Tonawanda News

September 27, 2013

ADAMCZYK: Never made it as a wise man

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I used to be what’s known as a “car guy,” but more-or-less outgrew it. 

Oh, I can pontificate for many boring minutes on how the new Cadillacs take certain styling cues from old Cadillacs, and have a small bank of stories about intriguing-but-disappointing cars I’ve owned or otherwise known and how their parts would fall off or fail at inopportune moments, but I assume every male in America, and certain women, can do that.

When my appreciation of local history intersects with anything to do with cars, I become an attentive observer and researcher, to wit: 

What recently crossed my path was a photograph of Delaware Avenue in Kenmore from 1961, a simple picture of storefronts and automobiles in the street. Everything about it said “snapshot, quickly taken through the driver’s window of a moving car, note the car’s mirror in the lower right corner.”

A moment frozen in time, as Rod Serling might have intoned darkly in 1961. A car traveling past a women’s clothing store, Roger Lewis Shop for Men and Boys and Watson’s Restaurant. Cars going by in the other direction, southbound on Delaware.

Scan the picture into the computer and zoom in, then hold a magnifying glass to the screen. People, including men in fedoras, are bundled up and walking on the sidewalk, so it’s not summer. The manikins in the store on the far left are in lighter-weight clothes; they must think its spring. 

All right, the cars. You cannot depict a street scene without cars. (A photo exists of the antiques store once at Tremaine Avenue and Delaware, formerly among the oldest houses in Kenmore and now a vacant lot; in the foreground, a Jaguar XK-E, perhaps the best looking car ever designed, is traveling north on Delaware and dodging a massive pothole.) 

There are two Plymouths in this photo, one parked at the curb, the other on the move, massive, tail-finned dinosaurs containing about three times the amount of steel as a modern econocar; on the other hand, it could seat six and you could probably live in one for a month.

(And it provokes a joke, as many things in life do. It was not long ago the question “What would Jesus drive?” was batted around. The book of Genesis notes that God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden “in his fury,” and at one point in the New Testament it is noted that Jesus and his apostles were “in one accord,” so evidently God drives an old Plymouth and Jesus drives a Honda.)

Also visible in the picture are a Studebaker, what looks like a ‘58 Corvette and some homely mystery crate of a car, a small convertible that is likely foreign but most definitely not a Jaguar XK-E. All right, what is it?

Zoom in, get out the magnifying glass. I think it’s a British Triumph, but not one of the desirable, collectible, lovable Triumph sports cars, rather the forlorn, “family-car” Triumph. Nothing special about this baby, except that I can’t identify it.

Count the number of dimples above the grille to see if they go to seven, the amount of letters in the name “Triumph.” There are a few visible badges on this little car, but nothing indicative of the make or model. Note the flat, inexpensive hubcaps with no identification.

Call in a friend, who works for the Sports Car Club of America. He sends the photo to a few colleagues. Sit back and await the definitive answer. 

The definitive answer: “It might be an early Honda 600. Someone out here had one of the first.” “Triumph Herald.” “It’s a Sunbeam.” “Is that a Corvette parked at the curb?”

All right, we nailed it down, a Triumph Herald. A driver rolled through downtown Kenmore in 1961 in a Triumph Herald, at least once. Posterity called and the evidence is in.

Thus does a “car guy” keep his hand in the game without blowing his check on exotic parts arriving in boxes from Europe, or sliding clumsily under an allegedly re-buildable wreck in the garage to tighten something and dream about how great it will be when this thing is finally finished and on the road. I like my way better.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.