Automobile Memories

NEW BRITAIN — The Klingberg Vintage Motorcar Festival may well be the king of Connecticut car shows.

“I’ve been to many car shows and the Klingberg show is one of the best ones in New England and it’s the best one in Connecticut, as far as I’m concerned,” said Carl Carlson, a longtime New Britain resident who recently moved to Newington.

“Lots of car shows are just antiques, some car shows are just muscle cars, and some are just street rods. You’ve got a little bit of everything here and that’s what makes this unique. It’s a wonderful event,” said Carlson, who brought six people with him to the show Saturday.

_DSC2405 copyThe 23rd annual show on the Klingberg Family Centers campus featured more than 350 cars built between 1900 and the present, including a number made in Connecticut early in the 20th century. Included were a 1914 Trumbull Coupe, made by the Trumbull Motor Car Co. of Bridgeport; a 1905 Columbia Brougham, an electric car made by Pope-Hartford in Hartford; and a 1900 Locomobile Steamer, made in Bridgeport.

A 1911 Corbin Model 40, produced by the Corbin Motor Vehicle Corp. in New Britain, was brought back to its home city by owner Eric Haartz of Concord, Mass. The light yellow car sported red leather seats, brass carriage lamps and the brass Corbin logo on the grille, but no top, doors or windshield. The emergency brake and stick shift were completely exposed on the right side of the vehicle. Haartz said he still uses the crank in front to start the engine.

It also has the steering wheel on the right side, which Haartz said was a tradition carried over from the days of the horse and carriage.

It wasn’t until about 1913 that a left side drive became standard, because increasing traffic made it easier for a driver seated on the left to see when passing another car, he explained.

Haartz said it was originally built as a touring car and owned by a Boston cotton broker, but it had a checkered history since then, including being used as a fire department ladder truck and a hot rod, before ending up in a swamp.

It was rescued by a car hobbyist who recognized it as a rare early vehicle and eventually restored it to running shape, although not quite to its original condition. Haartz said. “So this is not the purest example of a Corbin car, but it certainly is the most roadworthy of any that still exist.”


Sears Motor Buggy

Haartz has owned it for over two years and he said he brought it to New Britain for the day by trailer. The previous owner was known to take it on out the highway and “not hold up much traffic,” he said. “It can lope along at 60 very easily.”

Jerry Chase was there with his 1909 Pope-Hartford Model S that he drove up from Middletown. He also brought the electric Columbia Brougham, but that came in by truck.

The Pope-Hartford is an elegant carriage-like vehicle, dark brown with red leather seats, brass and wood trim, and a crank in front, although Chase confessed that he has installed a modern starter.

“Crank starting is good for the car show crowd but not good for the guy doing it,” he said. “When you do it about 10 or 20 times a day it gets old.”

The car has a windshield and a roof, which were extras back in 1909, Chase said. “The windshield probably cost $20, the top was probably $100 or $125. This car total cost $2,795. That was a lot of money then but it was a very good car.”

Chase said the car was in a junkyard by the 1940s and ended up in the collection of Bill Harrah, the Las Vegas hotel magnate who once owned over 400 collectible cars.

“This was one of his favorite ones, he drove it a lot,” Chase said. “When he passed away, they auctioned off a lot of them and it came back to Connecticut, and then I ended up getting it. I’ve had it about 10 or 12 years now.”

“I’ll be driving it over 500 miles next week, on a tour of Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire,” he added.

The Father’s Day weekend car show is Klingberg’s major annual fundraiser and funds 20 of its programs, including one that helps reintegrate fathers who are estranged from their families and a mentoring program that pairs children with father figures who mentor them through shared activities, including automobile restoration.

Reprinted from the New Britain Herald, Written by Susan Corica