Saturday, August 19, 2017

Northeast Classic Car Museum, Norwich, New York, Part 1--August 19, 2017

At one time travelling down I-81 we pulled off at a rest stop for a brief break and while browsing the brochures of attractions in New York State one caught my eye as it was promoting the Northeast Classic Car Museum, which was unknown to me.  Keeping the brochure we determined to visit the museum when an opportunity presented itself.

That came when we spent a weekend in Cooperstown, New York, to attend performances at the Glimmerglass Opera.  As one of the shows was not until the evening, we had the day free and set off for Norwich, New York, and the museum.  This took a surprising amount of time--Cooperstown is somewhat isolated in its own right and the roads to Norwich as we headed west were all little country roads so it took us nearly an hour to drive the 62 kms but it was a pleasant trip.

Norwich is a very small town (pop. 7,900) and we found the museum quickly.  It is housed in a rather modest-looking building but that was misleading as what you see from the parking lot is only one-third of the actual structure.  

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
Entering the museum (and momentarily ignoring the gift shop!), the first car to be seen was a beautiful 1957 Ford Skyliner, one of 20,766 built that year which marked the introduction of the world's only hardtop convertible.  All Skyliners were powered by V8s and this one was the optionalThunderbird V8 of 312,  producing 245 hp, which cost $43 more than the standard 292 motor.  This particular example, built in California, received a frame-off rotisserie restoration in 2006 and has won numerous awards.  It has only 20,800 miles and options included a three-speed automatic transmission with overdrive ($108), power windows ($70) and signal-seeking radio ($100).  The top is very complex, with 600 feet of wiring, 8 servo motors and 20 contact switches.  The Skyliner, introduced in the middle of the model year, was priced at $2,942.

This car had a special attraction as the first family car I can recall was our 1957 Ford Ranch Wagon, which shared the same Inca Gold and Wimbledon White two-tone paint scheme, with the gold anodized trim along the sides.  However, our car--the first new one purchased in our family--would have been pretty basic, with a three-speed manual transmission and no radio.  These two door station wagons have become very rare now; certainly ours, used for business, was pretty much finished by the time it was replaced with a Chevrolet Impala Coupe in 1966.

1912 Metz Roadster
The marvellous Metz, built in Waltham, Massachusetts, from 1909 to 1922, had a most unusual history.  Started by Charles Herman Metz, who began as a bicycle racer and then went on to be the manufacturer of Orient bicycles, he expanded in 1901 to begin production of cars but had a falling-out with his partners and left the firm.  He returned as the rescuer of the company in 1909 and confronted with large debts but a lot of spare parts he instituted a build-it-yourself program that allowed consumers to buy their Metz car in fourteen packages for $25 each and do the assembly themselves.  The Metz, available only as a stylish roadster, was a simple vehicle and noteworthy for its friction transmission, which made gears unnecessary and was an ancestor of today's CVT.  The Metz Plan was successful and the Roadster in the museum was an example that would have cost the buyer/builder $495, although the company also offered cars assembled in its factory for $600 starting in 1911.

The firm flourished and three Metz cars were entered in the 1913 Glidden Tour, which the team won with a perfect score, indicative of their reliability.  Metz cars were also successfully exported.  Although the company did offer cars with a conventional transmission and shaft drive in 1918, sales were insufficient and the firm ceased operations in 1922 in bankruptcy.  Mr. Metz then drove the last Metz built to California where he started a construction company with his son, passing away there in 1937.

Leaving the lobby of the museum, we entered the first section of the roughly chronological display of cars.  Having been to many automobile museums, we were very impressed by the truly obscure marques that the museum featured, an excellent education in pre-Great War motoring.  In some cases mannequins stood next to the cars dressed in appropriate period clothing. 

1909 Black 2 Passenger Runabout
The short-lived Black Manufacturing Company introduced its new highwheeler vehicle at the Iowa State Fair in 1908 and came away with $50,000 in orders.  The Black was a simple two-cylinder 18 hp air-cooled buggy with chain drive and solid rubber tires, but the company offered an even more primitive vehicle, this 14 hp two seater sold as the Chicago Motor Buggy, for $450.  In 1909 the firm bought out a defunct manufacturer west of Chicago to obtain factory space and also came to a business arrangement with a company in Indiana, the Crow Motor Car Company, to produce a larger, four cylinder machine to be sold as the Black Crow. A year later Black's partner in Indian decided it could just produce the car by itself as the Crow-Elkhart and Black was out of business. 

1910 Pullman Touring Car Model K-10
This handsome car was built in York, Pennsylvania, by the Pullman Motor Company, which had begun in 1905 as the York Motor Car Company and had faced financial problems during the Panic of 1907, being then taken over by rescuers from New York.  The Pullmans had a reputation as a quality car and this example, which cost $2,000 in 1910, had a 35 hp four cylinder engine, three speed transmission and separate dual ignitions, one for the battery and the other for the magneto.  The folding top and windshield were a $150 option.

Sales success led to the company's downfall as the rush to production meant lower quality.  The New York financial people were succeeded by local York businessmen in 1915 but to no avail as the firm went bankrupt in December 1916, with the last Pullmans leaving the factory as 1917 models. 

1914 Detroit Electric
The Anderson Electric Car Company of Detroit produced Detroit Electric cars from 1907 to 1937, building (and rebuilding) some 13,000 electrics in that time.  This Model 48 Brougham was one of 4,669 cars the firm built in 1914 and was priced at $3,000, their most expensive model.  With a range advertised as 80 miles between charges it was marketed as an urban vehicle.  Its prime attractions were lack of noise, no gears to shift, and ease in starting but after the introduction of electric starter in gasoline cars beginning in 1912 the electric car fought a rearguard action.  Later models of Detroit Electric took on the appearance of gasoline-powered cars, including fake radiator shells, but it would take the introduction of lithium-ion batteries to make electrics viable again when Tesla introduced its Roadster in 2008.

1910 Waverly Electric 4 Passenger Brougham
Not as well known as the Detroit Electric, the Waverly was produced by a company that had begun in 1898 as an element of Albert Pope's automotive empire, operating under different names until purchased by a group of Indianapolis business after Pope-Waverly, as it then was, went into receivership in 1908.  The Model 75 Brougham, on a 79 inch wheelbase, sold for $2,250.  While the company never made money under Pope auspices, the new managers apparently had some success but unable to compete with the more practical gasoline cars the company faded away by 1916.

1912 International (IHC) Truck/Runabout
International Harvester introduced its highwheeler truck in 1907 and built them until 1912.  Popular in rural areas, more than 4,500 were built.  Built in Akron, Ohio, and equipped with a two cylinder 26 hp or 30 hp engine, it was marketed as a five passenger touring car for $2,700, converted from its truck incarnation to a car through the simple addition of additional seats.

1927 Chandler Standard Six
Started in 1913 by a group of disaffected executives formerly with the Lozier Motor Company of Detroit, the new Chandler Motor Car Company of Cleveland was almost immediately a success, producing a line of highly-regarded mid-priced cars.  1927 was the firm's most successful year, with some 20,000 cars being produced.  This example, a Standard Six five passenger sedan, sold for $995.  Chandlers were noted for their success in high-climbing competitions but after an attempt to market a lower-cost companion car, the Cleveland, Chandler was eventually absorbed by the Hupp Motor Car Company in 1928 and Chandler production ceased soon afterwards.

1910 Firestone-Columbus Series 7-A Runabout
The Columbus Buggy Company of Columbus, Ohio, had introduced an electric car in 1903 and a simple $750 two cylinder highwheeler in 1907 but the latter was discontinued when this model, "The Car Complete," arrived in 1909.  It was named after the company president, Clinton Dewitt Firestone.  The 7-A Runabout was powered with a four cylinder 24/25 hp engine and cost $1,800.  Columbus Buggy went bankrupt in 1913 and Mr. Firestone died in 1914.  An attempt was made to keep the company going under new investors as the New Columbus Buggy Company but it was all over by 1915.

1914 Buick Model B-37
Founded in 1903 by David Dunbar Buick, Buick became the cornerstone of what was to become General Motors after it was acquired by Billy Durant as controlling investor in 1904.  The Buick was among the first to offer an overhead valve engine.  This five passenger touring car sold for $1,485 and 9,050 examples were produced in 1914.  It featured a 221 cu. in. inline four cylinder engine putting out 35 hp.

1909 Victor Model D Open Runabout
The Victor Automobile Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Missouri, began production of its highwheeler model in 1905 and by 1909 was offering a choice of solid or pneumatic tires.  It was powered by a two cylinder engine of 14/20 hp and priced at $720.  The Victor became larger and more powerful by 1911 but to little avail as the firm's founder passed away that year and the firm folded.

1920 Chevrolet Series 490 Two Door Roadster
In May 19168 Billy Durant propelled himself back into the leadership of General Motors but conducting a reverse takeover using his Chevrolet Motor Car Company, established in 1911.  By 1920 he was out again but it was decided that Chevrolet would be General Motors' volume leader.  This Series 490 was introduced in 1915 at $490 to compete with the Ford Model T and was very successful to that the extent that the Chevrolet company's value soared, providing Durant with the asset he needed.  The 490 was gradually increased in price with this roadster retailing for $795.  Powered by an overhead valve inline four cylinder engine of 24 hp, the 490 was produced until 1922.  By 1929 Chevrolet had surpassed Ford in annual sales.

1924 Stanley Steamer Seven Passenger Sedan
The Stanley Brothers, identical twins who had a photographic equipment business in Massachusetts, started building steam cars in 1897 and their cars were noteworthy for high performance, with the perhaps the most publicized event being Fred Marriott's run along Dayton Beach in a streamlined racer, the Stanley Woggle-Bug, reached 127.66 mph, the World Land Speed Record of the day.  Stanley phased out motor sport participation in 1909 and soon afterward the introduction of electric starting for gasoline cars began the slow demise of the steam car business.  The Stanley car was conservative in design (and marketing--no advertising until 1915!), lacking a flash boiler and a steam condenser, which meant that the car's chief advantages of rapid acceleration and quiet operation were offset by the very lengthy time needed to start the car and then the constant stopping to take on water.  While the car was improved time was already running out for the steam car.  Stanley's primary competitor, White, had made the switch to gasoline in 1912, but Stanley soldiered on until going into receivership in 1923.  Its assets went to the Steam Vehicle Corporation of America which continued production of Stanleys until fading from the scene in 1925.  This seven passenger sedan, built on a 130 inch wheelbase, was one of only 120 built, among the last of the Stanleys.

1921 Mitchell Model F-40 Five Passenger Touring Car
The Mitchell Motor Car Company of Racine, Wisconsin, was the eventual outgrowth of the wagon works of Henry Mitchell, a firm which went on to produce bicycles before turning to autos.  Car production began in 1903, making it one of America's earliest car companies, and the firm prided itself on manufacturing almost all of its components locally.  The car was considered a quality vehicle in the mid-level market.  There was a management shake-up in 1913 and the company dropped production of four cylinder cars after 1915, concentrating on sixes thereafter (although a 29 hp V8 was also produced in 1916 only).  By 1919 annual sales had reached 10,000 units and Mitchell decided to set itself apart through styling.  The 1920 Mitchell featured a slanted windshield and, at a different angle, a radiator that was tilted backwards.  The car earned the sobriquet "Drunken Mitchell" and sales plunged.  A quick return to an upright radiator did not help and by 1923 Mitchell only produced 100 cars before it went bankrupt.  The Model F-40 in the museum would have cost $1,750.

1915 Scripps-Booth Model C Roadster
Among America's pioneers in the auto industry was the colourful James Scripps Booth, a scion of the Scripps publishing firm, who was both an accomplished artist and a passionate auto enthusiast.  Highly inventive, his first car was the Bi-Autogo, a seeming combination of a car and motorcycle that offered the first V8 engine ever made in Detroit.  Only a prototype was built (at a reported cost of $25,000) and resides today at the Detroit Historical Society.  Booth went on to start a new company, the Scripps-Booth Cyclecar Company, to manufacture the Rocket cyclecar in 1913, which sold for $385 and, as far as cyclecars went, was perhaps the fastest and most durable of the species.  However Booth recognized that that the cyclecar era would be short-lived so he started another firm, the Scripps-Booth Company, with a fresh infusion of family capital in late 1914.  This would produce what Booth called "a luxurious light car." He brought in noted engineer William B. Stout (who had designed the Imp cyclecar and would go on to design airplanes for Henry Ford as well as the Stout Scarab) and the result was the 1915 Model C, a staggered-seating three seat roadster.  Using a four cylinder overhead valve Sterling engine of 18 hp. the roadster sold for $775 and was quite innovative.  It included a horn button on the steering wheel, a handsome German silver radiator shell, shaft drive, a step-down frame, wire wheels and a torpedo rear deck.

By 1916 the company had produced 6,000 cars and the sprightly Model C had some celebrity buyers, including Reggie Vanderbilt, Mrs. Jay Gould and Winston Churchill.  In November the company had gone public and acquired the Sterling Motor Company, but reliability problems began to crop up.  Booth was unhappy with the direction the company was taking and particularly when Series 490 Chevrolet engines were substituted for the Sterling unit.  He left the company in 1917, the same year that it was absorbed by Chevrolet under Durant and subsequently became part of GM.  The car became simply another GM car and management, after Durant's departure, could not see a reason for its existence.  By the time the production ended in 1922, 60,000 Scripps-Booth cars had been built.

1921 Holmes Series 4 Seven Passenger Touring Car
The Holmes Automobile Company of Canton, Ohio, was started in 1918 by a former vice-president and chief engineer of the H.H. Franklin Company so it is not surprising that the company would be another advocate for air-cooling.  Larger and slightly more expensive than the Franklin, it claimed to be America's most comfortable car, thanks to its flexible chassis, long wheelbase an full-elliptic springs although many felt it was also America's ugliest car.  Plans were made for production of 4,000 in 1918 but never exceeded 500 each year the company was in operation.  This was not for very long--a vice-president of the company was charged with larceny and embezzlement in 1921 and by 1922 the company was in receivership.  Only four cars are known to still exist.  This touring car, priced at $3,350, used a 31 hp six cylinder engine.

1916 Studebaker Model ED-6 Limousine
In 1916 Studebaker's production was almost entirely open touring cars or roadster, with closed cars making up only 2% of output.  Of those cars, only a handful were limousines and this is the only one known to exist.  It is powered by an inline six of 354 cu. in. displacement, making 54 hp, and cost $2,250.  So few were ordered that bodies were outsourced to coachmakers Willoughby & Co. in Utica, New York..  The front bumper of this car was an option and the coach lights were aftermarket additions.

1929 Nash Model 422 Standard Cabriolet
Charles Williams Nash's story was truly a rags-to-riches one.  Abandoned by his parents at age six, he became impressively self-reliant and eventually ended up at the Durant-Dort Carriage Company in Flint, Michigan, in 1890, where he earned $1 each day stuffing upholstery.  Within six months he had become factory supervisor and within a decade vice-president of the company.  He rose with Durant and by 1910 was vice-president of Buick.  When Durant was ousted from GM, Nash became the President of General Motors and made impressive improvements in the company's operations. When Durant returned in 1916, he offered to let Nash continue as GM President but Nash wanted to be his own boss.  Striking out on his own, he bought the struggling Jeffery Motor Company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, renamed it Nash Motors in 1917 and ran the company until 1936.  

A remarkably astute businessman, Nash was able to make a great financial success of the company and maintain its independence in difficult circumstances.  Nash cars were solidly built, reliable quality vehicles meant to appeal to America's middle class.  Forays by Nash into the luxury field (LaFayette) and economy end (Ajax) were missteps that did not harm the core Nash brand.  After becoming part of American Motors in 1954, the Nash brand was dropped (along with Hudson) in 1957 as AMC went only with the Rambler name, originally used by Thomas Jeffery in 1897.  

This Nash Model 422 was the most basic of three trim levels offered by Nash.  Priced at $995, when the average 1921 car sold for $425, it was powered by a 50 hp six cylinder engine and this example features the "Royal" option package, which included six wire wheels, two side-mounted spares, a rear folding trunk rack, and a full rear bumper.

1931 Ford Model A Cabriolet
Introduced to wide acclaim as a 1928 model, the Ford Model A was designed to be a far more stylish competitor to the Chevrolet line that the Model T could be.  4.8 million were sold by the time production ended after a rather short period in 1931.  This cabriolet was a revamped body style premiered in this final production year, one of sixteen body styles offered that year, and 11.081 were built, with a listed price of $595.  Like all Model As, it had a 40 hp. 200 inline four cylinder engine.  A Ford Model B was to arrive in 1932 with 20% more horsepower but was completely overshadowed by the introduction of the Ford V8 that year, an engine that would continue to power Ford vehicle for 21 years.

1932 Chevrolet 21BA Confederate Deluxe Convertible
Nicknamed "the Baby Cadillac" as it had taken on styles cues from GM's luxury line, the Chevrolet Confederate was designed to take on Ford's new V8 models.  Its six cylinder 194 cu. in. engine was good for 60 hp (compared to the Ford's 65 hp) and the car featured a four-speed synchromesh transmission, downdraft carburetor and a counter-balanced crankshaft.  The Confederate, which outsold Ford's new offering, was only available in 1932.  This very attractive convertible was priced at $595.

1927 Studebaker ES Big Six "President" 7 Passenger Sedan
Priced at $2,245 and available at first only as a seven passenger sedan, the President was the top of Studebaker's line of cars.  1927 saw considerable styling changes and eventually a convertible and limousine were also offered.  The sedan, weighing it at 4.050 lbs, was powered by a 354 cu. in. inline six making 75 hp.

1932 Ford Model B "Woodie"
Introduced at the same time as the new Ford V8 but using a revised four cylinder engine carried over from the Model A, the Ford Model B looked the same as the V8 but lacked that model's "V8" emblems on the headlamp tie bars and used "Ford" script on the hubcaps rather than "V8."  This station wagon is one of only 1,383 built in 1932, with 1,052 having been Model Bs.  As the wood body is vulnerable to deterioration, these vehicles are extremely rare today, with only 20 on the National Woodie Club registry.

1919 White Mountain Bus
The White brothers—Rollin, Windsor, and Walter—began producing steam-powered cars in 1900, and in 1910 began producing gasoline-powered engines. The White Motor Company ended car production after World War I to focus exclusively on commercial trucks and buses. The company soon sold 10 percent of all trucks made in the U.S.

The White Mountain buses were used for tours in the Western United States national parks. Several of these rugged buses were used in the Alaskan town of Skagway for tours, and refurbished White buses are now back in operation at Yellowstone National Park. They were also a popular choice for smaller state parks and resort operators. The high stature and open-air seating arrangement made these magnificent machines an ideal choice for tours through Mother Nature’s most beautiful landscapes.

This White Mountain Bus is believed to have been used in the Catskill Mountain region of New York State. Riding on 36-inch wood-spoked wheels, this massive machine is full of character and possesses many charms, including the elaborate use of wood and the brass radiator shell and lights.  It was on display at the Northeast Classic Car Museum for two decades but subsequent to our visit was auctioned off for $55,000 in October 2019.

1924 Buick Series 24-6 Depot Hack

"Depot Hacks" were so named as they were originally horse-drawn wagons used to pick up passengers and luggage from railway stations and this function was eventually taken over by motor vehicles later to be known as "station wagons."  This Buick is very rare as it is believe that fewer than 50 were built at an estimated price of $2,500 each.  Power was derived from Buick's  255 cu. in. 70 hp overhead valve inline six cylinder engine.

No comments:

Post a Comment