Chevy Cabriolet born of strife and love Part II

Episode 359

April 25, 2021

Transfer of ownership

In Part I we followed the ownership trail of a 1937 Chevy Cabriolet from the original owners Fred and Mary Putnam, Houlton to Dave Wakem, Caribou. Wakem owned the car from 1960 until the fall 1967 shortly after he got married.

The story is that Dave sold the car to purchase furniture according to Milton Adelman who had seen the car parked. The price was negotiated and the car found a home in Mars Hill.

Background of the Chevy’s new owner

It turns out that the new owner was a complex person with a multitude of interests one of which was antique automobiles. Following is a clip from Milton’s obituary following his death last year on March 31, 2020.

Milton was born in Mars Hill in 1924, the youngest of Hiram and Katherine Goldsmith Adelman’s five children. After graduating from Ricker Classical Institute in Houlton, Maine, he attended the University of Maine in Orono before enlisting in the US Navy during World War II. The Navy sent him to study engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RIT), then on to a posting in Japan. He graduated from UMaine in 1948.

Milt returned to Mars Hill to farm potatoes with his father and brother Yale, with Adelman Brothers Potatoes becoming one of the most successful brands in Aroostook County. In 1954, Milt married Gloria Giggey of Fort Fairfield. Later, Yale and Milton teamed up with Herschel Smith and Dwinal Weeks to form WASA, a farm machinery company. Milton was a long-standing member of the New York Mercantile Exchange, beginning in 1954.

The Cabriolet was driven by all of the Adelman family including children. The grill was knocked in from an accident experienced by one of the children. The grill was replaced with cheap replacement which would be later updated with a new custom-made stainless steel edition. Otherwise, the classic experienced normal wear and tear from Aroostook County roads until the fall of 1987.

The ’37 Chevrolet Cabriolet was painted black shortly after Milton took possession. Pictured here is the car in a parade in Mars Hill with Aroostook County’s only World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Eddie Dahlgren in rumble seat with a Loring Air Force Base officer. If you look closely in the doorway of Al’s Diner to the right is a proud Milton Adelman. He is the one with brown trousers. (Greg Roderick photo collection)

It was in the fall of 1987 that Milton decided to get his rare classic restored. He enquired of Fred Haines in Presque Isle who he would recommend undertaking such a serious project. Haines suggested Greg Roderick.

One day Adelman walked into Northern Auto Body that fall and began what would begin a 33-year friendship with Roderick. Roderick said, “When he walked in, I had no idea who he was. When he said he wanted me to restore his antique car, I was unsure if he had money to undertake such an extensive and expensive project.”

“When I called Fred to get some background on this stranger, Fred said, “Don’t worry about Milton. He is good for it!”

Rarely do owners of antique cars in northern Maine have the funds to restore a car to the level Adelman wanted. He wanted show winning quality right down to removal of marks on the bolts that were replaced by Roderick when he re-assembled the car. Bolts in 1937 had no markings on their head. Those identification marks came along later. Every fastener was replaced with new.

On his way to the Hershey Car Show just two weeks later, Roderick stopped to see Milton on his way through Mars Hill. Adelman handed Roderick a sizable sum of money to purchase parts needed to restore his car.

The “frame-off” project involved removal of paint from the frame to bare metal and original type paint coating the rails. Extensive research went into finding and sourcing authentic parts. Remember the internet was a non-player at the time. Many hours were spent poring over trade publications along with hunting parts at shows and meetings.

In the Star Herald November 25, 1992 issue Roderick said, “You advertise, you hunt, you go to swap meet to find all of these pieces. Hence the time involved.”

The project would ultimately last five years with restoration beginning and halting shortly after starting due the uncertainty of the stock market following “Black Monday” on October 19, 1987. Adelman called to suggest that Roderick cease work on the car until the markets calmed.

Roderick recalled that a visit from Gloria, Adelman’s wife, got the project on track again. She told Roderick that she was in charge of the project here on out so continue the work. He noted that the well-dressed woman with her mink coat that flicked through the dust in his garage meant business.

A later photo of the Chevrolet Cabriolet with its new paint period correct grey-green paint scheme and restored soft tan top. (Greg Roderick photo collection)

The restoration process which was Roderick’s first attempt with the complex nature such a project entail. He was quick to point out Cabriolet was not the result of only his labor. Many hours of loving care were poured into the car by Matt Dick and Mike Michaud from Presque Isle. The convertible top was done by Larry Cyr of Caribou. Interior upholstery was completed by Lewis Cousins of Woodland. Jim Williams of Mars Hill did the electrical wiring restoration. Jim Chandler aided with many of the project details as well as transportation.

Next episode will delve into the show stopping performance of the rare Cabriolet reported to be one of only 12 still in existence.


I returned from a trip to Vermont on Friday and checked my Facebook account and wow was I pleasantly surprised to see this photo!

While looking through his photo collection, former hydroplane racer Glenn Campbell, Fort Fairfield, found this photo of his hydroplane after he crashed it at Pushaw Pond in the 1960’s. He literally tore the nose of the boat off after he snubbed on the bottom of the pond and was thrown through the boat. Read all about Campbell in a portion of Episode 309 below. (Glenn Campbell photo collection)

This is Campbell’s story of the wreck from UpNorth Motorsports Episode 309, March 29, 202:

When asked what race during the Fort Fairfield man’s 12-year racing career stood out Campbell laughed and remarked, “The time I got run over in Pushaw Pond outside of Bangor!”

“We had an eight-boat pile up. We started with 12 boats and I am too close to the shore dodging wharfs (Glenn estimated speed at near 75 mph) and the 13th boat came out from the shore when he got the motor running. He was not even supposed to be in that race!”

“Coming out from shore he left a wave. A hydro on plane does not leave a wake to speak of. I looked at that wake and the guy beside me looked at that wake. I could see him gesturing like ‘That wake doesn’t amount to nothing’. I know the wake wasn’t any higher than that (showing me about a six-inch wave with his hands).”

“When I took off from this one, it was just the right distance to hit that other one. It sucked it in, the waves up here and the boats went down like that (Campbell once again described with his hands his boat in a near vertical, sharp nose-down angle which struck the lake bottom and stopped immediately). I went right down through the boat, tearing out the whole front of the boat.”

“Of course, that was quite a shock. The nose stuck in the bottom in water only about four feet deep. When I came up, I could hear the damnest noise you could imagine. I looked like that, and there was a prop about a foot from my head.”

I’m trying to get out of the water. All that was left was this sponson and the other sponson. It had prop marks all the way up the side. There wasn’t anything in the middle of the boat! Two of the boats hit my boat, one tore the top off the motor which landed 200 feet way. They could not find it.”

Campbell’s boat was a Marchetti built by Italian builder Nick Marchetti, Bristol, Pennsylvania one of the top hydroplane builders in America. Campbell’s Marchetti boat sponsons had two sets of prop marks that ran from back to front. That was how close they had come to the driver.

Glenn Campbell in a 2020 photo with a two-blade prop typical of what was used in that era. Note how sharp the blade is. Combined with a high revving engine it is apparent the danger posed to him at the Pushaw Pond race. (HTF Motorsports photo)

“When I came back from the hospital, I had to give a kid five bucks to look for the engine top. It was all broke to pieces. Another guy had hit the boat near the engine and tore the engine off the transom. Two guys set their wheels and flipped. One guy had broken ribs and cracked sternum and was pretty banged up.”

“The biggest thing with me was my knee struck the wheel so hard going down that I cleaned it. I had no broken bones but I did have a hard time to walk a week or two. It is a wonder that knee has not bothered me through the years.”

A local man put Glenn in his car and raced off to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. He was driving so fast, Glenn had to shout at him to slow down so they would not crash the car. Upon arrival things were going a little slow in the emergency room.

“They had an accident on the 95. That hospital was pretty plugged. So, when the boys came to pick me up, I said, ‘let’s go”’.

The hospital personnel said, ‘You can’t do that.’

Campbell replied, “The hell I can’t. I had been there about an hour and a half. I had not been seen by the doctor, nobody. nobody!”

So away they went back to pick up the broken pieces at Pushaw Pond. The drive back home was a painful one with the knee throbbing. Campbell did not want his parents to see what a mess he was, however, driving into the yard with a mangled boat on top of the car was a sure indication that not all went well at the races.

They made ’em tough in those days!

Another Kody Swanson victory 

Kody Swanson had a rare DNF at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway April 18, due to slipping clutch in his #26 Team Platinum super late model. That issue was resolved and the California native found himself in Victory Circle at Salem Speedway as part of the Champion Racing Association (CRA) Midwest 250.

Swanson had been to the Indiana track several times in the past in his USAC Silver Crown car winning five consecutive races.  This was his first race on the high banked track in a fendered car.

Kody Swanson in a familiar place at Salem Speedway, Victory Circle. Pictured with Kody is his wife Jordan with Adam on left and Trevor on right. (Neil Cavanah photo)

Kody Swanson had a busy week which included filming media clips for CBS and seat fitting at Supercar Race Experience (SRX) shop. (Kody Swanson photo)

The seat fitting crew at SRX getting Kody Swanson’s seat insert ready for the CBS Eldora dirt track race June 26, 2021. The race will be on CBS prime time Saturday night as part of the six race summer racing series. (Photo courtesy Kody Swanson)

Next week, Super Chicken II at The Club Motorsports track, Formula SAE judging report from Van Buren native Phil LaPointe, report from Indy Lights competitor Sting Ray Robb after race in St. Petersburg, and Part III of the restoration of the 1937 Chevy Cabriolet. Stay tuned!

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Joshua 1:9)





Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine