Model T Motor Home 

Arkansas Natural History Museum

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

After Treatment: Model-T Motor HomeThe 1926 Model T Ford Motor Home is one of only a pair of this type thought to have been built. These vehicles are not believed to have been produced by the Ford Motor Co. however they were constructed upon a Ford Model TT one-ton chassis that had been modified at a Ford factory. Ford Motor Co. records indicate that only six modified chassis, such as the one used to construct this motor home, were ever built. The modification of the chassis included but was not limited to a second independent non-powered axle used to create tandem rear wheels and an overall extension of the chassis by more than eight feet. The body of the motor home is thought to be a third party addition to the chassis and was not constructed by Ford. Unfortunately, research into the builder of the body has been inconclusive and therefore is unknown, however, the original owners of the vehicle have been identified as Mr. Charles D. Meyer and his wife Rhene Salome Miller-Meyer, a circus manager and performer respectively. It was reported that this couple literally rolled into Smackover, Arkansas, as part of a small circus around 1929. As was the fate of many small shows during the Great Depression, the circus fell upon hard times and was disbanded. The motor home became the residence of the former circus manager and his wife for the next fifty years. The vehicle was last driven in 1950 when the Meyers and their home moved to a piece of swampy land on the outskirts of town. It was there, after her husband's death, the Mrs. Meyer gained her nickname, “The Goat Woman of Smackover” for her reputed love for her pet goats. She died in 1988, and in the late 1990's the motor home was removed from its swampy parking space and placed on exhibit at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover.

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

After Treatment: UndercarriageDuring examination, B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. conservators were able to identify the source of many of the components used to fabricate the motor home body. The framing of the superstructure was made from new Model T Ford automobile frame rails, bolted and riveted together. The rear porch pillars were driveshaft tubes from one-ton Model TT Ford trucks. While not conclusive, the use of these new stock Ford parts may suggest that the bodywork for this motor homes could have been done in a Ford Motor Co. shop or by a Ford employee with ready access to the newly manufactured parts. All metal and wooden components were extremely weathered and had suffered extensive paint loss. The chassis was heavily corroded; several minor components had been damaged over time, but they were not deemed to be major structural insecurities and were therefore left as they were found. Sections of the exterior body sheathing, glazing, window frames, and storage compartment doors had been repaired or replaced during an earlier volunteer effort. Therefore, those parts were considered non-original to the piece. Seven of the fourteen upper clearstory window frames were badly deteriorated by cubical brown rot. The lower edges of the corrugated metal sheathing were extensively damaged by corrosion and several linear feet had rusted through and were lost. The interior of the motor home had been over painted white, covering the original light green color. The tires, though recently replaced, were covered with dust and dirt.

TREATMENT

Before Treatment: Model-T Motor HomeThe conservation of this vehicle focused upon the stabilization of all metal components and aesthetic compensation of all exterior surfaces. The goal of this treatment focused upon returning the motor home to an in-use appearance rather than being new or having had suffered severe deterioration caused by years of abandonment. These objectives were accomplished by the mechanical removal of loose surface corrosion and chemical stabilization of the iron with tannic acid, followed by the application of a protective lacquer coating to prevent further deterioration. The interior had been repainted white by well intentioned volunteers, however, the museum curatorial staff, currently responsible for the care and exhibition of the motor home, sought to have it returned to its original color scheme. The original colors were identified using microscopic cross-sectional analysis of samples taken from the interior of the motor home. The materials used for repainting the interior were fully reversible and also painted over an isolating barrier layer. Severely deteriorated window sash were replaced with accurate reproductions and reinstalled. Interior components were partially disassembled, cleaned, and then coated to insure their long-term preservation. All work was done on site by B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. over the course of 12 months.


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