Thursday, November 5, 2009

1917 Winton Housecar




One of the stranger vehicles my father owned was something called a "Housecar."  In this particular case, it was like a combination bus/camper/Pullman car. A six-cylinder, 48-horsepower vehicle, which was 13 feet tall, my father had to keep it at Fitzsimmons Garage in downtown Greenwich, because that was the only space tall enough to house it.  My father nicknamed it "The General."


The housecar was built in 1917 for a well-to-do politician,  Dr. E. J. Fithian, as his campaign vehicle while he stumped for governor of Pennsylvania.  It had Pullman-style seats that folded down into bunks, re-upholstered in cut velvet during the resoration by my father.  There was a tiny galley, with ice-box ( an ice-cooled, copper-lined refrigerated compartment), and an even smaller lavatory.  The back deck, from which Dr. Fithian originally made his speeches, was large enough for a deck-chair or two, and was surrounded by a wrought iron railing, such as one saw on the last car of railroad trains well into the 1940s.  This vehicle was not only a pleasant way to travel to antique car meets, but a pleasant place to spend the day at such events.


Our house in Greenwich backed up to St. Mary's High School, which also had a small convent for the nuns who taught there.  In his neighborly way, my father made friends with the sisters, and occasionally did musical afternoons for them.  On one particular occasion, he took them on a picnic—in the housecar.  Imagine the surprise of other drivers upon seeing such an unusual vehicle filled with black-habited nuns!


The housecar was bought shortly before my father's death by Bill Harrah for his huge collection of antique autos in Reno, Nevada (now the National Auto Museum).  Word has it that after Harrah's death in 1978, it was bought at auction by Buck Kamphausen,  California mortuary and cemetery entrepreneur and car collector.  I don't know where it is now.  Do you?


5 comments:

  1. I saw this house-car at Hershey last month! I have photos with information about the owner, etc...if you send me your email address to lisawgrant@yahoo.com I will send them to you.....

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    1. Sorry but definitely not the same vehicle

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  2. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=39128&id=1051223946&l=6dfdc5892d

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  3. Hi Margo my name is Chic Silber (a show bum)

    In 1960 as Technical Director for The Music Fairs

    I had the opportunity to spend some time with

    you father & he entrusted me to drive his Winton

    from tent to tent during the run of the show

    he was starring in "The Student Prince" & I have

    very fond memories of him (I'm listed on Bing)

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    1. Hi Chic,
      What fun that you found my blog. If you have an e-mail address, please send it to me---I'd love to be in touch. My e-mail is:
      Margo.Nutt@Dartmouth.edu.
      Margo

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