Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine adventures - September 2013

This is the story of part of an expedition to Nova Scotia by some Studebaker owners.  Ford Stoecker from Cape Girardeau, MO and John Burgh from Concord, CA have previously driven their cars together to Alaska.  Ford has made other trips in his 1937 Studebaker hump-back panel van to San Diego, CA and Key West, FL, so he wanted to hit the fourth corner of the U.S. and Canada.  Halifax, Nova Scotia was selected as the most-remote destination, given the limits of available travel time.  John's car is a 1946 Studebaker Champion coupe.  Ford and John invited others to join them along the route, so my wife Jane and I met them in Westfield, Massachusetts for part of the journey, driving our 1965 Studebaker Wagonaire with sliding roof.  Others joined us for parts of the trip.

Following the Studebaker international meet in Colorado Springs earlier in July 2013, John had driven to the Chicago area, where he left the car and flew home for a few months.  He returned in September, along with Bob Burk from Arizona, to join Ford at the fall ASC get-together at Mike Margerum's in Elizabethville, PA.  Ford Stoecker and his cousin Steve had driven from Cape Girardeau, MO.  From Elizabethville, they drove to George Vassos' house in Westfield, MA for a tour of his cars and a grand dinner on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, Jane and I met them in Westfield and drove to John Cislak's shop in Indian Orchard, MA.  George joined us for the day, though he couldn't make the road trip. 

John Cislak specializes in restoration of Pierce Arrow engines, both eight- and twelve-cylinder versions.  In the early 1930's, when Pierce was owned by Studebaker, the straight 8 engines of both brands were very similar, though Pierce Arrows had more displacement at 366 cubic inches compared to the 337 cubic inch Studebaker.  When Pierce Arrow went out of the car business about 1938, the V-12 engines continued in Seagrave fire trucks for many years.

john cislak photo1933 pierce arrow

Left:  John Cislak;  Right: 1933 Pierce Arrow Club Brougham

pierce arrow V-12 enginePierce Arrow V-12 engine











Following our visit to the Cislak shop, we walked down the block to the Titanic Historical Society museum, located in the rear of a small jewelry store on Main St.  There are many artifacts from the design and construction of the Titanic and its sister ships Olympic and Britannic.

titanic historical society museumBob Burk, George Vassos, and John Burgh at the Titanic museum.


For more information about the museum, see http://www.titanic1.org/




A short drive brought us to downtown Springfield.  Our first stop was the Springfield Museums, home to a variety of collections.  We spent out time in the building which housed items about the industrial and social history of Springfield, including Indian motorcycles, the American factory for Rolls Royce, Duryea and Knox automobiles, the Gee Bee racing airplanes of the 1930's, Smith and Wesson firearms, and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss).  One of the museum highlights is the one-owner 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom I roadster of M. Allen Swift, who owned the car until he died in 2005 at the age of 102.  The car remains original and unrestored.

1928 Rolls Royce Phantom I

Studebakers at Springfield Armory MuseumA few blocks away, we went through the Springfield Armory Museum of the National Park Service.  It is located on the grounds of the original armory facilities, which is now home to Springfield Technical Community College.  The armory museum has exhibits showing the history of firearms making and related manufacturing methods.  The armory started making muskets for the U.S. Army in 1777, made the .58 caliber Springfield rifles for the Civil War, and the M1 Garand rifle famous in WWII and Korea, as well as many other military weapons.  While the armory finally closed in 1968, the museum remains open to illustrate the history of the site.

We were impressed by the tracer lathe machine for making gunstocks from flat pieces of wood.  It was developed by Thomas Blanchard about 1821.  Many other early automated machines were developed there for forging and drilling gun barrels and other parts.  The armory played a major part in developing interchangeable parts and precision measurement standards.

We backed the cars onto the sidewalk for a few pictures after our tour.  Soon we had plenty of people asking about the cars.  Several of the museum staff dashed out to take photos, now posted on their Facebook page!

Then one of us looked down to see John's left front tire slowly deflating.  John found his bottle jack, which Ford stuck under the suspension to lift the wheel.  As the spare was not a tire that John wanted to drive on, we rushed to a nearby tire shop to get the flat one repaired, balanced, and re-mounted.  The better tire went on the other rim because the mounting holes were a little chewed.  Those old Champion 4-lug wheels are hard to come by, but there is a chance that Dennis Dupont will deliver an extra wheel and new tube when John reaches Portland, Maine.  The tire shop guys took great care of us, checked the tires of all the other cars, and managed to get us back on the road without too much delay. 

Leaving the Springfield area, we followed the Connecticut River up to Northampton and on to Hadley, MA.  In the evening, a short drive into Amherst, MA took us to Judie's Restaurant, where we had giant popovers with gumbo, turkey, or other accompaniments.


flat tire on 1946 Champion, Ford Stoecker and John Burghtire repair in Springfield MA

Studebakers at nursery in Northfield, MA

Thursday morning, it was back on the road, bright and early for a drive to the upper side of Lake Winnipesauke in central New Hampshire.  Along the way we stopped briefly at nursery on the New Hampshire border to shoot some pictures in front of pots of chrysanthemums, hostas, begonias, and other flowering plants. 


Some notes about Ford's 1937 Studebaker:  It started life as a President four-door sedan.  Ford acquired the rear body section of a Dodge hump-back panel van and grafted it to the front half of the sedan.  A lot of fabrication, welding, and creativity was needed to blend it al together.  Under the hood is a GMC 302 cubic inch straight-six truck engine from the 1950s.  It's fitted with a Wayne cross-flow head using throttle body injection.  An intake manifold from an old tractor engine was used upside down as the exhaust manifold, though it looks like it was made for the job.  The car has proven to be very reliable on its long-distance trips, delivering plenty of power to keep up with traffic in spite of it's appearance as "just an old truck".

Continuing north along the Connecticut River, we made a stop in Walpole, NH to visit Bensonwood Homes.  Ford's new house was made there using post-and-beam design with extra-thick insulated wall panels for great energy efficiency.  The Bensonwood people gave us the grand tour of their high-tech factory where they precision machine mortise-and-tenon joints and other details for the large, recycled hard pine and oak beams.  Ford's house was shipped on six trucks and the shell was assembled in a few weeks.  We saw them assembling an unusually large roof truss with some steel reinforcement.  The smell of the pine, oak, and Port Orford cedar was delicious!  Pieces cut from the ends of the wood parts and the sawdust are used to heat the building in winter.   See their website at www.bensonwood.com.

beam fabrication at Bensonwood  Bensonwood roof truss

Center Harbor, NH and surrounding mountainsFrom Walpole, we headed northeast to Lake Winnipesauke and Bob Valpey's home in Center Harbor, NH.  Center Harbor is a small village on the lake, with green mountains surrounding it.  Bob and Alice, and their friend Pat Curran had cold soft drinks and cookies ready for us after our long day on the road. 

The Valpey's have a great collection of cars ranging from a 1916 Studebaker bus, a pair of Stutz Bearcats, to classic Packards, Studebaker race cars, and a Crosley Farm-O-Road, not to mention toys, signs, gas pumps, etc.  Not enough?  How about a Grumman Widgeon airplane (needs TLC), as in, "Boss, de plane, de plane!" on Fantasy Island.  Of course, my favorite is his green 1931 Studebaker Indy car, #37. 









 Valpey carsStudebaker cab-over truckl and 1920s Indy car

The old saying is, "No rest for the weary", so on Friday we rolled out early for a 7:30 breakfast at a nearby Moultonborough diner, where we were joined by Dennis and Denise Dupont in their Avanti, Pete Shuffleberg in his 1951 Commander sedan, and Paul and Felicia Barasels and their red 1929 President FE.  The Valpeys brought their 1955 black-and-white Speedster.  This seemed to be a good meeting place as several old Ford trucks and a number of vintage Chevys were also in the parking lot.

    Studebakers at Moultonborough, NHStudebakers at Moultonborough, NH - rear

Barasels' 1929 Studebaker President

Scenic view at Cornish, ME

After breakfast, the Valpeys and Duponts headed home, while the rest of us went east to Maine with the big President in the lead.  We stopped briefly at a scenic viewpoint near Cornish, ME.  Next stop:  Willowbrook Farm in Newfield, ME, a collection of old buildings with exhibits about farm life in the past.  It includes exhibits of wagons, a carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, several homes, and - best of all - an operating carousel from about 1900.  On this carousel, the main table spins quite rapidly while the horse rock forward and back.  Even the adults, like Steve and Ford Stoecker, had to hang on tight, and small children are banned from the outer ring of horses.  Jane and Felicia managed to stay on their horses.  The horses' tails are real horsehair!  The original steam engine now runs on compressed air, but it does move the carousel.  Paul Barasels is on the board at Willowbrook Farm and operated the carousel for us.  The farm also has one of the oldest Concord stage coaches in the country, beautifully restored.

Willowbrook carousel Willowbrook Farm carousel

Willowbrook carousel - Jane and FeliciaWillowbrook Farm - mill house

Willowbrook Farm stagecoach

We left the farm and continued east to the Barasels' home for a brief visit, then headed for Dumbo Enterprises in Gorham, ME.  There, John and his father John Sr., operate a body shop and have a collection of Studebakers.  Within the buildings are an eclectic collection of old tin and cast iron toys, gas pumps, signs, and automobilia of all types.  Several Studebakers are in various stages of restoration, while others wait for their turn out back.  John's friend Sandy brought his 1957 Golden Hawk, which may be an undocumented 400 model.  It made an appearance at the Chicago auto show that year.  The leather interior and black-and-white gauges are outstanding!

Studebaker M5 truck at Dumbo1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

1957 Golden Hawk interior

By late afternoon, we were tired but happy.  It had been three intense days of driving, sight seeing, museum tours, great meals, and talking with friends.  John Burgh was headed off to see his daughter who lives near Portland.  Ford and Steve were headed to the Portland airport to pick up their wives, who were flying in to join them for the next part of the journey to Halifax, and Paul Shuffleberg and Paul Barasels were headed home.  Jane and I spent the night with her brother and his sons in Scarborough, then we drove the Wagonaire the last 150 miles back to our home in Dartmouth, Mass.  We put nearly 600 miles on the car, all without incident.  Except for John's flat, all the other cars were trouble-free. 

From Portland, the Stoeckers, John Burgh and Bob Burk will head north to the Owl's Head Museum and on to Bar Harbor.  Next, they'll head up through the northeast part of Maine along the coast on U.S. Route1, cross into Canada at Calais, ME, and continue up through New Brunswick to St. John, then take the ferry across the Gulf of Maine to Digby, Nova Scotia and drive to Halifax.  They'll spend a few days there, then head home via Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, and Detroit.  We wished we could join the rest of the trip, but they will be joined by others along the way.

So, if you have a Studebaker (or any old car), call up your buddies, organize a trip, and DRIVE YOUR STUDEBAKER!