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50th Annual Duryea Day Event Features Berks County Car Builders
Written by Bradley Schlegel Correspondent

Featured at the 50th Annual Duryea Day Antique and Classic Car Show at the Boyertown Community Park in Boyertown were these three Reading-built Dile automobiles. Left to right are 1916, 1915 and 1914 models. The cars are the only three of 30 built known to still exist.

                Standing under a canopy behind a picnic table, Barbara (Lengel) Parr watched spectators take pictures of the three remaining vehicles from the Dile Motor Car Company.

                "It's a fabulous feeling," said Parr, fighting back tears. "The only thing better is when someone asks your permission to take a picture. I wish my dad was alive to see it."

                Parr and her husband Shawn attended the 50th annual Duryea Day Antique and Classic Car Show on Saturday to help honor the car company her great-grandfather founded more than 100 years ago.

                Irvin Lengel and his partner Frank Dick started the company in Reading in 1914, according to Kendra Cook, curator of the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, which organizes the annual event with the Pottstown Region of the Antique Automobile Club.

                The Dile Motor Car Company built 30 vehicles before going bankrupt in 1917, according to Cook.  She said the Dile was supposed to be an affordable, no frills alternative to Henry Ford's Model T.  "But the Dile never reached those heights," Cook wrote in an email.

                According to the curator, the cars Lengel's company built cost nearly $200 more than the Model T because Dile never mastered the art of the assembly line and mass production like Ford. Furthermore, World War I rationing cut into Dile's production capabilities.

The museum's collection includes a bright yellow Dile 1914 Model A Sports Roadster with a black roof that sold initially for $650.

                Parr, 59, woke up at 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning before traveling to the show from her Wernersville home. She displayed several scrapbooks filled with paperwork and loose photos of her family members as well as framed pictures pulled down from the walls of a spare bedroom.

                "This is history," she said.

                According to Parr, Irvin Lengel was an engineer who worked with bicycles before he built automobiles.  She said her grandfather, Irvin Lengel II, grew up in a log cabin in Alsace where his father taught him to read using Popular Mechanics magazine. Irvin Lengel II also became an engineer.

                Dile is one of the more than 2,000 companies in the early days of the automobile, according to Cook. She described its trials as typical among most manufacturers.  "It was a very easy business to enter, but a tough one to stay in and find success," Cook wrote. 

                According to the curator, Charles Duryea, the event's namesake, and his brother Frank, built what is considered the first commercially marketed car in the US in 1892 in Massachusetts.

                Charles Duryea came to Reading and built cars there from 1900-1908. The museum's collection includes five of those automobiles, according to Cook.

                The annual Labor Day weekend event, named in Duryea's honor for his contributions to our early automotive heritage, was initially organized and run by the Boyertown Auto Body Works, according to Cook.

                She said the first Duryea Day displayed between 100 and 120 automobiles. The most recent event showed a record 703 cars, trucks, and motorcycles of all types.

                "It was never imagined that the event would grow as much as it has," Cook wrote.






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