Museum adds car like Fairbanks 1st vehicle

The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks, Alaska displays it's new 1906 Pope-Toledo Type XII 7-passenger touring automobile Tuesday afternoon, October 15, 2013. After years of searching for a Pope-Toledo, the very first automobile in Fairbanks of which there are only about 10 left in the world, Fountainhead historian Nancy DeWitt found this one in Kentucky last year. "I just couldn't pass this one up at all," museum manager Willy Vinton said of purchasing the vehicle, which he calls the Holy Grail of the brass-era cars. The car won 3rd in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August and 1st in Class at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance in September. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric Engman)

FAIRBANKS — With a few pops, bangs and a loud rumble, a 1906 Pope-Toledo Type XII seven-passenger touring car rolled onto Fairbanks’ streets for the first time in 90 years on Tuesday.


The Pope-Toledo, a green windshield-less car with brightly polished brass fixtures, a wood interior and a hand-crank starter, is nearly identical to the first car to arrive in Fairbanks in 1908 and is the newest addition to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.

“It’s the first time one has been on the road in many, many years,” said Fountainhead Museum Manager Willy Vinton after taking the historic addition for a short drive.

The Pope-Toledo first arrived in Fairbanks in 1908 aboard the steamer Cudahy. The maroon Type XV was ordered by David Laiti and used to shuttle people to Fox and excursion parties around town, museum historian Nancy DeWitt said.

The second Pope-Toledo, the same Type XII as now resides at the Fountainhead Museum, began driving the roads of Fairbanks in 1911 under the guidance of Robert “Bobby” Sheldon. A picture of Sheldon posing in front of his battered Pope-Toledo hangs in the museum.

DeWitt said the museum has been hunting for a Pope-Toledo to add to its Alaska collection for years but said it has been difficult. She said they’ve encountered only about 10 Pope-Toledos and only three that were the Type XII model.

“I’ve been looking for of these for a while,” she said. “We found a few, and they just didn’t look right. Willy found one, but it was a different model and they were asking a lot. But then, we found this one in Kentucky.”

Both DeWitt and Vinton said it’s easily in the best shape of any Pope-Toledo out there.

From finding the vehicle, it took about a year to buy it, do some restoration work, send it to a few antique car shows, prepare it for its trip to Alaska and ship it, DeWitt said.

“It’s the holy grail of the brass era,” Vinton said. “There’s not a flat piece of metal on that car.”

The Pope-Toledo Type XII features a Roi De Belge body, a beautifully curved form that is meant to resemble upholstered armchairs, DeWitt said.

The Pope-Toledo will be on display at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum starting Sunday. The museum is open from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays during its winter hours.

“There are cars that we won’t take out in the rain,” DeWitt said, “and this is one of them.”


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