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Cross country road trip in a 1917 Maxwell

In 1916 my grandfather traveled from Newark, NJ to California in a 1917 Maxwell. Later this year, on the 100 year anniversary we plan to make the same trip again in a restored 1917 Maxwell.

We have web site that describes the original trip (from my grandpa’s diary) and the plans we are working on to make the trip again in a 1917 Maxwell we already obtained.

Although the Maxwell is running we need to make it cross country ready. We already have the engine in the rebuild process but we will need new tires and would like to paint it black again.

Anyone have suggestions on who might want to help sponsor this event?

Richard Tuthill Bassemir

I dunno but Hemmings or Coker Tire come to mind. Hemmings just had an article on the Nevada Hywy 50 stretch so I think they’d at least be interested in following the trip. As far as prep goes, I think it would be wise to have someone following in a different vehicle just in case. Parts and services aren’t as reliable anymore like they once were and may have to get to a major city.

Keep us posted here though too.

Try Coker tire instead of Cooker tire. :smile:

You’ll definitely need a ‘chase’ vehicle, with lots of spares. Expect a fair number of breakdowns with little/no help in fixing it. I assume it has wooden wheel spokes, you’ll need to make sure they are 100% perfect, failure would be dangerous/deadly.

Join the Great Race ( fka The Great American Race ) with all the other old cars .

    • See - -
      It’s in June so you should have enough prep time.

A couple of times in the past the Great Race has come right down route 66 through the middle of my town. But, alas, not this year.

If there’s any way to join the Great Race, that’s a perfect option. Too bad it’s going the opposite way. But the OP would have to transport the car back from California, so transporting it there to start would just reverse the order of things.

Here’s an account of a 2000 mile road trip in 1902:

“Try Coker tire instead of Cooker tire. :smile:

Yep my bad. Too much time spent breathing the fumes from the rubber molder in my youth. When you say tires I think cooker.

The great race is on the old Lincoln highway this Summer. There are dates times and places for each stop along the way. Should be fun to take in. They’ll come within 90 miles of me so hope the dates work out.

If you’re mechanically inclined and everything is good mechanically before you leave I’d just carry a small tote box of basic tools, a packet of small wire, wire ends, clamps, etc, and may be a set of extra points, condenser and fuel pump. I don’t see it as being a problem.

Back in the early 1900s a San Francisco cop put his wife on the train to Chicago as a test. He then took off on an early teens Harley; one of the Silent Gray Fellows.

When his wife arrived at the depot he was waiting on her after riding straight through with no breakdowns and quite likely a spine that resembled Jello after a few thousand miles of horrid roads, a rigid frame bike, and a seat whose padding consisted of thick leather only.

You might try classic car insurers like Hagerty or Grundy.

If this was my car, I would do what it took to fit a paper cartridge air filter. In the bad old days, engines did not last long and I find it unbelievable now that cars at one time had no air filters. I used to have free access to a badly run auto scrapyard in the 1950s when I was a 15 year old kid and recall seeing scrapped cars from the 20s and 30s with around 30,000 miles on the odometer. Much of the reason for that I concluded was worn out engines due to lack of filtration, especially air filtration. The area where I lived had many dusty gravel roads.

My 71 VW Bus had an oil bath air cleaner and no oil or fuel filter. My dealer had not mentioned the lack of fuel filter until he had charged me $100 to clean the fuel filter (not covered by warranty) and then tried to sell me a $29 “Micronite” fuel filter. I stopped on the way home and bought an inline filter for a buck.

Bing- do you think parts and services were more common in 1916?

Maybe not parts, but I bet there were more folks (including the driver) that would know how to repair the relatively simple cars of the day. Not many blacksmiths around now…

Texases, you may be right. But I’ll bet parts were harder to find.
I’m wondering about the cooling system. According to everything I’ve read and seen in antique videos, cooling failures were common in cars in 1917.
Tires should be fine, as long as they’re Cokers. Although lots of spares would have been needed in 1917, Coker makes replicas that meet current D.O.T. standards.

Yeah I guess that was my thought. You might have a hard time finding someone who knew how to fix the old cars. In the old days most shops could handle a repair but if you pulled into a Ford dealer in Montana, I think you’d have a problem depending on what the problem was. A guy I know is restoring an old car and he had a heck of a time finding someone that could replace the babbit bearings (if that’s the correct term). I think they are the poured in place bearings. Not many folks around anymore that can do that.

“According to everything I’ve read and seen in antique videos, cooling failures were common in cars in 1917.”

Heck, when I was a kid–back in the '50s–when I would go for a Sunday drive with my parents, it was fairly commonplace to see multiple cars on the shoulder with steam pouring out from under their hoods. For some reason, most of them seemed to be Buicks, but I have never been able to figure out why that make seemed to predominate with overheating in those days.

So, if cooling system problems were still commonplace in the '50s, you can be sure that they were rampant in the early years of the car industry.

1917 cars were much more reliable by 1917 than they had been just 10 years earlier. My grandmother toured all over Europe in a 1916 Packard “Twin-Six” just after the end of the Great War. It wasn’t called WW1 until we had WWII.

Yes, the reliability of cars had improved to a certain extent by 1917, but they still required maintenance that would seem…excessive…to most folks today.

Oil needed to be changed at least every 1,200 miles, and most cars had something on the order of 40 chassis points that needed to be lubed on the same schedule–if not sooner.

Spark plugs needed to be cleaned and re-gapped every 4k miles or so.

Valves needed grinding by 20k miles, at the most.

Overheating was still fairly common, simply because only water was available as summer coolant.

Tires needed to be patched very often as a result of punctures, and most tire treads only lasted for 5k-7k miles.

Edited to add:
By modern standards, oil consumption of engines in those days was…extreme. It was not unusual to have to add a qt every 300 miles.

Thanks for all the feedback / input. We have reached out to Coker but have not heard back from they yet. We are planning to add a water pump to help avoid over heating issues. The Maxwells had a siphon type cooling system so we are looking to add an electric (most likely) water pump. We actually have a backup up engine and will have a chase truck and trailer. Doing the Great Race would be fun but probably won’t fit out schedule and pocket book. :frowning:

Thanks again for the comments and feedback. We will post status on our website blog because it would be hard to blog to multiple blogs like the one here. If anyone is interested in following the story they can subscribe on the web site so you will get an occasional email as we progress.