Cars We Love & Who We Are
More than the polished parts and hard to find pieces, the special interest vehicles people collect embody the character of each owner. “Cars We Love & Who We Are” profiles individual special interest vehicles and the proud owner committed to its preservation.
Conversations with People We Value
Talking with skilled professionals who support our passion for collectible automobiles.
Roads We Remember
Some roads discovered far from home reward us with a once in a lifetime driving experience. Others are old friends revisited to elevate our spirits and celebrate the joy of life behind the wheel.
Cars We Love & Who We Are # 36
Alone with my thoughts I cruised along quiet slender two-lanes. They meandered through the forests and cleared farmlands of the piedmont that connects the downslope of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coastal plain. While nearly an hour of driving remained, having left the main highway behind, few cars would interrupt my peaceful reverie. Though launched on my journey by the tales shared by acquaintances, no words could have prepared me for what awaited.
Stories about vintage vehicles strewn about forests and festooned with vines and violated by trees tend to deliver far less than promised or hoped for. Not so this time, by a long shot.
Meet the man trapped by a forest of trucks.
Trapped by a forest of trucks
Speaking with me on the phone the day before, Glenn Duncan, President and majority owner of the well respected P.L. Duncan Trucking, had responded to my request to photograph old trucks on his property by welcoming me in a most accommodating country manner. Now I found myself approaching ground zero for the “trucks in the forest” legend.
The soothing voice of my WAZE dashboard Sacajawea said I had arrived as she directed me to take a right onto a rutted dirt road leading to a sprawling farm. Where I am from, to be judged “huge” a field required the space to accommodate a regulation football game. The parcel surrounding this dirt road qualified as “country huge”. That meant it could accommodate a professional football stadium and much of the parking. Shortly I realized that this was one of Glenn’s fields, just not the one I sought.
Proceeding further along the main road brought into view an expansive woodland area to my left. A large clearing carved from the forest and populated with a number of huge sheds had at its center a sturdy brick building that had once been a country store. Encircled by a neatly arrayed necklace of rugged semi-tractors from bygone decades, the old store served as Glenn’s office and home to a decidedly personal automobilia collection.
Walking across the dusty parking lot, ranks of rusted truck hulks in various states of decline faced out proudly standing shoulder to shoulder. Like a ghostly honor guard at attention for a military wedding, cab-overs, bullnoses, conventionals and sleepers with brands […]
Cars We Love & Who We Are #35
Amazingly, country roads exist even within sight of the Empire State Building which towers less than twenty miles from my home in Northern New Jersey. One Sunday, while meandering about with no particular place to go, I stumbled upon a surprisingly bucolic tangle of local wiggle roads. The driving delight they afforded momentarily sparked a gnawing distress at the joy to be lost with the coming age of automated cars. I quickly dismissed the thought opting for feigned ignorance and the associated bliss.
Navigating through a one-lane railroad underpass delivered me to a truly rural time capsule. Before me stood a farm with, what would prove to be, two centuries of history and the resting place for a century old chain-drive Mack truck.
That is how I came to meet Jim Van Houten of Van Houten Farms in Pearl River, New York.
Hundred-Year old Bulldog, Beloved but doomed?
Van Houten’s 1925 Mack AC
Jim Van Houten’s 1925 Mack AC, while standing tall and proud displays deep scars and brutal decay from the ravages of decades spent untended though not unloved. Certainly no one loves that truck more than Jim. As Jim gazes at the truck he radiates a sense of wistful resignation. An acknowledgement of forces at work and the meaning of dust to dust.
Jim Van Houten with 1925 Mack AC
Jim’s trim physique and forthright demeanor belie his 78-years. While every inch a farmer, Jim arrived at his life’s work on the farm following a few years spent in corporate America. His background includes a B.S. in agriculture and an MBA, both from Cornell.
Jim says, “Today there are only three farms left in this county. Ours is one of them.” However, the pressures to keep his farm alive offer an ever present challenge. Jim says, “While individuals seem to love visiting the local farm, local governments appear incapable of appreciating the farm’s value to a community.” Town bureaucrats frequently seem intent on turning the farm into a prize for some large developer to exploit.
Much of that which Jim holds dear seems under attack, often by what feels like inexorable forces. Maybe that 100-year old truck Jim loves stands as a metaphor for the 200-year old farm that he holds so dear.
Jim possesses a profound appreciation and respect for […]
Cars We Love & Who We Are #34
Previously readers became acquainted with classic car restoration virtuoso Mike Gassman through stories he told about others. It would be a disservice to you dear reader if I neglected to share with you Mike’s own story.
Descending once again through Rockfish Gap to the floor of the Shenandoah Valley and Waynesboro, Virginia, I weave through some back roads that hug a railroad siding. In making a right turn away from the tracks a row of low clean white adjoining structures come into view. They feature a spotless showroom recalling the modest (compared to today’s massive highway automotive cathedral) masonry structures with huge window panes typical of mid-20th century family owned dealerships. Eye candy for any passerby, the showroom features a tightly organized array of pristine restored 50’s and 60s vintage British sports cars. Their meticulous curation offers a hint of the passion for perfection that drives the robust beating heart of Mike Gassman’s restoration business, Gassman Automotive.
The story begins on a mountain top in Afton Virginia.
Read the car, not the book and other words of wisdom that pave a path to Pebble Beach
She opened her front door wearing a wedding dress. It is 1977. High atop Afton Mountain in Western Virginia a woman Mike recalls as Martha stands smiling down from the open doorway. Her wedding day preparation had been interrupted by a knock at the door. A boy of maybe thirteen years had come to inquire about a forlorn 1969 Triumph TR6 moldering out in the field by Martha’s house. Featuring a rose bush violating a structural integrity that could not cast a decent shadow, the TR6 could best be described as a heap. With his father visible in a car waiting on the country road, the boy asked if she wanted to sell it. “Yes I do,” responded the bride-to-be with a kind forthright demeanor exhibited by adults suddenly aware of their role in a teaching moment. “How much do you want?” the boy asked. “How much do you have?” asked Martha. “Forty five dollars,” offered the boy with the air of a question. “That is perfect. That is exactly what I want for it,” responded Martha and in so doing gave the young boy a wedding day gift that would continue to give for the rest of his life. Martha had sold thirteen year-old Mike Gassman […]
Here’s this week’s question:
In 1957 two American car brands had fuel injection. One was Corvette. What was the other?
Answer to last week’s question:
What manufacturer names its cars after Bulls? – Lamborghini
About the blogger
Burton Hall has written for an automotive client list that includes Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Maserati, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Peugeot and Volvo. He has also written for The Washington Post, AutoWeek, Corvette Monthly, Jaguar Magazine, BMW Magazine, Hemmings.com, Hagerty Magazine and numerous auto restoration buff books.
He is a member of the Society of Automotive Historians and the Historic Vehicle Association.
As a classic car hobbyist, He owns a 1961 Corvette that he bought in 1967, a 1953 Jaguar XK120MC Drophead Coupe that he restored after finding it in a barn in 1980, an original 1953 Golden Anniversary Ford F100 pickup that he purchased from the original owner and a 1951 MG TD that presently serves as a planter and centerpiece in his garden. All are great drivers, except the MG which has a few bugs.
05/11/23 – In Search of the 7th Royale (Part 1)
04/27/23 – Charlie Ross, Gooding’s Master of the Auction Rostrum
04/13/23 – Trapped by a Forest of Trucks
04/03/23 – Hundred-year old Bulldog, Beloved but Doomed?
03/16/23 – Read the car, not the book and other words of wisdom that pave a path to Pebble Beach
03/02/23 – Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda with one of America’s most important cars
02/16/23 – A Silver Ghost story. Real or Fake. You decide.
02/03/23 – Fanfare for an uncommon man. A decorated soldier passes at 98.
01/19/23 – Dr. Fred Simeone’s Mona Lisa car legacy. Part 2. Fascinating backstories of cars he preserved.
01/05/23 – Dr. Fred Simeone’s love, vision and priceless racing legacy Part 1
12/08/22 – Driving to history, Visiting America’s oldest tavern and the man who saved it
11/24/22 – How to manage down a classic car collection
11/10/22 – Saving the farm, Barry Wood’s beach club in the Blue Ridge
10/27/22 – When the collection outlives the collector, a daughter’s point of view
09/29/22 – Benny Bryant’s 50-years of building Blue Ridge beauties
09/15/22 – Visiting a community built for car enthusiasts
09/01/22 – Reaching the heights of her dreams on the wings of a deHavilland Beaver
08/18/22 – 35 Below, 16 Dogs, 13 Days. Angie tackles Alaska’s Iditarod.
08/04/22 – Let’s create a Concours d’Elegance. OK…How?
07/07/22 – Applying Miles Collier’s archetype versus portrait conventions in assessing the restoration of my 1961 Corvette
06/23/22 – Does original matter anymore?
06/09/22 – Judged the 32 most historically significant cars in America. Do you agree?
05/26/22 – Hagerty automotive heritage dream conference. Gone for good?
05/12/22 – A Devin’s 47-year journey from scrap heap to Pebble Beach
04/28/22 – Hot Road Missionary and his monster machines
04/14/22 – The monster truck that nearly crushed Volvo
03/31/22 – Drank with Arlo. Dated Alice. Tuned Evel’s motorcycle. They call him Pinto.
03/17/22 – Mr. Thomas’s forest of old Porsches, VW buses and more
03/03/22 – Taking the Skyline Drive to explore the dusty attic of Virginia car culture
02/17/22 – Return of the Zipper King
02/03/22 – Karaoke, Elon Musk’s new weapon to fight driving doldrums
01/20/22 – When blue highways turn white
01/06/22 – Blue highways, back roads – If not now when?
12/09/21 – Hot rod love, family style
11/25/21 – Cars & Caffe’s Tony Boniello is always looking to brew up something new
11/11/21 – Randy the Rodfather and his Green “T” hot rod
10/28/21 – Provenance – Uncovering your car’s backstory
10/14/21 – Comparing classic car sales platforms
09/30/21 – Evolution of the new car brochure (Part II)
09/16/21 – A hot rod life defined by abundance not lack
09/02/21 – The man they trust to rebuild history
08/19/21 – Bring what you love
08/05/21 – Exploring our power within
07/15/21 – Evolution of the new car brochure (Part 1)
07/01/21 – The sputtering Mosquito and the Virgin Loretto
06/17/21 – Raymond Loewy’s 1970s Soviet world car adventure
06/03/21 – 90 GTOs, 30 Corvettes and counting
05/20/21 – An inspired venture to preserve American craftsmanship and vintage Airstream trailers
05/06/20 – When the find is the barn
04/22/21 – Man Cave Garage Sale unmasks Covid boredom
04/08/21 – The odd couple in Vinny Plotino’s garage
03/25/21 – Lemans 1978 – A young man’s memories
03/11/21 – A Sherman tank’s incredible journey from Nyack, NY to the final episode of M.A.S.H.
02/25/21 – Jaguar Archive – Preserving the soul of the brand
02/18/21 – Carried away by Bring a Trailer
02/11/21 – Hollywood dentist Dr. George Schweiger’s fantastic stable of future classic car rentals
01/28/21 – And then, Nuccio Bertone signaled for his personal Miura
01/21/21 – Behind the wheel of a time machine
01/14/21 – Wurst Kase Motorsports
01/07/21 – Singing the CarGurus no title blues
12/24/20 – Rebuild it and they will come – The life of Carburetor Steve
12/10/20 – A Volvo Christmas Classic – “It’s a Vunderful Life”
12/03/20 – Carnucopia II – Classic Car Food Drive
11/26/20 – Vintage Cord binds father and son
11/19/20 – NY Route 9D – A sure cure for Covid boredom
11/12/20 – Confessions of a demolition derby survivor
11/05/20 – Sons of Danger – Mad Men on wheels
10/29/20 – VW Bug restoration is no joke. Ask Jerry Seinfeld
10/22/20 – Guatemala and back in a Karmann Ghia
10/08/20 – A classic Corvette and a soldier’s old letters connect to a kid brother’s memories
10/01/20 – American Pickers meets Hunger Games on a country road
09/24/20 – Crash course for an underage driver
09/17/20 – Playboy Bunnies in the rearview mirror
09/10/20 – The journey is the reward
09/03/20 – More than the next chapter, it’s the next book – Life 2.0
08/27/20 – Old School Larry
08/20/20 – In celebration of a life off the leash
08/13/20 – Asleep at the wheel – Rest Stop Recovery
08/06/20 – Rt. 17A – A sweet ride to Sugarloaf
07/30/20 – What’s a”Vineyard truck?”
07/16/20 – The woman picks up where the girl left off
07/09/20 – When time and other things stand still
07/02/20 – Drive-In movies, Back to the future
06/25/20 – Mystery of the vanishing Indian Motorcycle sign
06/18/20 – Dagavar’s Jaguar, the truth at last
06/11/20 – TAKE-OUT, Lifeline to the future
06/04/20 – Henry Hudson Drive
05/28/20 – CARnucopia Food Drive Results
05/21/20 – CARnucopia
05/14/20 – Collectible Car Culture in a Pandemic
05/07/20 – Austin Healey? Nope, It’s Austin’s Crosley!
04/30/20 – Storm King Highway
04/23/20 – Children We Love
04/16/20 – Mustang Madness Revisited