HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA (April 28, 2009) – Do you wish you still had your first car? Southeastern Pennsylvanian, Frank Hartmaier never had this regret because he kept his new 1929 Ford for 80 years! While some drivers think back nostalgically and yearn for their first ride, the reality for most people is much different. For many, their first vehicle was an object of necessity purchased with scraped-together funds and maintained on a shoe-string budget. It was a utilitarian object used to get you to work and sometimes for fun, but it was rarely the car of your dreams. The first car was, and continues to be, a right of passage, a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
On May 16, 1929, 17-year old Schwenksville resident, Frank Hartmaier went to the William Young Ford Agency in nearby Pottstown to take delivery of the 1929 Ford Model A Roadster he had ordered a month earlier. With the optional spare tire and rumble seat, the price was $560.00. Through various enterprises, Hartmaier had managed to save $305.00 toward the car; the remainder was borrowed through the Pottstown Finance Company. Frank was already employed at the time and the car served as a compromise with his parents: his real desire was to learn to fly airplanes, something he took up later and continued to do almost as long as he drove his Ford.
With the onset of the Depression, Hartmaier lost his regular job. He acquired several paper delivery routes to get by and the new Ford served him well as he rolled up hundreds of miles per week. Over the years the car continued to serve him faithfully. It was always driven and never put into long term storage. It was restored on three separate occasions, the only times it was ever out of active service. Frank must have truly loved his car just the way he selected it in 1929 for with each restoration, it was repainted its original hue of rose beige. The car’s true mileage is unknown. The odometer quit several years ago after registering over 400,000 miles.
Model A Fords have been collectible vehicles for many decades, yet Hartmaier never treated his car like a pampered classic. He and his A were well known in the car community. In his retirement, he would think nothing of driving the car all the way from Pennsylvania to Dearborn, Michigan for a Ford gathering. Sometimes he would travel with friends, but if no one were available, he would go it alone. He continued these trips into his 80s. Model As are not high-dollar exotic cars, but Hartmaier was known to have turned down many substantial offers to sell the car, reportedly stating that it was simply not for sale at any price.
He was once quoted in an automotive magazine as saying, “You can only put money in the bank; you can’t ride around in that on a nice day and get an ice cream cone.”
“I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hartmaier in 2003 when the AACA Museum first opened to the public,” states Museum Curator, Jeffrey Bliemeister. He toured the Museum with his friend, Fred Servis. “The two gentlemen told me about the car and its history and left me with a copy of a newspaper article done on Frank several years before. He mentioned his intention to leave the car to the Museum upon his death. Several months ago we received a call from Fred letting us know that Frank had passed away in January of 2009. True to his word, the car was to come to the Museum.”
Friends and family members have detailed the Model A and made all the arrangements for its delivery to the Museum. It will join our collection at 2:00 PM on Saturday, May 2nd with a small dedication and ceremony that is open to the press and any museum visitors who are present. A great deal of documentation will come with the car. Particularly noteworthy is the Pennsylvania State title for the Model A in Frank Hartmaier’s name. It is the original ownership document and dates to 1929. Mr. Hartmaier managed to convince Penn-Dot to allow him to keep this document when the car was officially re-registered with antique plates. Apparently, at one point, Hartmaier and his friends contacted the Guinness Book of World Records to qualify the car and owner for record of longest continuous ownership of a vehicle. We do not know the status of this claim but we do know the title will go a long way to documenting the record.
The AACA Museum exists to document and celebrate the history of motor transportation. The Museum’s collection consists of approximately 150 vehicles of all types, each donated by individuals and corporations: none were purchased. “We are passionate about what we do,” states Bliemeister, “and it is fitting that such a passionate car owner chose this institution as the final home for his beloved Model A. I know of people who have driven their vehicles more miles, but I have never heard of anyone keeping their car for a lifetime. This Model A has many stories to tell and we are grateful that it is joining us at the AACA Museum as part of our permanent collection.”
The Antique Auto Museum at Hershey, a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program, displays beautifully restored automobiles, buses and motorcycles in unique scenes and settings. This Museum is one of the nation’s newest and largest automotive museums. Visitors are transported through eight decades in time from New York to San Francisco, making each visit a visual adventure for all ages. Admission to the Museum is $10 for adults, $9 for Seniors and $7 for children 4-12 years of age. The Museum is located just off Route 39, one mile west of Hersheypark Drive in Hershey, Pennsylvania. For further information, please call 717-566-7100 or visit www.aacamuseum.org.