Museum showcases Alaska’s extreme challenges to early motorists

Museum showcases Alaska’s extreme challenges to early motorists

'Extreme Motoring: Alaska’s First Automobiles and Their Dauntless Drivers” is the title of a new exhibit that runs through March 30, 2015.

Alaskan automotive pioneer Robert Sheldon, stuck along the Valdez-Fairbanks trail | Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum photos

Alaskan auto pioneer Robert Sheldon, stuck along the Valdez-Fairbanks trail | Fountainhead Museum photos

‘Extreme Motoring: Alaska’s First Automobiles and Their Dauntless Drivers” is the title of a new exhibit that runs through March 30, 2015, at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks.

The exhibit is designed to take museum visitors back to the days of the Last Frontier following the Alaskan gold rush. The first motorcars arrived in Alaska on steamships in the early 1900s. Most of their owners had never driven before, the museum notes in its news release. Accidents were “frequent” and “more than a few terrified passengers demanded to be let out of the evil ‘devil wagons’ after only a few miles.”

Cars on display in the exhibit include Alaska’s first horseless carriage, which the museum notes was built by “a young man who had never seen one before,” a 1906 Pope-Toledo, a 1907 White Steamer, 1909 Cadillac, 1910 Chalmers-Detroit and a Fordson Snow Motor. Most of them are maintained in running condition.

1907 White steam car is just like the third car to reach Fairbanks

1907 White steam car is just like the third car to reach Fairbanks

In addition to the historic vehicles, the exhibit shares the stories of the territory’s first motorists and the challenge they faced before there were highways, bridges or snow plows.

“An absence of repair shows required a high level of ingenuity and resourcefulness by these bold men,” the museum’s news release notes.

Photographs and historic artifacts are part of the exhibition.

The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum was founded in 2009 to showcase automotive history before World War II. Its collection includes 85 vehicles, some one-of-a-kind or sole survivors of such obscure marques as Argonne, Compound and Heine-Velox.

The museum also houses one of the largest historic fashion collections in the western U.S.

The museum is located at the Wedgewood Resort. For more information, visit the museum website.

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