Monday, December 31, 2012

In the Shop: Wills Sainte Claire Part 2

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

When the temperature dropped to 40 below this month, we decided it was a good time to get the 1922 Wills Saint Claire Model A-68 sedan back in the shop. It has had some issues in the past and was in need of  more attention.

As you can see from the second photo, the pinion gear had suffered a shock load at one time in its life and lost a couple of teeth. It would have been fine for a hockey player, but not for a vintage auto.

So, we shipped off the ring and pinion gear to have a new one machined. After a couple of times of having it shipped from one to another to have it done, we finally got the new one in. One of our volunteers, Bob Apalsch, riveted the ring gear back on the carrier and had it ready for us to start putting things back in place.

Rod Benson, another of our docents, took great care to clean and keep things in order for the assembly of the rear differential.

Rod also took the time to show and explain the problems and repairs being done to another one of our volunteers, Jeff Creamer. Jeff co-owns the 1910 Chalmers-Detroit we have on display in our Alaska gallery.


The driveline and miscellaneous parts also required some attention. For example, the retaining nut on the u-joint to the driveline was cracked and needed repair.

Here is the Wills sitting on jack stands awaiting completion of the repairs. Today it is an astounding 70 degrees (F) warmer outside than it was when we started this last round of repairs. If the temperature stays around 30° F, you may see us out running around Wedgewood Resort in this beautiful car soon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Even Little Boys Can Drive It!

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

I was reviewing comments from visitors on TripAdvisor the other day, and had a chuckle over this one: "The Brush Runabout purchased in New York and driven to Oklahoma City by the Abernathy brothers, (Temple 9 and Louis 6 years old!), may be worth the price of admission alone." This was a reference to an exhibit sign located near our 1908 Brush Runabout that tells one of my favorite stories in the museum.

Louis "Bud" and Temple Abernathy were two brave and tough little boys from Frederick, Oklahoma.Their adventuresome ways no doubt came from their father "Catch-'em-Alive" Jack Abernathy, a U.S. Marshal and cowboy. Determined to carry out their father's instructions to "toughen up," in 1909 the boys completed a 1,300 mile, round-trip ride on horseback by themselves between Oklahoma and New Mexico. Bud was nine years old and Temple was only five!

The following year Bud and Temple set out alone on horseback for New York to meet former President Taft, a family friend. During the trip, the boys became fascinated with automobiles and purchased a two-seat Brush while in New York City. After spending one afternoon on the city streets learning how to drive, they set off for home. Six-year-old Temple was so small he had to perch on the edge of the seat and lean against the steering wheel to reach the pedals. How that little dude was able to crank start the car is beyond me.

The Abernathy boys' drive was a public relations coup for the Brush Automobile Company. Everywhere the brothers stopped along the route, they assured any adult who asked that if little boys could drive a car, anyone could. Did they complete the trip? Stop by the museum to find out, and to see our 1908 Brush. It was once owned by silent film star Gilda Gray and is very similar to the one Bob Coghill brought to Fairbanks in 1910.

We now have the delightful book Bud & Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys available in our gift shop. I highly recommend it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Toledo - "An Automobile of Quality"

by Nancy DeWitt
1907 Pope-Hartford
William Evans Collection
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

I have written several blog posts about the Pope-Toledo automobile, but none about its predecessor, the Toledo. Pope-Toledo was the star of Colonel Albert Pope's empire, which also included Pope-Robinson, Pope-Hartford, Pope-Tribune and Pope-Waverly automobiles. Colonel Pope was the world's largest bicycle manufacturer in the late 1800s, and it was only natural that he diversified into automobile production when bicycle sales plummeted.

1904 Pope-Toledo Twin Tonneau
The Pope-Toledo name arose following the reorganization of the International Motor Car Company, which produced steam and internal-combustion automobiles under the Toledo name. On May 27, 1903, the agency was renamed the Pope Motor Car Company, and all subsequent cars produced were known as Pope-Toledos. The steam car line was dropped in 1904. The early 1904 Pope-Toledos bore a striking resemblance to the 1903 Toledo shown below.

Although a number of Toledo steam cars are still around, to our knowledge we have the sole-surviving Toledo gasoline car. We purchased this 1903 Toledo rear-entry tonneau from the estate of Carl J. Schmitt in 2008. Mr. Schmitt acquired the Toledo in 2000 and had Allan Schmidt of Escondido, CA perform a complete frame-off restoration on it in 2003. According to Allan, the car had its original body and was fairly easy to restore because it was so complete. He built a new copper radiator and water tank, as well as a windshield and top. In 2004, the Toledo won the Antique (1 & 2-cylinder) Award at the 2004 Kirkland Concours d'Elegance.

The wicker side baskets shown here are original to the car. These could be used to hold tools, spare parts and picnic baskets. The Toledo also has an interesting hill brake--essentially a pole that swings down from the chassis and digs into the ground--that could be lowered when climbing steep hills. It was also one of the first automobiles to have an electric speedometer.
Museum Manager Willy Vinton has driven the Toledo several times. "It takes a lot of time to get her prepped," he says, " but it starts very easily if you follow the instructions, taking about 15 minutes to warm up. It runs very well, but shifting is a little different from other early cars." Unlike the two-speed planetary transmissions found in most automobiles of the time, the 12-horsepower Toledo has a three-speed, sequentially shifted sliding-gear transmission.

The Toledo is very striking in appearance and has an unusually long bonnet for a two-cylinder car. This accommodated the large radiator tank that sits in front of the engine. In 1903 a Toledo cost $2,000, which included a large brass headlight, two side lamps, a signal horn, tools, a tire repair kit and a removable extra seat for the tonneau. Advertised as "An Automobile of Quality," sales literature further boasted that its "perfect appointments and superb finish appeals to the refined taste and good judgement of purchasers." It certainly is a fine car and a nice addition to the museum.

The Toledo is featured in our museum book and can be seen in this short video.

Friday, December 7, 2012

French Couture in Fairbanks

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Temperatures dipped to -40 F in Fairbanks this week, but historic fashion curator Barbara Cerny has been busy heating up the museum with some hot new acquisitions. She recently found some amazing pieces to add to our collection, including another Fortuny gown, a Molyneaux flapper dress and a Gallenga tabard.

Our European couture selection also includes this lovely Callot Soeurs dress (ca. 1898-1904), which Barb put on display this fall. Sisters Marie Callot Gerber, Marthe Callot Bertrand, Régine Callot Tennyson-Chantrelle and Joséphine Callot Crimont launched their fashion careers with a shop that sold antique laces, ribbons and lingerie. In 1895 they established a couture house on Rue Taitbout in Paris. By the turn of the century they employed 600 workers and soon attracted clients from throughout Europe and America.

Marie was the chief designer and by the 1920s was called "the backbone of the fashion world of Europe." The sisters were renown for their extraordinary technique that combined exquisite fabrics like silk, satin, brocade and gold lamé with antique lace, lavish beading and intricate embroidery. More examples of their dresses and gowns can be seen here.

This trained evening gown has an underskirt made from taffeta-like silk overlain with a delicate layer of silk gauze and lace-adorned tulle. The laces forming the chain-like pattern and the skirt's border are made up of exquisite floral designs. Other delicate laces adorn the bodice and sleeves. You really need to see this gown in person to appreciate its detail and craftsmanship.

Madeline Vionnet, one of the 20th century's great designers, apprenticed at the House of Callot Soeurs. She later said. "Without the example of the Callot Soeurs, I would have continued to make Fords. It is because of them that I have been able to make Rolls-Royces."

We will be offering a series of curator's tours of our fashion collection this winter, starting with an introductory tour titled "Fashion Through the Decades" on Sunday, December 9. Museum historian Nancy DeWitt will showcase how fashions changed dramatically from the 1880s through the 1930s. The tour starts at 1 and is free with museum admission. Beginning in January, we will offer more in-depth tours that focus on specific fashion eras and the techniques and materials of individual garments in our collection.