- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

Jim Potter’s unsuccessful search for an antique car had gone on for years. He had seen many cars, some of them very nice, but none of them had that elusive quality that appealed to him.

His wife, Rosalie, began to think his chase for an old car would go on indefinitely. Then one day in 1968 all the planets must have aligned when Mr. Potter attended an auction where a 1932 Essex Super Six Special coupe crossed the block.

Everything about the 14-foot, 9.5-inch-long car met with his approval. “I wanted a driver, not a show car,” he says. It had everything he wanted in a car including suicide doors, a side-mounted spare tire on the right front fender, a floor shift lever by the driver’s right knee and a floor-mounted emergency brake by his left knee.

The original green paint had been covered with black paint that had been applied with a brush.

Mr. Potter was the successful bidder that day 40 years ago and became the happy owner of the Essex, which at the time was 36 years old. “I drove home in a cloud of smoke,” he recalls. The odometer had recorded about 56,000 miles.

For several years he enjoyed his Essex in the condition it was in when he bought it, but eventually the time came for restoration.

Mr. Potter says he is now familiar with each of the “million” parts of the car.

“I’m a detail freak,” Mr. Potter admits, so when he undertakes a restoration project the finished product is certain to be correct.

The car was dismantled and everything mechanical was rebuilt, refurbished or replaced including the aluminum pistons in the 193-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine, the oil bath clutch and 11-inch mechanical brakes. The free wheeling function was put back into working condition, but, Mr. Potter says, “I don’t like it.” With no engine compression to help slow the car, he says it can be dangerous so that part of the car has been disconnected.

All five of the artillery wheels have a dozen oak spokes and are shod with 5.25x18-inch tires.

The foldable luggage rack beneath the rumble seat has four wooden slats. The rack was included in the price of the optional side-mounted spare tire.

Two step plates up the right rear fender aid in access to the rumble seat. The left rear fender supports the single taillight.

During restoration the dashboard and window frames had new woodgraining applied.

In front of the three-spoke steering wheel and beside the 100 mph speedometer are the generator and oil pressure warning lights.

Keeping the occupants cool in the cozy cabin are a pair of cowl vents to drawn in fresh air at knee level while the one-piece windshield, hinged at the top, can be pushed out at the bottom to admit a blast of air at shoulder level. Only the driver’s side of the windshield has a wiper.

A new, weatherproof fabric roof panel was installed and the Essex was painted a color Mr. Potter chose, Lake Louise Blue.

On either side of the 20-bar radiator shell is a headlight with a nine-inch lens, A pair of cowl lights aid in the illumination effort. Under the engine hood is a Marvel updraft carburetor that drinks gasoline from the 12-gallon tank. About 4.5-gallons of cool keep the engine happy.

The 2,895-pound Essex is propelled on it’s 113-inch wheelbase complements of the 70 horsepower delivered to the rear wheels. “She’ll run along at 45 to 50 mph,” Mr. Potter says. “I’ve had it up to 65 once.”

When new the Essex Special Coupe had a base price of $795. Although the odometer has registered 58,000 miles in the last 76 years, Mr. Potter says, “I haven’t been any place in the car.” Most of his miles have been accumulated locally.

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