McArthur to Reno

We only had one night in McArthur, California. It was a beautiful park, with lots of big oaks surrounding us. I had a little trouble with the drone a couple of weeks ago, so got it all charged up and tried a flight – and got lots of fun pictures. (Drone is working well, thanks for asking)

The next morning we had a nice birding walk among the trees.

We have long term friends who lived near McArthur, but I wasn’t sure they were even still there. Bill worked as a dentist in Taiwan when we did, a hundred years or so ago. He and his wife Darla were a lot of fun! But now my call didn’t get answered or returned, so I figured we’d missed them. As we were packing up to move on our moving day, I got a call… it was Bill, who we were hoping to see! Even though retired, he was helping out in his old office, and we could drop by and say hi. Great to see Bill! (Darla really missed out – she was stuck touring somewhere in Europe, so didn’t get to visit with us!)

National Automobile Museum

While we really went to Reno to see my sister Lori and her husband Tom, of course I never updated pictures of them. But somehow I did manage some serious time in Reno’s famous car museum. I took a million or so pictures last time I was here, and put a bunch of them up on that week’s blog. (You can read it here) So I tried hard to not duplicate cars that I talked about before… not easy. My favorites are still favorites! But the following has almost no repeats…

Below is an early racer, and I can’t even tell you its name. All I remember is that the driver sat on the right, and his mechanic sat on the left, and used the little buttons on the edge of the dash to send oil to the engine. (They look like valves on a trumpet.) This was before engines had reservoirs of oil, and pumps to automatically distribute it. So this was pretty clever… if your mechanic pushed the right buttons!

An absolutely gorgeous 12 cylinder 1938 Packard:

Here is an interesting comparison: two roadsters of 1932. Both are the top of the line of their respective makes…

A Packard Ninth Series 902 Coupe roadster, and a Ford Model B De Luxe roadster. The Packard had a 110 horsepower straight 8 engine, a new synchromesh transmission, and to further enhance Packard’s famously smooth ride, “Ride Control,” which let you adjust your shock absorbers as you drove.

The Ford had a 4 cylinder engine, and 50 horsepower. Later in the year, Ford offered an optional “Flathead” V8 with 65 horsepower. Those sold far better, but in later years the cheaper 4 cylinder cars were sought after by hot rodders who installed their own souped up V8s.

So you choose – the elegant, powerful Packard or the cute little sporty Ford? The Ford sold for $450… the Packard was $2,650! You could have almost 6 of the Fords for the price of the Packard. Still…

I learned a lot about gas pumps! In the early days, you would go to a shop on the outskirts of town, a guy who sold kerosene and lamp oil, and bought your gas a gallon or two at a time. That was awkward, so they started having portable carts, from which you could pump your fuel. The shopkeeper would pull the cart indoor after hours, but this created a potential fire hazard. So the next iteration was a pump, mounted outside, that pulled from an underground tank. The problem was you couldn’t see what you were getting, and it was too easy to get cheated by the shopkeeper. The glass tank type of pump prevented that – you cranked the pump, filling the glass chamber with the desired amount of fuel, and then it gravity fed into your car. By the 1920’s, the “Clock-Face” pumps were in use… the gallons were displayed with rotating hands like on a clock, and a bell would ring after each gallon. When those were replaced by automatic pumps that had counters for the gallons and price, there was a still little sight glass with a wheel spinning around, so you could feel good about what you were getting. I admit I remember that type of pump. Modern gas stations don’t use pumps… they are called dispensers, because the actual pumps are elsewhere, providing the pressure, and the nozzle you use is just, well, dispensing it.

Interesting chart of gas prices a while ago… we noticed gas taxes in Washington were about 68 cents per gallon, and diesel taxes were about 74! Far cry from a nickel!

This 1912 Rambler appeared in the 1997 movie Titanic. In the movie, two cars are shown approaching the Titanic on the dock. One has the passengers, the other has their luggage. This was one of the two… (I didn’t rewatch the movie to figure out which!) An interesting detail was that when and where the movie was filmed, the sun was coming from the wrong direction to be accurate for where the scene was supposed to be. The director said “No problem; I’ll just flip the film.” But then the steering wheel was on the wrong side. Again, no problem… They moved the wheel to the other side, not hooked to anything, and left a tiny wheel, not visible, that the “passenger” could steer the car. Someday I have to see the movie again to see if I can catch the passenger actually doing the driving.

A car I mentioned last time is this famous 1902 Curved Dash Oldsmobile. There are lots of interesting stories about this car, and its creator, R. E. Olds. But I’m just showing it here as a comparison with the next car…

This is a 1910 Oldsmobile. 6 cylinders, 60 horsepower, and $4,600! Most car manufacturers in this era, (except Henry Ford) felt only wealthy people could afford cars, so they made them fancy and expensive. This Oldsmobile touring car is HUGE, so you may not notice the HUGE wheels… they are 43 inch wheels! That’s over 3 1/2 feet – amazing! If you aren’t familiar with wheel sizes, most modern cars run on anything from 13 to 19 inch wheels. Some sport a 20 or 21 inch wheel. Our motorhome feels big, with 22.5 inch wheels. But 43!? Amazing.

Another car I mentioned last time was the Franklin. There is a Franklin museum in Tucson, and you can read my blog about it here. I’m including it here to compare radiators. The Franklins were air cooled, and they were proud of the fact that they did not need some huge radiator like water cooled cars. They only needed their little round radiator.

A problem arose when folks wanted impressive powerful looking cars, and that meant a huge radiator. Finally the peer pressure made Franklin cave – for 1925 they still used their little round radiator, but hid it inside a huge fake radiator. Rumor has it that the vice president and chief engineer was so outraged that he quit!

By 1930, any trace of the little round was gone…

OK, I briefly mentioned the Jordan Playboy last time also. This was really the first car marketed to women, with really artsy ad copy. The ads were masterpieces of evocative writing!

Buckminster Fuller was a poet, artist, engineer, architect, cartographer, mathematician, sailor and philosopher. His inventions are far too numerous to mention here. He is widely thought to have invented the Geodesic Dome (although it was really developed in Germany 20 some years prior.)

He designed and built the Dymaxion – a very radical car. It only had three wheels, for a stable tripod-like affect. A Ford V8, mounted in the rear, drove the front two wheels. The steering wheel, in the front, turned the single back wheel. It had no back window – only a periscope! Only three were built. The unconventional steering led to weird handling, and it’s probably better that they didn’t make more.

Since we’re getting to unusual vehicles, I will include a prototype Tesla Semi Truck. This all electric truck is only in the museum because Tesla had a party here, and it had a battery problem and they haven’t removed it yet. Ha! Some laugh at the Tesla Semi, but Tesla is using about 65 of them to take batteries from the Reno factory to the site in southern California. Pepsi is also using some, as beta testers, and reporting good things about them. Tesla is not selling them yet, rather collecting usage data. We’ll see how it all shakes out!

When I was a high-school kid, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was popular for his crazy drawings, particularly the “Rat Fink.” He got his start drawing these weird pictures on T-shirts, and once incredibly popular, he built some actual cars like he’d pictured. One of the most popular was this “Beatnik Bandit,” built in 1961. He shortened the chassis of a 1949 Oldsmobile by five feet. The engine was supercharged and everything possible was chromed. The car was controlled by a central stick – driving, breaking and steering was all done with the single stick. The futuristic bubble canopy was made by heating plexiglass in a huge pizza oven and inflating it with air. The car is really wild looking, and wildly impractical. A show car only.

Road & Track magazine (R&T) featured a satirical story about an amazing car called the Cyclops II. Stan Mott did the very creative drawings. It was so popular that R&T built an example of the fictional vehicle. Over the years, the Cyclops II has appeared in 23 other R&T articles, claiming wins in just about every major auto race world-wide.

One more weird car… the Barbie car from the movie. I haven’t seen the movie, so I didn’t know this was what she’d drive. I think when I was a kid she had a Corvette.

Oh yes, there were a few celebrities around…

Lori and Cherryl ended up sitting down before I was done. What a surprise!

[One last note… the hood ornament at the top of this blog is from a 1938 Cadillac. I knew you’d be wondering…]


  1. Enjoyed all the old cars!! There were several I would like to drive! If you have time look up Carissa and her husband Danielo. They would love to see you. He is a neurologist and they have a two month old darling little boy. Hi to Lori and Tom also. Have fun…

  2. Fun to follow your adventures! Your blog is entertaining and sometimes educational. And the picture of the Beatnik Bandit is a blast from the past. Fun!

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