A view of the 10 stud, 8 hole wheel pattern.

The elusive wheels and tyres – Update # 49

Steve has spent several years attempting to locate the correct wheels for the Doodlebug. He also reached out for help last year to source the exact size tyres used on these trucks, but we are still no closer to finding either. These two components, or lack thereof, have hindered the build’s progress.


The Past Year

Well, it has been quite a while since I last sat down to update the progress of the Doodlebug build. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of news to report on the project itself, but I have shared a few other things that have happened since the last post was published.

I mentioned last year there were several other projects on the go that were going to take precedence over this build. These priorities, as well as family and business commitments, have made for an exceptionally busy time for us both. I also became involved in another automotive blog last year, which I will detail further in this post.

Steve has kept relatively well, and his MS has certainly met its match with a man who refuses to give in to its demands. Despite the challenges that he faces most days, Steve is an inspiration to everyone around him. So much so, that he and the Texaco tanker made it to the cover of the latest MS Auckland magazine.

MS Auckland magazine – ‘Multiplenews’

And if anyone is wondering about the title “The man with two diseases,” the article acknowledges Steve’s collecting problem!

Regardless of how busy life has been, however, this extraordinary truck has been at the forefront of our minds throughout the past 12 months. There are still a few loose ends to tidy up with other vehicle projects, and then the Doodlebug will become our main focus. We can’t wait!


The Budd-Style Wheels

We never imagined when we began planning this build that it would be this difficult to locate the period-correct wheels for the Doodlebug. We kept an eye on eBay and other websites for several years hoping these wheels would be offered for sale, and we were even prepared to buy a complete, unrestored truck if necessary.

The hard-to-find Budd-style wheels on the Doodlebug were a 10-stud, 8-hole pattern, and Rich noted in his research file that they were 20″ wheels. I should note that we have just one correct wheel in our possession.

A view of the 10 stud, 8 hole wheel pattern.

The 10-stud, 8-hole pattern wheel is shown on a Doodlebug above.

The only period-correct Doodlebug wheel in our possession.

Our only correct wheel is in the foreground.

After failing to find the exact wheels, Steve started looking locally for something similar that could be modified. He caught up with Ian Spedding last year, a well-known and highly respected transport operator in the Auckland region. Ian always had a reputation for keeping his fleet of trucks and trailers beautifully presented and maintained during his 51 years of ownership of Ian Spedding Ltd. Although Ian retired in 2021, his passion for the industry remains strong, and he still owns several trucks.

Ian had some old 10-stud wheels that were potentially suitable and kindly gave them to Steve. The plan for the wheels was to remove the rivets to separate the centre from the rim, weld up the six holes, and then recut the eight.

One of the 10 stud wheels gifted by Ian Spedding.

Ian Spedding gifted the 10-stud wheels.

Steve delivered all the wheels to a tyre shop to get the old tyres removed from the rims.

Steve tackled the first wheel to establish a system for removing the rivets, as they were not visible inside the rim. To locate each rivet, he had to centre punch the head first and then drill a pilot hole through the rivet. Steve could then drill from the other end of the now-located rivet to a blind hole. He machined down a pin punch to the correct size and punched the rivets through the rim.

The markings were cleaned up to reveal the wheel manufacturer was Goodyear.

Steve cleaned up the markings and discovered Goodyear manufactured the Budd wheels.

A side view of the wheel with the rivets removed.

A side view shows the holes after the rivets were removed.

The press used to separate the wheel centre from the rim.

The centre and rim had rusted together so much that Steve had to use the press to separate them apart.

The separated rim and centre.

The process involved in separating this first wheel was time-consuming and quite difficult for Steve. He is looking at other options and possibly other wheels, so I hope to have an update before we publish the next post.


The Tyres

The tyre brand used on the Doodlebug was B.F. Goodrich Silvertown. The tyres on the dual wheels at the rear were 20 x 9.75, while the larger front tyres were 20 x 11.25.

The Silvertown branding is visible on the left-hand side of the tyre.

The Silvertown branding can be faintly seen on the left-hand side of the tyre in an original Doodlebug photo.

Our preference is to source an American-branded tyre for the build, but it appears the exact size used in 1933 is no longer available under the main US brands. An industry rep has been making enquiries for months now but to no avail. We are keeping an open mind and will look further afield at other international brands.

From a purist perspective, we will be disappointed if we can’t replicate the exact tyre sizes. But we need to set up the chassis before committing to any fabrication work, so the closest equivalent tyres to the originals may have to suffice. We hope to have some positive news about the tyres shortly.


A Very Special Recognition

Several articles were published about the tanker restoration, both here and in the United States, following its unveiling in April 2023. But the greatest recognition we could have imagined was being awarded the prestigious John L. Goddard Trophy by the Vintage Car Club of NZ.

The trophy was presented to the VCC by Mrs Kate Goddard in 1989 in memory of her late husband, John Goddard, and it has been awarded annually ever since ‘to the club member nominated by his or her peers, for achievement’.

The trophy is unique with stunning detail and was described in a Vintage Car Club of NZ article in 1989 as “very much an ‘International’ piece. The main casting came from America, the Grand Prix Bugatti clock from England, the walnut base from Christchurch, New Zealand, and the silver engraving plates from Australia.”

Steve holding the John L Goddard Trophy.

Steve with the John L. Goddard Trophy in August 2023

The 2023 nomination, put forward by Graeme Banks and Norman Dewhurst, acknowledged Steve’s dedication and restoration of the tanker, as well as my research and input on this website. But the nomination also recognised Steve for his contribution over the years to VCC, NZHRA, LVVTA, and the car hobby in general. To have the tanker restoration recognised by fellow members and be awarded such an esteemed trophy is as good as it gets.

Sharing the award news in this post is tinged with sadness, however, as Graeme Banks passed away three weeks ago following a short illness. Graeme was always interested in and supportive of the Diamond T tanker restoration and was with us when the tanker was unveiled. We will miss his friendship and his passion for saving these old vehicles, and we send our sincerest condolences to Graeme’s family.

Steve and I would like to thank Graeme (RIP) and Norm for nominating us as recipients and the membership for considering us worthy of the award.


The 2024 Art Deco Festival, Napier, NZ

Napier is known as the ‘Art Deco Capital of the World’. Situated on the east coast of the North Island, most of Napier City was destroyed by a devastating earthquake on 3rd February 1931. Much of the city rebuild that followed remains today, and the Art Deco architecture of that era is showcased around the waterfront setting.

Each year, Napier celebrates its heritage with an exceptionally popular festival that attracts thousands of people. It began in 1988 “as an acknowledgement of the resilience and spirit of the Hawke’s Bay communities after the 1931 earthquakes.” Locals and visitors dress up in period-correct attire, vintage cars from around the country are displayed and paraded through the city, musicians play live jazz, and vintage planes adorn the skies. It is, without question, one of the largest and most iconic events in New Zealand, and just the perfect backdrop to display a 1930s streamlined Texaco tanker!

Once the 1938 Diamond T tanker restoration was completed last year, Steve committed to displaying it at the 2024 Art Deco Festival. As the time drew nearer, Steve checked over the transporter and made a few little changes to assist with the loading and unloading of the tanker. Fortunately, he had a secure location near the city centre where the tanker would be safely stored at night and a dedicated area to display the truck during the day. On the trip down to Napier, Steve thoroughly enjoyed the company of an old friend, Max Rogers, who shared the driving and many laughs on the way.

Tom Andrews also transported a very special vehicle down to Art Deco – the Napier Fire Board No. 2 truck that was used in the city in 1931 to deal with the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes. Steve and Tom travelled separately, but both vintage trucks arrived safely and were displayed next to each other.

The Napier Fire Board No. 2 Fire Truck was kindly transported to the festival by Tom Andrews.

The gorgeous ladies, costumes, and vintage parasols were the icing on the cake in this shot!

Photo Source: Napier City Facebook Page

The building behind the tanker was completed in 1935 and was originally home to Temperance General Insurance. Known for many decades as the T&G Building, it is now used for boutique waterfront accommodation and is called The Dome.

These several photos reflect the static display at the festival. However, the tanker needed to be moved to the display area each morning and returned to the secure building each night, and this meant driving the truck….

Several friends took videos at different times as they attempted to keep up with Steve’s comings and goings. Mitch took snippets of the footage to create a short clip for us on YouTube, and despite the poor audio quality in parts, you can still hear the purr of the Hercules engine! Our thanks to Lloyd ‘Magoo’ Wilson and Malcolm Dean for capturing these moments.

They say laughter is the best medicine, but I think driving a much-loved old truck might be just as effective!


A New Blog

Midway through last year, I was chatting with Tom Andrews about the two Bugatti builds taking place at the Classics Museum in Hamilton. We discussed how the stories of these two cars needed to be shared and tossed ideas around for the best way to go about it. We quickly agreed that a blog similar to this would be an ideal platform to not only record the history of the two cars but to also share the progress of the builds. With Mitch’s help, a new website was set up, and I began to research and make notes about these two fascinating vehicles.

The home page of the https://bugattiatlantic.co.nz/ website

https://bugattiatlantic.co.nz/

Tom supplied me with some history on both cars, and as I read through the notes I was drawn back into the same era as the Texaco tanker but on the other side of the world, in France. While Texaco was designing their next-generation fleet of tankers in the mid-thirties, a young man named Jean Bugatti was busy designing a concept car that would evolve into the Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic Coupe.

Only four of these cars were ever built, and each one was different and had unique characteristics. Two remain intact today in private ownership, and the third was destroyed at a railway crossing in 1955 but has since been rebuilt with as many original parts as possible. The remaining Atlantic, which was the second car built, is one of the greatest automotive mysteries of all time. It is this particular car that the team at the Classics Museum is building.

A small number of Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic Coupes have been recreated since 1980. To date, I haven’t personally found any record of one of these cars being owned in the Southern Hemisphere, so to have one built and displayed here in New Zealand will be a monumental achievement by Tom and the team.

However, the major significance of the Classics Museum build was lost on me until I sat down with Greg McDell, the project manager and lead researcher of both Bugatti builds.

Greg explained that a 1:1 scale wooden body pattern was produced in the late 1970s from the fourth Atlantic Coupe built, which Ralph Lauren now owns. From the research Greg has done, it would appear that all the recreations have been built using that fourth car’s body pattern and characteristics. As a result, he doesn’t believe anyone has ever recreated the second Type 57S Atlantic Coupe known as “La Voiture Noire,” which was last seen in 1939. If so, this build will be a world-first.

Promotional poster of Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic Coupe 57453

Promotional image of 1936 Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic Coupe No. 57453 – La Voiture Noire

Greg and the restoration team have used photographic and written evidence to identify the unique features of the hand-built car, no. 57453, and are in the sixth year of the build.

The bodywork began in 2018, the same year we started the Diamond T restoration. During those first months, we showcased Simon Tippins’ talent as he battled the heavy gauge steel on the ’38 Diamond T. But what wasn’t made public at the time was that Simon was also working at the opposite end of the spectrum with lightweight aluminium as he began the fabrication work on the Atlantic Coupe. Simon and Greg captured every stage of the build with hundreds of photos, and these images will be shared as the build sequence is followed in the updates.

Greg’s management and commitment to replicate every inch of ‘La Voiture Noire’ with absolute precision are next level. He eats, sleeps, and breathes the Atlantic Coupe build, and although he comes from a mechanical background, Greg is an extremely talented fabricator.

Gordon White has an exceptional eye for detail, which has enabled him to recreate technical components with complete accuracy. He is just as proficient at carpentry as he is at fabrication.

Together with Tom’s enthusiasm, experience, and vast skill sets, the museum restoration team members complement each other, and each is multi-talented.

Then there is Simon Tippins. Anyone who has followed this blog will know how exceptionally talented Simon is with metalwork, but this build takes his expertise to another level. Simon’s introduction to the project began with the delivery of the chassis and the wooden frame pictured below.

The pictured hand-built European ash timber frame was created in Germany.

The hand-built European ash timber frame was created in Germany.

I have mentioned this before, but for those who love automotive history and enjoy following projects of this magnitude, these two builds tick every box.

The following link to the new blog outlines the history of the four Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic Coupes.

https://bugattiatlantic.co.nz/bugatti-type-57-atlantic-57453/

The second build taking place at the Classics Museum is the full restoration of an original 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Ventoux discovered in a barn in France in 2014. The fact that this car was stored and hidden from the world for 50 years is remarkable. But the detailed history of the Bugatti and its two owners is just extraordinary.

Thousands of written records and photos are held by the Bugatti Trust in the U.K., and dedicated historians have pieced together vital information on many of the Bugattis built. These sources provided a continuous timeline of the history of the Type 57 Ventoux, from leaving the factory in early 1938 to being discovered in 2014.

In fact, there was so much information on the Bugatti Type 57 Ventoux that I had to split the history post into two!

Part one:

https://bugattiatlantic.co.nz/history-1937-bugatti-type-57-57579/

Part two:

https://bugattiatlantic.co.nz/baillon-barn-find/

We have watched the Type 57S Atlantic Coupe being built, and it is a piece of pure automotive art. The sheer talent and brilliance of the Classics Museum team and Simon Tippins, along with the research, painstaking effort, and meticulous detail being put into this build, will put this car on the world stage. Steve and I believe it will become one of the most influential cars in modern times, both within the Bugatti community and among automotive enthusiasts around the globe.


References:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/napiers-art-deco-festival-forgotten-the-full-noise-of-hawkes-bays-biggest-party-youre-about-to-be-reminded/PJLLSE3LAZE5LGTQM5ANRGDA3I/

https://bugattiatlantic.co.nz/

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Starting again – Update # 48

2 Comments

  1. Mr Nice Guy

    Thank you for the update.
    We hoped you hadn’t fallen off the edge of the Earth🤣!!!
    We here in New England wish you well in all your endeavors.
    Oh…have you tried to source wheels through Coker or Accuride?
    Best of luck.

    • Sue Keys

      Thank you and greetings from New Zealand! We haven’t tried Coker or Accuride but will certainly take a look. Really appreciate your suggestions.

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