RE Hugh's Dry Swim-In extrordinaire

S

SplitPersonality

Guest
Those of you who, like I, were too far away to think of attending Hugh
Gordon's wonderfully described Dry Swim-In undoubtedly noticed a lady in the
office with Shellee in some of the pictures. I know that I pondered who she might
be. Ed Price mentioned to me that the lady was none other than Shellee's
mother who was helping to stuff Flyers and "get the office work done." Along with
this, Ed told me that she regaled him with stories about her days racing
British MG Sprites. As quiet as she may appear, she evidently has had a very
interesting life. This immediately reminded me of my own wife who seems
unassuming and quiet and who most would assume has had a normal quiet life except
for any excitement which might be associated with my eclectic activities and
interests.

My incurable disease related to antique and special interest automobiles did
not begin until I acquired my first vehicle - a sad looking Model A Ford
Rumble Seat coupe for which I paid out $15 to acquire when I was 16 years old.
From that day forward, I was hooked and the disease only progressed. I love
Model A's and Rumble seats and unusual cars and have been fortunate enough to
have owned a fair number and been closer than my hindsight likes to think of
owning a few more. A good example is two Tuckers which I discovered in 1961,
either of which were available to me for $4000 each. Of course, at that time,
I was in college, so I did not have $4000, and such a figure was the
equivalent of probably $50,000 today. Also, while in the Air Force in Germany, I
chanced upon a 1937 Horch in 1963 which had been stored since the war. ( Hitler
gave Eva Braun the very same model Horch ) It had spoked wheels and was a dual
side mounted roadster in excellent condition, except that it had not been
run since World War II. The major fly in the ointment was that I had never
heard of a Horch. By chance, I mentioned the car to a friend who was the son of a
Billionaire German industrialist and he informed me that Horch's were more
expensive than a Cadillac or a Mercedes and that his father had owned 3 of
them. This caught my interest, but of course, I was in the service and would
still have had to figure out where to store it - and that was just for
starters. I have left out the key detail. I have seen such cars (seldom) for sale or
in Auctions in the quarter million dollar range. The asking price on this
veritable jewel I found was initially $250 U.S. ! ( 1000 German Marks when the
exchange rate was 4 to 1 ) After learning that it was something special, I
went back and the owner had begun to think it must be worth more and raised the
price to $500. The long and the short of it is of course that I passed it
up. I do have pictures I took of it and a picture of the same model in
deplorable condition at Hershey a few years ago with an asking price in the Flea
Market of $125,000. So instead of owning the Horch, I brought back from Germany
at the end of my tour a gorgeous 1931 Model A Deluxe Phaeton and a very rare
Hebmueller VW Cabriolet ( a special bodied VW convertible that preceded
Karmann Ghias and which today is worth $30-50,000 if you could find one, as only
about 800 were ever built )

Anyway, my $15 Model A Ford got me started and I drove it for thousands of
miles. It ran like a clock and more than one person commented at traffic
lights how I really made that old car go. This preamble has been off my original
target for this letter. Conversations with others in the car hobby frequently
elicit the remark from friends about how fortunate I am to have a wife who
"goes along with or puts up with my hobby" or who takes part with me in a lot
of it. They are more than surprised to learn that first of all, of her own
volition, she is the one who has always kept our cars cleaned and polished and
vacuumed ( and I mean our modern cars and Motorhome, ) as well as our special
interest cars. She also picks up on the least little noise or rattle or
questionable sound and keeps after me to check it out, have it checked our
professionally, or to rectify it. Friends are even more surprised when they find
out that she used to drive a bright orange-red 1957 Chevrolet Hardtop on the
drag strips in the Powder Puff Derbies. It was emblazoned with "Carol's
Problem" on the sides. I talk to enough people who tell me candidly that they must
do everything on their cars themselves, that does not require a professional,
without their spouse's help and they tell me how much they envy me. Yes, I
recognize how fortunate I am and I count my blessings. It sounds like Shellee
and her mom are from the same kind of stock.

Not quite on the same subject, but maybe of interest. My father was the
oldest of 5 children and grew up very poor. Actually, were he alive today, he
would only have celebrated his 26th birthday, as he was born on February 29th in
1904. He had to quit school at the age of 14 to help support the family and
ended up working in the Maxwell Automobile plant in Detroit. One day when he
got off from the streetcar coming home from work, he decided to visit a Used
Car lot across the street and ended up buying a Model T Ford. Finally in
1938, after he managed to put himself through college, he bought his first new
car - a two door 6 cylinder Oldsmobile. We traveled all the way to Key West
and back in 1939 in what he called his "Trusty Olds" towing a 14 foot "house
trailer." My mother did not grow up as deprived, but at the age of 14 when
her father was then 75 years old, the family bought a brand new 1919 Center
door Model T Ford. My mother became not the "designated driver," but the ONLY
driver as she could legally drive at 14 back then and she was just a freshman
in High School. For all intents and purposes she had her own car. She talks
about having to jack up the rear tire in the winter and spin the wheel by hand
to get the motor started. Another time, she mentions in her diary about how
she and her mother together with a school mate drove the distance of 18 miles
in 36 minutes ! Wow ! An average of 30 mph ! Quite by chance, I have
twice met a lady at the Lake Mirror Classic who brings her beautiful 1915 Center
Door Model T which her father purchased the year she was born. She began to
drive it in 1929 when she was 14, the same age as my mother had been when she
began driving her family's essentially identical 1919 Center Door Model T. (
for car buffs, the only two door Ford built from 1915-1923 was the one with
one door in the Center on each side. You entered and then went either forward
or backward to your seat ) I encountered this lady again last October at the
Lake Mirror Classic when she was then 93 years old though she has not been
driving for several years now. This lady enjoys the comparison of her story to
my mother's. My mother and I both graduated from Royal Oak High School
outside Detroit, but 29 years apart and had several of the same teachers. It goes
without saying that I was blessed with two terrific parents who opened my
eyes to the limitless possibilities most people have available if one wants
something badly enough and works hard enough to reach their goal. My sailing
around the world on the Brigantine YANKEE, a 96 foot sailboat, for 2-1/2 years
is adequate testament to the wonderful life I have been fortunate to enjoy.

Vic Nelson with the 1967 "Split Personality" near
Daytona Beach
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