I’ll admit it. Sometimes the art of balancing my obsession as a car guy, while at the same time being the family man, is like magic. Magic in the sense of my desperate attempts at being an illusionist.
Take for example our “family trip” last weekend, taking “a little drive up the coast.” My wife and daughter were stoked when i told them i was taking a break from working on the truck and wanted to spend time with them on a road trip up north to check out Fort Bragg. We walked the beach, visited the town house museum, got chocolates and had a fabulous lunch. It was great family fun.
When it appeared we had a spare second while figuring out our next adventure that day, I told my wife that i would love to “swing by” and see this guy that i know of to pick up a part that “i heard” he had. She was onto me when she discovered that the “part” was the body of a 1930 Ford Roadster.
My wifes eyes rolled. I never claimed to be a good magician, but practice makes perfect.
Later that day, back in family mode, we were walking the downtown area when my daughter spotted an old, antique book store. “Daddy, I wanna find a book!,” she exclaimed. At the same time, i knew my wife loves hunting for old hawaiian history books. “Sure, i guess,” I submitted in a “take one for the team” kind of tone.
Here began the masterful attempt at my second trick.
As soon as the family dove into the stores maze of old, bound-up words, i just happened to sneak over to the automotive section and found two books that looked “pretty cool.” My wife looked “pretty onto me,” again, as we checked out.
As soon as i got home, I was hooked on these Floyd Clymer books. It wasn’t just the notalgia of them, but more that Floyd clearly “got it.” Without knowing anything about him, i figured him out just by reading his books– that weren’t even about him. It was clear Floyd had the passion, in addition to the spelling and grammar, and my research validated it. His life story could fill just as many volumes as he wrote about cars and motorcycles.
Clymer was born in Indianapolis in 1895 and lived most of his years growing up in Berthoud, Colorado. Living during the times the transition from buggy to motor carriage began, Floyd became entranced with engine powerered transportation. By age 13 he was entralled with Henry Ford’s new car, and Floyd became the youngest Ford Dealer in the history– selling Model T’s like hot cakes.
As i read his book, “Henry’s Wonderful Model T,” I figured he could sell one of those buckets to anyone.
Around that time, Floyd caught the bug of his biggest sickness– the motorcycle. As a teen, Floyd got his first Excelsior, and by the mid-1910′s he was racing. He also took his money as a successful car dealer, and opened his own Harley-Davidson dealership in Greeley, Colorado. Before long he had won several championships and broken several records on two wheels. Clymer never met a motorcycle he didn’t like. Around this time, Floyd took his first step in publishing, with his “Motorcycle Topics” magazine.
Clymer took a break from cars and motorcycles in the late 1920′s, when he was convincted of mail fraud. He prosecutor had offered him a chance to plead guilty and avoid prison but Floyd felt he was innocent and refused to admit a crime he didn’t commit. Instead, he served over a years hard time in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth— where he was forced to do things like leave prison occassionally to participate in local races. The warden must have loved bikes too.
When he got out of the big house, Floyd dusted himself off and kept on keeping on with his adventures. He moved to Los Angeles where a fellow short-track racer, Al Crocker, gave him a shot and let him take over the West Coast Indian Motorcycle distributorship. Clymer was back in the races.
Never one to let his passion for cars linger, in June of 1926 he took his Imperial and drove the 702 miles from Denver to Kansas city in 13 hours and 56 minutes– telling the story of this rutted road adventure with words and pictures that he would eventually publish.
Clymer loved Hollywood and in the 1930s he commonly loaned cars and bikes to the movie studios for use in movies. Clymer also allowed movie stars to ride bikes on loan from his Indian dealership in exchange for making sure that publicity shots of the stars riding the bikes could be used in his advertising.
Through the years, Floyd published quite a few great books, including my other find: “Treasury of Early American Automobiles.” His topics related to the car, ranged from history, maintenance to racing. By 1961 his writing was so successful, that he started his own publication– Automobile Topics.
The next time you’re on a family trip to an old bookstore, check out some of Floyds stuff. Since you can’t likely pull off magic either, you’ll at least enjoy checking out Floyds.
NOTE TO FAMILY: I really did love our time together.
Add comment June 7th, 2008