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Mike & Diann McDonald
1930 Essex Roadster

Sometimes you get lucky in the old car game. For me it was purchasing this 1930 Essex Roadster. In my mind this car was lost to me back in 1969 when it was purchased from the original owner. In 1968 my father and I had heard rumours of an Essex Roadster in Londonderry Nova Scotia, Canada. So as most car enthusiast would do, we took off in search of this car. After knocking on several doors and asking lots of questions we found an Essex. It was however a 1932 Coupe rusted and worn out. Thinking this was the car people had been talking about we returned home disappointed but glad that we had chased down the leads. A few months later we heard that another club member had purchased a Roadster. Sure enough it was The Essex Roadster with a rumble seat and one owner. It was in Great Village only ten kilometres from where we had been looking.

The original owner was a lawyer who worked on Wall Street in New York City. He used this car as a daily driver until the 1950ís when he moved the car to his summer home in Great Village Nova Scotia.

Roy Mcnut    essex6

The owner sold the roadster in 1969 to its second owner for $1000 cash and a 1966 Chev. It was then sold to a car dealership to obtain quick cash for a 60ís Corvette. Unfortunately the Corvette was already sold and the owner was out a great car as the dealership had already flipped the roadster and it now had its third owner.

In the mid-seventies the Roadster was sold in an estate sale. It was purchased by a farmer in the Annapolis Valley Nova Scotia. He became the fourth owner. He changed the paint colour from green to a light cream and then stored it in his barn for about thirty- five years. He did not drive or register it from 1982.

I had lost track of the Roadster after the second owner had purchased it and was happy to have my 1931 Essex Super Six Sedan which we had bought in 1968. It wasnít until 2006 that the rumour of an Essex Roadster surfaced again. At this time I was still driving my Sedan and had taken an elderly gentleman for a drive and he mentioned that he knew where there was an Essex Roadster. He said that he would contact the owner and ask if he would show it to me as he kept it in his barn and didnít want people to know he had it. Again the car hunt was on and I was chasing down leads.

A week later I contacted the gentleman and he told me the farmer would show me the car because I owned an Essex myself. I was still a little sceptical about the story and wondered if the old gentleman had the car make correct and if I would find a different car instead of an Essex. So after thirty-eight years Dad and I were on the hunt again for the elusive Essex Roadster.

To our surprise the car did exist and low and behold it was the same car we had tried to find back in 1968, a 1930 Essex Roadster with a rumble seat. The owner was happy to show us the car and I was so excited to have finally found it I didnít approach the subject of purchasing it at this time.

Four years later in 2010 I decided to call him and see if he would be interested in selling the car. My heart sank when I found his number had been disconnected. I thought ďOh no,Ē it canít be lost to me again. After trying all the names in the phone book matching his last name I made contact with his sister in law who shared his unlisted number. Even though it had been four years since he had showed me his car the first thing he said to me was that he had been expecting my call and what took me so long. He said he would be happy to sell the car to me!

Since the car had not been on the road since 1982 I asked him if he could get it started and take it out of the barn for me. I told him I would be down in the middle of the week to pick it up. The pickup was delayed for a couple of days as it was raining on the planned day and he wouldnít take it out in the rain. He never took it out in the rain and he wasnít going to start now. I had several sleepless nights wondering if he was going to change his mind.

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Once the car was home in my own garage I immediately started to clean it and to my surprise the paint under the dust was in great shape and polished out nicely. The chrome which I thought had been painted grey was actually covered in protective grease. Once cleaned and polished it shone like new.

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The Roadster and Gracie, the í31 Essex named after the original owner. The roadster is called ďBig MoneyĒ, for obvious reasons!

I decided to look for wire wheels and was fortunate to source the hubs, wire wheels, hubcaps and a spare wheel holder out of Indiana, USA. These had been collected by a gentleman back in the fifties. His car had just received the highest award from AACA so he decided not to change the original wheels. He was worried that the changes would result in lower points at the next show.  I was happy to be able to purchase his spare wheels. The drive in his award winning 1930 Essex Coupe was a fantastic bonus.

As many of you know the wood spoke wheels were standard for the 30 Essex and the wire were optional. I just think that the wire wheels dress it up and make it sporty. The pictures show the roadster with both.

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The engine I ran for the first year with only a few problems. The carburettor had to be cleaned as the jets were dirty caused by the old gas from sitting in the barn. I was concerned though that something might break and ruin the engine so I decided to do an overhaul. In late 2011 I started collecting the parts for the engine for this overhaul. I searched and obtained the required pieces from around the world. The pistons came from California, USA the head from Montreal, Canada, flywheel from Australia, manifold from New Zealand, valves from Egge in California and the gaskets from Olsonís out of Washington, USA. The rods were babbitted in New York. With the adventure of treasure hunting for parts over, the actual shop work began in March of 2012. The machine work stretched until mid-October with many setbacks and worries. Having it back home in October was a great relief.

We have had several great road trips this year in the roadster. The first was a four day progressive tour. The weather was great the company fun and the car ran well until the last day. As it turned out there was dirt in the carburettor and when sourcing the problem we broke the wiring from the Electrolock system. We returned home on the back of a flatbed.

After some research and some help from HET members we were able to rebuild the distributor and rewire the coil.

The second tour was again fun and super great weather. We had only a two hour delay caused by a loose dirty screw on the distributor.  I am happy to say that all the little difficulties of broken wire, dirty carburettor, broken distributor and difficult starting have faded. The roadster is now working super. Like a Super Six should.

Mike and Diann McDonald   Nova Scotia, Canada





A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.



Editorís note: Mike was out here in Australia in 2011 and came out to the Shannonís Eastern Creek Car Classic, where he got a ride around the circuit in Tonyís 1929 Roadster, driven my Mick Wheeler as shown here.




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