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Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, Part 1

Whenever I visit my dad in Florida, I always try to find some place to tour that he might find interesting. As much as anything, it is an excuse to get out of the house and change our routine a bit. Last summer, we visited the Antique Car Museum which houses an impressive collection of vintage Packard automobiles.

It was founded by Arthur Stone, former CEO of Bruning the Florist, Inc. He and his wife began collecting Packards in the mid-1940s. At that time, Packard was considered the Rolls Royce of American automobiles, some of the finest cars ever made. One factoid of note, all the vehicles exhibited here are still in running condition. That seems to justify Packard's marketing slogan, "Ask the man who owns one."

We begin our tour with the oldest vehicle in the collection and my personal favorite, a 1909, model "18" Gentleman's Runabout Speedster. The original price was $3,200 which, at the time, was more than the cost of the average house. This is a very rare model with only four known to exist.

That is my dad in the background of whom only one is known to exist.

And I really love the circular windshield. It certainly makes sense why the early operators of motor vehicles wore long coats, gloves, hats and goggles.

And who would venture far from home without two spare tires? I also love the exposed fuel tank and trunk. Yes, this gentleman would have loved to drive such a vehicle. Of course with a recent auction price of $100K+ for the same model, I do not expect to have such an opportunity.

Have you ever heard of a Moto Meter? One company, Boyce, made this device that was basically a thermometer for your engine — this being the days before such instrumentation was in the dash. Its purpose was to keep the coolant water just below 212° F, which was essential to the engine's proper functioning and longevity. This one reads "Summer Average" which suggests that one might even have multiple Moto Meters depending on the time of year.

Boyce Moto Meters held a patent for this device and was quite successful in fighting off patent infringement. By the early 1920s, Boyce Moto Meters were standard equipment on more than 50 American makes, including Packard as seen in this photo on a 1919 Model "3-35" 7-Passenger Touring Car.

Eventually sales began to wane as more and more auto makers begin installing temperature gauges in the dash. Fortunately, Harrison Boyce's partner, George Townsend, had the foresight to realize Moto Meters were a dying product and they sold the company for several million dollars in 1929 just before the crash on Wall Street.

The same vehicle features a canopy much like one would find on a fancy carriage. It took a number of years before the "horseless carriage" completely divorced itself from its horse-drawn predecessor.

Packard also made truck chassis — this one from 1915. However, most often the truck bed was manufactured by a cabinetmaker or specialty company. Thus a delivery truck you encountered in Boston might be completely different than one you saw in Chicago, even though both had the "Packard" logo on the radiator.

I especially take delight in the evolution of vehicle tires. Considering the size of truck tires today, it is quite surprising to see such tiny tires on a truck.

It is also noteworthy to check out the cab — no doors, no windshield wipers, complex controls. One really did need to be an expert to drive one of these.

Check out the headlights on this 1916 Packard Model 1-35 Town Car Limo.

Twelve cylinders, 424 cubic inches, 88 horsepower, 3-speed transmission, 20 gallon fuel tank.

This is the battery case for this model which was the first to feature an electric starter.

This vehicle was sold as a chassis only with the wood body made by C. P. Kimbel of Chicago, IL — the same company that made Kimbel pianos. Note the detailing down to the French brocade interior.

How many cars today do you see with side lanterns? Très chic, n'est-pas?

The trunks on a rear platform are both elegant and practical. When you arrive at your hotel, the bellmen can simply unfasten the straps and carry your luggage to your room.

To be continued...


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com