Category Archives: Automobiles

Cars

Sometimes, I do actually break out the 35mm and shoot. These were all taken at a local car show, playing around with my Contax RTS III and the 50mm f1.4 Planar lens. I think you really can tell a difference between shots taken with the RTS III and other 35mm cameras because of the vacuum film pressure plate – sucking the film perfectly flat at the time of exposure does lead to a sharper negative overall, or at least takes the film’s flexibility out of the equation and lets the lens shine through. These were taken with my favorite color negative film, Kodak Ektar 100.

I just love the simplicity of the Corvette rear end design in this composition – the field of cream yellow, offset by the curve of chrome and the two red taillights reflected in the bumper. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Corvette Bumper
Corvette Bumper

Aah, classic design. The Art Deco glory that is the Cord 810 convertible. Considering how rare and expensive these are, the owner/driver gets a lot of credit for driving it to and from the show. I saw him later that afternoon, pulled over with the hood up, so that dashed my fantasies of having one as a daily driver. But it’s still a glorious car to see on the road today.

Dashboard, Cord 810
Dashboard, Cord 810

Another vintage dashboard, from a Porsche 356. Very clean, very simple, no clutter to distract from the driving experience.

Porsche Steering Wheel
Porsche Steering Wheel

I was racking my brain to remember what car this was exactly. It’s British, 1950s, with a big (for the time and place) engine. I was thinking Jensen, or BRM, but I think Jensen was 60s and 70s, and BRM mostly did racing cars. Then it struck me – it’s a 1950s Bristol four-place coupe. They were fast, luxurious GTs in their day, and somewhat rare, especially on this side of the pond.

Bristol Dash
Bristol Dash

Here is the engine compartment of the Bristol. A big inline 6-cylinder topped by three magnificent carburetors. It’s almost sculptural.

Bristol Engine
Bristol Engine

The modern contingent – a Ford GT, the modern recreation of the 1960s GT40 race car, but this one is street legal, and fully civilized on the inside with working A/C, radio, and leather seating.

Ford GT40
Ford GT40

And last but not least, what car show would be complete without a Ferrari or two? This is the dashboard of a Ferrari 250 Berlinetta, as seen through the window glass.

Ferrari Dash
Ferrari Dash

Automobiles, Nemours Estate

Nemours was the home of Mr. Alfred I. Dupont, one of the wealthiest men in America in the early 20th century. When stripped of his directorship at Dupont, he sought out new business opportunities including investing in Florida real estate. Spending a significant amount of time in Florida, he needed a car, and kept this Buick rumble-seat coupe at his property there. The car, unlike the others garaged at Nemours, is in original, survivor condition, complete with faded paint and dulled chrome. What makes it all the more remarkable is that the car survives without major damage (or blood on the bumpers!) as Mr. Dupont was by the time he owned the car deaf in both ears and blind in one eye.

A.I. Dupont's Buick
A.I. Dupont’s Buick

His third wife, the true love of his life, outlived him by nearly 40 years. Her last car was this 1960 Rolls Royce Phantom V. According to the docents, this Phantom V is the #2 production car of that year, with #1 being in possession of Her Royal Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Mrs. Dupont's Rolls Royce Grille
Mrs. Dupont’s Rolls Royce Grille

This headlamp belongs to the second Rolls Royce in the Dupont stable, a 1950 model if memory serves.

Mrs. Dupont's Rolls Royce Headlamp
Mrs. Dupont’s Rolls Royce Headlamp

Car Wreck ca. 1905

Here’s a photo I bought of an early car accident, circa 1905. I’ve done some modest restoration work on the image – there was some severe damage to the water under the bridge. It was a quick and dirty repair job, so it should be easy to spot, but I wanted to clean it up to make the image more readable and remove the distraction.

Riverside Car Wreck ca. 1905
Riverside Car Wreck ca. 1905

1903 Winton Touring Car

1903 WInton Tourer
1903 WInton Tourer

This appears to be a 1903 Winton touring car. In doing some image searching, I came across a photo of the 1903 Winton that was driven by Horatio Nelson Jackson that seems to be very similar, with the exception of this being a four seater and Jackson’s being a two-seater. Would that this were a photo of Jackson’s car before he set out on his famous cross-country drive. In 1903 it took him 64 days to cross the US, including numerous breakdowns and delays from having to winch the car out of mud holes and over rocky terrain. His trek proved it could be done. By 1919, when Dwight Eisenhower did it with a military convoy of heavy trucks, it had been reduced to 29 days (average speed less than 6mph, and including 6 days of rest with no travel attempted).

With the chauffeur in the front seat, I guess you could consider this an occupational photo. Regardless, an awesome piece of early automotive history. Note the license plate with the number 1211. Could you imagine driving from Washington DC to San Francisco, a distance of some 3000 miles, in a car like this?

Loose Tintypes

I thought it would be fun to review my loose tintypes. These are only the ones I’ve previously posted to the blog, not the entire collection. They run the range from tiny gemtype size (the one of Mr. Phillips in the top hat) to quarter-plate size (almost 5×7). They span a time period from the 1860s to the 1920s. Assembled they present a fascinating if incomplete snapshot of daily life in Victorian America. Showing everything from affectionate friends to unconventional family groups to people on vacation to working people with the tools of their trades, they portray a slice of life otherwise undocumented in literature or historical narrative. This is one of the great joys of collecting images like this – not just the traditional studio portraits, but the images that express meaning and personality beyond a marker that someone existed.

Ca. 1916 Hunting Party

1916 Hunting Party in car, by John D. Isaac, Batavia, NY
1916 Hunting Party in car, by John D. Isaac, Batavia, NY
1916 Hunting Party, by John D. Isaac, Batavia, NY
1916 Hunting Party, by John D. Isaac, Batavia, NY

These are 8×10″ prints mounted to 11×14 inch boards. The reverse of each is stamped “John D. Isaac, Batavia, New York”. These gentlemen all appear to be a family – there’s way too much resemblance between three of the four to be anything other than brothers/father and sons. And I love the dog being included in the photo, and hopping up in the back seat like just another passenger. Just goes to show dogs have always loved cars.

The big mystery is the car – what make is it. I initially thought it was a Dodge, from the shape of the fender and the headlamps, but the grille is not quite right, and neither is the maker’s enamel plaque on the grille, or the hood vents, the door opening pattern (suicide door on the front, standard in the rear) or the contour of the cowl where the hood fairs into the body. This is a larger, more luxurious car than a Dodge, but the common (and not-so-common) marques I can think of to look up don’t seem to match either. It’s not an Essex, Hudson, Hupmobile, Locomobile, Plymouth, Haynes, Mercer, Peerless, Pierce Arrow, Buick, Cadillac, or Overland, that I can tell. It could be as late as the early 1920s, but it’s definitely not past 1930.

EDIT: Doing some more digging, I think I found what it is. It’s a ca. 1916-1918 Studebaker, most likely a Light Six touring car.

Anonymous 1938 Packard

Here’s a neat anonymous vernacular photo of a man, his car and the open road – it’s in many ways the American archetype. The car is a 1938 Packard (appears to be a Packard 120, their ‘entry level’ model, sort of like a Mercedes C-Class today).

1938 Packard
1938 Packard

Despite the fact that the car is a near-luxury car, this is so emblematic of the American psyche – a man and his car on the open road, the spirit of freedom and independence. It’s also remarkable to see how far the American roadscape had come by 1938 from 1919 when then-Lt.Col. Eisenhower crossed the country in a military convoy averaging 5.6 mph, requiring 573 hours to cover 3250 miles. Less than 10% of the road surface in the US was paved in 1919. I took the same approximate route Eisenhower did, in 2000, and it took roughly 42 hours (3 1/2 days at roughly 12 hours a day).