Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Handsome Hupmobiles

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

In 1908, the first automobiles began arriving in Fairbanks, among them a Pope-Toledo, Pierce Great Arrow, Franklin and White Steamer. Like all automobiles here until the mid-teens, they were shipped in on sternwheelers via the Yukon and Tanana Rivers. It would take almost two decades and a railroad, however, before any Hupmobiles made it to this frontier town.

The first mention of the marque appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on May 8, 1926 under the headline “Brisk Market for Automobiles here.” The Fairbanks Exploration Company was noted as having purchased three six-cylinder Hupmobiles. A Hupmobile Eight was apparently due on the next train, and in 1927 dealer L.W. Rogge ran a series of ads for Hupmobile Sixes and Eights. What became of these cars is a mystery, but fortunately our museum has been able to acquire two lovely "Hupps."

After arriving here from Seattle in the early 1970s, our 1928 Century Series A opera coupe (# A77315) passed through three Fairbanks owners before we purchased it in 2007. The car’s whimsical but authentic color scheme--a red-orange body highlighted with black fenders and trim of mint green and dark brown --draws a lot of praise (and a few raised eyebrows) from museum visitors when we have it on display. 

The museum’s 1933 K-321 Victoria (# K8170) attracts a lot of attention, especially among women visitors. The sweeping lines and metallic turquoise paint job on this beauty really stand out. Few people walk by this car without exclaiming, "Wow!”

Considered one of the most beautifully designed cars ever produced, the Series K-321 Hupmobiles had the distinction of being the first automobiles designed by famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy together with stylist Amos Northrup. These Hupps introduced dramatic style features such as a V-shaped radiator grille, sharply raked windshield, extra-long streamlined running boards, swan-like taillights and a flying H hood ornament. The most striking new features, though, were the “cycle fenders” that tightly hugged the curves of the tires.

This 1933 Victoria features eight hand-operated ventilation doors in the hood, dual trumpet horns, suicide doors (hinged at the rear) and an artificial leather roof panel. The car is powered by a six-cylinder in-line L-head, 90-horsepower engine with a displacement of 228 cubic inches. It has a unique “free wheeling” three-speed transmission, which allows the car to coast when the driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator. 

Only seven 1933 K-321 Victorias are known to still exist. We were pleased to exhibit ours at the Vernon L. Nash Antique Car Club show this past weekend, although it and our crew overheated in the 80-degree heat!

Photos of  fender/spare and suicide door by Ronn Murray Photography.

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