A Ride Through History – Go for a Spin in a Vintage Vehicle

A yellow 1921 Mercer Series 5 touring car, 1922 Detroit Electric coupe or gray-green 1917 Simplex Crane touring car catch the eye and stand out from visitors’ vehicles packing the parking lot Fridays at the Seal Cove Auto Museum.

“Friday Ride Day” is the latest initiative of the museum located off Route 102 in the Tremont village of Seal Cove. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 31, the cavernous red building houses over 50 vintage vehicles, specializing in brass-era automobiles (1896-1915) — distinguished by their brass fittings — originating from the New England region.

Unlike many auto museums, Seal Cove Auto Museum’s automotive relics are kept in working order and do venture out for “Friday Ride Day” and other events. Previously limiting rides to donors, the museum sees the vehicular jaunts as a means to make history more meaningful experiencing it first hand. The admission price includes the rides.

“History is not this dry, static thing, it’s ongoing, living and breathing,” said Melinda Rice-Schoon, Seal Cove’s director of development. “If you can help people have a little piece of that, they can understand the story better.”

The Seal Cove Auto Museum’s Curator of Visitor Services Bill Barter takes visitors for a spin in a 1921 Mercer Series 5 touring car

Bill Barter, the museum’s curator of visitor services and proud owner of a red 1965 Humber salon, loves the Friday event. By the way, his Humber was made by a British company that began making bicycles in 1868 and eventually switched to motorized transport.

Barter often is the authorized driver on the “Friday Ride Day” jaunts. While children are his most vocal fans, he notes patrons of all ages get excited.

“Adults want to do it all the time,” said the car aficionado with a grin. “Some of them are nonchalant about it, and some people are just thrilled right to death.”

Barter, who used to teach high school English and marine technology, got interested in cars at age 12. By his account, his passion was sparked by the sight of Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln-Zephyr V12 and a British MG TF sports car in a used car lot. “I couldn’t decide which one liked more!” he said.

The auto enthusiast has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the museum’s collection, speaking about the cars like they were old friends. He refers to the 1922 Detroit Electric, a battery-powered car, as “Tesla’s great-grandmother.” Which is his favorite vehicle? Without hesitation, he quickly heads to a 1915 Finley-Robertson-Porter, a beautiful light-gray car with red-spoke wheels.

Jim Phelps, a volunteer mechanic at the museum, stands alongside a 1916 Abbott-Detroit roadster.

“It’s such a good-looking car, it’s so interesting mechanically,” he remarked. “And for a 1915 car, it’s very drivable.”

Experience a piece of American history, weather permitting, every Friday. The museum also offers other special events both ticketed and free of charge ranging from a murder mystery-themed dinner to the monthly Cars & Coffee antique auto meet-up.

The museum also has periodic exhibits including “Art, Advertising, and the Automobile,” which is on view at present. The display tells the story of early automotive advertising, tracking the social trends that defined those ads as well as the designers behind them.

The museum is at 1414 Tremont Road (Route 102) in Seal Cove. Admission is $6 per adult, $5 for seniors, $4 for teens, and $2 for kids. For more information, call 244-9242, email [email protected] or visit sealcoveautomuseum.org.