We’re supposed to be touring Alaska! What’s with a car museum?? Well, because it’s there! I fully expected a dusty dry car museum, but went anyway because I can’t help it. Cherryl had some errands to run so she dropped me off at the museum, then planned to join me when she finished. I figured it wouldn’t be that great and I’d probably tell her to skip it. WAS I WRONG!! The museum is world class fantastic! The cars have been meticulously restored and maintained, and all but a couple are able to run. And just in case you would rather look at period clothing than cars, there are examples of appropriate era clothing next to most all of the cars. Some of the manikins are historically interesting too; made of wax, they are collector’s items also. I just thought they were in the way of viewing the cars. I am so impressed with this gem that, for the first time ever, I’ve made the title to this section a link to their website.
So with great difficulty, I have whittled down the great number of pictures I took, and present here only those that I find particularly interesting or unique. Or just my favorites. If you aren’t ready for a plethora of awesome autos, you can skip WAY down to the next section. I’ll never know.
This Hay Motor Vehicle is the earliest known American made four cylinder gas powered automobile still in existence! Is that enough qualifiers? It was very well made and substantial for its time. The engine was probably the weirdest part, and what killed the car. It was an Eight Cycle engine, meaning that each cylinder fired only half as often as the more popular Four cycle. The extra cycles were claimed to cool and purify the cylinders. The car was air cooled and supposedly ran so cool it could run without oil. Strange.
1917 Owen Magnetic
This was one of the most expensive American cars of its time; at $3,650 when the average car cost $1,000 and a Model T Ford was $400. It should be recognized as a precursor to modern hybrid cars… It had no gears, no clutch, no flywheel, magneto or starter motor. There was no direct connection from the engine to the drive wheels. Instead, the engine rotated a huge horseshoe magnet which acted as a generator and powered and electric motor for driving. The electric motor served as a starter and also provided regenerative braking. The car was exceptionally smooth, and was called the “Aristocrat of Motor Cars.” Enrico Caruso owned one.
It is a mystery why this particular car has an extra brake pedal on the passenger side.
1902 Knox Knoxmobile
This car was air cooled, with copper spines surrounding the cylinders giving it the nickname “Old Porcupine.” The front panels opened up to reveal an extra seat up front, while you drove from the main, or back seat.
This is a one cylinder car that drove surprisingly well. One thing that helped Cadillac get a reputation for excellence was that the parts were precision engineered to a point where they could be interchanged between cars – without needing to be hand fitted.
I’ve written before about how Franklins were air cooled, but people expected a big radiator in front of a powerful car, so they put a fake one there. Here you can see the hood opened, and the 4 air-cooled cylinders, and no radiator in front.
In 1904, L.L. Whitman and C.S. Carris drove a Franklin from San Francisco to New York City, with much of the route over desert and prairies with no roads. They made it in just under 33 days! This beat the old record by over a month. In 1906 Whitman did the same drive, this time in a little over 15 days. The feats gave Franklin and air-cooling a great reputation.
This is the only surviving Compound. Its name comes from its strange engine… it has two “normal” cylinders, but the exhaust from them does not directly exit the engine. It goes into a third, larger cylinder in the center, where it goes through further expansion and drove another piston. This “compounding” feature supposedly made the engine quieter and more economical, with cool and odorless exhaust.
1907 Carter Car
The Carter Car was known as the “Car of a Thousand Speeds,” because of its unusual friction plate drive system. There was no gearbox – just a lever that slid a friction wheel laterally across the face of a rotating disc. You could essentially choose whatever gear ratio you wanted, and by sliding the friction wheel past the center of the disc, you had reverse. Pretty much no maintenance, but you had to replace the paper rim on the friction wheel every 4,000 miles.
1911 Ford Model T C-Cab Depot Hack
A depot hack was originally a horse drawn wagon to take people and luggage from the train station to hotels. When cars became available, vehicles like this one were developed. A Model T chassis was fitted with a Depot Hack body featuring a “C” shaped cab. These cars replaced horse drawn versions, but the name “Station Wagon” has persisted.
1910 Hudson Model 20
The Model 20 was Hudson’s first car. This is the same company that dominated NASCAR racing in the early ’50’s. This particular Hudson is the oldest known original Hudson. For more on Hudson learn from Doc Hudson on Pixar’s animated movie, Cars.
1912 Premier Series N Model 6-60 Roadster
This Premier is unique in its complicated air starter system. Before shutting off the motor, the driver would engage an air compressor, and pump up 150 psi in a tank. Then to start the car, the tank was opened, and air was sent to all the cylinders in firing order through copper tubes. The air moved the pistons, rotating the engine so it would start smoothly and noiselessly. I notice it still had a crank for when you forgot to compress the air, or it leaked out. I’m guessing there are several reasons Charles Kettering’s invention of the electric self starter on the 1911 Cadillac outlived compressed air starting. The Premier is also credited with being the first car to use a emblem as a trademark (In 1903); in this case, an Oak leaf.
1012 Peerless Model 36-K Touring
Peerless was one of the marques pioneering six cylinder cars. They also developed the first accelerator pedal (Instead of hand control on the wheel), a tilt steering wheel, and a front engine / rear drive with a driveshaft. (Many of the cars mentioned above had the engines under the driver’s seat). This car has an electric starter, and that enabled use of a larger, six cylinder engine.
1917 Pierce-Arrow Model 66 A-4 Seven-Passenger Touring
Another favorite of mine is the Pierce-Arrow. Yes, I know that’s a lot of favorites! Pierce-Arrows were fine cars, and huge. This one is over 7 feet tall. It had the largest engine in any American car, more than double the size of some competitors. I like the way they sculpted the headlights into the fenders, years ahead of contemporaries.
1919 McFarlan Type 125 Four-Passenger Sport Touring
McFarland was once known as the “American Rolls Royce.” For the price of the average American home (Or more) you could have this very opulent motorcar. Popular with celebrities, this particular car was owned by Wallace Reid. Since, like me, you’ve never heard of him, I’ll tell you he was a prominent silent movie actor. He was called “The screen’s most perfect lover”. He had many exotic cars, and was a dashing figure obsessed with speed. He was in a train accident while making a film in 1919, and found a doctor to give him morphine to let him push past his injuries and finish the film. Unfortunately, he developed an addiction, and drugs and alcohol abuse sent him into a downward spiral and he died a few years later.
1927 Lincoln Model L Imperial Victoria
This fabulous Lincoln is literally one of a kind. Lincoln made only six of these 150 inch chassis, and the first five were turned into ambulances or fire trucks. This, the sixth, was sent to the elite Fleetwood Body company for outfitting, making this Imperial Victoria in a class by itself. I think its interesting that Fleetwood was eventually bought out by Fisher and incorporated into General Motors. Chrysler later used the Imperial name on their top level luxury cars. So to find a Lincoln with a body made by Cadillac’s shop wearing the name of Chrysler’s flagship is a bit odd. But this magnificent car was created before all those name games.
This car was owned by some French Arisiocrats, and returned to the U.S. after WWII. That probably explains the French Marchal headlights. It is also pretty special in having Three Windshields! Each of the three rows of seats has its own.
1932 Cadillac Series 452-B V16 Imperial Limousine (by Fleetwood)
Another ground breaking car – this had the world’s first V16 production engine. 16 cylinders ran very smoothly, and created a cylinder count war among American luxury car builders. President Herbert Hoover used one of these as the official car, and later purchased one almost identical to this one as his personal car.
1934 Packard Convertible Touring 1107-730
Packard had a Twin-six engine until 1923, then went to Straight-Eights. But by 1933, in response to the cylinder count escalation by other luxury cars, they introduced their new V-12. Quiet, strong and certainly elegant, these are amazing cars. This is also one of the first cars to have a radio built into the dashboard. There are only four known 1107 Convertible Touring models surviving today.
1930 Packard Deluxe Eight Roadster 745-422
An absolutely beautifully crafted car, this Packard has a knob on the dashboard that you pull to lube the chassis, and Ride Control that let the driver adjust the shock absorbers to fit road conditions. Did I mention I think it’s gorgeous?! If any of you has one you don’t want, I’ll keep it for you…
1936 Packard 7-Passenger Convertible Touring 1408-973
Did I mention that I love Packards? This one is here just because it’s gorgeous. The detailing is wonderful. In 1935 Packard started making some mass-produced, lower priced cars. This got them through the depression, but hand-built “Senior” Packards like this one became obsolete.
1931 Duesenberg Model J
In 1926 E.L. Cord (Owner of the Cord / Auburn Automobile Company) asked Fred and August Duesenberg to built the finest car the world had ever seen. The car was designed and built in America by these German brothers. Exquisite engineering and beautiful coachwork makes these incredible cars. Duesenberg made the chassis only, then a custom body would be made into whatever style you’d like. The bare chassis was about $8,500, and by the time you had the body made your car would cost around $20,000. (That 1930 Packard Roadster above sold for $4,500, and it was an exclusive luxury model, and the average house at the time cost $3,00). The cars were decades ahead of their time, in speed, engineering and sophistication. One interesting feature Duesenberg used was a dial on the dash that you could adjust braking power with a dial that adjusted for Dry, Rain, Snow or Ice. Some supercharged models boasted 320 horsepower and 130 miles per hour when other lesser cars had maybe 160 horsepower and could barely hit 100 mph. Jay Leno says the extremely sharp hood ornament suggested the car could spear any peasant who dared get in front of your Duesenberg!
OK, no more cars for this week’s blog… just a couple of snowmobiles. Remember, we ARE in Alaska!
1917 Ford Model T Snow Flyer
In 1913 Virgil White put wooden runners on the front of a Model T, and moved the front axle back to support tracks on the back two axles, and patented his Snowmobile. This one has a pretty Depot Hack body.
1926 Fordson Snow-Motor
This weird tractor on ribbed floats is definitely unique. The tractor literally floats on the big metal tubes, which rotate, causing the vehicle to move. I’ve included an old video of the thing running in 1926. Looks like fun, especially if you wear the right hat! The video is 10 minutes long, so watch whatever you can tolerate. If you’ve read this far in my blog…
It probably never caught on because more conventional snow machines are far faster and more maneuverable, and I hate to think what would happen if you fell on one of those rotating drums!
Denali National Park
So we finally left Fairbanks… and headed for Denali. There were well over 300 fires in northern Alaska, and they covered Fairbanks with plenty of smoke. We were hoping for clearer skies near Denali, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The drive was still pretty, but some areas the smoke was terribly thick. We finally got some rain, which knocked out some smoke, but replaced it with fog and clouds.
Entering Denali was a high point for us! Denali is the Athabaskan Indian word for the tallest peak in North America. The name reverted to the local name in 2016, after being called Mt. McKinley for 100 years. It is so tall, most visitors to the park can’t see the peak for the cloud cover. We couldn’t see any of it for both smoke and clouds. It’s still an awesome area! [Spoiler Alert: I hope we can go back in a few weeks and try again!]
Denali National Park covers 6 million acres of awesome wilderness, with only one road leading in. That road is a bit over 60 miles long, and 2/3 of that road is closed due to a landslide. So you can drive your car about 15 miles in, to Savage River, or take busses in to near the landslide. The busses require tickets, but depending on what you want to pay, have guided narration or hop on / hop off ability.
We took the cheaper (Ha!) hop on / hop off bus on our first day. It was great, and included a lot of commentary that was not scheduled; just a very talkative driver. Another day we drove to Savage River and hiked the Savage River Loop Trail. Absolutely beautiful. Can only imagine how gorgeous it would have been without the smoke!
They keep dogsled teams in the park, to minimize snow machines in the winter. There were signs on the road: Sled dogs exercising on road. They weren’t pulling anything other than their trainers. You can visit their training center or watch an excellent movie about them in the visitor center.
Walking from the end of the bus line towards the landslide we saw several Caribou.
Many of the roads are thoughtfully lined with colorful fireweed!
The moose was shot from inside the bus.
As was this Caribou.
The hike up the Savage Creek Loop Trail was very pretty and windy. It was so beautiful we couldn’t really complain about the cold and wind.
Some views emphasized the smokiness of the skies.