As one of the premier vintage car museums in the world, the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum tells the story of our automotive evolution from the late 1800s through to Pre-World War II. We also bring Alaska's rich and colorful auto and transportation history to life in vivid detail.
The Story of Cars in Alaska
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 learn the answer and enjoy many more early 20th-century Alaskan motoring transportation 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.
Over 100 historic motoring photographs decorate the auto museum's walls illustrating 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.
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, a Ford Model A sawmill and an operational Fairbanks-Morse engine that once powered Alaska's first telegraph system.