Separating fact from friction:
Metz serial numbers for 1912 span a range of about 3300 units, suggesting that ours, bearing engine number 17547, was built in the mid to latter part of the production year. The late Ralph Dunwoodie acquired the car “barn fresh” and began restoration in the early 1960s. My dad, John Haartz, Jr., bought the unfinished car in the middle of 1963, finishing restoration three years later. The bill of sale from Mr. Dunwoodie bears the signature of E.E. “Gene” Husting as witness. If ever there was a persuasive Metz sales team in 1963, these gentlemen qualified!
The restoration embraced a couple of things not technically correct for the car, most notable being a brass radiator shell. The original was steel, and like most of those steel shells, badly rusted. Mr. Dunwoodie received a lower quote for a new brass shell than for a steel one, and said in a 1966 letter “I had every good intention of painting the radiator shell,,, however, at the last minute backed out since the car appeared so dull. This was not as serious a crime in those days as now.” The windshield on this car is the other anomaly. The ones supplied by Metz consisted of a faired one of top material and celluloid sewed around an internal frame.
Dad began running the car in the summer of 1966. A little bit too late he received this warning from fellow Metz owner, Bob McNair:
“If you haven’t driven yours yet, I don’t know whether I should warn you that it will sound like a coffee grinder, warn the person in the mother in law seat before you pull the throttle down, and if it stops for no reason a mile from home did you remember to turn the gas on before starting? Oh yes. Those thar “Messes” had a reputation for churning forward when they were supposed to stop. Pushing all the pedals down doesn’t work as on other cars. You had better practice that tricky stopping motion over and over again before you start out. I don’t let other people drive my car.”
I recall no calamities due to the uniqueness of driving the car, nor the coffee grinder sound effects. However, the shanks of the foot pedals have square-cut notches on the top side, and any smooth movement of them took a bit of practice! One pedal activated the brake, and the other one was the Metz equivalent of a clutch, varying the pressure between the flat, aluminum pressure plate and its contact area on the friction wheel. We had a large parking lot and industrial driveway available, and I was allowed to drive the car a little at the tender age of twelve, the first car I ever drove. The trickiness of the pedals really was the most challenging part of the job.
The locally hilly terrain of east central New England made our Metz rides interesting. If we failed to get a good run at a hill, I might hop out as we slowed to jogging pace and push hard on the back of the car to help reach the top. There must have been some friction-driving finesse that eluded us.
This Metz figures in one more indelible memory. We lived on a hill side with a steep, gently curving driveway extending up from our little dead-end street. The Metz needed a good running start to make the hill. One day Mom and I headed out, downhill, on some errand in the modern car, unaware of any opposing traffic. In fact, opposing traffic was in a headlong rush, starting uphill. A neighbor, working in his yard, braced for the inevitable crash. There was darn little shoulder area beside the driveway, but Dad and Mom each deftly steered right and went around each other as if they did it every day. A minute or two later we all resumed breathing.
Visit us at Waltham on Wheels on July 11th and say hello.