The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection – Open to the Public on January 2nd

One example of the of the kinds of items found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, a trade catalog for the Hupmobile Skylark, ca. 1939-1940.

One example of the of the kinds of items found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, a trade catalog for the Hupmobile Skylark, ca. 1939-1940.

Attention readers! For a little more than 3 years, you have been patiently waiting for the day in which you could access the materials found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. Today, it gives me great me pleasure to notify you that the long wait is almost over. On January 2, 2014, the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection will be officially open to the general public. Beginning on January 2nd, researchers will be able to visit Hagley and take a first-hand look at the wonderful materials found in the collection.

Finding Aid for the Vinson Collection

By making the Z. Taylor Vinson collection available to you, we at Hagley have brought the project to its official conclusion. From our perspective, Vinson Collection Project was an enjoyable one to work on and satisfying to complete. The collection’s contents are truly fascinating and we learned a great deal about automobiles and automotive history over the course of the project. By working with the Vinson Collection, we also learned some immensely valuable lessons on how to best process very large imprint collections. This newly acquired knowledge will be applied to other processing projects at Hagley in the future.

Now that the project is completed, I am also writing to announce that this will be my final installment of the Vinson Collection Blog, and that I will soon be saying farewell to Hagley. I have accepted the position of Project Archivist at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My last day at Hagley will be on December 31st. Although I am sad to be leaving Hagley, I am very happy that the Vinson Collection is now being properly preserved and will soon be available to researchers. I will also be watching future developments regarding the collection with great interest.

Before I leave, I would like to use this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues at here at Hagley who made my stay here an enjoyable one and whose valuable contributions helped bring the Vinson Collection Project to its successful completion. I would also like to thank the readers for regularly tuning in to the Vinson Collection Blog and for patiently bearing with us while the collection was being processed. Once again, starting on January 2nd, we at Hagley cordially invite you to pay us a visit and have a first-hand look at the materials found in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection.

Goodbye and Good luck!

Sources

Saab 96, Fast Roomy Handsome – Built with Aircraft Quality: Saab: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 9X, 90, 92, 92X, 95, 96, Aero, Aero X, Granturismo 750, Shrike, Sonett II, Sonett III, Sonett V4, Special, Turbo, and V4, 1951-2006, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

The Sensational Hupp Skylark, America’s Most Distinguished Low Priced Car: Hupmobile: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 417, 421-J, 427, 517, 518, 521, 527, Club Sedan, and Skylark, 1934-1935, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

The complete finding aid for the Vinson Collection is available online

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Movie Cars – The Parker Family’s 1937 Oldsmobile Six in A Christmas Story

Now that the holiday season is upon us, a number of Christmas-themed movies are being broadcast on America’s television networks. For this week’s blog, I decided to focus on a film that is widely considered to be a holiday classic: A Christmas Story. Released in 1983 and directed by Bob Clark, A Christmas Story starred Peter Billingsly (as Ralphie Parker) and Darren McGavin (as Old Man Parker), and was narrated by Jean Shepherd (as the adult Ralphie Parker). Set in Hammond, Indiana during the 1940s, the film’s plot centers on 9-year-old Ralphie’s campaign to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

Shot mainly in Cleveland, Ohio, A Christmas Story was only modestly successful at the box office. But when it started appearing on television in 1985, the film quickly acquired a large following and became an annual broadcast staple during the Christmas season. In 2012, A Christmas Story was declared to be “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the U.S. Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Trade catalog for the 1937 Oldsmobile Six.

Trade catalog for the 1937 Oldsmobile Six.

Even the though the movie was shot on a small budget, the producers of A Christmas Story sought to make the film’s sets historically accurate. To help achieve this effect, a number of vintage cars were donated by Cleveland car buffs for use in the movie. With this in mind, I decided to write this week’s blog on the car that played the most prominent role in the movie: the Parker Family’s 1937 Oldsmobile Six.

The 1937 Oldsmobile Six (officially called the F-37) was a full-sized car that occupied the lower end of Oldsmobile’s model range. Selling in the $810-$965 price range, the Six was advertised as a car that featured a combination of power, economy, and luxury at a reasonable price. The car was powered by a 230 cubic-inch inline-6 engine, which was good for 95 horsepower. It was fitted with a streamlined all-steel body shell that featured a number of Art Deco styling cues, including a turret top, a grille with 7 horizontal bars, and skirted fenders. The Six was a very successful car for Oldsmobile and 137,613 of them were built during the 1937 model year.

Trade catalog image of a 1937 Oldsmobile Six Four-Door Touring Sedan, an example of which served as the Parkers’ family car in A Christmas Story.

Trade catalog image of a 1937 Oldsmobile Six Four-Door Touring Sedan, an example of which served as the Parkers’ family car in A Christmas Story.

The 1937 Oldsmobile Six that appeared in A Christmas Story was a 4-door touring sedan, which appeared frequently over the course of the movie. This car was portrayed as being troublesome in the winter, which led Old Man Parker to complain that it would “freeze up in the middle of the summer on the equator!” The car also figured prominently in a couple of the movie’s funniest scenes. While helping his father change a flat tire (which occurred while the Parkers were driving their Christmas tree home), Ralphie accidently dropped the lug nuts, to which he reacted by blurting out a naughty word. For this indiscretion, Ralphie was punished by having a bar of soap put in his mouth. At the end of the movie, after the family’s roast turkey is eaten by the neighbors’ dogs, Old Man Parker used the car to drive his family to a Chinese restaurant for a memorable Christmas dinner.

It is not known what happened to the Parker Family’s 1937 Oldsmobile Six after the movie was completed. On a happier note, a 1937 Oldsmobile Six similar to the one used in the movie is preserved at the A Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sources

A Christmas Story – Internet Movie Cars Database

A Christmas Story – Internet Movie Database

A Christmas Story – Wikipedia

A Christmas Story House & Museum

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr., Third Edition, Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 1996, p. 1083.

Oldsmobile Six (1937): Oldsmobile: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Six, 1930-1936, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

1934 Graham Custom Eight

The Great Depression was a difficult time period for the American automobile industry. During this economic downturn, some American automakers attempted to boost sales by offering cars featuring advanced technology. One automaker in particular who sought to do this was Graham-Paige Motors, a struggling independent firm based in Detroit, Michigan. Around 1933, Graham-Paige came up with the idea of mass-producing a car fitted with a device usually reserved for race cars and high-end luxury cars: the supercharger. The end result was America’s first moderately-priced supercharged car: the 1934 Graham Custom Eight.

Trade catalog image of a 1934 Graham Custom Eight four door sedan.

Trade catalog image of a 1934 Graham Custom Eight four door sedan.

Introduced at the New York Auto Show in December 1933 and offered at a decidedly moderate price range of $1,245-$1,330, the Graham Custom Eight was a modified version of the widely acclaimed, but slow-selling, Graham Blue Streak (which appeared in late 1931). Even without its supercharged engine, the Custom Eight was an advanced car for its time. A relatively large car, it was built on the Blue Streak’s innovative and low-slung “Banjo” chassis, in which the car’s rear axle was placed in large openings in both sides of the frame. The car was clothed with the Blue Streak’s trend-setting body shell. Designed by Amos Northup and detailed by Raymond Dietrich, the body featured styling cues that were already being widely copied by other American automakers at the time of the Custom Eight’s introduction, including a sloped grille, skirted fenders, and a hidden radiator cap.

But it was the Custom Eight’s supercharged engine that really set it apart from its contemporaries. The engine itself was a well-proven 265.4 cubic inch straight-8. It was fitted with a centrifugal supercharger designed by Graham-Paige’s Assistant Chief Engineer F.F. Kishline, which was largely inspired by a Duesenberg design. Mounted between the carburetor and the intake manifold, the supercharger itself was powered by the engine’s crankshaft and its rotor was capable of spinning up to 23,000 RPM.

Trade catalog image the 1934 Graham Custom Eight’s supercharged straight-8 engine.

Trade catalog image the 1934 Graham Custom Eight’s supercharged straight-8 engine.

Equipped with this innovative engine, the Graham Custom Eight was capable of a high level of performance for a car of its price range. The engine produced a then-impressive 135 horsepower and gave the car a top speed of over 90 miles per hour. The supercharger gave the engine excellent mid-range torque, which was very useful for passing on two-lane roads. Much to the surprise of Graham-Paige, the Custom Eight’s supercharged engine also proved to be remarkably fuel-efficient and easy to start in cold weather. Perhaps most importantly of all, the supercharger was very reliable and a number of them lasted over 100,000 miles without breaking down.

Largely due to the bad economy and its relatively expensive (but by no means excessive) sticker price, the Custom Eight was not a huge seller. Nevertheless it was well-received by the American motoring public, and it sold well enough to help Graham-Paige Motors survive the Great Depression. With assistance from the Custom Eight, the firm succeeded in significantly boosting its sales to 15,745 cars for the 1934 model year. The success of the 1934 Custom Eight encouraged Graham-Paige Motors to continue offering moderately priced supercharged cars, which it did until 1941. It can also be argued that in the long term, the Custom Eight helped Graham-Paige stay in business long enough to sell off its car assets and turn itself into a thriving real estate firm, a transformation it successfully carried out in 1947.

The 1934 Graham Custom Eight was replaced by an updated and restyled version for the 1935 model year. Surviving examples are technically fascinating collector items today.

Sources

Georgano, Nick, ed., The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 642-644.

Graham (1934): Graham: Trade Catalogs: Various Models: Graham Range, 1931-1934, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Graham Custom Eight (1934): Graham: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Cavalier, Crusader, Custom Eight, Deluxe Six, Eight, Prosperity Six, 1931-1937, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Graham Owners Club International

How Stuff Works – 1932-1935 Graham Blue Streak

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr., Third Edition, Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 1996, p. 647, 650.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.