By Greg Riley
February 18, 2021
Happy February friends. I hope you have all been managing to stay warm. It has been bitterly cold in Richards Texas all week. In my almost 60 years I have never seen weather like this in Texas.
Note that there are several videos embedded into this post. Most are only a few seconds long, except for the Peterson Museum piece which is about seven minutes. Garagedlx.FM plays your favorite music 24/7. Follow the link above. My Saturday show Tales from the Garage is on temporary hiatus, I’m reformatting the show and it will be back very with new car reviews, great music, interesting guests, and lots of car talk.
Shivering in Texas
We were without power several times over the last week, hopefully it is back on to stay. Although, my hands are practically freezing working in the converted space I use as an office. Thankfully, our house is finally warm again and my family is happy and no longer cold and miserable. I have lived in hurricane country my entire life, and I believe in preparations. We do have a backup generator and were able to keep the center of house reasonably warm.
Many of our friends and neighbors were not as lucky as us with many suffering with a lack of heat, frozen pipes, and no water, in some cases people sickened or dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in desperate attempts to stay warm. Grocery stores are mostly empty, many went without medications (including me,) and vulnerable elderly and disabled people lost access to oxygen supplies and other critical medical devices. Do not believe the rhetoric of those folks tilting at windmills. This crisis was caused like most disasters by a cascading series of events made worse by incompetent and uncaring politicians and bureaucrats. This piece by the Texas Tribune clearly lays out the facts https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/
There have been lots of happenings over the last couple weeks. Once again, I’ll present this in magazine format as I bring you up to speed on all sorts of interesting things. BTW, my feline overlord Gizmo says hi!
Speaking of pets, allow me to introduce you to Jasper D. Dog, aka Thud Muffin. Jasper and his five siblings were dropped off by a neglectful pet-parent a few blocks from our home in Richards, Texas just before Christmas. We adopted one, and our other neighbors stepped up to find them all homes within a few days. The Vet says he is part Beagle, and I swear the other part must be Great Dane. He started out as tiny and cuddly, and now he is not so tiny, but still thinks he is. He got the nom de guerre Thud Muffin because when he gallops across the floor the entire house shakes. On the bright side he does love riding in the car.
I currently have a very beautiful 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa convertible in my shop. It has the 140 hp engine with four carburetors big valves, a wild factory Cam, and dual exhaust. I am overhauling and detailing the carburetors and adding a beautiful and precise aftermarket carburetor linkage made by Roger Parent. I will also be performing a major tune-up, detailing the engine and, tending to some other maintenance issues before returning it to its San Antonio owner.
I have made lots of progress on my personal 1968 corvair Monza convertible. The three-liter engine is installed and running well but I still have a few tweaks to make. I had a vision for a “one of none” interior, and the craftspeople at Ahira’s Upholstery are working on completing my vision in a very beautiful blue houndstooth material. You may recall they installed my StayFast top last summer. They are custom making the door panels, dash pad, and a one-off center console. They have done interiors in Pebble Beach winners and at other prestigious Concours events. I am fortunate they agreed to take on my lowly Corvair.
I expect to trailer this car to Florida and use it as my transport during the Amelia Island Concours d’Elégance and perhaps even enter it in the Concours d ’lemons. More on the Amelia event later. Maybe one day I will get a corvair on the Amelia show field.
I have also been working a new engine for our junkyard reject 1962 Corvair Monza club coupe with factory A/C aka Cinderella. I have virtually everything to assemble the new engine except the time to do it. Our car is a powerglide, and I’ve been wanting to convert it to a 4-speed.
I acquired some of the parts but was missing a few critical components. A few days ago, someone in Oklahoma offered some free parts from a car they were converting to a 4 wheel-drive by combining a ’61 Corvair Monza 4-speed with a Mahindra Roxor. My boys and I made a flying trip to OKC and scored the front and rear suspension along with a 4-speed transaxle with a relatively rare 3.89:1 differential gear. It also came with most of the engine (minus a head) that looks to be in excellent condition.
After seeing this car, I was a bit taken aback as I am certain it was a pristine 47k mile survivor down to the original paint in excellent condition. I would have offered to buy the entire car, but by the time I arrived it was already dismantled past the point of no return. I hated to see this car knocked in the head, but I scored some great parts for mine. Some must die, so others may live.
I recently bought a small shop press, and have been able to accomplish several pro jects I would have previously taken to the pros at Vila's Machine Works in Bryan.
In addition to being passionate about cars here at GarageDlx we have a thing for trains and antique engines. My son Brian (formerly Train Boy) acquired an early 1920’s Cushman one-lugger upright a couple of years ago. Other projects have taken priority until now. A few days ago, after much soaking with PB Blaster and heat we were finally able to remove the valve cage and perform an old-school valve job. On the third pull she fired up and ran after being dormant for about seven decades! We have several things to address including a cooling system before we can say she is fully operable. We may build a sort of old school gas buggy using this little engine. Think Quadricycle meets Rat Rod.
Out and About with Greg
I saw this Nail Salon recently…talk about truth in advertising!
I also spotted this Grand Wagoneer the other day. I can't remember the last time I saw one of these in the wild.
I frequently do appraisals and pre-purchase inspections of classic cars. Due to the circumstances over the last year these activities have been greatly curtailed.
I did just inspect a spectacular 1957 Chevy Bel-Air street-rod convertible. This car is being offered for sale by the estate of the owner. Send me a DM if you would like more information.
Concours d'Elégance Season is almost upon us!
Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elégance
The Keels and Wheels Concours d’Elégance in Seabrook Texas has been rescheduled for Saturday May 1st and Sunday May 2nd, 2021 at the Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook TX featured marques are pre-war Packard’s, Corvettes 1953-1970, Porsche 1948-1973, vintage motorcycles, and on the marine side Century and Yellow Jacket boats. Online advance tickets can be bought for $30 at https://keels-wheels.com/ or at the gate for $40, students 11 and older for $15, and kids at kids age 10 and younger or free. This is the can't miss Houston area classic car event. As always, I will be there with live updates and reporting on all the winners.
Amelia Island Concours d’Elégance
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance events are now scheduled for May Thursday May 20th-Sunday May 23rd at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Fernandina Beach Florida. We are all used to visiting Amelia in early Spring, but after the recent Texas weather I will be happy for some warm Florida days. Hispano-Suiza will be the “honored classic” of the event, and Gordon Buehrig’s Tasco will headline the weird and wonderful class.
Remember that Amelia has become much more than the main event at the Ritz-Carlton. There are auctions from Bonham’s, Gooding & Co., and RM Sotheby’s. The Porsche Club of America is tentatively scheduled to return to Amelia May 21st for the Werks Reunion. Wonder how they will feel about my Corvair in the parking lot, lol? In a future edition I will have more to share about Amelia week as plans solidify. Do not forget the Concours d’Lemons where you see some of the most unusual cars of the week.
Many Amelia events are open to the general public. Purchase tickets here.
What I’ve been watching
Class Action Park
Yes, a documentary about the most dangerous amusement park in America. I hardly know where to start except to say this was ground-zero for alcohol fueled teenage debauchery. The place that had the rides that Disney, Six Flag, and every other sane park operator rejected. The park had to have been backed by the mob. I cannot think of any other explanation for what went on including the forged insurance policies. Incredibly entertaining documentary, but also very sad. Highly recommended viewing.
How did I miss Peaky Blinders until now? Totally addictive. You know you’re in trouble when you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. Think Boardwalk Empire meets The Sopranos, with British accents. Makes me wanna get a buzz cut, don a Peaky hat, start chain smoking Woodbine cigarettes and wash it all down with good Irish Whiskey whilst driving a Bentley.
The Lady and the Dale
I just finished watching the four-part HBO Max special The Lady and the Dale. I know some of the subject matter regarding gender identity will make some uncomfortable, but this is a subject I have come to better understand over the last few years. I recalled this “car” from my very early automotive years as I read about it in Car and Driver magazine. As a young person I was really taken with the concept of the Dale. It looked like something that the ordinary person could think up and build. Today it seems a little nutty, but in the context of the 1970s fuel crisis the Dale may have had a shot. However, there are several great big “buts!”
You may not agree with my assessment of the Dale potentially being a success. If you look at the recent success of Tesla and some other automotive startups it does not seem so farfetched. The problem was the founder Elizabeth Carmichael faced some insurmountable obstacles and was in many ways her own worst enemy. Rather than raising money in a traditional manner as we would do today to fund a start-up, she just started selling options to buy cars, and even cars themselves that had not been produced. This is a legally dubious proposition at best.
Further complicating matters was that Elizabeth Carmichael was the former wanted felon Jerry Michaels. The story soon became about Jerry Michaels posing as G. Elizabeth Carmichael as a manner of hiding from his/her previous legal problems and to scam consumers and to possibly later reassume a male identity. Confused yet? If not, you soon will be. This is a subject that is somewhat difficult for me to talk about, but someone that was very close to me and influential during my early automotive years also transitioned from male to female. At the time this was a very painful thing for me, but I have come to realize that it really isn't about me or you, it's about the person being true to themselves.
Much was made about Elizabeth Carmichael and her sexual identity and in fact the news media soon made this the story with the car itself becoming a sidenote. Liz Carmichael lived out her life as a woman for the next 30 some odd years until her 2013 death which would indicate at least her gender identity was not a scam.
The Dale itself was quite a paradox in many ways; a three-wheeled car powered by a motorcycle engine was quite a novelty in 1974. When it was first conceived it was easy to dismiss it is little more than an automotive hoax or aberration. Liz Carmichael added to the controversy by making several outrageous claims about the car including that it was made from some new bulletproof and virtually indestructible plastic resin then, it would get 70 miles to the gallon and was the answer to the fuel crisis.
There were apparently three mockup vehicles made the first of which was basically a fiberglass sculpture, the second was a semi functional model which was shown extensively, and the third was apparently the only operable vehicle, and the only one ever tested. The location of two of the vehicles is known; the first is in the collection of Speedway Motors, the second in the collection of the Peterson museum. The third one was rapidly thrown together in operable condition for an exhibition to investors and for reasons that are still debated today was driven in an erratic manner that caused it to roll. This car is claimed to be in the hand of a private collector. I would be very curious to see this vehicle in detail to see how close they came to a marketable vehicle. Perhaps it will reveal itself at some future Concours event.
Speedy Bill Smith and Dean moon apparently had the idea of marketing the Dale is a kit car after they obtained the first prototype from the roof of a muffler shop. They realized that there basically was nothing there to work with they would in essence have to engineer an entire car. Photos show this as being a flimsy mock-up with zero functionality.
I find this ironic in the context of today's electric automotive start-ups, and vehicles like the Campagna T-Rex, Polaris Slingshot, and Can-Am Spyder all 3 wheeled vehicles of a very high-performance nature that are fantastic fun to drive. I have no doubt with further engineering the Dale could have been engineered into a 1970s equivalent delivering excellent fuel mileage, with stability and some basic creature comforts. I suspect as a three-wheeler it could have also side-stepped the crippling 1970’s safety and emission regulations.
Update, this afternoon 2/19/2021 Elektrek reported on the reconstituted Aptera, "Aptera solar electric car with '1,000 miles' of range gets $4M in backing, more than 7,000 pre-orders."
As they say, “woulda, coulda, shoulda!” Ironically, former employees, company lawyers, family members, and even law enforcement show grudging respect for G. Elizabeth Carmichael. If you get a chance check out The Lady and the Dale it is a very compelling story that is great commentary on the automotive business, society, gender identity, and the culture of the 1970s.
That’s all for this edition friends. Drive ‘em if you got ‘em, keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down. Three’s and eights good buddy. I will be in the white Corvair ragtop in the Bumper Lane with the Hammer down 10-4!