Wednesday, February 8, 2012

1928 Graham-Paige 610

Bringing home a 1928 Graham-Paige 610
    If you are a Graham-Paige nut like me your ears are always keen to any new Graham sightings.  I have been into Graham automobiles for over ten years now and I always hear interesting rumors but one kept popping up…a Graham-Paige sitting in a garage in a town not 20 miles away.  But that was where the story dried up… something about a bad transmission and then he parked the car?

    Fast forward several years at the local 2008 GOCI meet in LaCrosse Wisconsin where a new rumor was the elusive Graham owner had made an appearance, but I missed him again.  I was starting to think this story was exactly that only a story.  We had a banner Graham year with both of my Grahams appearing in the big screen movie “Public Enemies”.  It was the most fun I have ever had with the Grahams.  I drove both my 1929 and 1933 Grahams in several scenes.  In the last hurrah for the movie we were going to drive my 1933 Graham down to the local theater and display the Graham in front of the theater for the Premier of the movie.  We were running late and flying low in the Graham on our way to LaCrosse.  We drove into the parking lot with two other 1930s vintage cars from the movie a 1933 Oldsmobile, and a 1931 Chrysler both sedans, everyone looking great in their 1930’s attire.  We talked and talked about the movie and the local history of the Gangster era.  The stories were great everyone wanted to know about working on the movie, and they stopped and took pictures of my wife and I and the cars. 

    One gentleman wanted to know more about the Graham specifically.  I love to talk Graham and so did he. In fact he still owns a Graham…yes the transmission is giving me problems…could this be the mysterious long rumored Graham Paige?  We had a great time talking Graham so Ralph (Graham owner) and I exchanged phone numbers and I promised I would come over and see the Graham.  We literally ran into the theater as the movie had all ready started. 

    A few weeks passed and I went over to see Ralph and the mysterious Graham Paige.  I turns out Ralph had bought the Graham in the early 1950s, had done cosmetic restoration and drove the car up till 1974 when it started having clutch problems.  The car was put on jack stands and then sat for 36 years.  The Graham was in amazing condition; he had the crank handle in the engine and had turned it over every week for the last 36 years!  The car had a complete body restoration in the early 1950’s, the interior was not restored.  The Graham Paige is an extremely early 1928 wood steering wheel, 5 disk wheel, sedan.  Ralph and I both love old cars so the conversation was easy.  When the question turned to his plans for the Graham, he asked me if I would like to own it.  The answer was easy, of course!

    My only condition of the sale was I wanted to put all the parts back on the car before we moved it.  Ralph had started to disassemble the drive shaft and transmission years ago.  This was a great plan since some of the missing parts were stored in drawers and shelves all over the garage and only Ralph would have found them.  With the Graham bolted back together we set up a date to bring her out into the sunlight for the first time in 36 years.

    We set the date for the next Saturday; my friends Steve and Dave were going to help me.  Steve volunteered the service of his enclosed car trailer.  We meet at the garage to plan the exit strategy.  The Graham now had air in the tires and was lowered to the ground. With everything rolling we pushed her into the driveway and the sun illuminated the Graham for the first time in 36 years.  Ralph’s grandson was on hand and confirmed he had never seen the Graham outside in his lifetime, he was 24 years old.  We took piles of pictures in almost every configuration of people and the Graham.  The next step was the big one; the Graham brakes were not working except the emergency brake.  We had to tow the car up a very steep incline to get it to the upper driveway about 30 feet up!  Steve backed down his four-wheel drive truck, I put a tow strap on the Graham and two safety chains, I did not want the Graham to get away now.  With the Graham safely in the top driveway we all lined up in front of the Graham for a group picture.   I snapped a couple with the Ralph and Dorothy and their Graham.  Loading was easy because Steve had a winch in his trailer.  My 9 year old Ben steered the Graham into the trailer, his grin was almost as big as mine!  As the Graham disappeared into the trailer I looked back to see both the owner and his wife with a tear in their eye.

    I made an 8x10 print of the 610 Graham Paige with Dorothy and Rolf, for them.  We remain friends and talk from time to time.  It took me a few weeks to get the transmission straightened out.  It had some front end problems as one caster plate shims was missing from the front axle.  I changed the oil, rebuilt the carburetor, checked the cooling and charging system, installed new tires, and a new belt.  The 610 is now running like she did when Ralph finished the restoration in 1950’s.  We mostly drive the 610 around home but look forward to some touring and someday a GOCI meet.


The Team,
    Dave, Kristie, Chris, Ralph, Dorothy, Julia, Ben, Matthew, and Steve

Friday, September 24, 2010

1933 Graham Heading to Hollywood Public Enemies Style

It started off innocently enough; my Father sent me an e-mail for a movie looking for 1930 to 1933 cars. I have 1929 Graham Paige 827 in excellent original condition so I sent a few pictures thinking it would be great to have my car in a movie. On the end I pasted a small poor picture of Grandfather’s 1933 Graham. A few days later I received a call from Universal Studios telling me they would love to use the 1933 Graham in the upcoming movie Public Enemies.
Let’s see, my Grandfather’s Graham has not been on the road in over 50 years. It is buried behind a mountain of junk sleeping till next spring when I had planned on getting it running enough to trailer it down to the 2008 Graham Meet in LaCrosse WI. Something crazy in my head said we can make it….”Sure, I would love to bring the 33 down for the film”….what was I saying? I had to be insane! 5 weeks to do what the last 2 years had not accomplished with the same resources and the outside temperature is like 5 degrees below zero!
First week; unbury the Graham and use the tractor to pull it through the snow banks to the garage. Did I mention I had to do this while my lovely wife is at the store because she did not know she would be losing her garage for the next 5 weeks. In MN that is a big thing. Once I got the Graham defrosted I made the list of things to do, OK I cut the list of things to do down to the absolute minimum. I still had an enormous list, like painting wheels, mounting tires, welding up the frame, repairing holes, installing seats, locating a rear bumper to borrow, just the small stuff.
Week two; I am insane this will never work. I pull off the rear valance and uncover the mess that was the temporary gas tank. I was lucky enough to have a friend from the Graham Club help me locate a replacement tank. After ripping all the old junk out, I started looking at the frame. Anyone who has worked on a Blue Streak will tell you the frames are a little weak in the rear, but mine was gone! It looked like a shark had viciously ripped the rear bumper from the Graham; all that was left was shredded metal. I make a panic call to my friend in Texas, you do have a bumper bracket, sure my first-born would be fine, and it was in the mail.
Week three; someone should have committed me years ago. I am now cutting up old farm equipment for parts but the frame is looking good and after much heating and beating it is the right shape (I think). Wow my part arrived! Those Texas guys are great! I have never seen a 33 Graham frame in person so I make my best guess and it looks great. I proceed with the installation of the gas tank, this is going great, three hours later and trying to get the rear valance on correctly, I think wow these guys spent a lot of time building these cars. I had to solder up a few lines for the gas tank but there is a 48% chance it will hold gas.
Week four, I am running out of time!! Just shoot me! Paint the wheels how hard could that be? Two hours of sanding on each of the six wire wheels. I had built a wheel spinner, wow, that worked great with another 5 hours of painting but the color was worth it. It has been over 50 years since the wheels have looked this good. I start mounting the tires in the living room! I love my wife! I have a great friend that is a sign painter he says he can do the job if I get them there in time. I stay up till 3am but the wheels are done. I deliver them Friday morning at 7am.

Week five; seriously who was I kidding this will never work. My friend calls I can pick up the wheels, wow that was less then 24 hours! Maybe….The wheels are on the car, wow that looks great. The bumper, I have no rear bumper, my friend in Iowa comes through he will send it today. Tuesday the bumper arrives, the gas tank is holding, the bumper bolts right up. I know I have a battery here somewhere. I order windshield wipers on the way to the doctor my youngest has an ear infection. I spend most of the night trying to get the grill installed (this was supposed to be easy) 3am again.
OK, I have to call them today…. I will never make it! I have three days left. I walk dejected to the garage, what a beautiful day. What the heck, I drop the battery in and turn the Graham over, she starts right up! We are talking 50 year old wires, condenser, coil, points and she is purring like a kitten. A short jaunt, a half-mile to a small town, brakes! They work almost too well, this is awesome! (I had rebuilt them but have not had time to test them). On the way back I figure why not break her here instead of in front of all those camera men? I nudge her up to about seventy miles per hour and hit the brakes hard, she stops fast and straight, the Graham is still idling perfect. Now I know why my Grandfather loved this car. I load her on the trailer.
The trip to Columbus, WI goes off perfect well except the truck runs out of gas on the Interstate (another project on hold, repair fuel gauge in truck). Putting gas in a stalled truck on Interstate 90 is like picking up a penny off the racetrack in the middle of a NASCAR race! I escape with my life, less a few years. We meet up with friends in Columbus and head down town for supper, great food. We wonder the set (downtown Columbus) the store fronts and just inside the windows are all decked out in 1933 regalia, signs, wood doors, vintage products, it was like walking through a time warp, until we saw the door to the bridal shop open. Behind the facade we entered the tattoo parlor! No, I will pass on the John Dillinger t-shirt, thanks anyway; I did not want to explain to my small children why Daddy is wearing a t-shirt with a tattoo parlor advertisement on the back. I did get a similar shirt at the 100 year old drug store, much more presentable.
Tuesday morning filming day 5am, pack up at the motel, load the truck, time to head to the picture car garage…the truck dose not start, the starter is dead! My friend from LaCrosse gives me a pull start and we are off. A 5 min drive to the film garage exposes a fleet of 1930 to 1933 cars, even a 1935 semi truck and a wrecker. What a wonderful sight in the morning dusk as the cars file up to be aged. Aged, interesting term, I would call it getting the car dirty, lots of dust and a black substance to dirty the wheels.
They loaded all of us on a small bus and sent us off to breakfast during the “aging process”. The breakfast was good and we started to meet each other, what wonderful people, most are retired all excited to be involved this experience. Just as we were beginning to bond the hammer fell, the reading of the cars to be used in the day’s production. Suddenly we were in separate groups, basically three; driving cars, parked cars, and the extras. I fell into the extra group and was needless to say disappointed. As we were shuffled to the group going back to the garage I tried to keep a good face, they must need us for something or they would not have called.
Just as we get off the bus and start staring at our aged cars, looks like something the kids would have done if left unsupervised. The car coordinator comes running up and says my friend and me are needed immediately on the set! Quick to the Graham! My wife and I scramble to get into the Graham and try to follow this small truck at an unreasonable speed for a 78-year-old car. We are flagged to a spot in the road and instructed to wait for instruction. We are supposed to wait till the car across the street comes half way across the intersection, we then proceed to roll and make a right turn, just as we complete the turn we are instructed to back up and do it again, same sequence. After the second trial run the 1930 Plymouth coupe across from us makes very unhappy sounds and stops dead. He is pushed off the set and a replacement is called, my friend from LaCrosse! He is in too! As I start to settle down I ask my wife where we are on the set? Just then I realize we are across the street from the bank Dillinger (Depp) is robbing! My friend is even closer, better than I could have ever imagined. I should mention the weather now, it is about 30 degrees and misting just enough the car and road are wet, the colds starts to set it, I mean the cold that goes to your bones, and you never get warm. We are in our 1933 outfits and I would really like my parka, boots, and a wool hat. I am blessed with the only car with a heater but the fan is not working, so our car is about 50 degrees, I do not complain about the temperature after all we could be sitting inside with the extras.

We turn the corner 15 to 20 times in the 3-4 hours the scene take to shoot but it goes by in a flash and it is over. The next scene we are not involved and we have time to visit with other car owners and enjoy the filming. It was an extraordinary day, and an unbelievable opportunity to be in such an undertaking. We met so many wonderful car owners we just wished we had more time to get to know everyone. Grandpa’s Graham ran perfectly, I think she thought it was 1933 all over again.


“Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale is due out July 1, 2009. Look for the Graham on LaSalle Street and all the bank robberies…but that is the next story.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Graham-Paige, Past, Present and Bright Future, Part II

I am still searching for Grandpa’s 1933 57A. I know she’s out there somewhere, I can feel her, the search continued...years passed...

My quest for an allusive 1933 started to fester again. I slept with one eye open for almost six years. While checking the Graham web sight I found an ad for a 1934 Graham six (a 1933 eight and 1934 six are almost identical cars). After a lot of negotiation and several hours on the phone a deal was struck, I was the proud new owner of a (in need of a lot of work) Graham very similar to my Grandfather’s. What? It is sold, yes, to me? No, not to me? You know it used to be a verbal deal was a deal, but apparently not any more? I had lost the 1934 Graham to a somewhat shifty deal. Now being a Graham and this world is getting smaller each day, it was not long till I found the true story and where the 1934 Graham had went. Well to make a long story short it is now in good Graham hands.

Needless to say I was extremely disappointed to loose the allusive car, especially one so similar to my Grandfather’s. Shortly after the setback, I started looking through some 20 year old Supercharger issues and a Graham I had not noticed before appeared, in Wisconsin, near where my Grandfather lived. Well the issue was almost 20 years old but… I found a phone number for the Gentleman and gave him a call….Graham, yes, wonderful car, yes, I did have one, oh, do you still? Why yes I do, black? Yes, it is black, wire wheels? Yes, it does have six wire wheels, a sport light? Why yes, it does have a sport light. The probability of a 1933, black, six wire wheel, sport light car, only a half hour away from my Grandfathers house and not being my Grandfather's car is almost impossible…. How about turn signals? (My Uncle Dick had installed the signal lights in 1949) No, no turn signal lights……. But the holes are still there!!! We made an appointment to get together to look at the Graham.
New Year’s weekend, it might be a wonderful New Year. The gentleman’s name is Lowell, he has taken great care of the 1933 Graham for almost 20 years, and his friend Rolland had owned the car for another 20 years. I was going to get to meet two of the gentlemen most responsible for keeping this Graham together and in original condition for over 40 years. It was not easy to prove it was my Grandfather’s Graham but the one picture I had left out of the last article gave several critical details (that is my Mom in the front seat of the Graham in 1952). First was the exact location of the signal lights my Uncle had mounted in 1949. The second was the small football shaped dent on the front fender that is still there today! The last detail I have just learned was my Grandfather had a hole in the oil pan repaired, the repair is still visible, a small hole made when on a family vacation crossing a plowed field! Lowell’s father had owned a Graham Crusader and Lowell wanted to continue owning a Graham, so we made a deal to trade one of my Grahams for my Grandfather’s car. It was a great almost surreal day for me; the end of a journey I was starting to believe would never come.


The 1933 still runs and drives, it has had a hard life but considering its age she is in remarkable condition. With the unbelievable amount of help from the “Graham family” I have gathered mountains of information about both of my 1929 and 1933 Grahams. Bill has been unbelievable in his help and friendship. I am planning an off frame restoration but first carefully documenting all the details of the car. Reconstructing the history and the way the car was originally built is as exciting for me as driving a piece of American and family history. The way our Grandfathers constructed these cars is an engineering marvel, driving the same car as my Grandfather loved is creating new Graham history.


I have been able to piece together most of the 1933 Graham 64’s life….
• 1933 to 1935, originally purchased by a leather salesman Frank Schubert for his wife they were from Appleton WI.
• 1935 to 1957, owned by my Grandfather, Brillion, WI, sold with approximately 34,000 miles.
• 1957, sold to Kloehn Oldsmobile Brillion WI. The car had had an interior fire on the sales lot in Brillion, kids smoking in the car. Several unidentified owners followed.
• 1962 to 1974, owned by Roland, Jerry and John (cousins). Purchased the car in Haven, WI. The Graham ran and drove but the interior was still in burned condition. For several years the Graham sat under a mulberry tree and made a great tree house for the kids to play in. The car was eventually parked in a Roland’s barn and forgotten for twelve years.
• 1972 to 1975, owned by Walter, he worked on the mechanicals, got the car running again and worked on the brakes but could never get them to work correctly.
• 1975 to 2006, owned by Lowell, continued light restoration, put in replacement seats, a replacement gas tank and a brush paint job.
• Feb, 18th 2006 to present, owned by me, I am collecting the missing parts and planning a compete frame off restoration to original. 37,549 original miles.


If anyone comes across a picture of this car I would be extremely interested. If you add up the options on this 1933 64 it exceeds the cost of the 57A so I feel it may have been a show/display car, maybe at the 1933 Chicago Auto Show or perhaps the 8 cylinder Graham used in the 1933 “Graham Safety Tour”.



1933 Graham 64 sedan; six wire wheels, safety plate glass, dual “clear vision ventilators”, steel trunk, bumper protectors, Sport light, dual wipers, dual horns, twin rear tail lights, wool taupe broadcloth interior, dual sun visors, radiator stone guard, dual zone deluxe Tropic Aire heater, and the flying Lady.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Graham-Paige, Past, Present and Bright Future


My grandpa, was a person I admired deeply. He was a veteran of WWI, and was proprietor of a shoe store; he even ran for Register of Deeds in 1922. We talked about everything. On the subject of what I wanted to do in life, he told me, “Don’t worry, one day you will be doing it.” He was right about so much, and it took me twenty years to realize it. 1998 would have been his 100th birthday, and I wanted to do something in his memory. I’ve always wanted to own an American classic car, and everyone in my family remembered Grandpa’s car as the “Gangster Wagon”. My mother, aunts, and uncles grew up with the “Gangster Wagon;” they had lots of memories, but not many tangible details, except for knowing it was a “Graham.” Being a car buff, I thought I knew most of the nameplates, but I wasn’t familiar with that one. I began to hunt for information about my grandpa’s car. I started out with the wrong pictures; Grandpa had pictures of his friend’s 1929 827. It took a lot of research, but I finally found out the true story.
My grandpa’s Graham came about as a grant to the WWI veterans. In the early 1930’s, the government sent out checks to veterans to try to stimulate the economy. Grandpa decided to buy a car with the money. I am not sure how he found it, but the Graham came from Appleton, WI, about 30 miles from his home in Brillion. His oldest son Robert Jr. (oldest in picture) remembered going to pick up the Graham; they even drove there in the friend’s 827. The Graham turned out to be a 1933-57A Blue Streak. It had six wire wheels with steel wheel covers and a flying lady. The car was not new, since my uncle remembers getting it from a residence in Appleton, but when Grandpa sold the car in 1953 it still had only 20,000 miles so it must have been pretty new.
The search was on to find Grandpa’s 1933 Blue Streak. One of the first people I met who knew anything about Graham automobiles was Michael Keller (some of you might know of him, he wrote a wonderful book). He was extremely helpful in my search, and he put up with a lot of dumb questions. Finding out the ‘33 57A was the lowest production Graham ever built, and the fact it was the top of the line in 1933, was both discouraging and encouraging. There was a good chance the car had not been crushed, but the chances of finding it, or any similar Graham, would be slim.
I have restored cars in the past, but mostly muscle cars and exotics. You can buy parts off the shelf for these kinds of cars, if you can afford them. I had helped a friend with a 1925 Maxwell, so I knew I wanted a complete car; off-the-shelf parts would not be an option, at any cost. September 11 came and went. I was dealing on several Grahams to purchase, and getting exceedingly anxious to make a deal. One G-P came to the forefront, a nicely restored 1928 619. The price was a little high, but we were able to make a deal! Finally a Graham would be back in the family.
I bought the 619 sight unseen, and had her trucked from Main to Minnesota in March 2002. The last obstacle to having my Graham home was the 20-mile drive from the truck dock (the gentleman I bought the car from said it ran and drove great). Minnesota, March, cold, dark, old car: I did not even know how to start it! Luckily an older gentleman stopped to look at the car, and informed me you need to step on the dimmer switch to get it to turn over! Hand over the carb intake (extra choke) and she was off, what a roar! What a drive! I found out what 29 candlepower means: at 45 mph you could hit a deer and never see it! The centerline was a welcome sight.
Through my new Graham friends, I ended up with another G-P this year, a 1929 827 wonderful unrestored, original, running, and driving car (right side). The ‘28 619 turned out to be a early ‘29 great driver, all ‘29 running gear on a ‘28 body. Only 200 were built, less than the ‘33 57A. Hope was renewed! My 4-year-old son, calls the Graham his automobile; his responsibility is the spark advance. Another generation will carry on the Graham tradition. We are all ready planning our Graham’s 100th birthday party, 2029.
I am still searching for Grandpa’s ‘33 57A. I know she’s out there somewhere, I can feel her, and the search continues…

Monday, April 28, 2008


Graham Paige Automobiles

My Grandfather had a 1933 Graham.  After spending six years trying to find his car, not only have I found his car but I have found a community of people who also love Graham Paige cars.