Friday, December 30, 2011

A Brush with History

by Nancy DeWitt

Our little 1908 Brush runabout has a story to tell, and not just because its frame and axles are made of wood. This unrestored, single-cylinder automobile once belonged to Gilda Gray, a silent film star who popularized the "shimmy" dance in the 1920s. The thrice-married Gray led a colorful life, performing in the Ziegfeld Follies and Vaudeville before becoming a screen sensation. You can see her shimmy in a movie playing on a video kiosk near our Brush.

While researching the history of automobiles in Fairbanks, I was delighted to find that at least one Brush was imported here, a 10-HP, 4-passenger runabout that arrived in 1910. Its new owner was William A. Coghill, a "circulator" for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The August 3, 1910 issue of that newspaper included this colorful opinion of Coghill's new purchase:

 "Bill great trouble and expense to himself has invested in a gasoline buggy that this great purveyor of news and molder of public opinion may be placed in the hands of the readers in a manner that is thoroughly modern. Hereafter, the asthmatic cough about the hour of five o'clock will announce to the residents of Ester that the latest news sizzling hot from the press is about to be delivered upon them. Then from a blue gasoline haze and brown dust blur, from which comes the clank of machinery and the cooing noises of the chauffeur talking baby talk to his pet, the readers of the sheet will be prostrated by the blows of the paper delivered by that powerful left-handed flip of Coghill."

Coghill would go on to start an automobile passenger service between Fairbanks and Ester with the little Brush. In 1913 he purchased a Metz and three years later imported the first automobile to Nenana--a Ford truck. A 1922 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner listed a Brush among the town's 120 automobiles, but the fate of Coghill's first car is unknown. At least we know what became of the Brush that once belonged to the "Shimmy Queen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hobbled by Fashion

by Nancy DeWitt

Of all the fashions of the Edwardian era, none was more controversial—or dangerous—as the hobble skirt that was popular from 1910 to 1914. Hobble skirts were so narrow at their base that wearers were forced to take tiny, geisha-like steps. Many denounced the hobble skirt as unsafe, while others ridiculed such a restrictive fashion appearing at a time when suffragettes were demanding more freedom.

We just put this beautiful blue hobble dress on display. It is hobbled by its narrow cut and a placquet that hugs the knee area.  Made of fine woven silk with oriental or early Art Deco motifs, the fabric is very lightweight and seems more appropriate for a scarf than a dress. The dress was likely made by a private or skilled home seamstress.  

Hobble skirts were outrageous enough to make an impact on the transportation industry. By 1914, streetcars throughout the world were modified with special ‘hobble skirt cars’ that had low doors, allowing a woman to mount and disembark the car “without encouraging curiosity and diminishing privacy.” Ironically, the hobble skirt trend died soon after these streetcars were introduced.

Can you think of any other fashions that influenced transportation design?   For a video about Hobble Dresses, please visit our Fountainhead Museum YouTube Channel.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Fordson Snow Motor

by Nancy DeWitt

This past Sunday, two men braved Fairbanks' sub-freezing temperatures and extremely slick roads to visit the museum in their Model A Fords. One of the drivers wanted his car photographed next to our 1926 Fordson Snow Motor. This unusual "Snow Devil," which is on loan to us from the Pioneer Air Museum, attracts attention from around the world. In fact, the above link takes you to one of our most-read blog posts. 

This past week we were delighted to receive several Snow Motor photos from Clem Clement of Virginia. Clem, a train collector, did a 7,400-mile cross-country tour last summer that included a stop at the World Mining Museum in Butte, Montana, home to the Snow Motor pictured here. Clem graciously allowed us to post his photos on our blog.

Armstead Snow Motors, Inc. of New York developed and marketed the snow-motor apparatus as a conversion kit that could fit on a number of conveyances, including cars. The kit was patterned on the “Snow Motor Vehicle” patented in 1920 by Frederick R. Burch of Seattle, who later assigned the rights to Armstead Snow Motors.

The spiral ribs you see on each cylinder are mirror images of one another; when power was applied, the cylinders revolved in opposite directions and propelled the vehicle forward or backward. Each cylinder received its power from a separate clutch that engaged and disengaged according to the position of the steering wheel. In the summer, the cylinders and yokes could be removed and replaced by the tractor’s original axles and wheels.

The World Mining Museum's Snow Motor has a few more intact parts than the one we have on display, including the rear driving wheels, drive sprockets and chains. Nice to see that theirs still has the patent plate. The most complete Snow Motor we know of is the one at the Hendrick Ag History Center near Sacramento, California. You can see photos of it here.

Thanks again to Clem for sharing these photos!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In the Shop: 1907 Ford Model K Roadster

by Willy Vinton

This is our 1907 Ford Model K Roadster, one of only 25 known to still exist and the oldest roadster known. It is powered by a 6-cylinder, 405-cubic-inch vertical inline L-head engine. Although conservatively rated at 40 horsepower, this sporty roadster is capable of 70 mph.


The upscale Model K was forced upon a reluctant Henry Ford by company directors determined to enter the lucrative luxury car market. Ford felt it was too expensive, too complicated for the average man, and too hard to maintain. The K was plagued by mechanical failures, and its production ended in 1908. Only 900 Model Ks, including 50 roadsters, were built during its two-year run.

As you can see, the engine was rather complicated compared to the type of car that Henry wanted to--and would--build. We are almost finished with the work on this car, so if we get some warm weather in the next week we might be able to run it around the parking lot. I don't think those tires will offer much traction, though!

* See an October 2012 update here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In the Shop: Mercury-bodied Model T Speedster

by Willy Vinton

Just out of high school? Need a sports car? Can't afford a Stutz or Mercer? Back in the 1920s the answer was to go out and find a Model T Ford, strip the body off, hop up the engine and purchace a Mercury Speedster Kit. The cost of the kit ran about $185 and would make a sporty little ride like the one in our museum. We finally had time this week to attach its step plates, so that was Tuesday's workshop project (along with a few others).

This is the finished product. As you can see, the steps help complete the car (ignore the skinny guy in the driver's seat). This speedster is a fun little car to cruise around town in, (warm days only).
The engine is a Model T Ford built in 1923, equiped with a Rajo overhead conversion, upgraded ignition system, and a few other custom tricks. A stock transmission, built with a up graded high speed clutch, delivers the power to the rear diff, which is stock T.

Thanks to the crew for their help with this project. Ron Allen, Rod Benson, Paul Tekin, and Mike Lecorchick.

You can see a video of this speedster here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Gasoline Pump from the Past

by Nancy DeWitt

The first automobiles arrived in Fairbanks in 1908, but it would be another eight years before the first gasoline pump was installed in the town. Until that point, motorists had to buy their gasoline at a hardware store, or, as this ad from a June 1910 issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner shows, the local gun store. One could buy gasoline by the case--the Northern Commercial (N.C.) Company charged $5.25 to $6.50/case in 1915, which was about the price of a case of Carnation canned milk. One also had the option of bringing their own bucket to the store and having gasoline ladled into it from a barrel.

On July 10, 1916, the Alaska Citizen described the wonder of the new "gasoline pumping device" that had just been installed at the N.C. Company. "And from the tank from which the gasoline is taken quantities of the fluid ranging from one pint to one gallon can be secured. The pump brings the gasoline from the tank and puts it directly in the gasoline tank of the automobile by the hose. The tank holds 300 gallons. Therefore, all an automobilist needs to do when he wants to secure some gasoline is to drive his machine up, make his wants known and pay his money, turn a crank and watch the machine do the work of filling up the tank of his automobile." The device was likely what is called a curb pump.

In the 1920s, "visible" gas pumps became popular. Gas was hand pumped into a transparent, graduated glass cylinder at the top of the unit, allowing the customer to see the quality and the color of the fuel (dirty gas was a problem then). The desired amount of fuel was then transferred to the customer's tank by gravity. The visible gas pump on display in our Alaska gallery is a Tokheim 620 model from the late 1920s. John J. Tokheim patented a number of gasoline pump devices and is credited with inventing the first known gasoline curb service for automobiles.

This pump came from the historic Miller House at mile 114 of the Steese Highway. Miller House operated as a combination roadhouse, general store and post office from 1896 until 1970. Known for its wonderful food, the roadhouse catered to miners, freighters and stage drivers operating between Fairbanks and Circle on the Yukon River. The trail was upgraded for automobiles in 1927, and that September a Studebaker Big Six touring car driven by Archie Broxon of the Midnight Sun Transportation Company became the first large auto to reach Miller House over the new "Yukon Highway."

Do you remember seeing this pump at the Miller House? We'd love to find a photo of it when it stood there. 

Postscript from Willy: We would also like to thank the volunteers that helped with the restoration project of this historic gas pump. We would have a  hard time getting done the things we do without the help of a group of our "Pit Crew" that comes in every Tuesday to help with projects, so when you see them, give them a big thanks, they deserve it. Ron Allen, Rod Benson, Paul Tekin, Mike Lecorchick, Ed McLaughlin, Terry Whitledge, Johny Newman, and Jerry and Donna Krier for the fuel pump, thanks to them this piece of history stands tall in the museum for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Behind the Ropes" Tours Planned

by Nancy DeWitt

Have you always wanted to step over the ropes at the museum and take a closer look at some of our cars? Here's your chance!

On December 11, you can join museum manager Willy Vinton for an in-depth tour of the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum’s signature automobiles. We’ll look under the hoods, open the doors and tour the shop to learn what makes these cars significant.

Tour 1 - 11:00 am
Tour 2 - 1:00 pm

Each tour is limited to 20 people and reservations are required by calling 450-2100. The tours are free with museum admission ($8) and to season-pass holders.

I'll be at the museum from noon to 2 pm that day to sign copies of the museum's new book, Alaska's Fountainhead Collection: Vintage Treads and Threads. These books are only $19.95 and make great gifts. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Puttin' on the Ritz

by Nancy DeWitt

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to,
Why don't you go where fashion sits,
Puttin' on the Ritz.

Winter has arrived in Fairbanks, which means that one can find a fundraiser or gala to attend just about every weekend in this busy town. We've noticed that several upcoming events, including a few booked in the museum, have a Roaring Twenties or Art Deco theme. If you're looking to be stylish, here are a few tips.

In general, women's fashion in the 1920s was characterized by loose, drop-waist dresses, short hair, cloche hats, nude hose and Mary Janes or t-strap shoes. What we call the Flapper style actually only lasted from around 1926 to 1928. During the Flapper period, some dress hemlines reached above the knees, but just barely. The ultra-short, fringe-laden 20s dresses found in today's costume shops would likely have been frowned upon, even by the most rebellious of flappers. The Art Deco era is said to have started as early as 1910, but is more typically thought of as the period of 1920-1939. This gives anyone attending an Art Deco-themed party a lot of options, including beaded, calf-length dresses, colorful chemises, or slinky gowns reminiscent of Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich.

Men wore 3-piece suits with narrow lapels throughout the 1920s. High waisted-jackets and tail coats were popular for formal wear. Trousers were straight-legged and often short enough so that socks were visible. Sportswear included knickers and sweaters (or sweater vests), while hats ranged from newsboy caps and boater hats to fedoras and top hats. During the 1930s, double-breasted suits with wide lapels, white dinner jackets (worn with black pants & bow ties) and blazers became popular, as did "Palm Beach" suits made from linen, silk or seersucker. Boldly colored and patterned "gangster" or "zoot" suits also appeared in the 1930s. These had pronounced shoulders, narrow waists and wide trouser bottoms and were usually topped by a colorful felt hat. Oxford and two-toned shoes were worn throughout the 1920s and 30s. More on 1930s fashion can be found here.

We've listed some websites below to help you dress the part. If you know of other resources for 1920s-1930s reproduction or vintage clothing, please add them in the Comments section.

Reproduction and vintage-inspired clothing
Leluxe Clothing Co. (Art Deco dresses)
The Vintage Dancer (men's suits, knickers & Oxford bag pants; ladies' dresses; shoes, hats, accessories for both)
Unique Vintage (flapper dresses and accessories)
Blue Velvet Vintage (beaded 20s-style dresses)
Revamp Vintage (men's and women's 1920s and 30s outfits)
Recollections (1920s dresses)
Men's zoot suits, zoot pants - pricey and less so

Wearable Vintage 
Adeline's Attic (women's dresses and shoes - Etsy)
Adored Vintage (women's dresses, hats & shoes)
Dorothea's Closet (women's dresses, mostly priced for the serious collector)

Harper House (1920s dress patterns)
Eva Dress (1920s-30s dress patterns)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Checking Out the Hartung Auction in Chicago

by Willy Vinton

Well, if you have been looking to score a Ford Model A of nearly any configuration, the Lee Roy Hartung auction held in Chicago last week would have been a good place to start. There were 79 automobiles here, none in running order, most complete and restorable. Some had been submerged under water up to two feet deep for extended periods of time, with rust lines showing the damage that could have been prevented with a little care.                      

As you exited the main tent and walked by tables and piles of parts, these were the first cars outside that you saw. They had all been sitting out in the rain for the last couple of months, so sadly the interior on most had gotten a good chance to sprout some mold.

After seeing these cars, you turned to the right and looked down a long line of more cars. As you can see, there were some good-looking projects, but oh, so much cost to freight them home to Alaska! The row of items in front of the cars was just the beginning of some of the parts available at the auction. They continued down to the fence at the far end, and then turned right. There were a lot of hit-and-miss engines, and everything else that you could imagine. I will post some more pictures later that will cover some of the more interesting parts and such. Wind and rain made for few people outside looking that day, but bids were high on a lot of the stuff. But, if you wanted NOS (new old stock) Model A or T fenders, they were cheap--groups of a dozen or so sold in the $250 range. Auction results are posted here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside...For Toyota

by Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton

Interior Alaska is a land of extremes, especially when it comes to temperatures. Ranging from bone-chilling lows of -50º F (-45º C) or colder in winter to surprising highs over 90º F (32º C) in the summer, Fairbanks has one the largest seasonal temperature differentials of any city in the world.

Surprisingly, many people visit Fairbanks in the winter despite-or even because--of our cold temperatures. These include tourists who come to see the northern lights, spectacular ice carvings, sled dog races and a whole host of other winter events. We have also become a hub for cold-weather testing for clothing, snowmobiles, automobiles, and airplanes ranging from the Concord to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. So it was no surprise this week when a crew from Toyota showed up at the museum recently and told us they were in town to cold-weather test the company's latest electric cars.

This group of Japanese engineers came to visit the museum on Sunday, and Willy was fortunate to be able to spend some time with them. He writes: I think they left having learned a lot about the history of the American automobile, and the engineering genious of some of the pioneers of the time.

The Toyota crew enjoyed seeing unusual cars like the Compound, Hertel and Hay, before checking out our electric cars. Pictured is our 1903 Columbia Mark XIX Surrey that they spent some time studying. 

After spending additional time examining the 1913 Argo electric limousine in the shop, I had to ask the question,"Your new electric car, under summer conditions, will travel how far"? After some discussion among themselves, the reply was "about 120 kilometers."  So, if they keep up the good work they should soon be able to match our1912 Rauch-Lang, which could run 70 miles on a charge! However, their car will have a little more creature comforts as well as travel a lot faster. Time will tell.

The 1903 Columbia is now on display, so come in and see it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Arrival! 1903 Columbia Electric

by Willy Vinton

Here is one of the new additions to the museum that arrived on Monday. This little Columbia Mark XIX Surrey is a very nice car, restored from a complete original.

The Columbia history begins in 1897 and ends in 1913, during which time many changes were taking place, such as experimenting with gasoline cars, and even a high breed in 07-08 known as the Magnetic.  The model you see here was built as a taxi to be used aroound the cities, and was very succesful, with this being the only known survivor.

This is the original volt/amp gauge that tells you the status of the batteries and the amount of power being used to move the car.
As you can see from this picture, our Columbia is a very original car, with almost all of the wood and components being the ones installed when it was built 108 years ago. The twin motors give the car good performance, and as we learned yesterday, the very large brakes you see at the rear wheels are only mildly effective. Tim seems to think they are a little lacking, but with proper planning you are able to stop most of the time.
This shows the original controllers, and all the wiring that is original as well. It has the addition of a safety shutoff that you see on the floor, but the rest is all as it was. You should come in and check this one out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hershey Swap Meet 2011

by Willy Vinton

After a long plane ride and a short drive from Harrisburg to Hershey, I started  searching for treasures. The first thing that caught my eye was this really nice Brewster, not that we need one, but they are nice to look at.  The weather was great, lots of sunshine and in the 60s to 70s all the time we were there.
Need a fender for a Model A?? Or a body for one? There was nor shortage of Model A and T parts this year. It seemed to me that attendance was down from previous years, but some of the vendors said that they sold about the same amount of items. I think because the folks that come to this are hard core collectors and restorers that would be there rain or shine or flood.
This is a set of lights that were on display at Rick Britton's booth. Boy were they nice! I told him I wanted them, but he said they were spoken for already, and that was the first morning. The really good stuff goes fast. Come to find out, Allen Schmidt--one of our restorers--spoke for them, so we are on the list for the next set he does, which should be in the near future.
Friday I walked the car corral, and like most years there was lots to look at from early cars to late models. This one however just jumps right out at you and screams, "Take me home!" As you can tell by the people around it, the windshield is just over 6 foot high, it has 900X20 tires on it, and a monster Seagraves engine in it. I could almost see it sitting beside our midget racers, but I restrained myself, as it would just be way too much noise in the back parking lot. After 3 and 1/2 days of hard walking, 2 nights of auctions, then a 4am wake-up, I was off on my trip's next leg to Long Island, NY. That's another story, as it is 4 am Wednesday morning and my alarm will be going off in 30 minutes. Have to pack and head out to the airport, then home.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chasing Ghosts - Part III: Thomas Flyer

by Nancy DeWitt

Fairbanks boasts an impressive list of the first automobiles to arrive in this Gold Rush town, including Pope-Toledo, Franklin, White Steamer, Pierce Great Arrow and Thomas Flyer. We have been fortunate to track down photographs of all but the Thomas, and its fate remains a mystery.

© Bettmann/CORBIS
Many know about the Thomas Flyer that came to Valdez, Alaska in 1908 during the famous New York to Paris automobile race. Alas, she never made it beyond the wharf. Whoever thought that automobiles could travel from Valdez to Nome across 1,000 miles of winter trails was seriously mistaken. It didn't help that the Thomas and her crew arrived in early April, two weeks behind schedule. The only way an automobile could have made it through 15-foot, melting snow drifts was in pieces, pulled by several dog teams. So, the Thomas and her crew caught the first steamer to Seattle, where they would resume and eventually win the race. (This historic auto now resides at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.)

© Michael Maslan Historic Photographs/CORBIS
Meanwhile, a Thomas Flyer had already made it to Nome, having arrived there by steamship in 1905. The Alaska Automobile Transportation Company in Olympia, Washington had big plans to develop a passenger stage between Nome and Solomon City on a 32-mile toll road. The road was never completed though, and the Thomas came under the ownership of A.E. Boyd, the general manager for the Alaska Telephone and Telegraph Company. Other than providing rides up and down Nome's beach, this car's fate remains unknown.

The Nome Thomas Flyer   © Bettmann/CORBIS
In 1908, Fairbanks undertaker Hosea Ross established a passenger-stage between Fairbanks and Fox with his Franklin touring car. The following year, he ordered a Thomas Flyer, "a big 70." He had to take out a loan to cover its $4,000 cost and $600 freight charge. Ross did daily runs to Chatanika with the Thomas, earning about $100 per day and quickly paying off his debt. His biggest expense involved tires, which cost him $300 for a set and only lasted about a month due to the poor road conditions. In the fall of 1910, Ross took the Thomas to the new mining camp of Iditarod. He broke through the river ice on his first run to Dikeman, while snowstorms stymied his attempts to drive between Iditarod and Flat. Pronouncing his Iditarod venture a failure, Ross bought a dog team and returned to Fairbanks in the spring of 1911.

Did Ross leave his Thomas Flyer out in the Iditarod Mining District? Not likely, as a 1914 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner includes it in a list of 25 automobiles "in actual running condition in Fairbanks today." How we would love to find it, tucked away in the shed of a willing seller!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baseball, Hugh Chalmers and the MVP Award

by Nancy DeWitt
© Luke Johnson/Southcreek Global

Two nights ago the sports world watched an astonishing drama unfold during the final games of Major League Baseball's regular season. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated aptly described it as "the most thrilling 129 minutes in baseball history." With the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees less than three outs away from winning their respective games, fans witnessed a series of spectacular, come-from-behind plays that propelled the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays to victory.

What does this have to do with antique automobiles? Well, there's a good chance that the 2011 Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards presented by the American and National Leagues will go to athletes that played in Wednesday night's games. And, it just so happens that baseball's first MVP award originated with an automobile company. Just over 100 years ago, the Chalmers Motor Car Company cleverly decided to promote their cars by piggy-backing onto baseball's popularity at the time. In 1910, president Hugh Chalmers announced that the player from each league with the highest batting average would be presented with a trophy and brand-new Chalmers Model Thirty. Controversy soon surrounded the American League's top contenders, Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie, which Chalmers sidestepped by awarding each a new car.

Photo courtesy of the Creamer Family
Hugh Chalmers soon lost interest in the award and ended it in 1914, but not before broadening its scope to award "the most important and useful player to his club." The Chalmers Motor Car Company would meet its own demise in 1924 after producing 6,525 automobiles. Fewer than 150 of those survive today, one of which is generously on loan to our museum by the Creamer family. This 1910 Chalmers-Detroit Model K "30" Roadster has a rich Fairbanks history, arriving here in 1912 by way of steamship, rail car and sternwheel riverboat. It eventually passed to Charlie Creamer, owner of the northernmost operating dairy in America. Besides appearing in numerous parades, this treasured automobile was the first car to travel across two new Chena River bridges when they opened in 1953 and 1960.

While it remains to be determined who will be remembered as baseball's Most Valuable Players from 2011, this Chalmers-Detroit has already established itself as one of Alaska's most valuable automotive artifacts. While she still needs work to get her in top running condition, hopefully she will be ready to run in next year's Golden Days Parade--exactly 100 years after her arrival in this fair city.

Friday, September 23, 2011

1899 Hertel

by Derik Price

It's not everyday you experience the sound of a 110+ year old piece of machinery, let alone get to ride in one.  But yesterday we did both.  Willy and Charlie got the 1899 Hertel operational and we went for a ride - albeit a slow and gentle one.  For a brief history of our Hertel check out Nancy's blog post from when it arrived in Fairbanks back in October of 2009.  Now then, first thing you'll notice about the Hertel is that she appears to be a fragile, pair of bicycles with a motor.  But it was actually constructed quite well, as her endurance to this day can attest.  Next, you might wonder how the thing could work at all without a carburetor, distributor, spark plugs / wires, starter, and no real transmission.  Then you take a closer look at how the mechanicals operate and you really start to appreciate the tremendous effort that went into this machine in order to make it gloriously simply to operate.  And it does operate, perfectly well in fact.

The starting 'lever' is a tad inglorious in operation, but you start it from the seat by adjusting the 'air' setting with a little lever, twist the 'throttle' dial on the handle, squeeze the handle, then just pull back on the lever (20 or 30 times) and it'll fire right up. (Getting the proper fuel and air setting proved to be challenging.)  Willy, of course, failed to read the manual first which clearly states how to start the engine ----  "The handle having a rotary motion with an index on top to gauge the position of the charging valve.  The helical slot is shown in the handle at the right.  The small hand clip when closed upon the handle lifts the rod linked to it and the stop on the steering pawl, when the pawl drops into the teeth of the geared crank wheel and a fore and aft motion of the lever starts the motor in motion; at the same time a twist of the handle by the hand opens the the gasoline regulating valve by the movement of the rod and attached bell crank, shown at the left in figure 182, by which the long lever shown at the bottom of the cut, is given a horizontal movement that operates the plunger in the gasoline regulating valve shown at the lower left hand corner in the cut."    Pretty straight forward I thought.

But it does start, eventually, and the first thing you notice is a VERY unusual sound, mainly attributable to it's 'atmospheric' intake valves.  Anyone who has seen the movie 'Flubber' will have a pretty good idea of what the engine sounds like.  I tried my best to capture the sound in a video (posted here on our YouTube Channel)  Once started, just push the lever forward to engage the drive pulley to the wheel and you're off.  It does have two forward speeds which are - Slow and WAY faster than you should probably drive this thing.  The video I took was in 'slow' speed and the front wheels shake, shimmy and rattle like you might think it's coming apart.  And in fact, in just a few laps around the parking lot we lost a couple screws from the 'fuel system' (using that term loosely).  I told Willy before we started that he had a few screws loose, but that's a different story.

The experience of riding in the little carriage is very difficult to describe.  In some respects it's a very odd and slightly unnerving experience.  The Hertel is, after all, an antique piece of American History.  Something you've always come to understand as a 'display' in a museum that you don't get to touch, let alone startup and actually drive.  On the other hand, it's like an exhilarating time warp to the past allowing one to feel, smell and experience what it was like to drive an 'automobile' 110 years ago.  That was before the Wright Brothers flew the World's first powered airplane; when Electricity was a novelty in many cities;  the crank telephone was 'cutting edge'; and the automobile as a form of transportation was just an experiment - by putting two bicycles together and adding an engine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kirkland Concours d'Elegance

by Derik Price

It was a great pleasure to attend the Kirkland concourse this previous Sunday.  Willy, his wife Wilma, Charlie and I attended with the 1932 Cadillac V-16 Limo and the 1910 Whiting Roadster.  The weather was simply gorgeous and not a cloud in the sky.  Although the temperature did get up to near 90 F both days, we soaked it up ahead of our inevitable Fairbanks winter.

Willy, Charlie and Wilma performed no less than 'reality show' level of vehicle preparation  to meet the entry deadline and deliver the vehicles Saturday night.   I missed out on all the fun, so I was told.  Actually,  I was having my own 'fun' saturday afternoon as my rental car suffered a serious malfunction just minutes onto the freeway out of Sea-Tac.  For no apparent reason the front right wheel nearly locked up and a two lane dance ensued before I could safely reach the shoulder.  Never a dull moment...

But onto the show.  First off, I'll note with much lament that neither Fountainhead vehicle received an award this year.  The 1930's vehicles in attendance were all terrific.  First and second place went to a Packard and Lincoln, both restored by Murray Motor Car.  It was a big day for them and they deserved it.  I stood by our Cadillac for the most part and received no end of accolades and comments about the vehicle, its cavernous back seat, and its mighty V-16 engine.  But in the end, it just wasn't the Cadillac's day. 

The little Whiting was simply spot on.  It was beautiful and near perfect in every respect.  It's deep, deep red color, white tires and brass just popped under the summer blue sky and tree lined backdrop.   Honors for its class went to a huge Simplex that was truly a grand vehicle in every sense of the word.  But the perfect little Whiting, well, just wasn't grand enough I guess.   At least we'll get to enjoy it everyday once it arrives in Fairbanks in a few weeks. I can already picture it on the floor, shining like a little jewel.

On a side note.  One of the racing class awards went to a 1957 Aston Martin that i thought was deserving in every respect.  I consider it a privilege just to be next to the beast when it was fired up to drive around the winners circle.  The true measure of any real racing car I would sum up as this - when the engine is fired up in a public setting - animals flee, children start crying and men spontaneously erupt into cheers.  It achieved all three in mere seconds.

So we all had a good time and after the show and dinner Sunday night our little group of Alaskans were treated to one of the rarest sights of all - a warm AND dark night.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We Get Around

by Willy Vinton

The rather short window of warm weather for driving antique cars in Fairbanks is slowly closing. As a result, there's been a flurry of activity in the museum shop to get the rest of the cars outside for some exercise. In addition to the Stanley & Buckmobile featured in recent posts, we've taken out the following in the past few weeks, either for short drives around the Wedgewood Resort campus or for runs around Fairbanks with the Vernon L Nash Antique Car Club:

1932 Chrysler Custom Imperial Series CL convertible sedan (coachwork by LeBaron)

This is a very impressive car to drive and see operating--very smooth and it is stunning to see up close. It has one of the finest restorations you will ever see.

1921 Daniels Model D 6-passenger touring (our star mechanic Charlie Jergens at the wheel, with docents Ron and Nancy Allen along for the ride).

This car has a very strong presence--a very striking car to drive and see. It is an original car with a 1960s paint job. We rebuilt the radiator and did some minor engine work, so it is good for another 50 years.

1907 Franklin Type D landaulet

This is a 4 cylinder, air-cooled car. It's a little temperamental and requires lots of attention. It smokes a little (okay, a lot), but that keeps the operator from getting mosquito-bit, as the bugs stay clear of it. In spite of its little issues, it is a fantastic piece of history.
Our new 1923 Mercury-bodied Ford Model T speedster.

Okay, now we're talking fun. This was the ultimate in a poor man's sports car. If you could not afford a Bearcat or Mercer, you just stripped down a T, got a Mercury speedster kit, hopped up the engine and you had this. What a kick to drive!
1911 Ford Model T open runabout

We just finished a full rebuild on the transmission of this car, so it was good to see it outside in operation again. If you were in the museum the last month, you saw the car on display, completely disassembled while we waited for parts (the transmission drums were the hold up). Runs like a charm now! Photographed at Creamer's Field by Ronn Murray Photography.

1905 Curved Dash Oldsmobile

This was the second time this season we had this cute little automobile out for some exercise. It is a very fun car to operate. You really don't need a speedometer, as you know when you're going fast enough! The "CDO" was one of the most popular cars of the day.

1936 Packard V12 Series 1408 

What a car! Charlie had it out for a test drive on Wednesday, and we are now working on the vacuum brake system. Once the brakes are up to specs, we'll put a few more miles on this impressive car.

1929 Ford Model A deluxe coupe

We just moved this to our corporate office for staff to use for errands. Like all old cars, this one requires a little TLC from time to time. We had to replace the ignition switch and put a head gasket in to make sure that it runs trouble free. If you see her cruising around Fairbanks, wave and smile, because she looks pretty good for her age.