What do the ducks mean?

1963 Caddy hubcap

I have seen lots of stories scattered across the internet that claim to hold the key to the Cadillac crest, but this explanation appeared in 1923. That is only two decades after the company’s 1903 inception, so maybe this story was less distorted by time than some of the more recent versions. You make the call!

Los Angeles Evening Express, 11 June 1923
1955 Fleetwood

Plymouth Suburban

Here is another interesting steering wheel that was part of our recent haul. The ship logo gives away its Plymouth brand, and this 1950 Suburban is one of the models that it would have been found on:

1950 Plymouth Brochure

Unlike the pre-war woodies, the Suburban featured an all-steel body with a box-type steel frame. Not exactly a speed machine, it was powered by a 217.8 cubic inch six cylinder L-head engine that generated 97 hp @3600 RPMs.

According to ads, the seats were upholstered with “luxurious, long-wearing plastic” and were completely washable. Behind the rear seat was 42″ of cargo space. The rear seat was able to be folded down, however, with the metal back forming part of the floor. In that position, the cargo space was 68″ long, 55″ wide and 36″ high.

1951 Plymouth Brochure

This is an interesting 1950 ad for the Suburban. The dealership is uncertain when it will have access to more Suburbans due to “work stoppages in coal and in automobile plants”.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a table of “Annual work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers from 1947-2018”. According to that table, work stoppages in 1949 resulted in 43,420,000 days of idleness or .38 percent of total working time. That percent was only exceeded in 1959. Workers in diverse industries throughout the country were demanding better wages, insurance and pension plans, and the automobile industry was no exception. In 1950, the “Big Three” automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, all reached agreements with the UAW. Chrysler’s agreement only came after a particularly painful stoppage that began just as the production of 1950 models approached top volume and which lasted more than 100 days.

In 1950, LA TImes editors drove this new Suburban down the coast to Ensenada for the “Travelogue of the Week”.


“All Purpose Plymouth Suburban.” Detroit Free Press, 18 June 1950, p. E-8.

“Chrysler Strike Idles 112,000 Auto Workers.” Mount Pleasant News, 25 January 1950, p. 1.

“Continued Picketing May Delay Reopening of Chrysler Plants.” The Kokomo Tribune, 5 May 1950, p. 1.

Lawrence, David. “Chrysler Strike Shown to Have Been a Blunder”. Alton Evening Telegraph, 25 May 1950, p. 6.

Plymouth. Advertisement. The Daily Missoulian, 19 February, 1950, p. 12.

Rogers, Lynn. “Contracts Depicted in Baja California.” The Los Angeles Times, 10 September 1950, p. V-8.

A Summer Car and A Winter Car

This eye-catching baby-blue 1959 Ford with a Continental Kit is a rare Skyliner convertible with a retractable hardtop.

Ford had the first mass-produced American-made retractable hardtop in the Skyliner, manufactured for model years 1957-1959. Touted as a “miracle car”, the Hide-Away Hardtop was fully automatic. With the press of a button, the all-steel top would slide into the enormous trunk where it was completely concealed. The entire operation took about 40 seconds to complete and, for safety purposes, the mechanism would only operate when the car’s transmission was in neutral and the ignition key was turned to the “accessory” position. With one car you had the best of both worlds or, as this ad phrased it, “It’s the world’s only 2-in-1 fine car . . . a snug steel-top and a breezy convertible.”

These days, it is common for households to have more than one vehicle, especially in my part of the country. In our family, we’ve got to have a van for the business, we’ve got to have an F-150 for when our country roads are a muddy mess, we’ve got to have something reliable and economical for our daughter to drive to school, and we’ve got to have a classic because, well, we’ve just got to. Families didn’t always have a vehicle for every purpose, however, and I wondered when the idea of “two cars in one” got started. Turns out, it started very early. This ad from 1914 is for a KisselKar with a detachable top, making it “a summer car and a winter car”:

Hupmobile also featured a detachable top that year, making it a “two in one car”:

Ford had carried everything a step further in this 1912 ad, however. At that time you could convert your Model T from a summer car to a winter car by using interchangeable bodies to go from a roadster to a coupe:

As for the Skyliner, the retractable top was an expensive engineering marvel. Citing the costs of retooling it every year to make it adaptable to other styling changes, Ford dropped it from the 1960 lineup.


Burk, John. “Automotive Views.” Courier-Post [Camden], 24 November 1959, p. 8.

Ford. Advertisement. The Des Moines Register, 7 January 1912, p. 3.

Ford. Advertisement. The Salt Lake Tribune, 13 May 1958, p. 5.

“Ford Making Models With Retractable Steel Tops.” The Daily Record [Stroudsburg], 31 December 1956, p.9.

“Ford to Drop Hardtop; Retractable Convertible.” The El Paso Times, 31 May 1959, p. 6-D.

Hupmobile. Advertisement. The Scranton Truth, 7 November 1914, p. 9.

KisselKar. Advertisement. The Evening Journal [Wilmington], 12 November 1914, p. 8.

So many steering wheels . . . .

We recently had someone ask us if we would be interested in a bunch of old steering wheels hanging in their barn. We are always interested, so we went there to take a look and left with ALL the steering wheels. This is what 55 steering wheels look like crammed into the back of a van:

And this is what my dog looks like when she is not happy about being forced to share her van space with a mountain of steering wheels:

Some are not in the greatest of shape but have horn rings that can be salvaged like these 1955 Oldsmobile and 1959 Dodge horn rings:

A few of the others we have cleaned up so far:

1940s Chevy Fleetmaster
1953 Chevy
1955-56 Chevy
1960-66 Chevy Truck
1967 Dodge C Body

First “Radio-ized” Fleet of Police Cars

I’ve seen articles giving Detroit credit for the first one-way radio communication with patrol cars, but according to 1928 newspaper stories, those honors should go to the police department in Berkeley, California. In January of 1928, they were the first police department to be fully equipped with radios in patrol cars:

“To Berkeley California, goes the distinction of operating the first police fleet which is completely radio-equipped. In line with his policy of providing every scientific aid for his men, Police Chief August Vollmer, well-known criminologist, sponsored installation of fixed-tune short wave sets under the rear decks of these Buicks, thereby combining quick communication and speedy pursuit in a manner which greatly increases the odds against crime. In support of Chief Vollmer’s methods, it is pointed out the Berkeley requires the smallest police force in the country, population considered.”

That’s not too surprising as Chief August Vollmer has been called the father of American policing. Apparently, a high power vacuum tube transmitter was installed at police headquarters, and this transmitter worked in conjunction with fixed tune receivers installed in the rear of the patrol cars. A red light would come on when there was a message for the police officer, and a concealed loud speaker unit would allow the desk sergeant to communicate instantly with any or all of the officers simultaneously. Tests at the time showed that the system worked perfectly at 50 mph.

Another story said Vollmer was of the opinion that the combination of radio equipment and fast pursuit machines would vastly increase the odds against crime. The “fast pursuit machines” to which he referred were a fleet of new, 1928 Buick coupes.

For 1928, Buick introduced a new hemispherical combustion chamber to allow for higher compression. Two inline sixes were offered, the Standard Six with 207 cubic inches and the Master Six with 274. One story mentioned that the Berkeley police cars were 2-passenger coupes, so they would have had the Standard Six, but with room for only two passengers I guess they were calling the paddy wagon to haul the bad guys.


“Berkely Has Radio-ized Police Fleet.” The Arizona Republican [Phoenix], 18 March 1928, sec. 5 p. 6.

“Berkeley Police Force Complete Radio System.” Modesto News-Herald, 5 February 1928, p. 10.

“Berkeley Police Get Radio Sets.” Asheville Citizen Times, 1 April 1928, p. B-7.

“Berkeley Police Use Radio Equipped Cars.” Oakland Tribune. 22 January 1928, p. O-3.

“New 1928 Buicks Come With Standard Gear Shift.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 13 August 1927, p. 3.

“New 1928 Buicks To Be Put On Display Monday Evening.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 6 August 1927, p. 2.