In 1928, when I was eight years old, Dad came home one evening with a “new” 1926 Chevrolet two door sedan.
Having driven only open cars with styling similar to a buggy, our family felt that we had really moved up in the world with our first closed car! About six feet tall and shaped somewhat like a box, this car was as exciting to us kids as a Corvette would be to kids today!
One novelty was that it was not all dull black. The lower body was pretty blue, with black fenders and top, and black wood spoke wheels. There were impressive features like a self-starter (which didn’t work very long), bumpers front and back, small white parking lights on either side ahead of the windshield, vacuum windshield wipers (that worked fine as long as we were not going up a hill), balloon tires, and a pull down shade for the back window. One amenity that it lacked was a heater. I will never forget having to bundle up with blankets on cold Kansas winter rides.
The evening of Dad’s prize purchase, the four of us boys took turns after dark pressing down the brake pedal while the rest of us watched the brake light glow red with yellow letters “STOP” shining out the red lenses. This car endured some of the family’s most adventurous and exciting times. Four of us five children became teenagers with it, and three learned to drive in it.
It had some unique characteristics. It had a rocking horse ride, as there were no shock absorbers. It had brakes on only the rear wheels. They consisted of bands that tightened onto the outside of the brake drums to stop. One can imagine how effective they were on a rainy day, a fact we boys discovered for ourselves. On such a day we drove to a farm neighbor, and as we turned into the drive the brakes failed, resulting in our demolishing a huge wooden gate that was closed. Fortunately, our neighbor was jolly and like us boys, so with no great ado he agreed that all would be well if we built a new gate.
One time we had to replace a door on the car. The inner structure of the body was wood, so after a few years a doorpost rotted and the door fell off on a rough stretch of road. There was no need for a body shop A jack-of-all-trades friend cut out a new doorpost. From that time on we had to lift up and slam the door to close it.
The Chevy was a dependable car overall, and it served our family into the early Thirty’s, when we moved up once again to a much used Model A Ford with all-steel body and four wheel enclosed brakes.
Ten or eleven years later our family took another upward step when my brother, [who?] bought a “pre-owned” 1936 Chevrolet. About the only thing it had in common with the 1926 model was the Chevrolet bow tie emblem! Improving road systems allowed for lower design. Advanced manufacturing methods together with an increasing public consciousness of style brought tremendous changes in automobiles of the later Thirties. Our “new” car had a “turret top” (one-piece metal); four wheel hydraulic brakes; heater; radio; clock; “Knee Action” independent suspension that “allowed the wheels to step over the bumps;” and plush mohair upholstery.
Yes, we thought we were reaching the ultimate in transportation. How could one even imagine what technology would yet bring.
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