I’m the kind of person who builds, appreciates, and likes owning rare, or one-of-a-kind things. In my personal collection of antiques and collectibles I have a paper money note from the Revolutionary War, a Vampire Killing Kit, an original 1955 Marylin Monroe calendar, unopened bottles of booze from the 1950s through the 1970s, and sheet music to Moonlight Serenade from the actual Glen Miller Orchestra. So of course when I decided I wanted a dash cam for the only ’53 Chevy in the world with shark fins, I knew I wanted something unique…something that looked period correct, but worked like a modern camera.
I used to collect old cameras, mostly from the ’20s and ’30s. I sold a lot off over the years but still have several that I found to be the most interesting. This includes a 1917 Kodak that I actually used once to take photos of my first car, my 1941 Dodge Luxury Liner. I still have that camera. I also have a couple of “pocket cameras” or “mini cameras” as they were called. One is only 3 1/2 long…about the size of the average dash cam. That gave me the idea.
Then I remembered seeing square dash cams, and I imagined I could insert a small square camera right into one of these mini cams. Now, someone with more patience than I would probably be able to take a dash cam apart, retro fit all the parts directly into an old camera and make it work. I had a “better” idea, one that would end up taking only about two hours to complete.
I would work a complete square dash cam into the bellows area of camera. I took some measurements and found that my cameras were too small, so I bought a 1938 Kodak Bantam Pocket Camera on ebay.
I took my time taking the old camera apart, removing the bellows and lens, making sure to keep all the parts intact. Then I began fitting the dash cam into the body of the camera. That took some time and some cutting of the camera’s steel frame…heavy, 1930s steel frame. This camera is built better than most new cars. Anyway…
Once I got the dash cam to fit properly in the camera frame, I fastened it to the frame from inside using the same screw holes from the bellows. Then I fastened the front lens plate to the front of the dash cam.
Next I added a strip of the same canvas/vinyl material that I used on the Chevy’s cabriolet top to “fake in” the dash cam for a sort of bellows effect. And that was it!
The camera looks like something that would have been in a 1953 Chevrolet Belair, if things like dash cams existed in the 1950s. And it works like a new digital camera. To view the cam’s, just open the back of the camera.
That’s all there is to it. The world’s first and only antique camera dash cam for vintage cars, designed and created by yours truly, Christopher Pinto. Cheers.