Monday, March 24, 2014

A Pedigreed Rambler

by Nancy DeWitt
Our 1904 Stevens-Duryea, when it was
at the Museum of Science and Industry
 (its 2nd owner) in Chicago.
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

One of my jobs as the museum's historian is to document the history of the automobiles in the collection. For a handful, such as our 1928 Oakland, we have very little information beyond the name of the prior owner. For others, like our 1904 Stevens-Duryea and 1918 Biddle, we can trace their provenance (history of ownership) back to the person who bought it new.

In addition to a car's provenance, we are interested in its restoration history (if any), if it has won any awards, and whether or not the car completed any tours of note. Although to our knowledge it never won more than a 3rd place concours award, our 1904 Rambler Model L is a great example of a car that carries some interesting history.

So far we have traced this Rambler's ownership back to B. Paul Moser of Santa Barbara, CA, in the late 1950s. Its next owner was William Schamberger of Cedar Rapids, OH, who performed some restoration work on it in the early 1960s. He sold the car to the Rothman's Pall Mall/Craven Foundation of Toronto in 1972. They had Walter Heater of Detroit restore it; while touring with the car in Great Britain in 1987 they sold it to Coys of London. The Rambler then passed through three other owners in Great Britain over the course of 13 years. It required a full mechanical renovation, which was performed by Cliff Long. Peter Inston drove the Rambler in the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain's Diamond Jubilee Rally in 1990.

Ben Cawthra/London News Pictures/Zuma Press
More notably, our Rambler participated in the London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run (LTBVCR) several times. The LTBVCR is the world's longest-running motoring event and the world's largest gathering of veteran cars (those built before 1905). The first run was held in 1896, and it has some fascinating history. It is not a race, but a 60-mile test of endurance for these old cars, a test of stamina for the driver and passengers (it is usually quite cold and often rainy), and a social gathering for veteran-car aficionados. A lot of the cars break down, and many do not finish.
A 1904 Rambler (not ours) in the
1910 London-to-Brighton Run.

Our Rambler completed its first LTBVCR in 1973 (although the run was "somewhat traumatic" due to engine problems), but failed to complete the 1987 run after throwing a connecting rod. That's why the Craven Foundation sold it Coys. It later completed runs in 1988 and 1989.

John William Middendorf

In 2000, the Rambler passed back to an American owner--Ambassador William Middendorf II of Rhode Island. Middendorf had served as treasurer for Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, as Secretary of Defense Secretary of the Navy (1974-77), and as a U.S. Ambassador (1969-1973, 1981-1987). He also owned our 1898 Hay Motor VehicleDon Meyer drove the entire 2000 LTBVCR in the Rambler in before shipping it back to North America. 

Peter Pitcher did some mechanical work on the Rambler after it was brought back to the U.S., and I believe Middendorf toured with the car before selling it to our museum in 2007. It is one of only four 1904 Rambler Model Ls known to survive. Some day we'd love to take it or one of our other Veteran cars across the pond and participate in the historic London-to-Brighton run. I can just see Willy and Tim looking like these two chaps at right!

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

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