Halloween 2020


We headed to a tiny blink-and-you-miss-it town in Kansas for an auction awhile back, and it was there that we spotted this old hearse.  Judging from the tail lights, it looks like a ’62 Cadillac.  It has suicide doors and would have been powered by a 390, originally.  The crazy thing, though, is that this is a street corner in the middle of the town.  Seriously, check out the street sign from this angle.  This hearse is situated at the corner of Seventh and Gilman.

About four square blocks in the center of town were overgrown and covered with old cars in a similar fashion.  We spoke to a local and apparently one family owns them all and is not interested in selling, not even one.  The real horror is that someone would rather let the cars rot into the ground than sell them on to a good home.  After all, you can’t take it with you, and that’s why there’s no luggage rack on this hearse!

Happy Halloween!

Campaigning With Cars

The automobile affected every aspect of life in America, including how politicians campaigned.  The first President to drive a car was McKinley, but the first to make a public appearance in one while President was Theodore Roosevelt, king of the presidential firsts.  This Library of Congress photo  of Roosevelt standing in an automobile was taken at a later date, but it is one of my favorites because it just seems to capture him perfectly:

That first appearance on August 22, 1902, took place in Hartford, Connecticut.  Roosevelt toured the city in an electric Victoria, and was cheered enthusiastically all along the route.  Ten years later, an interesting story about the 1912 campaign discussed how the automobile had supplanted both the horse and railway for campaign travel and had been used by all candidates of importance including presidential candidates Roosevelt, Wilson and Taft.  It also described how the Cole Motor Company had placed automobiles at the disposal of candidates throughout the country.

Cole, named for its founder, Joseph J. Cole,  was manufactured from 1909-1925 in Indiana and was a competitor of Cadillac.  It was the second largest builder of luxury automobiles in the United States from 1918-1921 with 1,000 selling connections in this country and outlets in 58 foreign countries.  In its early days, the Cole won many road races and reliability tours while being piloted by drivers like Bill Endicott.

One slogan used by the Cole was, “There’s a touch of tomorrow in all Cole does today,” and it is true that Cole was a leader in many ways.   For instance, the company introduced a V8 engine in 1915 and, by the following year, the entire line was being powered by V8s.

Cole also pioneered the use of balloon tires and was the first to offer them as optional equipment.

In one 1924 story, a correspondent for the Indianapolis Star reported using her Corona typewriter in the front seat of a Cole while following a story:  “I have heard lots about ‘ballooning in a Cole,’ but I never dreamed that I would be able to write on a typewriter at sixty miles an hour in one of these cars . . . when they say you ride on a cushion of air when you ride on balloon tires, it’s almost literally true.”

In spite of advancements like these, Cole Motor Co. began to suffer financial difficulties  after the first World War. The company was in the process of liquidating in 1925 when Joseph Cole passed away at the age of 56, reportedly from heart disease.


“Candidates Used Autos to Advantage.”  Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 24 November 1912, p. 20.

Cole Motor Car Company.  Advertisement.  Chicago Tribune, 18 August 1924, p. 20.

Cole Motor Car Company. Advertisement. Chicago Tribune, 9 March 1924, p. 14.

Cole Motor Car Company. Advertisement.  Topeka Daily Capital, 13 September 1916, p. 13.

“Joseph J. Cole, Pioneer Auto Manufacturer Here, Is Dead.”  Indianapolis Star, 8 August 1925, p. 1.

“New Cole Sport Car Demand is Large.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, 3 February 1924, p. 80.

“Operated Typewriter in Balloon-Tired Car.”  Bangor Daily News, 19 May 1924, p. 13.

“President’s Tour of New England.”  Scranton Tribune, 23 August 1902, p. 1.

“The President at Hartford.” Democrat and Chronicle, 23 August 1902, p. 1.

1969 Mercury Cougar

I like the looks of the first-generation Mercury Cougars every bit as much as their Mustang counterparts.  Essentially a Mustang with “European flair”, the front end with the horizontal grille and dual concealed headlamps just looks aggressive.

Notice that the street sign behind this Cougar says “Church Street”.

You would definitely get to the church on time if you drove a ’69 Cougar like this one, because they came only with a tempting array of V8 engines.  In 1969, the Cougar came standard with a 351-ci 250-hp V8, but a 4-barrel option raised the horsepower to 290.  The top performance option was a 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air induction system and functional hood scoop.

One bad cat, indeed.

A Little Story About the Origins of Chevrolet

It is widely known that Chevrolet was named for racecar driver Louis Chevrolet, but there is a “little” more to the story.

When William Durant was out as the head of GM (for the first time) he immediately began looking for a way back into the automobile industry.  He knew Louis Chevrolet because Chevrolet had been a driver for the Buick racing team, and in 1911 he made a deal with Chevrolet to build a car.  That same year Durant was also building a car called the Little with a man named William H. Little who had been a manager at Buick but had left to follow Durant.

In one 1912 advertisement, the Little was called, “the classiest of all roadsters” and was described as follows:

“20 H.P. Four Cylinder, shaft drive with selective sliding transmission  and Torpedo body. Equipment includes Nickel Windshield, Mohair Top with hood and curtain, Prest-O-Lite tank, five lamps, horn, jack pump, tools and full nickel mountings.”

Here is another 1912 advertisement.  Notice that this one says the car has a 10 inch wheelbase.  That really would be a tiny car, but it is a typo.  The car actually had a wheelbase of 90 inches.

This surviving Little is located at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska (seriously, if you haven’t been there, go now):

As it turns out, Durant wasn’t thrilled with either car.  The Chevrolet was big and expensive while the Little was smaller, of lesser quality, and sported a terrible name, at least from a marketing standpoint.  The companies were merged and the best features of each car were incorporated into a new Chevrolet line.  The Little, produced only in 1912 and 1913, was reincarnated as the Baby Grand Chevrolet for 1914.


Many people have written about Durant, an interesting showman and something of a loose cannon.   I have not been able to find out much about Bill Little, however.  I have seen him variously referred to as “Big Bill” and “Wild Bill”.  He was apparently a large man, and I did find this full-page advertisement announcing the Little Car that includes a poem about Bill Little as well as a drawing of the man:

Here is the poem, enlarged, so it can be more easily read:

Little died young at only 46 years old and, at his death, there were few mentions of him in the newspapers.  I found one obituary that stated Little, while still in his twenties, had worked closely with Thomas Edison as general manager of Edison Storage Battery in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.  Another small story included the Monarch Bicycle Company on his resume.  Then, of course, he worked for Durant at Buick, built the Little Motor Car and then continued working for Durant at Sterling Motor Co. and the Scripps-Booth Corp.  The above advertisement includes the following foreshadowing:  “This great man may in time be forgotten as will other Napoleons of Industry and Art – but not while his (I mean their) money lasts and the published rates remain the same.”  He has been all but forgotten, but he should be remembered as one of the men that ushered in the automobile age in America.


“Death Takes Veteran Auto Trade Leader.” Oakland Tribune, 5 November 1922, p. 12.

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr. Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1842. Kraus Publications, 1985.

Little Motor Car Company.  Advertisement. The Detroit Free Press, 7 July 1912, p. Part One.

Little Motor Car Company. Advertisement.  The Roanoke Chowan Times, 19 September 1912, p. 7.

“The 1915 Chevrolet Touring Car.” The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, 6 September 1914, p. 11.

The Little Motor Sales Co. Advertisement. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 24 November 1912, p. 20.

“W. H. Little Funeral Will Be Held Today.”  The Detroit Free Press, 22 October 1922, p. 3.

“Will Open Branch of Chevrolet and Little Motor Car Companies.”  The Buffalo Evening Times, 4 June 1912, p.7.




Awesomely Ratty Tow Truck

We took a trip to Kansas a couple of weeks ago for the Highway 36 Treasure Hunt and spied this beast of a tow truck crouched along the highway on the north edge of Phillipsburg:

This awesomely ratty truck is labeled “Ford-ish,” and I do see a few familiar Ford parts.  It appears to be diesel powered, judging from the size of that exhaust.  Speaking of size, that hook is a monster:

If I needed a tow truck, I would be super happy to see this thing rolling up.  Nicely done, Kibbee’s Repair and Towing!