Children of necessity, a host of rare vintage automobiles have made their appearance on the Cambridge scene. No addicts of chrome and fluid drive their owners have cars that were built to last, and they know it.
These hardy, car hungry souls, unfazed by wear, have scooped up the cream of the 1929 used car mart and buy their oil with a reckless abandon. Thomas it. Morse '48, who operates from Lowell House, pours a quart of oil into his 1922 model T Ford with each gallon of gasoline and loves every minute of it.
Enthusiasm is the keynote among the proprietors of these grand old men of the road. They have only love in their hearts for their Whipets, Pierce Arrows, and classic Lincolns in spite of the harrowing tales of fire and ship wreck they toss off as everyday affairs.
"But if you go fast for a long time," says David S. Biddle '49, of his handsome 1932 Cord convertible, "the rear floorboards burst in to flame."
His auto he aptly describes as "racy and low, black and sleek." The irreverent description volunteered by a Bostonian on Tremont Street, however, was, "What the hell is that?"
Special features of the snappy roadster are leather upholstery, a tremendous thirst for water, and a gearshift mechanism that just right out of the dash board and whose design is exactly the opposite of the ordinary car.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where insurance is a must for registration, the mutual companies present a real problem. A fifteen year old auto and a college boy at the wheel, they regard as a poor risk, and more than one wearer of the crimson has been reduced to invocation of the regulation that a twice rejected car must be referred to an insurer by the state.
Liability premiums cost Hamilton Coolidge '46 two and a half times the original purchase price of his 1927 model T--$25, that is. He has driven up to 300 miles in a single day and never run awry, claiming that the "god natured, indulgent smiles" of fellow motorist add zest to a long trip.
The general consensus of date-takers among those guardians of antiquity seems to be that, "Girls love it." One dour model T man was heard to remark traitorously, however, "The engine makes so much noise, a woman's hearse before she gets home."
Dean of the old-auto set is Edgar O. Appleby '47, who has disposed of six or seven collector's items about the square and is currently featuring a 1925 Pierce Arrow whose durability is amazing. While owners of GM, Chrysler postwar creations can have little idea of their cars' staying powers, the Pierce's lucky purchaser knows in advance that it was built for endurance.
Boasting a mysterious Tiffany plate in the running board, Appleby's car has a ga-goo-gah type horn that inspires the awe of fellow motorists. "There's no glowering as you go by," he affirms, "only smiles."
The chief trouble of owning the thing, says Tom Morse who pumps the gear pedals of what is probably the oldest auto at the University, is that everyone from traffic police to filling station attendants stops to tell you about the model T he once owned. "I can get up to 45 miles an hour," he declares, but adds that the rattles and hazards seem to increase cubicly with the speed.
The heating problem varies from car to car, Morse finding that enough heat sifts up through the floorboards to keep even the most southern belle warm, while Michael D. MacFarlan '49, whose graceful Lincoln convertible is pictured above, is in the market for a bearskin.
His luxurious liner comes equipped with a locked cabinet in the back seat for spirits, "an overgrown burp" of a horn that does not command what the owner deems proper respect, and eight tires he hopes will see him through the winter.
"Of course, I'm in love with it," says MacFarlan, commenting that it's the sort of car that makes "small children cling to their mothers' skirts as I go by."