Monday, August 29, 2011

Jeffery Quads in Alaska

by Nancy DeWitt

As the historian for the museum, I love to chase after the stories of the first automobiles in Alaska. Locating photos of these vehicle is a bonus, and finding a survivor--like this 1915 Jeffery Quad--is an even bigger treat. Imagine my delight when I got to not only ride in it, but drive it around the streets of Eagle, Alaska a few years ago!

The first mention of Jeffery Quads I've found in an Alaska newspaper is the May 27, 1915 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The Northern Commercial (NC) Company had shipped in two on the steamer Reliance for two stage line operators and freighters (Fred Clinton, and Eagan and Griffin). Glowing praise was given to the trucks' four-wheel drive, which was expected to be the perfect vehicle for Alaska's rough roads. The Eagan and Griffin truck was put into operation between Gilmore and lower Fairbanks Creek.

On July 25, 1915, the Fairbanks Sunday Times announced that the City Council had ordered a Jeffery Quad through the NC Company. The plan was to use it as a firehose truck in place of a horse-drawn wagon. Its price, including shipping to Fairbanks, was $3,600. Five days later, the NC Company announced that it was going to replace its own horse-drawn passenger stages with two Jeffery Quads. These arrived on the steamer Alaska on August 26, while the quad ordered by the City Council arrived on the steamer Alameda a few weeks later. Although guaranteed to operate at up to 25 mph, the truck ordered for the fire department couldn't break 10 mph and was easily outrun by the horse team in a test run. On December 13, 1915, the City Council rejected its purchase.

Back on September 22, 1915 the NC Company announced that Alaska automotive pioneer Bob Sheldon, who had run an auto stage line of his own, would manage the new Jeffery Quad stages. The trucks, along with Dodge cars, were to be run between Fairbanks and Chitina to test their utility. Up to 18 passengers could be accommodated at a rate of $100 each, along with up to 1,500 pounds of mail. The company guaranteed "that no one will have to get out and push or walk" during the 6-day trip. The inaugural run south in 'Mose' left Fairbanks with Sheldon and 10 passengers on October 4. 'Big Ben,' with 17 passengers and Maurice Ashton at the wheel, followed on October 7, and Fred Clinton's quad left Fairbanks for the coast with several passengers on October 13. Above is one of the NC Company quads passing through Copper Center. Around October 15, "more snow than was ever known on the trail at this time of year" had fallen in the Alaska Range, stranding all of the stage vehicles, including the quads, between Rapids and Yost's.

There is little mention of the Jeffery Quad trucks after that. The Eagan and Griffin one was kept busy over the 1915-16 winter hauling loads of wood into Fairbanks with "never a bit of trouble. The driver is so housed in that the heat from the engine keeps him warm," even at 40 below zero. This is likely the Jeffery quad in the photo on one wall of our museum. On July 4, 1916, the Fairbanks Daily Times noted that "Scotty" Lyons had left Fairbanks to "bring back the big Jeffery-Quad trucks, which are to be shipped into the Kantishna." Apparently he "had a rather hard trip with the machines." I reckon the big quads proved to be too slow and cumbersome for use as passenger stages, being easily outperformed by the faster Dodges and Fords. Fred Clinton's transportation company with his Jeffery Quad was defunct by August of 1916, and in November of 1917, Eagan and Griffin put their quad up for sale.

So, what became of the five Jeffery Quads shipped here? One was reportedly used in Eagle by the U.S. Army for short time, and then was re-located to Dawson around 1920. The Eagle Historical Society acquired and restored it, and it now cruises in the annual Fourth of July parade in this community along the mighty Yukon River. A chassis from another Jeffery Quad also resides in Eagle. Are these Mose and Big Ben? Could there still be two quads out in the Kantishna District? If you find the remains of one, please let us know!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the Shop: 1921 Daniels

by Willy Vinton

This is our 1921 Daniels Model D 6-passenger touring car. It is a very original car that is in original condition, with the exception of a 1960's paint job.  It is equiped with a 404-cubic-inch flathead V-8 built by the Daniels Motor Car Company .

Here is the engine when we began work on it. As you can see it is a rather large one that will produce good power.

As is common with these older cars that have not had the best of care in the past, we found a lot of rust and corrosion in the water jackets. The crew spent a lot of time cleaning this one up before we could install the new radiator. Needless to say, Charlie and Mike got a little dusty before this was finished.

The radiator had to be repaired, so we crated it up and shipped it out to PA for a new core. Daniels made their radiator shells from cast pewter, and this is by far the heaviest radiator we've had to handle.
Here's the engine after being cleaned and repainted.

And here is the Daniels being fired up for her maiden run around Wedgewood Resort. She ran great, as you can see in this video.

No we didn't run over Mike, really, he was just checking to see if we had any coolant leaks. Besides, he is much faster than me and able to get out of the way in time. Many thanks to all the docents that helped with this project and the others as well. Good job!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caption This

Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In The Shop: 1903 Cadillac

by Willy Vinton

Recently we decided it was time for the 1903 Cadillac to get out and get some exercise. It started up just like it should: gas on, oiler on, ignition on, spark retarded, carb tickled, throttle at idle, strength mustered, crank in hand, and then with a half flip of the crank it was running. This is a great little car that is fun to drive and is very dependable. Tim even got a chance to take it for a spin with his father, Carl, who is here for a visit. With Tim and Carl in the front, and Barb and me in the back (boy are those seats narrow), off we went for a tour of Wedgewood Resort. The first complaint I heard was from Tim, questioning the effectiveness of the brakes. They may not be the best, but they are at least a suggestion to slow you down.

After a few trips, we discovered that the water pump was not doing its job as it should. You can see it was a little rusty...

So, we removed it and cleaned it up, flushed the cooling system and radiator, and got the little Caddy back on line. If only the rain would allow us to get out and enjoy it again.....

At right is Mike, working at rust control, cleaning the water pump housing out so that it can be put back to use. Mike is one the volunteers that come in to help with our Tuesday work session, he was joined by Ron Allen as well, so we had a small crew this week but got a lot done.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Buckmobile Mystery

by Nancy DeWitt

During its short life (1902-1905), the Buckmobile Company's little automobile went through a surprising number of design changes.

This is from an advertisement in the April 3, 1902 issue of  Motor World. Note the wooden dash. A hand-written note on the ad questions if this was a 1901 prototype made before the company incorporated.

This is one of a series of photographs from the Buckmobile factory and is labeled "1st Buckmobile (prototype) 1902."

From an advertisement in the Cycle & Automobile Trade Journal, May 1903. This was the year that the Buckmobile was introduced at the New York Automobile Show at Madison Square Garden

From an ad in The Automobile dated February 27, 1904. Note the square radiator on the false bonnet (the engine remained mounted under the seat through 1905). The Buckmobile business wagon produced in 1905 had a similar radiator style.

From an October 1904 ad in The Automobile. This is the final and most common style of Buckmobile runabout I found in my research. Buckmobile merged with the Black Diamond Automobile Company in 1904, but the failing business was sold at a "sheriff's sale" in August 1905.

Then there is our 1904 Buckmobile runabout, with its oval radiator and rounded bonnet, both of which appear to be original to the car. Photographs show this was on the auto when it was disinterred from a barn in 1937. Its original owner was a doctor in Camden, NY; its next home was Walt Meyers' Bridgewater Auto Museum. 

Any guesses as to why this front-end style is unlike anything pictured in the sales literature?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Our New Book is Here!

"This book is an invaluable introduction to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, one of the little-known treasures of Alaska, where an essential slice of 20th Century history is brought to life..." -Dermot Cole, author and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner columnist

Our new book, Alaska's Fountainhead Collection: Vintage Treads and Threads, has arrived from the printer. This glossy, 120-page softcover book takes you inside the Fountainhead Museum to explore 42 of our finest automobiles, such as the only Hay Motor Vehicle ever made and the last-surviving Argonne. Some of the other marques represented include Compound, Hertel, Daniels, Franklin, Cartercar, Owen Magnetic, Heine-Velox, Stutz, Cadillac, Wills Sainte Claire, Packard and Moline-Knight.

The book also features chapters on Alaska's automotive heritage and our historic clothing collection:

There are well over 200 color photographs inside, plus archival photos from Alaska's early motoring days. This high-quality book is a great bargain at only $19.95. You can purchase copies at the museum (open Sundays) or at Wedgewood Resort's front desk (24/7). If outside of Fairbanks, you can phone in your order to 907-450-2100. Priority postage/handling (domestic) is $7.50 for up to two books.

"Fairbanks really isn't a very big town, and to be honest, I wasn't expecting much from the museum, but I could not have been more wrong. The place absolutely blew me away." 
- Dennis Gage, host of "My Classic Car with Dennis Gage"