A Tale of Ambition, Daring and Vision

A Tale of Ambition, Daring and Vision

According to legend Floyd Clymer received recognition as America’s youngest automobile dealer by Teddy Roosevelt. That is an example of what happens when you have a father that encourages, teaches with hands on experience, and instills a sense of self confidence.

With his father’s assistance, Clymer had his own dealership selling cars manufactured by REO, Cadillac, and Maxwell by the age of eleven! Clymer’s amazing career was diverse and his life was lived in the fast lane. He set speed records with motorcycle and automobile racing and spent a bit of time in prison. He pioneered the mail order auto parts business, laid the groundwork for a thousand cottage industries, and transformed the publishing industry.

And on a recent episode of Car Talk From The Main Street of America, a podcast from Jim Hinckley’s America, I shared a bit of Clymer’s story and suggested that people do some reading about this fellow that was possessed with ambition, daring and vision.

After a number of false starts, hiccups, frustrations, and months spent with a seemingly endless learning curve, podcasts (as in two) are now an integral part of the diverse Jim Hinckley’s America network. As with everything we do the idea is to share America’s story, to provide communities as well as authors and artists with a promotional boost, to inspire road trips and visionary thinking, and to tell people where to go.

Embedded players on the website allow people to enjoy both programs at their convenience, or to share them with friends. Likewise with archiving the progams on Spotify and other major podcast platforms.

Coffee With Jim has morphed into a replacement for the popular live video programs that was shut down unceremoniously when Facebook locked the Jim HInckley’s America page. The live stream program on Podbean, Sunday mornings at 7:00 MST, is travel centered. The interactive format usually adds an interesting dimension.

And for 2023, we are taking the program in a new direction. We are FINALLY able to begin adding guests on a regular basis. We attempted this about a year ago with Whitney Ortiz, the dynamic tourism director from Atlanta, Illinois.

But as I said, there has been a steep learning curve for someone that identifies as modern Amish. And that takes us to a new year and new opportunities.

Gregg Hasman (better known as Highway Hasman) will be our guest on the February 5th program. Hasman is a good friend and a fascinating young man that is an exceptionally talented photographer. He has a gift for turning a phrase and so is viewed, in my opinion, as a gifted writer. As a bonus he is an inquisitive fellow with a passion for road trips. So, this should be a rather interesting program.

And then on March 19th we will have a very special guest, Stephanie Stuckey. She is the CEO of Stuckey’s and a board member of the Society for Commerical Archaeology. So, who has fond memories of pecan logs and a stop at Stuckey’s onepic family road trips?

Car Talk From The Main Street of America is still in a formative stage. But working with producer Stan Hustad a good quality program is being developed. In essence the program is about the past, present and even the future of the auto industry. We discuss all facets of this topic from Route 66, road trips to museums, personalities such as Louis Chevrolet and Lee Iacocca, the evolution of electric vehicles, and events. Now, we just need some guests and help growing the audience.

Both programs are sponsored in part by Visit Tucumcari. We strive to give promotional partners a bang for their advertising dollar, and I am confident that this podcast will catch on soon. If you have a chance take a listen and give us your two cents worh.

No Hill To Steep, No Sand To Deep

No Hill To Steep, No Sand To Deep

The 1913 Chevlon Canyon Bridge in Arizona, the first highway bridge built in the state.

Floyd Clymer’s obsession with all things automotive was not unusual for a young man during the first years of the 20th century. What was unusual was his entrepreneurial spirit made manifest in the establishment of a successful  automotive dealership before reaching his teens and inspiring exploits such as participating in a cross country race from Denver to Spokane with his older brother at age nine.

The period between 1885 and 1930 was an era of unprecedented transformation. Not a single aspect of American society was untouched. Swashbuckling entrepreneurs were building industrial empires by manufacturing what had not existed five years prior. The owners of electric taxi cabs and buses competed with the owners of horse drawn hansom cabs. As late as 1916 in northwestern Arizona, teamsters with 20-mule teams and drivers of stagecoaches shared the road with an ever growing number of “automobilists.” Geronimo, the legendary Apache warrior, was photographed in a Cadillac. Blacksmiths became auto mechanics and livery stables transitioned into auto dealerships.

Buffalo Bill Cody at the tiler of a 1903 Michigan. Photo Jim Hinckley collection.

In the late 19th century, the exploits of Buffalo Bill Cody chronicled in dime novels ignited the imagination of boys who dreamed of adventure on the western prairies. By the early 20th century Cody was the owner of a Michigan roadster, and a vocal member of the growing Good Roads movement. The boys with an adventuresome spirit were now young men who through their exploits with automobiles inspired a new generation. One of these young men was Floyd Clymer.

Clymer was born in 1895 but his family relocated to Berthoud, Colorado shortly after the turn of the century. In 1902, Clymer’s father, a doctor, purchased a one cylinder Curved Dash Oldsmobile, the first automobile in this frontier era mining camp. At age seven his father yielded to young Clymer’s persistent pleading and taught him to drive the Olds. In 1904,  Clymer and his younger brother participated in the first Reliability Run from Denver to Spokane, a grueling test of man and machine. Near destruction of the Flanders 20 thwarted the brothers successful completion of the race.

Incredibly, at age ten, with his fathers full support and financial backing, Clymer began buying and selling cars. His endeavor proved so successful that his father allowed his son to set up an office in what was formerly a dentist’s office and establish Berthound Auto Co. that specialized in Maxwell and Cadillac, and later REO cars. Needless to say, these manufacturers took notice when they learned that it was young Clymer, not his father, that sold twenty six vehicles in two years. Motor Field, an early publication for automobile enthusiasts, ran an article on Clymer, “the Kid Agent,” in their February 1907 issue.  Clymer shrewdly used the article as a sales pitch and claimed, “I can supply your wants in repairs and supplies, and can save you money.”  A man who sold everything on the hog including the squeal, Clymer later reprinted the entire issue after the magazine folded and sold copies for one dollar.

A few years later Clymer turned his attention to motorcycles and purchases a Yale and Thomas Auto-Bi, both manufactured in California. In 1912, he won his first amateur bike race in Boulder, Colorado. In 1916, he won the very first Pike’s Peak Hill Climb with an Excelsior. This endeavor led to an offer from Harley Davidson and Clymer becoming a member of the company’s factory racing team. Building on his fame, Clymer moved to Greeley, Colorado and opened up a shop to sell and service motorcycles.

The next chapter in the Clymer story was written in Denver when he established Floyd Clymer, Inc., the largest distributor of Indian, Excelsior and Henderson bikes in the western United States. This was followed by relocation to Los Angeles, purchasing Al Crocker’s West Coast Indian distributorship and the launching of a mail order parts business.

During World War II, Clymer launched a new business endeavor that was built on his collection of vintage automotive sales literature and photographs. Published in 1944, Floyd Clymer’s Historical Motor Scrapbook featured advertisements and period articles from two hundred fifty brass era vehicle manufacturers. With favorable reviews from publications such as Time, book sales exceeded expectations. This would serve as the foundation for what would become the largest publisher of automotive books.

In the 1960s, Clymer once again turned his entrepreneurial abilities toward motorcycles and established himself as a distributor of the German-built Munch Mammoth IV, a $4,000 motorcycle that he promoted and marketed as the “Ferrari of motorcycles.” During this period he also attempted to resurrect Indian motorcycles. The final page of the amazing Clymer story was written in 1970 when he succumbed to a heart attack.

It is human nature to seek adventure, even if it is through vicarious means. The recent “Storm Area 51” tsunami on social media networks is one example. A few, however, prefer to live the adventure and provide the inspiration for making the most of every day.

If this story piqued your interest I know you will enjoy my latest presentation, In The Beginning! I am now scheduling appearances for fall and winter.