Home Authors Posts by Skip Schweitzer

Skip Schweitzer

Skip Schweitzer
11 POSTS 0 COMMENTS
Skip Schweitzer, of Mantua, can be described from early on in life as an avid outdoorsman and old car restorer and aficionado. He comes from a long line of great lakes fishermen and hunters. He is a taxidermist and a retired psychologist. His grandfather Charles, a machinist and fisherman who fed his family with fish during the Great Depression, was one of the original auto restorers at the Thompson Auto Museum, now the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum. Skip learned to hunt, fish and restore cars from his father Roy and learned the value and appreciation of antique automobiles from his grandfather. Skip has, over the years, restored upwards of 25 automobiles including many Fords, Studebakers, Buicks, Jeeps and VWs. Skip has written extensively on automobiles and outdoors for several newspapers, magazines and auto publications this past 20 years. His current antique automobiles include a 1930 Ford Model “A”, and a 1970 Volkswagen Cabriolet. Skip’s most frequent bylines are, Outdoors With Skip, and The Old Road.

I got an E-mail from someone named Hilda. She desperately wanted some help in evaluating and setting a price on her Dad’s old Ford truck.  He had passed away and they were in the process of settling the estate.  She said that she had absolutely no idea what the vehicle was worth, or even what kind of truck it was.  (Ford made “AA” trucks that were “real trucks” with much heavier frames, wheels, running gear etc., and they also made car based pick-up trucks, station wagons and sedan deliveries).  All she could really tell me was that it was crank start and that her Dad bought it to drive in parades. The crank start made me suspect that perhaps it was a Model “T” Ford truck though all Model “A”s also had the capability of crank starting but had electric starters.  They are not generally known as crank start vehicles.   Somehow the American Pickers TV show had become involved and she had no idea what the vehicle was worth. (Now, in my opinion the American Pickers are famous for paying way too much for antique cars which seems to be one of their frequent dilemmas highlighted on the show.  I remember the time when they paid about $8K for a Model “A” barn find that I valued at about $3K— as a parts, or total restoration project.  At the end of the show an expert noted that there were likely near a million Model “A”s still in existence and this was no great find.  The Pickers ultimately admitted that they paid way too much for it.)  Over the phone I was able to establish that the title listed the vehicle as 1929, and that Hilda said it reminded her of a pickup truck.  My best guess was that it might be a 1929 Ford Roadster Pickup, condition unestablished via phone conversation.

Untitled-1Because I write old car columns that appear in several magazines and am the current president of the Northern Ohio Model “A” Club, I frequently get calls and E-mails of this nature.  I am the contact person.  Whenever the calls are reasonably close by I try to personally visit the person and help out. My ulterior motives include, 1) maybe a good story lurks here, 2) I like to help out people, 3) the America Pickers connection piqued my interest, and 4) probably someone in the Club will be interested in the vehicle.  So, off I went to have a look.

As I got there and the garage door opened, what I saw confirmed that it was indeed a 1929 Roadster pickup, more properly known as an Open Cab Pickup Model “A” Ford.   These days all pickups are generally sought after as “desirable to restore” vehicles.  The open cab pickups were the lowest priced trucks at the time and even today are slightly less valuable than their closed cab counterparts. That being said, pickups generally sell well.  Two ladies—sisters– proceeded to push the vehicle out into the sunlight, as it, indeed, would not run.  They were careful to note that someone who looked at it yesterday said that it probably wouldn’t take much to get it to run and “these things are easy to get running—don’t let anybody tell you otherwise”.

I responded, “He didn’t buy it though, huh?”  I got no response from either lady.

It quickly became apparent that the two ladies were somewhat disgruntled from yesterday’s experience, but exactly why was not so apparent. My objective was to do what they had asked, for me to look the car over and give them an idea of what it might be worth.   So I proceeded to look over the car.  What I saw was a vehicle that was probably restored 25-30 years ago and had little or no maintenance done to it since. The tires were worn out, dry rotted and dangerous.  The car was restored to exactly as Henry had made it.  There were no upgrades such as electric fuses, lights, brake improvements—all important safety concerns.  The body was in very good shape with no dents and a paint job that was skillfully put on…..a long, long time ago.  Now there was fading, chipping and much paint crazing (associated with older lacquers).  The car had a general coat of dirt, dust and road grime associated with an old car. Though it had newer chrome bumpers (the originals were nickle plated and by now would have been very rusty and dull) the rest of the bright work was dull and rusted.  In fact the radiator shell was so dull that I honestly couldn’t tell whether it was just faded nickle plate or just faded silver spray paint.  As I opened the driver side door it promptly dropped a good inch indicating that the hinges were extremely well worn and in need of replacing.

To sum up, what I was presented with was a condition #4 car defined by the Old Cars Weekly price guide as: “a probably drivable vehicle needing minor work to be functional, also a deteriorated restoration or a poor amateur restoration.  All components need restoration.  Though it is useable as is, it needs a lot of help.” The fact that it did not run was offset by the good body that was in need of restoration and paint. The suggested value was $6,740.  What this means is that a buyer, restorer, would likely have to invest $7-10K to bring it up to acceptable modern safety and display standards.

I told them my assessment which produced an obvious look of dismay on their faces.  One lady responded, “I’ll let it rot for that.  My father paid $15,000 for it; the lawyer has it insured for $25,000, and it is an antique. He should know what it is worth.  It has to be worth at least $18,000 now and as soon as I get it running it will be worth $23,000.” I pointed out to no avail that most antique cars have lost value over the past 10-15 years and that value-wise, it was extremely important to maintain the car in good condition.

I suggested that they pick out an independent appraiser from, say Hemming’s Magazine, and get a more objective and formal evaluation.  The response was more disgruntlement about the lawyers ripping them off, etc., etc., etc…  About the American Pickers connection: one of  the sisters had apparently called the show and was told that Mike Wolf (one of the Pickers) was no longer interested in old cars but would pass on the information to others. It turned out that the two people who viewed the car yesterday had offered a similar amount or less and the sisters were very insulted.

Sensing their anger and disgruntlement with the situation I thanked them for their time and offered that if they wanted to sell it I would be glad to put it in our Club newsletter.  I further reiterated that they place a realistic price based upon an independent Old Car assessment.

It is too often that I find this story repeating itself these days.  I suspect that some of the reasons include the much televised and publicized famous car auctions and the ridiculous TV shows wherein much over valued cars quickly change hands between a small group of millionaires and car fanciers. On these shows sometimes drivers in Nevada are stopped on the streets and their cars bought out from under them. Now this is certainly not the real world that I live in.  One can only hope that cooler heads prevail as the sisters settle the estate.  I can’t help but wonder though how many Model “T”s and Model “A”s are now sitting in barns and garages rotting because we common people can’t seem to pay those high prices for them!

 

You may recall about two years ago that I got very frustrated with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for not having anywhere near adequate facilities available for disabled people to park and be able to attend the events that we museum members were entitled to. The end result of that trip was missing the lecture, dropping out of the museum,  and  slowly winding my way back home through old neighborhoods and accidentally discovering a wonderful Jewish bakery and their chocolate Bombe’ cupcakes.  I still savor those cupcakes in my daydreams…. but I haven’t made it back there since!   Well, there is always tomorrow!

Masochist that I am, I was, as a guest of others, back at the Museum this past weekend to attend a lecture by Jack Horner—dinosaur hunter extraordinaire—and his colleagues expounding on head crests, frills, bumps,  horns and accoutrements of duckbilled dinosaurs, what they were made of, and postulating what they were used for.  OK, I realize that I just lost half my readers with that sentence.  Let me digress and get back to the real world.

My daughter and her husband, both paleontologists, asked me if I would like to go to a lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I am a “closet paleontologist”.  That is; I started out in that field in college in 1964; ten years and the Viet Nam War later, ended up in psychology. I’m still very interested in dinosaurs and primordial animals.  If I could go back and start over……………  Yeah,……….. so the lecture featured Jack Horner, one of the most famous Dinosaur authorities of our times.  This was in conjunction with “Dinosaur Days” at the museum wherein hundreds of children and their families attended and made wooden dinosaurs, got their faces painted, got pictures taken with the various dinosaurs, and generally got to run riot around the museum while subliminally taking in all the natural wonders.  This is all well and good, and exactly how I got my children interested in paleontology.  What was even better was that I didn’t have to drive into Cleveland and negotiate the Wade Oval traffic mess and try to find a non-existent disabled parking place.  The heavily over crowded, virtually impossible to navigate confluence of three famous museums, Severance Hall, the Veterans Hospital, a Music School,  and the Botanical Gardens are a weekend traffic nightmare.

My kids dropped me and my little electric scooter off at the door and I waited patiently while they were forced to park a quarter mile away at the Art Museums’ high rise parking deck to the tune of $11 ( I take the electric scooter to museums because of extended walking and standing which is very hard on my legs.)

Now, what is wrong with this picture?  Here we have the greatest concentration of cultural facilities Cleveland has to offer and there is almost no place to park your car.   Even Disneyland has remote parking facilities where they bus you to the gate on an every ten minute basis for God’s sake! (Oh, there’s an idea!)  Our museums beg you, implore you, to come down and visit them, but there are few places to park your car.  “We cater to the handicapped”, they say, but there is no place for us handicapped people to park our handicapped vehicle.   News flash….here’s another idea.  Maybe, instead of constantly adding on wings to the various museums they should get together and add on a central high rise parking facility on and under the green central to the museums so that people could actually attend the events? And maybe the extremely minimal parking available close to the museum’s doors could be reserved for….handicapped people?     Just an idea!!  Currently there is no way I could, by myself, attend any event.  Might I expect a companion to drop me off and go in search of a parking spot?  Particularly at night this is, shall we say, not the safest of areas.   It is a dangerous area at night.  I should expect a female companion to walk a quarter mile at night in an unsafe area to retrieve a car?  I don’t think so.

Now, at the lecture we by chance had the unexpected opportunity to sit and chat with a lovely lady named Janet Neary who, it turns out, happens to be a Museum Trustee.  As we talked it became clear that she was somewhat dismayed at the minimal attendance at the dinosaur lectures and we chatted about whether or not it might be wiser to separate in time and space the kid’s events from the adult lectures.  And perhaps they needed to institute much more effective advertising of the world famous dinosaur paleontologists.  Oh, the lectures were announced in the Plain Dealer but no mention was made of whom the lecturers would be.  Now this is akin to, say, advertising that there would be a lecture on religion, and forgetting to mention that incidentally it would be by the Pope.  Somebody definitely missed the target in advertising this event!!  Ms. Neary noted my electric scooter and we then discussed the parking fiasco and more particularly the lack of handicapped parking facilities.

I must say that the lectures were delightful.  They featured Mark Goodwin from UC Berkeley, a paleontologist and former student of Jack Horner.  He has been studying the aforementioned top knots and frills of duckbilled dinosaurs.   And of course the second lecture was by Jack Horner himself.  Now, I haven’t seen Jack in about 15-20 years in person.  Not that I know him personally—I do not– but I have listened to him talk on several occasions, have read his books,  been to his university workshop, and did take my son some 25 years ago to his egg mountain dinosaur camp in Montana.  Jack is an exciting speaker and one of the paleontologists that has profoundly changed our modern view on dinosaurs.

Jack has put on a few years, since I last saw him.  But he is still an exciting speaker who can command the audience’s attention and keep them riveted. Twenty-five years ago Jack postulated that birds are really living dinosaurs, dinosaurs were endothermic (warm blooded) and that dinosaurs are much more related to birds than reptiles. This shook the dinosaur world to its core.  But since then our understanding of dinosaurs has been markedly redefined largely due to his influence.  He is a very important cog in the wheel of dinosaur paleontology. I do believe that if academia had been actually aware that Jack Horner was in town, they would have filled up the auditorium.  Of course I don’t know where they would have parked!

What to do about continuing my museum membership?  I’m not happy about the situation. It is not their fault that I can’t walk much anymore. But the limited accessibility due to the lack of parking certainly puts a crimp in the numbers of people visiting the museums and my participation in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

 

Do you fish, hunt, trap, camp, go for nature walks? What else do you do outdoors? Drop me a line at THE VILLAGER, P.O. Box 331 Garrettsville 44231. E-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com or give me a call at 330-562-9801. I’d like to hear from you.

 

How far back can you remember into your childhood?  I’m guessing that most people can’t remember much before 4 years old.  I’ve read that approximately 4 years of age is somewhat of a threshold of actively recalled memory experiences. This is not to say that there aren’t occasional flashback experiences—dreams and visual recalls.  Some of them are often strange and seemingly unrelated to general life themes.  For example, I remember a scene in our apartment, from which we moved ‘long about 1949, wherein I wanted some more milk and my mother showing me an almost empty milk bottle saying “the rest is for your Father’s coffee”.( Yes, I’m sure we could psychoanalyze that one!!) Certainly unpleasant repressed experiences are somehow retained on an unconscious level. Pleasant things are likewise often retained as an aura or overall good feeling.   I surely can’t remember much prior to four years of age but I do have a sort of flashback memory in the context of automobiles. How odd!  Does this mean that automobiles are somehow genetically programmed into me?  If you buy Darwin’s theory of evolution (being of a scientific background I certainly do!) then it is certainly possible and more than likely so.   Hey, generations of birds seem to automatically be programmed to ….fly south, then north again, visit the same bird feeders, and eat the same things, generation after generation, right?   Without a doubt old cars are a major part of the Schweitzer lineage dating back to the beginning the automobile era and my Grandfather Charles. He would have been about 12 years old at the turn of the century—1900—and witness to the beginning of the great age of automobiles.  Yes, I know, the old nature verses nurture debate comes into play. Why me and not my sister or brother who have little interest in automobiles? I buy the genetics!

It was a long time ago, say about 1960.  I would have been about 14 years old then and would have recently become very much interested in automobiles.  Back then age 14 was a magical time when you first really became aware that having a real car—as opposed to plastic model cars– was going to soon be a real possibility.  Some of us spent our lunch money buying the Reader’s Digest sized custom car magazines of the time and dreaming about what car we would soon have in just two more years. I also recall spending way too much time in study hall drawing hot rods and custom cars when I should have been studying school subjects.  About this time my family acquired a robin’s egg blue 1959 Mercury and for some reason it coincided with my unexpected introduction to Cream of Wheat cereal.  Talk about a weird association; forever afterward I associated Cream of Wheat with 1959 Mercurys.  

Perhaps it’s a quiet little secret of mine.  O.K., yes, I occasionally look at………sports cars.   Mia Culpa. I am guilty……of occasionally thinking about cars other than bona fide antiques.  Actually I have been quietly keeping an eye on Miatas for quite a while—they have been around for some 23 years now. 

Here’s one of those little known facts about a place in the Garrettsville community that maybe you didn’t know about because you can’t see it and you’re not an old car person. It’s not obvious; it’s in a barn behind a spacious older house.  The only tipoff you might notice is a brightly colored blue and white 1956 Studebaker Champion off to the side in the yard. Studebaker always made flashy, sometimes oddball color schemes, and you notice the car from the road.  If you pull down the driveway you will encounter a fairly nice, sedately gray-brown bathtub 1940s Packard in the drive and a couple other old cars and trucks. …… And cats!

“Are we there yet,” she said? It’s about 440 miles to Clayton, New York from our house. “I think we have gone five miles”, I said to Emma, my nine-year-old Granddaughter. “We’ve got a ways to go yet.” Nine years old is a great age to be; no worries about how you look to others, or for that matter, how you sound to others.  “I’m going fishing with my Dad and Grandparents. I have them all to myself, just me” (no sister to compete with). Then she resumed regaling us with the bottles of beer song.

Holy Mackerel, the South’s gonna rise again, in Hiram!  Well, maybe not THAT Robert E. Lee, but never-the-less, Mr. Bob Lee has a 1948 Chevrolet coupe sitting in front of the garage at the white house high on the hill on Rt. 82 coming into Hiram.  I saw the roofline—that old ‘40s car roofline—out of the corner of my eye one day as my wife and I were going to the college athletic center.  I made a mental note to knock on the door one day and find out about that car.  As luck would have it Bob called me about one of the old car articles.

It was the best of days; it was the worst of days. It was a day that we had been looking forward to since last September. This was the first time we could get out fishing this spring, and it was long overdue! Because of our cold spring the fish have been slow to begin to bite. And probably more due to the prolonged cold weather, I have been slow to get out and see if they are biting. But finally we seem to have broken winter’s back and have had a run of warm days. Because Lake Erie is indeed very slow to warm up—little is biting around Cleveland and east– we went to Mosquito Reservoir where, if you follow the fishing blogs, and the Plain Dealer accounts, the walleye and crappie are reported to be very active. And because it was a very warm, sunny weekend many, many other people evidently felt the same way. As bad luck would have it there was a two-day bass tournament going on as well. We didn’t know that! We thought it would be over on Saturday.

On September 9, 2012, a crotchety, absolutely ancient looking 1928 Studebaker Dictator made the first trip under its own power in at least 49 years to the Classic Car Show at Sunny Lake in Aurora.  Likely it’s been sleeping a good bit longer than that, because  sometime prior to 1963, it had been towed to a Studebaker Dealer in that disabled condition and traded for…  We will never know what!.  What meager information that could be garnered at the time indicated that the dealer had plans to restore it and place it in his showroom as an advertising ploy.   ….BUT….  In 1963 the Studebaker Corporation was in its death throes and its dealers were on the verge of bankruptcy day by day. It is likely that the old Studebaker was purchased by the dealer a few years earlier, say in 1959 or1960, when the then- newly-introduced compact Studebaker Lark buoyed spirits and provided a welcome bit of optimism to the Studebaker conglomerate by dramatically spiking their sales curve. By  1963 though, sales had taken a nosedive thanks to competition from Corvairs, Falcons and Valiants (new compacts offered by the Big Three car makers).  There was now no money for such luxuries as old car restorations.  So in those last days before the Studebaker empire came crashing down this old Dictator got towed to the back of the lot along with the other junkers to be sold for scrap.  Enter a then 21-year-old John Biggs who, at that time, could probably be accurately described as something of a dreamer, someone who saw value in things that mainstream society had used up and moved on from. This is a disease that some of us inveterate old car buffs seem to be afflicted with from early on in life. 

The St. Lawrence River is about an 8-hour drive from Mantua, Ohio.  It is the boundary between the U.S. and Canada from New York through Maine. The first 40 miles of the St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario eastward are also known as the Thousand Islands. This area has a mystique and aura about it, which is very much unlike any other place that I’ve fished before. It is reminiscent of the typically-pictured Canadian waterscapes with much rocky outcropping, craggy, rocky islands, rocks and trees, in-water rock piles, and whalebacks (reefs that protrude above water).  Unlike typical Canadian waterscapes though, you are not out in the wilderness a hundred miles from nowhere.  There are myriads of summerhouses scattered among the islands and shorelines.  More than some of them are million dollar summer mansions.  Many of these summer cottages are easily $250-500,000 abodes. Many are quaint, turn of the last century houses in excellent repair. Many are quite modern. This is not the typical Canadian Hinterlands.