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
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
Despite what anyone says, however, Shalda continues to win
awards, averaging more than two a year since it was built in
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
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