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Vintage vehicles readied for official crossing of new bridge

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Posted: Friday, November 9, 2012 12:04 am | Updated: 11:55 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - The 1916 Dodge that belonged to the Gibson Auto Line in Fairbanks nearly a century ago coughed and sprang to life this week for the first time since the 1920s.

With a rebuilt engine and transmission in place, mechanics Willy Vinton and Steve Cary took the car out for shakedown cruises in subzero weather Wednesday and Thursday.

They concluded that the battered old Dodge is ready to join a short procession of vintage vehicles at 1 p.m. Monday for the opening of the new bridge at Barnette Street.

Vinton said the car weathered the conditions better than the occupants of the vehicle.

Cary has spent hundreds of hours rebuilding the drivetrain for the Dodge, which was used on the trail to Valdez in the early 20th Century.

After the engine wore out, it was stored for many decades by Tom Gibson and George Clayton. It now belongs to David Stone and Don and Ray Cameron, but is on loan to the Wedgewood Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks.

It has been displayed at the museum for a couple of years, but it wasn’t in running condition until this week. Cary said he used pieces of various engines to construct the motor.

Meanwhile, at least three other vintage vehicles are expected to be part of the first official crossing.

Jeff Creamer plans to drive the 1910 Chalmers-Detroit that his grandfather drove across the Cushman Street Bridge when that opened in 1960. The Chalmers was also one of the first vehicles across the Wendell Avenue Bridge in 1951.

Creamer was still working on the car Thursday, trying to round up some rare spark plugs. He said he thinks he has found some that need to be sent from Seattle.

In addition, veteran mechanic Bill Chace plans to drive a 1916-17 Model T that was also part of the Gibson Auto Line fleet a century ago.

Finally, a 1932 V16 Cadillac limo is to be driven by Rod Benson.

These cars are usually driven only in the summer and most of them have rear brakes only, so all of them except the Caddy will be transported to Illinois Street on trailers. Then they will be unloaded and driven over the bridge.

•••

ON THE RISE: United Way volunteers have completed more than 80 presentations in the Fairbanks area at local businesses, and other institutions spread the word about the 2012 campaign, under the leadership of co-chairs Joane Johnson and John Ringstad.

To get an up-to-date reading on the status of the campaign, the United Way has posted thermometers at four locations in Fairbanks that show progress toward the goal of $1.5 million.

The Daily News-Miner is including the thermometer in its Saturday edition. The campaign is still in its early stages, with about 30 percent of the goal achieved so far.

The physical thermometers are at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, the Fairbanks Resource Agency, the Girl Scout offices and the Alaska Center for Children and Adults.

Those are four of the 20 member agencies of the local United Way of the Tanana Valley.

Karen Lundquist, executive director of the United Way, says that workplace campaigns are under way in offices, shops and stores from Healy to Delta, a vast area in which the United Way agencies provide services to tens of thousands of children and adults.

There are special events in many businesses and organizations to generate more enthusiasm and community spirit, ranging from ice cream socials to cook-offs. At some point in our lives, we all come into contact with or know someone who benefits from the good works of the United Way agencies.

Lundquist said no business or organization is too small to have a workplace campaign and that the participation by small entities is vital to success.

You can give online at www.unitedwaytv.com or call 452-7211 if you would like someone to make a 15-minute presentation about how the United Way works and why it is important.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530.

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