As you may have noticed there have been no postings this week. Since I am posting now any question as to my demise should be resolved.
In retrospect I am not sure why the week seemed so busy. At the time, however, it seemed as though this was the most chaotic week of the year. So, a brief summary would be it was business as usual.
The Penske truck rental side of life, my primary source of income, was relatively slow until Thursday. Then it was as though the herd had been spooked or the migration began.
When I printed my reservation listing on Wednesday morning it showed ten trucks would be needed through March 1. On Thursday afternoon the reservation list showed twenty seven units for the same period. By close of business on Saturday, after renting a half dozen trucks, the reservation list showed a stunning twenty five trucks would be going out by the following Saturday!
Adding to the fun is this was also the week the great remodel began. I have little doubt that when it is finished this will be the classiest Penske location in the country.
The centerpiece will be a new shadow box counter with glass top where I can display a wide array of the automobilia and petrolania that currently resides in file cabinets. This stuff is meant to be displayed but to date this has not been possible with the exception of use as illustration in my books and articles.
Pictures will be posted on completion but that may be several weeks. In the mean time I will be operating from an old desk in the corner with a large portion of the office occupying the ladies room and the hall.
The owners goal is to convert the office into a mini museum of sorts. So, if you ever find yourself in Kingman stop by.
The rental car end of the business has been sluggish. There are, however, plans afoot to change this as well as promote the sale of a few books.
The yard at my wife’s mothers house is a never ending source of adventure. It seems there is no end to the surprises lurking in the brush.
The Jeep truck was my wife’s grandfathers truck. He bought it new at a local dealer in early 1961. As you can see to him a truck was a tool, not a styling statement.
He was a serious outdoorsman. After wearing out the old Hurricane six the truck received a 283 c.i.d. Chevy V8. For Harv, a gifted mechanic and master at making things work, the modifications were made without regard to looks. As a result the floorboards were cut and the radiator housing modified to make the engine fit.
When a winch was needed the front frame and grill were modified. Ditto for an extra fuel tank, custom holster for his pistol on the steering column and under seat gun rack.
The truck was parked in 1993 when the old Jeep was replaced by a Ford 4×4. With Harv’s passing the truck was left to my son. He recently sold it to a family friend so the sold truck is headed for Utah and a new life.
I wish Bill luck on this as it is the roughest truck yet encountered. Several times my son and I, with good intentions, planned on getting it running but a questionable trans, tired engine, frame with all kinds of welded modifications, frozen wheel bearing, a rear differential that screamed before being parked, wild array of wiring modifications, and questionable front differential kept us from doing more than opening the hood.
The pile of late 1920 Chevy parts is another interesting find. Most everything is in the pile with the exception of the frame, front axle and rear differential.
The components are in pretty good condition. The motor and trans were wrapped in a plastic tarp.
A friend of Joe’s, my deceased father in law, asked if he could store the stuff in the yard about thirty years ago. No living member of the family knows who it was and they have never come back!
The Ruxton story is a tragic one. Advanced features such as front wheel drive and rakish stylings were not enough to save the company. Its demise, after a very short production run, left Cord as the primary builder of front wheel drive cars in America. Collapse of the Ruxton dream also served as the death knell for Moon as well as Kissel.
*click on photos to enlarge
Wow! Another week has zipped by and the second month of the new year is about to become history.
For reasons unknown I try and detect patterns in the incoming and outgoing trucks at the office. All I have been able to determine is Americans are a restless lot.
The brake issue with Barney has been resolved. The rear brake shoes were defective with large pieces breaking off causing an occasional drag. This is the first time I have experienced anything like this.
As the weather was near perfect for a desert adventure, mid sixties with no winds, after
closing the office Saturday afternoon I decided to get started on the ghost town project. With an ice chest full of tea and fruit juice, the new camera and a fellow from work I set out with the family truckster (the wagon) to seek the ghosts of the Cerbats.
I started with Chloride, the sole survivor of a string of towns that once thrived in the foothills of the scenic, rugged Cerbat range. This small community dates to the 1860s but there are few vestiges that predate 1880.
Today the quiet town is a blend of miner shacks, a few old commercial buildings, fancy new homes, and hints that this place was once more than a
tourist destination or haven for retirees who crave the quiet.
The small, abandoned train depot is the most telling evidence that this was once a prosperous community. The station has served a wide array of purposes since trains quit running more than eighty years ago.
The vintage roadside stop that was Shep’s is now a small cafe known for its wide array of beers. The surrounding auto court house a few shops and the ancient visible register pumps out front are little more than props.
A grilled chicken sandwich, platter of sweet potatoe fries, cup of coffee and good
conversation set the mood for a relaxing afternoon. This is a favorite stop of mine and has been for a number of years.
My son and I used to come out here often. My wife and I had a memorable lunch here once. Most recently I bid adios to a good friend here before he relocated to the middle east (Nebraska).
On this trip we began with driving the dusty streets looking for locations that would best present the atmoshpere of the old town. The train depot became stop one.
Stop two was one of the old service stations. The building dates to the 1930s but the pumps were
about twenty years newer. The tracks in front are all that remain of a dreamers plan to offer tourist an opportunity to see Chloride from a train pulled by a mining donkey engine.
After wandering Chloride and playing with the new camera a bit we set out for the next stop, Mineral Park, on the old highway. This is always a pleasant drive.
Mineral Park was once the county seat. Little remains today as an open pit mine began operations near the town site in the 1960s and has since swallowed almost the entire
With a sturdy truck there are a number of roads that wind and twist into the towering Cerbat Mountains. One, Big Wash Road, is often passable by automobile and provides access to the Windy Point Recreation Area, a delightful camp ground that overlooks the wide Sacramento Valley that is rapidly being consumed by the cancerous spread of urban sprawl.
Time constraints and road conditions provided the excuse for skipping our third stop, the old town site of Cerbat. Extensive ruins and mine remnants from the past century fill the narrow canyon there.
A visit to Cerbat will require the services of Barney to negotiate the deep sands and ruts. Perhaps in a week or two.
A few years ago Chloride was a nest of vintage vehicles basking in the Arizona sun. Today, in an odd morphing, those old cars and trucks have been replaced by more modern cousins from the 1960s and 1970s.
Among the more interesting vehicles found on this trip was a short chassis Studebaker bus with Alaska plates. When was the last time you saw one of these?
I suppose it would be a worthy venture down memory lane to scan photos and post them here. Many of these appeared in an article I penned for Speical Interest Autos back in the early 1990s.
Some of the most memorable vehicles found on that trip were a 1942 Olds, a 1955 Chrysler station wagon, the Nomad III, a vehicle worthy of devoting an entire entry, a 1939 Packard with 1953 plates and a Desoto airflow carcass. Another was a 1958 Packard sedan with fiberglass hood.
Before the arrival of summer temperatures plans call for visits to a number of the towns along the river such as Swansea. This will be followed with ventures into the high country with stops at some of my favorite places like Crown King.
I had promised myself random thoughts and such would be saved for the week in review features. On occasion, however, I have a spare moment that can either be used for eating, the bathroom, random thinking, or a combination of these things.
At this juncture I should note that my thought process is a bit different than what is often considered normal. As an example when I see a package of blue berry muffins with a banner that says “now with real blue berries” it is impossible not to wonder what was in them before. When I see political candidates proclaiming to be the answer for a nation in trouble the thought comes to mind that they are the reason the country is in trouble.
Now, with that off center foundation let me pose a few questions that need to be asked. Perhaps these things are no big deal and only I feel they need to be asked. Perhaps the old Range Rider has to much time on his hands or has simply spent to much time in the sun.
We have some fine folks running around the country asking us to elect (hire) them for the position of president. This is a pretty important job with a great deal of responsibility so we should be very careful about who we hire.
I use the term “hire” loosely in regards to elections and politicians. I may write their check and they in turn pretend they are working for me with my best interest in mind. However, as they determine their own salary, exempt themselves from many of the regulations they burden me with, make up holidays so they can have longer weekends, and will get a pension for life whether they “work” for me four years or twenty, or even end up in prison this is really an illusion, a case of me fooling myself.
As I was watching the honorable Hillary tear up on television (wonderful performance, I must say) a couple thoughts came to mind. The top candidates have jobs they are being paid to do, ones we “hired” them to do. However, instead of showing up for work they take money from friends to cover expenses, a paycheck from us, and then travel the country looking for another job.
Even crazier is the thought that they are asking us to hire them for a job with even greater responsibility when they are proving and have proven to be incapable to do the job they currently have, the one we are paying them to do while they are off trying to get this other job. If you, or I, were to do this who in their right mind would hire us? Who is doing their job while they are out looking for another one? So why are we cheering these people on as though they were our favorite sports team?
Would we cheer the pick pocket who lifted our wallet? Would we cheer the car jacker? I know this world isn’t perfect but if we really think about this it would be like the Indians cheering for Custer, the British cheering the American victory at Yorktown, and the Arabs dancing for joy at the 1948 formation of Israel.
This line of thought led to this one. General Motors and Ford is on the fast track to becoming this generations Studebaker and Hudson. Keeping these legendary companies company on the road to ruin are other American icons such as Kodak.
In an effort to stem the hemmorage of cash the trend is to bring in a hired gun , usually with the lure of a hefty sign on bonus that is equal to the wages an average worker would make in twenty or thirty years, to streamline operations and return profibility to the company. More often than not the first order of business is to cut costs through lay off and liquidation of assets. In my way of thinking this is like a garage owner giving himself a raise and then to ensure the company remains solvent lays off two of his three mechanics, sells various assets such as the diagnostic equipment, and slashes the advertising budget. Huh?
This is not a new phenomena. Corporate intrigue, hostile take over, merger, short sighted management, greed, fierce competitive atmosphere, rapid technological advancement, and flim flam, these was the hallmark of the American automtive industry between 1910 and 1930.
It is for that reason if we as a nation were serious about restoration of American manufacturing, if companies were serious about remaining competitive as well as profitable they would learn from the lessons of the past.
After leaving General Motors Walter Chrysler became a hired gun that commanded a staggering salary for bringing companies back from the precipice and restoring solvency to near moribund manufacturers. When given the task of salvaging Willys his first order of business was to dramatically cut the salary of John Willys, namesake and founder of the company!
Charles Nash, during the infancy of his company, often worked on the floor shoulder to shoulder with labor to install new equipment or on the line. This allowed for a ground level perspective that allowed him to manage the company so succesfully it was one of the few automotive manufacturers to avoid red ink during the darkest days of the Great Depression.
Management of corporations today seem to have overlooked these stories and instead have chosen to use the playbook of a certain Mr. Durant, founder of General Motors. Sadly if they skip to the end of that book they will find ruin, corporate as well as personal.
It would seem the golden age of swashbuckling entrepreneurs is past. We have become a nation of corporate wimps without a social conscience dependant upon the government to level the playing field instead of assuming responsibility, on a personal as well as corporate level, for success.
Ransom Olds established schools to ensure his emplyoyees were educated. Studebaker initiated father and son apprentice teams. Henry Ford established a trade school that also taught personal thrift. They did this because it was good business.
Okay, my intent had been to keep this light hearted. As entertaining as the political season is, however, it is difficult to keep the happy face when I reflect on the current state of what once was a nation that served as a shining light unto the world.
I will now climb from my soap box and with the words of Will Rogers who said, to paraphrase, we have the best politicians money can buy, ringing in my ear give a short list of what needs to be done to fix things.
1) Stop whining – I have heard it said the definition of an idiot is someone who does the same thing over and over but is surprised that the out come is always the same. Every four years we have an election and in the years between we whine about who is in office. Please give some thought to the first sentence.
2) Reinstate common sense – we are a nation of diversity. However, to function as a unit we need a common language and common goals.
I promise that, to the best of my ability, there will be a refrain from ranting in the months to come. I must warn you this will be difficult when the politicians talk of a budget deficit and spend a billion dollars to get elected.
Keep smiling and keep driving. And remember, if Cord had not gone bust how would folks be able to ask when seeing a Cord, “a Cord, isn’t that built by Honda?’
*Photos courtesy of the Hinckley collection, Mohave Museum of History and Arts.