Monday, October 28, 2013

The Pan Automobile:

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

The Pan Automobile was a fairly ordinary car with an intriguing history—and a distant connection to Fairbanks. The Pan Motor Company was founded in 1917 by Samuel Connor Pandolfo, who set up operations in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Within a few years he suffered a spectacular fall from grace, accused—perhaps wrongly—of concocting the Pan as nothing more than a sham to bilk investors.

Pandolfo had grandiose plans for his automobile and its production. He was a master of persuasion, luring numerous investors for his automobile by promising to build as many cars as Henry Ford. In just a few years he built a 22-acre factory complex and a community with over 50 houses for his employees. He had his engineers design a light car with advanced features such as fully enclosed, internally expanding brakes, a ball bearing crankshaft, and an engine with interchangeable valves and springs (which made it far easier to service than most other cars). Most notable was that its seats converted into a bed, and there was a "compartment tank" in the rear for tools, cold drinks and a reserve supply of fuel, oil and water.

To raise money for production of the Pan Model A (the company’s second model), Pandolfo went on a marketing tour and mailed out a flood of promotional materials. Some investors had apparently grown weary of his fundraising, though, and charged that the mailings misrepresented claims of output. Accused of defrauding his 70,000 stockholders, he was indicted in early 1919 on charges of mail fraud. Pandolfo’s defense team claimed that his company was a victim of persecution by the Associated Advertising Clubs, with which he had refused to do business. The defense tried to introduce motion pictures that proved the plant was producing cars, but the judge denied the request.

Despite manufacturing 70 cars during the month of his trial, the jury was convinced that the Pan Motor Company was a sham, organized solely to sell stock. Pandolfo was found guilty on four charges of mail fraud and sentenced to serve ten years in prison. Not surprisingly, this was the beginning of the end for the Pan Motor Company, which dissolved in 1922.

After serving almost three years at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Pandolfo was welcomed back to St. Cloud by 600 well wishers and a brass band. In 1956, he moved to Fairbanks at the age of 84 to prospect for oil. He died here in 1960 after suffering a stroke, and was buried at the Birch Hill Cemetery. Although described in his obituary by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner as “one of the nation’s most controversial figures,” he was all but forgotten in our town. The St. Cloud Antique Auto Club (the “Pantowners”) never forgot him, though, and with the help of his great-grandson had his remains exhumed in 2011 and returned to St. Cloud.

Photo by Brooks Brierley in Autoweek
Of 737 Pans produced, only six are known to exist. Interestingly, one was owned by J. Parker Wickham, from whom we purchased the core of our collection before the museum opened. Mr. Wickham donated his Pan, shown at right, to the AACA Museum, which recently sold it at auction to a collector in Minnesota. Perhaps we’ll find another. One article I read said that Samuel Pandolfo was photographed in a Pan while on his way to Alaska. Did he drive one to Fairbanks, and if he did, what happened to it?

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hershey Swamp Meet: 2013

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

My wife and I arrived at Hershey, PA for the annual meet on a rather cool Tuesday afternoon, and spent the rest of the day walking around the flea market looking for treasures. An ominous sky greeted us Wednesday morning. It wasn't raining when we arrived at the field, but that didn't last long. 

Over the next few days we met up with and had short visits with friends from home: Ron and Nancy Allen, Rick and Jill Larrick, and Scott and Lynne Grundy. I sure hope they didn't float away
in the torrential rain that fell on Hershey during the meet.

I must say that I have not seen that type of rain since I was in southeast Asia during the monsoon season. We had 7 inches fall in one 24-hour period, and probably 10 inches or better in some areas.

The vendor numbers were a little sparse, and I think the spectator numbers were down as well. After the rain started a lot vendors never uncovered their loads of treasures to share, and many left early as the week progressed. The vendors that had tents up, however, drew crowds looking to get a moment out of the rain.

There was a lot of flooding in some areas, with some on/off ramps closed, so one had to watch where you were going. Thursday night I waded through ankle-deep water to get to our car, so that I could be a gentleman and bring the car to the ladies so they could stay somewhat dry.

This photo shows how vacant the flea market had become by Friday afternoon. Water was running through all the tents, golf carts were stuck on the grassy areas, and only the hard-core folks were venturing about.

I saw only a few Brass Era cars at the two nights of the RM Auctions, but there were some rather nice later cars. We managed to buy something for our Preservation Gallery--a 1910 Schacht Model R, which should arrive in Fairbanks in the next few weeks. It is a rather unusual little car and will make a nice addition to the museum.

All in all, it was another memorable trip to Hershey!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fortuny’s Delphos Gown: The Snowflake of Fashion

by Abigail Cucolo
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Photo by Brian Bohannon 
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
When looking at historic costume, the word “comfortable” does not easily spring to mind. Opulent- sure, beautiful- definitely. Romantic, stunning, intricate, and, of course, how could they breathe!? But not “comfortable.” It is rare to find a garment that combines comfort with couture. Luckily, we have two such gems in our collection, and both are now on display. With fine pleats hugging the figure in lightweight, shimmering silk, the Fortuny Delphos gown was the Versailles of rational clothing, and the two we have are in remarkable condition.

Spanish artist Mariano Fortuny’s simple, elegant, and unconventional Delphos dress made a debut in 1907. Inspired by the chitons of ancient Greece, the design reflected the fervor for neo-classicism seen during the Empire Revival. Indeed, with the columnar silhouette and fluted figure, women wearing a Fortuny resembled the caryatids of Peloponnesian architecture. Originally intended as a tea gown, the Delphos dress was driven by the ideals of the Aesthetic movement and meant to be worn without the elaborate underpinnings of the Edwardian period, relieving women of their spiral steel and cotton cages (in other words: the corset). Made in one size and easily slipped over the head, the mushroom-like pleats would expand and adapt to the wearer’s body, providing freedom of movement and making the Delphos dress incredibly comfortable- and incredibly risqué for the covered and corseted Edwardian lady.

Famous for the beauty and versatility of his textiles, Fortuny handcrafted each dress (and every feature of the dress) in his Venice studio (known as “The House of the Magician”). The silks were fashioned in a variety of dyes ranging from cool greens, blues, and purples to glowing reds and golds. Many were saturated with vibrant hues, and could be dipped up to 15 times to enrich the color. Hand-blown, Venetian glass beads were commonly attached to the side seams, weighing down the lightweight silk. To further highlight a woman’s natural figure, often the gowns would also be paired with a sash, belt, or cord of satin or velvet, printed in a design inspired by various historic cultures. The snowflake of fashion, no two Fortuny gowns were identical, and he would never use the same design or color combination on any two pieces of fabric.

The most distinctive and unique feature of the gowns- the fine pleats- were created by a secret process Fortuny never revealed. With silk being a temperamental textile when it comes to pleating, Fortuny’s method somehow managed to attain a near permanent pleat. It is believed that he finger pleated the silk when wet, possibly holding the creases in place with rows of basting along the length of the panel, then heat set the fabric with porcelain rollers. To help maintain the pleats, the dresses were rolled up and stored in little hat boxes (no folding or hanging! Woo hoo!). With each dress made out of 4-5 panels containing between 430-450 pleats, the process was incredibly thorough, and has never been successfully duplicated since.

Photo by Brian Bohannon
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
So basically, Delphos gowns were handmade, luxurious, custom creations, yet you could slip them over your head, shove them in a box, and never have to worry about steaming or ironing. It was the paradox of unfussy haute couture, a paradox beloved by enlightened women for decades. Soon, the dress was acceptable outside the home and was worn as sensuous evening wear by icons like Lillian Gish, Isadora Duncan, and Natacha Rambova (please look that lady up--she is pretty spectacular!).  With devoted clientele, Fortuny produced his extraordinary gowns relatively unchanged until his death in 1949. The surviving garments have been lovingly maintained and can occasionally be seen on some of the fashion elite today. Timeless, unique, and rare, Fortuny’s gowns are prized processions of the lucky museums that house them in their collection--and we’ve got two, so stop by and feast your eyes on Fortuny’s fabulous folds!

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

Monday, October 7, 2013

In the Shop - 1903 Toledo

 by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Our 1903 Toledo is a stunning car, and the restoration done on it by Horseless Carriage Restoration is one of the best you will see. One of several reasons why we want the Toledo's running condition to stay on par with its fancy appearance!

When we got ready to fire it up recently, however, we encountered a problem that I thought we had avoided: bad fuel.  Our normal procedure is to make sure that we drain all the fuel out of cars that have a copper fuel tank, in order to avoid corrosion problems. When we had trouble getting fresh fuel to reach the Toledo's carburetor, we wondered if there was some kind of obstruction, but had no idea what we would encounter. Once the fuel finally reached the carb and we tickled it, out came a very green solution. Definitely not something you would expect to see in a fuel system. Hmmmm.
We finally got the Toledo started and limped it around to the shop. Once we drained out all the fuel and found that there was still close to a quarter inch or so still hiding in the tank, we knew we had located the source of the problem. So, even if you're sure you drained the tank, MAKE SURE IT IS INDEED EMPTY!

To access and remove the fuel tank we had to first remove the Toledo's side baskets, top braces, and the seat assembly. Once removed we steamed it out and cleaned it so we could remove its drain system. Next we repaired the tank with a sump to ensure that all the fuel was indeed drained out, leaving none to sour and make a mess.

Next we put in new fuel shut-offs so we can remove the carb in the future should it become necessary. We then cleaned the carb out and installed a new drain valve.

fitting from tank

This is the fitting we removed from the tank. As you can see, it allowed a considerable amount of fuel to remain in the tank.

Once the repairs were completed, we put in some fresh fuel and the Toledo started and ran like a charm. We drove it around for a bit, then drained ALL of the gas out and put it back in place in the museum. Thank you to the docents that helped clean it up, as it sure flings oil and makes a mess when it runs! The Toledo is now sitting pretty for the winter, waiting for  you to come see it in the museum.

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!