Rolling with Clyde
One factor you possibly can positively say about Doug Knuth: When it involves his vehicles, he doesn’t get discouraged simply.
When he began disassembling his 1926 Chevrolet not lengthy after he purchased it as a mission automotive within the winter of 1999, he started laying out all of the components and found simply how a lot work he had forward of him. The Chevrolet mainly wanted the whole lot, however Knuth’s optimism by no means wavered.
“I had looked at pictures of them in magazines and stuff and thought, ‘This thing is going to be really cool when it’s done,’” says Knuth, a resident of New London, Wis.
Doug and his spouse Linda affectionately consult with their red-and-black Chevrolet as “Clyde,” and naturally there’s a story behind the nickname. Doug’s longtime buddy and fellow automotive lover Jon Gehrke purchased a 1926 Chevrolet again within the late ’90s and dubbed his automotive “Bonnie.” Doug had been enthusiastic about shopping for the identical automotive, which had been on the market close to his house, however as a substitute went searching for one other automotive so the pair would every have one. He discovered “Clyde” within the little city of Iron Ridge, Wis. The Chevy was tough on the time, but it surely was largely intact and Knuth knew he wasn’t prone to come throughout too many different ’26s that he might restore.
“The only thing I knew about it was the guy said it ran. It looked awful,” Knuth recalled. “It was all roller-brushed black and it had tape with plastic all around the home windows and tape caught all over the place. It was simply horrible trying, but it surely ran. And it was all there. All the sheet metallic was there and in pretty respectable form. I did have to seek out higher fenders within the entrance and it had a Dodge radiator in it and I needed to spend just a few years on the swap meet in Iola [Wis.] digging up components and discovering a radiator and a shell and getting all of it again collectively.
“The solely [history] I do know is that digging via the papers from the gentleman that bought it to me, it was registered in 1963, I consider. Somebody was nonetheless driving it in ’63. Other than that, I don’t know any historical past on it.”
Knuth enlisted the assistance of his dad, Ronnie, when it got here time to begin tearing into the physique of the ’26. As was the case with almost all vehicles within the 1920s, the Fisher physique used a wooden skeleton underneath a pores and skin of sheet metallic. Knuth assumed lots of the wooden will need to have deteriorated over time, and he was proper.
“Luckily, my dad was a carpenter and I grew up as a carpenter’s son, so we had all the woodworking tools. We had it in his shed and [we laid] all the broken and rotten pieces out together and tried to sketch them and lay them back out and make some drawings of them and start fabricating them …. The one thing that my dad and I [found] is how much, even in ’26, they didn’t waste any lumber. There were finger joints all over this thing and they were putting pieces of lumber together and salvaging everything to make the car economical. But it’s not like that anymore. There are all solid ash and white oak pieces in it now.”
Knuth additionally recruited some beneficial assist from one other automotive buddy, Scott Ziemann, of Minnesota, who owned a ’25 Chevrolet. “Scott’s done a lot of work on aircraft interiors. He’s kind of an interior guy, and he helped me do a lot of pieces for the interior… It was all definitely a learn-as-you-go experience. But between working on Scott’s ’25 and Jon’s ’26 and this ’26, if something was missing, you’d look at one of the other ones and figure it out.”
The Knuths will at all times fondly recall the notorious “Y2K” new yr when the world was ready to see if their computer systems had been all going to crash. The couple celebrated with Gehrke by taking their outdated Chevys out within the barren fields and joyriding away the ultimate hours of 1999. “We thought ours would be the only cars running after that!” Doug joked.
The plan was for the restoration on the ’26 to begin shortly thereafter. Sadly, the mission stalled within the early 2000s when Ronnie’s well being started to fail. In 2006, he handed away and the ’26 Chevy went into mothballs.
THE ‘SUPERIOR’ CHEVROLET
Chevrolet named its 1923 line the “Superior” mannequin and the identify caught for 4 years, with a special letter figuring out every of the 4 fashions: 1923 was Series B; 1924 was F; 1925 was Ok; and 1926 was V. The Series V was launched in mid-1926 and was marketed into the primary a part of the 1927 gross sales yr. It was just like the earlier Series Ok, a notable change being a tie-bar connecting the drum-shaped headlamps.
At the time, the Ford Model T was nonetheless king of the street within the U.S., however Chevrolet and others had begun to slender the gross sales hole and 1926 proved to be a massive yr for the bow-tie model — one which paved the way in which for the 1927 lineup that lastly overtook Ford because the top-selling model within the nation. By most measures, the Chevrolet was merely a greater automotive by ’26, simpler to function with a less complicated three-speed floor-shifted sliding gear transmission, a greater suspension and dependable 171-cid four-cylinder engine that made 26 hp. A Carter carburetor drank from a 10-gallon fuel tank and the engine used a splash pump throughout the crankcase to maintain the internals lubricated.
The 103-in.-wheelbase chassis was distinctive amongst different GM choices of the day. Buicks, Cadillacs, GMCs, Oaklands and Oldsmobiles had been constructed on totally different platforms.
Six totally different fashions had been provided for ’26 and costs ranged from $510 for the two-door roadster to $765 for the newly launched four-door Landau sedan. A two-door, five-passenger coach such because the Knuths’ automotive would have carried a value of $645 earlier than add-ons, which might have included step plates, mirrors, a spare tire cowl, whitewall tires, Boyce MotoMeter, wooden wheels and special-order paint.
It all added as much as a automobile that compelled a seismic shift within the automotive panorama for 1928. To sustain with Chevrolet, Ford retired its beloved Tin Lizzie and launched the landmark Model A.
‘CLYDE’ RIDES AGAIN
Knuth didn’t work on his ’26 Chevy for a yr or so, however his son Tony satisfied him that the automotive was value ending. “He was a little guy of about 13 maybe, and he started putting his foot in my butt and saying we needed to finish the car, and we had all Grandpa’s work sitting there going to pot and not getting finished. He was putting on the guilt trip, no doubt!”
Along the way in which, Doug did lots of components chasing, discovering bits and items that he both wanted, or figured he would possibly want some day. He ultimately wound up snatching a pair of wood-spoked wheels off a automotive that Gehrke needed to promote. He did all of the paint and bodywork himself, selecting a darkish red-and-black mixture he thought regarded good on the automotive. “I’d be lying to say I knew what the actual colors were for ’26, but anytime I saw an old antique car that was two-toned, it had that red-maroon in the center with the black, and I just fell in love with that back when the car was in pieces.”
Knuth was prepared to sort out just about any a part of the mission, however he needed to seek out anyone else to do the upholstery work. He had an professional close by, however she was a tiny on the eccentric aspect and wanted loads of convincing.
“We had this lady we called the ‘crazy upholstery lady,’ and she stomped up and down that she would not do the seats,” he laughs. “But we stored speaking to her, and we wound up buying and selling a roofing job on her storage for doing the seats. She lived in New London. I couldn’t even bear in mind what her identify is, I don’t suppose she’s round right here anymore. She was a loopy outdated hippy in her sixties. She stop doing any auto seats. She hated working for auto clients as a result of they’re simply too choosy. I stated, ‘Well, these seats are unbelievably simple.’ Of course it’s not the precise materials, but it surely’s actually shut with the ribbing in there.
“Everything we do on my vehicles, we do ourselves. And as a lot as I might have appreciated to pony up for love the LeBaron Bonney inside equipment for it, I simply couldn’t provide you with the scratch … And she did a very nice job on the seats the way in which it’s.
“When I move on, it will likely be [Tony’s] automotive, after which when he passes on, it higher be [grandson] Derek’s automotive,” chuckles Knuth, “so there isn’t going to be anybody to pick on it and say it doesn’t have the right interior in it!”
During his varied flash and salvage yard visits, Knuth discovered a 1927 Chevrolet engine and hauled it house “just in case.” That engine got here in useful when the unique energy plant for the ’26 lastly kicked the bucket.
“We were heading to the local Waupaca Fourth of July parade and climbing up a hill on the way … and the valve keeper fell out and the valve fell down and just exploded a piston,” Knuth chuckled. “That was the end of that engine. We had that ’27 engine sitting here ready to go, and we just put that in. It’s the same four-cylinder engine, they just modernized the head a little and enclosed the side covers over the push rods.”
Knuth says one of many greatest enhancements he made was one thing no one will ever see, and solely the motive force will really feel. He wound up swapping within the outdated worn-out clutch disc and changed it with a plate from, of all issues, a 1971 Chevy Monza. “I found a guy online that had done it and I was working at a machine shop .. and I got one of the guys there to help me with it,” Knuth recalled. “Now I can pull away from a stop sign nice and smooth. That was the only modernization done to the car — a new clutch disc and a little re-working of the flywheel. And the side mirrors are accessories, of course, but I have those on there so you can see better.”
The Knuths have a little fleet of good collector autos that recurrently get time on the street, but it surely’s clear “Clyde” holds a particular place of honor within the four-wheeled hierarchy. The automotive has served as a marriage chariot for son Tony and stepdaughter Amy’s weddings, and takes a bow at native parades and automotive flashes in the summertime.
Chevrolet survivors from the period are something however frequent, and ones that look and drive as good as “Clyde” are particular treats.
“Everything that has been done to it, we’ve done to it. We restore our cars ourselves,” Doug says proudly. “Yeah, there are some flaws, and issues that I missed once I was doing the bodywork, and doing the paint, however we drive it love I drive all my vehicles. I’m truly actually impressed with the way it does drive. It handles actual good down the street. I’ll cruise alongside at 40, 45 with it even. It rolls proper alongside and the engine isn’t laboring or screaming too laborious.
“We drive it all over. pal of ours has a ’32 and we’ll exit for breakfast on Sunday mornings after church and we’ll take the outdated vehicles. It’s lots of enjoyable to exit and drive these outdated vehicles.”
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