Eric’s Cars are a Family Affair

220SIt all began with my first ride as a newborn in the 1950 Riley, still in service and 1997 carriage of choice for my youngest son Sam at just three days old.

Here I am with trusty sled alongside Dad and our family 1954 220S Mercedes Benz. Indelible memories of the prickly grey cloth upholstery and funky dash controls. The Benz replaced Riley as a used family hauler around 1956, and MB’s would become a staple in the Killorin family right through the seventies.

Then to a family heirloom circa 1910 Irish Mail (sometimes referred to as Farey Auto Coaster). The Irish Mail is about right for a third-grader, has four wire spoke wheels, and a very clever method of propulsion where rowing the steering column fore-and-aft moves the rear wheels front or back depending on selection. Steering and moving preceded the challenge of walking and chewing gum at the same time. I have since acquired an near identical Irish Mail at last year’s Hershey, authentic down to the oft missing wood steering wheel, and original stenciled paint.

A gradual rise up the food chain meant a real gas-powered go kart, but not a mail-order special from the back pages of Popular Mechanics. This rare 1939 Custer Child’s Racer is one of just a few known to exist and became the feature story in Mobilia Magazine’s premier issue May 1993. A real purpose-built kid’s racer with wood frame, suspension of castings and spring steel, cast aluminum rad shell, and a one-lunger Briggs & Stratton gas engine. What little power on tap was further diluted by a reduction gear and friction clutch. Braking, as it was, became a function of how much nearby chain grease lathered over the modest brake lining. Many, many terrific memories as a grade schooler in this Miller 91 Wannabee!

Custer Go Kart post

Graduation from the Custer meant recommissioning the ‘ol Riley out of its 15-year slumber. As a 1970 high schooler, I set about redoing the Riley’s engine and mechanical systems to the great protests from Dad who knew all too well the car’s myriad failings including hydro-mechanical brakes. And he was sharply aware of what this meant in the hands of an anxious teen driver! But I prevailed and drove the Riley as daily transport through college in the mid seventies. Various stages of restoration brought new paint, chrome, carpets and so forth to the mix along with constant fiddling to overcome a lack of available parts. The Riley RMB series, by the way, are very much under appreciated in the States. They possess great handling (rack and pinion steering), a wonderful 4-speed gearbox, low-grunt long stroke 2.5 litre four-banger with high set dual cams, and charming old build quality. Our Riley enjoys a rotation among other Killorin cars as a cherished family heirloom owned since new. More here.

EHK & KCK DuesyBut from the get-go there is one standout in my car upbringing, a vehicle that arrived six years before I did and one, to this day, forms the essence of who I am as an enthusiast. In 1948 my father purchased a 1923 Model A Duesenberg from a small service shop in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts for the princely sum of $125 (and after much haggling). After owning a supercharged 1750 Alfa and a DV32 Stutz, it was time for Dad to fully relive his past as a former Duesenberg factory employee by acquiring an “affordable” Duesy. When mighty Model Js were fetching a thousand bucks back then, anything in the low three’s was appealing to a our modest lifestyle. I spent my youth riding in this car including a week-long jaunt from the Boston area to Auburn, Indiana as a 13-year old. After a complete restoration in recent years, the Duesy became a running chassis much like when used during the factory era; she’s now at Chris Charlton’s Maine shop absorbing a fresh coat of paint and final restoration touches. Shown here is myself in 1957 at age three with Dad and Duesy.

Over time sports cars became a new object of desire and a number of Aston Martins and one terrific 1966 Series 1 (the only one to own) X-KE Jag roadster took center stage. This 1959 DB4 was probably my all time favorite… performance, character, and looks to die for. Not the “Crumpet Collector” Jaguar; the Aston is understated yet brutally elegant. I owned both on my wedding day September 1988 where they naturally took center stage!

Present day puts me right back to the start line with the Riley and Duesy among the rolling stock, plus a 1969 Chrysler 300 convertible to celebrate my big-displacement protest against Global Whining. The Jag and Aston were sold during the nineties to fund Mobilia Magazine. My hot rod project should see the light of day sometime in 2009, and I hope to acquire another stealth sedan (BMW M5) to replace the recently departed ’94 E500. Finally, a long-harbored lust for vintage racing may put me at track side in some worthy bolide to amply round-out the total car ditty.

Check out the posts in this category for more on each vehicle… and thanks for taking a trip with me down memory lane!

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