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After 120 years, a 1901 Packard rolls back into Buffalo

After 120 years, a 1901 Packard rolls back into Buffalo

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1901 Packard

The Pierce Arrow Museum is unveiling a 1901 Packard that was used in the first long-distance road race from New York City to Buffalo, as part of the Pan-Am Exposition. The car, acquired and restored by the late Terry Warren, is shown here at the museum in Buffalo, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

A 120-year-old luxury motor vehicle that last left Buffalo in 1910 has made its way back to the Queen City, where it will be on permanent display at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum.

The 1901 Model C Packard, which was once driven in a 1901 endurance run from New York City that was headed to Buffalo during the Pan-American Exposition, was unveiled Saturday by museum owner James Sandoro, who remarked on the car's historic lineage.

"The main thing was that this was the world coming to Buffalo for the Pan-American Exposition," Sandoro said of the endurance race in which the car was entered. "This was the biggest event of the year in a new century."

The motor vehicle was originally owned by a prominent and very wealthy Buffalonian named John M. Satterfield, who was a local banker, businessman and early president of the Automobile Club of Buffalo. It also was the first car to feature a steering wheel instead of a tiller, as well the first to feature an H-pattern gear change, and was one of 89 vehicles to be entered in the 1901 Automobile Club of America's Endurance Run.

118 years ago, on Sept. 6, 1901, anarchist Leon Czolgosz mortally wounded President William McKinley during McKinley’s visit to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Take a journey back through the structures that were built for the exposition and what is there

The race was intended to test the speed and reliability of the participating automobiles. However, the race was never finished. It was stopped on Sept. 14, 1901, upon the death of President William McKinley, who had been shot eight days earlier, on Sept. 6, by anarchist Leon Czolgosz during the exposition.

Satterfield's Packard, which had a top speed of between 22 and 25 mph, took four days to reach Rochester from New York City, owing to the fact that there were very few drive-worthy roads back then, according to Sandoro.

"They ran into bad weather," Sandoro said. "In fact, in those days, you were only going 8 to 12 miles per hour."

The car, which was manufactured by the Packard Motor Car Company in Warren, Ohio, had a varied history after Satterfield sold the vehicle back to Packard in 1910, according to John Martin of Warren, Ohio, whose late father, Terry, acquired what remained of the vehicle 20 years ago and painstakingly restored it.

John Martin and members of his family traveled from Warren, Ohio, to Buffalo for the unveiling at the Pierce Arrow Museum on Saturday.

"The family that had originally owned it ... sold it back to Packard, which brought it, actually, for a patent suit," Martin said.

In the ensuing years, Packard displayed the car at dealerships around the country. 

"One of the Packard dealers in California had borrowed it for the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1929. The show was in tents, and the whole thing caught on fire and burned up all the new cars, and it burned up the 1901 Packard, too," Martin said.

"Packard, actually, had had it insured for, at the time, what people thought was crazy money, like $10,000, or something like that. After that, for whatever reason, they got rid of the rest of the car and kept the engine and the transmission, which really didn't look as damaged as you would think. They kept it at Packard until they went bankrupt, when Studebaker had it," Martin said.

The remains of the vehicle ended up in the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Ind. Packard acquired Studebaker in 1954, until the Studebaker-Packard Corp. ceased operation in 1967.

Terry Martin acquired the rolling chassis of the 1901 Packard about 20 years ago, and started producing and piecing together other missing parts of the vehicle, his son said. The restoration was completed in 2019.

"Literally, two years ago, just before he passed, we finished it up and we got together so we could all see it together," Martin said.

Many of the parts, including the wooden body of vehicle, had to be recreated by hand, he added.

"He always had an interest in old cars," John Martin said of his father. "Even when he was a teenager, he was buying Model Ts and other oddball stuff, a '29 Buick, and things like that."  

A donation from the charitable foundation of plumbing supplier Bill Irr Sr. and his son, Bill Jr., made the museum's acquisition of the 1901 Packard possible. The car will remain on permanent display at the Pierce Arrow Museum, 263 Michigan Ave.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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