Thursday, April 5, 2018

1914 Buick at Benton County Museum

One of the themes of the Circa 1920 exhibition at Benton County Museum is the rise in automobile ownership.  From 1915 to 1925, the number of motor vehicles (cars and trucks) registered in the United States rose from 2.5 million to over 20 million, an over 700% increase.  Several factors account for this increase.  The replacement of the old crank starters with electric starters made cars easier to drive.  Improvements in gasoline engines increased speed and range. Closed body designs with metal bodies improved comfort.
Ford's use of  the moving assembly line allowed it to produce Model T quickly and sell them at a relatively low price.  In 1914, Ford produced 202,667 Model T cars which sold for $440. 

Ford, however, was only one of the many car manufacturers that existed at that time. The Buick Motor Company began selling cars in 1904.  By 1914, it was producing over 21,000 cars per year. The Benton County Historical Museum has in its collection this 1914 Buick B25 Touring Car.

1914 Buick B25 Touring Car
The patented overhead value engine gave the car more power so it could climb hills and get through mud better than many of its competitors. Its reliability was demonstrated by winning a number of endurance tests. The 1914 model was the first to offer electric headlights. These features appealed to the more affluent buyers who could afford the $1,050 price tag (approximately $25, 882 in today's dollars).

One thing that struck me when I looked more closely at the car was the lack of instruments on the dash.  Speedometers, odometers, temperature and gas gauges are all absent. These did not become standard equipment until around 1925, although owners could buy them separately and install them once they owned the car.  The clear bell-shaped object allowed the driver to monitor the flow of oil. The black box is inscribed “Delco” which made the electric ignition system which allowed the car to be started with a key (which you can see in the photo).  Just in case of failure, the front of the car has a place to inset a hand crank.

1914 Buick dash and floor board
This Buick was purchased in 1958 by Martin and Zola Northcraft. According to the Northcrafts, the car had only two other owners, both also from Benton County. Over a seven-year period, they restoring the car, choosing to paint it “Buick Gray” instead  the black it had been.
Martin and Zola Northcraft in 1976 Corvallis Parade with 1914 Buick
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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