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By profession John Klink was a photographer. He was also Dansville’s incarnation of P.T. Barnum.
A growing fascination with automobiles led to a fortuitous discussion with Harvey Toms, the towns handyman and tinkerer who specialized in bicycle repair, which in turn led to the construction of an automobile for Mr. Klink. After driving his car for the first time on July 8, 1906, Klink decided to initiate immediate production.
Step one was the acquisition of a partner, Charles Day. Step two was organization of the company, Klink Motor Car Manufacturing Company, and the sale of stock to local residents and at least one hapless relative in California.
In March, 1907, the company leased a former chair manufacturing facility and fifteen men, including Harvey Toms as foreman, were hired to initiate production. In May the first Klink rolled from the factory, was driven to the railyard, and was shipped to the California stock holder.
After extensive promotion John Klink and three automobiles went to New York for the big debut at the auto show. Though it was an assembled car the press reviews were favorable. This as well as success in several local hill climbing events presented management with the illusion sales were about to soar.
Then in the summer of 1909, the company imploded; John Day walked, total sales of less than twenty cars led to an inability to pay creditors or meet payroll. On September 25, 1909, Klink had exhausted all options with exception of one, closing the doors.
In early 1910, an effort was made to revive the company and two cars were built from parts on hand. The paint had yet to dry on the cars before Klink pulled the plug and returned to photography.
The unsold cars were stored in the barn behind Klink’s photography shop until 1934 when the new cars, never driven, were sold for scrap. John Klink tried a few other endeavors such as a coffee substitute before being killed in an automobile accident in 1940.
Today the Klink is less than an historical footnote in the colorful annals of automotive history.
It was the spring of 1904 when “Shorty” Harris and Eddie Cross were winding up another prospecting venture, this one in the remote, barren Amargosa Desert east of Death Valley. The trip had been uneventful and unsuccessful.
Then came an afternoon break on a lonely hillside overlooking the valley. Their chance discovery that day launched the last great gold rush in the southwest and gave rise to what would become one of the most amazing ghost towns in America.
By 1907, their claim, now the Bullfrog Mine, and other mines in the surrounding hills were supporting a booming community that featured the latest of amenities including public swimming pools, a school, and a railroad depot that connected the community of Rhyolite with Las Vegas and Goldfield. This was a town of substance.
One bank tower was three stories in height, was built of masonry construction faced with cut stone, featured marble floors as well as an elevator and the cities post office in the basement. The town was growing at such a pace the school, another masonry structure, was deemed to small before it was completed. So, a second larger school was constructed.
The financial panic of 1907 and the great San Francisco earthquake devastated the banking industry in the Great Basin. This, as well as exhaustion of profitable ore bodies, were the brakes that halted all development in Rhyolite.
Before the new school was completed the town was in a precipitous slide. In early 1909 the population was estimated at 10,000, by 1912 the number had dropped to less than 100.
Today Rhyolite, four miles west of Beatty, Nevada, on highway 374 is a photographers paradise with stunning desert landscapes framed by towering ruins. Seeing the ruins against a starlit desert sky is truly breathtaking.
The lost city of Rhyolite is a must see on any visit to Death Valley.
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The photos for tonight’s post are of a 1927 Rickenbacker and 1924 Chandler respectively. These photos will be the accompanying illustrations for forthcoming Independent Thinker columns which are regular features I pen for Cars & Parts.
Both cars represent the closing years of an era when it was the independent thinker that determined the direction of the American automotive industry. The more I delve into the history of this period the more convinced I become that if the American automobile industry is to survive the time has come for a return to the type of independent thinking represented by these two automobiles.
Today these automobiles, or more specifically these photos of automobiles, represent a new chapter in my never ending learning curve. The past few evenings have been devoted to learning the intricacies of a photo scanner and these are the result.
There is a link between my need to learn the intricacies of the modern electronic age and the early independent thinking automotive manufacturers. That link is the ability to embrace modern technology, be optimistic about the future, and to learn from the mistakes of others.
On the Route 66 front plans are afoot to resurrect the Route 66 Association of Kingman. The organization was born of frustration with the state association more than a decade ago. It died on the vine with disorganization and a revitalized state association that transformed the Fun Run into an icon.
Other exciting news on this front includes a motorcycle tour that will be following the entire route in mid July. As many of the participants will be from Europe I am eager to get a first hand account of their impressions of Route 66 and the American legend that is Harley Davidson as the Road King will be the primary bike of choice for their trip.
Several weeks ago I promised several special posts. This weekend I will keep that promise with a detailed photo essay and travel diary of the legendary family truckster, a sneak peak at my forthcoming book, Ghost Towns of the Southwest, and an update on Route 66 Backroads.
An added feature will also debut this weekend – original Route 66 and southwestern photos available as prints for framing. As they say in the funny papers – stay tuned.
Isn’t life grand! From the post fifty perspective that is the lesson learned from surviving the past half century. There is, however, one caveat. First, we have to learn how to live.
More on this in a moment but first we need a reference point. In this case it is merely the word “simple”.
Consider this period advertisement for Pierce-Arrow. In the long annals of automotive history has there ever been advertisement as simplistic as this?
No long winded prose, no stunts, just understated elegance. Advertisement such as this was the rule not the exception for many years at Pierce-Arrow and yet the company was one third of the Peerless and Packard monopoly of the luxury car market.
The Corvette and Chrysler advertisement follow this theme though not as sedately. Simplistic promotion of a dynamic product in an era of Fifth Avenue devised flamboyance enabled these to stand out fr
om the crowd.
The promotion for Route 66 and Route 66 themed products has not been as restrained. In this scenario it is the product that is simplistic in nature, at least that is the perception that has been nurtured.
Herein lies the answer to most questions as they pertain to life on planet earth – keep it simple. In relationships or automobiles, jobs and the things we buy keep it simple.
If you are not familiar with the concept of keeping it simple or or are not sure how to break the hold of hustle and bustle the modern era has on you, here are some simple beginning steps.
Find an old highway, preferably one like Route 66 and drive without thought as to destination. If your worried about the price of gas skip a few meals at McDonald’s or a couple of Starbucks coffees in the weeks before you go.
Don’t plan beyond ensuring the car won’t become a search and rescue vehicle (if you leave town they will have to come search for you and rescue you). Simply get out of bed, go through your morning routine, get into your car, back out of the drive, and go.
Eat one meal on the road. Find a little cafe or coffee shop where you have never stopped. If the budget is tight make it pic nic fare the rest of the day.
Turn off the air conditioning and roll down the window for at least a few miles. Take in the smells as well as the sights.
If this becomes an overnight adventure stay the night in an old mom and pop establishment or camp at a KOA. In either case your anecdote bank will be full when you return.
Bring a camera so you can prove to yourself and others that what you saw was real. Photos will also help overcome those moments filled with complexity that threaten your new found quest for simplicity.
If possible bring a friend to share the memories. If you don’t have friends then make rectifying that a goal before the next adventure and in the mean time make new friends on the road.
Step far from your comfort zone. Order foods you have never tried, talk to folks you normally avoid, and seek out the kitchy sites often avoided.
Last, but not least, leave the watch at home, turn off the cell phone, and slow the pace. Sit on the hood of the car and watch the cars go buy, turn off the car and listen to the sounds of a desert night, stretch out on the hood and stare into the star lit sky, and take the time to walk shaded paths.
Dependant on how deeply your immersion into complexity is, it may take a trip or to before you get the hang of it. Don’t despair, just keep trying until you realize that you are having fun without meaning to, until you find yourself wearing a silly grin more often than you wear a pained grimace, and until you understand the meaning of songs like Get Your Kicks on Route 66.
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As my automotive interest centers on vehicles built in the United States before World War II, I often receive odds and ends as well as photographs to identify. This one was forwarded by Brad Bowling, editor of Cars & Parts.
Initially my thought was the radiator badge looked Stutz. Enlarging the photo changed my mind. Other interesting attributes are the shape of the front fenders, the V8 engine, and side cowl vent.