Monday, June 28, 2010

Dennis Gage and Our Classic Cars

by Willy Vinton

WOW:::: what a weekend we had on the 18-21 June!  Dennis Gage arrived on the evening of the 17th with Ben, his producer and camera man, to  film the inaugural Midnight Sun Cruise-In for the Speed Channel's "My Classic Car" show.

On Friday morning we met at the museum for a quick tour. Dennis made it clear that he is not a museum kind of guy, so I was rather pleased to hear his expression of "Holy (something or other), this place is a surprise." So after all of the Midnight Sun Cruise-In activities--including the Tour de Fairbanks during which Dennis had to suffer driving our georgeous 1927 Stutz Blackhawk (below right*)--Dennis decided to get video for a second show about the museum.

It rained all day on Sunday, giving us the opportunity to get all the interior filming done. Monday was a pretty, sunny day, allowing us to show Dennis that we could indeed push any of the cars out the door and run them. We started out with a very unique 1914 Wood Mobilette cylecar, which Dennis got to drive around. This was entertaining as he had never driven a cylecar before. Next we drove the museum's rare 1920 Argonne (the only surviving one of 24 produced) around the Wedgewood Resort grounds. Then we rolled out the 1933 Auburn speedster; alas, it would only run with prime, and the fuel pump failed us. Another job for the list!

The last car out was the 1906 Compound (also the only one left). Within 5 minutes it was up and running, much to the amazement of Dennis. He got to drive this one around as well (at right), giving him the opportunity to pilot one the rarest cars we have in the collection. So as you can see it has been busy and fun time at the museum. We got some great footage and really look forward to seeing both of the shows that will air in the 2011 lineup.

Don't miss Dennis' blog post about his visit at

*Photo of Dennis in 1927 Stutz by Ronn Murray Photography

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Cruisin' Good Time

by Nancy DeWitt

What a weekend! The Midnight Sun Cruise-In was a great success, thanks to an excellent variety of cars, cooperative weather and a large turnout of spectators for the car show. Wedgewood Resort proved to be an excellent venue, and it was fun seeing the cars spread out throughout the resort's campus.

Friday evening started off with a cruise to the Alaska Salmon Bake. Willy and Alan Kelso led the way in the museum's 1910 Stanley Steamer, but had to cut short the route when they literally started to lose steam. The Stanley made up for it, though, by leading Saturday's "Tour de Fairbanks" out to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Goldstream Valley and the UAF campus.

Special thanks go out to Rick Larrick and the Vernon L. Nash Antique Car Club for organizing the Tour de Fairbanks and an especially fine car show. At least 150 vehicles were entered, along with some dragsters on display. Alan Kelso gave two demonstrations of how to fire up a Stanley Steamer, Alan James demonstrated his 1906 Fairbanks-Morse engine and Bub Larson gave free hay rides to spectators. The museum was a busy place too, with record attendance set both Saturday and Sunday.

Congratulations to the following People's Choice award winners:

Ford Model A: 1930 Model A Truck,  Robert Bartlett, Anchorage
Pre-War: 1930 Willys Knight, Scott and Donna Culbertson, Fairbanks
Post-War: 1957 Corvette, Terry Whitledge, Fairbanks (photo at right*)
Classic: 1973 Dodge Challanger, Brett and Cindy Helms, Fairbanks
Hot Rod: 1950 Mercury Coupe, Alan and Beccy Monsma, Fairbanks
Motorcycle: 1990 Harley-Davidson FXRLR, Chuck Mitchell, Fairbanks
Miscellaneous: International Harvester Super MD, Bub Larson, Fairbanks

Of course, a huge highlight of the weekend was having Dennis Gage from the Speed Channel here filming for his "My Classic Car" television show (we'll write more about this next). After a surprise visit by Governor Sean Parnell at the awards dinner, Dennis graciously presented the People's Choice plaques. That was followed by an entertaining musical revue by Mr. Whitekeys - all in all a very fun evening.

Many thanks to everyone who made the Cruise-In a hit. You know it's a success when even babies show up in hot rods!

For more photos from the Cruise-In visit: and

* photo by Ronn Murray Photography

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All Steamed Up!

by Nancy DeWitt

It's been a busy week getting ready for our Midnight Sun Cruise-In, but a very exciting one since it's involved getting our 1910 Stanley Steamer ready for Saturday. Alan Kelso, a steam car expert from Pennsylvania, flew up to help Willy get the car tuned up and running.

While the Stanley is in good shape, it needed a lot of work. Among other things, the guys repacked the valves, pumps and wheel bearings; cleaned the vaporizer; repaired the throttle; and cleaned out the pressure bottles.

Willy and Alan have been helped by a great group of docents this week. At right Ed is busy packing one of the water pumps.

For some reason Rod got stuck cleaning out the fuel tank.

The trade-off for all the hard work was getting to participate in steam car training with Alan. After three days, it was finally time to take the Stanley on her maiden Alaska run.

Here Alan goes over over the procedure for lighting the burner. It took about 10 minutes to build up adequate pressure. I never realized a car could moan like a lovestruck yak, but steamers make some funky noises as they "get up to steam." Alan says the sound is known as the mating call of a Stanley.

We'll have to post a video of the firing up on our YouTube channel. Better yet, come see us fire up the Stanley at 11 am this Saturday during the Cruise-In.

The ultimate payoff for our hard-working docents was getting trained to drive the Stanley. According to Alan, "The first thing you have to do is set fear and common sense aside, because no one in their right mind would light a fire in a wooden box and then climb onto it." Eager to  prove our minds weren't right, we all jumped at the chance to drive the car.  At right is Rod taking his lovely wife, Birgit, for a ride.

Of all the drivers, Ed had the biggest grin after his turn at the wheel. He's a huge fan of steam cars and has adopted our Stanley. "I've ridden in several kinds of steam cars," he said, "but I've waited 60 years to drive one. It was fantastic!"

Many thanks to Alan, Rod, Ed and Ron for all their help this week. Willy and Alan took the Stanley on the runaround with the local car club last night, where it was a huge hit.

Here's a photo of the blow-off after the guys returned from the evening drive. Everything about this car is very impressive, and we hope you'll come see it running on Saturday!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Early 4x4 Arrives at Museum

by Nancy DeWitt

Willy discovered this 1918 Duplex flatbed truck at the LeMay Museum last year. I was only mildly impressed with it, until I started doing some research on Duplex history. Based in Charlotte, Michigan, the Duplex Power Car Company built its first 3/4-ton, 4-wheel drive trucks in 1906. Though not America's first 4WD automobile, the Duplex is considered to be the first commercially viable 4x4 truck.

Early Duplex trucks were powered by a 14 hp 2-cylinder engine mounted under the driver's seat. In 1915 Duplex introduced the 2-ton Model C and the 3-ton Model D. In 1916 they built a 3.5-ton, C-cab truck (which is what we have), moved to Lansing and changed their name to the Duplex Truck Company.

The new model was powered by a 4-cylinder 40 hp Buda engine with a 4.25" bore and 5.5" stroke. The transmission had four forward speeds and reverse. Both differentials had power locks, allowing the truck to move if only one of the wheels had traction. Brakes could be applied to all four wheels via a foot pedal or hand lever. The Duplex had a carrying capacity of 7,000 lbs and could reach a maximum speed of 25 mph on a good road (without a load, I assume).

Willy and a few of our volunteers moved the Duplex out of storage and over to the museum last week. It looks a lot better outside than it did tucked in storage. Note the wooden artillery wheels ("made from second-growth hickory") and solid rubber tires. Is that a gas tank between the steering wheel and the hood?

It appears that very few of these early Duplex trucks have survived, so don't miss an opportunity to come see this piece of automotive history and the other great vehicles we have inside the museum.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Muscle Cars are Coming!

by Nancy DeWitt

Although some of the cars in our museum were undoubtedly big boys for their time, our collection does not include what are known as "muscle cars." A search of the Internet reveals several definitions for the term, including this one from the Muscle Car Society: "Muscle cars are high performance cars made from 1964 to 1974. The car manufacturers put large displacement V8 engines in mid-sized production models at a price that the average American could afford and gave them new model names. The huge V8 engines used in muscle cars were modified to produce large amounts of horsepower and torque."

Since we don't have muscle cars in the museum, we figured the next best thing was to hold a car show open to all vehicles built prior to 1981. Sure enough, we've got some great muscle cars coming to the Midnight Sun Cruise-In show on June 19. So far these include a '68 Pontiac GTO, '67 Sunbeam Tiger, '73 Dodge Challenger, '65 Chevy Chevelle SS, '72 Chevy Corvette, and David Karpick's '66 Shelby GT350 pictured at right.

A lot of other fabulous autos are also entered in the show, such as a '56 Ford Thunderbird, '49 Chrysler Windsor, '69 Jaguar XKE, '47 Diamond T and a whole passel of Ford Model As. It's shaping up to be a great weekend! Dennis Gage from the Speed Channel will be here with his cameraman - who knows which cars he will select to feature in a future episode of his My Classic Car cable television show?

There is still time to enter your car, motorcycle, tractor or other pre-1981 vehicle in the show, but be warned: we have a limited number of dash plaques and tickets to the awards dinner so we encourage you to register early. You can sign up at the museum or print out the registration form from our website. If you don't have a car to enter, we hope you'll come to the show and vote for the "People's Choice" favorites. For more information, call 907-450-2100.

Many thanks to the Vernon L Nash Antique Car Club for organizing the show!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Fine Car Club Car Show

by Nancy DeWitt

Alaska has a surprisingly robust number of vintage cars within our borders. The old car hobby is definitely alive and well in Fairbanks, with the Vernon L Nash Antique Car Club taking the lead in promoting the preservation and enjoyment of "ancient vehicles" through car shows, runarounds, rallies, tours, joint meets and social events. This past weekend the club held their annual car show at the Carlson Center.

Willy drove our 1914 Moline-Knight and 1927 Stutz Black Hawk the few miles to the show on Friday, hurrying to beat an impending thunderstorm. It was a crime that the passenger seat of the Stutz was empty on the drive over, but Scott (one of our museum clerks), was happy to catch a ride in the Moline-Knight. We saw more than a few jaws drop when folks saw our Stutz, and we had a great time telling folks about our museum and upcoming Midnight Sun Cruise-In set for June 18-20.

There was an impressive variety of cars and even a few antique tractors at the show. It was very hard to vote for the People's Choice Award for the four classes, as there were so many beautiful autos on display (like the 1967 Shelby GT500 at right). Hopefully we'll see many of these at the Cruise-In in a few weeks!

We've posted photos of more of the cars on our Facebook page at:
I hope you'll visit the page and identify some of the cars for me. For more information about the Vernon L Nash Antique Car Club, follow this link: