It was common practice, though, for construction of the car bodies to be contracted out to those in the coach building guilds.

CCC-Barris-Europe-Snapshot-08George Barris made this photo at one of the several coachbuilt shops he visited on his european trip in 1951. The photo shows a wooden buck that was used to shape the new bodies
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The basic body shapes were formed of hardwood, such as ash. Metal skins were hand formed. From the aircraft industry came pneumatic planishing tools, and the “English wheel”. Metal for fenders and various compound curves shapes also were hand formed over wooden bucks, to assure the three-dimensional results held true to the designer’s vision. Today, such masters as Marcel Delay and sons Luc and Marc carry on coach building, with time-honored practices and tooling that has stood the tests of time. Ron Covell not only offers enlightening magazine articles, but he and several other craftsmen put on workshops where those skills can be learned and developed.



CCC-neferteri-part-two-figoni-1938-delahayeFigoni and Falaschi  1938 Delahaye.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-figoni-1939-DelahayeFigoni and Falaschi  1939 Delahaye.
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One of the most influential…and perhaps my own favorite…of those early master craftsmen, is Guiseppi Figoni, the designing force behind the Figoni and Falaschi coachwork. Figoni’s fascination with aircraft design following WWI led to aerodynamic elliptical shapes and “enclosed tear drop shaped fenders, which he called ‘enveloppantes.’” Those pontoon fenders, or in today’s street rodder speak, “fat fenders”, directly derive from the “wheel pants” of the streamline moderne airplanes. Out of the Figoni and Falaschi stable came Bugattis, Delages, Delahayes; “chassis-coachwork ensembles” in nitrocellulose lacquers a mile deep. These were long, low, swoopy cars with raked back windshields, flush frenched headlights, skirted fenders and “fluid grace and inherent motion”. Their “windswept designs” could blow your hair back, just standing still.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Letourneur-and-Marchand1932 Duesenberg by Letourneur and Marchand.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-Kellner-32-Bugatti1932 Kellner bodied Bugatti
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My own inspiration followed the “I want to see it all” view. Earlier models from the end of the Roaring Twenties and into the Thirties also caught my eye. A Duesenberg by Letourneur and Marchand in the greater Paris area especially stood out. This was before fenders were skirted, or car trunks were integrated into the car body. But it was long and low, and just oozed of power. A Kellner bodied Bugatti of that early period also got my heart racing, as did the model 46 offered by Bugatti from 1929-1933.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-46-bugatti-29-33Kellner bodied Bugatti model 46 from 1929 – 1933.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-saoutchik-bucciali1932 Bucciali with body by Saoutchik.
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The one to stop the heart of any “chop and channel” enthusiast of the hot rod fraternity has to be the 1932 Bucciali with body by Saoutchik.
Out of Molsheim in the German Alsace a 1932 Maybach Zeppelin bodied by Hermann Spohn runs a close second in my album of dream cars of that era. No flammable dirigible there, and no lead Zeppelin, either.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-32-Spohn-Maybach1932 Maybach Zeppelin bodied by Hermann Spohn
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Then came the street rod to end all street rods. The Mercedes 540. A streamline dream.

Designs that flowed out in body lines and curved contours.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Mercedes-37-540The Mercedes 540
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More recently, in 1952 Touring created a body sheath for a wine red Alpha Romero 6C roadster. Those Alpha Romeo roadsters put any hot rod into their rear view.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-38-alpha-romeo-6CAlpha Romero 6C roadster
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-Duesenberg-Graber1934 Duesenberg Model J re-bodied around 1937 by Graber with an wonderful convertible body. These photos show the car with its new black and dark blue colors.
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But to close this Streamline Moderne page in my memory book, I have to share images of a Duesenberg bodied by Herman Graber in Switzerland. This American icon, coach-built by Graber, and painted THE color combination, wine and red orange, would inspire my drawing of Neferteri, my own streamline moderne dream.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-neferteri-sketchOriginally the Graber Duesenberg J was painted wine and orange-red. My Diamond T Neferteri was based on the cars design, and colors.
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Next time, from Duesenbergs on the Continent to Duesenbergs back on home ground, and automotive design inspirations this side of the Pond. We’ll pack our bags with Howard “Dutch” Darrin and Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, and see what lay in store for me to closer to home (and my beer budget).

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Neferteri, Part One

 

NEFERTERI part One

 

A Forrest Gump run through the Art Deco scene of the Streamline machine.



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

Run, Forrest, run!” Those urging words launched the hit film Forrest Gump and propelled actor Tom Hanks forward in his remarkable acting career. Growing up, this ski stick skinny kid in Wyoming had much in common with Hanks’ character, and why I came to dub myself the Forrest Gump of the Conquistadors Car Club of Sheridan. Somehow, like Forrest, I would wind up “there”, in momentous happenings and unforgettable places through my life’s journeys.

Run like the wind!” As we turn our eyes to Rio and another World Olympics, I muse how we have strained against our mortal bonds, to run faster, slice through water, and soar higher than ever before. Always, our goals lie just beyond.

In our little neck of the woods, Wyoming’s coal deposits attracted peoples of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. This rich diversity was a gift for which I’ve always been grateful. I ran in track, but always behind Leroy Westika; pole vaulted, but always beneath Denton Buss; high jumped, but a barrel roll below Coco Madia. We did Wyoming well in the relays, but when I went to Iowa and walked into the locker room, I saw every one of their relay team was consistently running faster than the Wyoming individual record. A quick U-turn got me out of there.

When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier in the running mile, at Oxford, England on May 6, 1954, I could only stare at the Life Magazine images. Maybe there were no limits?

CCC-neferteri-part-one-roger-bannisterRoger Bannister crossing the line.
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Then in 1967, on a partly cloudy Spring day in Eugene, Oregon I saw three collegian milers cross the line under four minutes. In the infield, Dick Fosbury performed his revolutionary backbend Flop in the high jump. Bob Seagren sprung over the bar from a hand-stand in the pole vault, on his way to Olympic Gold. And Parry OI’Brien let fly a shot put nearly as far as I could throw a rock. Limits? What limits.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-flopDick Fosbury doing the flop and Bob Seagren polevbaulting.
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In air, on land, and through water, this year in Rio, again the “agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory” will play out in memorable human performance. There will be flashes of brilliance; records will fall. But still there will be that Above and Beyond. The human Spirit will deny limit, and Spirit will strive to reach beyond and above.

Like the wind!” Mankind always has had envy for the flight of the bird, the fish that swims so effortlessly, the grace and speed of the running animal. Our Spirit seeks to soar in the wind; slice through the waves; run with grace and speed. “Why, oh why then, can’t I?” Innate in our Spirit is Innovation. Where the human body fails, the mind can imagine. And by Invention, and the magic carpet of the inventions we create, we can Fly, Sail, and Run.



Flight

Greek legend has it that Icarus and his son built wings, covered them with feathers, stuck them together with wax, and flew. Until, in soaring closer to the Sun, the wax melted and they came crashing down. Then, on December 17, 1903, over the sandy Atlantic beach at Kittyhawk, Orville and Wilbur Wright did fly. Somewhat. From that flimsy kite of sticks and sheets, we began, and through trial and error learned the lessons of Form Follows Function.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-wright-brothersThe Wright Brothers historic flight at Kittyhawk
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My first father-in-law Carl Church was a pilot in WWI. Through that War to End All Wars, much was learned of flying machines. Afterwards many pilots, Carl Church among them, took their new skills to barnstorming across the country. Carl and his friend Dick Leferink took paying passengers for loop-de-loop thrills of a lifetime over the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Then in 1920 came Prohibition. Wyoming proudly was last of the States to ratify what became the great experiment in legislating morality, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. Until its repeal with the 21st Amendment in December 1935, Prohibition brought opportunity to the enterprising. Leferink would pick up a load of the outlawed beverages across the border in Canada. By arrangement, Church would drive out to the prairie west of Sheridan’s veteran’s hospital, Fort McKenzie. In the dark, Church would light their makeshift runway with his car headlights. Leferink would land, transfer choice deliveries to Church, and Sheridan kept “wet” through “dry” times. Leferink in 1930 acquired a Stinson SM8-A, and launched Wyoming Air Service. He successfully bid on a US Mail contract in 1934 for Wyoming Montana and South Dakota, and expanded barnstorming, sight-seeing, and charter services to pioneer the coming passenger air industry. His Inland “narrow gauge” feeder airline later would merge into Western Airlines.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-bootlegger-planeA bootlegger plane delivery, like that of Dick Leferink.  This at Grand Rapids, MI, from Milwaukee.
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I don’t know what all this did for Carl Church. He did rise to exalted ruler of the Elks Club, and got into the beverage business: RC Cola and Nesbitt’s Orange.

I’d always hated History in school. But the living drama that acts out on the human stage makes a topic as dry as the 18th Amendment come to life. Vicariously, like Forrest Gump, I was “there”, through Leferink’s inimitable storytelling.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-lindbergh-spiritLindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.
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Flight’s limits were broken once more in this period, when Charles Lindbergh in his Spirit of St. Louis successfully crossed the Atlantic, May 21, 1927. Then, in an aircraft that epitomized Streamline Moderne, Amelia Earhart piloted her Lockheed Vega over the Atlantic on May 21, 1932, the first woman to accomplish that solo flight.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-amelia-earhartAmelia with the Lockheed Vega, after setting the solo Atlantic crossing and Amelia Earhart at the controls.
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Form Follows Function. Dick Leferink’s Stinson; Amelia Earhart’s Vega and the “Winnie Mae” that would carry Will Rogers and Wiley Post to their demise in Alaska, April 15, 1935; the rotary engine WACO aircraft; the Travel Air Mystery Ship; the Beech Stagger Wing. Those airplanes were beautiful beyond words. The smooth, rounded cowl fairings, the sleek fusilages, the tapered wings, the wheel “pants”. Those planes Flew, just standing by on the tarmac. Streamline Moderne. Yes! To this kid, dragging golf bags along behind the city’s movers over the golf course, I could look across at the airport and upward to catch envious glimpses of those glorious creatures of Man’s imagination winging freely into the Wyoming sky. Even if the term hadn’t been invented yet, with those classic planes I was hooked on Streamline Moderne.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-planesWill Rogers and Wiley Post in Alaska before their fatal crash, and the Winnie Mae in flight (Lockheed Vega).
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Childhood impressions. I also have vivid recall of the drone of squadrons of B17’s high above, barely visible at day, ominous in the night, headed to the theaters of WWII. Unforgettable. Form and formation following function.


CCC-neferteri-part-one-b-17-sSquadrons of B17’s.
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-beegee-planeGeeBee in action…
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There were extremes, and limitations, even in seeking the ultimate aerodynamics. The Granville brothers of Springfield, Massachusetts worked out their design of the Gee Bee racer with a wind tunnel. The result was a remarkable plane that Jimmy Doolittle raced to the 1932 Thompson Trophy. The Bee Gee was short, bulbous to the extreme, with stubby wings and a cockpit located back against the vertical stabilizer, for enhanced pilot view of pylon turns in the crowd thrilling short course races. Only the most skilled pilot could keep the plane from stalling and crashing. Its extreme shape was unforgiving. After pilot Russell Boardman was killed in the 1933 Bendix Race at Indianapolis, the concept was abandoned. Today, a replica exists in a Florida museum, and diehard enthusiasts are limited to scale models on the shelf.

The photos I’ve gathered give just a hint of the gorgeous saturated colors these airships were painted. Those imaginative contrasting speedlines, stripes, and scallops surely inspired early day hot rodders and custom car painting.


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CCC-neferteri-part-one-Bulldog-Aircraft1932 Hall Springfield Bulldog with teardrop shaped body and wheel pants enhanced with black on red with white outline scallops… Hot Rod inspiration.
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Streamline Moderne

Born out of Art Deco styling and design, by most accounts, through the 1925 Paris World Fair, “L’Exposition internationale des artes decoratifs et industriel moderne”. From the title in French, we make out what “Art Deco” is an abbreviation of, and there was that word “moderne”. From there, it just grew, until WWII set the brakes on such heady “artsy” stuff.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-Chrysler_BuildingThe Chrysler Building was designed by architect William Van Alen for a project of Walter P. Chrysler and completion on May 27, 1930.
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-jukebox-theaterWurlitzer juke box and the interior of theatre in Fargo, ND.
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-gas-station-dinerGas station designed by Walter Dorwin Teague (he also designed cars) and post-card of an art deco diner.
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Looks like the term, Streamline Moderne, didn’t get coined until much later. Streamline style was used to define architecture, like the Chrysler Building in the Big Apple, even gas stations and diners. Items as mundane as the Coca Cola bottle, toasters, vacuum sweepers, and Wurlitzer juke boxes were given the moderne treatment. Anything to stimulate sales through those dark days of the Great Depression. The concepts of this style that had become all the rage had everything to do with aerodynamics, smooth curves, sleek forms, long horizontal lines, and flowing geometry. It implied movement and speed, efficient beauty in function; flowing movement through the air and skimming over the water.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-coca-colaCoca Cola bottle designed by Raymond Loewy (he also designed cars).
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Streamline Moderne boats

Pirates of the Caribbean may have its Johnny Depp cult following, but it was the swashbuckling Erroll Flynn who rattled the sabre over the wooden decks under the skull and crossbones in the Saturday matinees (in Art Deco/Streamline Moderne theatres) back in the day. The Sea Hawk, or Captain Blood, perhaps the best pirate movie of all time.

Then in the news reels, we could almost taste the salt in the sea spray from coverage of yacht regattas, or the speedboat races. Those wooded boats just embodied the curvilinear form. From bow to stern, their hulls were pure nautical sculpture. Inboard engines were located mid-ship or aft for weight transfer. Gar Wood put all of this together in building speedboats. The Hornet II built for Henry J. Kaiser featured a Rolls Royce V-12.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-hornetHornet II owned by Henry J. Kaiser.
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Chris Craft offerings of Chris Smith featured stunning brightwork; the beautiful grain of mahogany hulls smartly set off with crisp white caulking and layers and layers of lovingly brushed varnish. From Detroit, the Hacker Craft came to define the sleek signature look of the speedboat moderne.


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Getting to see the Miss Budweiser and the hydroplane races of Seattle’s Aquatennial celebrations was my Forrest Gump moment of the speedboat era. Now there was the true “speedboat stance”, the bow lifting upward through acceleration, the rising pitch of the powerful inboard engines, the geyser spray of rooster tails. Yes!

CCC-neferteri-part-one-boat-stanceThe true “speedboat stance”
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-hydroplane-raceHydroplane races at the Seattle’s Aquatennial celebrations.
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Then there were the trains

Nothing speaks to the Industrial Revolution’s power to change civilization better than the steam locomotive. Behemoth steam engines. Just standing by the station, hissing steam, they WERE power. The sights, the smells, the sounds. All the senses came to be indelibly etched in the imaginative mind of a young boy. I can still recall those cold, cold Wyoming nights, lying snug in my bed and hearing a locomotive come to life. Choo. Choo. The sound carried crisply through the cold air, reverberating off the surrounding hills. It would start slowly at first, as the freight train would pull away from the station. Then, as it got up steam for the grade, the cadence would pick up, more rapidly, more strongly. Those steam locomotives were the engines that COULD. The rhythm of a steam train once it got rolling clickety-clack over the track, was like no other.


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Everywhere, there was a love affair with the railway train. Songs of every genre, every place, every time, have come to rest in the songbooks of the people. The halcyon days of steam powered trains may have gone into the history books, but the rhythm, that unmistakable rhythm of the train, infuses music everywhere to this day. Hear that lonesome whistle blow!

What a history they made! There was the Flying Scotsman, the turn of the last Century pride of the United Kingdom. In America, the engines of Budd, Hudson and Pullman. Locomotive power and speed, down the shiny twin tracks.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-trains-02Hiawatha train, B17 bomber and the Flying Scotsman.
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-commodore-vanderbiltCommodore Vanderbilt, the first streamline shrouded locomotive.
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-commodore-dreyfussSame train as above, re-shrouded by Henry Dreyfuss as 20th Century Limited.
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My grandfather Frank Headley was a cocky engineer on the CB&Q line. In 1919, he attempted a speed record through Wyoming’s twisting Wind River Canyon. With a full head of steam from coal shoveled into the boiler, he pushed her to the limit going into the gorge. About two curves in, she shot off the rails and skidded on her side to a grinding, scalding halt among the canyon boulders. Head injuries and a broken pelvis notwithstanding, he had enough sense, and fear for what he’d done, that he crawled ½ mile down the track to trip the red warning signal. This from my family album was my own “Forrest Gump” connection to those giddy times.

To enhance the romance of locomotive power, the industry turned to the best industrial designers of the day. Here was the birth of the true Streamliners.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-hiawata-loewyHiawatha, example of Otto Kuhler design, original metal, not a re-shroud and the Broadway Limited, designed by Raymond Loewy (the car designer).
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Henry Dreyfuss, Otto Kuhler, Raymond Loewy, these were the men with vision to carry us in style down the track to a glorious future. Here was the pioneer Spirit that would feed the car customizers, the George Barrises, Neil Emorys, Clay Jensens, even the Larry Watsons, on down the way. Ingenuously, the pioneer designers would re-shroud the crude, adapting those work-a-day locomotives with shaped metal to create a modern look of power-and-speed-in-motion. Just as the customizers of the automobile would adapt and reshape parts to individualize their rides.


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It’s a fascinating study in human puzzles to see how often hard times brings out unexpected resilience and invention. The Prohibition era became the Roaring Twenties period. But it was a no-brainer puzzle, when you think of it, that speedboat development traces so often to the border waters with Canada. The G-men had real challenges intercepting booze deliveries over those waters. In turn, the Great Depression brought out the best of Streamlining in trains.

The re-shrouding of locomotives made economic sense. Rather than build those massive, expensive steam engines from scratch, when “scratch” was so hard to come by, the industry brought forth the best of industrial designers to create a marketable image of Progress. I believe the Depression did much to create the field of industrial design.

The economics of market competition also brought new fuels and materials to the scene. Diesel power would ring the death knell to steam locomotion. Stainless steel and Aluminum clad engines would bring down that heavy mass of inertia. The Choo Choo cadence of “steamliners” would come to be heard only in the downbeat of jazz rhythm.

The Pioneer Zephyr, in stainless steel, was the Burlington line’s statement of Progress. In 1934 this Budd-built flyer brought revolution down the tracks. Dubbed a “cruise ship on wheels”, it made a phenomenal “Dawn-to-Dusk” run from Denver to Chicago, set a record, and changed the game forever. That same year, the movie, “The Silver Streak” hyped the diesel powered Zephyr, and helped Depression-era movie goers find hope for a promised future. Ford Motor Company was quick to capitalize on the romance, with their Lincoln Zephyr offerings not long after.

In challenge for ridership, the Union Pacific came up with an aluminum clad engine, the M-10,000. Actually, its unveiling preceded that of the Zephyr by two months. It weighed much less than the conventional steam train, but its aluminum cladding didn’t hold up too well. Media wags didn’t help much either, labelling it “a great bulbous-headed caterpillar”.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-trains-GM-electroThree General Motors electromotive diesels.
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General Motors also jumped into the game with their Electro-Motive Engineering section. Their demonstrator in 1938 made inevitable the industry shift to diesel power. As I look back over the distinctive look of all the GM streamliners that would follow, it is fun to place an image of the 1948 through first series 1955 Chevrolet and GMC pickup truck next to, say, a Santa Fe or later Burlington engine out of the GM stable. The rounded forms are undeniably similar; a case study in the influence of the streamliner on future automobiles.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-trains-Santa-feSanta Fe Streamlined train postcard.
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CCC-neferteri-part-one-trains-05GM demonstrator and the Orange Blossom Special.
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The GM demonstrator came out with a livery of deep green accented by long, flowing horizontal stripes in yellow. They emanated from the front of the engine in a “bow wave”, a nod to the nautical influences of streamline design. Across the board, the industrial designers’ palettes brought us exciting, saturated hues spun off the color wheel. For each railway client, they would offer up a livery of distinction. Color combinations and streamline styling lines were as “moderne” as the smooth streamliners they so regally clothed. Everyone would know the Royal Blue of the Cincinnatian, the Green Diamond, Pennsylvania line’s Tuscan Red, the Orange Blossom Special, and the Santa Fe Warbonnet Express.

CCC-neferteri-part-one-jack-JuratovicJack Juratovic’s “The Race”.
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A picture does speak a thousand words. In the November, 1935 issue of Car and Track, Jack Juratovic shared his artwork in The Race, pitting the 100-mile-an-hour Milwaukee Hiawatha against the best automotive offering, the Duesenberg. There, better than any words could explain, was Streamline Moderne.



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