Saturday, August 19, 2017

Northeast Classic Car Museum, Norwich, New York, Part 5--August 19, 2017: Barn Finds, Light Trucks and Cars Made in New York State

Any large museum will have items that do not fit into obvious categorization: new arrivals, special exhibitions, or artifacts that are just interesting.  The final section of the Northeast Classic Car Museum we visited featured just such a diverse buffet.  All of these vehicles have some kind of New York State connection.

In recent years there has been a great deal of interest in "barn finds," or cars that have a very high degree of originality. Two examples of unrestored cars were presented in a suitably rustic setting.

1910 Buick Model 10 (left) and 1905 Lovell (right)

1910 Buick Model 10 Four Passenger Toy Tonneau
Essentially unchanged from the 1909 version, the Model 10 was offered in thirteen (!) different body styles, all powered with a 165 four cylinder engine of 22.5 hp.  10,998 Model 10s left the factory in Flint during the model year.  1910 was the year the celebrated Buick Bug racing cars made their appearance driven by Louis Chevrolet and Bob Burman to great promotional success.

This Model 10, selling for $1,150, was purchased new by a gentleman in Morris, New York, and had a full slate of options: a windshield and a wicker picnic basket.  It could be a prime candidate for restoration as it has almost all of its original parts.

1905 Lovell
This one-of-kind motor vehicle was constructed by Abijah Lovell in his blacksmith shop in Chemung, New York.  It includes a number of parts from horse-drawn buggies as well as parts purchased directly from manufacturers, such as the simple two cylinder engine from Brennan Motors in Syracuse and the transmission made by New York Gear Works in Brooklyn.  The wheels were fashioned from buggy wheels and fitted with pneumatic tires.

Next up was a selection of light trucks:

1922 Ford Model TT 1 Ton Truck
Ford did not produce a truck variant of the Model T, something the aftermarket had done with alacrity on the T's chassis.  In 1917 the company finally introduced a truck chassis on the Model TT, a beefier version of the T's, but still using that vehicle's 20 hp four cylinder engine.  It was still sold without a cab or box.  Selling for $390, over 154,000 Model TTs were built in 1922. Museum founder George Staley located this truck in the hamlet of Deansboro, New York, 35 miles north of Norwich.

1926 International Speed Truck Model S
International Harvester made trucks from 1907 until 1975.  The Speed Truck Model S, with a four cylinder Lycoming engine, was a general purpose truck for regular hauling and delivery and had a one ton capacity.  This example was used by Fred Porter of Coventry, New York, 20 miles south of Norwich, to deliver McCormick Deering farm equipment to his customers.  

1965 DIVCO Delivery Van
DIVCO delivery vans were a familiar sight in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly for home milk delivery.  The van could be entered from either side and was driven in a near-standing position.  The company, Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company (DIVCO) was founded in 1926 when the chief engineer of the Detroit Electric Vehicle Company, George Bacon, had suggested using gasoline engines for delivery vehicles to overcome range issues but was turned down by management.  Bacon went off to found DIVCO and after several models and changes in ownership the snub-nosed version of the van was introduced in 1937 and continued to be produced until 1986.  George Staley had this van restored to the exact appearance of ones used by his family's dairy in DeRuyter, New York.

Centre: 1904 Pierce Stanhope
After successful growth of his metal working firm that produced birdcages, bathtubs and bicycles in Buffalo, New York, George Pierce turned to the manufacture of automobiles.  After an unsuccessful attempt at a steam car, the George N. Pierce Company began to produce a single-speed, two cylinder gasoline-powered Motorette in 1901, producing 170 by 1903.  The company's second car, the Stanhope, was introduced in the latter half of 1903.  An 8 hp version, selling for $1,200 was offered in 1904 and featured a steering wheel rather than a tiller.  Tthe museum's car is one of only three known survivors.  1904 also saw the introduction of the successful Great Arrow model and after George Pierce's departure from the company after selling out in 1907, the company name was changed to Pierce-Arrow in 1909.
Buffalo's Finest: 1931 Pierce-Arrow 5-Passenger Sedan (left); 1904 Pierce Stanhope (centre); 1936 Pierce-Arrow Country Club Roadster (right)

1936 Pierce-Arrow Deluxe 8 Country Club Roadster
In addition to its famous "Archer" hood ornament, a distinguishing feature of Pierce-Arrows was the integration of the headlights into the front fenders, which began in 1913, although more conventional drum headlights were available as an option. This Country Club Roadster, powered by a 150 hp inline eight and built on a 139" wheelbase, cost $3,295 and is one of only three or four known to remain.  The company was in dire straits at this point and only 787 Pierce-Arrows were built that year, with the company out of business two years later.

1931 Pierce-Arrow Model 43 5-Passenger Sedan
George Staley was given a "Archer" hood ornament by a friend who found it at a flea market and it took him several years to find a suitable car to put under it.  This 5 Passenger Sedan was powered with a 125 hp L-head inline eight, and sold for $2,685

1908 Browniekar
For $150 (or $175 for custom colours!) you could purchase a Browniekar for your child.  Powered by a single vertical cylinder 3 1/2 hp engine, it could reach a speed of 10 mph. It was designed by William Birdsall of the Mora Company of Newark, New York, which marketed the car under the name of the Child's Automobile Company before switching to the more-impressive Omar Motor Company, an anagram of Mora.  Although meant for children, the Browniecar, with its jack shaft and drive belts, prefigured the cyclecars which were soon to make their brief appearance.  Only three Browniekars, which were built from 1908 to 1911, are known to still exist today.

1928 Cunningham Model V-7 7-Passenger Berline
James Cunningham, Son & Company was founded in Rochester, New York in 1882 as a manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles and within a decade was a leading American coachbuilder.  The company made the transition to horseless carriages by 1907 with bought-in Buffalo or Continental engines and custom coachwork.  By 1911 Cunningham offered its own engines, beginning with four cylinder models and then, after 1916, exclusively big V8s.  Distinguished by very fine custom coachwork, Cunninghams were acquired by a celebrity clientele between World War I and the Crash of 1929.  The company subsequently switched entirely into production of hearses and ambulances, which had been the mainstay of the company from early on.  The last production Cunningham cars were built in 1931 but sold as late as 1933.  Cunninghams were huge and expensive, ranging from $5,000 up to as much as $9,000.  This car, built for a wealthy woman of a banking family in Oneonta, New York, weighs three tons and cost over $9,000.  Impressively, it is the only unrestored and all-original Cunningham, having only been driven 5,000 miles.

1908 Mora Tourer Six
After Samuel Mora, Sales Manager for the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, was fired by George Eastman, he turned his attention to the automobile and began manufacturing in the village of Newark, New York, midway between Syracuse and Rochester.  His chief engineer was William Birdsall, a one-time semi-pro bicycle racer, and Mora cars were made in four and six cylinder variants between 1906 and 1911, when the firm was put into involuntary bankruptcy by its creditors.  The Tourer Six, which cost $3,600, was one of the most powerful cars of the time with a 50 hp 386 engine.  This example, one of only two Moras known, still has the original engine, paint, top, and upholstery.

1929 Chevrolet Four Door Landau Convertible
Priced at $725, this Landau Convertible was the top of the line for Chevrolet in 1929.  It is one of only 300 produced of 1,328,605 Chevrolets built in that model year and was manufactured at the Division's Buffalo, New York, plant.  It features a 26.3 hp overhead valve inline six, an engine that had two more cylinders than offered on Ford's Model A, and went on to some fame as the "Stovebolt Six," being produced into the 1950s.  A variation of this engine, the Blue Flame Six, put out 150 hp and was to power the first Chevrolet Corvettes built in 1953 and 1954.

1948 Playboy Retractable Hardtop
Buffalo entrepreneur Lou Horwitz, a Packard dealer, and associates believed that there was a market for a small and economical car in post-war America, primarily as an inexpensive second car or commuter.  The Playboy, with its retractable hardtop, had a 40 hp Continental engine and was priced at $985.  Weighing in at 1900 lbs, it was capable of 35 mpg.  The company was caught up in the scandal surrounding Preston Tucker's financing of his car as Playboy was unable to obtain financing of its own in the circumstances.  It went bankrupt in 1951 after producing 97 cars plus a prototype.  43 are believe to still exist, including five production cars and the prototype owned by the grandson of the founder,, owner of the car shown in the museum.

Strangely, when publisher Hugh Hefner was considering a name for his new magazine, a colleague suggested using that of this defunct car company and it was adopted!

1912 Maxwell Model AC Open Door Messenger
Headquartered in Tarrytown, New York, Maxwell cars were produced by the Maxwell-Briscoe Company from 1904 until 1907, when a fire destroyed the plant and most production was moved to Indiana and, eventually, additional locations in Dayton, Ohio.  However, Tarrytown continued to produce some cars until 1913.  This model, priced at $600, had a 2 cylinder 16 hp engine and featured the rare "southern-tread option," with a 60 inch tread rather than the usual 56 inches in order to be able to follow wagon tracks more easily in the South.

In 1921 Walter Chrysler took control of Maxwell-Briscoe and it became the basis of what was to become the Chrysler Corporation.  The Maxwell name was dropped by 1927.

1899 Leggett
John Shaw Leggett of Syracuse, New York, was known as a coachbuilder and built bodies for a number of Central New York auto firms.  He built a two cylinder runabout in 1897 and worked with John Wilkinson, later to become Chief Engineer of Franklin, on some experimental vehicles, and is thought to have produced some early Franklin bodies.  His firm was liquidated in 1903 but Leggett reorganized and got back into car production under the Iroquois name in 1904, building cars in Syracuse and Seneca Falls until 1907.  This vehicle (Serial No.02 of 2!) dating to 1899 is the only known surviving Leggett-built car.

1914 O-We-Go Cyclecar
New York's contribution to the cyclecar fashion was the O-We-Go, manufactured in, yes, Owego, New York.  The company building it was incorporated in February 1914.  A prototype was tested for three months by April that year with high hopes for this $385 vehicle, with the typical cyclecar arrangement of tandem seating, friction transmission and belt drive, and a claimed 58 mph top speed.  But the Ford Model T killed off the incipient cyclecar boom and by October 1914 O-We-Go was in receivership.  This example, found derelict in Utah in 1995, is the only one known to survive.

1910 Chase Model D Truck

1907 Chase Model D Open Express Truck
Chase trucks were manufactured in Syracuse, New York, 1907 until 1917.  Aurin Chase had worked for H.H. Franklin in 1905-1906 on the Franklin truck and left to start his own firm.  Unsurprisingly, the trucks featured air-cooled engines.  These were three cylinder, two cycle models.  The trucks were simple and robust and it is thought that some 5,000 were built.  It is thought that 40-50 survive.  After the demise of the Chase Motor Truck Company, it appears that a new Chase firm was established in Toronto to build tractors in 1919 but was defunct by 1921.

A nice little feature of the museum is the chance to have your photo taken at the wheel of a 1926 Ford Model T Roadster.  Produced in the penultimate year of Model T production, this Roadster had a selling price of only $250.

And this ended our excellent visit to the Northeast Classic Car Museum.  Highly recommended!

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