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Steering Sequim’s history along
Sequim’s first car is getting a second life, or third or fourth, depending on whom you talk to in town.
The 1907 REO Runabout is fit to hit the road again thanks to local enthusiasts in the Sequim Valley Car Club. For weeks, the antique car sat in Virgil Fey’s Carlsborg garage while he and friends Fred Gilchrist, Dennis Hood, Nick Dante, Richard Ward and Tom Andrus worked on bringing it up to speed.
Fey had the idea to work on it and put it in the Sequim Irrigation Festival Grand Parade to show what the club does. For years, the REO has sat in the Museum & Arts Center’s storage space until it’s pulled out for special events and the parade, but it hasn’t been run since 2002 and usually is pushed and placed on a flatbed.
Fred Gilchrist, former owner of the car, said they installed a new battery, changed the carburetor, installed new points for the coil, adjusted the timer and lubed all moving parts to get it running.
“It wasn’t nearly the amount of work,” Gilchrist said in comparison to when he first bought it in 1984 from Boyd Grant.
Grant first restored the REO to factory condition by replacing the engine block, rebuilding the backseat, changing the lights, top frame, wheels and upholstery.
“It was really tired,” Gilchrist said. “It sat in a barn for years before Boyd got it working for the festival.”
From Lansing to Sequim
The one-cylinder runabout was built in 1907 in Lansing, Mich., at REO’s headquarters. It still runs on current gasoline and cost $685 brand new at the time. Local resident Vern Grant used it as a vehicle for hire between Port Williams and Dungeness, and he also transported meat and produce until the car was retired in 1922.
It was put back to working order in 1941 for the festival parade and kept running until the early 1980s, Gilchrist said. When he took the car for a test spin with Boyd Grant, Vern’s son, Gilchrist said he put it into high gear, bringing the car somewhere between 20-25 mph.
“’What’s that,’ Boyd asked me,” Gilchrist said. “He had never put it in high gear before me.”
Gilchrist said he bought the car because he liked old cars and at the time and had about 20 antique cars, including two other REOs.
In 2002, he drove it to the museum with the intention the car stay in Clallam County for its lifetime.
“It’s where it should be,” Gilchrist said of the REO being in the parade. “Maybe the younger tradition can learn to appreciate it. It’s an interesting part of the history of the Sequim valley.”
Getting buggy with it
Along with the REO, the car club has arranged to put another one of its pilot projects in the parade — a 1908 single-seat buggy made by the Ohio Buggy Co., a subsidiary of Studebaker.
It was one of the club’s first projects, Fey said.
The buggy will follow the REO, driven by Nick Dante, with 20 other car club vehicles following behind in the order of the year they were made. A truck will tow the buggy as a horse couldn’t be found in time for the parade.
Club members are grateful to the museum for the opportunity to work on the buggy and car.
“It was fun to work on,” Fey said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
The Sequim Valley Car Club has 120 members.
Visit the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, 175 W. Cedar St., online at www.macsequim.org.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.