Thursday, September 23, 2010

High Desert Swap Meet 2010, Part 1: The Nash and the Model T


Mac and Lucille Clark lived across the street from us. Two daughters, Linda and Joan. Small, no, eentsy Montana town.
Mac was something of a genius, but not eccentric. His work ethic had him at the shop early and home late. He had a Nash.

When I espied this beauty at the HDSM, I was lurched back to that Norman Rockwell childhood and the Clarks' blue Nash. In it, you lifted the shift knob toward your face to engage the starter. Clever. That way, you could never start it in gear because the switch wouldn't work if the stick weren't in neutral.

The owner of this Nash had some brags: "First car ever designed in a wind tunnel," he proclaimed. He started it up; it purred. "Look at that exhaust manifold, cast right into the block!" That took some reflection. It seems like a good idea, but I'm not sure why it didn't become typical. Some expansion/contraction issues, I suspect.

Then there was the cluster of Model Ts.

Tack, or was it Spike, Van Cleve had a Model T, open touring car. He couldn't afford tires for it so he drove it on the streets of Big Timber on its rims. But it ran! Though the word is overused, the T is an icon. Not just of transportation in the United States, but also of manufacturing. A cursory study of the T will take you many directions: society, class, moguls, money, power, innovation, politics, labor, diversification, and on.

There are always questions when you come upon vintage or unusual vehicles (And there will be several more HDSM interrogatory-laden posts on this blog as time goes on) but this one is unusual:

"Why so cheap?"

These cars appeared to be in running condition. They looked original, not gussied up to some level of perfection simply not achieved in the first decate of the 20th century. One sign said $6500. Another, $6000. I found the owner, posed the question.

A genuine look of sadness crossed his face. He paused, looked down, then looked me in the eye: "I think it's because these younger people aren't interested in finding out about these cars."

Any color, as long as its black. The color of mourning.
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