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Four-Links – oldest surviving American auto, Detroit factory history, Jackie Frady, West Texas drags

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The oldest surviving American automobile, as The Henry Ford pointed out this week, exists in the museum’s collection, and it well predates the internal combustion engine.

Smoke-belching steam locomotives were familiar sights to Americans in the 1860s. But a small steam carriage running under its own power—without horses!—was so startling that people paid to see it driven around a track. It was a curiosity, not transportation. By the time its inventor, Sylvester Roper, died in 1896, the next generation of innovators was trying to transform horseless carriages from curiosities into practical vehicles.

* To celebrate its new Detroit auto plant, the first to rise from Detroit soil in quite some time, FCA took a look at the other historic auto plants in the neighborhood.

Few realize the historical automotive importance of this small area along Conner Avenue between the Detroit River and Warren Avenue. While it was not the birthplace of the automobile industry, it certainly played a more than significant role in the history of the industry and FCA. By 1920, nearly a dozen automakers, some of them electric, and suppliers had established roots and plants along this corridor, including Chalmers Motor Co., Hudson Motor Car Co., Continental Motors Co., Liberty Motor Car Co., Briggs Manufacturing Co. and Rickenbacker Motor Co.

* Jackie Frady, the longtime president and executive director of the National Automobile Museum, recently retired. ThisIsReno caught up with her to reflect on her tenure with the museum.

When in 1981 she accepted one-week assignment at Harrah’s Automobile Collection preparing the cars for sale after Holiday Inn acquired the hotel-casino company, Frady had thought her work would be temporary. But that assignment turned into a 38-year career she never could have anticipated.

Frady stayed on to facilitate the transition of the private auto collection into a nonprofit. In doing so, she successfully led a campaign to build a museum for the cars in downtown Reno, overcoming $10 million in construction debt and ultimately creating one of the most lauded automobile museums in the world.

* The formerly abandoned dragstrip in Presidio, Texas, is back in operation, as Marfa Public Radio recently reported.

It’s Saturday night in West Texas. On a stretch of land outside of the border town of Presidio, cars are lining up two-by-two behind a straight, quarter-mile racing strip illuminated by stadium lights.

A summer storm has just passed through the area, but the weather’s calmed. The sun’s going down on the surrounding mountains as families tailgate out of their truck beds, lined up along the concrete track.

Nearly a decade ago, this was a pretty typical scene — amateur drag racing was a popular pastime in Presidio. But over the years, race organizers started running out of steam and money. The track fell into disrepair, and it stayed that way — until tonight.


* Finally, Transport Evolved took a look at the various electrified classics and muscle cars that appeared at SEMA this week and made the case for more hot rodders and customizers to take on electric drivetrains.