Monthly Archives: May 2021

Conversations With people We Value #21

Nowadays conversations about things that have traditionally mattered to those having the discussion often deteriorate into a bemoaning of the unchecked disappearance of the topic of interest in question. Whether products displaying exceptional craftsmanship or the skilled craftspeople possessing the ability to produce the superior product, both seem to live in the crosshairs of a culture fast losing its appreciation for hand crafted excellence.

In the face of such a perceived depressing trend, a rare feel good story came out of the pandemic that featured a world-class company renowned for producing premium trade show displays.

Though suffering a considerable loss of work from Covid-19 cancellations, the business, with a belief in better times returning, turned its attention to ensuring that it retained its staff of highly skilled craftsmen. With great hope for a better future when the world would return to normal, they allowed their imagination to stray way outside the box. Their brainstorming gave birth to an inspired plan to keep their highly respected craftsmen working, preserve a part of iconic Americana and possibly creating a new market opportunity. They would turn their craftsmen loose on restoring and updating vintage Airstream trailers.

Meet Dimensional Worldwide.

An inspired venture to preserve American craftsmanship and vintage Airstream trailers


Unbeknownst to all involved, the actual seminal moment for the vintage Airstream venture came when Dimensional Worldwide executive Lee Martindell asked Company President Doug Fixell if, during the Covid downturn, he could employ the company’s presently underutilized stable of skilled craftsman to rebuild his personal 1959 Airstream trailer. Martindell says, with the great skills our guys have, there was no reason our guys could not do the whole thing.” Fixell agreed saying that hours would be logged and Martindell would be billed. The agreement poised to unleash a torrent of talented carpenters, cabinet makers, metal workers, electricians. painters and printers on Martindell’s 1959 Airstream.

In recognizing the potential of this suddenly activated high quality Airstream restoration juggernaut, Martindell’s imagination took a leap. He approached fellow company executive Karen Samnick with one of those “this may be crazy but, what do you think” blue sky thoughts.

1936 Airstream trailer

Historically the original brainchild of Oregon native Wally Byam, Airstream trailers always had a following dating back to Airstream’s beginnings in 1931. They originated with a DIY Popular Mechanics article written by Byam on how to build the trailer. Soon people asked him to build the trailer for them. Airstream as a business came to life.

Since the beginning, Airstreams have earned an extraordinary reputation for longevity built on the quality of their materials and construction. Byam’s design focused on function with aerodynamics and low weight being critical design objectives. Airstream’s signature steel frame featured a riveted aircraft quality aluminum hard shell ensuring Byam achieved his desired superior strength and light weight.

Martindell suggested to Karen, “What if we went down the rabbit hole and restored vintage Airstreams as a business?” Initially aghast, Samnick’s says, her first thought was, “We are going to search for and work on trailers that have had more mice in them than people in the last, you know, decade or two?.”

However, Samnick quickly warmed to the idea as Airstream owner Martindell’s deep affection for Airstream trailers and the associated culture of quality and commitment that surrounds them took hold of her imagination. Samnick says, “So I am listening to Lee tell the story of why people like these trailers and what this world of Airstream people is really like. Then, the next day we are going to a meeting out in Montauk. We pass an RV trailer park, and there’s literally a bazillion Airstream trailers. I do a little quick research and find that you can’t even get a reservation. It’s all booked.”. That was enough for Samnick. She was sold on the idea.

With Karen on board Martindell pitched it to President Fixell. Without hesitation Fixell’s replied, “Great let’s do it.”

However, Martindell and his team quickly realized that the search for a solid east coast trailer would closely parallel the search for a solid vintage car not riddled with damage and deterioration. That said, the Airstream aluminum body represented a significant plus.

While being very particular in the quality of the trailers selected, success was realized with three being purchased. (1968, 1975, 1978)

At this point President Fixell had an epiphany. Fixell realized that it did not make sense for Dimensional to sell the trailers. They needed to establish a brand. They needed to create an entity dedicated to marketing and selling the restored Airstreams. Thus, Rivet Custom LLC came to life as the home of high quality restored vintage Airstream trailers.

As the Rivet vision morphed into reality the wisdom of its creation quickly displayed itself.

Martindell says, “We knew that even with no work in the shop or on the horizon, these guys were so talented, so special, that if we laid them off we were not getting them back. Not only are they skilled craftsman but, they are also really good people. The kind of quality individuals you want as the foundation of your organization.”

Fitzroy Hutchinson

Craftsman Fitzroy Hutchinson says, “ With the Covid lockdown we were all scared that we would lose our jobs.” Hutchinson’s last employer closed for good in 2009 when the economy took a nose dive. Hutchinson had worked there for 17 years. Being laid off deeply concerned all of the Dimensional staff.

Plant manager and super skilled craftsman Jerry Cardillo says, “As to Lee’s crazy Airstream plan, needless to say it excited the guys to have an alternative to having no work.” Initially some of the guys had known about Airstream trailers, other guys had no clue.

Hutchinson ads, “We quickly got the hang of it and, then, the fun began.” The Airstream adventure brought an added source of pride to already highly accomplished craftsman. Hutchinson says, “The guys love it because it’s like bringing a classic car back to life. Cardillo laughs saying, “Maybe we can get our own TV show, Trailer Tales.”

Jerry Cardillo

It soon became evident that the Airstream project not only provided meaningful work, but work that inspired already accomplished craftsmen with an elevated sense of purpose born of preserving recognizable and treasured pieces of American camping and highway history. And while the focus had been on preserving jobs, It became evident that Rivet may have stumbled upon a concept with significant sales potential.

Right now there is a two-year waiting list for a new Airstream. At this time Rivet can provide a totally rebuilt vintage Airstream for about half the cost.

A well spring of curiosity has bubbled up from commercial interests. Martindell with a smile says, “We would like nothing better than an order for a half dozen custom Airstreams from Corona Beer or a similar number from a glamping site looking to permanently station them for nightly renting.”

Each one of the Airstream trailers provides Rivet with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to preserve the past and at the same time introduce new families into a brand new “vintage” camping experience reflecting a past distinctively American lifestyle. Martindell says, “We believe Covid sensitized families to the value of being together.” He sees a real interest for the unique combination of high quality and the more traditional character of Revit Airstreams.

Martindell goes on to say, “I’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of TVs in inventory. None will go into a Rivet Airstream as a standard install. We have the ability to give you Wi-Fi so that the kids can have their iPads and their iPhones. Our Airstreams will have none of it. We believe Rivet Airstreams offer people a unique opportunity to personally reconnect with each other. I believe in these times it is a most worthy goal to pursue.” If people request an Airstream to be equipped a certain way, Rivet will of course integrate a quality installation.

Martindell’s own experience illustrates the powerful attraction of vintage Airstream ownership. He says, “With log books often available, we would love to provide new owners with a diary of the journeys experienced by the original owners. We want to  share the lives these trailers have already lived as part of the Rivet vintage Airstream experience. Connecting with the people and experiences once enjoyed paves the way for a new round of adventures and delivers a powerful emotional connection across generations.” Rivet offers products with the exceptional and unique power to generate fresh memories for a family afforded the joy of continuing in the spirit of the earlier family’s wanderlust.

Martindell personally owns a 1959 Airstream that came with a log of the campgrounds that the prior owners visited. Martindell says, “This September I’m intentionally taking the trailer back to Maine to the same camp grounds that they had visited in 1961.

Right now there is a two-year waiting list for a new Airstream. Rivet can presently deliver a totally rebuilt example for about half the cost. Examples will be on display May 22nd At Dimensional Worldwide in Mahwah, New Jersey.

Rivet’s motto  says it all, “preserve the past, plan for the future, build for now. But above all enjoy the journey.”

By |2021-05-20T11:43:25+00:00May 20th, 2021|2 Comments

Cars We Love & Who We Are #20

Visual acuity of eagles to site targets at great distances far exceeds any capability possessed by man. However, one select group of homo sapiens demonstrates an extraordinary ability to utilize their peripheral vision. That subset would, of course, be Car Guys.

Car Guys possess the ability to be weaving through a chaos of bouncing steel scrap unleashed from the back of a poorly stacked semi while still checking out from the corner of their eye the contents of an old barn behind a rickety farmhouse in a distant field.

Locating a barn find resides on a pedestal in the pantheon of Car Guy dreams. However, for one Car Guy in search of storage in garage starved New Jersey, his sharp eye caught site of a barn that would soon house his collection.

Meet Carl Grady.

When the find is the barn


Born and raised in Sydney Australia, Carl Grady emigrated to the United States right after 9/11. Always a car guy even as a young boy, Carl says, “On family rides in the countryside outside of Sydney, I’d be sitting in the back of the family sedan. I’d look out at the farms and the garages and barns and hope I’d get a sneak peek of something. You know, something sitting out there waiting to be discovered. I loved doing that.”

1937 MGTA

Once in America, Carl enjoyed and took advantage of vintage car prices considerably more reasonable than those for comparable British and American cars in Australia. As a result he began to build a collection. However as all Car Guys know, when building s collection, space is the final frontier.

Carl’s “barn” find did not demand a long journey to the back country. Carl actually had a home in walking distance from where he found the barn three years ago. He says, “At the time I had a few cars. Unfortunately, I only had a single-car garage.” This resulted in his eclectic collection of American and British vehicles being strewn about the grounds of his home. He had cars parked in the driveway and around and about under covers. Then, Carl says, “We had a pretty bad winter. I knew I had to do something about protecting them.”

In the midst of a Google search for available garage space, a reference to a house with a four-car garage close to his home popped up. He laced up his sneakers and strolled from his home to take a look.

Hidden away behind the home being sold stood a 3 1/2-story barn built into sloping property with vehicle access on two levels. Carl says, “I told my kids to meet me for a look.” He did not even look at the house. When his kids got there he simply told them “We are moving.” Carl says, “It was just too good to pass up.”

Built in 1902, the barn served as a kind of parking garage for the horses and carriages that transported people around the town of Ridgewood, NJ when they came by train from New York to visit.

Model A and TR3

The barn’s second floor that opens to the driveway actually served as the main level providing the area where the wagons would be parked. The gravel path leading down and around brought the horses to stables on the first level in the rear.

Carl says, “It’s still pretty much the original barn. You can see the tree trunks that hold it up. I’ve tried to keep it as rustic as possible. If you go downstairs, you’ll even see some of the horse stalls and some of the original harness paraphernalia.” In fact a buggy that was built in 1902 is still on the ground floor in its original unrestored condition.” Until Carl the barn had never housed a vehicle.

As all Car Guys know, there is no such thing as an empty garage bay, its more accurate description is that of a place holder for the vehicle yet to be purchased. In Carl’s case his spacious barn quickly filled. With the recent sale of his 1960 MGA fixed head coupe and TR6 and the addition of a 1930 Ford Model A coupe and 1948 Austin 840 Devon Sedan his collection consists, together with the Model A and Austin, of a 1937 MGTA, 1960 Triumph TR3, 1960 Triumph Herald Coupe, 1960 MGA roadster and a 1963 Ford Thunderbird.

Carl admits his passion resides with American and English makes based on his youthful exposure in Australia where English makes provided the majority of road traffic with American models enjoying the stature of almost an exotic. His passion for Anglo Saxon brands accompanies an equal passion for using the cars in his collection as they were intended and that means his cars are driven. Carl says, “While I view them all as pieces of art, I believe their beauty stands out best when in motion.” For Carl the best part of car shows comes with driving to them and back home. He says, “I’m not interested in concours shows that demand hours of cleaning. It’s just not my deal, I don’t care necessarily about a hundred point car. I just like a car to look neat and original without getting too carried away.” He feels his blue 1960 MGA roadster displays his philosophy perfectly. Like battle scars, the nicks and dings acquired through spirited driving on real roads enhance the spunky blue MGA’s well earned patina.

When asked about his favorite ride, Carl falters a bit in committing saying, “The MGA roadster was my favorite, but now it competes for attention with the MGTA and the TR3. Last summer, I drove the TR3 more than any of the other cars.”

Carl says, “I have  always liked the MGA. It has the MGB engine in it. It goes. It moves. It’s just noisy. It has a 4-speed and is just a lot of fun to blast around. Carl with a self-deprecating smirk goes on to say, “It’s broken down so many times on the road, but hey that too represents a signature quality of the British sports cars motoring experience.”

TR3 and MGA

Carl’s affection for the TR3 begins with the cut down doors and the feeling that it delivers a more relaxing and less intense driving experience than the noisy MGA. Comparing the two, Carl says, “The TR3 is just as enjoyable but instead of delivering the intensity of a sprint, the TR3 delivers the more relaxing experience of a long leasurely run.”

In speaking about the 1937 MGTA Carl says, “Just the novelty of driving a pre-war vehicle in itself is cool. Plus it’s right-hand drive. It’s a beautiful car. Granted, you don’t drive fast, but with the windscreen and windows all down the driving experience transports you with a stirring time behind the wheel of a time machine. It really delivers a cool nostalgic drive.”

Again demonstrating the powerful draw presented by open and readily fillable space, Carl’s barn features an extraordinary array of pedal cars and automobilia.

While always attracted to pedal cars Carl never thought about collecting them. However, under the constant urging of his friend Buz Korn, a skilled and dedicated collector of all things automotive, Carl took the plunge. After buying a French pedal car that had caught his eye, Carl’s pedal car pursuits were off and running. As Carl says, “I just started to look and then got a little crazy.” Two of his favorite pedal cars are an Austin J40 and an Auto Union Type C pre-war Silver Arrow Grand Prix.

Auto Union and J40 Pedal Cars

Like it drove out of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” its curvy voluptuous body style makes the J40 a kid and collector favorite. Carl says, “There is an event every year at Brooklands. The kids run to the cars, jump in and race down the track to win a prize.”

The original concept for the pedal came as an act of the British Parliament in 1943. The act recognized that coal miners were being struck down with the black lung disease. The plan for providing work for these stricken miners was to have them build a toy pedal car based on the Austin Devon and made from the scrap metal left over from the production line. Production ran from 1950 to 1971 with 32,098 models being produced.

Carls’s Auto Union Grand Prix pedal car plays to his strong interest in the Grand Prix cars of the pre-WWII era.

1963 Thunderbird and Austin 840

Commissioned by Audi in 2007 as a promotional item with a limited run of 999, it provides full racing bicycle mechanics and rear wheel drive gearing. Anyone who can fit in it can pedal it.

On a far more altruistic plane, Carl envisions his barn offering the opportunity to gather far more than interesting vehicles, he sees it as a meeting place to foster camaraderie among people of like interests. Carl says, “I would love for the barn to serve as a welcoming venue to promote the gathering of car enthusiasts.” He would have it become a casual arena for the sharing of stories, information and friendship.

As we come out of the age of Covid, Carl’s vision offers a wonderful inspiration to escape the no longer forced isolation.

By |2021-05-06T10:49:55+00:00May 6th, 2021|10 Comments