WINGED WARRIORS 2008 NATIONAL MEET IN DULUTH, MN

Photos by: Sue and Ed George, Wayne Perkins, Janet and Curt Lawson, Stuart Sutton, Steve and Teresa Netkow and  Mike Partridge                              

The club held its National Meet in the Duluth, Minnesota area on June 9-14, 2008. We were headquartered out of the Canal Park Lodge where we made ourselves comfortable in the big plush lobby, enjoyed tasty hot treats in the evenings and wonderful breakfast buffets in the mornings, compliments of the hotel. The weather did not cooperate and for most of the event it was raining, very cold and windy.

Despite the miserable weather, we only canceled one scheduled activity. On Wednesday afternoon we were planning to cruise into Archer Brothers Motor Sports to join the local cruisers and display our cars with the race Vipers. It was pouring rain, horizontally due to the fierce winds, and that event was canceled so we lounged around the fireplace in the Canal Park Lodge lobby.

The members started arriving on Monday to get checked in at the Lodge and everyone explored the area at their leisure. The Lodge is lakefront and behind our rooms was a beautiful patio where we often lounged, watched the boardwalk scene along the lakefront, and did a lot of bench racing. On most days the boardwalk was in use with cyclers, dog walkers, couples strolling, and horse and carriage rides.

A group of members went to check out the  Maritime Floating Museum which consists of the SS William A Irvin, a flagship of US Steel's Great Lakes Fleet/iron ore carrier and the Coast Guard Cutter Sundew. Part of the Maritime Museum also included a building full of history of ships in the Duluth Harbor and Great Lakes, parts of ships, small and large models of ships that had sailed the Great Lakes. We watched a video about ore and coal ships in the early years and there was a full-size mockup of the captain's helm complete with controls. From here you looked out the windows at the lake making it seem like you were really piloting the ship. The Coast Guard Cutter's main job was to break up the ice in the harbor so incoming ships could navigate the waters. We came out of the museum to find Stuart Sutton waiting for us, perched comfortably on an anchor in the yard.

In the late afternoon, we walked around the city looking for a good place to eat. We found Hell's Kitchen just down the street from the Lodge, but decided we'd settle for something more mundane. On the way to the restaurant we spotted a weird Dodge Ramcharger sitting in the street with teeth in place of it's grille. Maybe it had been to Hell's Kitchen? In the evening, several of the members took a tour of the city via horse drawn carriage rides. Our lady horse pilot narrated all of the local hot spots and historic parts of town. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable way to see the city. There was a lot of beautiful scenery right around the Canal Park Lodge. The members enjoyed watching the different ships come into the harbor and there was even a Harbor Shipping News newspaper that had a schedule of ships and times expected so we could watch them pass under the lift bridge. Of course, there were always plenty of seagulls that pestered us.

At 9:00 am on Tuesday, the distinctive rumble of Mopar big blocks could be heard and the 2008 meet officially kicked off with meet coordinator Gary Homstad leading us to Cirrus Aircraft Design. After parking our cars in a group outside the building, we were graciously welcomed into the reception area of Cirrus to meet our tour guide. Cameras were not allowed inside the plant hence we have no photos of the assembly line to share. However, after our lengthy tour, each of our cars were staged with a Cirrus plane outside the plant and the cameras clicked like crazy! Cirrus is the only manufacturer of Part 23 certified aircraft in the world with a rocket-deployed 55' parachute  as a standard feature. The planes are made of carbon fiber, fiberglass and aluminum. The day we toured Cirrus they were building four-passenger 550 c.i. twin turbo planes with 330 hp @ 2,700 rpm. They carry 92 useable gallons of 100 octane aviation fuel and cost $548,000 fully equipped. The planes are put through a 20-minute test run and then four hours of flying time is put on each before it is certified by the FAA. The parachute, which can be deployed by the pilot or the passengers with an overhead handle, is a one-time use only.  Just like our cars, you can get some options such as A/C and turbos on their planes. The assembly line tour was very detailed and extremely interesting. The serial number is placed on the fuselage when it begins its journey through assembly. A matching number set of wings is built elsewhere on the assembly line and catches up to the fuselage later. Four planes are built each day. They spend about 2-1/2 hours at each assembly line station. Cirrus has built over 4,000 planes to date. The service life of the planes is 12,000 hours. Cirrus aircraft can be purchased in blue, silver, white, red and gold. Any other special colors cost extra. Although we didn't get to see any, Cirrus was just gearing up to build a jet aircraft.

The members returned to the Canal Park Lodge and dispersed for lunch and then gathered back at the Lodge in mid-afternoon to leave for a cruise to Moose Lake. Outside of the town of Moose Lake, we followed a windy one-lane gravel road back to a non-descript wooden building about the size of a four-car garage. Brightly colored Mopars pulled up around the building, parking along the road and up in the yard, and a medium-built gentleman with a huge grin stood in the open doorway of the shop. The soft-spoken 65-year-old man was Cass Nawrocki. He invited us into his shop with a very warm welcome and began showing us just what it is that he does. Cass began working in his father's metal fabrication shop in Poland when he was just seven years old. After moving to America, he continued to perfect his special art of hand-fabrication of wood frames and metal bodies and car parts. The day we were there, Cass had four different projects he was working on, two identical car bodies that would be shipped to Russia and two other cars for customers. He told us he has built many cars for this man in Russia and always accepts a six-figure personal check for each car. There are never any receipts, as Cass joked that the Russians do business by their word and honesty. They know where you live and have their own form of justice!

Cass is a very humorous man and showed us his "Polish Switch", a wooden pedal on a rope that he made that was attached to a seam rolling machine. Using the pedal he could stand at any position while using the machine. Since Cass is a one-man-operation and works alone, he has invented ways to work with the metal and wood by himself. The Polish Switch enables him to use both hands on the machine while turning it on and off with his foot.

Outside the shop door, there was a table with a couple of antique Harley Davidson motorcycle gas tanks and a pair of fenders for a Cessna airplane on display. Just inside of that door, sat a wooden frame that he had built for a car project. He explained to us the intricate process of fabricating the wood frame, which he begins by building his own molds and tools since one cannot buy these anywhere. He builds the car frame from Ash and other hardwoods, cutting the wood into very thin layers and then laminating them, making the bends and shapes and then clamping the wood. Then he fabricates the metal panels that lay over the frame to make the car body. Cass is very knowledgeable about metallurgy and gave many interesting demonstrations that showed us how different metals react when bent and stretched.

Cass showed us his old English Wheel that did not have the proper sized or shaped pulleys for shapes that he wanted to use, so he built the wheels for his own projects. All of the equipment in his shop is very old, so if anything breaks or wears out, he also fabricates the parts to fix it. We were amazed as he demonstrated on several of his machines the techniques he uses to fabricate several different pieces of trim and panels. Cass builds his own frames, body, bumpers, stainless trim, brass mouldings, and even makes custom exhaust for old Mercedes and Roll Royce, with the three pipes protruding through the side of the hood. Lying across one machine was an antique car bumper that Cass had built. Along the walls of the shop are shelves and bins full of the different tools, wheels, etc that he has built. Cass claims there is nothing he cannot fabricate out of metal.

One of the projects he showed us was a 1932 Ford Roadster. He had many of the metal panels already installed and try as we might, we were unable to see any welds on the inside or outside of the panel, even in bare metal! Cass is very meticulous about his work and it's amazing to see the quality of the parts he builds. Before he ships the bodies out, he coats them with oil or cheap clear paint that will come off easily with paint thinner. Two of the car bodies we saw will be shipped ready to bolt onto the stock chassis when they arrive in Russia. It's amazing that Cass can build these bodies as he had never seen the chassis; all he has to work from are the measurements, drawings and pictures.

After many humorous stories about his experiences, Cass took us into his office and showed us a photo of a very elaborate 1940's European sports car that he made almost all of the parts for and restored back to a shining jewel. The car was featured in several magazines and recently sold for over $8 million dollars!

On the way out to our cars, someone asked Cass what was in the extra building across the drive from the shop. He opened it up and we were surprised to see it was full of all of his hand-built wooden forms used to shape different fenders, hoods and other body panels. It seemed he remembers exactly what each piece was built for as he'd pick this one or that one up and tell a story about it! Everyone agreed that our time there was way too short. It was so interesting to see this man work and so entertaining to hear his stories. But we had to move on.

From Cass's shop, we caravanned to Cloquet Dodge in Cloquet, where we were invited to join a local cruise in. Only a couple of local cars showed up, so the show 'n shine was almost all Winged Warriors cars. The dealership had a big grill set up and cooked hot dogs for us. We really enjoyed the hospitality at Cloquet Dodge but it was a very cold and windy evening, so we stayed a little over an hour and then everyone headed back to Canal Park Lodge to settle in for the evening.

Wednesday morning, it was again foggy, misty and cold as we departed from the Lodge for the drive up North Shore to Glensheen Mansion. Completed in 1908, this huge mansion was home to Clara and Chester Congdon and their seven children, all of whom are now deceased. Almost all of the original furniture, fixtures and furnishings are still in place. The Congdons were very affluent and the mansion has many state-of-the-art facilities, including the garden with fountain, a beautiful stables for their horses and exceptional living quarters for their servants. We were welcomed to take photos outside the mansion, however, once again cameras were not allowed inside. Our tour guide showed us through the many beautiful rooms, including several exquisitely decorated dining rooms that were used for different guests, sitting rooms, library, the Congdon's separate bedrooms and a room they also shared on occasion, the children's bedrooms, guests' bedrooms, the maids' rooms, the massive kitchen and pantry, etc. Although the guides don't volunteer the information, we asked about the notorious murder that took place in the mansion. We were shown the room where this event took place and heard the story of what happened...or maybe it was just the story the tour guides are instructed to tell? After touring the home, we walked through the horse stables where the walls and floors are white tile and there was running water in a stainless steel sink for each horse. From there we wandered through the gardens where the flowers were struggling to grow in the spring cold. We paused at the pool and fountain, where you could look up for a full view of the beautiful mansion. Back at the parking lot, we were all relieved to get inside our cars and turn the heaters on!

Back at the Lodge, we had just gotten our cars parked when the Heavens above opened up and rain came down so heavy it was hard to see through it. As mentioned early, our scheduled car show at Archer Brothers was canceled and while some of us braved the pouring rain and wind to run across the street for a Dairy Queen, some of the members stayed at the Lodge and ordered pizza delivered. That evening was spent with our group lounging around the fireplace and catching up with old friends and making new friends. It was a truly miserable night outside with gale force winds and for those of us who had lakeside rooms there wasn't much sleeping as the thunderous waves beat against the lakeshore all night.

Thursday dawned very foggy, misty with a brisk cold breeze. Our group gathered in the parking lot and brought their Mopars to life for the drive north to Split Rock Lighthouse. I guess it's only appropriate that you should tour a lighthouse in the thick fog so you get the whole idea of what it's whole purpose was! After parking our cars, our group was gathered in front of the lighthouse keeper's house. The lighthouse keeper and his family lived in this brick house and it was his job to always make sure the lighthouse beam was on. When we entered the kitchen, a period-dressed woman was boiling potatoes on the old stovetop as the lighthouse keeper's wife would have in that day. We were shown each room of the house, where the lighthouse keeper would sit at his desk and type, take phone calls from incoming supply ships, where the children would play and sleep, where the adults slept. It was furnished with the original furniture, appliances and linens, and was quite comfortable and roomy. The lighthouse keeper's family led a very isolated life and they had to be quite self-sufficient because they saw no one for months at a time. Their visitors were the people who brought supplies by ship and occasionally relatives would visit during the summer months. When supplies arrived, the cargo would have to be lifted from the boat with a hoist and placed on a cart on rails and pushed and pulled up the side of the cliff, as the lighthouse sat on high bluff (rock) above the lake.

From the lighthouse keeper's house, we were led across the yard to the actual Split Rock Lighthouse, a very majestic looking building standing tall in the dense fog right at the lake's rocky edge. Once inside we were told the story of Split Rock and were led up a very steep black wrought iron spiral staircase to see the actual light. It's hard to imagine how enormous this light is--it's large enough that a man can get inside of the light assembly to clean the prisms that magnifies the light. Now this wasn't an electric light, as there was no electricity. The beam was created by a flame, therefore the assembly had to be cleaned and maintained frequently. It was so hot and bright that the light had to be shut down when maintenance was needed. There was a huge gear assembly that turned the beam with a timer that was quite innovative for it's time to control the speed. The lighthouse also had a separate brick building that held a very obnoxious horn (that we did hear!) that was steam powered and was used during daylight in the fog when the light couldn't be seen. An inspector showed up at random who was quite strict about the appearance and cleanliness of the lighthouse and the keeper's house. The lighthouse keeper's children were taught to watch for the inspector's boat and warn the keeper and his wife that the inspector was coming so they could be dressed in their proper attire and have everything ready for his inspection.

We left the lighthouse in the late morning and drove in the fog to Gooseberry Falls for our picnic. We had a nice rock shelter house complete with a big fireplace that was much needed on this day. It was 40 degrees and windy and damp that day so the first order of business was a group of the members  built a fire in the fireplace while others put out a delicious meal of baked beans, salads, pulled pork. A few of us had to brave the cold to stoke up the grills and cook burgers and dogs outside. We had to guard our grills diligently as the huge seagulls sat on the roof waiting to steal any meat left unattended. After stuffing ourselves with great food, everyone enjoyed a big piece of delicious cake adorned with Mopars and the club logo. While a few members stayed at the shelter house to clean up the mess, the rest of us went on a hike to see the falls. The advertising brochures claimed it was a 15 minute hike  to the falls. In reality, it was a lot further to actually get to the top of the falls and see this grand beauty. We hiked for the better part of an hour and some of the hiking path was pretty crude due to lots of recent rain. But it was worth the effort as we reached the top of the falls and took photos of our members. By the time we got to the top of the falls, the weather had improved greatly and it was now a pleasant sunny day. We walked across the bridge at the top of the falls and hiked back to the shelter house on the other side, seeing many pretty flowers along the way.  Back at the shelter house we gathered up our group and headed for Duluth Dodge.

Upon arriving at Duluth Dodge, we were led to the back of the car lot where we were allowed to park our Mopars together in a long line for display. With our presence, the show 'n shine was Mopar heavy with only a few non-Mopar cars showing up. Rod Marinucci unloaded his 1968 Barracuda drag car from a nice enclosed trailer. Rod has raced this same Barracuda since 1974.  He set up a table with several interesting race items, a two-piece intake manifold that he designed, rods, pushrods, a 4-speed transmission, Hemi pistons and valves. He used all of these as props for the very interesting performance seminar he presented to us. Rod also told us about his racing experiences over the years with his Mopar cars. After the seminar, a fellow Mopar lover at the show wanted to line up three generations of Chargers for a photo session, so we accommodated him with a 1966 Charger, a 1969 Charger, 1969 Daytona and a 1972 Charger. We returned to the Canal Park Lodge in early evening and sat around in the lobby and talked until the wee hours.

Friday morning, some of the members who had arrived later in the week took off for Cirrus Aircraft to take in the tour they had missed. We originally had a train ride to Two Harbors planned for this day, but since it would have taken all day and the time we would have had to spend at Two Harbors was very minimal so we decided to cancel that event. In its place, we had a reserved spot on one of the Vista Fleet harbor tour boats. We discovered at the last minute that the tour boat company had sold our seats to a group of polka dancers because they had more people in their group than we did and the company could make more money off of them! Some of our members decided to go on a later boat ride and had a great time touring the Duluth harbor. We saw a large freighter being loaded with coal, the huge docks at all of the lakeside industries where iron ore, scrap metal, grain, and fuel were loaded onto freighter ships, an off shore crane, even a scrap yard of steel. On the return trip to the dock, we passed under the lift bridge between Duluth Harbor and Lake Michigan into the lake and from there we could see the Canal Park Lodge where our cars sat and the boardwalk behind the hotel.

After our boat ride, some of us decided to walk across the lift bridge out onto the island where all the residents were holding a huge garage sale. When we were about halfway across the bridge, a bell sounded and an electronic voice boomed that the bridge would be raising and anyone that was on it had less than a minute to get off! It's a LONG distance across the bridge and you have to run hard all the way to make it in that amount of time, and no, they don't wait for you! It is very, very windy on the bridge and hard to stand up at times. This bridge is the only way that the residents on the island have to get to the mainland and the employers in the city allow extra time if their employees are late for work. There was a very long line of cars waiting to get across the lift bridge when we got to the other side after the bridge started raising. It was at least a 10-15 minute wait for the bridge to be lowered back down. Obviously the residents are used to this, as they were sitting in their cars reading books, or standing outside talking to each other; no one seemed to be upset about the long wait. It's just a part of their lives. You can see in the sequence of photos below how the lift bridge works. Incidentally, the lift bridge is illuminated at night and was quite a beautiful sight from our hotel.

After returning to the Lodge, that evening we held our raffle and club business meeting. The raffle was huge, thanks to so many member's donations, and seemed to go on for hours. After the raffle, some members went back to their rooms to pack up for the trip home, while many of us went out to the patio to enjoy one last evening together by the lake. During the course of the meet we had discount gas coupons from the Little Store Gas Stations. Mike Busch, who was not even a club member at the time, arranged for us to get the discount coupons. We all used them frequently and they really helped with gas being over $3 a gallon at that time. A very big THANKS to Mike for getting us the gas coupons! A very big THANKS to: our meet hosts Janet and Curt Lawson and Gary Homstad who did all the footwork and arranged for this awesome event to take place. Also THANKS to all of the following people how donated and helped with the raffle: Stan McGuire, Pat Clemons Dodge, Teresa and Steve Netkow, Dale Weigert, Mike Janikowski, Greg Nelsen, Mancini Racing, Super Car Collectibles, Mopar Collector's Guide, Hagerty Insurance, O'Reilly's Auto Parts, Midwest Transmission Center, Performance Car Graphics, Totally Auto, Hardens Muscle Car World, Eaton's, Grandma's Restaurant, Dairy Queen, Duluth Dodge, Cloquet Dodge, Roy's Grand Dodge, and Midwest Mopars who donated $200 to help with expenses.

 



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