Saturday, February 23, 2008

History versus Retirement

This is a story for the Marmon News.

Stop right where you are. Step away from the car. Eeeeasy. Good, now put down the paint gun. Put it right on the garage floor. Kick it over here. OK, lets review what we have here. We don't want to do anything rash. We should talk about this and review how we got here.
I have had many old timers sit in my car, no I'm not talking about my fellow enthusiasts in the Marmon Club, I'm talking about the old timers that have seen my Marmon out and about and had to sit inside. They were kids when my car was bought by Grandpa Percy 93 years ago. They come shuffling up with their walkers and when they see my car their faces light up, they straighten up, and they never have any problem climbing up into my car. Men get in the driver's seat and women usually jump into the back seat. Everybody grins.
Then they talk. They talk about their memories of riding in cars way back when. They always talk about dating. They talk about their father's cars and how they wish they still had them. They talk about history.
A recurring story from many of the people sitting in my car is about a more recent period: the early fifties. The fifties was when the whole concept of 'antique cars' developed. Detroit was pumping out shiny new cars and everything pre-war were considered jalopies.
Because of the depression and the war, America went without many new cars for more than a decade
. So in 1954 you either had a NEW car or you had a really OLD car. If your family was lucky enough to buy a new car you were offered almost no trade-in for your family jalopy. Jalopies were available everywhere for very cheap prices.

Car enthusiasts were finding their teenage memory cars at attractive prices, but unfortunately, the cars were no longer attractive. They were rusted and beaten and had bald tires, but they were cheap.
There were three things that could happen to these cars.
1) They could be used as transportation and driven until they fell apart. (the Drivers)
2) They could be appreciated for the beautiful cars that they were and undergo meticulous restoration to better than new condition. (the Restorers)
3) They could be preserved as is by keeping the car in good operating condition and driving it as often as possible, but not rebuilding it to "better than new condition". (the Preservers)
There are advantages of each route based on the condition of the car and the personality of the new owner.
The old timers that sit in my car tell me about the fifties and how the two camps, the restorers and the preservers, both disliked the third group that was using and abusing the cars for daily transportation, but they had a particular problem with each other.
The restorers liked cars that showed them in all their glory and the preservers believed in preserving history without revising it.

The advantage that the restorers found is that ANY car could be restored, whereas a preserver needed something that could run and hadn't been abandoned in a orchard for any length of time.
The restorers could buy cars that had to be dragged out of an orchard for much less money than buying a "perfectly good" car from old Mr. Curmudgeon.
By the end of the fifties a third reason surfaced. Restorers found that they could sell their beautifully restored cars to ANYONE. Preservers could only sell their cars to other preservers or to a restorer. The preservers owned a lot of historical cars while the restorers made good money and got to own a lot of historical cars.
During the sixties every jalopy found was restored or was "going to be restored... someday".
This is what the old timers that sit in my car are grumpy about. None of the cars were preserved. They aren't allowed to sit in the "shiny" cars.
They lost the argument.

Some arguments are never forgotten. They keep being brought up again to be rehashed. The answer usually stays the same but the arguer has to try to state his case again.

This time they brought cash. They are putting their money where their mouth is. At the auction at Hershey last October there was a heap of a car on the block. A 1911 Oldsmobile 7 passenger Touring was sold for quite a bit of cash. It is relatively rare because out of 159 made, only three examples of this body style exists. It has only had three owners which increases it's value. It has never been restored and from the looks of it, it has never been preserved either. It is rather rough.
The people in the Marmon Club own very nice cars. Some restored and some preserved. A few of them haven't run in a long time.
There are many body styles that are one of a kind.
The ones that run are fantastic to drive. My Marmon can out perform some minivans and can cruise comfortably above any speed limit in the USA. There is the little issue with trying to stop with those skinny tires and mechanical brakes, but the screeching sound when the two rear tires lock up does get the attention of the car that pulled out right in front of me. Bad weather directly influences the enjoyment of driving, as does the cold, and the heat.
We need a lot of room to park. Our gas mileage is better than a Chevy Suburban and is much more fun to drive. And to park.
We love our Marmons in whatever condition they are in.
Now the owners of the ugly ones can take heart in the fact that there actually may be some retirement money hidden in your hobby. You guys have always told your wives that you will eventually make money from your cars, that they are an "investment". She never believed you, not for one minute.
We are all in it for the love of cars and the people that drive them.

Where am I going with this? I do tend to ramble, but I wanted to be a cheerleader. I want you to appreciate your car as it is, with all of it's flaws and personality. I want to let you know that the 'rough' 1911 Oldsmobile that sold at Hershey got $1.6 million.
Those old timers that told me "don't touch it, leave it alone" were right. Anybody want to buy my car?

The 1911 Oldsmobile Touring (More)


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