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Nelmobile: 1937

Nelmobile: 1937

March 30, 1937. "Transportation and no parking worries. Nelm Clark, 16-year old Washington, D.C., youngster, solved this problem by combining a lawn mower motor with a set of motorcycle gears to make this unusual midget auto. Costing $60 to build, the contraption weighs only 150 pounds -- the weight is its main feature -- and if you run out of gas you easily push it or tuck it under your arm and walk home." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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That Norm was a real tech

Georgia Tech class of '43, in fact, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. In a fraternity newsletter I found his grandson (different surname) with this info appended:

• Gamma Tau Legacy – Grandfather Nelm Clark ’43 – Mechanical Engineer (deceased) and Great grandfather Alexander Clark ‘04 Cornell
• Designed and built Ramblin’ Wreck parade contraption and Greek Week downhill racer
NOTE the last entry, the "downhill racer". Grandpa Nelm must have liked that (he was still alive).

Let's run out to White Flint

"Time to go shopping. I'll just back out of this spot. Nothing in my mirror but that Chevy way behind."

Hot grill(e)

Let's mention that cover on the Chevy grille. A very common accessory back in the day. My dad had one for his '35 Ford and in order to keep the coolant temp up high enough in cold weather so the heater could produce some reasonable BTUs, the cover blocked varying amounts of cold air through the radiator, depending on how the zipper and snaps were adjusted. I see this was taken at the end of March, so in warmish springtime D.C., I'd say the owner by then should have tossed the cover in the trunk until next November.

1936 Chevrolet Master

The Derby Racer is cool but check out the 1936 Chevrolet Master two-door sedan parked behind it. I have the same model in my collection for the past 36 years but this is one of the first I have seen pictured. Lots of 37 Chevy varieties, or 36 four-doors or converts or 36 Standards but this is the first 1936 two-door Master. I only just discovered your site today and I love it. Thanks for the memories.

A car for our own time

Wow, looks a lot like the little tiny cars we'll all be driving soon under the new "Cafe Standards."

Waaay ahead of his time!

Hey, it's a SMART car, circa 1937!

Nelm the Flyboy

In January 1945, Nelm, who lived at 113 South Clifton Terrace, was an airman in advanced flight training at Blackland Army Air Field, Texas.


Wow, it sure looks a lot larger than a typical lawn mower engine of the times. As a kid we would try to put an old motor on anything that had 4 wheels, dreaming of the later years of being a hot rod builder. The favorite of mine was a washing machine engine as it had a great foot starter, and were relatively easy to find in the 50's as most all washing machines were electric long before then. Most garages and sheds had one or two kicking around.

The best item on this "car" is the Harley Davidson horn!

[Below: 1931 lawnmower ad. - Dave]

You're right Dave ... much larger than I remembered.

Street Legal

It had to be street legal, it even had a horn. It looks like it has an automatic clutch that put it in forward when giving it the gas. I had a clutch like that on a motor scooter in the early 50's.

Ahead of his time

Nelm was too advanced for 1937 - in the 1950s, anyone who read magazines like Popular Mechanics must have seen the ads for the King Midget. It was a car only a little more developed than Nelm's, though the price was bumped to $500 (a fair amount of money in the mid-50s). You could get it in kit form.

C'mon, Dad helped

This picture reminds me of when I was young. We were always searching for baby carriages put out in the trash so we could pirate the wheels and build a racer. Always had fun. Always crashed. We didn't have the luck of acquiring a lawn mower engine, or $60 either!

Nelm Clark 1921-2004

Amazing what one finds on the Internet.

Nelm B. Clark, born January 28, 1921, died in Atlanta on March 6, 2004, at age 83. He was a member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

Obviously he survived his harrowing rides in the Nelmobile.

Tuck it under your arm?

Maybe if you're Hulk Hogan.


And where is he now?
President of Chrysler???

Our Gang!

Looking at that photo, I can't help but think of the Our Gang short "Hi Neighbor!" where the gang raced their fire engine against the rich kids:


Only 72 years too early. A soap box derby racer with an engine! Wonder if it had trouble passing Inspection! In '37, were there Inspections? Very nice. I guess it ran on Sikijom, hi-test!

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