Editor’s note: One morning last week, those arriving early at the ClassicCars.com office heard a noise coming from the storage closet. Fearing, perhaps, a rodent or two, they unlocked the door and peeked inside. What they saw was an old fax machine — remember those? — that was spitting out the last of three pages.
At this point we need to point out that the machine wasn’t plugged in to an electrical outlet. It was just sitting there amidst other old office equipment, but it was alit and operating, seemingly under its own or some ghostly power.
They brought the pages out into the daylight. The writing said this dispatch had come from A. Lexus d’Torqueville, who claimed to have stumbled into a location in the afterlife where the pioneers of the auto industry gather to tinker with tools and to discuss what they observe when they check back in on this earthly realm.
This, he added, was just the first of his dispatches. He promised more would come.
Bonjour. A. Lexus de Torqueville here. I’m reporting from that Big Garage in the Sky, checking oout some of the project builds — and wait until you get to see the roadster that Carroll Shelby and the Duesenberg brothers have been able to fit with a straight-8 engine! I’ve also been asking some of the pioneers about their reaction to the current (pun intended) state of the automobile.
Speaking of electrically propelled vehicles, Tommy Edison is quite jealous that there’s an entire brand named Tesla, but not a single vehicle called the Edison.
Henry Ford still doesn’t understand why anyone needs more than one color of paint. For that matter, he still doesn’t understand why anyone needs to produce more than one car model. He keeps telling everyone that the world was just fine when everyone everywhere drove a Model T.
Of course, Boss Kettering disagrees. For those who may not remember, he invented the electric starter to replace the hand crank. Many people suffered broken hands, wrists or arms from crank kickback, and after one of Kettering’s associates actually died from his injuries, Kettering used cash-register components to craft the electric starter.
Kettering went on to become head of engineering at General Motors and is among those up here fully in favor of all the new technology being applied to the automobile. Not only is he — sorry, was he — an engineer, but he likes all of those newfangled driver aids that are making the highways safer.
But there’s a divide on that issue. There are those here to blame the demise of driver training classes and the rise of in-car distractions for making driving dangerous.
“The highways would be safer if people simply learned how to drive instead of paying attention to their cell phones,” says Joie Chitwood. “Shut up and drive!”
Much of the discussion about cars up here is focused on one of the three S’s — safety, speed and style.
Of course, many of the automotive pioneers think you should be able to have all three at once. This being my first report, I’ll save the comments on speed and style for a future article.
But I’ll warn you, if you like the looks of the cars being offered in dealerships today, you probably don’t want to hear what Harley Earl or Virgil Exner have to say. Sacre bleu!