Ford’s handsome little Model A was one of the most successful and popular automobiles of all time. It had the right look, was the perfect size, and priced so the majority of American could afford one.
Although the Model A was only in production for a little more than four short years starting in late 1927 and ending in 1932, nearly five million had been built. What’s more amazing is the amount of different body styles it was available in, including two- and four-door sedans, coupes, phaetons, roadsters and cabriolets, most of which could be had in either standard or deluxe trim. Then there were the trucks.
For too long his father’s old Reo Flying Cloud has served as little but a brooding hunk of metal beside the family’s suburban home in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
He has petrol, spark plugs and enthusiasm – but it hasn’t run since before he was old enough to remember.
At this time Parkes is in his early 20s and life already has many ingredients of the American Dream.
He has ditched university for a career with McDonald’s, feet on the first rungs of a corporate ladder but heart set on owning one of the hot rod-era V8s that regularly shake the drive-through window.
His father, Don, is an engineer and there’s barely any distance between apple and tree when it comes to things mechanical.
The Reo’s straight-six coughs on its first taste of gasoline in more than two decades.
The last time it moved without the help of a tow was in the moments before Don was forced off the road into a ditch in ’53.
The front bumper was buckled and the wing bent – and with a growing family, a replacement vehicle with more seats was an easier prospect than repair.
And so the Reo sat, disturbed from its slumber only when the Parkes family moved home.
Like a stray dog it followed from garage to barn to driveway, including the one upon which it now sits rocking rhythmically to the tune of its tired starter motor.
Another cough. A longer splutter. Then it fires – filling the neighbourhood with thick white smoke, and Parkes’ head with dreams of a full restoration.
It was the beginning of a journey with the Flying Cloud that would go on to last most of a lifetime.
This Reo has been part of the Parkes family for longer than its owner – 71 years and counting – so he has lived a full spectrum of experiences with the coupe, from unexpected child’s toy to retirement plaything.
“My first memory of the car is in the family barn when I was about five years old,” he smiles. “We used to run up the fenders and leap off into bales of hay, hoping to avoid bruising from those great big chrome headlamps.”
At that time the ‘Old Brown Reo’, as it came to be known, was probably only about 20 years old, but such was the pace of car design in those days it already felt like a relic.
Living so close to Detroit, the streets were always full of the latest models and even though Parkes’ father was rarely in the market for new metal, he would frequently chop and change from used car lots.
Somehow the Reo lingered, in stasis between jalopy and classic.
“The first time we saw any value in it was in the early ’60s, when a guy walked past the house and offered my dad $1000 for it,” Parkes recalls. “I never thought to ask him why he said no; he worked six days a week and any time left was given to his hobby, flying planes.”
The car’s value – sentimental, at least – was creeping up.
Don had owned the Reo for only a few years before the accident, having traded down from a 1948 Buick with onerous finance repayments.
It had been well kept in the hands of a local doctor and perhaps he felt it too good to scrap, or that someone else would reap the benefit after an easy repair.
Either way, there was never an active decision to keep it, but equally no desire to let it go. Instead it waited for familiarity to mature into nostalgia, and for that moment in 1973 when Parkes would crank it over
The 1930s were a time of extremes. With much of the American population living in poverty due to the Great Depression, the extremely wealthy still existed in small amounts. The owner of this week’s Want found himself in the latter category — at least for a time.
William Randolph Hearst made a name for himself throughout the late 19th to early 20th century. Known for building a media empire and as a notable politician, Hearst was among the richest men in the world during his time. That is until he nearly went bankrupt in the mid-’30s due to poor money management.
During his time of wealth, Hearst was all about the extravagant. From fine art to a lavish castle in San Simeon, California, he had it all. All one needs to do is watch Citizen Kane to get an idea of how Hearst was.
While Hearst was at the 1930 Paris Auto Salon, his mistress — famed actress Marion Davies — saw the Model J on display. Not wanting to disappoint her, Hearst bought the vehicle and several months later it arrived in California.
Virtually anywhere Hearst and Davies traveled, the Model J came along with them. From nearly everywhere in Europe to all over Africa, the car saw more of the world than most of us ever will. The prominent New York Times automotive journalist and antique expert, Dennis Adler, concluded this might be the world’s most well-travelled Duesenberg.
That says something too, considering the multitude of high profile people who owned a Model J. From kings to dukes to some of the wealthiest families in the world, these cars made their rounds with long distance grand tourers.
When Hearst ran into financial problems, his Model J was sold off. Not much is known about the second owner other than he was probably a sailor. In 1954 though, Ray Wolff, the historian for the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club purchased the car for a mere $500.
A year late Wolff passed the car onto his friend Joe Kaufmann. Unless you’re a huge fan of cars coming out of Auburn, Indiana, this name might not mean anything to you. But for fans of all things Auburn Automotive Company, Kaufmann was the foremost expert.
This is not my story. I read a lot of it in Peter Drucker’s book, Adventures of a Bystander. It’s the story of Nicholas Dreystadt, and I consider Dreystadt’s life interesting and inspiring enough to pass along. But I’ll do it in my own words, because I think Mr. Drucker might be upset if I plagiarized him directly.
I should explain that Peter Drucker, who passed away in 2005, studied and wrote about business management. Business Week called him “the founding father” of that discipline. Before Drucker formalized management, business managers didn’t think much about the subject. And in the course of his 95-year life, Drucker advised international leaders, including three of our presidents. He studied the workings of major industry leaders, taught at Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence, Claremont, and NYU. He wrote 81 books and received 10 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
What caught my eye in Adventures of a Bystander was the chapter in which he talked about General Motors. Mr. Drucker wanted to study GM to discover how it was organized and how it ran itself. In doing so, he contrasted the management styles of two divisional “presidents,” what we now call general managers: Marvin Coyle of Chevrolet and Nicholas Dreystadt of Cadillac. Both names were familiar to me, but I hadn’t known much about either man.
According to Drucker, Marvin Coyle ran Chevrolet with a heavy hand. His people were generally afraid of him, and he was very much the off-putting autocrat. Dreystadt represented the opposite: easygoing, friendly, good-natured, casual, with a good sense of humor. Coyle, though, had built Chevrolet into GM’s powerhouse—the corporation’s main source of income—and despite being dictatorial, Marvin Coyle earned the respect of his peers.
I think it’s time for something old. Really old. Like 1930s and pre-War ’40s old. We’re talking Muroc dry lake and the birth of hot rodding–though not by that name, yet. The Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), the first “umbrella” organization gathering dozens of already existing roadster clubs, was formed in early 1938.
Also, for me, it’s time for something a little simpler. It just is. So what I decided to do was another “one proof sheet” column. That is, all the photos you see here today came from one roll of 35mm film, in this case 35 exposures, contact-printed (actual film size) on one 8 x 10 sheet of photo paper. These are analogous to thumbnails on your computer. They’re about an inch wide, and you really need a loupe magnifier to see them clearly.
So I went to my files, opened a drawer marked B&W Negs, and then selected a file marked “Early Lakes.” There were about 100 proof sheets in it. But I know what most of them are, and what I was looking for–an old one with notes written on the back. I’m really not into doing research this week.
I found it quickly, and the first note on the back said, “All photos ’39-’40.”
But a quick scan through them showed me that wasn’t quite correct, since the photo above was listed as “Strokers club from Whittier/La Habra at Irvine Park ’47(?). All cars raced lakes, too.” That’s probably correct. You’ll note all are A and ’32 Ford roadsters. There were more in other shots. And I’m pretty sure this was Frank Currie’s club, and also pretty sure that’s who had all these photos and let me copy them with my camera. Besides building 9-inch Ford rearends, Frank was a consummate hot rodder all his life.
I should also explain that (a) I shot this roll of film, developed it, printed the proof sheet, and wrote the notes on the back 45 years ago. Wish I had a loupe that would sharpen my memory. And (b) not only are some of the notes hard to read, but some photos don’t have any. But given those caveats, let’s just dive in. This will be primarily a picture show, and I’ll relate what I know (or don’t) as we go.
Second video from Astra-Werke and the story of his 1930 Model A
Description from Astra-Werke
This is my second video on the 1930 Model A Coupe. Today, I’ll try to answer your questions and give some information about the car, regarding the background, maintenance and performance. It’s become quite a long one, so here are the Chapters: 0:00 Intro 1:35 My Story 9:41 The car’s Story 14:14 Repairs and Maintenance required 23:41 Performance: Positive Aspects 31:01 Performance: Negative Aspects Enjoy!
These days, it is a common practice for automotive companies to sell the same car under many names. Take, for example, Volkswagen Golf. If you want a more premium version, you can buy Audi A3, and if you don’t have enough money to afford a Golf, the Skoda Octavia is the way to go.
From the outside, these cars are completely different but from the technical point of view, the three cars are almost identical. Globalization, as they call it, leads to the situation when bigger and more successful car companies get over the small ones, which in turn has its effect on production. Smaller companies get access to new technology, and the bigger ones increase their profits and market share.
However, it was completely different 85 years ago. To use someone’s successful products, you’d have to purchase their technology. And so it was for the USSR in 1929 when the Soviet government decided that it was time for the country to start mass production of its own cars. The government signed a contract with Ford Motor Company, and a factory was built near modern Nizhny Novgorod, called Gorky back then. The plant was named GAZ, short for Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (Russian for ‘plant’ or ‘factory’).
The car you see here is GAZ Model A, the first Soviet mass-produced passenger car. And yes, it does look like a clone of 1930-31 Ford Model A Standard Phaeton…because it is one.
This impressive Gulf Oil Company service station located in an unknown area of Philadelphia, PA, was designed in the manner of the then-popular Streamline Moderne architecture. This form of building construction was fashionable from the mid-1930s to the ’50s, both here in the US and around the world. The “Good Gulf Nonox” neon sign out…
Before there was NASCAR, before twisting race tracks were known for their road-racing antics, and almost before the Indianapolis 500, there was Elgin, Illinois. Located roughly 35 miles from Chicago, Elgin was the place where speed came of age, and terms such as “stock cars” were used in their truest sense.
We often think of hot rodding as a post-WWII phenomenon, but if one traveled the streets of Elgin, even before the first World War, you might have a different reality. Starting in 1910, the streets of Elgin, Illinois would once a year, turn from the typical commuter route to a roaring race track featuring some of the biggest names in racing. Noted drivers such as Eddie Rickenbacker, Cliff Durant, the son of GM founder, Billy Durant; Ralph DePalma, and Fred Frame all competed with others on this early version of automotive competition.
The Elgin Road Races were held in 1910-1915, 1919, and 1920. They were halted during World War I and were only brought back after the 1920 race as part of the World’s Fair that was being held in Chicago in 1933. In 1933, there were actually two races held. There was an “open” class, which was won by Phil “Red” Shafer, and a “stock car” race, comprised of production vehicles powered by engines less than 231 cubic-inches. It was during this race that this particular car came into prominence. One year after Henry Ford introduced the all-new flathead Ford V8, several automobiles powered by this new engine were dominating the twisting course at Elgin. The video below shows antics from both classes of cars during that race.
Walter P. Chrsyer with his first car in 1924 and with Straight 8 in 1930. Then see Chrysler factory building cars and coming off the line. The Straight 8 and other Flathead 6s and 8s gave way to more powerful engines in the 50s for cars but survived as reliable powerplants for industrial and other applications. The film also shows manufacturing and a new DeSoto.
To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: