The Vintage Automobile Club of Ocean County, NJ welcomes you.
I am somewhat of a history buff; not all periods of history, just the periods
which interest me most. I know almost nothing about the Civil War or World
War I, but I do know a lot about World War II for two reasons. One, the war,
and what led up to it was just such a huge undertaking. And Two, my father
was a combat vet, having served in Europe. I know more about WWII than
Vietnam, which is strange because I fought the North Vietnamese. Well, I
fought them from a Motor Pool in Germany only using my weapon once—for
target practice—I ate three good meals a day and slept on a comfortable
bed, but still, I could not quote you the exact incident that cemented our
involvement in Vietnam.
When it comes to the automobile, I am much more the history buff. And in
a way, so are you. You own a tangible piece of history. Always beautiful,
sometimes stubborn, cantankerous, problematic, and downright frustrating,
our cars are a reflection of who we are, and most certainly who we were and
where we came from.
The text books we had to memorize in school would like us to believe that
history was straight forward. There were no detours, no side roads, no
misunderstood facts. But all of history has twists, Twistory, if you will. Facts
behind the facts. And automotive history is chock full of “Twistories”.
This column isn’t big enough to include all the variables of what, how, or
when the automobile got its start, but here’s two examples.
Karl Benz received a patent in December 1886 for his gas powered
horseless carriage, and in the process he went down in history as the
inventor of the first gas powered automobile. The car was far from perfect,
and in his first attempt to drive the car he crashed into a tree. Following more
tinkering, he thought he had it right, and as much of a genius he was building
his car, he was a poor marketer. Having little faith in his own invention, he
was ready to give it all up. However, Karl’s wife, Bertha, came to the rescue.
Without telling her husband, she loaded her two teenage sons into the car
and drove it 60 kilometers to her mother’s house. She proved that Karl’s
invention was roadworthy, and the rest is history.
In the late 1800’s, brothers James Ward and William Doud Packard had a
thriving business making electric wiring. Their major stockholder, George
Lewis Weiss, owned a Winton automobile. The Winton began production in
1897. The Packard boys took a ride in Mr. Weiss’s Winton, and they deduced
the car had several problems, and they then presented those problems to
Alexander Winton, who promptly got his dander up and said,
“If you think you can build a better car, then go do it!” The Winton ceased
production in 1924. The Packard, as you know, lasted a lot longer.
Here’s a story that’s not really automotive history, but it may be a story
you’ve never heard.
If you eat Pringles Potato Chips, you know there is a face on the can with
a large mustache. If you watch My Classic Car, you will notice that the host,
Dennis Gage, has a handlebar mustache. Coincidence? No. Dennis Gage
has a double Ph.D. in chemistry and was at one time employed by Proctor &
Gamble, the makers of Pringles. Dennis Gage was part of a team that
developed Pringles. Hence, it’s his image on the Pringles Can…
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