The 1909 Maxwell DA in the Sibley Museum at Hemmings World Headquarters in Bennnington, Vermont. Photo by the writer.
[Note: This begins a series of articles profiling the cars collected in the Hemmings Sibley Garage Museum]
It’s appropriate to begin with this car because it is the genesis of this series. It’s not the oldest car in the collection from a design standpoint (that honor belongs to the 1886 Benz replica previously profiled by Dan Strohl). It is the oldest from a chronological standpoint, however, and it’s related to an Automotive Pioneers segment in Hemmings Classic Car #164.
The subject of that Pioneers piece was Alice Huyler Ramsey, who (along with three non-driving companions) piloted a Maxwell from Hell’s Gate in New York City to the Golden Gate in San Francisco. Ramsey didn’t drive this Maxwell or even one like it. Instead, she drove a newer and more powerful 1909 Maxwell DA.
The connection, then, is that Mrs. Ramsey learned to drive in a two-cylinder Maxwell runabout, probably quite similar to this one, and it was in that car that Mrs. Ramsey first caught the attention of the Maxwell company, which prompted them to entice her into her transcontinental drive.
It’s not likely that this is Mrs. Ramsey’s old LC. The Ramseys lived in New Jersey, and this one was discovered in a barn near Bloominburg, New York, by Tom Lloyd, an appraiser. Tom tells us that when the widow of the owner contacted him for a valuation, he had to clear away accumulated dirt from the barn doors before the car could see the light of day for the first time in almost 50 years.
The ownership history before car was put away in 1947 is sketchy, but it’s known that the late husband of Tom’s client enjoyed driving it in parades. He wasn’t a car collector, per se, but rather “he just happened to like that old car.”
The Maxwell after it was recovered from a barn, being hauled behind Tom Lloyd’s hot rod pickup. Photo courtesy Tom Lloyd.
Tom took the car on consignment and hauled it home behind his 1940 Ford pickup (a hot rod with a 392 Chrysler Hemi and a Corvette four-speed). He tells us that the car was stuck in gear at the time and that he “loaded it like a wheelbarrow,” rolling it on the two free wheels to get it onto the trailer. Stuck trans notwithstanding, Tom says the car was “put away properly” and he got it to run again in about 2 ½ hours.
While the car was on consignment, its elderly owner died, leaving the car to Tom. He advertised it for sale for some time, but the Maxwell came to the attention of Hemmings by chance—Tom had for sale another old car, our familiar 1934 Ford wrecker, and while Hemmings employees were evaluating the Ford, they noticed the Maxwell. Soon both were in the museum, where they remain today.
The Maxwell received only mechanical restoration upon its arrival here as it was put back to roadworthy status with its appearance remaining as it was found in the barn. It, along with numerous other vehicles, remains on display today in the Hemmings Sibley Garage Museum, which is free to the public in the warm weather months. Stay tuned for our next profile: Our 1910 Buick 10 Surrey.