Vintage cars motor through the area as part of a tour
● By Steven Hoffman
It was a truly amazing sight.
One vintage antique car after another pulled into the parking lot of Basciani Foods on Penn Green Road on Monday, May 23. The cars were spiffed up and shining under the mid-May sun, and their owners—members of the Horseless Carriage Club of America—were beaming after an enjoyable ride through the gorgeous Chester County countryside.
“These are beautiful roads and the scenery is gorgeous,” commented Gil Fitzhugh, a Morristown, New Jersey resident who drove his 1912 Buick—he owns the smallest of the three sizes that were manufactured that year—to the location. When everyone arrived at Baciani Foods to get a look at a mushroom facility in the heart of the Mushroom Capital of the World, there were 170 people in 80 vintage cars.
Helen Turner was riding with her husband, Lee, in a 1910 REO that they've owned for the last ten years. The car was manufactured by Ransom Eli Olds, a pioneer of the automotive industry who is known for the REO and Oldsmobile brands. She said that the vintage car owners were traveling as part of the HCCA National BBC Tour.
“It's an annual event,” Turner said, explaining that the tour started with a visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa., a day earlier. The vintage car owners began Monday with a visit to Basciani Foods before moving on to the Iron and Steel Museum in Coatesville before heading back to Strasburg. Visits to the Hershey, Pa., northern Delaware, and York, Pa. areas were also a part of the four-day long tour.
The Turners, who reside in Glen Mills, were very familiar with the Chester County roads and this area. The vintage car owners came from all over the country to be a part of this tour. There was even one car owner from Canada, and another from Great Britain.
“I made one wrong turn in Ohio and I ended up here,” joked Wayne Funk, a Michigan resident.
The tour stopped at Basciani Foods because of a connection that Turner made with the business at the Mushroom Festival over a decade ago.
“I couldn't bring all these people here and not go to a mushroom place,” Turner said, referring to Kennett Square's status as the Mushroom Capital of the World. She said that Basciani Foods was extremely accommodating during the visit.
Turner said that she and her husband really enjoy not only this tour, but being a part of the Horseless Carriage Club of America.
“We really enjoy the camaraderie and riding on these beautiful back roads,” she said.
The Horseless Carriage Club of America defines “horseless carriage” as any gas, steam, or electric motor vehicle built or manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 1916. The goal of the Horseless Carriage Club is to preserve the originality of the automobiles, or to restore the automobiles to their original condition, so that they can be used for driving and completing tours to promote the preservation of their historical value.
The cars attract attention wherever they go, and the car owners love to talk about them.
Fitzhugh has owned his 1912 Buick for about 15 years, and most of the restoration work has taken place in the last three. He explained that while he loves taking the car out for a fun drive, it can be challenging, too. There are no power assists for a car that was manufactured more than one hundred years ago. The cars are started by a hand-crank, the steering is stiff, and there are only rear-wheel brakes. It takes some effort, but the experience of driving a vintage car is well worth it. Each car has its own unique way of handling, Fitzhugh said.
“I have four antique cars, and they all drive differently,” he said.