Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Ride in a Rochester

While driving south from Los Angeles a few days ago I stopped by Michael Claire's place in La Habra. Mike had discovered the Fountainhead Museum on the internet a few weeks ago and contacted us about a car we have in common--a 1901 Rochester steam carriage. Until that point, I had only found one other Rochester besides ours, that being John Hampton's in Argentina. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to learn about another one and to know I'd be in Mike's neighborhood a few weeks later.
Mike has lovingly restored his Rochester and tricked it out to make it operable on today's streets. A good thing, since he fires it up every two weeks or so to take it out for a long drive. Following a lot of coaxing, Mike got the little car running. After giving me a ride through his neighborhood, I then got to take the tiller--what a hoot it is to drive what feels like a tall, rickety wheelchair! Watching Mike "blow off steam" after the ride was pretty entertaining, too. Many thanks to Mike for such a fun afternoon, and for generously donating a working engine from a 1900 Milwaukee steam car to our museum. It will be a great addition to our engine exhibit.

The Rochester Cycle & Manufacturing Company was short-lived, and we think they made only about 20 of their steam carriages. If so, a survival rate of three is pretty amazing, especially when you consider how fragile these little buggies are. Ours is presently being restored by Allan Schmidt in Escondido, so it won't be on display for a while. I'm looking forward to its return to Alaska!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Restoration Check-Up

Yesterday I headed over to Allan Schmidt’s restoration shop near Escondido. Ever since I started doing research on our cars, the one that has intrigued me the most is our 1921 Heine-Velox Sporting Victoria. Piano maker Gustav Heine only built five of these enormous, curious-looking vehicles, and only one Sporting Victoria. Considering one could buy a Rolls Royce for $10,000 and a Ford Model T for $500, Heine’s prices of $17,000 - $25,000 for his big cars were outrageous. Yet, Heine refused to sell them.

I was pretty excited to see the Heine-Velox, but this was what greeted me:

The 4,500-lb car has been completely taken apart so Allan and his crew can work their magic and bring it back to its original glory. The fenders were in one room awaiting our decision on paint color, brake rods were at the welders table, wood pieces were being sanded, and the body was outside so the glue could dry. The modified Weidely V-12 engine was still mounted, so I snapped a picture of it:

Based on the other work Allan has done for us and others, we know the Heine-Velox will look stunning when it's finished. Allan also has our Biddle, so I got a nice "before" look at that car before I headed over to the San Diego Wild Animal Park (where I got mauled by a flock of lorikeets, but that's another story).

If you have an antique car and are looking for restoration supplies and accessories, be sure to visit Restoration Supply Company's website at Allan and his crew will take good care of you.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hanging Out at Big Dog

I hit the jackpot and got to visit Jay Leno's Big Dog Garage in Burbank yesterday. Bob Sales, another one of those car guys "living the dream" by getting to work around an amazing collection, gave me the tour. That's Bob sitting in a Duesenberg chassis, explaining that this was what buyers started with and how they ordered their own coachwork. This Duesy had some wood and seats added so Jay can drive it on the streets. Every day Jay drives home a different car or motorcycle from his collection, which may range from a 1909 Baker Electric to his 9,000-lb, 1500-HP M-47 Patten tank engine car (whose wheelbase is over 15 feet!).

Many thanks to Bob for a great tour, and to Bernard Juchli for helping us earlier with a part for our Owen-Magnetic.

For those of you wondering, getting in to the Big Dog Garage is by invitation only. But, Jay shares his cars with everyone through a great website at You can also read about his tank car at


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On the Road Again: Nethercutt Museum

I stopped by the Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar, CA today to drop off some of our museum's brochures and to say hi to Skip Marketti, the curator. Skip, who has directed the Blackhawk Collection and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, also worked for Harrah's years ago and actually helped with the Gold Star restoration of our 1906 Compound. Skip and his staff were very helpful a year ago when I visited their museum's library to do research on some of our more obscure cars. He also gave me a private tour of their restoration shops and a peek at the Grand Salon across the street from the museum.

Call me a traitor, but I keep finding myself drawn to outrageously valuable foreign cars. First the Delahaye at Dragone's in CT, and now the Nethercutt's 1937 Talbot Lago T150 C-SS Sport Coupe. This beauty, which has won many Concours awards, is apparently the only "Tear Drop" with front fender skirts left. It carries a HEMI 6-cylinder engine displacing 255.3 cu. in. and packing 140 HP. Skip is now my best friend for letting me sit in this car, which once belonged to an Indian Maharaja's wife.

If you find yourself in the L.A. area, definitely swing up to the Nethercutt Museum. They have a great collection of gorgeous, mostly pre-war cars. Just be sure to schedule your visit when they are giving tours of the Nethercutt Collection (more cars!) across the street.

I'm off to see another fun collection tomorrow. I wonder which car will become my new favorite?


Monday, October 19, 2009

What a Night!

What an event!!! On October 7 we invited 400 of our closest friends from the tourism industry to a reception at the Museum and what fun it was! During the Alaska Travel Industry Association's (ATIA) Community Night we got to show off our facility as well as feature food, beverages and entertainment from throughout the community. Just when I didn't think this night could get any better-the Fairbanks Community Band's Jazz Band started playing music from the big band era! People started dancing---you felt like you were back in the 30's. What a night!

Since I'm the sales person for Fountainhead-I have to say that if you want a really memorable reception-have it at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum!

Diane Shoemaker

New Arrivals

Three new cars have been added to
the museum in the past month: an 1899 Hertel runabout, a 1907 Cartercar Model A touring, and a 1927 Stutz Blackhawk boat-tailed speedster. Each is a VERY interesting and unique car.

The Hertel pictured here was made by the Oakman motorcar company and is sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as an Oakman. If you look closely you'll see that it is essentially a body and motor perched between two bicycle frames. The 3 HP engine drives friction pulleys which rotate against the inner rims on the inside of each rear wheel. Rumor has it that there are three Hertels still in existence, but I have only been able to locate one other (an 1898 runabout in Sweden).

As for what makes the Cartercar and Stutz unique--well, you'll just have to come to the museum and see for yourself. I guarantee that the Blackhawk will make your jaw drop!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dispatch from the Road: White Steamer

We arrived at Dragone Classic Motorcars in Bridgeport, CT on Monday to check on our 1907 Model G White Steamer's restoration. The car is progressing well and looking great. The hood, fenders and condenser are all painted and ready to go onto the car, the new top looks fantastic, as does the new windshield. The wheels are freshly painted and new white tires have been installed. The last of the steam plumbing is being done at this time and Dragone hopes to have the car ready to ship within the next couple weeks.

As you can see, this is a very large car. Even though it is sitting on stands that put the tires a couple inches off of the ground, it's still very tall, and I cannot begin to reach the top of the car. We met with Manny and George Dragone yesterday to discuss the cars and shipping. Next we were given a tour of the facility by George, to include the upholstery shop and both warehouses where they store the excess inventory. We looked at vintage bicycles, and lots of misc items of interest. We were joined by Brian and Christine Williams out of Long Island NY for the day, which included a trip to look at the Biondi collection, but that's another story. The White will make a great addition to the museum and we look forward being able to run it next spring.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dispatch from the Road: Meeting Mr. Wickham

Willy and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting J. Parker Wickham in Mattituk on Long Island today. A number of our museum's most impressive automobiles came from Mr. Wickham, including our Argonne, Heine-Velox, Wills Ste. Claire and Daniels.

When Mr. Wickham was ready to downsize his collection, he set his sights on finding a buyer that would keep his pre-war car collection together and not flip the cars for a profit. Today he told us that he is very happy with his cars' new home, and is impressed with how we display and drive the cars.

It was great to finally meet Mr. Wickham. Listening to him tell the stories behind his cars, seeing his fabulous 1929 Ruxton, and perusing his library was definitely a highlight of this trip. Many thanks to Brian and Christine Williams for their hospitality and for taking us to meet Mr. Wickham.


**Update**  Mr. Wickham passed away on April 22, 2011. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to meet him, and that he entrusted so many of his automobiles to our care.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dispatch from the Road: Hershey Autopalooza!

If you're an old car lover and haven't been to the Antique Automobile Club of America's annual fall event at Hershey, PA, you have been missing out on the mother of all swap meets. I don't know how many acres the flea market covers (one person said 10 football fields long by ten fields wide), but apparently one would have to cover approximately 26 miles to visit every booth and the car corral.

There is a little bit of EVERYTHING here: complete cars, fenders, hubcaps, door handles, brass (Willy's best find was two headlights for our '06 Cadillac), bicycles, motorcycles, pedal cars, car models, gas pumps and all sorts of big and little parts. Most people are pulling little red wagons or wire carts to haul their treasures in, and guys looking for specific parts wear signs like sandwich boards draped around their shoulders. It's a hoot to see!

I was focused on finding vintage clothing, reproduction
clothing for staff and docents to wear, and literature for our cars. Willy and I got to meet a lot of great folks and see old friends. We also visited the booths staffed by the various clubs we belong to (e.g., Pierce-Arrow, Wills Ste. Claire, Model T Snowmobile, Early Ford and Society of Automotive Historians). Willy attended the annual Stutz Club meeting Thursday night while I snuck off to the AACA Library to get some articles on the Compound automobile.

Although tiring, the trip here has been worth the tired legs and sore feet. We got to tell a lot of folks about the Fountainhead Museum, and hopefully we'll see some of them visit Fairbanks in the near future.
From Hershey we're off to visit museums and check out some cars in PA, NY and CT. I'm especially excited to see our White Steamer!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Prepping for Toursim Conference

I wandered by the museum today and lo and behold, there were Tim and Barb, the museum's owners, hard at work on a Sunday. Tim was polishing the 1910 Model R Stanley Steamer, while Barb was preparing some more vintage clothing for display.

On Wednesday, the museum is hosting a gala for the Alaska Tourism Industry Association's annual convention, complete with a band and lots of food. Too bad Willy and I will be at Hershey and will miss the party, but some of us must make sacrifices for the sake of the museum...