Sunday, December 26, 2010

Did Santa's Sleigh Break Down???

by Willy Vinton

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Santa's old reliable sled broke down on Christmas eve?

Well,  rumor has it that Santa may have borrowed one of our faster cars to finish his route. We cannot document this, because some of our cars have no odometers, and nothing seems to be disturbed. We did, however, find a lot of dust on the Offy midget, and this image recorded on our security system.

When we dusted and cleaned the car off, we also found this pair of goggles that someone left behind. There is even a little bit of red lint left on the seat, but we cannot say for sure what happened. We have not located our Albany cutter sleigh yet either, so keep your eyes open for it.  For now, I think we will just keep these goggles on the helmet to see if anyone comes in claiming them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


by Willy Vinton

During my recent trip I visited the NATMUS (National Automobile and Truck Museum of the United States) in Auburn IN, and had a fun time there. It is located next the the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and is part of the original buildings used to manufacture E. L. Cord's automobile lines. The old buildings are fantanstic to see. At left is a picture of an Auburn Roadster that was dug out of a dirt bank. Anyone want a project?????

This is the Detroit 12V92 diesel engine powered vehicle that set the land speed record in 1990 at 179.506 mph, and then broke that at 226.471 mph in 1993. As you can see from the photo, it shows the inside of the original building.

Ok, someone has to know the history of this vehicle. There was no sign or information on it, but it is obviously a prototype military unit. Maybe someone can tell us about it?

This picture shows the inside of the main building where they were building the cars. I'm not sure what part of the assembly was done here, but the buildings are really great to see.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Shop News: 1911 Oakland Repairs

by Willy Vinton

We are in the process of putting the 1911 Oakland back together.  The radiator had to be repaired, the sides had broken loose, and there was a small leak in the bottom tank. We repaired it in-house and now it is ready to polish and install, as are the lights.

The front cylinder block had internal cracks that put coolant into the cylinders, so we sent it out to Cast Iron Specialties to be welded. They did a great job. We also removed the pan and cleaned out the gunk, repaired one rod cap, tightened up the mains and will be firing it up on Tuesday. We had to raise the front end up to gain clearance on the front fender to tire area, and added 2 inches to get it up where we needed it. Many thanks to Holiday Parks in Fairbanks for making the blocks for us.

We are looking forward to getting this car running again. Perhaps we'll even take it out for a test drive if it warms up a little (okay, a lot, as it was -35 F today!).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Adventure

 by Willy Vinton

I just returned from a trip to the east. After checking out a car, I decided to take time to visit a few museums while there. I visited the Auburn Cord Duesenburg Museum in Indiana and had a great time there. Matt Short, excutive VP of the museum, was very generous with his time and gave me a tour of the facility and collection.  The V-16 engine at right was built in 1918 by the Duesenberg brothers for aircraft use, but they had no planes to handle it so it never went into production. It's 3393 cubic inches, making 800 HP at 1800 RPM. Boy would I like to hear this thing run!

This is the building where the Imp cyclecars were made. I did walk around and, look as I may, could not find a single Imp cyclecar left unknown. I did get to study the Imp on display at the ACD. With in-depth photos in hand I was able to gain a better understanding of what and how Imps were built.                                                       

Does this look familiar? It's a Cord L-29--same as our black Cord, but with a paint scheme by Frank Lloyd Wright similar to our '33 Auburn. This was Wright's personal car and its great looks really grabbed my attention.

The ACD Museum is a great place to visit and I would recommend it to anyone that is in the area. I went to the Henry Ford Museum next but will leave that for a later post.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why White Tires?

by Nancy DeWitt (with some help from Willy Vinton)

Yesterday I was admiring this photo of our 1907 White Steam Car taken by Troy Bouffard, and it reminded me of a question we are often asked: why are many of the tires on our oldest automobiles white? Quite simply, the natural color of rubber is white because of the zinc oxide in its composition. It wasn't until 1910 that the Silvertown Tire Company of London (followed by the B.F. Goodrich Company in the U.S.) added carbon black to tires, greatly increasing their durability.

Because white tires didn't last long, it's pretty rare to see an original pair on a car. Some think the tires on our preservation class 1910 Hudson are original, but they were made in England and added to the car about six years ago. In that short time these gray (not white) tires--which have been inside most of their life--have yellowed with age, giving you an idea how quickly these tires failed. 

White tires require a lot of care. Each time we drive a white-tired car the tires have to be cleaned before the vehicle goes back on display. Fortunately we have our Adopt-A-Car sponsors and wonderful docents (like Terry at right, who is using a toothbrush to scrub the tread!) to help with this task.

Not surprisingly, the next question often asked is: where do you get replacement white tires for antique cars? There are actually several companies that sell reproduction tires. I imagine we could find vintage tires too, but since we drive most of our cars we prefer less-fragile rubber between us and the pavement.

Perhaps some day I'll write about why the rear tires were larger than the front ones on many old cars and carriages.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Icepocalypse Now

by Nancy DeWitt
Photos and text © Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Most of Alaska is experiencing the mother of all ice storms right now, thanks to an epoch winter rain event that has essentially shut down Fairbanks and brought great joy to the towing companies. My attempt to drive to work this morning was similar to that of a friend who said, "My truck did a 180 at the bottom of the hill. Since I was then pointed home,  I continued that way." I too tucked my tail and returned home. Fortunately, I have a lot of historic photos here to keep me occupied. For your viewing pleasure, here are some ways Alaskans dealt with driving on snow in the early days:

At right is Bobbie Sheldon with passengers on the trail to Valdez. Sheldon cut down the axles of his Model T Fords so his tires would fit in the tracks of the horse-drawn sleighs. He also wrapped chains around the rear tires and put skis under the front ones.

Sheldon mounted a gas tank on the hood to maintain fuel flow to the engine while going up steep hills. It wasn't uncommon for drivers in those days to have to go up hills backwards because of the rear-mounted gas tanks.

I have no idea what this is...

...but these tracked vehicles look more familiar:

I think my favorite winterized rig is this motorcycle decked out with outrigger skis. I'm guessing it wouldn't have worked too well on today's icy roads, though. Nor would the Fordson Snow Motor we have parked outside the museum. Based on news reports, no vehicles are working too well today. Funny how we Alaskans don't let heavy snowfall or -55 F temperatures get in our way, but a little rainfall brings us to our knees!

Photos courtesy of Frances Erickson, Candy Waugaman and Nick Nugent. May not be reproduced without permission.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Big Wheels Arrive

by Nancy DeWitt

Christmas came early to the museum this year. Yesterday the BATS Motorsports truck rolled in from its trip up the Alaska Highway, and I always think of Santa's sleigh when that big rig arrives. We knew it was carrying two new cars for the museum; what we didn't expect was the other cargo tucked inside.

First off the truck was our 1917 Pierce-Arrow Model 66 A-4. I had been told by many how big this car! Pictures don't really do it justice, but keep in mind the guy on the left is 6'4" (in fact, all those guys look like Hobbits next to that car). The top is around 7' high, so your head isn't much lower than that when seated in this big beauty.

A few other big things about this car: its tires are 4' in diameter, the wheelbase is 147.5" and the 6-cylinder engine displaces a whopping 825 cubic inches! Despite its massive size, the car is very elegant--especially the interior.

Our 1907 White Steamer Model G also made the trip north. She's a tall car too, although it's not as evident without her windshield & top installed. The big radiator on the front is actually the condenser. It cools and condenses the exhaust steam back into water, then returns it to the water tank for re-use. This allows the car to travel further on a tank of water than a non-condensing steam car such as our 1910 Stanley. 

And for our added viewing pleasure, we got to see a special car that's made the news lately. A couple from Wasilla, Alaska recently converted a pickup truck into a giant Radio Flyer wagon. It's awesome! It even has a big tow handle that attaches to the front, although that had been removed for the trip. You can read more about the car and see additional photos here.

Many thanks to the volunteers who helped us unload the cars. We plan to move the White Steamer and Pierce-Arrow on to the museum floor by Sunday. Hope you can all come see them!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A New Face at the Museum

by Willy Vinton

The museum would like to welcome and introduce our newest team member, Charlie Jurgens. Charlie is a recently retired mechanic that has done aircraft restoration, as well as military vehicles in the past. He will be a great asset to our mission to keep the cars running and in top shape. We will do our very best to keep him from getting bored in his retirement. Welcome aboard Charlie!

This is Charlie's first challenge, to get the 1907 Franklin running properly.* After removing the intake we found a couple of bad seal rings, so we replaced those. Next we cleaned the carbon out of the valves, and are now rebuilding the carburetor. When we get done with it, it will purr like a big cat, no kittens here. As soon as it is back up and running, we will shoot a video of it outside and then put it back on display.

* Click here for a video on Willy's attempt to run the Franklin last month.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chasing Ghosts - Part II: White Steamers

by Nancy DeWitt

On December 17, 1908, this appeared in in the Fairbanks Daily News:

Fairbanks streets have taken on a decidedly metropolitan air with two large automobiles gliding swiftly about the city, the new 50-horse power White Steamer having gone into commission yesterday. 

The White Steamer is a splendid machine, having stood the severe test of years, and thousands of motorists on the outside are still divided on the merits of steam and gasoline cars. It is a beautifully made car, much heavier than the Franklin, which is advertised as one of the lightest cars made for the power...On her initial performance the machine did great work, running as smoothly as a clock.

The White Steamer Model K (pictured above) had been purchased "for the bargain sum of $3,400" by Fairbanks' pioneering lumbermen, Charles Carroll and Fred Parker. They immediately put the big car into service as a passenger stage between Fairbanks and Fox. It was only the third car Fairbanks had ever seen.

Naturally, we thought it would be wonderful to have a White in the Fountainhead Museum. As luck would have it, White Steam Car owners are a tight crowd and even have an on-line registry. During a trip to Boise, ID to visit family in 2008, I called a man listed on the registry and asked if I could see his Whites. He showed me his fine collection and then casually mentioned that not one but TWO of Alaska's original White Steamers were in California! Turns out that the Model K and a 1909 Model M (likely the one pictured below) had been dumped in the river in some time after 1926 and later salvaged by Alaska pioneer Bill Sherwin. Bill sold what was left of the cars to the current owner during the A67 Exposition in Fairbanks. Both are now undergoing "the world's longest restoration."

We met the owner of these Alaska Whites in Bakersfield last year. He asked if I could check to see if any car parts were perhaps hiding in the attic of Sherwin's former home, which now resides in Pioneer Park (hmmm, it no longer has an attic). Rumor has it that Sherwin put the rear end of one of the Whites into a portable sawmill that went to Tok. Anyone have any leads on where these various parts might be?

This was one ghost chase actually led us to two of Alaska's first cars. Since then, we've acquired a big 1907 White Model G to represent this important piece of Alaska's early automotive history in our museum. I can't wait to see it!

Chasing Ghosts: Part I

*Photos courtesy of Candy Waugaman. May not be reproduced without permission.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vintage Fashion Tour

by Nancy DeWitt, Historian

Barb Cerny, our Vintage Fashion Curator, and I traveled to Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Our goal was to visit several fashion exhibits and hopefully come away with some new ideas, tips and inspiration for the Fountainhead Museum.

Our first stop was the Fashion Institute for Design & Merchandising, a private college with a museum and galleries open to the public. The fashions in their Re-Designing History exhibit were stunning, and the private tour of FIDM from Meghan Hansen was especially enlightening. She gave us a lot of tips on mannequins and storage, display and labeling of vintage garments. We especially loved the hair styles FIDM makes for their mannequins using drawing paper (!). Barb and I are pretty sure we won't be able to make similar hairdos for our own mannequins, but it might be fun to try to on some long winter evening.

Next up was the Petersen Automotive Museum to see the highly acclaimed Automotivated exhibit. This display highlights the parallels between early cars and clothing design, progressing from functional wear for open-air motoring to the graceful lines of cars and dresses of the 1930s. It's amazing to think that wealthy connoisseurs would collaborate with coachbuilders and couturiers to coordinate their fashions and automobiles!

Automotivated focuses on a similar theme we are working toward at the Fountainhead Museum with our vintage clothing, so this was a very interesting and informative visit for us. We owe special thanks to Museum Curator Leslie Kendall for the personalized tour, including a special trip into the basement to see the many cool cars they have in storage.

Our final stop was the L.A. County Museum of Art to see their Fashioning Fashion exhibit. Holy moly, the historic European clothing on display was incredible! I loved how they displayed corseted, bustled and or hoop-skirted mannequins alongside fully clothed ones to illustrate how the silhouettes were achieved. The descriptions for each outfit and the information about textile details were also excellent. Barb and I left LACMA with more ideas, not to mention a desire to acquire even more historic outfits for the Fountainhead Museum. All in all, a great trip!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ooh La La! French Curves at the Mullin

by Nancy DeWitt

I had the pleasure of visiting the new Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California a week ago. Peter Mullin created the museum to pay homage to the art deco period and display his amazing collection of "rolling sculptures" from the era. Everything about the museum is jaw dropping, from the curvy automobiles and Carlos Bugatti furniture to the architecture and historic art on exhibit.

As if the first floor of the 47,000 square-foot museum isn't impressive enough, a number of very cool pre-war race cars are parked on the second floor. These include several Grand Prix and Le Mans winners.

It was hard to choose a favorite, although this 1939 Delahaye Type 165 Cabriolet ranked high on my list

followed by this 1934 Voisin C27 Aerosport.

The 1937 Delahaye Type 135M Roadster was rather eye-catching too.

In addition to the gleaming Talbot-Lagos, Renaults, Delages and other French beauties, I found some surprises. Remember the 1925 Bugatti roadster made famous for being rescued from a lake in northern Italy last year? It's here, along with a neat display of preservation-class autos from the legendary Schlumpf Reserve Collection.

The Mullin Automotive Museum is only open for tours one or two days a month, so plan your visit and make your ticket reservations well in advance.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vehicles scheduled to come up!

by Derik Price

Since Nancy is still out of town, I thought I'd just give a quick update. The last two 'new addition' vehicles for the season are scheduled to leave Seattle on Monday for the trip up to Fairbanks.  Barring an extreme cold snap, which is so far not in the forecast, in a little under two weeks we should receive the 1907 White Steamer and the 1917 Pierce Arrow.

These photos show our partially restored White, giving you an idea of its height and imposing size.  I wish I had a recent pic of ours since it's freshening up, but i guess we (all) have something to look forward to!

And the 1917 Pierce -

The Pierce needs a few more bits and pieces so it'll likely be in the Museum shop for a little while.  It may need TWO parking spaces.  :-)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hershey Swap Meet 2010

by Willy Vinton

Well, after missing a connection on my flight in good od Detroit and having to spend the night, I finally made it to Hershey, PA.  This guy is one of the first things that grabbed my attention -- he is holding a picture of a very nice early Packard, and he's pushing the start of its restoration in that cart. You just never know what you are going to see here! The weather was great all the time I was there, having missed the first rainy day due to Delta's missed connection.

This was a neat contraption: a 1974 Fascination Car that can spin around in its own length. Some people just have too much time (and fun).

This is a 1916 Woods Mobilette, a later version of the 1914 Mobilette in our museum. It has offset seating and is a little wider than ours. It is in the AACA museum, and was very interesting to look at and compare to ours. Below is a picture of the sign they had for the car (you can click on the image for a larger view). 

I did find a few items we were looking for, and saw lots of stuff we really didn't need. For the most part the trip was rather uneventful -- until I hit a skunk while returning the rental car at 4 AM Sunday morning. Boy, that brought back memories! Really glad we don't have skunks up here in Alaska (at least 4 legged ones).

More later!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mack and new blog format

by Derik Price

Well this last week saw a number of changes to our image.  You've no doubt noticed the blog looks different.  I've redone it to compliment the new Museum Website!

We also received a new addition to our collection.  It's a 1915 Mack Dump Truck.  It is completely original and will be an 'outside display' piece.  The cab, hood and various parts have been removed for transport. In fact, I towed it from our yard into the storage building and Nancy 'volunteered' to drive it.

And she did complain somewhat at the start - Hey, it doesn't have a steering wheel, and where's the seat, it's just an ice cold fuel tank to sit on. Pfffft, trifles.  :-)

Thanks once again to Lynden for bringing this one up.  We docked the trailer at one of our warehouses and the dump boom was just a hair too tall to fit in the door.  So Lynden took it back to their yard and offloaded for us.  Big Thanks!