Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In the Shop: Building a Replica Race Car

Photo courtesy of Frances Erickson

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Our latest project in the museum shop is to build a replica of the car that Bobby Sheldon drove in the first organized car race in Fairbanks, held on July 5, 1917. The rules required that the cars be stripped down and carry both a driver and mechanic. Sheldon won that race and the $500 prize in a Model T Ford. That was a lot of money at the time--more than the factory price of a new Model T.

Our replica of Sheldon's race car will use parts collected in Alaska from 1916-1925 Model Ts. It will be a nice example of an early race car--and it will run! We've gathered parts from all over for this project, and owe special thanks to Bruce Campbell of Anchorage for helping gather several, including the frame.

The frame we're using is from a 1925 Model T. The major difference between it and the frame from a late-teens model is that it has a wider rear cross member. We aren't going to restore the parts for the replica, but rather, put them into safe operating condition. In fact, they'll probably be in better condition than the parts were in Sheldon's car when he raced!

This project is being performed by our "pit crew" volunteers that come in every Tuesday for a day of fun and work in the museum. I can't say enough great things about these guys. Their enthusiasm and dedication is greatly appreciated.

Here are the front and rear axles we're using for the replica. We'll rebuild them to make them operable and safe for speeds under 50 mph (although we probably won't exceed 20 mph). We haven't decided what wheels to use yet, but will probably go with 30-inch wood.

We are building the engine from several we gathered for usable hard parts. By the time we finish the project the pit crew will have a full understanding of how a Model T operates. Then, we'll move on to a full round of driving lessons so they will all be able to drive a "pedal car" (Model Ts have several pedals to master). When you come to the Midnight Sun Cruise-In in June you should see the Sheldon racer being driven by one of the volunteers and a "mechanic" riding in the passenger seat. If you visit the museum on Sunday, be sure to look through the shop windows to follow our progress.

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!

If you would like to view the first installment of our video series on the build-up, visit our Fountainhead Museum YouTube Channel. 

1 comment:

  1. Willy so happy to see this! What a great project. I wish I could be there to help on tuesdays but well, 2300 miles is a little too far every week. But I will be at the Midnight Sun Cruise in to see it (and the museum) in June. Down here I am proud to say we are gathering intrust in the Model T fords also. I will be teaching two sold out drivers ed classes on how to drive the model t at the LeMay museum. hopefully it goes over well and we can do these classes every year to even more students, as it has been a popular class at the Gilmore museum for years now. My girlfriend Helen and I will be staying at Bear lodge for a week starting the weds before cruise in. Can't wait to see you all again .I will have my polishing rag in hand if you need the help. Mike Conrad


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