The Austin Healey Bug Eyed Sprite

The Bug Eyed Sprite is a two seat sports car, no doubt about it. It has leaf springs in the rear suspension and it rode like a Conestoga Wagon.
I found bumps and holes in the road that I did not know existed prior to driving the Sprite.
The 948cc 4 cylinder engine put out 42.5 HP with a four speed stick shift. Not as exciting as I expected, it took about 15 seconds to get to 60 MPH. I played with the dual downdraft carburetors a lot trying to get more life out of the engine to no avail.
Didn't want to get much over 55 or 60 MPH anyway.

There was no rear deck lid. For access to the rear, you tipped the two seat backs forward and you could climb into the space. This was a favorite spot for the kids to ride. The two doors were opened by reaching inside to release a latch......no outside latches.
To access the engine we lifted up on the rear of the hood. The hood and sides of the car tilted forward allowing a lot of access to the front end and engine.

The Sprite sold for about $800 new but today's prices reach $20K. The car was fun for a while but it sobered my view of a sports car. I was used to watching them run around Mid-Ohio in Lexington in F & G production SCCA races. They seemed a lot faster and smoother there.
That was probably the best place for them!


The 1966 Mercury Monterey

Posted by Picasa

Here's a big, powerful, red 1966 Merc. V8 automatic, 2 door hard top we bought in 1967.
A great cruiser for the highway. The picture shows a camper we pulled to an Ohio reservoir for a long weekend. We had our third son, Dan, by then and he taught us a few things about treking around with a baby who was just weeks old. Of course we were going to trek around in spite of that. Jim, shown in the picture, was 8 and our oldest, Rick, was 10 years old. Dan had to get used to pulling his weight at an early age.

The Merc introduced me to a new automotive device. I was traveling home from work a few days after buying the car when it began to rain.
I reached down and turned the wipers to "on" and nothing happened.
Just as I reached for the switch again the wipers went "swish - swish" and quit. I wiggled the switch and they went "swish - swish" and quit on me again. I was getting excited, thinking the switch was buggered when the wipers went "swish - swish."...... I had not touched the switch.
It finally dawned on me the wipers were intermittent and adjustable, a brand new feature to me.

The Merc had black vinyl seats and the front seat was a bench style, very wide and pretty flat.
Bev and I had been to a weekend dance with some friends whom we followed to a restaurant.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I pulled to the rear of the lot and decided to gun it a little. The only problem is I was in a 90 degree turn and I started sliding across that bench seat until I was about half way across. I had a little trouble hanging on to the wheel let alone steer and I could barely reach the brake pedal.
I missed everything and got it stopped ok.
I'm pretty sure that car had seat belts and that little manuever may have helped me decide to wear them. (We probably did have seat belts but again, no one wore them at the time).

By the mid-sixties it was apparent the lighting business was in transition. Consolidation was gobbling up most of the smaller companies. We were being pressed by larger fluorescent manufacturers who were able to automate and reduce labor content.
We purchased an incandescent lighting manufacturer to broaden our product line and began to develop interesting new products.
We also learned to blend in new workers and talents and worked hard to control costs.
By the early 70's additional changes came along that created new challenges for our neat little operation. More to follow.


The 63-1/2 Ford Galaxie 500

OK, so here I am grousing around about the 1961 Lancer and thinking Ford again.
Next thing you know I had a 63-1/2 Galaxie 500. A two door hardtop with the new fastback roofline, a 289 V8 and automatic transmission.
Gone was the notchback look which Galaxies had for several years, this was the Ford to have. I bought it in 1964 and kept it for about three years. Longevity was not my strong suit but, we did put a lot of miles on it.

The picture (click it) shows my second son Jim, and first son Rick who is in the Ford. I'm not sure anymore but, one of those two kicked the shifter out of gear and the car rolled backwards down the driveway.
It came to a gentle stop a few inches from the mailbox and the new driver was smiling happily. (I think it was Jim but I should check with Rick).
One thing I missed was air conditioning. Up to the time of the 56 Chrysler, I never thought about air but, the Chrysler had it and now it became a problem for me!
I remember a trip we made in the Galaxie from Ohio to Illinois to see friends we met during my Army time. The ride was across Ohio and into the corn country of Indiana and Illinois in July. It was hot, windows down and driving 60 MPH, it was still hot.

As I mentiond earlier, I worked for a fine little lighting company with great people. Mostly local. We formed associations and friendships and earned respect by working hard, together.
We picnicked, played ball, fished and hunted together. We drank beer and sang too! We had good leaders and management and we responded.
I worked in that environment for nearly 15 of the 25 years I spent there. Then, things had to change and change they did.
I will get into that and also cover some of the fun cars we had to toy around with as well.


The 1961 Dodge Lancer

That 56 Chrysler was a nice car. I have always considered it to be the best of the 50's Chryslers. The 1957 version was a dramatic change in my opinion. For example, the door knobs and window cranks went from die cast metal to stamped or molded plastic. It appeared to have undergone a complete cost reduction to its detriment. Even the 56 that I had, came up with a problem.

The torque converter developed pinhole leaks and I had it in the garage a couple of times. Even went to an auto parts graveyard and got a replacement. It worked.
Maybe reliability was on my mind as I wound up looking at the new 1961 products. I was just going to kill some time until my wife returned from lunch with some friends.
Well, that was not good, since I was left to my own devices.

The current trend at that time, was to go to smaller, more economical cars. The Chevy Corvair and Plymouth Valiant were examples along with a few other "compact" automobiles. At any rate, I was convinced and bought the 61 Lancer. What the heck, I was making $3 an hour designing fluorescent lighting fixtures for a great manufacturer. That's where I got my grounding for the changes I would see in my future.

The Lancer was a neat, 4 door car and along with the Valiant, quite popular. It utilized a slant six engine, developed about 100 HP and would slide up to 60MPH in 12 seconds. I was in no danger of ruining the tires with that acceleration. In spite of that, the tires only went about 36K miles.
The automatic trans was shifted by push buttons on a cluster located on the lower left part of the dashboard. I still remember rocking that car in the snow by pushing those buttons. You could push the buttons pretty fast but always got that little delay before it would shift.

With the four doors we got convenience since by then, we had two active boys, one 4 and the other 2 years old. I think they like the car and they were safe in the back seat since we added safety covers over the door handles. Of course there were no safety seats nor seat belts required at the time. No drivers I knew then, would accept seat belts and I can not remember if seats for children were even available.

As you can see, this was no car for show and go, nor for expanding the ego. I think that wore me down to an extent, weakening me to the point I had to do something. That something was to make a change back to Ford and think about fun cars which I want to cover in the next post.


The 55 Ford and The 1956 Chrysler

Before I cover the Chrysler I want finish up on the 55 Ford, maybe my best remembered car.
The photo at lower right shows the dashboard with the three round clusters. The round radio was in the center with heater controls and other dials to the left and right.
The bump over the speedometer had a clear plastic lens to illuminate the dials. You can see the horn ring which was really convenient compared to today but, it was potentially lethal in a frontal collision. The wrap around windshield went out the same way. The vertical posts could block the drivers view in certain instances. Still, a great car, I loved it.
I was drafted into the Army in 1957 and served with U.S. Army Intelligence in Baltimore. By then I was married and our first son was born during that time.
Above and left is a photo of the Chrysler with my number one son. He is inspecting the paint finish and the quality of the sheet metal work. Where the car, and I went, he too went. If I washed it, he washed it. If I swore at it he too.......
I may have served in Army Intelligence but intelligence was not served when I decided to trade the Ford for the one year old Chrysler. After all, the Ford was only two years old.
I found it on a lot near Baltimore and developed reasons to make the switch. A habit I did not shake for some time.
About two weeks later, I went back to the lot and the 55 Ford was in the front line. The speedometer had been mysteriously backed up from 66K to 35K. Odd, I thought, as I left the lot. That's what happened to the 55 Ford.

The Chrysler was bigger, smoother and prettier I guess. A two door hardtop, automatic trans and full time power steering, not the graduated power assist of today, this was full time and could be turned without effort at any speed. (maybe good, maybe bad). It also had power windows and several other bells and whistles I enjoyed. Color: salmon and off white.

I drove it home from Baltimore when I was discharged on the First Day in May, 1959. The sun was shining, leaves were starting to show and I was heading home to hearth and family. I was quite happy. You can not beat leaving the Army in the Spring with a great car to tool around in and Bev and Rick waiting for me.


The 1955 Ford

I started out driving my Dad's 1937 Willys. It had a zillion miles on it with lots of dents and bumps. Mechanical brakes, three speed and risky handling. Also, a real gutsy four cylinder!

I was about 10 when I was able to handle it. I drove it around the farm and got on the road once in a while, driving between our remote fields. Later, we bought a 1950 Ford Tudor and I loved it. I got my drivers license in it and I was off to the races! Dating and racing my buddies when they showed up in their Chevys.

The 50 Ford developed oil ring problems and my Dad changed to a new 52 Willys. It was not a FORD! Stick and overdrive yes, but it was not a FORD.

By that time I was working and after a while, I bought the 55 Ford pictured above. Now, that was a car! Wrap-around windshield, stick shift and overdrive with a great V8, a round radio with the volume and on/off switch in the center and push buttons below. I put glass packed mufflers on the dual exhausts and I can still hear that V8 sound. I do miss that car.

I washed that thing almost daily but it was imperative on Saturdays. Washing and cleaning the car while listening to Hopalong Cassidy run the football for Ohio State. Then it was off to the Palladium with my friends .....dancing and drinking 3.2 beer...........yup, we were lucky!

I'll tell you what happened to that Ford when I return.....soon.