Monday, July 30, 2012

Bulldogs, Brohms and Boattails

by Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton

As noted in our last post, it's been a busy summer at the museum. Among the 30 or so cars we've tuned up and exercised are three carrying the legendary Stutz name.

Mention the word "Stutz" and immediately the famous Bearcat comes to mind. Much less well-known, even among many automobile afficionados, is the stylish Bulldog. Introduced in 1914, it was identical to the Bearcat except that it carried a four-passenger sport touring body. Although heavier than a Bearcat and equipped with a windshield, a Bulldog could attain a respectable speed of 75 mph. This 1918 Series S 4-Passenger Special is one of only a few Bulldogs remaining. It carries an 80-hp, 4-cylinder T-head engine with four valves per cylinder. Willy says, "This car is very capable of running 80 mph today (not that I have tried--really!). When riding in or driving this car, it's obvious why people wanted a Bulldog. Both Ethan and Steve had ear-to-ear grins when I took them for a ride."

Often called "The Forgotten Stutz," the elegant Speedway Six was produced for a few short years. Equipped with high-grade coachwork and a new Stutz-built engine, it was the company's most luxurious automobile yet. The sedan body on our 1925 Series 695 Sportbrohm was made by the Robbins Body Corporation. The dash, steering wheel and window frames are solid black walnut, and the sumptuous interior features mohair upholstery, silk curtains and crystal bud vases. Only a handful of Series 695 models still exist. Stutz guaranteed that its 95-hp, 6-cylinder inline engine could propel the car to 80 mph. "For a 60s paint and upholstery job," says Willy, "this car still shows well and the body is remarkable for its fit and finish. The doors still close tight, the windows roll up and down like new, and it runs and drives very smooth and quiet."

Stutz introduced their radically different Vertical Eight in 1926, and the Speedway Six was soon forgotten. The new "Safety" chassis design allowed the body and frame to sit quite low, which reduced the risk of tipping. Other new safety features included four-wheel hydraulic brakes and a wire-reinforced windscreen. The racy Black Hawk was perhaps the most fashionable of the Vertical Eights. Our 1927 Series AA Black Hawk is powered by a 95-hp, single-overhead-cam straight-eight. Its boattail design added 10-12 mph to the car's top speed. Willy says, "I have to say that, of all our cars, this may be the most fun one to drive. I took it out last Wednesday evening for the local car club cruise, and it really turned some heads. One gentleman came into the museum later and spotted the car back on the floor. He was very impressed to see that we truly do drive our cars." It's hardship duty, but someone has to do it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Busy Times

by Derik Price

Sorry our post this week is a little late.  We're half way through the summer season already and it has been a blur at the Museum.  It's fair to say we've exercised more cars this summer than I can remember.  Willy even had to write a list on the shop blackboard to keep track.  (So far) they include - '05 Olds, '04 Buckmobile, '14 Woods, '12 Premier 4-40, '14 Grant, '09 Hudson, '29 Model A, '25 Stutz, '08 Brush, '09 Olds, '04 Rambler, '11 Oakland, '12 Premier 6-60, '13 Argo, '23 Ford, '03 Columbia, '99 Hertel, '10 Whiting, '10 Stanley, '20 Argonne, '28 Pierce-Arrow, '33 Hupmobile, '34 American Austin, '32 Cadi, '09 IHC, '06 Cadi, '11 Ford, '27 Stutz, plus today and tomorrow the '14 Moline-Knight and the '18 Stutz. Wow!  30 cars out and running in the last 2 months.  It's been tough to keep up with Willy - he and the crew have just been 'cranking' them out.  :-)   I've had the opportunity to shoot LOTS of video this summer and we have been posting new clips each week or so to our YouTube Channel so do check it out.

After the long winters here we sometime forget - there is just nothing that brightens up your day like the sparkle of brass in the summer sun.

So thanks again Willy, Ethan, Steve and the whole docent crew for working so hard to get the cars exercised in our very short summer season.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Premier: The 4th "P"

by Nancy DeWitt

Many antique automobile enthusiasts are familiar with "The Three P's" of fine motoring: Packard, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow. We are fortunate to have fine examples of all three marques in our museum. We also have a "4th P" whose name overtakes my brain whenever I try to to list these three prestigious makes--Premier. Although Premier was probably never a real serious competitor against these three giants, its quality, power and handsome lines were certainly on par with them.

We presently have two Premiers in our collection, a 1912 Model 6-60 roadster (above right) and a 1912 Model 4-40 7-passenger touring car. Willy and his crew tuned up the 4-40 last week, and I was fortunate to take a spin in this huge machine. She has a very smooth ride compared to some of our other Brass Era cars. I was riding in high style in the roomy passenger compartment, which is decked out with a diamond-tufted rear seat, jump seats and a brass robe rail and footrest.

In 1912 buyers could choose between six body styles, ranging from a 2-passenger roadster to a 7-passenger limousine. The 40 hp models were powered by a 4-cylinder T-head engine that displaced 334 cubic inches. 

Early on, Premier established a reputation for superlative performance and by 1910 had completed three Glidden Tours with a perfect score, a very impressive achievement. The following year, 12 Premiers carrying 40 men, women and children completed the grueling, 4,731-mile Ocean-to-Ocean tour from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Los Angeles, California in 45 days. The only damage sustained was three broken springs, a testament to Premier's superb reliability.

While we won't be putting our Premiers through such a punishing test, you can watch for us cruising around Fairbanks in one of these impressive automobiles. Click here to watch a video of the big 6-60 roadster and here for a video about its unique air-start system.

Monday, July 9, 2012

One of Our Merry Oldsmobiles

by Willy Vinton

Last week was a busy one here at the museum. We moved several cars out of the galleries for servicing and their yearly exercise. This included our 1909 Oldsmobile Palace Touring. This Model D is one of only a few left in existence. Before coming to Alaska it toured several thousand miles around the country.

The 4-cylinder L-head engine is rated at 40 HP. The car performs very well in traffic and on the road, comfortably cruising around town at 35 mph or so. Olds Motor Works bragged that the Model D "had an ample surplus of power for every possible contingency."

This was a very luxurious auto in its day, with such features as a coat/robe rail, adjustable foot rest and very graceful lines. The Olds Palace Touring was one of the the first open automobiles to have an enclosure for the driver and front-seat passenger (notice the half-door on the driver's compartment in the top photo).

Like most of our cars in the museum, when we get them out in public, they always draw a crowd. It also helps if we dress in period clothing. This photo was taken last week when we visited the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in downtown Fairbanks.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The "Holy Grail" of Antique License Plates

by Nancy DeWitt

It would be easy to fill a car museum with automobilia, which are artifacts and collectibles associated with motor cars. Indeed, I have visited several museums that have amazing collections of such memorabilia, ranging from gas station signs and headlights to hood ornaments and dash clocks. Some were pleasingly displayed together in cases (like these robe rails and assist straps at the Nethercutt Museum), while others cluttered up the place so much my brain about exploded trying to absorb everything.

We have a few automotive artifacts and small collections on display, including a Tokheim gas pump, radiators and a nice collection of spark plugs. We really don't have room for a lot of additional automobilia, as our walls are mostly dedicated to historic motoring photos from Alaska's post-Gold Rush era. Because we are frequently moving automobiles off the floor and onto the road, we are limited as to how many additional items we can display alongside the cars. Plus, our 100+ historic fashions take up a fair amount of display space.

There are, however, a few items we would love to add to our museum, including an antique electric car wall charger and certain Alaska automobilia, including license plates. Alaska didn't start issuing license plates for all motor vehicles until 1921, 38 years before the Territory was granted statehood. Only a handful of these 1921 plates are known to exist, making them among the rarest plates in the world. One was sold in 2000 for an astonishing $40,000, and its value today is probably close to $60,000.

I have only seen one collection of Alaska historic license plates, and recently found this one on-line. Neither one contains the 1921 issue. So, check your grandparents' sheds to see if another one of these rare plates exists. If you find one, we'd be happy to display it for you!