Serendipity Strikes Again: The Hidden Cars of Eugene


If you’ve spent any time around CC, you’ve undoubtedly heard about and seen an abundance of cars from Eugene.  Well, I recently found a conglomeration of cars in Eugene the likes of which we have never covered here.  Of course, this isn’t Eugene, Oregon; it’s Eugene, Missouri.

On my recent trip out with Todd in his 1958 Chevrolet Impala we went to visit Wes and his cars.  This is what we uncovered.


When we arrived, Wes, a retired mechanical engineer, was installing turn signals on his 1940 Mercury Eight convertible.  This Mercury has a phenomenal story associated with it, with Wes having learned about its early days from the original owner.  This is only a tease of sorts as I’m saving this Mercury for its own full article.


After eating and swapping a few stories, we went to see what Wes has outside, such as this Ford Model A.  Wes’s son has entered it in a few hill climbing competitions and has thoroughly spanked some Jeeps.  Not too shabby for a stock, obviously unrestored and incompletely bodied Model A with tire chains outback.


Wes’s property has a house that was built sometime in the 1830s.  While people in some parts of the world may say the new smell shouldn’t have worn off yet, this is likely one of the oldest houses in this county.  Sadly, it was not inhabitable when Wes bought the property in the 1970s and its best use is as a storage building for this commercially built hybrid.

Using a Model A engine as a power source, the engine is mounted backwards on a 1920s era Chevrolet truck frame.  As such, this unit has rear steering and was built to be a forklift for hay bales so the load was over the dual wheeled axle.  It had not been started in ages; when Wes went to start it, the engine fired almost immediately.  Sadly, I could not hit the video recording button on my camera quickly enough .  This old rig is still ready for some work and an unmuffled Model A engine is a sound to behold.


Wes kept his better cars, such as his 1958 Ford Skyliner, in a building close to his house.

Like the Mercury, Wes knows the history of this Skyliner.  It was purchased new in Savannah, Missouri, in July 1958, as the original owners were about to be married.  They immediately drove this Skyliner to Pike’s Peak in Colorado for their honeymoon.


Wes even has a picture of it as they left their wedding reception.  Wes drives his cars; he said he’s put about 40,000 miles on this Skyliner over the years.  I did go for a ride in it and sometime soon will have a comparison of it and the 1958 Chevrolet.


The 1958 Ford was Wes’s newest car if you don’t count his late 1990’s Ford Taurus and 2015 F-150.  This 1929 Model A is his oldest.  While it’s a typical sedan, don’t think it to be just any old Model A hanging out in a garage.  This is Wes’s first car, purchased when he was fifteen years old.  This is the car he drove during his time in college at the University of Missouri – Rolla, about sixty miles south, and he’s put countless thousands of miles on it.  He sold it in 1971 but missed it enough to purchase it back in 1974.  He’s owned it ever since.


Seen here is Todd, owner of the 1958 Impala

Since its trunk photobombed the Model A above, it appears ready for some attention.  The photobomber is a 1933 Franklin Olympic, a car whose brand has rarely been mentioned here for soon to be obvious reasons.


The Franklin Automobile Company was based in Syracuse, New York, and produced automobiles from 1901 to 1934.  Production only twice exceeded 10,000 units annually during the life of the company, with production in 1933 being 1,330.


Franklin’s had air-cooled engines with the 1933 Olympic models producing 100 horsepower from a 274 cubic inch straight-six; there was also a V-12 for the higher trimmed models of Franklin.

1931 Reo Ad-01

The 1933 Olympic models shared bodies with the 1933 REO Flying Cloud (or Reo, depending upon source) of Lansing, Michigan.  From research Wes has conducted, REO had approximately 800 excess bodies that were sold to Franklin for installation of their air-cooled engines.

In 1934, REO still had unsold bodies so they opted to cut off the rear of the cabs for conversion into pickups and named it the REO Speedwagon.


This is the point at which Wes became inspired and highly creative.


He had a second Franklin, a 1934, whose body was in pitiful shape – I had seen it several years ago at a show and was amazed it had not collapsed upon itself.  In a what-if exercise, Wes created the Franklin Speed Wagon.


Using the Franklin chassis and drivetrain, he sourced a REO Speedwagon cab from a derelict he found in Shaniko, Oregon; a hood from Idaho; rear fenders (that needed a bit of fabrication) from Wisconsin; and, a bed from West Plains, Missouri.

This is an amazing creation that runs and sounds beautiful.  Wes is a stickler for getting things right; for example, he has hung and adjusted the doors on his Franklin Speedwagon so well they open and close as smoothly as those on a late model car or pickup.


Wes had two more cars and here’s a hint about both.  Isn’t there some town in Indiana with this name?  Why, yes, there is.


Wes walking by his Auburn

The first is a 1933 Auburn 8-105 Salon.  Overall, this 127″ wheelbase Auburn is very solid and unrestored, with a nice does of patina.


There is a 100 horsepower straight-eight lurking behind this grille.  Sadly, the engine is seized at the moment and Wes hasn’t been able to give it the attention it deserves.


There were five different body styles on the 8-105, Auburn’s top tier eight cylinder.  Total production for the 8-105 was 2,002.

1933 Auburn Press Release-11

Given the space constraints when taking these pictures, here is a picture Auburn took for the 8-101.  From what can be determined, the 8-101 had the same body and engine with a lesser degree of trim.  In 1933, Auburn had the 8 and 12 series, each denoting the number of cylinders.


Sitting on the other side of the Franklin was Wes’s 1932 Auburn 8-100A coupe.  Powered by the same straight-eight as found in the 1933 Auburn, this coupe runs and all the metal is in great shape.  The rub?  The wood frame for the cab is rotten.  Wes has made this same repair to another Auburn previously; he said it is not a pleasant job to perform.

While the Auburn car ceased production in 1936, their factory is still in existence and now houses the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum, a place that defies simple description.  Our 2014 CC Meetup was at there and coverage of the cars can be found here and here.


This brings us to the end of Wes’s cars…for now.  Since I will likely be joining the car club Wes and Todd belong to, a club where you run what you have and there is no brand allegiance, I’m sure I will be visiting with them again soon.