Monday, April 29, 2013

Bakersfield Swap Meet 2013

 by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

I made the annual trek to the Bakersfield Swap Meet a few weeks ago. This year I had the chance to make a day tour with the Bakersfield Horseless Carriage Club  in the company of Greg and Cathy Rising in their 1927 Ford touring car. It was a scenic drive that included a visit to a ranch that raised ostriches. While there, we learned a lot about all the uses of the various ostrich products (feathers, hide, eggs and meat).

On the trip we went over the Tahachapi Pass, which features the Tahachapi Loop, shown at right. This is the only place in the world where a 4,000-foot-long train will pass over itself, gaining 72 feet in elevation along a 2% grade. I had read about the Tahachapi Loop, but this was the first time I had a chance to see it. After a great lunch and tour, we headed back to get ready for the swap meet. The little Ford T ran cool and pulled the hills with ease, without a hint of overheating. Thanks again to the Risings for their hospitality!

This was one of the vendors on the site at Bakerfield Swap Meet. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time to look through each of the trays, boxes and piles to make sure you don't miss that one treasure you are seeking.

You can also find a few cars for sale at the Bakersfield Swap Meet, like this 1911 Hispano-Suiza "King Alphonso XIII" Double Berline. It's a very unique and unusual-looking beast, to say the least. It looked like someone took a couple of early electric cars and combined them to make a unique form of transportation. It appeared to be a very original car, but since it was not American built, I left it sitting there. Kind of a shame, as we could have hauled lots of gals dressed in their finery around Fairbanks in this one!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Peerless - "All That the Name Implies"

by Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

The magnificent Peerless automobile was one of the "Three Ps" of early motoring royalty, alongside Pierce-Arrow and Packard. Originally a manufacturer of clothes wringers, Peerless became one of the most greatly respected luxury car makers of the early 20th Century. The marque’s grandiose slogan, “Peerless—All That The Name Implies,” was appropriate for such a high-quality and stylish automobile. Pictured here is our 1912 Peerless Model 36-K 7-passenger touring car.

Photo by Ronn Murray Photography
Peerless automobiles were produced from 1900-1931. In 1912 they offered five models, each of which could be customized to suit an individual buyer’s tastes. Wealthy patrons paid $5,000 for a Model 36 Touring, which would be the equivalent of over $117,000 today. A peak inside shows just how luxurious these cars were, right down to the brass foot rest.

Our Peerless is powered by a 48 HP, 577.5-cubic-inch T-head six with its inline cylinders cast in pairs.

We have spent a lot of time working to get the Peerless running properly, as well as finishing all the little things that were never completed during its restoration. It should be ready to make an appearance on the streets as soon as the snow pack is gone from the parking lots and the puddles have dried. We have had it out a couple times in the snow, but it doesn't handle well on icy surfaces!

This Peerless once belonged to legendary collector Barney Pollard, and came to us by way of Texas. It's a massive car that rides on a 137” inch wheelbase and stands over seven feet tall. At left, our historic fashion consultant Abigail shows just how big and imposing this car is.

Of the 450 Model 36s produced, only a handful are known to still exist, likely because their cast-aluminum bodies commanded high prices during wartime scrap drives. We are very fortunate to have this one in our museum!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Politics and Fashion

by Abigail Cucolo
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Western and non-western cultures alike exhibit one of the most basic motivations of dress: display of status. Historically, sumptuary laws were enacted to visually distinguish the upper levels of society from the socially and financially inferior. During the 14th century, for example, poulaines became so fashionable and extreme (the shoe points could extend to 12 inches or more) that Edward IV of England made a decree limiting them to the nobility, and knights were not permitted to have points exceeding two inches, lest they fancy themselves part of the aristocracy (Simonson, 1944, p. 68). The sumptuary laws of Medieval and Renaissance Europe were plausible because of the rigid class system of the monarchies; they would never have been enacted in an egalitarian society. Fashion visually interprets the ‘vogue political philosophy’ of a time and place- the restricting style of Victorian modesty, the Greco-Roman silhouettes of Neo-Classicism, the uniformity of Soviet Russia (Donald, 2002). Likewise for societies with a religious state: Islamic republics have women covered in very conservative clothing, and in Amish society, where pride and vanity are sinful, the costume is modest and plain.

Before the end of the 18th century, the purpose of dress was to make as obvious as possible the differences in rank, lineage, and wealth; however, after the spread of democratic ideals and republican governments, the effort became to minimize them (Simonson, 1944). Men’s fashion, originally very flamboyant, adopted a minimal, somber style because of the new “no frills” attitude that came with the period (Simonson, 1944, p. 70). This ‘democratic simplification’ was mirrored in women’s fashion when they achieved more equality (Simonson, 1944). The simple, boyish silhouettes of the 1920s and 1960s coincide with women’s suffrage and civil rights movements. The ‘vogue philosophy’ can also explain the rise of popularity in lower class clothing items because of the French and American Revolutions, when opposition to the aristocracy was admirable- knee breeches became associated with tyranny so they grew more and more obsolete.

Reactions to political subjugation often manifest in costume. During the 1960s, governments from East and Central Africa reacted to colonialism through the prohibition/denunciation of what they saw as influence of western culture, issuing directives to “Cover-Up” and “Lower Hemlines or Else” (Wipper, 1972, p. 329). Miniskirts were blamed for widespread rioting in Ethiopia, and Zambia’s reaction to its recent independence resulted in its president ruling that skirts be at least three inches below the knee and women were not to use lipstick, straighten their hair, paint their fingernails, or wear trousers (Wipper, 1972, p. 334). Though a republic, Zambia’s fresh political upheaval created an autocratic control of the adornment of its citizens.

Ethiopia, however, was a monarchy soon to be overthrown by a socialist military regime, who saw fashion as “products of western capitalism” (Wipper, 1972, p.334). Countries with strong socialist and communist governments tend to result in homogenized clothing, reflecting the extreme equality and uniformity proposed by the ideology. Those who attempt to follow fashion lack dignity, as it is the absence of indulgent adornment that is the “politically correct” way of dressing (Ip, 2003, p. 333). The irony that comes with the philosophy “freedom from adornment = freedom from oppression” (Ip, 2003, p. 334), is that the ordination of people’s clothing through law or coercion is oppression. A person’s individual identity is erased; they become one of the masses- which, of course, is perfectly representative of the ideology.
Sarah Palin in Valentino
In the democratic republic of the United States, where freedom is highly valued, uniformity is not enforced, yet equality is exhibited in similarities between the clothing silhouette of the leaders and the “common” people. The President of the United States and the small town business manager will both dress in a suit. In the African Ashanti tribe, on the other hand, a person may be killed if he wears a garment like the king (Tortura and Eubank, 2005, p. 4). It is literally ‘fashion suicide.’ The custom clearly reflects the value of the absolute power of the monarch. By wearing the style of the king, the perpetrator has the gall to assume king’s identity and may be seen as a pretender to the throne. Dressing above class in a totalitarian society sends the message that you are attempting to take on the authority of the elite. In a democracy, it becomes the opposite--leaders could commit political suicide by appearing too elite. Politicians hold focus groups and hire consultants to tell them what tie color represents the best values or what hair style makes them most affable--it is detrimental to look too pretentious or privileged. There was significant controversy in 2008, for example, when it was reported that $150,000 had been spent on vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s wardrobe. Because of America’s strong middle class, value of equality, and message of opportunity for every level of society, politicians don’t want to alienate the blue collar voter. They want to prove they are a true representative of the people by being relatable as one of the people, and the fastest way to do that is through clothing.

So while they are now more subtle, the visual cues that express the political philosophy of a culture, western or non western, monarchy or democracy, are still present today and exhibited across the globe.

Works Cited
Donald, D. (2002). Followers of fashion: graphic satires from the Georgian period. London: National Touring Exhibitions.

Ip, H. (2003). Fashioning appearances: feminine beauty in chinese communist revolutionary culture. Modern china. July. Vol. 29 No. 3. pp. 329-361.

Simonson, L. (1944). Fashion and democracy. The metropolitan museum of art bulletin. November. Vol. 3 No. 3. pp. 65-72.

Tortora, P. and Eubank, K. (2005). Survey of historic costume: a history of western dress. 4th ed. New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc.

Monday, April 8, 2013

After the Great Race of 1908

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Much has been written about the famous, New York-to-Paris automobile race of 1908, including this nice synopsis. After reaching San Francisco, the plan was for the automobiles to be shipped to Alaska, where they would be driven from Valdez to Nome and over the frozen Bering Strait to Russia. Only the American team, driving a Thomas Flyer, actually made it to Alaska. After arriving in Valdez on April 8, the team realized that overland progress would be impossible because of deep snow. The race plans were changed, and the American team lost their lead as they backtracked to Seattle before sailing to Japan. Although they crossed the finish line in second place behind the German car, they won the race thanks to a handicap given them for their side trip to Alaska (and a penalty levied against the German team for having shipped their Protos automobile by rail part of the way).

The arrival of the Thomas Flyer in Valdez was a very big deal, as it was the first automobile to reach that town and probably the first one ever seen by many of the residents. The entire town, complete with a brass band, turned out to greet it. Women posed for photos in it. And then it was loaded back on a boat without ever having made it off the dock. This splendid car is now on display in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
So what became of the Protos and the only other car to complete the race, the Italian Züst? The Protos was restored by the Siemens family and now resides in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. Surprisingly, the Züst appears to have spent some time in Dawson City.

After crossing the finish line in Paris on September 17, 1908, the Züst traveled to London. Shortly thereafter, it caught fire while its gasoline was being removed for rail transport, severely damaging the rear wheels and wooden body. The car suffered further indignity when looters vandalized it, and then it fell into obscurity.

In 1910, O.B. Perry, superintendent of Solomon Guggenheim's Yukon Gold Company, brought a Züst to Dawson City, where it remained until the 1950s. Collector Buck Rogers of Vancouver, British Columbia was its next owner, and he in turn sold it to Harry and Shirley Blackstaff of Vancouver Island in the 1980s. It was only after the Blackstaffs had begun its restoration that they discovered it was likely the Great Race car. Some pretty compelling evidence for this conclusion is presented in this article by Dr. Barry Patchett.

Images of the Züst courtesy
The Blackstaffs restored the Züst in time for the Great Race centennial (photos of the restoration can be found here). Shirley Blackstaff believes that the car ended up in Dawson because O.B. Perry was friends with famous American racer Barney Oldfield, who in turn was friends with Emilio Sirtori, one of the Züst's drivers during the Great Race. Whatever the reason, I find it amazing that all three of the Great Race finishers are still around today.

*Note* We will be hosting a special program about the Great Race on August 6. Watch for details!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hot Rod Lincoln: NAAM Conference 2013

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is proud to be a member of the National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM). This group of enthusiastic and dedicated professionals meets once a year to share resources, network and broaden our knowledge about museum operations. This year's event was graciously hosted by the Smith Collection Museum of American Speed (MAS) in Lincoln, Nebraska.

As usual, I had to take the awful, 1:30 AM red-eye flight out of Fairbanks to make my connection in Seattle. Both my flight to Minneapolis and the one to Lincoln were delayed because of a blizzard in MN. Still, I arrived enough in advance to drive over to Grand Island the following morning to check out the amazing spectacle of snow goose and sandhill crane migration through that area. I've never seen anything like it!

NAAM conference attendees
Courtesy of the Museum of American Speed
The conference started that evening and was followed by three days of seminars and field trips. Presentations covered a wide variety of topics such as docent training, historic vehicle preservation techniques, social media, digital imaging and collections management. We spent one day touring the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Gary Kuck's private automobile collection and the MAS. I've posted several photos from latter here, including some of pedal cars from their huge collection.

On the last day of the conference I was elected to the NAAM board of directors. I am also chairing the NAAM conference scholarship committee. If your museum is not a NAAM member, or you would just like to support the work of this fine association, please consider joining! The next conference will be held at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles March 25-29, 2014, in conjunction with the World Forum for Motor Museums. I'm wondering if they can top the cool door prizes awarded in Lincoln, though. I'm not a Husker fan, but that cornhead is a hoot!

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Chickasha Swap Meet

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Spring is in the air, which means the opening of the swap meet season for us. First up was Chickasha, Oklahoma, where the winds blow free and often. I arrived there last Tuesday night, because even though the meet doesn't open until Thursday a huge portion of the purchases are made during Wednesday's vendor line up.

I spent all day Wednesday working this huge lot full of trailers, pickups, motor homes and cars full of "treasures."  Even small cars like the red one at right were packed with things to sell, leaving only room for a driver. I wonder if the guy with the Model T and trailer sold everything and had to walk home????
Now, I hate to say that some folks are lazy, but when you bring a full size air mattress to the swap meet--complete with fitted sheets and pillow cases--and set it up in a large fair building used for showing animals (odors included), one has to wonder. This vendor was rather entertaining, as he would lay down for a nap, and when someone came up to ask about an item, he would tell them to bring it over so he could see it and collect the money while staying in bed. Maybe he did have a good idea after all, as not everyone can make money while lying in bed!

On Thursday night we headed into Oklahoma City to view a couple of great car collections. I spent some time looking at this 1903 Gray Wolf race car built by a private collector. It is a thing of beauty, with the copper tube radiator running down the sides of the car. Probably not very effective, but great to look at none the less.
Parked next to the 1903 race car was this fun, ELECTRIC car built to race on the salt flats. It has a very tight space for the driver, and if you are a little claustrophobic like Beth Schmidt is, when Ted closes the hatch the hands come up real fast! But, give her credit for crawling inside. At least she is small enough to fit--I don't think I could have. This electric car goes from 0 to 200 mph in 55 seconds. I'm not sure what its top speed is, but what a rush it would be to drive on the salt flats. In my next post I will share pictures of the Miller race car.