View Full Version : Paris Photo Essay II w/ Gary Ash Surprise

02-14-2012, 07:37 PM
A couple months ago, I posted this "Photo Essay" thread about old dealership buildings in and around Paris IL, where my father's dealerships sold, at various times, Packard, Nash, Studebaker, and Kaiser.


Everyone seemed to enjoy it and so, today, when I had occasion to be closer than usual to Paris, I took my camera along to finish the job, because there were a few buildings and sites I'd missed a couple months ago.

So pull up a chair and java or brew and follow along, especially the suprising, unbelievably-odd connection to Gary Ash's 1932 Studebaker Indy Race Car project most of us have been following.

First off, we are talking about Paris Illinois, not France, a small town halfway downstate from Chicago in Edgar County IL, bordering Indiana. This is the population sign today, sorry to say, because it was a bigger sign and boasted of 10,500 inhabitants (IIRC) when we moved there in 1953!


A mile south of that sign on Illinois State Road 1, you come to a convenience store and gas station directly across from the entrance to the town park. This business didn't exist in 1953-1955. Rather, this same plot of ground was the dusty, unpaved Used Car Lot of Palma Motors:


Immediately south of the above facility, sharing a property line with Dads used car lot, was an unusually-large, fancy Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership...in the '50s!

Here's what that "Harley" shop looks like today (also see another photo in Post#5 to this thread, below):




Hmmm....now here's where it gets interesting!

Note this forlorn race car out front of the old Harley Shop:


That is a bit of a clue as to what's really going on in there now. The place, you see, is a real fooler. This is the very facility where much of the fabrication for Gary Ash's replica 1932 Studebaker Indy Race Car was accomplished within the last year! Yes, the proprietor is of such renown that Gary solicited his services all the way from Massachusetts...and was well-pleased with the work.

Talk about not judging a book by it's cover! I had sort of prepared Gary for what he would see when he got there, but I am sure he was still taken aback. Perhaps he will post his reaction and other information here. <GGG>

Just south of the "Harley" shop, but still on the north side of Paris, is the Edgar County Fairgrounds, on the same [east] side of Illinois Route 1. In 1955, Dad had a 1955 Rambler Cross Country wagon to serve as Pace Car for the horse races on this track:


I was able to sneak into the grandstands today, 57 years later, and took this photo from a slightly elevated position, looking toward about the same area of the fairgrounds track as where the 1955 photo was taken:


I remembered two additional, extant old dealership buildings I hadn't photographed in our December 2011 adventures reported in the earlier thread, so here they are.

This was the Ford-Mercury dealership Body Shop (correction; I remembered it as the dealership proper, but the showroom and such was a block and a half away from here, around the corner on Main Street) until about 1958. IIRC, their Used Car Lot was west of this building, which is to the right of the photo with a since-placed small storage unit on site where used cars had been sold):


When Bishop & Gross Ford moved from the above building, they moved to an all-new facility on U.S. 150 in Paris' southeast corner. What little I know of the disposition of that wonderful, extant facility I discussed in the other thread:


Almost directly across the street from the original Ford-Mercury dealership in "downtown" Paris is this building, which was the Buick & Oldsmobile dealership when we lived in Paris 1953-1962. As you see, the showroom was on the far end of the building from where this picture was taken:


Today, there are only two new-car dealerships in Paris IL, both owned by the same fellow. They are adjacent to each other on the far SE corner of town on U.S.150, east of the defunct Ford facility.




Speaking of Fords, if you live in Paris and want to buy a Ford, the nearest dealer is 11 miles north of Paris in little (population 3,300) Chrisman IL:


In fact, that Ford dealer is so small the door was locked and a sign said, Out For Lunch, will return at 2 PM when I was there at 1:20 in the afternoon! No matter, they only had two vehicles on the showroom floor anyway, a gorgeous 1966 Thunderbird convertible and a Model T truck of some sort:




Geeze, what a way to run a new-car dealership, eh?

Well, the name of the place is Mooney Motors, and the Mooney family owns many dealerships, Ford and otherwise, in the area, so I imagine they write their own ticket with Ford. They've been successful Ford dealers since 1953, when they opened their first store, this one in Chrisman. (Ironic that they opened their Ford store the same year Palma Motors was opened 11 miles south in Paris!)

Overall, another fun day with a good Studebaker connection...I mean, it's over 1,000 miles from Dartmouth MA to Paris IL, so I'll leave it to Gary Ash to tell us how he found a race car fabricator he wanted to use in the old Paris, Illinois' Harley-Davidson dealership building!

'Sure beats me...small world, eh? BP

02-14-2012, 08:32 PM
Nice tour photos, Bob! I did see the Hudson race car, as it arrived there the same evening I did, New Year's Eve, 2011.

All you need is Google to find almost anything. When I started the Indy car project, I talked to the three people who own the surviving Studebaker Indy cars (the 4th survivor is in the Indy Speedway Museum). They all said that the chassis would be the most difficult part. When I found the on-line article about how Charlie Glick made the complete replica car for the late Tom McRae, I called Charlie to ask about a chassis. [My checkbook must be much smaller than Tom McRae's.] He just happened to have a time window open to do a chassis, so I told him to go ahead. He went back to the Indy Speedway Museum to re-measure the Studebaker car and then made the chassis in about 3 months.

Here's a link to the 1998 article: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/press/date/19980520/press012696.html

When he finished it, he called and offered to bring it out from Indiana in his van. His wife had always wanted to see Plymouth Rock, so I paid for the travel expenses and he brought it to my house and put it together. Of course, when I told my wife that this guy I had never met was coming with his family and that I had invited him to spend the night at our house, she was a little cautious. "How did I know that they weren't axe murderers?", she said. And I replied, "Shucks, honey, he's a CAR guy. He must be OK!" Of course, when Charlie, his wife, and their daughter arrived, we had a grand time. Over dinner, Charlie's wife confessed that she had been a little worried about coming to spend the night in the home of people they had never met. She had asked Charlie, "How do you know they aren't axe murderers?" Ah, well, Lizzie Borden actually lived about 10 miles from here in Fall River, Mass., so I guess there is precedent. We all had a good laugh.

Charlie's shop is worth a stop for anyone driving near the place. There are many car projects inside, and most are truly rare and unusual. Charlie and his two brothers do the work and hold court. Be prepared to to chat - but mostly listen, because the stories go on and on. When I was there, the Glick brothers were working on the wooden foundry pattern for making replicas of Duesenberg engine blocks. He already makes many replica parts for the A-C-D cars.

02-15-2012, 12:48 PM
Thanks, Gary; good information and really interesting.

I love long odds, so "go figure" the odds of an SDC member over 1,000 miles from a run-down old Harley-Davidson dealership building next to my Dad's former used car lot in little Paris IL, contracting with that building's owner and facilities to fabricate a prewar Studebaker race car chassis for a replica "500" mile race car! Unbelievable.

Too, I'd just seen something on TV (History Channel? Discovery? I dunno...) about the Lizzie Borden trial. Although there seems to be every probability that she did it, one of the reasons she was acquitted, they said, was that people just couldn't imagine a woman being that evil "back then."

Of course it was in their DNA, but people "just couldn't believe it" anyway, making it more difficult to prosecute a woman for the crime than had it been a man. BP

02-15-2012, 01:19 PM
Thanks for posting this, Bob. It's been real interesting.

02-15-2012, 02:10 PM
Thanks for posting this, Bob. It's been real interesting.

Thanks, Gord; 'glad you enjoyed it.

It's too bad you don't live closer; a man of your metallurgical knowledge and skills would be right at home in the Glick's fabricating shop that is the old Harley-Davidson dealership.

I've been in the place recently, as has Gary, but they were closed yesterday when I was there about 2:30 PM, and it didn't look like anyone had been there all day, from the undisturbed snow. Well, it was Valentine's Day!

Anyway, I just realized I had taken another picture of the old Harley Shop and not posted it. Here it is, looking northeast:


Bill Pressler
02-16-2012, 09:41 AM
Great photos Bob! I love 'what used to be' pictures. As we've discussed, Paris and my hometown of Greenville, PA--neither right on an interstate--are smaller than they used to be, but still have their charms...like that shop that Gary found!

02-18-2012, 04:22 PM
Well, well, Gary (and others): Lookee what I found in my Business Card File from at least a dozen years ago; maybe more. I've had this so long I don't remember when I got it from Charlie.

That address is a previous one, not the one on Paris' North Main Street (Illinois Route 1) where the place is now located, and where the work was done on Gary's 1932 Studebaker 500 Race Car replica chassis:


Back side of the card indicates the type of work they do, which Gary confirmed in his report; Post #2. (I have no idea to what the HFC 1926 refers; it may have already been on the card when I picked it up years ago.):


02-18-2012, 05:52 PM
Bob P. - I was thinking "HFC 1926" was a car that you saw here, but the closest that I could come up with is HFG and they were only built 1920-1921.