Monday, December 11, 2017

Rube Goldberg & Professor Lucifer Gorganzolla Butts, A.K.

For the origins of the professor, click here.

Remembering Firth Motorcycles, Toronto

I used to take the subway frequently to Firth's (at the Coxwell station) to get parts initially for my 1967 Royal Enfield Interceptor and, after 1976, when I bought my 1974 Commando.  Harry Firth was quite the character.   (He once told me, a wet-behind-the-years teenager, "Royal Enfield!  Best bank in the world!  You're always putting money into it!").  Harry was actually issued a U.S. patent for a "combined tail light and end piece" in 1948:

Towards the end of his business days, Harry complained that Norton was shipping him incomplete motorcycles in crates, which would be missing a saddle or some other essential part, but include a snarky note in its place. He basically told me that these stupid actions were killing the Norton company, because he couldn't sell a bike in that condition. (To see some of these clowns, visit my previous post.  Today, what's left of them probably sit around in grimy pubs complaining of the loss of their glory days, and blaming it all on someone else.)

I remember that you had to go up a steep flight of wooden stairs to get to the parts counter upstairs, where a gorilla of a guy named Ron greeted you gruffly and with little enthusiasm.  After Harry retired, I'd heard Ron and Harry's daughter Lois (?) bought him out and renamed it "Loron Motorcycles." 

When they answered the phone, it always sounded like "Moron Motorcycles."  I said as much, and I don't think they appreciated the feedback.

To see some more photos of Firth Motorcycles, visit Moto Code.

Anyway, I was cleaning out some old file folders recently and discovered I'd actually kept a 1978 Firth catalogue!  Below, for your edification and enjoyment from that time machine:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Unlikely survivor, Chysler K car

Looking at this characterless anemic little wheezer, its hard to believe that it changed Chrysler's fortunes. This one is nearly perfect 35 years later, interior as new and only a bit of rusted rocker panels, something that usually manifested itself after a year or two of use. And hey! Its available!

Puch Maxi, 1978

Scientific American, July 1978
The almost final gasp of the once mighty Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

I've uploaded a 3-page article from 1982 on rebuilding the engine here:  Maxi Rebuild.

Sidecar Sunday

George Booth on Junk Collecting

It's often a thin line between cool stuff and junk.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Environmental solutions!

Doing a double take when I found this, i remembered stopping at a dealership in LasVegas in 1981 to buy some oil. 
"Where can we change this", we asked. 
Out in the desert, they said.  So we did, though it didn't sit comfortable with me even then. 
 Working with old leaky tractors over the decades, I learned that a gas leak would kill grass for months, diesel was particularly evil, taking multiple years to restore the ground.  But motor oil and hypoid didn't seem to cause a problem, the grass just kept growing. 
Still, having a few hundred million people dumping a couple of gallons all over the place every year just boggles the mind. 


From difficult beginnings in Saskatchewan in 1947, it took to the mid-sixties before a workable plan was finally adopted nationally in the sixties. More here.
Apologies on the gap in posts, I've been availing myself of the Ontario plan in recent days as I struggle though high fevers and debilitating headaches for the last week and a half. Hope it's all behind me.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Electric conversion

Take an old sixties Honda, toss away all the gas engine related stuff, add a hub electric motor and a couple of bags of batteries... a new lease on life!

Thomas Automobile comapny

The Thomas Automobile Company was located in Buffalo, building their first car in 1899. The company was well regarded and when a Thomas Flyer won the 1908 New York to Paris around the world race, it only added to his reputation. The luxurious Six-Forty above sold for $ 5150 in 1912. The company went into receivership the same year and built its last car in 1919,

Monday, December 4, 2017

Math by Fairchild, 1944

Reduce, Re-cruise and Recycle

Emphasis on the recycle... While walking along the Toronto waterfront, I came upon this boat, what caught my eye was the identification text welded into the hull just below the registration number. Ex-US army T-509, now a private boat in Lake Ontario, of course a quick Google revealed everything. 
It was built for the US army as a light cargo and utility boat for use in the rivers of Korea. Full story (blog) here.

Sidecar Sunday

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The first building on the site of the Banff Hotel

E J Hart, The Selling of Canada, Altitude Publishing, 1986

Four adults

The mockup used by the Austin Mini design team for determining the minimum space requirements to accommodate 4 adults. (The original Mini)

A liking for traveling in leather

While researching my previous post on the cartoons of "Pont", I came across Paul Davies' site, which includes his homage to the 1930's cartoonist.  Paul is a British cartoonist in his own right, and a very good one.  He donated this particular print to sell to support a worthwhile charity, Headway, which assists folks who have experienced traumatic brain injury.  He wrote about this in a July 2017 posting on his own blog.

Paul kindly gave me permission to use his cartoon on the Progress blog.  Please drop by his blog to enjoy many of his other imaginative illustrations.

Friday, December 1, 2017

New Haven Railway, Postwar

Geoffrey H Doughty, The New Haven Railroad's Streamline Passenger Fleet 1934-1953, TLC Publishing, 2000
Early 1948 and New Haven tries to increase ridership with a makeover.

Another job you wouldn't want to do, loading steamboats

Dean Server, The Golden Age of Steam, Todtri, 1996
This scene from 1900 shows the levee in New Orleans, where the  transfer of cargo between riverboats and ocean carriers took place. Below a painting by Currier and Ives presents a much more orderly, though no less busy version. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rough crossings

Much was made of the discomfort experienced by passengers on early ocean liners, here a series of 1890 drawings by W.W. Lloyd illustrates some of the problems.

Lubrication of your Ducati single

Villiers-Starmaker/ Metisse, August 1966

The Rickman Brothers made lovely frames, with  fibreglass body parts by the Mitchenall Brothers.  Apparently, this particular machine was designed by them for Bultaco.  The frame was based on the Norton Featherbed, and front suspension could be had as modified Norton Roadholders (as above) or Italian Cerianis.

The name "Metisse", by the way, is French for "mongrel."

Simplex "Senior" motorcycle, 1965

The only American motorcycle manufacturer located in the Deep South, Simplex operated out of New Orleans from 1935 to 1975, when they went bankrupt.  The "Senior" model above used a 200cc Villiers engine.  Weighing in at 200 pounds, it was advertised as having "flashing performance."  ("Also available with horsepower restrictor for junior licensing.")  It was offered at $40 U.S. F.O.B. Apparently, the company's profit per motorcycle was only $1.60!  It's a wonder they persisted as long as they did.


This Canadian No 18 drill press lying in front of a scrap yard looked to be in operating condition, but judging by its location and position its future doesn't look promising...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Atomic space gun

The opening of the Suez canal, 1869

Dean Server, The Golden Age of Steam, Todtri, 1996
This painting by Edouard Roux commemorates the passage of the Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napolean III on the Imperial yacht L'Aigle piloted by NapolĂ©on Coste, the first ship through the  canal.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Now a word from our sponsor...

After Amelia Earhart crossed the Atlantic in the aircraft "Friendship" with copilots Wilmer "Bill" Stultz and Louis "Slim" Gordon, whe became a media sensation. Here she appears in a cigarette ad, no mention of the guys...

Monday, November 27, 2017

The first Auto vs Airplane race

In 1908 Buick staged a race between their car and this unidentified airplane, thought to have been the first race of its type in what was to become a popular show attraction.  Apparently the car was credited with the win. Unfortunately neither the driver or the pilot's names are remembered.

Kitchen of Tomorrow

Martin Greif, Depression Modern, The Thirties Style in America, Universe Books, 1975

"The Kitchen of Tomorrow" as envisioned by  the Briggs Manufacturing Company in 1935. The cylindrical device in the center is an electric range. 
The company built car bodies for Ford, Chrysler and other car manufacturers. In 1933 they used their deep draw steel stamping technology to produce the first steel metal bathtub. The company was bought by Chrysler in 1953, the plumbing division was sold separately.

WWII cartoons by "Pont"

And my favourite:

From Pont (London:  Collins, 1942).

"Pont" (after Pontifex Maximus) was the nom de plume of Graham Laidler, chosen because, when initially preparing for a career as an architect, he did not want his actual name tainted by his side work as a cartoonist.  He went on to become one of Punch's most celebrated cartoonists. Born in 1908, he died tragically young in 1940 of polio.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Miles Aircraft, WW2

The Miles aircraft company largely built trainers.  their designs were often technologically and aerodynamic advanced. The company went bankrupt soon after the war, though Fredrick Miles quickly formed a new company, F W Miles which continued to build aircraft. The company was merged  with Auster into Beagle Aircraft.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sidecar Sunday

Featherbed plus Kawasaki equals Trisaki

Many old bike fans are familiar with the idea of a Triton- a Triumph motor in a Norton Featherbed frame- built as specials since the sixties. Many years ago I read an article, possibly in an 80s Classic Bike about someone who had actually installed a Kawasaki Triple in a Manx frame, heresy! 
Then I find this picture of Reg Pridmore with his version built apparently about 5 minutes after the Kawasaki H1 was introduced! I'd like to see it without the fairing, apparently the bike is still around, but being restored with the original motor. Kneeslider (scroll down to comments).

They used to make things here, Watertown, NY.

The Babcock company built carriages in upstate New York beginning in 1845 and when the auto boom arrived they built specialty bodies for Ford, Dodge and various car manufacturers, including apparently three bodies for Deusenberg. 
They also built a car which they produced in small numbers from 1909 till 1913. The company was quite large, employing 4-500 people at the high point in the early 1920s. In 1925, the business began to dry up and closed in 1926. More here.