Unique Cars Will Make People Smile
Of the four vehicles in this special display-a 1928 Martin Aerodynamic, 1934 McQuay-Norris Streamliner, 1946 Hewson Rocket and 1948 Morgan-the Morgan represents the only model produced in any quantity.
Built from 1910 to 1952, the three-wheeled Morgan was one of the most popular and successful of Britain's three-wheelers. Not only did they provide inexpensive transportation for two adults (some models had room for up to three children), Morgan's "Trikes" proved to be fierce motorsports competitors right from the start.
The first half of the 20th century documents one European speed record after another broken by Morgan Motor Co. products. Although they seem very primitive by today's standards, the three-wheelers all featured independent front suspensions and were available in a variety of bodies, including a super-rare delivery van. Most Trikes were fitted with V-twin engines between the front tires-visible on the sporty models, hidden with conventional hoods on family cars-but Ford Motor Co. supplied four-cylinders to the 1933-'52 "F" series.
There was never any intention to mass-produce the submarine-like 1934 McQuay-Norris Streamliner. Fresh engineering graduates were recruited to drive the six Streamliners throughout the Northern states in summer and Southern states in winter to research, develop and show off the automotive products of the McQuay-Norris.
Each car was powered by one of Ford's flathead V-8s-one of the most common powerplants on the road in 1934, and a big part of the St. Louis-based company's rebuilt parts business. Streamliner body frames were made of wood, which was covered in sheet steel, except for the aluminum-skinned doors. The greenhouse windows were Plexiglas, except for those in the doors. Of the half-dozen teardrop tourers built, only two still exist but the condition of the other is not known.
Like the Streamliners, the Martin Aerodynamic was an extremely limited production vehicle with an unusual, wind-cheating body. Built in 1928 by the Martin Aircraft Co. of Garden City, N.Y., the form-follows-function Aerodynamic was a legitimate attempt to bring aviation principles to passenger cars.
The sleek aluminum fuselage was designed for four adults, and the water-cooled four-cylinder engine was situated at the back of the chassis. Could Americans get accustomed to entering their cars-airplane style-through a single door in the rear? No one will ever know, because the only Aerodynamic went to World War I ace Billy Mitchell before the Great Depression killed its momentum.
The 1946 Hewson Rocket was another great styling idea whose time never came. Part of a postwar flood of independently produced automotive prototypes, the Rocket's futuristic, unpainted aluminum body hid a common Ford flathead V-8 behind the driver and passenger. The shiny roadster, the result of collaboration between William Hewson and Hollywood-based Coachcraft Ltd., had a projected retail price of $1,000. The project ran out of steam when the bills for prototype development and construction totaled many times that, and the Rocket was displayed in the Coachcraft showroom until a used car dealer in Minneapolis bought it for $650 in 1959.
These automotive oddities and hundreds of others would be lost to history if not for enthusiastic collectors such as Jeff Lane who are willing to pursue and preserve them. Lane, a lifelong car restorer and racer, began building a museum-quality collection of unique and rare vehicles from America, Europe and Asia in 1995. Once he had filled up five storage buildings with cars and parts, his wife encouraged him to find a permanent home for the collection so it could be enjoyed by the public.
Lane's search for suitably historic real estate led him to the 50-year-old Sunbeam Bread bakery in Nashville, a 40,000-square-foot brick facility large enough to store his 150 cars and motorcycles on its maple and brick floors. It is the goal of Lane Motor Museum to restore each vehicle to original specifications whenever possible; the smiles these cars generate during the Food Lion AutoFair will prove the staff has met that goal.
Other attractions scheduled for the Food Lion AutoFair include a flying car from the television show "Monster Garage," the wild Tornado Attack vehicle, a race car that runs on renewable biodiesel fuel, crazy motorcycle stunts in the Globe of Death, the amazing Amphicar and a special Century of the Turbocharger display.
Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.
For information, contact the speedway events department at 704-455-3205 or click here.