Monday, May 28, 2012

Barn Finds at the Gilmore

by Nancy DeWitt

I recently toured the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, Michigan. This place should be on every car lover's bucket list! The Gilmore is actually a collection of several museums, including the original Donald S. and  Genevieve Gilmore collection. Most, like the Classic Car Club of America Museum and Pierce-Arrow Museum, are located in historic or replica barns spread out on a beautiful 90-acre campus.

The Gilmore's centerpiece is the new 45,000 square-foot Automotive Heritage Center, which houses a theater, six exhibit galleries, gift shop and a fantastic library. After touring that I wandered over to the Campania Barn (pictured above), where I found this "Waltz Blue" 1948 Tucker sedan. It's the lowest original mileage Tucker automobile in existence, with less than 50 miles on the odometer.

While most of the cars on display look like they just rolled off the showroom floor, there are some interesting unrestored vehicles as well. This very rare 1924 Barley 5-passenger touring remains in its original, unrestored condition. Only two Barleys (sisters to the Roamer automobile) are known to survive, and both are at the Gilmore. The one pictured here may not be flashy, but it represents an important part of Michigan's automotive heritage.

My favorite exhibit was in the G Barn, where the John Stegeman Pedal Car Collection resides. Here I found the 1930 Rolls Royce Phantom II Sedanca DeVille used in the 1967 movie "The Gnome-Mobile." Donald Gilmore and Walt Disney were close friends, which explains how the Gnome-Mobile's back seat became the only movie set located outside of the Disney Corporation. The public isn't allowed inside the Gnome-Mobile, but after a generous helping of pixie dust several participants attending the National Association of Automobile Museums conference were given a ride. Many thanks to the Gilmore's Director, Michael Spezia, for the tour of the museums, shop, archives and storage area. In case you can't tell from the photo, I had a blast!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Highwheelers and White Wheelers

by Nancy DeWitt

We have a busy week ahead, starting with the Vernon L. Nash Classic Car Show at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks this weekend. We'll have our 1909 International Harvester Auto Buggy and 1923 Mercury-bodied Model T Speedster at the show, so stop by for a visit if you're in town. The show hours are 10-5 on Saturday and 11-5 on Sunday.

We're putting Willy through "White Steamer boot camp" soon and hope to have him trained up on our big 1907 Model G before month's end. In the meantime, we were delighted to have two special visitors stop by the museum yesterday to see our White Steam Car. Mrs. Conrad White of Gates Mills, Ohio is shown here with her grandson, Michael York White of Missoula, Montana. Michael is the great great great grandson of Thomas H. White (founder of the White Sewing Machine Co.) and the great great grandson of Rollin H. White (of White Motor Car fame). How great is that?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Duesenberg Dispatch: 2012 NAAM Conference

by Nancy DeWitt

Last week I had the good fortune to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM) in Auburn, Indiana. The event was hosted by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful venue. Situated in the former Auburn Automobile Company's national headquarters building, the museum has over 120 cars including the world's largest public exhibit of Duesenbergs. The first floor resembles an art deco showroom, while the numerous galleries are highly informative and full of more automotive wonders and history.

Of all the Duesenbergs on display, this 1930 Model J Murphy-bodied Convertible Sedan was my favorite. We would love to add a Model J to our collection. So, if you are ready to part with one and would like to see it live in a museum where it will be admired, driven and given lots of TLC, please contact us.

The car that most impressed me was this 1932 Cord E-1 prototype. It sits on a 152" wheelbase (20" longer than the Cord L-29 it was designed to replace) and weighs over 6,000 lbs. It is powered by a 491 cubic-inch V12 that produces 200 horsepower. E.L. Cord wanted to put the E-1 into production in 1932, but plans were scrapped because of the economic depression. This is the only E-1 ever built, and she is a very impressive car to see in person.

Of course, I didn't spend all of my time looking at beautiful cars. The conference sessions covered a range of interesting topics, including best management practices, strategic planning, preservation vs. restoration, educational programs,  conserving vs. driving your cars, and museum stores. It was a valuable opportunity to meet other museum professionals, share ideas and learn about new products. Kudos to the ACD Museum for organizing such a great conference!

I was able to visit a private collection and several other museums last week, and will write about those in a future post.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Arrival to the Museum!

By Derik Price
Sorry Willy, we didn't get a new car, or even an outfit, but an addition to the learning experience for our guests.  The newest introduction to the Museum is an audio tour system by Tour-Mate.  Guests will be able to rent a 'wand' and listen to over 75 different informational 'stops' inside the museum.  Stops include detailed information about the clothing displays, automobiles, Alaskan Photographs and an overview of each Era.  In additional to English, we have numerous German and Japanese stops for our foreign speaking guests!

We'll be changing and adding stops as time goes on and adding greater detail about specific items as needed or requested.  But not to worry, our dedicated staff of terrific Docents will be on hand to lead tours and answer questions on a more personal level.

Big thanks to Helga Wagenleiter for doing the German reading and Makiko Kawauchi for the Japanese, and yours truly (Conehead on the right) narrated the English.  Please enjoy the sampling below and we hope you stop by this summer to hear more.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pope-Toledo Automobiles in the Far North

by Nancy DeWitt

In August of 1908, a Pope-Toledo touring car arrived in Fairbanks on the Steamer Cudahy. It would be the first automobile to be driven on the streets of this Gold Rush town, but it was not the first Pope-Toledo to arrive in the far north. In 1907, two Pope-Toledos were imported to Dawson City, Canada by entrepreneur Stanley Scearce and roadhouse owner Captain Hubrick. The New York Times noted that Hubrick’s 40-hp auto, called the Red Devil, was kept busy all summer ferrying miners for $10 a ride. Scearce’s 1906 Pope-Toledo (also dubbed the Red Devil in one article) was used as a taxi on the frozen Yukon River during the winter of 1907-08, and made at least one run to Alaska’s Forty Mile River.

Photo courtesy of the Pioneer Museum and Joan Skilbred
Photos indicate that the first Pope-Toledo in Fairbanks was a 1907 Type XV Touring. Owner David Laiti had it on the road by August 6, causing much excitement among the townspeople. It only took 24 hours for the big maroon car to earn the nickname of—you guessed it—the Red Devil. Laiti immediately began an automobile stage to Fox and also carried excursion parties around town. By April 1909 the Pope-Toledo had been acquired by garage owner Jack Baird, who continued to use it for a passenger service to Fox. Dave Courtemanche purchased the Pope-Toledo later that year and put it to work carrying passengers between Fairbanks and Ester.

Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson
A second Pope-Toledo—a big Type XII touring car with a beautiful Roi de Belge body—was the eighth automobile to arrive in Fairbanks. It was one of the original Pope-Toledos from Dawson (likely Hubrick’s auto shown above), but it’s not clear who imported it or when. By October 1911, Robert “Bobby” Sheldon was using it to take passengers on local excursions, and we have two photographs of him with the Pope-Toledo taken in March of 1912. Interestingly, Sheldon never mentioned the Pope-Toledo or his early Fairbanks taxi service in any of his interviews. Likely he sold the Pope-Toledo not long after he purchased his first Ford Model T in 1913. Fred Lewis, its next owner, planned to convert it into a truck. Both of the Fairbanks Pope-Toledos were still here in July of 1922, but that is the last record we have of them.

Fewer than 10 Pope-Toledo touring cars survive today. So far we have located ones in California and Oklahoma, and hope that some day one of those will migrate north to Alaska.