Cactus, Carving & Cars

I mentioned last week that I’m volunteering at the Tucson Auto Museum occasionally. So I’m going to feature one special car this week; but first a little quiz. What does this black car make you think of? I’ll answer a bit further down.

One morning we took a walk around a nice trail with Chuck. Note the bird nest inside the crowned saguaro.

My first woodcarving project of the season was really just a repair job. Our cute little fan broke one of its plastic feet. Super glue didn’t do the trick, so I decided to make new feet of wood. I took part of a cutting board that someone left as scrap in the woodshop, and cut the shape of the feet. Then carved the notch where the fan fit onto the feet… Stained and finished them, and now the fan has funny custom feet.

Since our kids were little, we played Mahjong with them. (Close to the way it’s done in Taiwan – not like the game played on iPhones, etc.) The game is played with little tiles, each with a character or number or other icon engraved on it. The Chinese number six looks like a little man, so we always called it “Six Man.” (pretty creative, huh!) Anyway, down the street from us is a quite large Six Man.

Actual character for six:

Our neighbor’s stone version of “Six Man.”

As an intro to the car section, I present this silly sticker on a French car (with translation):

Ok, back to the car quiz. Want some hints? Here’s what I thought of…

Well, if you thought of any of those, you missed it…

It’s a Tatra. (yeah, you knew that…) 1963 Tatra 2-603 to be exact. Made in Czechoslovakia, the first Tatra 603 was produced in 1955. In Socialist Czechoslovakia, only high-ranking party officials and heads of factories were driven in 603’s. The body was designed with wind tunnel testing, and produced until 1975. Tatra is one of the longest running vehicle manufacturers, having started with horse drawn carriages in 1850. In the 1880’s they built railroad cars, and in 1897 built their first automobile. Ferdinand Porsche, when designing the first Volkswagen beetle, drew heavily from the then current Tatra design. So much so that Tatra sued him for patent infringement, but then Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and the suit was dropped. (!) They eventually built both cars and trucks, and in 1999 quit building cars and now they focus entirely on trucks.

Among the unique features of this 603 is the V8 engine – in the rear!

Packard is one of my favorites… (OK, I may have over a dozen favorites) The Museum has a couple of noteworthy Packards, and the one owned by Jack Benny is awesome. But this 1948 Packard Deluxe Eight, with the “Woodie” body, is so unique I thought I’d show you some details. Early Woodies were horse drawn “Shooting Brakes,” made entirely from wood and used to transport hunting equipment. Then “Station Hacks” were used to take folks to and from train stations, and developed into “Station Wagons.” Until the late 30’s or so, most Station Wagons actually had the passenger compartment, or at least most of it, made from wood. Jeep produced America’s first all-steel station wagon in 1946. It had three-toned paintwork to simulate a Woodie look. But I digress…

This beautiful Packard is all steel, with wood applied just for the looks. These were called “Station Sedans,” and might remind folks of the current crossovers and SUV’s. Not really a Station Wagon, not really a Sedan. The woodwork is very nicely detailed. The only wood that was structural was the tailgate, which pioneered the two piece tailgate that was used by basically all station wagons in the 50’s. Birch and Mahogany make for very pretty accents.

Here’s that innovative tailgate, with the gorgeous woodwork.

I love the fittings, like these hinges and door handles.

In several of these photos, you might see the photographer smiling.

This next picture is the last thing you would see if you were about to be run over by the Packard!

More examples of the beautiful woodwork… with a reflection of a 1934 Brewster. That beautiful car deserves a writeup of its own… another day.

No more cars this week, and not for a few more weeks… We’re leaving town until after Thanksgiving.

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