Car guys and gals come in all forms. Some of us are the hands-on types, and can tear motors down or make aesthetic repairs. Others can tell what American production car was the first to have one horsepower per cubic inch. Some own cars, others long to add one to their garage. Some race, some drive, some polish, some are purists and others are customizers. Car lovers are as diverse as the types of cars on the road. However one truth holds evident of all car guys and gals; most stories—major life events, professional milestones, family vacations, or witty anecdotes—involve cars.
This holds true for me. Car stories passed between members of my family have inspired and informed my love of the automobile. From my grandparents’ first date, which took place in a 1936 Plymouth and involved them getting stuck in the sand on the East End of Long Island, to the memories I make at car shows with my own kids, cars serve as touch points, active participants, the cause of joy, and sometimes the source of frustration when recalling life’s moments.
The DPLA is an incredible source for research on to cars stories, be they related to personal stories, historic milestones, or just a glimpse into car culture.
Below are some of the car related selections I came across in the DPLA that I found interesting.
Oh yeah, and if you want to impress your friends…the 1957 Chevy with optional fuel injection featured a 283-cubic-inch engine with 283 horsepower.
1. [Peerless auto plant.] No. 40 : interpositive, 1909
One cherished family photo I have is of my Great-Grandfather behind the wheel of a 1909 Peerless Automobile. He was a chauffeur for a family that ran an iron works in Brooklyn, NY. The Peerless, along side the Packard, and Pierce Arrow, made up the the “P’s,” and were considered the finest, and most expensive, cars built before World War II. My grandmother’s stories have led to a fascination of the role of chauffeurs during that time as well as Peerless automobiles. A quick search of DPLA led to 43 images of 1909 Peerless, including 40 images of the interior of the factory that show the hand built nature of these automobiles.
2. Route 66 Pavement, 1932
While working towards a Masters Degree in Museum Studies, I interned at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. I was tasked with finding 1930s-era artifacts for the exhibit America on the Move, a substantial reimagining of the NHAH’s transportation hall. The last week of my internship, a gentleman from Oklahoma contacted me to let me know that one of the last remaining original sections of pavement was being removed for a widening project. I presented this opportunity to the team, and within a few months, both lanes of about 48 linear feet had been collected and transported to the museum. It is currently installed in the exhibit for guests to walk on.
There is an equal amount of truth and myth when it comes to the short history of Preston Tukers Tucker Torpedo. One of the first truly all-new cars developed after World War II, a Security and Exchange Commission investigation of fraud, and some say a conspiracy by the big three automakers, halted production at 51 units, and although Preston Tucker was acquitted, the company never recovered. While working in Alexandria, Virginia, I had the pleasure of meeting David Cammack, the world’s premier collector of Tucker Automobile memorabilia. He was kind enough to spend an afternoon showing me his collection, which comprised of three Tuckers, one test chassis, several prototype motors, and countless documents and artifacts related to the Tucker. His collection now resides in the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
4. Etheredge Motor Company and Columbia Motor Company, automobiles
I find photographs from the early era of the automobile fascinating. In the first decade of the automobile industry, cars were far from standardized. Countless configurations existed, including body sizes, shapes, and even how gears and pedals operated. Almost every city had a tinkerer assembling cars and launching their own automobile company. The cars in this photograph are a few examples of the wide variety of body types available. It is unclear if the Etheredge Motor Company and Columbia Motor Company are manufacturers or dealers, but painted on the building’s window is Regal, Marmon, Maxwell, and Cadillac, all prominent cars of the day. Only Cadillac would make it past the depression.
5. Buy a Part for Our Jeep
The Jeep, originally designed by American Bantam, but built by both Ford and Willys during World War II, became an icon during the war. Here it is used as a fund raiser to buy war bonds. Of note in this piece is the up-front nature in which the cost of each piece of the Jeep is laid out, and how buying bonds can help fund the overall construction of the vehicle. The goal of this poster is for it to be used in the classroom as a “game” leading to a bond drive being held in the school.
At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, I get to work with some of the sport’s legends. Watching footage of them racing at their prime is always exciting. This clip from 1967 shows many NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees in action at Atlanta Motor Speedway, including Richard Petty in the blue #43, David Pearson in the white #6, and race winner Cale Yarborough in the #21 driving for Hall of Fame team owners Glen and Leonard Wood of Wood Brothers Racing. As well as other notable racing legends including Mario Andretti in the #11 and Buddy Baker in the #3.
7. Stock Car Racing, circa 1964
This image shows the number 94 of Banjo Matthews being worked on at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Matthews drove this 1961 Ford in the Dixie 400 on September 17, 1961, and finished 11th after leading 143 laps of the race. Engine trouble wound up knocking him out of the race on lap 262 of 267. Matthews is better known as a car owner and fabricator, fielding and building cars for some of the most successful drivers of the sport.
8. [Wrecked Vehicle]
Some of NASCAR’s early starts were former moonshine runners. This photograph demonstrates the perils of the illegal transportation of liquor. The amount of detail provided by University of North Texas Libraries in this photo is great, and gives a good account of the dual lives of shine runners in the community.
9. Body of Mrs. Meredith Jean Prestridge found in trunk of car in Inglewood, 1959
1957 Plymouths are one of my favorite cars, however as much as I might want one, I think I’d pass on this one which has a dead body in the trunk.
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