How To Prevent That Anxiety You Always Experience When Backing Your Car Out

This advertisement for a Pitless Auto Turntable appeared in a 1913 newspaper:

With the Pitless, you could simply turn your car in a full circle without even starting it. Other ads claimed that it was so simple to operate, a child could do it. It is hilarious that the main selling point of the Pitless was that putting your automobile in reverse is anxiety-inducing and, of course, an especially risky business for women:

Speaking of 1913, this amazing Model T housed at the Republican County Historical Museum in Belleville, Kansas, originated that same year. Note the carbide generator for powering the headlamps mounted on the running board and all the brass details:

Dodge Pilot-House Truck Dash

We pulled this Dodge “Pilot-House” B-series truck dash out of an old shop the other day:

These trucks were made from 1948-1953, and the term “Pilot-House” was used to describe the improved visibility provided by higher and wider windshield and windows:

You can tell that this particular dash came from a 1953 because of the Dodge emblem. Other years featured a chrome trim piece in the center position, but only ’53 had this Dodge script. Surprisingly, these emblems were made of plastic, not metal, and they do become brittle with age.

General Eisenhower’s World War II Staff Car

This 1942 Cadillac was used by General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II and is now on display at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum, Library & Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kansas. It was first delivered to London in 1942 where Eisenhower was commanding U.S. troops and then went with the General to Paris where he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. This well-traveled Cadillac returned to Washington with Ike for his post-war tour of duty as Army Chief of Staff, and it was kept available for his use in New York when he served as president of Columbia University. This same car then went back to Europe when Ike returned to active duty as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

Eisenhower had reportedly tried to purchase the Caddy in 1948, but even this great general could not cut through all the bureaucratic red tape involved in making such a purchase from the U. S. Army. In 1957, anonymous friends purchased the historic vehicle at an army auction in Germany and gifted it to President Eisenhower at the White House. When he was surprised with it, newspapers reported that he responded with, “Oh, it’s my old command car, ” while smiling from ear to ear.

In 1957, this four-door Cadillac had 67,000 miles on it and a fresh coat of olive drab paint. It also had jump seats and a glass panel separating the front and rear areas.

A 2004 story from the Salina Journal describes some preservation efforts made necessary by the passage of time as well as years of being stored in a garage with the hot Kansas sunlight streaming in through many windows. At that time, steps were taken to clean and restitch the leather seats (using the existing holes) and to source and replace plastic parts like Bakelite knobs and some lenses. Some of the interior wood trim was also refinished.

This Cadillac is the very car that carried Eisenhower on the night of May 7, 1945, when he traveled to Reims and refused to meet with the Germans until they agreed to an unconditional surrender. If only this car could talk, the stories it could tell . . .

Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home

Revisiting Walter P. Chrysler’s Boyhood in Ellis, Kansas

Walter P. Chrysler was born in 1875 in Wamego, Kansas and grew up in Ellis. If you venture to that town, just west of Hays, you will find the Walter P. Chrysler Boyhood Home and Museum:

We were there on a very rainy day, but it was definitely worth the effort to see this well-maintained little museum. It is well known that Chrysler worked for Union Pacific before joining General Motors as works manager at the Buick plant, but Chrysler’s father, Henry, also worked for the then-Kansas Pacific Railroad as an engineer on wood-burning locomotives. As a teenager, Henry served as a drummer boy for the Kansas 12th Infantry during the Civil War, and the museum has a display of medals earned by him in that service.

Walter Chrysler developed his famous work ethic in Ellis where he worked as a delivery boy for the grocery store, pushing around a heavy two-wheeled cart after school and on weekends. Not surprisingly, he was also a good student and, apparently, a crack shot. A newspaper story from 1889 about the local Fourth of July celebration describes how the local gun club took part in a shooting tournament and suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of children. The “Kids” club won by a score of 62 to 51 with the high score, nine out of ten shots, earned by Walter Chrysler.

Chrysler married his childhood sweetheart, and, by all accounts, it was a lifelong romance. Her name was Della Forker. They had four children together and remained married until her death in 1938, two years before Walter Chrysler’s death.

There is only one car on display at the museum, a gorgeous 1924 Chrysler Six:

The Chrysler automobile debuted in 1924, making its widely heralded first appearance at the New York Automobile Show in January of that year. Papers reported that its reception “was probably the greatest and most enthusiastic ever given an automobile. ” The show was held in the Bronx, and “thousands upon thousands” of people swarmed to the armory to view the new reasonably priced Chrysler line-up:

Newspapers reported that the excitement was so intense the NYPD assigned motorcycle policemen to act as bodyguards for the demonstration cars giving rides to the clamoring public. Speed restrictions were also withdrawn so that the quickness and control of the cars could be showcased without fear of traffic citations. Chrysler engineers described the new car as one that improved upon automobile design in the following ways:

Elimination of practically all friction at the junction of moving parts; rapid, efficient and full power development through thermodynamics (the science of heat distribution in relation to power development)-a tremendously important engineering achievement; absolutely vibrationless power at any speed; achievement of 68 horsepower and a maximum speed of more than 70 miles per hour from an engine of only 201 cubic-inch displacement.

An entirely new spring arrangement, insuring riding comfort in a light-weight car; heavier crankshaft than in most cars of twice the weight, totally eliminating crankshaft whip and vibration; seven bearing crankshaft with shimless bearings; tremendous flexibility, both in the engine and throughout the car; more than 20 miles per gallon of gasoline; novel and improved methods of lighting control; filters through which both oil and air must pass, by which impurities in each are removed.”

The new automobile was a triumph for Walter Chrysler, and it was enthusiastically embraced by the car-buying public with sales records shattered in the process. Chrysler went on to take over Dodge Brothers in 1926 and Chrysler Corporation was soon part of the “Big 3.”

Walter P. Chrysler was a capable and hard-working executive known for his leadership abilities, good judgment and brilliant mechanical mind. Ellis, Kansas is right to be proud of its native son, and I appreciate their efforts to preserve history with the maintenance of this humble little home on the prairie.