Antique Vehicles "Off-Roading" at State Museums

The "Bumper to Bumper" exhibit at the North Carolina Transportation Museum features a variety of antique automobiles, including the state Highway Patrol car

Editor's Note – In the summer of 2012, Ansley Wegner, a historian with our Research Branch, wrote a series of blog posts highlighting various historical destinations around the state. This is the fourteenth post in that series. You can see all Wegner's posts on this page

Though the post below mentions two specific car shows, the N.C. Transportation Museum offers car shows throughout each summer and fall.

I love seeing antique automobiles on the road—and whenever I see more than a couple of them, I know that there must be a car show somewhere nearby. The North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM) in Spencer has a wonderful permanent exhibit featuring historic automobiles and it is hosting a Plymouth Club Car Show on September 8 and Antique Auto Show on October 20—the show will be free for spectators.

Gibert Waters and His "Buggymobile"

The North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh also has some interesting automobiles ranging from Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s #3 car to the curious Buggymobile.  What is the Buggymobile, you ask?  The Buggymobile is one of those inventions that never took off.  But, that is only figuratively speaking… because it did work!

Gilbert Waters and his Buggymobile Gilbert Waters’s 1903 Buggymobile, a prototype automobile, is on display at the North Carolina Museum of History.

Gilbert Waters, who operated G. H. Waters & Sons Buggy & Carriage Factory with his father in New Bern, visited Baltimore, Md., in 1899. There he observed a steam-driven vehicle.  Upon his return home, Waters began work on his own self-propelled buggy.  His gasoline-powered Buggymobile was completed in early 1900. A high-wheeled carriage boasting bicycle chains moved by a five-horsepower engine, Waters’ Buggymobile “raced down Main Street at 12 miles an hour,” according to a news item of the day.

Despite a successful test-drive Waters could not obtain financial support from local banks, or even his father!  One banker told him:

Buggies without horses will never be practical and they would be too expensive and dangerous anyway.

Without financial backing to produce more Buggymobiles, Waters returned to the horse-drawn carriage business.

Waters operated his buggy shop until 1922 when he was, ironically, driven out of business by the success of the automobile. Waters produced only one more Buggymobile, in 1903, to replace his “worn out” 1900 model. The new vehicle got up to forty-miles per gallon with a two-gallon gas tank, the gasoline for which, Waters had to order from Baltimore.

Waters drove the 1903 Buggymobile until the mid-1940s. It was donated to the Hall of History, now the North Carolina Museum of History, in 1948.

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