Monday, August 27, 2012

Winner! Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

This year we had the honor of being invited to show two of our cars at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. When we have a car restored, it is done in the Lower 48 by either Al Murray (Murray Motor Car in Monroe, WA) or Allan Schmidt (Horseless Carriage Restoration in Escondido, CA). We highly recommend both. On top of their outstanding work, it is an added bonus if we can display a freshly restored car at a show before we ship it north to Alaska.

We spent two hours polishing the 1918 Biddle Town Car and 1919 McFarlan Sport Touring the day before the show. Although we arrived early at the Pebble Beach Golf Links the next morning, we delayed moving the cars onto the show grounds. It was foggy and we could literally watch the cars' brass tarnishing before our eyes from the high humidity, so we kept them inside the trucks until the last minute. Judging started at 8:30 AM and included a very thorough inspection and questioning by a team of three judges.

The Pebble Concours is among the most elite car shows in North America and features some of the most beautiful classic cars in the world. There were numerous celebrities and even a Maharaja or two among the well-dressed crowd of spectators this year (Jay Leno refers to the event as "Tailgating for Billionaires"). Then there were the Alaskans and their friends--having the biggest lawn party on the 18th Green. The only thing missing to make it a true Alaska campout was a bonfire.

After a long wait that included a second visit by the judges to inspect the McFarlan, we were told to take it to the winners circle. At this point we knew we were in the top three for our class. The stage director then told the 3rd-place winner (a 1905 Clément) to go first, and when he directed the 1911 Isotta Fraschini to go 2nd we knew we had earned the coveted First in Class for A-2 Antiques. There was an audible gasp in the crowd when they learned that the car belonged to a museum in Alaska. We were also thrilled to receive the Ansel Adams Award for Most Desirable Touring Car of Its Era. What an honor! Museum owner Tim Cerny looks pretty pleased with the prizes. For some reason, the bottle of Champagne didn't make it back to Fairbanks...

1919 McFarlan Sport Touring
First in Class, A-1 Antique
2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Photo by Murray Motor Car
Both the McFarlan and Biddle will be shown at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance on September 9. This year's event will take place at the new LeMay Museum in Tacoma, WA. Please stop and say hello if you attend! Otherwise, expect to see the beautiful Biddle and McFarlan at our museum around mid-October.

We want to send out a big thank you to Al and Paul Murray of Murray Motor Car for the great job on the McFarlan, and to Allan and Beth Schmidt for their amazing work on the Biddle. Both of the cars are show stoppers and will be welcome additions to our collection here in Fairbanks. Hopefully they will arrive before the snow falls so we can get them out on the roads around town.

*Update* The McFarlan also won the Best in Class - Antiques award at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance on Sept 9, 2012!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Whiting: A Forerunner to Chevrolet

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Our newest addition to the museum is a stunning, cherry red 1910 Whiting Model A Roadster. This was a difficult car to research, as I could not find much information about the short-lived Whiting Motor Car Company. James Whiting, president of Flint Wagon Works, bought the Buick Motor Car Company in 1903 and relocated it from Detroit to Flint. He turned Buick’s management over to William C. Durant, who would go on to establish General Motors in 1908.

 In 1910 Whiting established a division within Flint Wagon Works to produce cars bearing his name. The well-built Model A was the Whiting Motor Car Company’s first product. It was powered by a 20-hp, 4-cylinder L-head engine displacing 116 cubic inches. It's unusual in that the flywheel sits at the front, rather than the rear of the engine. Approximately 750 Whitings were produced in 1910, the same year that Durant was ousted from General Motors.

The following year Durant bought Flint Wagon Works and the Whiting car line for $10 and a promise of $1.2 million in stock in his soon-to-be-formed Little Motor Company. After discontinuing Whiting production in 1912, he revamped the Whiting 22 slightly and called his new product the Little automobile. A year later Durant took the best features of the Little and a prototype designed by Louis Chevrolet to create the new Chevrolet Light Six. Durant used the tremendous success of his new Chevrolet Motor Company to regain controlling interest in General Motors by 1916. 

My favorite feature on our Whiting is its monocle windshield attached to the steering column. These were typically seen on Stutz Bearcats and Mercer Raceabouts. The little windscreen was probably good for little more than keeping bugs out of the driver's teeth, and obviously offered no protection to the passenger. I'll be sure to wear goggles if Willy gives me a ride!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Biddle Restoration - On to Pebble Beach!

by Nancy DeWitt

Five years ago we purchased a very rare 1918 Biddle Series H Town Car from Charles "Chuck" Riker. Mr. Riker, who was instrumental in designing circuitry for General Electric, was friends with legendary automobile collector Henry Austin Clark, Jr. It was Clark who discovered this Biddle in 1952 in a two-car garage at the Southampton estate of Henry Huddleston Rogers, Jr., son of a Standard Oil executive and railroad magnate. Rogers had given the car to his gardener, who intended to turn it into a truck. Apparently a broken cylinder thwarted that plan and the car sat deteriorating after the garage's roof was blown off during a devastating hurricane in 1938.

Clark had Bill Hoffman perform a restoration on the Biddle, taking it from this:

To this:

Clark displayed the Biddle in his Long Island Automotive Museum before selling it to Riker in 1979. By the time we purchased the car it was in need of a full restoration, so we sent it to Allan Schmidt's Horseless Carriage Restoration in Escondido, CA (more on that here). The Biddle is now ready to ship north, but first we will be showing it and our 1919 McFarlan at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (CA) on August 19 and the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance at the new LeMay Museum in Tacoma, WA on September 9. Please stop by and visit us if you are at either event!

Aimed at luxury car buyers "who cared not for the larger, more imposing varieties dominating the market," the fashionable Biddle featured a blend of elegant and sporty lines, along with exquisite interiors. It was one of the Biddle's first customer prospects, Miss Miriam Hubbard Webster, who suggested the vee'd, Mercedes-like radiator and several other design elements. Is she perhaps America's first female automobile stylist?

Our Biddle is powered by a 4-cylinder Buda engine (#1061-A) rated at 24 hp. Later models carried a 70 hp, 4-cylinder walking-beam Duesenberg or Rochester-Duesenberg engine. 

Of the slightly more than 1700  Biddle automobiles produced between 1915 and 1922, only four are known to survive. Ours is the only Town Car left, and we are looking forward to seeing it arrive in Fairbanks by mid-October.
*Update* Photos of the restored Biddle are here and a video of it is posted here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lingerie Dresses of the Edwardian Era

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Say the word "lingerie dress" and it typically conjures up sexy images from the boudoir, not the streets of Fairbanks in 1910. At the tail end of the Victorian Era a new style of summer dress appeared--a pure white, lace-trimmed gown known as the lingerie dress. As their name implied, these romantic dresses resembled the "unmentionables" that had been worn as undergarments by Victorian ladies. Although a white dress once symbolized wealth, a farmer’s wife was as likely to wear a lingerie dress as was a high-society lady. This style of dress would remain popular through the Edwardian Era until around 1915.

Lingerie dresses were often elaborately trimmed, with lace inserts, appliqués, eyelets, hand-embroidery and ruffles. Yet, they were easy to make, thanks to readily available patterns, machine-constructed laces and sewing machines. Women could sew a dress, stitch the lace in place, and then simply cut away the fabric beneath it. Lingerie dresses could also be bought through mail-order catalogs, and they were among the first mass-produced dresses. At the turn of the century, more than half of the dresses offered in the Sears Roebuck’s catalog were made of white, lace-trimmed cloth ranging in price from $4.75 to $11. 

Surprisingly, lingerie dresses were popular with Alaska’s Gold-Rush women, even in the mining camps. Unlike the unwashable silk, velvet, satin and wool dresses of the time, lingerie dresses were usually fashioned from cotton, making them easy to wash at home. Alaska women probably used laundry bluing to keep their dresses white. At right is a photo of Fairbanks ladies at a garden party, probably taken around 1912 (photo courtesy of Candy Waugaman). Several are wearing lingerie dresses, which must have felt comfortable during the warm summer days here.

You can see several lingerie dresses on display in our museum's historic fashion collection. As it has become popular for some brides to wear antique wedding gowns, it is easy to see why Edwardian lingerie dresses are a popular choice for many of them.  To view a video of our Lingerie Dress display, please visit our - Fountainhead Museum YouTube Channel.

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