Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum continues to grow its collection with the recent addition of six vehicles to its showroom.
The vehicles — five automobiles and one motorcycle — are either on the showroom floor at the museum at Wedgewood Resort or are in the process of being restored to their full glory. The acquisitions include a 1901 Toledo Model A Steam Runabout; a 1901 De Dion-Bouton New York Motorette; a 1901 Rochester Style 2 Steam Runabout; a 1911 EMF 30 Coupe; a 1912 “Big Twin” Indian Motorcycle; and a 1927 Lincoln Model L Imperial Victoria. The museum now has 102 vehicles in its collection, with 73 on display. The vehicles span the years 1898 to 1936.
“When you see what happened in the short period of 38 years, it’s pretty impressive when you go from a horse and buggy to an automobile like a Packard,” said Willy Vinton, the auto museum manager.
Vinton is a one-man walking repository of the museum’s historic automobile collection. He can tell you what car was built where and when, how many were made, how fast it can run, who owned it and drove it. He and his crew of volunteers restore engines and do mechanical maintenance on site, but things like body work, paint and exterior restorations are done outside museum facilities. Even though Vinton is technically in retirement, he said it’s not work if you love what you’re doing.
“Outside of maybe three or four years of my life, I’ve never worked because if you go to work, it’s not fun,” he said. “If you go because you want to go, it’s enjoyable. That’s the way my life has always been.”
Now, in the throes of his officially unofficial retirement, Vinton spends his days among the cars he is passionate about. The cars come from all over the world, either from auctions or from private collectors looking to downsize. On a tour of the museum and new displays, Vinton can tell you the history of wheels, how society went from bicycles and buggies to what we’re driving today, the differences in each car from the model that premiered before it, or the intricacies of each engine and the mechanics that make it work.
“Everything that we do today has been done,” Vinton said. “All we do is find modern technology to make it run better.”
In addition to cars, the museum houses a collection of vintage dresses spanning that same decades as the vehicles, which has been touted as one of the best in the Pacific Northwest. Replicas of historic Alaska photos adorn the walls.
On TripAdvisor, the museum rates a No. 1 “thing to do” in Fairbanks as well as being called a “surprising gem.”
“We’ve been through everything here. We drive everything. They all run and get driven,” Vinton said of the museum’s auto collection. “You get to talking about a car, and there are so many details about what was happening, what was changing, at the time.”
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is located at 212 Wedgewood Drive, on the grounds at Wedgewood Resort. Check the website at www.fountainheadmuseum.com for touring hours and rates.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.