Friday, June 3, 2011

Exploring My Family Tree: Not Forgotten - The Car Wreck

When sorting through my great uncle's photos, I came across this series of pictures and after questioning my grandfather, learned that my great grandfather Victor Kuck had survived not one but two very bad car wrecks. In a later wreck, he had been hauling all his and my great grandma Grace's possessions in a car trailer from their former home in Rockford, Iowa to their new home in Fort Meyers, Florida and ended up rolling it multiple times. He survived unhurt, got the remaining possessions gathered up in another but now much smaller trailer and continued on his journey. In the wreck pictured in this series of pictures, he wasn't so lucky.

As you can see from the top picture, he was broadsided at a fairly high rate of speed in 1952, well before seat belts. He was thrown across the car hard enough that you can see the passenger door significantly bowed out where a side view mirror would go on a modern day car where Victor's body and head slammed into it. He ended up in a coma with multiple holes drilled through his skull to relieve pressure and fortunately ended up surviving it.

As I scanned these pictures, my mind gravitated to what kind of car this was. I couldn't find any wording but it did have a distinctive albeit unfamiliar emblem on the front of the car. After some surfing, I'm fairly certain that what I'm looking at is an early 1950's Studebaker but don't know the exact model of the car. I'm guessing perhaps the Commander Starliner or Skyliner Champion? Google will have one picture that says it is one but then another picture, totally different under the same name. I've gone back and forth and still don't know what it is other than a Studebaker of early 50's vintage.

When I see these old cars, I am amazed at how far vehicle technology has come. Now a days they have seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones, etc. Back then, the technology was to put as much metal between you and the other driver and hope you or both walk away.

I'm not sure how to take this last picture of the opposite side of the car as the impact. With the tire folded under, was he pushed up against a curb or perhaps something else that left the scrape marks on the fender? What I do know is I wouldn't mind having one of those cars. One in this shape could go for $5k and one in good shape upwards of $25k. Certainly not very high compared to other vehicles of the era but not too shabby.


R. Sherman said...

A nasty wreck. It's amazing anybody survived auto crashes in the days before seatbelts. I remember when they were optional equipment. Until then, you had to buy them as "after market." My dad got our 1967 Ford Galaxy 500 after market belts for a trip to California.

Ahh. . . nostalgia.

Vince said...

There's enough iron in that motorcar to make six today at least.

Ron said...

Those are nifty old photos, and stories behind them.

When I see old cars at car shows, it always reminds me of how primitive cars and trucks were back in the day. I'm still pretty amazed that not one of my older vehicles even has a manual way to roll down the windows.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - I have found memories of jumping up and down in the back seat with my brother while my parents drove from one place to another. It's a wonder any of us lived to see today.

Vince - I'm sure even that is a conservative guess.

Ron - I'm happy to say that my '98 still has manual windows though even then when I bought it, 90% of the cars had electric.

Sage said...

I was going to comment last night but ran out of free wifi time (they give you 45 minutes) in SFO. Neat car, it looks well built, but I can image being through across it could hurt.

PhilippinesPhil said...

My dad rolled two cars back in his hey day, once in the late 40s, the second in the late 50s. Both times he said he was like a marble in a shaken can. Too bad there were never any pics taken of the totalled autos. My old man used to be a wild man--rowdy, bawdy and ready to party.