interesting note in local news (automobile history)

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    93CivicEX Charming, Dashing, Rental car bashing

    Mar 15, 2000
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    1894 car comes to town
    Museum acquires second U.S. auto
    By Gerald Ensley


    Craig Litten, Tallahassee Democrat

    DeVoe Moore stans with the newest collection to The Tallahassee Antique Car Museum, a 1894 Duryea, thought to be the second car ever produced in the United States.

    In the mirrored exhibit hall, there are 87 gleaming, meticulously restored automobiles that dazzle anyone who's ever driven a car.

    In the lobby is a faded, buckboard-looking thing that would barely earn a glance from most car-lovers.

    Which is more valuable? Ask DeVoe Moore, who just traded 10 of those shiny cars for the buckboard thing. That's because it's an 1894 Duryea - the second car ever built in America.

    "My wife can't understand why I'd trade 10 restored cars for this old vehicle," Moore said. "I did it because this thing is history."

    That history is now on display at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum, the Moore-owned facility that houses his eclectic collection of everything from vintage cars to Indian artifacts.

    Moore acquired the Duryea three weeks ago. He is the fourth person to own the car, which had sat in a Rochester, N.Y., barn since 1937.

    In the manner of all early cars, the Duryea is an uncovered wooden wagon with large, spoke wheels and a single metal steering bar. Behind the raised driver's bench is a two-cylinder, piston-powered engine - with rudimentary versions of every component of modern automobile engines, from a chain-powered transmission to a water-fed radiator to a metal drum muffler.

    Capable of speeds of 5 to 7 mph, it apparently was used often in its day. On the back of the bench seat is a metal New York registration plate - No. 726, which is presumably its historical rank among cars registered in New York. The white rubber tires encircling each wooden wheel show wear. Four of the poplar wood boards on the body are broken.

    But the Duryea's appeal is it is one of the second five gasoline-powered cars built in the United States.

    Frank and Charles Duryea are considered the founders of the U.S. automobile industry. A pair of bicycle makers, they built their first gasoline-powered car in 1893 in Springfield, Mass. That was four years after the world's first automobile was built in France (1889) and six years before Ransom Olds started the first mass-production U.S. car company (1899).

    The Duryeas' 1893 car was a converted horse-drawn wagon with a one-cylinder motor; that car is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. In 1894, the brothers built five two-cylinder cars from the ground up - and Moore's car is thought to be the only surviving one of the five.

    The engine still runs

    Though Moore has yet to start it up, the engine reportedly still runs.

    "Just think back 110 years when they had to come up with all these little apparatuses to make a motor function; it's phenomenal," Moore said. "Can you imagine the expression on (the Duryeas') faces the first time they cranked up this rascal?"

    Moore won't reveal the exact price of the Duryea - but it could be as much as $1 million, said William H. Smith, executive director of the Antique Auto Club of America, in Hershey, Pa. Moore is trading three cars in his exhibit hall - a 1915 Buick C-36 Roadster, a 1916 Metz Roadster and a 1924 Columbia Six Sedan - plus seven to-be-negotiated cars from his 20 undisplayed cars in the museum basement. Smith said the values of antique cars range from $30,000 to $100,000 apiece.

    "These cars are so rare that there are no guidelines that would help anyone set a figure," Smith said. "But I'll bet the Smithsonian has its (Duryea) appraised at $1 million."

    In 1896, the Duryea brothers formed the nation's first auto factory and produced 13 cars, one of which is in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. In 1898, the financially struggling and often-squabbling brothers sold their company. Each brother made cars with other partners into the 1920s, but both faded into obscurity with the rise of giant automakers.

    "Children today will think Henry Ford invented the automobile," Charles Duryea lamented before his death in 1938.

    Moore's museum

    Moore hopes visitors to his museum will learn differently - if there continues to be a museum.

    A sometimes-cantankerous entrepreneur, Moore opened the museum in 1996. It houses the multitude of things the 64-year-old multimillionaire has collected over the years.

    Among the 87 restored cars on display is a 1931 Duesenberg, valued at more than $1.25 million, as well as a Tucker, a Car-Nation, a Hupmobile, several classic Packards, Cadillacs, Model Ts, Corvettes and Prowlers, plus two Batmobiles. He has the world's largest collection of outboard boat motors, plus vintage motorcycles, children's pedal cars, farm engines, golf paraphernalia, knives and one of the nation's leading private collections of American Indian artifacts.

    Yet the museum rarely draws more than 50 visitors a day, and some days only a handful. Moore recently hired marketing director Chrys Ivey Duncan to explore the museum's potential - "We need to catalogue and document lots of things here, and to do that we need to get some grants," Duncan said. But Moore may not wait long.

    "I'm getting to the point where I question whether I should keep taking money out of my pocket to keep it open," he said. "And you know once something enters my mind, I act on it."

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