Gear Head Tuesday – What Is In Mike’s Garage Part II

Gear Head

Last Tuesday we posted about our surprise at finding a treasure trove of Packards in Dixon, CA, population 18,000. We saw the 3 Packards owned by a Dixon resident, Mike. Today, we will see some of the other vehicles Mike has collected.

1959 Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop:

'59 Ford Skyliner IMG_0084 IMG_0085

Mike has turned his attention to ’50s convertibles. He owns one each of the 3 years production of Ford’s Skyliner retractable hardtop: ‘578, ’58, and ’59. President Eisenhower and Mamie owned a black ’57 retractable hardtop Ford. The retractable hardtop originally was to be a Lincoln, but the bean counters calculated that the volume of this car as a Lincoln would not justify the investment, so Ford got it instead. Here’s an ad announcing the ’57 Ford retractable hardtop.

Putting convertibles aside for a moment, did you know that Porsche built tractors? Neither did I! But Mike has one!

Porsche tractor IMG_0108

Porsche had a separate business that built diesel engines, the Porsche Diesel Engine Company. They had been supplying engines to another German company, Allgaier, who were building tractors. Porsche took over the tractor manufacturing in 1957, but ceased production in 1963. (This history may not be 100% accurate as the website where I found it left the question of the article’s accuracy open. Be that as it may, Porsche no longer builds tractors. They were not exported for sale to the U.S. when in production.)

Mike also has a most unusual Harley-Davidson motorcycle: it has a driveshaft like the BMW “bikes.” It was a special project built for the Army in World War II. Only about 1,000 of these Harleys were built.

Harley w/driveshaft

A Harley with a driveshaft! Note the gun holster and gun.
That’s Mike’s ’57 Ford retractable hardtop in the background.

Next up is Mike’s Darrin-designed Kaiser Vagabond. In some senses, this car is the original SUV. It is a rare car – only 4,500 or so were built between 1949 and 1953. Vagabonds, with their huge rear door and fold-down rear seats, were the first hatchback sedans and Kaiser’s solution to the lack of a station wagon in its lineup.


The rear seat folds forward and the trunk folds down to turn the Kaiser Vagabond into a camper.
A ’53 Cadillac Eldorado is to the right of the Kaiser.


Above: the Darrin logo on the right rear.


The “Darrin Dip” as used on the Darrin-designed Packards is on the rear door.
That’s a 1936 Pierce-Arrow in the background.

The 1936 Pierce-Arrow in Mike’s collection is quite an amazing car. In the late 19th century, Pierce began as a builder of bird cages (!), bicycles and other household items. They branched into cars in the very early 1900s. Headquartered in Buffalo, NY, their auto assembly plant was designed by Albert Kahn, whose plant design for Packard had opened three years earlier in Detroit, 1903.

The Pierce is huge. I was able to sit in the back seat. It is extraordinarily comfortable. Studebaker had bought the struggling Pierce in 1928, but cast Pierce off in 1933 in the depths of the Depression.

Pierce-Arrow brought out their last all-new model in 1936. The 1936-38 cars have a distinctive arrangement of four “headlights”. An overdrive transmission and vacuum-boosted brakes were standard equipment. The 1936 Pierce-Arrows were among the finest cars the company had produced.


The Archer radiator cap is made of silver and gold as befits this Pierce’s luxury status.


The distinctive four headlights on the Pierce. An MG-TC is to the right.


The taillights are flared into the rear fender just as are the headlights into the front fender, a Pierce styling cue.

Next up is Mike’s beautiful ’56 Lincoln. The ’56 Lincolns were styled mostly by Bill Schmidt who went to Packard. At Packard, Schmidt did much of the work on the Packard Predictor. In the opinion of many, myself included, the ’56 Lincoln is one of the best designs of the 1950s.

56 Lincoln

Next week: More of Mike’s collection.

•     •    •    •

A Little History
(Hat tip to “Chris-to-Fear” for bringing the subject up and to “B-Squared” who coincidentally sent the photo!)


•    •    •    •

1953 Packard Cavalier for sale

I was contacted by the owner of a very nice 1953 Packard Cavalier (a.k.a. “300”, though not officially in 1953). Here are the details:

• Power Steering • Power Brakes • Ultramatic • AM Radio and Power Antenna ( neither work ) , Clock ( also not working ), black vinyl roof a la Derham, 4 BRAND NEW RADIAL ( Narrow WW ) tires, new control arm bushings, new front shocks, new king pin on right side, alignment, new muffler, new Interstate battery & new cables and power cut off switch, new ignition, cables, points, plugs. Carburetor needs cleaning or rebuild, nevertheless, the car runs very well, it has tremendous power but doesn’t always idle smoothly, absolutely no hesitations when driving. Door handles are pitted, new chrome bumpers and grille. brakes looked brand new when front end was rebuilt. solid floor pans no rust. Fender skirts are missing. $9,500 firm.

Contact: Maximilian Brand

MY 53 PACKARD & out the kitchen window 017 MY 53 PACKARD & out the kitchen window 019 MY 53 PACKARD & out the kitchen window 023 MY 53 PACKARD & out the kitchen window 024 Packard Cavalier Packard pics for Shannon 001 Packard pics for Shannon 002


Add yours →

  1. The Kaiser Vagabond my pick, but only because I have never heard of it. Every one here a dream for the neophyte. What a collection. A treasure of an entry. THANKS….


  2. chris houck 07/07/2015 — 09:48

    On the engine stand behind the Harley I see what I think is a engine for a Honda CBX.
    Excellent work on this edition, it’s a job well done!


  3. Thanks for this great site, I love that Kaiser Vagabond, I’ve had a 48 Kaiser and a 49 Frazer, when I was in my late teens. Thanks also for posting my Packard for sale.

    Of course, none compare to your beautiful cars.


    • I traded the Packard on a ’39 Nash LaFayette, but thanks for keeping it on your site, that was much appreciated.



  4. jack darnell 15/03/2016 — 16:53

    VERY interesting entry my friend. Loved them all Even the Porsche tractor. There were a couple entries I did not know about. My heart skips a beat as I pass or am passed by a beautiful antique auto as we travel the USA. i try to keep the camera handy. Mike has some collection.


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