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Snappers Pre-1916 Progressive Tour

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Do you worry about whether the windshield washer fluid reservoir in your car should be clear plastic or colored plastic?


Do you believe it’s unsafe to drive your nifty-fifties car because its drum brakes and bias-ply tires aren’t as good as antilock disc brakes and radial tires?


Do you think owners of big, expensive brass-era cars are snobs who look down on smaller, cheaper early cars like Model Ts?


Do you refuse to drive your car – well, maybe just from the trailer to the show field – if it’s (gasp!) RAINING?


If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, please don’t read this article.  You won’t enjoy it.  You might think it’s about crazy people.  (You might be right.)


We are the Snappers, a non-geographic, brass-era touring region of AACA.  Last month we had a progressive tour in Michigan.  Starting in Kalamazoo, 32 pre-1916 cars spent six days traveling from inn to inn, totaling well over 650 miles.  We parked our cars in towns, along beaches, at attractions along the way, and at restaurants.  We left them outside the hotel every night; our trailers were back in Kalamazoo, remember?  Windshield washer fluid?  Surely you jest.  Antilock brakes?  None of our front wheels had any brakes at all.  Snobbery?  Absolutely none.  And yes, a couple of days we got rained on, but drove anyway, just as people did a century ago.


Yes, there were several big cars.  The Sierra family brought two Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts from Florida in the Mother Of All Trailers.post-87093-0-23711200-1435886072_thumb.j

There were a couple of Stoddard Daytons, a couple of Packards a big Rambler, three Pierce-Arrows,post-87093-0-36545800-1435886287_thumb.j a Winton,post-87093-0-78088700-1435886429_thumb.j and a huge American-built Fiat.  There were also a couple of Oldsmobiles, but they couldn’t have been more different.  One was an Autocrat; it had four 5x6 cylinders, 10-1/2 feet of wheelbase, and was so high off the ground it needed two running boards.post-87093-0-03224400-1435886527_thumb.j  The other was a tiller-steered Curved Dash that made do with only one of the Autocrat’s cylinders, barely half its wheelbase, and not a whole lot else.


At the smaller end of the spectrum, besides the CDO, there were some four cylinder Cadillacs, a Buick, a couple of Hudsons,post-87093-0-36089800-1435886649_thumb.j and six Model Ts including a centerdoorpost-87093-0-71462800-1435886710_thumb.j and my ‘13.


Joining us for three days were Joe and Betty Swann with their 1912 E-M-F.  They are on their way around the country, taking four MONTHS! post-87093-0-61002400-1435886756_thumb.j To see how they’re doing, look at their blog here:  http://bswann1912.blogspot.com


Monday’s tour took us to an aircraft restorer who specializes in Ford Tri-Motors.  His featured project is a plane I had the pleasure of riding in, and briefly flying, in 1976.  It crashed a couple of years later, but will someday look and fly like new.post-87093-0-96271200-1435886934_thumb.j


Other possible places to visit were a chocolatier, a winery, a gladiolus farm, and a glorious beach where we could savor the natural beauties of Lake Michigan from an old car. post-87093-0-30905000-1435886982_thumb.j Eventually we wound up in Saugatuck, where there were several good restaurants.  Some of us opted to walk from the motel to the local golf club, where we were well fed indeed.


Vince and Janice Altieri’s CDO was suffering an occasional weak cylinder explosion.  At least he knew which cylinder was causing him trouble, even if he couldn’t figure out why.post-87093-0-55076600-1435887060_thumb.j


Tuesday’s tour took us to Holland.  Holland, Michigan, that is, but when you saw some of the street names it was obvious where the first settlers had come from.  Many tourists toured a couple of Queen-Anne-style homes and were very impressed.  I chose to explore an area of dunes along the Lake Michigan coast.  These dunes are of considerable height, and have a thin layer of topsoil which has generated a serious forest.  A path of many steps takes you to the lake.  Our eastern Atlantic dunes are constantly reforming and never get high enough to grow a forest.  Lunch for many was at an Irish pub in Muskegon.  There was an afternoon ice cream stop.  The overnight stop was at a family lodge, with a fine restaurant a mile and a half away.  Michigan is on eastern time, but at the far western edge of the time zone, so it stays light late in June.  Going to dinner in an unlighted brass car is no problem.


Wednesday we went to Ludington, a pretty beach community.  I walked a half mile to climb a lighthouse that has tilted 4 degrees.  Lunch was in Manistee with ice cream down the road.  Late in the day we got to Sleeping Bear Dunes, where you can walk long distances on the sand.  Legend has it that the main dune is a mother bear who swam across Lake Michigan, and two offshore islands are her cubs who didn’t make it.  We spent the night at The Homestead, a VERY upscale resort.  Richard and Ann Staadt’s Fiat had a water pump failure and were towed in by one of the Silver Ghosts.  Wayne Funk, who carries almost a complete machine shop under the running boards of his Winton, performed a parking lot fix and the Fiat made the rest of the tour. post-87093-0-72732600-1435887140_thumb.j Most of us ate in the boondocks that night – make that the Boone Docks, a good restaurant a few miles back down the road.


On Thursday we were warned there hills.  It’s a relative term; I live in the east.  Except for one short stretch of 12% grade, there were no hills I couldn’t easily pull in high gear.  But it was very pretty rolling country with some lake views.post-87093-0-97858700-1435887472_thumb.j  Among other optional stops was a shop where an artist prints notepapers and calendars with nature themes from wood blocks she carves herself.  There was also a winery where some of the navigators indulged in a tasting. post-87093-0-97292800-1435887339_thumb.j And a fish hatchery that supplies much of the game fish for tourists and sportsmen to catch.  And a sound garden, with instruments made from logs and recycled brake drums.  Lunch was catered at a golf course.  And a choice of ice cream stops across the street from each other – riches, indeed!  The night’s stop was undergoing renovations, but was comfortable with good food.  That night it rained.  Hard.


Friday we left the hotel in the rain.  Vince and Janice, whose car was still acting up and who had no weather protection, accepted a lift from the Sierras in the Mother Of All Trailers to Friday night’s stop; they almost needed a map and a compass to find their little CDO in that cavernous container.  The tour was partly through Amish country; buggies, Amish groceries, homemade donuts, pecan sticky buns, artisanal cheese.  But we detoured all the way to Paris, where we visited the Eiffel Tower.post-87093-0-70629300-1435887252_thumb.j  Udderly Delicious Ice Cream really was!


Late in the day I had a delayed failure of The Nut That Holds The Wheel.  Before the tour, I’d had the fan off, and hadn’t properly tightened the bracket on reassembly.  The fan holed the radiator, so I was out of action.  I was offered a tow behind a Ghost, but towing a T is a poor idea, so I let Hagerty’s service bring me to the hotel.  I got a ride to that night’s farewell banquet in a Stoddard Dayton – an impressive machine indeed.  The banquet was in a marvelous old inn.  The food was good and the speeches were short.


New members Gordon and Frieda Wilson, whose car wasn’t yet tourable but who had access to a trailer, schlepped me and my T back to Kalamazoo on Saturday.  The highlight of the day was the Gilmore Museum, with excellent collections of (especially) early cars, Franklins, Model As and full classics.


I hope this has given you a feel for touring in early cars.  It’s fun, and the folks are friendly.  If you have a really oldie in the back of your garage, get it running and bring it out!  You'll be very welcome in the Snappers!


Gil Fitzhugh the Elder, Morristown, NJ

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I have toured with the Snappers and I'll echo what Gil said. They are very welcoming. Actually most if not all brass-era groups are.


I'm hosting next year's Snappers tour along with our newly formed Great Plains Brass Touring Group. It will be another progressive. We'll spend 5 or 6 days seeing some of the sights of Kansas.


Thanks, Gil, for the summary.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Perfect place to tour!  My old stompin grounds actually - grew up in Battle Creek and went to school in Kalamazoo.  Throughly enjoyed the Glidden there a couple of years ago.  Amazing how many of those sights I missed growing up - guess my focus at the time was muscle cars and pretty girls.  Still got one of each! 


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  • 5 weeks later...

This is the kind of touring we did years ago. Even driving our old car to the tour, we didn't have trailers. I drove a 1916 Peerless and was usually the newest car on most tours.

Today I am limited on where I go because of the gas. My Peerless percolates with ethanol and when I took my Mason to Iowa for a tour I had to get ethanol gas and when I got home I had to remove the gas tank and all the gas lines. The ethanol oxidized the copper tank and brass lines and it happened within a couple of weeks. I now tour in Wisconsin, we have many stations thru-out the state that sell good gas and my cars run good on that.  RHL

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All the brass car tours I go on show where along the route, as well as close to the host hotel, there are gas stations.  I have yet to see a list that shows where ethanol-free gas is available.  We all fill up at ordinary gas stations, just like Aunt Susie in her Camry.  I have heard of a few instances where ethanol dissolved the shellac on a cork float, turning the float into a sink; coating the cork float with something impervious to ethanol solved the problem.  Otherwise, Zilch.  Nada.  Zippo. I fill my '13 Ford, '12 Buick and '07Cadillac at whatever gas station is close by.  I have precisely zero problems with fuel.

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  • 2 weeks later...

All the brass car tours I go on show where along the route, as well as close to the host hotel, there are gas stations.  I have yet to see a list that shows where ethanol-free gas is available.  We all fill up at ordinary gas stations, just like Aunt Susie in her Camry.  I have heard of a few instances where ethanol dissolved the shellac on a cork float, turning the float into a sink; coating the cork float with something impervious to ethanol solved the problem.  Otherwise, Zilch.  Nada.  Zippo. I fill my '13 Ford, '12 Buick and '07Cadillac at whatever gas station is close by.  I have precisely zero problems with fuel.

Just a matter of time before the shellac is eaten off and your float gets waterlogged I am told. Get a block of nitrophyl float material from Restoration Supply Co. and carve one out and no more worry's.

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