With the creation of clone cars and “what ifs,” there is an inherent danger in the loss of historical fact with the passage of time. In some cases, it does not take many calendars to come and go from the wall before facts are lost, confused or altogether changed.
In the March 12 issue, Old Cars Weekly featured a unique 1933 LaSalle truck with the Henney coachbuilder’s name stamped in the tailgate. In the story, I pondered the history of the truck. Was it a funeral vehicle? Was it a transporter for a Cadillac and LaSalle dealer? Was it Henney’s own in-plant vehicle? None of these turned out to be the case.
Fortunately, a small group of OCW readers and professional car historians were familiar with the LaSalle, and had witnessed its construction from car to truck in Ontario only three years ago.
The recent builder apparently created a die and stamped the Henney name into the tailgate while building the truck. With the vehicle’s modern build date, the LaSalle truck was obviously not built by Henney, though one reader said the vehicle has been represented as such. In actuality, it was built as a “Henney tribute” by its constructor and is a modern workhorse. Attempts to unearth the past of the truck while writing the story were met with dead ends by those interviewed. Unfortunately, attempts to confirm its recent construction after the story appeared have also been thwarted, as the man credited with building the truck by OCW readers insists he did not build it, and refused to comment when asked about the vehicle.
Regardless of its roots, the final product was unique, and I am pleased to have featured such an attractive LaSalle in OCW. However, we would certainly have preferred to include the truck’s full history in the original story, had it been available. Luckily, readers were able to fill in some missing facts. But what if they had not? Will the history of this LaSalle, or other “clone cars” and “what ifs” get lost to time again, either intentionally or unintentionally, as the truck moves from one caretaker to the next? What’s the solution? Perhaps there should there be a registry for such vehicles. Or maybe clubs could become involved with a Web site. A few marques have specialists that OCW refers to when unraveling the history of an old car, but such students of history don’t exist for most makes.
If we don’t watch ourselves, the government may some day get involved. We can all agree it’s a lot of responsibility. What do you think should be done to keep perspective buyers educated about these cars? I’d like to hear your options for keeping the hobby safe from such losses of history.