Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Antique Car Run

.This past Saturday we went to the annual Antique Car Run at their lunch stop in Buffalo, Minnesota. I used the run as a background in my novel A Murderous Yarn. This was the Silver Anniversary of the run, twenty-fifth year. There were a few cars there that had done the run every single one of them.

The run is patterned after the London to Brighton run, which commemorates an English race back in the early days of the twentieth century. This American version is from New London to New Brighton and covers about 120 miles. This version is not a race but a tour or run, and all cars finishing get a medallion - not every car can go the distance. The cars entered must be from 1908 or earlier, though if a car has only one or two cylinders it can be as “young” as 1915. That means most of the cars in the run are a hundred years old!

These cars are not just amazing survivors, they are beautiful. Because photographs taken when the cars were new are black and white, the cars all look black, gray, or white – when actually they were bright colors: red, green, blue, yellow and okay, black. The Fords are all black because Henry Ford declared a prospective purchaser of one of his cars could get it in any color he wanted, so long as it was black. Ford chose black because it dried faster than any other color and he chose one color because the parts were interchangeable and if you smashed a door or fender you could get a replacement fast and not have to wait while they ordered it in your color.

Cars this old are sometimes called “brass-age cars” because the trim isn’t steel but brass. Highly polished, it gleams like gold and adds to the beauty of these pioneers. Some of them don’t have steering wheels but are steered with a “tiller,” a bent bar that stretches across the driver’s lap. Some don’t have hoods, the engine is located on the underside of the vehicle. Most have wooden spokes on the wheels, and one that came even had wooden axles. In this run, there are more Maxwells than any other make, but some have familiar names like Ford and Cadillac. Drivers come from all over the country for the run: New Jersey, Texas, even Alaska.

There were two steam-powered cars this year, my favorite, Gene Grengs’ Stanley, and another one built by White. White also made sewing machines, I guess automobiles were a sideline. The Stanley has a hood but under it is the boiler; the engine is on the underside. If it didn’t have to stop every twenty miles or so to take on water, it would easily finish first; Stanleys are very fast.

What’s nice is that the owners love to show them off. They park on the Buffalo High School grounds and invite spectators to take a close-up look and will answer questions. Some even dress up in period costumes for the run.

This is, I believe, our tenth or eleventh year going to the run, which is always the second Saturday in August. I’m already looking forward to next year.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Sounds like a delightful event, Monica! There's a Bob's Big Boy near here where people show off their old cars every Friday, but I don't remember seeing any as old as you've described when I've passed by there.

Carol S said...

A neighbor got a Model A this spring. He is having a hoot with it. The Stanley Steamer in your books is always described in such detail that one can easily visualize the scene.

Sandy said...

That sounds fantastic! Maybe one year we will be in the area to see the Antique Car Run. I remember your book A Murderous Yarn. It was the first time I had heard of a Stanley Steamer. I finally saw one in a Reno Museum at a Car & Quilt show. Of course, hubby knew about them.

Sarita said...

It sounds like a wonderful event! I love old cars. Funny, but my sweet husband always knew I'd have to stop and take a photo when I saw one pretty old car. He never minded, God Bless Him!

Judy said...

I didn't know this was a true event. I enjoyed the story so much when I read it but this makes it even more interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Monica Ferris said...

Linda, I think the cars you see at the Big Boy are what are called "classic" cars. Though they couldn't take part in the run, there was a small collection of classic cars on display in Buffalo.

Sarita, I'm not so fond of it as I was, but I would always want to stop for cemeteries. I love old epitaphs!

Betty Hechtman said...

It sounds like a fun event. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago used to have an exhibit of old cars. I loved looking at them and imagining them driving on the street. How neat that you got to see the cars in action.