Motor Muster in rare form this year
By DARRELL HOEMANN/For The News-Gazette
When Michael Balogh works in his tidy garage workshop in west Champaign, he is usually tending to the needs of his two orphans: a 1927 Chandler sedan and a '29 Marquette, a sister make to Buick.
The rare Chandler — one of 100 to 200 examples surviving worldwide of an estimated 250,000 produced, Balogh said — will be the featured make at the 17th annual Motor Muster on Aug. 24 at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.
Balogh's sedan, which is in the beginning stages of restoration, will not be at the event, but he expects six to eight examples of the vehicle to participate in the show.
This will include the oldest known running Chandler: a 1914 model coming from Clarion, Iowa.
The Motor Muster will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Chandler in 1913 and the fourth reunion of the Chandler and sister make Cleveland car club. The first reunion was in 1999 in Cleveland, where both makes were produced.
Founder Frederick Chandler, who had been involved with the luxury car maker Lozier, returned to his hometown of Cleveland to start a car company in 1913. It was an era of vast numbers of car manufacturers, Balogh said, with at least four in Illinois and possibly as many as 400 in the United States.
Historical accounts cite Chandler as keeping tight financial controls on his company. He created the companion make, Cleveland, with a $400 price advantage over competitors.
Chandlers also achieved note when the racing driver Ralph Mulford drove a Chandler to an overall win at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, according to Hemmings, the collector car publisher and marketer.
The win resulted in an advertising campaign promoting the company's "Pikes Peak Motor," an L-head straight six-cylinder with removable cylinder head and steel timing chain.
The 1929 stock market crash quickly thinned the ranks of car manufacturers, with the Chandler Cleveland plants purchased by the Hupp Motor Co. to build the Hupmobile.
Those lasted until the mid-1930s, delivering the last Hupmobile Skylark in 1939.
Balogh's Chandler is a straight eight-cylinder "Royal" sedan.
"Only two of this model still exist of the 3,000 produced," he said.
He is the fifth owner; research indicates the original owner lived in Pennsylvania. The purchaser bought the car, was called into military service and stored the car in a barn.
Shortly after he left, Balogh says the story goes, the family took the car out of the barn and left it outside where it sat for four years until the owner returned.
The cars typify composite construction of the era, with a wooden frame covered in steel. A restoration challenge, Balogh says, is obtaining the ash wood used in the frame.
The emerald ash borer infestation has restricted the availability and continues to be a challenge as he fabricates replacement components.
Despite the wood frame and age, he notes several advanced features.
"There is a plunger that lubricates all the bearings in the chassis and for an oil change you turn a handle to drain the crankcase," Balogh said.
Tuning parts, he said, are available through dealers like NAPA — if you use Delco part numbers and don't tell them it's for a Chandler.
Why did Balogh decide to collect a Chandler?
"I tell people it is because we were both made in Cleveland," he says, adding that as a teenager he visited the museum in his hometown and watched a Chandler being restored. An Air Force veteran, retiring the day Chanute Air Base closed, Balogh also wanted the challenge.
"I just find that the orphan makes have better stories," he said. "That's part of the challenge: You really have to research it."
What: 17th annual Motor Muster, in which more than 100 cars are registered, from "orphan" makes to muscle cars (cars, which must be more than 25 years old, are mostly local, but some rare models will come from several states away)
Where: Race and Main streets, Urbana, during the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 24; awards at 3:30
More info: Sponsored by the Illini Collector Car Club; a donation from each vehicle goes to the Cunningham Children's Home