About Ford Model A’s

The History of the Model A 1928-31

1929 Ford Mod. A Roadster

1929 Ford Mod. A Roadster

Introduced to the public in late 1927 as a “New Ford Car,” the Ford Model A could trace its roots all the way back to the establishment of the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Actually, the first car produced by the developing auto manufacturer was labeled the Model A. Henry Ford would work his way through a series of letter designations for his automotive creations before settling on the successful formula that would become the Model T. In the years that followed, as America’s roads and driveways filled with Model T’s, Henry Ford would remain reluctant to significantly tamper with his beloved car’s design.

Henry Ford portrait

Henry Ford portrait

It was only in the face of plummeting sales by the mid 1920’s, the result of a buying public that sought the modern upgrades offered by Ford’s competitors, that Ford finally relented. In an unusual business move, Ford halted production of the Model T in May of 1927, shutting down the entire production operation for 6 months to allow for retooling and final development of the new Model A Ford.

1928-29 Standard Coupe

1928-29 Standard Coupe

A Ford Mod. A Coupe being assembled.

A Ford Mod. A Coupe being assembled.

Working under an impossible deadline, Ford managed to get the design and production requirements in place for the release of the “New Ford Car” by November of 1927. Henry’s son, Edsel Ford, had unsuccessfully tried to convince his father to abandon the Model T years earlier. Unbeknown to his father, Edsel had been secretly working on the development of a new car and would ultimately play a significant role in the design of what would become the Ford Model A.

A Ford Model A Roadster body ready to be mounted on its chassis.

A Ford Model A Roadster body ready to be mounted on its chassis.

Ford Mod. A's being assembled at the Rouge line.

Ford Mod. A’s being assembled at the
Rouge line.

Unlike its predecessor, the Model T, which was the result of an evolving process of design, the Model A was designed, complete, from the ground up. The Model A was truly a “New Ford Car.” Mechanical upgrades for the Model A Ford included a new 3-speed transmission, hydraulic shock absorbers, and four-wheel mechanical brakes. Other significant improvements were an electric starter, water pump, speedometer and gas gauge, and the introduction of Triplex safety glass. The styling of the Ford Model A, elegant and integrated compared to the Model T, brought Ford into the modern era with a vehicle that looked more like a car and less like a horseless carriage.

A period Ford Salesroom featuring Ford Model A's.

A period Ford Salesroom featuring Ford Model A’s.

The first Mod. A was delivered on Jan. 26, 1928.

The first Mod. A was delivered on Jan. 26, 1928.

Henry Ford created a sense of hype and mystery surrounding the release of the Model A Ford, relying on the media to reach the buying public and generate interest in the “New Ford Car.” Shortly after the Ford Model A was made available to the public on December 2, 1927, orders for the new car far exceeded supply. Ford scrambled to increase production and by mid 1928, producing up to 4,000 cars per day, was still not meeting the buying publics demand. In an effort to meet demand, Ford steadily boosted production, peaking at around 9,200 cars per day by June of 1930.

During its four-year production run, the Model A Ford would be offered in a wide variety of car and truck body styles. For 1928, Ford offered several different style passenger car bodies:

Early Ford Mod A. Fordoor

Early Ford Mod A. Fordor

Standard Phaeton, Standard Roadster, Standard Coupe, Special Coupe, Sport Coupe, Business Coupe, Tudor Sedan, Town Car, and Leatherback Fordor Sedan. Truck bodies included: Open Cab Pickup, Closed Cab Pickup, Pickup (box), “A” Panel Delivery, “AA” Panel Delivery, and Deluxe Delivery.

In 1929, Ford expanded the options for passenger car body styles by adding the Steelback Fordor, Cabriolet, Station Wagon, both Murray and Briggs versions of the Town Sedan, as well as Murray and Briggs versions of the Standard Fordor. The Standard Fordor (2 window) was also introduced. Options for truck bodies remained the same from the previous year.

For 1930, the Leatherback and Steelback Fordors, as well as the Special and Business Coupes, would be dropped from the lineup. New passenger car bodies included the Deluxe Phaeton, Deluxe Roadster, Deluxe Coupe, Deluxe Fordor (2 window) and Victoria. Truck body options included the addition of the Deluxe Delivery and Panel Delivery (drop floor), Special Delivery, Town Car Delivery, “AA” Panel Delivery and the “AA” Deluxe Delivery.

Introductory Period Brochure

Introductory Period Brochure

The Story of the New Ford Car poster.

The Story of the New Ford Car poster.

The year 1931, was the final of Ford Model A production, would mark the most extensive offering of passenger car and truck body styles in the vehicle’s brief history. New passenger cars for 1931 were the Deluxe Tudor, Slant Window Cabriolet, Slant Window Standard Fordor, Slant Window Town Sedan, Slant Window Deluxe Fordor (Blindback) and Convertible Sedan. The Standard Fordor (2 window) and Town Car were no longer offered. For truck bodies, a Deluxe Pickup and a wide bed Pickup (box) were introduced.

Like the rest of the nation, the Ford Motor Company would endure the effects of the economic Depression that began with the stock market crash in October of 1929. Despite reducing prices for 1931, Ford continued to see a steady decline of new car sales.

Perhaps learning from his mistake of sticking with the Model T long after the public regarded it as outdated, Henry Ford had been actively working on a new design for 1932. The successful development of the new V8 Ford for 1932 would ultimately put an end to the short but successful run for “Henry’s Lady,” the Model A Ford.

A FMA Coupe in the snow!

A FMA Coupe in the snow!

President Franklin Roosevelt in a Ford Mod. A Roadster.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) is sitting in a 1929 Model A Ford 68A Convertible Cabriolet.

Summary of models produced: Ford Model A Standard Phaeton, Standard Roadster, Standard Coupe, Special Coupe, Sport Coupe, Business Coupe, Tudor Sedan, Town Car, Leatherback Fordor Sedan, Open Cab Pickup, Closed Cab Pickup, Pickup (box), “A” Panel Delivery, “AA” Panel Delivery, Deluxe Delivery, Steelback Fordor, Cabriolet, Station Wagon, both Murray and Briggs versions of the Town Sedan, as well as Murray and Briggs versions of the Standard Fordor, Standard Fordor (2 window), Deluxe Phaeton, Deluxe Roadster, Deluxe Coupe, Deluxe Fordor (2 window), Victoria, Panel Delivery (drop floor), Special Delivery, Town Car Delivery, “AA” Deluxe Delivery, Deluxe Tudor, Slant Window Cabriolet, Slant Window Standard Fordor, Slant Window Town Sedan, Slant Window Deluxe Fordor (Blindback), Convertible Sedan, Deluxe Pickup and Wide Bed Pickup (box).

Almost every Ford Mod. A car body will be found in this gathering!

Almost every Ford Mod. A car body will be found in this gathering!

From the same FMA gathering.

From the same FMA gathering.

Fun Facts:

  • Riding the roads and the airwaves. The Ford Model A was the subject of the 1928 song, “Henry’s Made a Lady Out of Lizzie,” which sang the praises of Ford’s new addition to the road.
  • The first Model A Ford engine, stamped “A1” by Henry Ford himself on October 20, 1927, was put in a Tudor Sedan that Ford personally drove and tested before giving final approval to begin production of the car. At Henry Ford’s request, the engine was eventually placed in a 1928 Phaeton that was reserved in Dearborn for the use of his friend and fellow innovator, Thomas Edison.

    Henry Ford punches the engine number on the first Ford Model A off the assembly line.

    Henry Ford punches the engine number on the first Ford Model A off the assembly line.

  • The 20 Millionth Ford was a 1931 Ford Model A 160-B Slant Windshield Town Sedan. Accompanied off the assembly line by Henry and Edsel Ford, the black car was lettered on the sides and, so it could be seen from the air, the roof, with “The Twenty Millionth Ford.” The Sedan would be taken on a tour of the U.S., stopping at nearly every Ford territory and dealer along the way. Rumored to be lost in a fire sometime after the publicity tour, the car was discovered in Michigan in 1999. After Ford determined it was indeed “The Twenty Millionth Ford,” the company agreed to lease the car from its current owner. Ford then devoted their resources to a complete restoration of the car in preparation for their 2003 Centennial celebration. As part of the lease agreement, the Town Sedan will be displayed at Ford World Headquarters for the following 10 years.
The Twenty Millionth Ford Model A was a Fordor!

The Twenty Millionth Ford Model A was an 8 window 1931 Ford Model A 160-B Slant Windshield Town Sedan!

Henry Ford and his son Edsel in front od a Mod. A Fordor.

Henry Ford and his son Edsel in front od a Mod. A Fordor.

Text Sourced from: www.macsautoparts.com

Greece in the 1930’s

A period advertisement from the first Ford distributor in Greece, J. Kontellis & Co.

A period advertisement from the first Ford distributor in Greece, J. Kontellis & Co.

Finally, few pictures of our Father’s (Emmanuel V. Riginos) 1929 Ford Mod. A Tudor which he brought to Greece upon his return from an extended 15 year period of immigration to the USA. Upon his return to his homeland, he also brought (importing & distributing) the Atwater Kent radios to Greece in the late 20’s – early 30’s.
He used a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor as his car and on the door panels the round “Atwater Kent Radios” logo was affixed.

Ford Mod. A & KENT RADIO

Here Emmanuel and his brother Alekos Riginos admire a newly erected street side advertisement of the ‘Kent Radio’.

Ford Mod. A w. ATWATER KENT logo

He used a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor as his car and on the door panels the round “Atwater Kent Radios” logo was affixed.

Riginos Bros&Atwater car breakdown-ca.1939

The Ford Model A has broken down! The agony of the moment is captured on the faces of Emmanuel and his other brother George Riginos’s faces.

Manolis Riginos Ford Model A Tudor, bearing Greek License Plate No. 30914.

External links:

Model A Ford Reference Sheet, Owners Manual, and Help

Model A Ford Club of America

Model A Restorers Club

The Model A Barnyard

Ford Model A Assembly Plant in Edgewater NJ


My YouTube Ford Model A Playlist

Model A/AA Ford Websites

Internal Link:

My Next Classic/Veteran Car Investment?

Our Christmas 2012 days in Austria & Germany

We left Athens on Christmas Eve for Munich and then onwards via car rental to Seefeld-Mosern in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. Returned to Athens the day before New Years Eve, i.e. 30th Jan 2012. Enjoy the pictorial ride with us! :-)

My Blog 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog. Thank U all for visiting and helping make these thrilling stats! :-)

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 22,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

The VW Käfer is back on the streets!

The finished 1962 VW Beetle made its first 'after the restoration' appearance during the '9th Concours d'Elegance PHILPA 2012'.

The finished 1962 VW Beetle made its first ‘after the restoration’ appearance during the ‘9th Concours d’Elegance PHILPA 2012’.

I am pleased to report that at long last my 1962 VW Käfer restoration project has been completed successfully! And just in time to enter the car in the “9th Concours d’Elegance PHILPA 2012“. The ‘spare no expense’ restoration project lasted about nine months and by all accounts the result is quite stunning.

Picking up the thread of the story since the previous post detailing the process, I add few words before completing the project; the car was loaded on a transporter from the body shop heading to the upholsterer, Christos Tsadilas. There, the TMI upholstery kits were fitted to the car, the front windshield was replaced along with new rubber seals, the carpet kit was improved and fitted.

Here is a short video clip from the unloading sequence:

Afterwards the car was taken to the electrician Stefanos Tokatlian (who had fitted the new wiring loom and had done all the connections), for fitting the new Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio sourced from Koenigs Klassik Radios, plus few other details.

Several last minute missing items were sourced from Oval Dean who carry BBT stock items in Athens, before the car was declared ready. On the first drive home along the highway, the speedo climbed to 110 kph without any hesitation or drama.

The renovated little car with matching numbers is intended to be driven regularly, has normal licenese plates and is pledged to my wife Ivi as a birthday present :-)

Enjoy the photo album here below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The body shell (and all parts) has been surfaced immediately after the sandblasting.

The Restoration Project of the 1962 VW Käfer continues

Several friends who know about my venture into the deep waters of yet another ‘ground-up restoration’ project have been asking about its progress. Well here is an update.

After having separated the body from the rolling chassis (see previous post by clicking here), two main tasks have been taken care of:

  • Sandblasting the body shell and it’s already removed parts (bonnet, deck lid, doors, fenders etc.),
  • determining the actual condition of the car and drawing up a ‘parts required’ list

The verdict (and the lesson learned) is that if one plunges into a restoration project, ‘you either do it right or do not do it at all’. What I mean is that only after one skins the shell (in this case by sandblasting), can truly assess the actual condition of the metal, which more often than not, in old cars has been surfaced by several coats of body filler and paint, effectively hiding its true condition. Nasty surprises uncovered? Oh! yes. The bonnet (or front trunk hood) has been badly treated apparently after a front end collision. Ditto for the apron. The spare wheel well bottom looked like a strainer with several pit holes. The door bottom part has been treated badly from a rust attack. The rear deck lid (engine hood) as well as the lower heater channel areas had its own rust malaise’s. All these parts are characterized as ‘B.L.R.’ (i.e. Beyond Local Repair) and need to be replaced.

Back to the drawing board. That is the list of spare parts required grew longer than initially anticipated. While sourcing parts on the Internet is a great boon for any restorer, believe me the task of searching, identifying parts, comparing prices, determining delivery availability and summing up the costs from many vendors is a very time-consuming job! I ended up breaking the purchase orders from three sources: VW Heritage in England, Custom Speed Parts in Germany and BBT4VW.com in Belgium via its local new agent and friend Oval Dean Parts. Orders were placed, screened, verified, negotiated and awaited for taking delivery. Overall about 200 items were included in the lists. Few days ago I took partial deliveries from the three suppliers while back orders are still outstanding and will be forthcoming in the near future.

Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio for VW Beetles

And what about a period correct sound system? To my rescue comes a great German classic car radios provider (who supplied the Becker radio for my Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé), the firm www.koenigs-klassik-radios.de. The proper radio model, the Blaupunkt Frankfurt special car radio for VW beetle and speaker plus antenna and iPod/iPhone/iPad cable have also been selected. What about the cost of all these parts? Way out of my initial budget calculations. But as I said, you either do it or you don’t! No regrets as the end result will be such a good one which will certainly make me feel proud! :-)

So here is a brief slide-show of the tasks at hand so far. We now have plenty of spare parts to go on with the Käfer restoration.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

June Update:

The rolling chassis has been treated and repainted.

The restoration works are progressing at a slower pace than I would have liked but as the proverbial saying “it takes some time to cook a good meal”, I have now complaints. The gear box has been entrusted to Labros Dimitriou in Melissia, the half axles and rear drums have been removed and now repainted while the sourcing of parts is underway to replace the faulty synchronizer rings before the box is reassembled and complete.

Similarly the floor pan has been scraped and repainted by my guys at A & B For Cars. More rusty spots have been treated and some hand-made metal parts have been skillfully fabricated. My new friend Tassos Baxevanakis has been most helpful in sourcing used but in excellent condition major body parts as front hood, rear deck lid and both doors. The hard to find correct 1926 rear engine lid was found and shipped from Sweden! Both front and rear aprons have been replaced by new parts and the front hood has been fitted.

The TMI Co. interior upholstery kit has arrived!

Just a week ago three parcels arrived from England, shipped by VW Heritage, containing all the important TMI Co. upholstery kits. Boy do their quality and perfection will make my “De Luxe” Beetle looking so good when finished. ;-)

This question jumps-up. WHEN? To be frank I have no idea. There is so much more ground to cover. With almost all the required parts now gathered, on that department we look good. But the summer months are already upon us. That translates to more delays as shops will close for summer vacations and so on. Mentally I will set a target for the Bug to be back in the streets of Athens in her reincarnated form by the middle of September. As it was similar in the case of my Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupe project, I would like to have the car ready to participate in the PHILPA 41st International Rally 2012, a major Regularity event this year taking the streets of Pelion (see here: 41st In’t Rally 2102 English).

July-August Update:

The rear apron had to be aligned and made to fit properly…

During July and most of August the progress of the restoration was slow due to a number of problems which had to be resolved. First the LH door that was sourced proved to be of a slightly later model year and had to be modified around the hinge areas to make it fit. The engine lid which was sourced from Sweden also required some metal work to treat some rust and fit the handle cylinder lock to an oversized hole.The rear apron which was sourced as a new replacement part from CSP Germany was way out of spec in terms of size and form. Plenty of hours were spent to make it true. The RH side windshield post was damaged to the extent that a replacement was sought. This proved to be difficult, so my body shop guys had to also spend extra time to heat it up, reform it and bring it back to spec, ensuring a good fit for the windshield glass without water ingress from the rubber seal.

Having overcome these challenges successfully, the body became ready for its final treatment and preparations before entering the paint oven. As planned, the color had to be the same as per the original specs of the factory, as attested in the ‘Zertifikat”, i.e. the L 469 Anthracite.  In early August of 2012, the color recipe was cooked by Master Painter Costa Vitaliotis  and the Käfer shell was carefully and lovingly resprayed.

Milestone moment: the Bug has be repainted to its original factory Anthracite L469 color!

At the same time, two other tasks were taken care of. First the old, original gear box was rebuilt as the synchro mesh of the

The gear box is refitted to the rolling chassis and mated with the engine.

2nd gear had weakened. Upon inspection, the 1st gear mesh was also replaced as did all the seals and axle boots. Prior to reassembly, the half axles were repainted black as well as the drum assemblies. The completed g-box looked nice while the first test drive will prove if the ‘surgery’ was successful.

Second, the old seat covers were removed from the seat frames and the frames were scrubbed and painted in light ivory as per their original color. Next, a friendly upholsterer was recommended by a friend who was doing up the interior of his newly acquired 1962 Jaguar Mk II and was quite happy with the quality of his workmanship. One hot afternoon I loaded up all the seat frames along with the TMI Inc. upholstery kits and ventured to west side Athens to meet my new collaborator, Christos Tsadilas.  After inspecting his work on my friend’s Jag, touching bases and helping him to file an application for a FIVA card on his Dodge Charger classic, a deal was struck ‘on the interior job’ and we agreed to bring the car to him prior to fitting the front and rear windshields so that he could also fit the new headliner.

The engine-trans-axle-gear box assembly has been refitted to the rolling chassis.

Finally back at the A & B For Cars body shop, the guys started to reassemble the trans-axle and engine onto the reconditioned chassis. All the engine tinware and fan doghouse were repainted flat black and the new screws were fitted from the appropriate kit provided by VW Heritage.

Next task: re-mating the body to the rolling chassis!

More updates will be forthcoming…

The Restoration Project of the Käfer has started

In my other post of mid December 2011 titled A 1962 VW Beetle joins the ‘family’, I had outlined the new acquisition and mentioned about the plan to proceed with a sympathetic restoration of this fun car to which I have become emotionally attached.

Not without some delays, the resto project has commenced as of Monday 5th March. I have entrusted the work to my competent body shop friends of A & B For Cars who had done such a good job couple of years ago on my other car, the Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé.

Since the VW Beetle is a much simpler and smaller vehicle compared to the Mercedes, but also having gone through the previous Mercedes project experience, I am now more knowledgeable, hence confident that we will proceed with a relatively quick pace. An important factor pertains to human relationships. Through the years, I have built trusting and friendly relationships with the owners Gregory and Costa, as well as with their staff and Manos, the shop’s foreman who is looking after my Käfer! The target is to have the car ready for Easter. Sort of like a little ‘half egg shaped’ present. In addition, I have done some preparatory research on parts availability; as expected for such a popular car which had endured a long life with 18+ million examples produced, the issue of sourcing spare parts is de facto solved. There are many specialists involved with the VW brand both in Europe, the USA, South America and Asia of course.

We are currently verifying the “parts needed list” in order to proceed with placing purchase orders. The guys at A & B suggest that we take off the body, have it sand blasted and thus allowing for working on the floor pan with much ease and thoroughness. Budgetary estimates are being prepared for this (and only) scenario. So far the verdict is that we have a rather sound body with very little rust spots and an even better looking floor pan. Not so many worries (or additional expenses). :-)

So here is what I saw yesterday after the initial stripping:

The restoration was started on 5 March 2012

Wheel arches show no rust

The rear LH valance from the inside: few issues here

The LH inner fender rust spot: not so difficult to fix

Inner door condition is good with some rust in the bottom area.

The view from the rear, prior to engine removal

Wed. 7th March 2012 update: ‘Houston we have Lift-Off’, the body was separated from the chassis

The body shell hovers over the chassis! Perhaps this temporary separation has occurred for the first time after a tight, faithful marriage of over 50 years!

Today as I visited the body shop, the Käfer was just being readied for lift-off! That is all the bolts holding the body shell firmly mated to the rolling chassis had been removed, ditto for the wiring. Manos, the shop’s Foreman was making sure that nothing was forgotten, the last item to be disconnected was the speedo cable. The body was manually cracked open and the lifter arms were adjusted so that by pressing the Up button it would be raised evenly and without much effort. Carefully coordinating the intermittent pressings of the button by an assistant, the body was lifted-off without any mishap.

Rear quarter panel is rusted nicely and will be replaced.

Upon closer examination of both body and floor-pan, the verdict revealed few more rust spots, mainly in the body undersides, in the area of the heater tubes which run alongside the door sills. A known source of pain for VW Beetles. In addition, few more rust spots became evident on the rear quarter panels onto which the bumper brackets are being mounted. Luckily such panels are readily available from a number of sources, among which the VWHERITAGE guys in the UK.

Other than these pains in the aforementioned areas, there were no further nasty surprises upon the separation of the body from the chassis, such having occurred for the first time after a tight and faithful German marriage, residing in sunny dry Greece, for over 50 years!

Watch the ‘separation’ video clip here below:

Here are few more impressive pictures from the operation:

I love this particular picture which captures almost an unreal sight ;-)

The rolling chassis

Attention Low Riders: you cannot go any lower than this! ;-)

My Blog during 2011 in review!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A 1962 VW Beetle joins the ‘family’


The story of the Volkswagen Beetle is well known; it was designed by Ferdinand Porsche to provide cheap transport for the hard working German masses, hence the name, the “People’s Car”. For the myriad other names given to this popular car click here! Initially they were built in very small numbers before and during World War II; later the Beetle literally rose from the ashes of Volkswagen’s bombed-out Wolfsburg factory to become an instant success across Europe, Britain, America and virtually every other country in the world.
The model evolved through various facelifts and numerous mechanical changes – there were more than 70,000 identifiable modifications – while it also provided a platform for other models, including military (such as the Kübelwagen and the remarkable Schwimmwagen), commercial vehicles (such as the Type 2 Bus) and sporting derivatives such as those by Karmann-Ghia. It was this constant development and attention to detail which allowed the Beetle to maintain its remarkable sales success , and as production raced past the 15,000,000 mark, the Beetle went on to be known as ‘The Best Selling’ car of all time. But this record was eventually superseded by the VW Golf.

My story

My old VW Beetle named Marlen, during College years (ca. 1972), here in Aspen, Colorado.

Readers of my Cars & More pages in this Blog may have noticed that while I was in Lake Forest College (during the early 70’s), I had obtained an old 1962 VW Beetle, into which later on had thrusted a rebuilt by-my-own-hands Porsche 356 engine in the back bay, turning the little car into a nondescript hot-rod; eventually converting the Bug into a wicked Autodynamics Deserter GT beach-buggy that accompanied me back home to Greece after graduation on board the super-liner SS Michelangelo.

The 1962 Beetle as I first encountered her in the Corinth storage of the ‘Smile of a Child’ Org.

I guess that the notion of re-living those long gone days of innocence and thirst for an adrenaline fueled life, was in the back of my head for some time. And out of the blue, the opportunity to acquire another 1962 Beetle came sometime in the spring of 2011. In April a bunch of car aficionados  had successfully formed the “Car Friends Close Group“, a small private Face Book Group of friends who share their passion and love about anything on wheels. We then organized an event with our cars showing in a private collector’s garage aiming to raise funds for ‘a good cause’ in support of the Smile of Child, a well known Greek NGO (http://www.hamogelo.gr). Since the President of the NGO is an ex colleague from the IT Business, he asked me to help him in selling some old cars that were donated few years ago to the organization. Arrangements were  made for me to visit the storage area in Corinth in order to take pictures and evaluate the cars on his behalf. Lo and behold, when the gates were opened I first encountered a 1973 R107 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL and right behind a 1962 Type 113 VW Beetle (aka Käfer) in anthracite color. Having myself bought just few months ago an immaculate R107 (see The Day I met “Princes Grace” post) I had no interest for yet another one in need of restoration. But the Beetle touched my soft spot; I had to rescue this neglected but quite original and in sound condition example. I must confess that among all my classic or modern cars, the Beetle, named Marlen II, currently commands the highest emotional charge! ;-)

The “just arrived” Porsche 356 engine in a box!

Rewinding on the story a parenthesis is due; the idea of re-living my College year’s of owning an early 60’s  VW Beetle powered by a 356 Porsche engine, included a quest to source an appropriate unit for rebuilding and then fitting (a straight bolt on job) it to the newly acquired Beetle. Seeking such in Greece was unsuccessful; Enter in the picture a generous and noted Porsche cars collector, a Greek-American friend, Myron Vernis, who upon learning via e-mail exchanges of my quest, graciously offered to provide such a unit as a present to me! Ain’t that nice? Hence, after many arrangements done by my other close Greek car collector friend, Alex Vazeos, one September morning the 356 engine arrived at my garage in a crate, directly from Ohio, USA! I am most grateful about getting “a little help from my friends!” :-)

Just about ready to unload the Bug on “Terra Attica” after its journey from Corinth.

Closing the parenthesis, back to present, making a longish story short, after negotiating with my ex colleague for a two car deal, I was able to get yet another Greek car collector friend of mine interested in the Merc R107; hence we concluded the purchase of both cars in late October 2011. I made arrangements for both to be loaded on a car transport truck and delivered to our respective workshops in Athens. I took delivery of Marlen II on Friday afternoon 18th of November at the premises of my trusted body shop, the A & B FOR CARS in Geraka (the friendly guys who did such a nice job on the “ground-up” restoration project of 2010 for my 1967 Mercedes-Benz W111 250 SE Coupé. Click here for the related stories). The drums of anticipation jumped gear thumping faster as I heard the truck’s diesel engine maneuvering outside the body shop’s gate. I had not inspected the car carefully while in its Corinthian storage, as there was not enough room nor had I the possibility to raise the car and examine at the undercarriage for rust spots. It was sort of a “blind date” purchase and now after several months of dreaming about the little car, I was going to face the truth, good or bad…

The relevant ‘Apocalypse Now!’ video clip is here-below; Manos’ expert eye confirms that the undercarriage is original, rust-free and unmolested. “Poly Kalo!” (Very Good! was his verdict). The car has not suffered any injuries from any serious crash accident and there would be little intervention to be done in her underbelly aside from a thorough steam cleaning and wax-oiling! A pleasant surprise :-)

Engine Number: it turned out that this is indeed the original engine!

After some more documenting pictures were taken, I left the car there and headed for home (on the way I decided to offer Marlen II as a birthday present to my beloved wife Ivi, her anniversary being on Sunday 20th November)! Full of excitement about all that was eager and thirsty to hit the web and start researching about her birth date and many other Käfer related details.  Her chassis No. 4 725 111 revealed that the official model is “113, VW De Luxe Sedan”, manufactured in May 1962; in addition, the engine No. 6 766 861 means that it pumps out 34 DIN PS with a displacement of 1.2 Liter. For more details I would have to await the receipt of the official ‘Zertifikat’ applied for from the Stifung AutoMuseum Volkswagen, Schatzkammer der Marke.

On the following Saturday morning the primary task was to start the engine! Of course the 6 Volt battery was dead so I had to ‘borrow’ the one from our 1956 Citroen Traction Avant! Armed with a ‘light’ toolbox and the extracted battery plus a spray can of ether engine starter, I proceeded to A & B FOR CARS to do the honors.

VW engine key (aka key to happiness)!

The VW speedometer indicates some 80’s kilometrage…

After cleaning the battery terminals and positioning the fresh power source in its tray under the rear seat bench-(also not rusted), I removed the carb air cleaner and was ready to turn the ignition key. I asked one of the guys to assist by only squirting ether twice inside the carb barrel. Ready? Ignition: on the second cranking the air-cooled motor without much ado, spurted to life! I could not believe my eyes, ears and nose. All three senses acted in unison as a total recall to long forgotten but familiar VW Beetle sounds and smells. My new ’49-years old’ VW was purring, revving at higher idle as a cold engine should. No excessive smoke nor valve train clutter was noticed. The red indicator charging/oil pressure ‘idiot light’ on the speedometer instrument going out as it was supposed to. Good omens for an unusually warm and sunny late November Saturday morning. I was very happy indeed! :-) A time capsule? Who knows how long ago it was when the engine was last used? How many previous owners? Are the 81310 kilometers indicated in the odometer true and correct? Further inspection and getting to know my Marlen II would sooner or later piece together some of the puzzle pieces of her past life.

The first steam cleaning attempt of Marlen II was half done: the machine broke down! :-(

Next stop was at the cleaners! Unluckily my friendly Pakistani hot pressure water equipped car washer was not available, so I had to hunt in the neighborhood for an alternate. After several gas station stops, one had the right equipment and was willing to undertake the job. A lot of old grease and caked oil had accumulated in the rear engine and gear box area as well as in the front torsion bar suspension. While at it, his Karcher machine broke down… :-( The job was half done and the bill was reduced. Oh well, Kumar will do it properly for me come Monday.

A more detailed picture album of the car can be viewed by clicking HERE!

Overhauling the brakes at Cabilis Performance ‘clean’ shop.

Next task was to change the vital juices: engine oil, gearbox oil, brake fluid. In addition to check on the road safety of the car in areas of steering, suspension, brakes, electrics (lights, turning indicators, horn, windshield wipers etc). These items were taken care of (the juices by Christos Economou VW Service) and the rest by Cabilis Performance, a VW specialist conveniently located only one block away from my garage! In between five new tires were fitted and the wheels dynamically balanced.

The mechanical repairs effected so far (Dec 2011) include:

  • Brakes overhaul (new master cylinder, wheel cylinders, linings, hoses, bleeders)
  • Front end (new steering damper, tie rod ends, wheel bearings cleaned & greased, new shock absorbers, travel end ‘stop’ rubbers)
  • Rear end (re-tuned torsion bars as the car was sitting too high, new shock absorbers, travel end ‘stop’ rubbers)
  • Engine (new distributor assembly, spark plugs and HT wires, valves adjusted, carb cleaned, fuel filter fitted in non-conspicuous spot, replaced gear shift lever with original one)
  • Electrics (headlights replaced, light bulbs checked, horn, dome light, windshield wiper motor, wiper arms, windshield washer line replaced, generator coils re-winded and new bearing fitted).

The engine bay is quite original. In this pic after replacing the distributor and overhauling the generator.

What is interesting to note is that the Cabilis people (father and two sons) report that the engine has not been opened and its compression test was good and even! Aside from establishing that the engine is a “matching numbers” case, this good news supports the possibility that the indicated 80k kilometers might also be true. In the mean time, the “Zertifikat” along with the confirming letter stating that “that the above engine number is that of the original engine”, came via post just the other day. Considering all the above, I am now in a dilemma about replacing the original-in good condition-engine with the more powerful Porsche 356 unit as originally planned. That issue will be resolved in the near future as the restoration project progresses during 2012…

Marlen’s II birth “Zertificat” as issued by the VW AutoMuseum

The VW Museum Letter confirming engine “matching numbers” dated 30.11.2011.

Next phase of repairs to commence in January 2012 will cover the following areas:

  • Body shop work (addressing the few rot spots, stripping and sanding and respraying to the original color “L 469 Anthracite”, replacing front and rear bumpers, sand blasting and respraying the wheels to the original color “L 471 Stone Beige”, replacing front & rear windshield seals, all other rubbers and seals etc).
  • Upholstery work (replacing seat upholstery according to the factory fitted “M 079 Upholstery leatherette” and the head liner of the original 1960-62 style in light gray nap cloth perforated type, fitting the proper carpet set as the original tan colored German square weave material, plus anything else required so that the car will be in an as much original condition as possible).

Hopefully we will not get as analytic during the preservation phase!

Preparing for implementing that exciting phase of the restoration, I have delved in appropriate VW parts sources and related info which I list below as a reference for other interested Beetle loving friends and readers:

To be continued as the restoration progresses!

The day I met “Lillibet” a.k.a. Daimler Double Six Series 3

As some readers of my web-log may recall, I was lusting during this spring/summer period after the acquisition of a Ford Model ‘A’ ca. 1930. For several reasons beyond my control, this quest did not materialize. Circumstances or fate had it that a much younger siren would whisper songs of lust into my ears and cast her beautiful lines and soft leathery souled interior cum primordial smells upon me. Her uplifted condition and metallic blue color with sliding roof to gaze upon the stars while parked along a Greek coastal twisty road, was also cool. Cooler even was the output of her primitive but efficient climate control, a parameter important to me as I sweat easily.

A good car collector friend had similarly fallen for this 1991 Daimler Double Six Series 3, an up-market Jaguar XJ12 model, just few months earlier. “I simply had to buy her, cars like that in such a good condition are rarely to be found in Greece”, he once told me. When the time came for him to update and focus his unique car collection an offer to buy was placed upon me. We took the car out for a spin on a mid-July evening which ended with a pleasant dinner on a coastal, chic Vouliagmeni Italian restaurant. The ride was excellent, while the amount of smoothness ensured by the V12 legendary Jaguar engine, simply had not been experienced by me before. I said to my friend that “I will sleep on the idea” and headed for home in my sweet GLK.

The car as I first saw her. Her beautiful lines and shape, penned by none other than Pininfarina during the Series 3 upgrade, did not go unnoticed...

Next morning there was a lot of Googling and researching on the Double Six story and checking of International market values and offers. Negotiating softly on the asking price, soon a deal was struck on a Friday morning. During that week-end many deeper Internet searches revealed several aspects of the car, familiarized with the XJ6 and XJ12 stories and so on. Photographs taken during the test drive session kept the new infatuation alive and well. Hence arrangements were made to drive by my friends garage on Monday evening on our way back from an extended w-e in Kea island, to take delivery of the car.

Queen Elizabeth II driving her Daimler Double Six

Breaking the news to spouse of a new big saloon, large engined, powerful young classic was an issue. Did that ala Walt Disney with fast moving photos sliding along the iPad screen while on the ferry. The myth added (a fact) was that Queen Elizabeth II had owned exactly the same model and blue colored luxury car. See here this story: Queen Elizabeth II’s 1984 Daimler Double Six LWB up for auction — Autoblog. Took delivery of the car in Glyfada and drove off north to lock her up in the garage without much fuss so as to avoid any unnecessary feminine nagging. Besides, my entire next day would be devoted to “Lillibet“. First driving impressions: big car, torquey, excellent brakes, lovely feeling on the palms of that polished wooden rimmed steering wheel. Studied the “Owners Manual” on the couch before falling asleep. It had been a full and eventful day.

The OEM FM radio-cassette unit bearing the Jaguar logo.

Given that we had to drive my mother-in-law and her “au pair” lady to central Greece on Thursday for her summer vacation stint, we set for a round trip same day 700 km dash; I thought that this presented a lovely opportunity for an extended test drive of the new acquisition. Although the car was recently serviced by my previous owner friend and reported as being “in excellent condition”, few items required attention. One head light bulb was off, so while at it, Panayotis (my auto electrician at Gerakas) replaced both by fitting HID lamps all around. My friend had also sourced an original Jaguar stereo cassette sound system from the USA. Alas such radio sets do not tune in to odd numbered FM frequencies which are common in Europe. The idea of traveling for eight plus hours without a proper sound system was impossible to bear.

Cockpit view with the new Sony radio installed. Note the USB white wire and the convenient remote-control.

Hence I bought a modern Sony MEX-BT3900U with Bluetooth, player of MP3/CD’s, including USB, front AUX input and remote-control. Not a period unit (the OEM unit was packaged away with cherish), but impressively high-tech; Panos had to carefully remove the central console veneers and arm rest storage bin in order to extract the old unit and wire in the modern device. Ipso facto, upon completion, I easily connected my iPhone, received and made hands free calls, played selections from iTunes either via BT or via USB while also recharging. The car’s electric rear antenna functioned well with the unit and although has a 4 X 52 Watt rating, pumps out enough power to deliver undistorted all around sounds via the built in six speakers of the Double Six. “Now you are cooking with gas!” I muttered to myself upon driving away from my faithful electrician who had professionally done all the electrics during last year’s restoration project of the M-B 250 SE Coupe. Almost ready to depart? Not just quite. The passenger front door lock cylinder had lost its internal retaining forked clip, thus loosened and popping out suspiciously. Fiddling with it, the door locked permanently :-(  Ouch! How could spouse get in and out of the car with her door being shut tight? To the rescue came my expert body-shop guys of A+B For Cars. They managed to get the lock loose, open-up the entire RH indoor facing, fish out the dropped clip, grease the undone linkages and reassemble properly the whole lot within two hours. Now we were ready for tomorrows hot weather, 700 km test drive.

The Beginnings of Daimler

The British based automobile producer, Daimler Motor Car Company, was based in Coventry and has origins dating back to 1896. In 1893, Frederick Simms purchased the patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler’s engine, and formed a company named the ‘Daimler Motor Syndicate.’ Daimler, a German engineer, had patented an engine design and worked closely with Wilhelm Maybach to create the first motorcycle in 1885. Their first four-wheeled car was created a few years later, in 1889. They later formed the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, also known as DMG or Daimler Motor Company.

1932 Radiator Mascot of Daimler Double Six. Source: http://www.conceptcarz.com

The Daimler Motor Company, based in Cannstatt, would continue in business until 1926. The company relocated to Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in 1903; Daimler had passed away in 1900 and a fire had destroyed the original factory a short time later. During the early years of the company, they produced petrol engines and sold the rights and patents for use of these engines. They dabbled in the creation of racing cars and enjoyed much success. This lead to the production of the Mercedes model in 1902. From this point, automobile production became their main business and they offered a variety of models over the years. In 1926, DMG merged with Benz & Cie, and formed Daimler-Benz and used Mercedes-Benz as its trademark automobile. In 1998, a merger with Chrysler created the DaimlerChrysler Corporation.

The early years of automobile production was very uncertain. Public opinion about motorized vehicles were mixed, with many fearing the contraptions. They were loud, noise, dirty, smoky, and at times, unpredictable. They often spooked the live-stock and sent horse-drawn carriages into chaos. In Britain, they solved this problem by requiring each motorized vehicle to be escorted by a person on foot, who would wave a bright red flag and warn all those in its path of its arrival. This would give ample time to prepare for the noisy contraptions and to secure their livestock. This did little to promote the use of motorized car.

Mr. Simms held onto his patent rights for only a short while, before selling in 1896 to Harry Lawson, who formed the ‘Daimler Motor Company’ in the city of Coventry. This, of course, causes confusion as there were two companies with the name, Daimler. The license to use the name ‘Daimler’ was sold to a number of countries, which adds another degree of confusion. To help alleviate this confusion, the name ‘Mercedes’ was used by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft for the cars that they produced after 1902. 1908 was the final year that the name ‘Daimler’ was used on a German built car.

British based Daimler
The British based Daimler Company is Britain’s oldest marque. The cars they built were powered by German engines with chassis designs very similar to those of Panhard & Lavasseur. The Daimler cars immediately appealed to the wealthy, Royalty, and the socially elite. Their chassis platforms were appropriate for the finest of coachwork and capable of satisfying the demands of their elite group of clientele. They would continue this stately business for many years, with little competition from other British marques, until Rolls-Royce came onto the scene.

In 1908, Daimler acquired a license for the Knight engine which featured sleeve valves and allowed the engine to operate in a much quieter fashion. This technology was in use by several United States automobile makers, though the high-cost of production limited it to mainly high-end automobile production. The quiet operation was made possible by using a sliding valve to operate the intake and exhaust ports. The valves required lots of lubrication which often resulted in smoke. The popular alternative to the sleeve valve was a camshaft actuated valve which rattled and created noise.

Daimler’s line-up of vehicles consisted of six-cylinder engines until the mid-1920s, when the Double Six came onto the scene. It was designed by their chief engineer, Laurence H. Pomeroy. It used a similar design to the six-cylinder engine, which consisted of two-sets of three cylinders. The Double Six engine was basically two six-cylinder engines in vee-configuration with each bank having their own intake, exhaust and ignition system. Pomeroy used a new aluminum crankcase and modified the sleeve-valve design. The oil consumption of the sleeve-valve was reduced by replacing the cast-iron valves with steel, and forming them to have a better fit. The result was a twelve-cylinder engine capable of producing an impressive 150 horsepower.

1932 Daimler Double Six. Source: http://www.conceptcarz.com

In 1926, Daimler introduced their Double Six which remained in production until the mid-1930s. During that time, only a limited number of examples were created. At most, there were seventy-five created, with as few as a one-third of that estimate. All were unique and tailed to the customer’s requests, including the displacement size of the engine. Some were two-doors, others had four. They were very popular with royalty, including King George of Britain who ordered two limousine examples, both had seating for seven.

The elegant bodies rode atop of a steel ladder frame chassis which varied in length depending on the customers requests. The body configurations favored luxury, but some were sporty including a number of drop-top models. One unique example, designed by Reid Railton and built by Thompson and Taylor, had a low, underslung rear end.

The early models were known as the 50 and 30, which was in reference to their displacement size. The 50 had a 7136cc displacement size while the 30 feature a 3477cc size. These were replaced in the early 1930s by the 30/40 and the 40/50. The 30/40 had a 5.3-liter engine and the 40/50 displaced 6.5 liters. Improvements continued throughout the years, including to the lubrication system and a new gearbox, a preselector unit.

Production continued until 1935, though a final example was created in 1937 to use up surplus supplies.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2007. Source: conceptcarz.com

More on the Daimler marque history can be found here: http://www.thoroughbred-cars.com/cars/UK/Daimler/history.htm

Fast forward to more recent times:

The company was purchased by Jaguar Cars in 1960. After the introduction of the Daimler DR450 new models used Jaguar bodies with Daimler grilles and badging. Daimler remains in the ownership of Jaguar Cars which now belongs to Tata Group of India.

In 1979 Jaguar unveiled the Series 3 which remained in production until 1992. The famous design studio, Pininfarina, had been tasked with incorporating design enhancements for the long-wheelbase version. The results were stunning. The Series III were powered by six- and 12-cylinder engines. In six-cylinder form, the owner could select either the 3.4-liter or 4.2-liter unit. The V12 unit had 5.3-liters in displacement size. The larger six-cylinder engine and the 12-cylinder unit both utilized Bosch fuel injection. The smaller six used carburetors and now offered for sale in the US.

Daimler Double Six

1986–1988 Daimler Double Six (XJ Series III)

From 1972 Jaguar’s 5.3 litre V12 engine was available in the XJ range, and for the Daimler version a name used by the company from 1926 to 1938 was revived. Sir William Lyons had retired from Jaguar in 1972 and the new chairman was FRW (Lofty) England. Lofty England had been a Daimler apprentice from 1927 to 1932 and taken second place in the first ever RAC rally driving a 30/40 hp Daimler double-six. Lofty England decreed that the new V12 Daimler would be known as Double Six.

Unlike the Jaguar, the twelve-cylinder Daimler had the same radiator grille as its six-cylinder sibling, and externally only the badges distinguished them. Although the Sovereign name was transferred to Jaguar, the Double Six name remained with Daimler throughout Series III production, which continued until 1992.

In total, there were 132,952 examples of the Series III produced. A small percentage of those, 10,500, were equipped with the 12-cylinder engine. In 1987 Jaguar ceased production of the Series III XJ with the six-cylinder engines. The Series III with the 12-cylinder power-plant continued until 1992.

The Series III brought with it cruise control and a sunroof as optional equipment. The Vanden Plas option was introduced in 1982 and intended for the US market. This designation indicated the top-of-the-line offering for the Jaguar XJ which included the twelve-cylinder engine and many luxury items as standard equipment.

Byron’s 1991 Daimler Double Six

Here are some pictures of my Double Six, affectionately named “Lillibet” after Queen Elizabeth II’s nickname, who owned exactly the same car. ;-)

Daimler Double Six side view

Daimler Double Six rear view at Lake Plastira area

Daimler Double Six radiator grille detail

Automobile Club de Monaco emblem

Automobile Club de Monaco emblem. The S.P.M. initials at the base of the crown stands for "Sovereign Prince of Monaco" (click on the picture to enlarge).

The Daimler monogram on the radiator fluted ornamentation.

Daimler Double Six rear end with insignia and dual exhaust pipes.

An additional photo album of the car can be viewed by clicking here!

Visiting the USA – June 2011

It is nice when we travel, especially when venturing in far away places which we do not get a chance to do quite so often; nevertheless, traveling with a set purpose is even nicer. My visit to the USA in June 2011 had that added ingredient.

David Agger and David Koven of Wellfleet, Cape Cod.

It all started back during the winter month of January, after the traditional Season’s Greetings had been exchanged with few of my Lake Forest College friends and classmates of 1973; the idea was tossed by David Agger: let’s get together for a private re-union in June in Wellfleet Cape Cod!, where he and David Koven both have houses. How many years since? I dared not count, but yes it was going to be close to 40 since I had last met some of my close friends from College days in America. After many e-mail exchanges I decided: Yes! This was going to be a fulfilling experience and a pleasant opportunity hard to ignore. A once in this life-time kind of situation.With flights booked and a rough trip outline sketched, I took my wife Ivi along for three weeks of USA-ing!


Vinalheaven, North Haven, June 3rd – 6th

Avrum & Martha's house, Vinalhaven, Me.

First stop was Boston; Greeted by my friend Avrum Belzer (the two of us having built my Autodynamics Beach Buggy back in 1973, read the full story by clicking and then scrolling down here), we spent our first night at their apartment in Brookline with the intention of getting up early next morning, Friday June 3rd and to drive for about three-and-a-half hours to Rockland, Maine. From there we would catch the ferry for another hour or so to Vinalhaven island, part of the Fox Islands in Knox County, home to a thriving lobster fishery which hosts a lovely summer colony. Our friends Avrum and Martha Richardson of  www.martharichardsonfineart.com, own a cute, waterfront house with a private floating dock, where we would spend a long week-end together.

The approach to Vinalhaven from the ferry was special as the vessel was navigating through the straits and shallows and the island landscape cum sea smells were being revealed gradually as if a slow moving tableau vivant! To add to the joy, Avrum had arranged for his small outboard engined boat to be launched at our arrival; the ladies would drive the car to the house and we would go by sea! More seascape revealing was in store, the temperature was chilly in northern Maine and I had my camera ready so as to take it all in and save it in the can!

The cute, lobster boats-full port of Vinalhaven.

Avrum cannot hide his joy: the two friends being together after many years, in Vinalhaven, on his boat! :-)

Avrum & Martha seaside house in Vinalheaven.

Tasting the local lobsters, was a treat!

Eating lobsters was a must priority! Our friends not only know how to cook them but also taught us how to eat them, ensuring that nothing is wasted. Being at the center of lobster fishing meant that the product is of superior quality and taste, but also quite inexpensive. We feasted on eight of them crustaceans during the week-end and also discovered the gourmet like taste of another local delicacy: scallops! The marine bivalve mollusk of the family Pectinidae.

Exploring the West Penobscot Bay, was another priority and pleasure. We did so by car and by boat. We had an excellent dinner at the near-by island of North Haven, were the local launch boat of  a restaurant named Nebo Lodge,  came to fetch us! What a treat at dusk that little round trip adventure was!

Awaiting the launch to take us across to North Haven for dinner at Nebo Lodge.

North Haven at low tide and at dusk.

Every tourist visiting Vinalheaven has to do this picture taking: here is "He lobster" Mr. Byron

And here is "She lobster" Ms. Ivi

Admittedly I have a soft spot for Lighthouses, which  are an embedded part of the seafaring scenery of Maine; as such I could not resist from capturing their magic; their fog horns and chimes add to their mystic aura, creating an audiovisual memento hard to forget!

Vinalheaven light house

North Haven light

Rockland light

Before bidding Good-bye  to this secluded paradise, here is one more memorable scene from our friends island home, taken at 05:30 in the morning. Later on that day we started our return trip to metropolitan Boston.

Early morning view from Avrum & Martha's island house!


Boston, June 6th-10th

The view from our room on the 8th floor was quite nice!

Spending few days in Boston, we booked into the Liberty Hotel, which used to an old Federal Prison at the foot of Charles Street. Not your usual hotel, with character and fascinating history. It was a very pleasant stay featuring “a room with a view”, overlooking the city scape and Charles river. Needless to say, June 6th is as many people know, the D-Day of Normandy anniversary but also, as many friends and relatives know, marks my B-Day; this year was to be celebrated away from home, but instead with a nice dinner in Boston with our good friends Avrum & Martha.

Next morning  was dedicated to walking and shopping. The cheap prices for clothes at Macy’s and other Bostonian stores combined with the strong Euro/US$ currency exchange rate, made us quite happy! :-)

I admit it; I am infected by this incurable disease! :-)

With Avrum we had vowed to do a pilgrimage to Marblehead, a historic harbor town north of Boston, with roots in both commercial fishing and yachting; locals allege that Marblehead is the birthplace of the American Navy, Marine Corps Aviation, and a yachting capital of the United States. To boot, technology and specialist automotive companies have thrived in modern times. My and especially Avrum’s association with the town go back to 1973. We both then had driven in late June non-stop from Lake Forest, Ill. (ca. 1.000 miles) to pick up my Autodynamics Deserter GT beach buggy kit car. More importantly though, Avrum later that year returned to Marblehead and started working for Autodynamics as a young apprentice mechanic, a life’s crossroad that made him stay there for several years and eventually settle in the Boston area, away from his hometown Chicago family. As such my friend not only remembered many facets of our venture of yesteryear but also has maintained some close friendships from those days. As for example now prominent classic car restorers, Paul Russell and Alex Finigan of Paul Russell and Company, a firm that has been named as “Best of…best restorers” by the Automobile Magazine and which among other noteworthy deeds, exclusively looks after Ralph Lauren’s incredible car collection!

A fine Bugatti awaited on the Paul Russell and Co. parking lot to greet us!

Hence the two of us drove to Essex, Ma. to visit this top class establishment and to meet Paul and Alex. Upon our arrival on the parking courtyard there was an impressive black Bugatti awaiting, as if to welcome us. The tour of the shop, administered by Alex, was an incredible experience for me. I did ask for permission to photograph the premises and the cars being worked on or up for sale, but I also have to respect their request for non-disclosure; hence I am not posting images taken inside the shop. I do so though for the ‘Warning – Disease” sign above, which perfectly describes my feelings pertaining to car collecting. I admit it; I am diseased.

Alex was kind enough to join us for lunch in Marblehead and to also show us his private car collection stored in none other premises than the old Autodynamics garage on Barnard Street! Is that a coincidence or what?

A family reunion in Boston to meet new member, baby Sophia; with me Chris and Lawrence.

While in Boston we pleasantly mixed a family re-union and being tourists. We met with my first cousin Chris Iliades, his daughter Corinne, husband Lawrence, their baby Sophia and son Nicky along with his fiancée Jennifer.

Next day we experienced the Boston Duck Tours, which operates a fleet of restored World War II era DUKWs. These amphibious vehicles played an important role in both the European and Pacific theaters of the war.

The Boston Duck Tour amphibian vehicles

The fun begins as soon as you board your “DUCK”, a W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle. First, you are greeted by one of the legendary tour ConDUCKtors, who do the narrating of the tour. Then we’re off on a journey like we’ve never had before. We cruised by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts, from the golden-domed State House to Bunker Hill and the TD Banknorth Garden, Boston Common and Copley Square to the Big Dig, Government Center to fashionable Newbury Street, Quincy Market to the Prudential Tower, and more. And, as the best of Boston unfolded before our eyes, the ConDUCKtor kept giving us lots of little known facts and interesting insights about this unique and wonderful city.

Boston Duck afloat on Charles river!

And just when we thought that we’ve seen it all, there was more! It was time for a “Splashdown” as the ConDUCKtor splashed our DUCK right into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, the kind of view one just won’t get from anywhere else.

The Dodge Charger rental car served us well for our venturing from Boston to Cape Cod and back.

Next task was to rent a car for heading on Friday morning south to Cape Cod. When traveling in the US, I almost exclusively rent from Thrifty.com. Their rates are competitive and the service is good. Took a taxi to Logan airport area for the pick-up. Shared with the cabbie my NYC taxicab days saga and sympathizing, I gave him a generous tip. I wanted to rent a convertible but such was not available, so I settled for a red sporty Dodge Challenger cum Garmin Nuvi GPS navigation system, my guardian angel in these touring ventures in “terra incognita”.


Cape Cod, June 10th – 13th

By crossing the Bourne Bridge we officially had entered into the Cape Cod domain.

Equipped accordingly, filled with some doses of excitement, I begged and cajoled spouse to start early, eventually checked out of the Liberty and asked the Valet to bring up the Charger from the hotel garage. From now on we were free and on our own to venture into the streets and highways or turnpikes of East Coast America. Certainly a thrill. The mission of our trip, i.e. the Lake Forest College Class of 1973 mini reunion was to unfold in the coming week end.

My cousin Chris with Ivi in front of the Iliades family home in East Falmouth, Ma.

I set the Nuvi for East Falmouth, our first stop on the way to Wellfleet, to visit the home and have lunch with my cousins Chris and Caren Iliades. Today Falmouth is well known as the terminal for the Steamship Authority ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and as the home of several scientific organizations such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the Woods Hole Research Center. The one and a half hour drive was smooth and the excellent GPS  gadget found my cousin’s home on the dime! There a touching moment was in store for me, as Chris had placed on the table a large family photo album compiled by his father, our beloved uncle Costas; leafing through it was too much for restraining my tears from coming down. Touching bases all the way up the family tree!

Onwards through the town of Dennis and the surprise encounter with the Ford Model A Tudor example (read more on this story here: My next classic/veteran car investment?). I punched in the Nuvi our final destination for the day: Wellfleet! The home base of our College reunion. Located halfway between the “tip” and “elbow” of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the town had a population of 2,749 at the 2000 census, which swells nearly sixfold during the summer. Nearly half of the land area of Wellfleet is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and a total of 70% of the town’s land area is in some form of protection. Wellfleet is famous for its eponymous oysters, which are celebrated by the annual October Wellfleet OysterFest. The drums of anticipation were pumping in my head and heart. I was about to meet my classmates after some 40 years! Such moments are not served-up every day into our lives and as such are much cherished.

Members of Lake Forest College Class of 1973 at the Wellfleet mini-reunion, from left: Steve Ellis, David Pines, Byron Riginos, David Koven, George Potts, Jeff McQueen, Peter Genta, David Agger and Lenny Jordan. A.k.a. "The magnificent nine!".

With Jeff, his wife Amy and Steve, we had met some years back when they had visited us in Greece and Kea island :-)

The first moments of the many months planned and much anticipated by all meeting, were very touching to say the least. At this point there is another comment worth making. In all my years of living in the US but also through my many business colleague encounters, I have come to the overall understanding that American folk are generally good natured, open hearted, honest and candid. In addition, relationships which go back to our youthful years are what I term as “annealed”; in other words even if many years have gone-by in between from seeing each other, upon encounter, Bingo! the relationship is right there despite all the wear and tear of each one’s individual life’s paths. What happened next and throughout the entire precious week end? As is usual in such re-uniting occasions, we went a lot down memory lane and brain honing, soul digging and experiences sharing. Wonderful, powerful stuff!

David Pines ca. 1972, Lake Forest College, Ill.

David Pines ca. 2011 in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Our hosts B-B-Q'd local delicacies: many dinner table toasts ensued!

Provincetown port view

Attentive, warm and hospitable were our hosts of the reunion,  David Agger and Deek Koven; in their dwellings we all slept and had our dinners, drinks and held the music jamming session after the lobster, salmon and scallops diner of Saturday night. Before going back to Logan for our next flight to the West Coast, we shared more precious moments with David, Sharon, Jeff and Amy on Sunday noon and visited together the end town of Cape Cod, the historic Provincetown. Sometimes called “P-town“, the town is known for its beaches, harbor, artists, tourist industry, and its status as a gay village. Parting and saying good-byes was quite difficult. The sole comforting promise was to meet again soon, this time on our home turf, i.e. Greece and Kea island.


My additional Boston, Vianalhaven, Cape Cod, LFC Reunion photo album on Facebook can be shared by clicking here!


San Franciso, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, June 13th – 20th

Bolinas, San Francisco

Driving back from Wellfleet to Logan Airport on Monday morning was a bit sad regarding the end of our reunion but filled with satisfaction as well. It was a moment of reflection about the experiences and emotions of the previous days. On the other hand the anticipation of our next and final leg of the visit to the USA, soon balanced the prevailing feelings.

Our welcoming committee in San Francisco: Mark & Babette

The transamerican flight to San Francisco was longish but due to the time zone changes, we reached our destination in the early evening with plenty of light zone remaining. Awaiting at the airport were our good friends of many years, Captain Marco Sange and Babette and their cute poodle “service dog”  Scooter. Having seen our friends in Athens only since last October, the re-connection was immediate. The drive to their home at Bolinas, included a stopover at the Golden Gate Bridge and the cute marina of Sausalito. It is there that my friend moors his lovely custom 43 foot performance cruiser sailing boat, the Evening Star.

Byron, Ivi, Scooter & Mark at the Golden Gate Bridge observation point above Sausalito.

At their home in Bolinas, Babette maintains an organic vegetable garden, and the soup awaiting us at the dinner table was delicious, including home baked bread. We set the plans for next day which included to take out Mark’s original unrestored 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2, for a spin heading north along the scenic U.S. Route 1, visiting Point Reyes Station and then onwards to Nick’s Cove along Tomales Bay for lunch. Aside from the excitement from riding in such cool wheels, the exhaust sounds and Mark’s double clutching spirited driving (an amateur race driver and avid car collector) accentuated the Ferrari moments; to boot, Mark stopped by his friend Roger Hoffman’s house, another serious car collector who proudly showed me few of his precious and unique examples. Such included the Kurtis 500KK race car. Watch the video clip below:

The drive along U.S. Route 1 was unforgettable, as was the fish lunch we enjoyed at Nick’s Cove restaurant.

Mark's beautiful Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

Partial glimpse of Fantasy Junction's rare and valuable car collection up for sale!

Next day’s program was going to be equally exciting, long and memorable. A visit to San Francisco, with a stopover at the Fantasy Junction, a world-wide known top class classic car dealer who has enjoyed an outstanding worldwide reputation for integrity and knowledge in the collector car field.  Then back to Sausalito for an afternoon sail on board the S/Y Evening Star in the Bay area, rounding the notorious Alcatraz ex Federal Prison island!

View of the Bay Area with two Americas Cup catamarans on sea trial, as seen from Divisadero Ave.

Mark's Evening Star awaiting our embarkation!

Under sail in the Bay! Good wind, extremely fast sloop!

John and Maureen's house, Stinson Beach hills, Ca.

Later on during the evening we were invited by Mark’s friends John and Maureen Hutchinson for dinner at their lovely hilltop house in Stinson Beach, about a 35-minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge on California’s Highway 1, and 10 minutes from Bolinas. We had the pleasure of meeting John and Maureen in Athens last October as they were traveling to Greece with Mark & Babette. John so happens to share the same car collecting  disease as we, so in their garage was another Ferrari and a Mercedes 55SL.

The following day, Thursday was going to be our last full day in SFO. We were invited by the Hutchinsons to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and see the Gertrude Stein collection, cum lunch, cum dinner later on in the evening. I also, somewhere in between the day’s full program, had to go back to SFO Airport and pick-up my other car rental, a Ford Mustang Convertible this time, so that we could start our drive early next morning  along US-1 to Santa Barbara. Few pictures of SFO street life follow.

Magnificent morning view of the Golden Gate Bridge as we enter SFO.

SFO sky scrapers featuring small gaps in between buildings and glass reflections.

One of the trademarks of SFO: the cable car!

The Mustang Convertible is ready to roll for the trip south; here in front of Mark's home.

Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Barbara

On Friday morning we had to push on early in order to make the scenic drive via a combination of US-101 and US-1 (a.k.a. Pacific Coast Highway-PCH) routes to Santa Barbara where my housemate from Lake Forest College, Stephen Robeck and his wife Susan would be awaiting us. Saying good-by to Mark & Babette was difficult. Again vows to meet again soon in Greece were made, such helping to soften the parting emotions. Once again I punched in the coordinates for Santa Barbara into the Nuvi and drove on. Being careful not to miss any exits after crossing the great bridge, we made a good clip initially on the faster US-101. We picked-up the US-1 Pacific Coast Highway at Salinas, and onwards to the Big Sur.

The Nepenthe restaurant and Phoenix shop at Big Sur: a must stop for travelers.

In that area we were advised by our friends to ensure a stop at Nepenthe Restaurant. Based on the vision of founders Lolly and Bill Fassett, the family has maintained a commitment to exceptional caring service in a relaxed atmosphere. Lolly added the Phoenix Shop in 1964 to share the wares and treasures she loved with the world, and in 1992, the Café Kevah opened. All three businesses are still operated by their children and grandchildren. We had pleasant drinks and juicy burgers sitting at the bar stools and chatting with the friendly bartender. The vista of the rocky Sur and Pacific Ocean below are breathtaking.

Big Sur scene along Highway 1

Driving the Mustang along the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down, was a thrill.

Driving the Mustang along the coastal, two lane only, road with the top down, although that particular day was somewhat overcast, was a thrill. Traffic was light with a lot of biker tribes (mainly Harley’s but also touring Bimmers and few Ducatisti) crossing, as well as many campers. We knew that we were on holiday land, and when fate had it that the Mamas & Papas oldie hit California Dreaming, would broadcast through the car radio, the frosting on the cake brought back many teenage memories; only this time I was there, living the very dream!

The Robeck's house in Santa Barbara

Passing through Latino named towns added to the myth: San Simeon, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Santa Maria… Right there the Nuvi did its magic and directed me to exit US-1 and take the US-166 through lovely hilly vineyard country, crossing the deep green Los Padres National Forest before descending down to Santa Barbara, our final destination for the day. Without much trouble we located Stephen and Susan’s house on the hilly side of S.B. with lovely view of the town and the Santa Barbara Channel sea area further out. They had just finished a renovation and extension of their house; needless to say, seeing and hugging my ex-housemate after 40 years was very emotional. The dinner that ensued, B-B-Q’d fresh salmon, tasty salads and home baked palmiers with ice-cream, escorted by good wine, oldies jazzy music and lively discussions made us feel comfortable. Meeting their daughter Laureen was also a pleasure.

Stephen Robeck portrait drawing, Lake Forest College, ca. 1971

My friend Stephen Robeck profiling with an old Ship's Bow Head figurine in his den

Stephen and Byron, re-united in Santa Barbara, Ca. after 40 years!

After a nice sleep in the plush ex-Master Bedroom, touching bases with Stephen and Susan over morning coffee was cherishable. They were celebrating their anniversary and serious plans got under way about celebrating the following year’s together with ours (one day apart) in Kea island. Now this is a good promise to keep! :-)

Before leaving for Santa Monica we had enough time to browse through the streets and high lights of Santa Barbara, widely known as the “American Riviera.” In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city is rich with history which begins at least 13,000 years ago with the ancestors of the present-day Chumash Indians. The Spanish period has left a deep imprint with most prominent the Mission Santa Barbara, known as “the Queen of the Missions,” which was founded in 1786.

Mission Santa Barbara, known as "the Queen of the Missions," was founded in 1786.

We loved the streets of Santa Barbara. There is a certain positive aura about it, a calm, clean, neat, well looked after town, which has the look and impression of an affluent suburb. The villas on the hills are numerous and “grande”. Being a coastal town also has a good size marina, a typical American pier, the Stearns Wharf. When completed in 1872, it became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns, the wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California’s South Coast for over a quarter century. The area boasts many waterfront restaurants and shops as well as beaches. The Main Street features extensive shopping options, pedestrian arcades, easy parking and so on. I think that the nickname “American Riviera” is befitting.

There are certain things or situations which carry a favorite tag of mine, that is “Only in America”. The Hippie Van below is just one example, found in the public parking lot of Santa Barbara. If you click on the photo it will open in a new window in large format, click again and enlarges once more, so that the details of this contraption can be examined and its message deciphered! (By the way, such clicking function is embedded in all photos of my Blog).

My additional San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. photo album on Facebook can be shared by clicking here!

A "only in America" weird object! Click on the photo to enlarge and observe the details!

Santa Monica, Los Angeles

Santa Monica beach and pier: view from our Fairmont Hotel room.

After a mediocre Mexican lunch, we cruised on the coastal road toward Santa Monica passing through several “California Dreaming” beachfront towns as Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Malibu Another befitting song that will add music-score nuances to our cruising experience would be the Beach Boys hit Surfing USA“. Endless coasts with serious surf wakes entice Californians to this sport. Others just lay on the beach sun bathing and pick-nicking. Beautiful villas along the coastal line add to the scenery all the way to Santa Monica and beyond to Ventura.

We lodged in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel at the end of Wilshire Boulevard, an arterial road that leads from the west coast right into the center of metropolitan Los Angeles and beyond running a distance of 16 miles (26 km).

Third Street Promenade by night. Photo by Lynn N. on http://www.yelp.com

Our afternoon walk to nearby “Third Street Promenade” and adjacent “Santa Monica Place” was impressive. USA capitalism and retail fever is found here at its grandest manifestation. Third Street Promenade has been a center of business in Santa Monica since the town’s inception in the late 19th century. The Promenade’s roots date back to the 1960s when three blocks of Third Street were converted into a pedestrian mall. Although successful, by the late 1970s, the Santa Monica Mall (as it was then called), was in need of modernization and a redesign. A new enclosed shopping center, Santa Monica Place (1980–2007), designed by Frank Gehry was added at the Promenade’s southern end. Aside from a multitude of stores and restaurants, street artists of all kinds compete to attract visitors and extract their applause and occasional coin donations. After exhausting ourselves walking and overdosing on consumerism, we dined at a Thai restaurant by the name of Buddha’s Belly.

Santa Monica Place view. Photo by Miguel E. on http://www.yelp.com

Beverly Hills city sign welcomes us on our "Father's Day" visit!

Sunday June 19th, “Father’s Day” was the last full day of our trip to the USA. :-(  We got into the Mustang, opened the top and drove north on Wilshire Blvd. towards Beverly Hills. It is one of the most affluent cities in the world, and is home to Hollywood celebrities, many corporate executives and numerous other wealthy individuals and families. In 2007, Coldwell Banker listed Beverly Hills as the most expensive housing market (second year in a row) in the United States, with a median home price of over $2.2 million. These homes range from the extravagant and luxurious in size, to the more elegant and modern homes, and then to the many small duplex rental units and detached homes with less than 2,000 sq ft (185 sq meters). We zig-zagged above and below the axis of Santa Monica Blvd., admiring the hilly setting with the plush, mostly secluded vilas of the rich and the famous. Ivi had a ball.

Characteristic Beverly Hills green street with palm trees.

Rodeo Dr. Cd'E banner

I wished to show her the exclusive shopping street of Rodeo Drive and stop for coffee. A shopping district known for designer label and haute couture fashion. The name generally refers to a three-block long stretch of boutiques and shops but the street stretches further north and south. As I was approaching the area, I noticed that Rodeo Dr. was closed and saw a huge white canvas across the street with the Ferrari logo on it. Many people were mingling behind but could not see clearly. Ivi shouted “Don’t you dare stop here, no more cars on our last day in L.A.!” Oops! I was going to get into serious trouble. She had overdosed on cars during this trip and was adamant. I drove off and continued cruising along the fine streets of Beverly. After a while, nature’s call had to be answered so I sort of drifted back to the “scene of the crime” once again… I barely got her out of the car on the promise of exclusive shopping etc. What was going on in Rodeo Drive? They were hosting the “2011 Rodeo Drive Concours D’ Elegance”! A unique showcase of classic collector cars on the world-renowned shopping street. What a treat! On the annual Father’s Day, the C d’E celebrated “The Art of Italian Motoring,” and helped commemorate Italy’s 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy. More than 100 vintage Italian cars and motorcycles were on display, lining Rodeo Drive north of Wilshire Boulevard. The flack I received from spouse could not deter my excitement, despite being forced to cut it short. For me, a gift on Father’s day, another unique motoring experience, another “Only in America” happening, as a grand finale of my “Pilgrimage Trip” to the USA. See the nice video here:

Also enjoy William Edgar’s slide show photography by clicking here! and then scrolling down to the end of page.

Rodeo Dr. Concours d'Elegance street scene...

My additional Rodeo Drive Concours D’ Elegance, Beverly Hills photo album on Facebook can be shared by anyone just by clicking here!

On the last day of our visit, on the morning of Monday the 2oth, we took a leisurely drive before reaching our final destination, the LAX. Passing through the towns of Ventura and Marina Del Ray. Its Fisherman’s Village offers a view of Marina Del Rey’s dominant feature as one of the largest man-made small boat harbors in the U.S., with 19 marinas with capacity for 5,300 boats. The harbor, the Los Angeles Times said in 1997, is “perhaps the county’s most valuable resource.”

Marina Del Ray scene, "perhaps the county's most valuable resource."

The odometer tells the mileage run!

Returning the Mustang at Thrifty’s was smooth. Overall we logged about 570 miles or 917 kilometers on the SFO, Bolinas and Pacific Coast Highway routes. Motoring on the US roads is pleasant, safe and comfortable. Overall a perfect experience either on the Cape Cod or California roads. Took the courtesy shuttle bus to the Eastern Airlines Terminal where we endured the worst ordeal of the entire trip. We were directed to a “counter operator assisted” cue, because I wanted to ensure that our luggage will not get lost on the multy legged flight plan, LAX, SFO, Zurich, Athens and switching airlines from Eastern to Swiss in between. At any rate we coped among swearing and bitching and vowing “Never to fly Eastern again”. The final luxury of our trip was to fly Business Class on the long return trip from LAX to Zurich and then on to home port Athens. Swiss was perfect, and the reclining seats into fully horizontal position allowed for some light sleep, good airline food and…an on board movie (among the many selections) being Bullit with Steve McQueen and the famous car chase driving a Ford Mustang in the streets of San Francisco. :-)