Since there is was only one Maxwell DA known to still exist and it wasn’t for sale, Richard Anderson, who lives near Seattle, WA, decided to build one from scratch. Five years and about $100,000 later, Anderson started the engine for the first time. His daughter then drove the car from New York to San Francisco.
Below is the article as it appeared on The New York Times website.
History That’s More Than the Sum of Its Parts
By ROBERT PEELE
Published: March 25, 2010
On the surface, it sounds like a nearly impossible task: assembling a rare brass-era car from scratch, using century-old parts that were tracked down one by one from all the dusty, rust-ridden corners of the collecting world.
And oh, by the way, when finished the car needed to run well enough for a drive across the United States.
That was the job Richard Anderson set out for himself in 2003. A longtime collector of cars from the early 20th century, Mr. Anderson had been intrigued for years by the story of Alice Ramsey, whose 1909 trek from New York to San Francisco in a Maxwell DA made her the first woman to drive a car from coast to coast. It was a defining achievement in the early days of the automobile and for the nascent women’s movement in America.
It was also a bit of history mostly forgotten.
Mr. Anderson and his daughter, Emily, wanted to change that. They decided to honor the 100th anniversary of Ramsey’s pioneering drive still more than five years away at the time by crossing the country in a 1909 Maxwell of their own. Unfortunately, only one 1909 Maxwell DA was known to exist. And it wasn’t for sale.
Mr. Anderson, 64, describes himself as obsessed with accuracy. So using a similar model one close enough to Alice Ramsey’s car to pass a casual “look” test was not an option. It had to be identical to the original, or as close to it as possible.
So began a nearly six-year project it was not a restoration, but a car built entirely from acquired parts in time for the centennial drive.
The process was part craftsmanship, part scavenger hunt and part social networking exercise, with a reach that extended across the continent and around the globe.
The initial steps came in October 2003, when Mr. Anderson, who lives near Seattle, made a trip to Hampstead, Md., to visit Sterling Walsh, owner of what is thought to be the sole remaining ’09 Maxwell DA. During the visit, Mr. Anderson inspected the car and took many photographs.
An original parts book and sales brochure for the 1909 Maxwell line, unearthed on one of Mr. Anderson’s many trips to swap meets like the one held each fall in Hershey, Pa., provided further guidance, as did photos from Ramsey’s book “Veil, Duster and Tire Iron” and an album donated to the project by her grandson.
That left Mr. Anderson with the small matter of finding all those needed parts if they existed at all.
First he had to get the word out to fellow antique-car enthusiasts. He scoured the registry that tracks the 700 known Maxwell-Briscoe cars and made a presentation to the Maxwell 100th anniversary celebration in Newcastle, Ind., in June 2004. He posted queries to Maxwell groups on the Internet, and he spent countless hours scanning eBay.
Pieces began to trickle in. At the 2004 Hershey meet, Mr. Anderson added a radiator and a front axle to his cache, as well as parts of the car’s body and cowling. Mr. Walsh, owner of the surviving ’09 DA, called to offer Mr. Anderson a frame that had been sitting in the weeds for 30 years.
“It must have been good steel in that old frame,” Mr. Walsh said. “It had rust on it, but not deep enough to hurt it.” Sandblasting and a few coats of primer returned the frame to usable condition.
Two brass headlights came from a man in Vancouver, Wash. And tips came to Mr. Anderson from farther afield.
“My wife and I were on our wedding anniversary in Italy, and we stopped at an Internet cafe to get a cup of coffee and check our e-mails,” Mr. Anderson said. “And there’s an e-mail there from a Maxwell guy who lives in Australia. He said you ought to check out number such and such on eBay, I think these are the levers you need.”
The parts being offered included a steering column and related hardware; Mr. Anderson was able to place the winning bid. (An understanding spouse, it seems, was essential to the project.)
The ’09 DA was still missing two crucial components: an engine and a transmission. The search came up empty until late in 2005, when a call came from New Florence, Pa. Terry Huston, whose late father, Tom Thoburn, had been keeper of the Maxwell registry for many years, offered to donate her father’s 1909 DA engine and transmission to the Anderson’s project.
“They really were the key pieces,” Mr. Anderson said. “That’s when we crossed the line and said, ‘This is probably really going to happen.’”
Mr. Anderson estimates that he was able to track down 85 percent to 90 percent original parts for the Maxwell. What he couldn’t find, he had someone fabricate, using a 1908 Model K and a 1910 Model E he had purchased earlier as templates.
With the help of Jay Larson, a machinist in Monroe, Wash., Mr. Anderson was able to manufacture missing parts to the specifications of the ’09 DA everything from a radiator fan to a missing piece of the rear axle.
Mr. Anderson described Mr. Larson as the true artist behind the project. “I couldn’t have done any of this without his work,” he said. “He just loved to have me walk in with a part off the ’08 and say, ‘I need this for the ’09 make it for me.’”
Where possible, engine parts were modernized to improve performance while remaining faithful to the original technology. “The engine is basically all 1909,” said Mr. Larson, describing his work as largely a matter of upgrading the hardware and making fixes that would let the engine run smoother.
The Andersons started the engine for the first time on June 9, 2008, one year to the day before the trip. At the time, Mr. Anderson said, he was about 99 percent sure it would work.
“Engines like this are pretty simple,” he said. “All you need is flame and gas.” Mr. Anderson said the total cost of the project was around $100,000, not including the continent-crossing drive. Donations of materials and hundreds of hours of labor helped to keep costs down.
The hard work paid off on June 9 last year, when Emily Anderson and her co-pilot, Christie Catania, left Manhattan in the dark green Maxwell DA, departing from 1930 Broadway once a Maxwell dealership where Alice Ramsey’s journey had begun 100 years earlier. The 2009 trip ended a month and 3,500 miles later in San Francisco, with just a few mechanical problems along the way.
Vern Campbell, the keeper of the Maxwell registry, saw the car as it passed through Ohio and was impressed by Mr. Anderson’s work. “He had to put it together from scavenged parts and from newly manufactured stuff, and he did it very well,” Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Anderson prefers to credit the many people who helped with the project and points out that others did the lion’s share of the work.
“I’m more like the coach,” he said. “I did the looking and finding, and paid the bills.”
To read this article on The New York Times website, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/automobiles/collectibles/28MAXWELL.html?ref=collectibles.