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Alaska State Motoring History | Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Historic Valdez-Fairbanks Trail


Alaska's rich and colorful automotive history comes to life at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.

1905 Sheldon Runabout and Historic Fashion Exhibit

Young Robert "Bobby" Sheldon built Alaska's first automobile in 1905 to "dazzle a young lady in Skagway, Alaska." Although he had never seen an automobile before, Bobby Sheldon assembled buggy wheels, a marine engine, some tin and two bar stools into a functional runabout that could travel 15 miles per hour. Did he win the young lady's attention? Good question! Visit the museum to find out, and enjoy all the early 20th century Alaskan motoring transportion stories.

The first production automobiles reached Alaska by steamship in 1908. Initially, these "devil wagons" provided much excitement and entertainment. Most new owners had never driven a car before, accidents were frequent and some terrified passengers demanded to be let out after only a few miles. Extreme cold, deplorable road conditions and an absence of repair shops meant that Alaskan motorists required tremendous ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Historic motoring photographs decorating the auto museum's walls illustrate the north's unique transportation challenges, including the navigation of glacial streams, avalanche chutes and extremely deep snow. Other photos and archival movie footage depict the utility of automobiles for passenger transport, hunting, freight hauling, woodcutting, racing, tourism and leisure throughout the vast territory.

1911 Everitt Model Four-30 Touring

The Alaska gallery features a special exhibit on the historic Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, which opened up access to Fairbanks and Alaska's interior year-round. Our most popular display is a replica of the original Sourdough Roadhouse, where you can dress up in historic fashions, climb into an antique automobile and have your photo taken using your own camera. The auto museum is also home to a variety of Alaskan artifacts, including an antique Tokheim gasoline pump, Ford Model A sawmill, and a Fairbanks-Morse engine that once powered Alaska's first telegraph system.

“IT WAS FUN! A great array of antique cars and ladies fashions, much information about the cars. It was really very interesting, I could have spent several more hours there.”
mmfromflorida - September 2011

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