Monday, November 25, 2013

New Arrival: Schacht Model R Runabut

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Another special car arrived at the museum this past week--a 1910 Schacht highwheeler formerly owned by the AACA Museum. Pronounced "Shot," the marque was named for brothers William and Gustav Schacht, producers of bicycles and horse-drawn carriages in Cincinnati at the turn of the 20th century. Their entry into the automobile production industry began in 1904 when they decided to attach a two-cylinder, 10-HP gasoline motor to one of their buggies. They would go on to produce 362 runabouts that year.

The company's slogan for this well-built automobile was "The Invincible Schacht." Unlike most other highwheelers of the time, Schachts were equipped with steering wheels and were water cooled. The runabouts were marketed as the "Three Purpose Car" or "The 3-in-1 Schacht," because they could be changed in five minutes from a runabout to a four-passenger car or delivery car by the addition of a rear seat or wagon box. Despite its attractive price ($680 in 1908), Schacht struggled to compete with the Ford Model T and General Motors. Winning a respectable 5th place in the 1912 Indianapolis 500 race wasn't enough to boost sales, and by 1913 the company stopped making automobiles and began producing trucks.

Although not a flashy automobile, we acquired this rare Schacht in large part because it is all-original, unrestored condition. We do not plan to restore it. Any old car can be restored to showroom condition, but a car can only be original once. It is very impressive how well this Schacht's original upholstery and body have held up over 103 years. Its top is a bit tattered, but that just adds more character to this old vehicle.

Our car is equipped with a rumble seat ($20 extra) but the original buyer didn't spring for the pneumatic tires, which would have added $30 more to the price. There is not much room in the rumble seat, which looks like it would be a little scary to ride in.

The car is powered by a 24 HP, 183-cubic-inch two-cylinder engine. It is a little different to put the crank through the right front fender to turn the engine, but with the crankshaft going across the car from side to side there was no other option. It won't take much for me to get this car running again. I don't know how long it has been sitting, but it hasn't been run for many years. The oiler is almost done and working like it should.
Here's a view of the engine from the left side of the car. The large flywheel includes the clutch assembly that provides power through a large drive chain to a transaxle in the rear, then to two chain drives to the rear wheels.

We're not sure how many Schachts still exist, and we've found fewer than 40 listed in American car club directories. We are looking forward to hearing and seeing this one come to life again.

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, November 18, 2013

On the Road: The Henry Ford Museum

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

I sit on the board of the National Association of Automobile Museums, and last week I traveled to Dearborn, Michigan for a NAAM strategic planning session. We met in the Benson Ford Research Center, where I was able to spend an extra day researching some of our cars.

The first car built by Henry Ford - 1896 Quadricycle
The Research Center is sandwiched between Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. The former is the site of the annual Old Car Festival held each September--if you haven't been to that event, you really must go some year. The museum should also be on your bucket list. It's not just about Fords; in fact, it's much, much more than a car museum. You can spend hours looking at impressive displays of airplanes, trains, farming equipment, furniture, machinery, 20th Century technology, and the current traveling exhibit on the movie "Avatar."

Of course, "Driving America" was the star attraction for me. This exhibit showcases the enormous influence the automobile had on American culture. Over 180 cars plus information panels, artifacts, and high-tech touch screen displays cover topics such as road development, marketing, recreation, employment, trucking, auto safety, luxury, and racing. More photos are posted over on our Facebook page.

1920s child's car seat

The first Ford Edsel produced.

Another interesting exhibit is "Presidential Cars." It was very sobering to see the 1961 Lincoln that President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated. I was surprised to learn that it had been modified to add more safety features, including an armored steel top and bullet-proof glass, and that Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter used it occasionally.

Of course, the exhibits about the Ford motor car are excellent too. The "exploded" Model T has always been a favorite of mine, but I also enjoyed the Model T assembly exhibit. Here, visitors get to add parts and assemble a Model T each day, which is then disassembled before the next day to start the process all over again.
Yours truly attaching a rear fender

Alas, I didn't have time to take the tour of the Ford Rouge Factory or visit Greenfield Village. Hopefully I will be able to return to the Detroit area again some day.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fashionable WAVES

Barb Cerny (L) with Joan Braddock (R). Joan is
examining a WAVES havelock (hat raincover)
by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

We never know what to expect when someone shows up and announces that they have a donation for the museum. From traffic lights to old fur coats to a spark plug tester, each piece has an interesting story behind it.

I was definitely curious when Joan Braddock offered to give us her mother's World War II WAVES uniforms, as I had never heard of the WAVES, and we had nothing like these garments in our collection. My intrigue only grew when I later discovered that the uniforms had a connection to a well-known haute couture designer.

WAVES stands for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services. The WAVES were an all-women division of the United State Navy, created in 1942 to free up trained Naval men for overseas combat. Although women had served during World War I in the WAACs, or Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, the WAVES represented the first time women performed the same duties and received the same pay and rank as their male counterparts. The WAVES performed many non-combat jobs, including secretarial work, packing parachutes, teaching flight navigation skills to men, driving trucks, and decoding German messages. Approximately 86,000 women served in the WAVES until peace was declared and the WAVES units were demobilized in 1945.

Noted fashion designer Main Rousseau Bocher created the WAVES uniforms at the request of the wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Known simply as Mainbocher, he was an American couturier who designed simple but elegant dresses and gowns for exclusive clientele, including Wallis Simpson, Claudette Colbert, and Gloria Vanderbilt. He donated his designs for the “functional yet feminine” WAVES uniforms. Each enlistee was given four stylish outfits: dress blues, working blue, summer grays and summer dress whites. We now have three of these on display.
Joan in her mother's "dress whites"

Not surprisingly, the Navy used the fashionable WAVES dress uniforms as a recruitment tool, pointing out the specifics of the design as well as its couture pedigree. One recruiter described one of her job duties as walking around downtown areas in her uniform and simply talking to people who asked about it. The outfits were so trendy that in 1943 the WAVES and other women in uniform were named as Vogue’s “Best Dressed Women in the World Today.” The WAVES took great pride in the comfort, quality make and fashion of their garments. As Mainbocher’s clothing was beyond what many of them could afford, their uniforms became prized possessions.

Joan's mother, Helen (Boettcher) Forshaug, served in the WAVES from 1943 to 1944. Following the war, Helen earned her Master's degree in Home Economics from Cornell University. In 1950 she was teaching food and nutrition courses at the University of California at Santa Barbara when a summer vacation lured her to Alaska. During a week-long trip with Sig Wien by airplane, she met a teacher from King Cove named Jens Forshaug, and within ten days they were married. Their careers took them to King Cove, Minto, Fairbanks, Douglas, and Portland, Oregon. Following retirement they lived at Lake Minchumina, where Helen resided until her death in 1991. She clearly treasured her WAVES uniforms and preserved them well. We are pleased to be the stewards of these garments and hope you will come see our WAVES display soon.

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!

To view a video of our Waves uniform display, please visit our Fountainhead Museum YouTube Channel!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Moline-Knight: "Wrecker of World Records"

One of the many interesting, early-American engine designs represented in our museum sits in our 1914 Moline-Knight Model MK-50 seven-passenger touring car (#4674). The man behind it, Charles Y. Knight, was so annoyed by the noisy valves on his 1900 Knox that he decided to design a quieter engine. 

Daimler-Knight sleeve valve engine
Rather than the popular poppet valve design, Knight's engine used a sleeve as the inlet and exhaust valve. It reduced noise so much that he called it the "Silent Knight" engine. He licensed the technology to different automakers, including Daimler, Mercedes, Willys-Overland, and Moline. You can read more about the Knight engine here and see an animation of how it works here.

The high-quality Moline-Knight was less expensive than other Knight-engined cars and the only one to feature thermo-syphon cooling. It also carried the first American sleeve-valve engine with its cylinders cast en bloc. In a 1913 test a Moline-Knight engine ran a remarkable 337 hours non-stop at wide-open throttle without any adjustments, setting a world endurance record. The company claimed the test demonstration the "incomparable superiority of the Moline-Knight's engine over the poppet-valve design," and led them to advertise the car as a "Wrecker of World's Records."

I often wish that our cars could talk, as we usually have little information about their
Parker Wickham
histories. Our Moline-Knight, however, is one of those rare cars that came with a nice stack of paperwork, including some original sales literature. Its known history starts in 1966, when William Hoffman of New York purchased it from a widow. Hoffman wrote that the car had been jacked up in an old garage covered with junk for 35 years. It was in original condition and complete, except that the clock and one of the jump seats was missing. Apparently the tires disintegrated when he towed it home.

Hoffman spent several years restoring the Moline-Knight, but before it was finished he sold it to noted collector Henry Austin Clark for his Long Island Museum. The car remained in partially restored condition until Clark sold it in 1979 to J. Parker Wickham of Mattituck, New York. Wickham finished restoring the car and painted it bright aqua in the mid-1990s. We in turn purchased the Moline-Knight, along with a significant portion of Wickham's collection, in 2007.

We had the Moline-Knight repainted and the seats re-upholstered before it was shipped to Alaska in late 2009. Willy says, "This is a very large car, and is not for the faint of heart, as it drives like a large, almost truck-like car. The Knight engine has plenty of power to push the heavy 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) car along at a comfortable 45 mph (72 km/hr)."

The next time you are in the museum, ask one of the docents to show you the Knight engine display we have in the shop.

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!