The following story by Chuck Thompson is reprinted with permission from the Forsyth County News, Cumming, Georgia.
Unlike other custom built car owners, Harley Sutton, of Cumming, isn't accustomed to hearing the 'wows' and 'ohs' of teenagers viewing his 'pride and joy' at car shows.
He's more likely, by his own confession, to hear things like, 'What in the world is that?' According to Sutton, some folks say they've never seen anything like it before, while others just stand around with their mouths hanging open.
Only the old-timers know what 'Shalda' is. That's because some of the parts that went to make up this multi-passenger vehicle, like the 1921 Hercules engine which powers it, were in use before some of us were born. Its unusual title was derived from the names of Sutton's three grandchildren, Shane, Allen and Dawn Dyer.
Despite what anyone says, however, Shalda continues to win awards, averaging more than two a year since it was built in 1975.
Just recently, Sutton came home from the World of Wheels Show, in Atlanta, with the 18th addition to his trophy collection--first place in the antique category. Last year, Shalda claimed second place in the show's antique category, and another first place trophy the year before that.
What led to the creation of this small wonder, about which no one seems to know? As Sutton tells it, 'I wanted a steam engine but they were 'scarce as hen's teeth,' ' so he built his own.
To make his dream come true, Sutton sought help from former County Engineer Donald Long. Other Forsyth County residents, like Eugene Bennett, Donald Born, O. H. Mathis and J. P. Year wood also contributed.
First, Shalda needed an engine, which Sutton had owned once 1970. The Hercules six-horsepower one-cycle 'hit-and-miss' water cooled engine had once powered an 18-inch corn mill. Its 157 cubic inch body, capable of churning out 500 revolutions per minute, was mounted on a 1950 Ford pickup chassis.
A four-speed transmission, taken from a junked 1946 Ford truck, also was added, giving Shalda a top speed of 12 miles per hour.
According to Sutton, engines manufactured by the Hercules Company, based in Evansville, Ind., were used primarily in portable power plants. To emphasize the strength of the engines, the company trademark features the Greek hog Hercules trying unsuccessfully to stop one of the engines from turning.
When all the mechanics were out of the way, it was left up to Sutton to build a body for Shalda. The wooden body was built large enough to seat 12-15 adults comfortable. At a car show in Ball Ground, however, Sutton piled as many as 38 riders on Shalda, which he says handled the large load very well.
Sutton's homemade 'steam engine' has appeared at shows all over north Georgia, in Cherokee, North Carolina, and in Greenville and Pendleton, S. C.
Harley H. Sutton lives at 111 Bonnie Lane, Cumming, Georgia 30130