Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SPENCER — One of the last remaining 1910 Buick automobiles in the country has a new home at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer.

Volunteers and museum staff could not conceal their excitement Tuesday afternoon as they took delivery on the red car, which was donated by the family that has passed the roadster down through generations since Claude Hailey traded a Metz car for the Buick in 1914.

The car has been in North Carolina ever since the original owner, Monroe Allred of Granite Falls, bought it for $1,000 in 1910. Allred’s family outgrew the two-seater, so Allred traded with Hailey, who owned the first car garage in Lenoir.

The car remained in Lenoir for decades. The Hailey family kept meticulous records on the 1910 Buick, and with the donation came a large file titled “old car” that contains all the maintenance and service records, as well as correspondence with car clubs and clippings from magazines and newspapers featuring the vehicle.

Larry Neal, interim executive director for the museum, said the unique addition to the Bumper to Bumper Exhibit will attract visitors.

“This is for people who are not only interested in old cars, but also interested in science and technology, to see actually how the cars were developed and operated at that time, different than the way they are today,” Neal said.

The car features all original parts, including kerosene and calcium carbide head lamps and a two-cylinder, hand-crank engine, which staff members revealed by carefully removing the hood. They did not start the car, although they said they believe the engine still runs.

The Buick was driven into a garage in Hickory about 10 years ago, where the fluids were drained and the car was stored until the donation.

Neal said family members visited the museum and were impressed with the care and maintenance of the car collection. They donated the Buick so it would be preserved and shared with more people, he said.

Dr. Kevin Cherry, assistant secretary for the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, called the Buick a “major gift and treasure.”

“I’m so thankful they would make this gift so people can learn about the development of the automobile,” Cherry said.

He said the 1910 Buick is a “transitional car” that helps demonstrate the country’s shift from low volume to mass production of automobiles. Cherry said he could not put a monetary value on the car.

In 1910, Buick made about 11,000 total vehicles. Museum staffers estimated there are fewer than 10 roadsters left.

The car was donated by the family of Forrest and Becky Hailey Ferrell in memory of Claude W. Hailey, Cecil Hailey and Banks Hailey, all previous owners.

The museum will position the 1910 Buick between a 1907 Model R Ford and a 1913 Ford Model T Depot Hack, giving a linear progression of automobile development. Other cars in the progression include a 1901 White, 1922 Buick and 1919 Dodge Brothers.

In case anyone else wants to donate a vehicle, Bob Hopkins, exhibits coordinator, said the museum is looking for some iconic automobiles to complete its collection. They include a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle, an ambulance from the late 1950s or early 1960s, a World War II Jeep and a vintage hearse.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.