An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Fort Worth Texas Man Builds Small Car for His Son

Today’s featured image was taken on December 30, 1940, by a staff photographer for the “Fort Worth Star-Telegram” newspaper. L. B. Baker is pictured holding the horizontal twin-cylinder power plant, and his son Terry is standing on the seat. No construction information is with the photo, although the coachwork appears to be a combination of metal or masonite, and some type of a composite was used to fabricate the curved surfaces of the hood, deck lid, and fenders.

Please share with us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.

25 responses to “Fort Worth Texas Man Builds Small Car for His Son

  1. One lucky kid, although he doesn’t look to thrilled about it in that photo. Seems like the styling might have been inspired by the 1939 Hudsons.

  2. I think dad did a terrific job. And I’d like to know more about the motor/transmission unit he’s using. It doesn’t look homebuilt, but the pedals mean it wasn’t lifted from a motorcycle. An early go-kart of some kind?

    • I do see furrows in the background. If the soil is well amended and friable enough – like in a home garden – it’s probably no worse than using a hand cultivator. People used to push their lawnmowers back then too.

    • I have one of those hand plows sitting by the outside front stairway into our house. It was one my grandmother used in her vegetable garden into the 1950s. My brother kept it for many years before he passed away. The remains of the original wooden handles finally disintegrated awhile before he passed. Until about twenty or maybe thirty years ago, one could still buy replacement handles for those plows at the local hardware store. A lot of people still continued to use the hand plows for backyard gardens well after WWII.
      The iron plow in that group would be interesting to look at. I can’t tell in the picture if it was one meant to be pulled by an early tractor, or ox or horse team. An ox or horse team plow should have had handles on the back of it for the farmer to hold it steady while the beasts of burden did the pulling. Tractor pulled units were held steady by the mechanical hitch. It was a similar iron plow that made the John Deere company. Thousands of those things still decorate older farming communities.

    • My grandfather still used hand plows until he retired in 1959. He farmed forty acres with a mule and a hand plow from WW2 until he quit farming. And there were a lot of other people using hand plows much later.

    • Um . . . I still use a hand plow. It does less damage to the earthworms than a cultivator, and is quieter to used. But the blade is much smaller than what we see here, and it’s wheeled, which makes me think these may be old horse-drawn plows. It’s possible this was a rural area, and he used these on nearby acreage. Or it’s possible that he had them around as a source of metal to use in home projects. He was clearly pretty handy as a metalworker.

  3. What a great project! I wonder if it ever ran under it’s own power? Adapting that power train would take quite a bit of fabrication as well as a source for ready made components. Could it have been a reworked go cart kit? Regardless, this stage of the build would take quite a different set of skills and tools from from those used to make a car body. I would love to know more about it.

  4. I thought at first the man’s clothing was more upscale than the neighborhood he lived in, but after a few seconds I noticed that, despite the hat, dress shirt and tie, his sweater was full of holes. By the way, when my father was a teenager in rural Kentucky in the thirties, living on small farms his out-of-work father rented for maybe $10 a year, one of his jobs was plowing with a hand plow and a mule or horse. Plus chopping wood for the cooking and heating fires, and hunting food for supper. (When Grandpa moved the family to Ohio in 1939, and went to work with GM, the family became much more prosperous.)

  5. Russell Brandt, just have to let you know sir, my family and the grandparents on both side as well as several neighbors were still using the old hand plows in the 60s…. My Grandad worked at the “plow shop” in Harriman, TN where they were made.

    Agree with John Sullivan, later Austin all the way, ha !

  6. It’s interesting that dad is wearing jeans and a well worn sweater but also a tie! When did men stop wearing ties as everyday wear? I’m 75 and I can’t ever remember my dad wearing a tie except when he was dressed for an occasion.

  7. Jim, that is what I thought, an old Maytag washer engine !

    To all with the plow comments: Sure wish we could post a pic, my Grandad made little “occasional” tables out of plow handles that were rejected. Turned 4 of then upside down and fastened them together, and put an oak board on the straight part that stuck up vertically. The curved parts rest on the floor in 4 directions. I have only had one person that ever guessed what my three tables were made from, ha !

    My Grandad and my wife’s Grandad only went to the garden or the shop to work at home without a tie. I grew up thinking I’d have to wear a tie…so I don’t !

  8. A dude on that free video viewing website put a twin cyl. Maytag engine in a little motorcycle and it looked just like a cartoon motorcycle that Mickey Mouse would have chased Donald Duck around on.

  9. Cute little car! Looks like an amalgamation of American Bantam Riviera (grille, body style, and overall proportions) mixed with Hudson (fender design with small wheel arches) and Ford (headlight bezel style). Would have been marketable in better economic times.

  10. Doesn’t look like a Maytag to me. The Maytag twin cylinder had a kick start pedal and a large open finned flywheel and the cylinders were round. Whatever it came out of, it looks purpose built with the clutch and brake pedal attatched. Yea, that child is way too small to drive a clutch operated vehicle even if it is small. More than likely he built it for his own amusement and justified it to his wife that he was building it for the kids. Been there, done that!

    • Sorry, only 2 sparkplug wires out of the distributor. It may be an Onan 2 cylinder, which would have been used for refrigeration as well as RR motor cars at a later date. Appears the clutch pedal is original, so may have been used in an older Allis Chalmers (or a similar small garden tractor) or even in a Gravely lawn tractor.

  11. I have a picture of a very similar car. It came off an amusement park and was originally connected to it’s drive path kind of like s a slot car. You controlled the go and stop and a bit of steering as allowed within the reach of the tethering mechanism. The one I saw was free of it’s tether, and had speed rated wheels and tires. It was powered by a single cylinder Cushman power train. Gonna go out on a limb and say this picture is post war and the engine is from an aircraft auxillary power unit. Lots of those were available as surplus after WW II for basically pocket change, those in b 17, b 26 were twin cylinders and powered generators and hydraulic pumps to provide power for planes before main engine start up

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *