Car Auction Surprise

GRAHAM

A car enthusiast friend of mine sent a link to a car auction that took place last weekend November 3,4,5, 2011. It is the Lee Hartung collection in Glenview, IL. I learned that Lee Hartung collected anything that interested him. Most of it dealt with transportation, i.e. cars, trucks, airplanes, motors, toy cars, bicycles, motor cycles, out board motors.

He lived on a four-acre plot surrounded by upscale subdivisions and accumulated an amazing amount of junk since he started collecting in 1949. There were no upscale subdivisions in Glenview in 1949, so he got there first and did what he pleased with his piece of heaven. I spent an hour watching the videos on u-tube showing the various stuff. Today I thought, why not see if there is anything on the auction results. For fun, Google Results Lee Hartung Auction and look at some of the stuff and the prices it brought.

I had to learn about Lee Hartung. Who was he? What did he do for a living.  There is not much about the man, but I did find one news article that said he dealt in scrap metals and hauling. I guess there is money in junk. His collection is testimony to that.

All of this stimulated my memory to recall a work associate Carl Swanson telling me in 1964 that when he was young there was a car company for every letter of the alphabet. Carl was already sixty-eight when I met him so his youth went back to the nineteen ten through twenty period. I started a spread sheet and began listing American car companies by the letter of the alphabet. I thought I did pretty good listing thirty-eight cars and covering nineteen letters. Then I got the idea to Google American cars A to Z. I got a pretty extensive list, but the one I chose to study was the Wikipedia list of defunct United States automobile manufacturers. WOW! The list put me in shock.

Not only are there manufacturers for every letter of the alphabet there are hundreds of them. I counted seventeen hundred and ninety-four manufacturers. All out of business by bankruptcy or by assimilation into another company.

The early nineteen hundreds was a prolific time for car makers. Everyone had a better idea for how to make a car, but only a few have survived. When you think about it, there are only three manufacturers left in the United States, Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Between them they produce Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Dodge, and Chrysler. Eight out of seventeen hundred and ninety-four is a worse average than I had with my list.

Collectors have a long way to go to find a single item from each company. I think it would be just as hard to find a photo of all the defunct cars listed by Wikipedia.

What happened? Competition. The weak fell or were bought out. Currently the American car companies continue to struggle in the competitive battle against foreign companies to decide who will eventually win.

What is your guess? Will the United States automobile industry fade into oblivion, or will it survive for many more years?

Here is my list:

111107-American Car Companies A

A Revolutionary Car Design Era

the character Fonzie from the sitcom Happy Day...

Image via Wikipedia

Ford revolutionized car design in the nineteen forty-nine era. The forty nines were amazingly streamlined and beautiful. The stodgy look of the earlier designs lost favor to smooth flowing lines. The Mercury Division of Ford  hit a home run with its body style. The nineteen forty-nine through fifty-two Mercury is a favorite among hot rodders around the world. When chopped, Frenched,  and smoothed beyond its original flowing lines, the car transforms into fluid motion.

In the sit-com Happy Days the character Fonzi reminds me of a friend from my old neighborhood. The kids nick named him Dago. Dago’s  jet black hair swept back into a duck’s tail. He wore a black leather jacket and engineer boots decorated with chrome carpet tacks.  Dago became the inspiration for “The Fonz.” Dago drove a nineteen forty-nine Mercury coupé, jet black; what a car, what a character.

Recently, I had occasion to visit with Dago during a meeting of the kids from my old neighborhood in Burnside. His real name is Bob, and he is still a vibrant character with very black hair, and the same panache he had as a teen. This one is for you Bob.

My collection of Mercury’s from 1949-1952

I Love Cruise Night With Lots of 32’s and 34’s

There is something about nineteen thirty-two and thirty-four vintage Ford hot rods that turns me on. It must be related to the fact that those were the most predominant cars of my childhood. My dad never owned a Ford of that vintage but some of my neighbors did. Back then very few neighbors owned a car.

Maybe it is because as a lad of ten, I watched a seventeen year old kid who lived at the alley end of the block build a thirty-four three window coupé into a hot rod. He even took it to Bonneville and had a brass plaque proclaiming his ninety-three mph run. What ever it is, these cars turn me on. There is nothing more beautiful than a hot thirty-four coupé or a deuce sportster.

Here is a collection of the finest cars that visit Frankfort’s Cruise Night.

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