Low mileage, only three owners

Pa. manâEUR(TM)s 1916 Chevrolet is âEUR~pure Fulton CountyâEUR(TM)

Pa. manâEUR(TM)s 1916 Chevrolet is âEUR~pure Fulton CountyâEUR(TM)

March 28, 2005|by DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, PA. - When Woodrow Wilson was in the White House and Ronald Wilson Reagan was still in knee britches, a person whose name has been lost to history purchased a 1916 Chevrolet Four Ninety.

Twenty years later, toward the end of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term in office, the touring car was bought by Bud Grissinger, owner of the former R&G Motor Co. in McConnellsburg, according to Richard A. Miller.

"I call it 'Old Bud,'" Miller said of the car, which he bought from Grissinger in 1997 during Bill Clinton's second term as president. Sixteen presidents after it rolled off the assembly line, the Four Ninety is still running, usually in a couple of local parades a year.


Miller said Grissinger told him the car originally belonged to someone in Crystal Springs, Pa., and that it was gathering dust in a barn when the auto dealership owner picked it up.

"There was a new car dealership in Crystal Springs, but it was a Ford dealership," Miller said. While the original point of purchase is unknown, Miller said the car never has been owned by anyone outside of Fulton County.

"I had it restored and it's been endorsed by the Fulton County Historical Society, since it's pure Fulton County," said Miller, a retired postal carrier who is vice president of the historical society.

"There's a lot of old cars around," but most are more-traveled than the Four Ninety, Miller said.

Along with having just three owners in 89 years, he believes it is a low-mileage used car.

The odometer is stuck at about 16,000 miles and he and Grissinger only used it for local car shows and parades, Miller said.

"I only drive it about 100 miles a year," he said. Despite having last fired up its four-cylinder engine in October for the Fulton Fall Folk Festival, the Four Ninety readily sputtered to life for Miller on Sunday.

Model T competitor

Although it won first place at the festival, the Four Ninety has an everyman pedigree, Miller said.

"Chevrolet was competing with the Model T, which cost $490," Miller explained. Hence, the automaker came up with a car that could compete dollar for dollar with the famous Ford.

Chevy apparently cut costs on the Four Ninety.

"Notice anything unusual about the engine?" Miller asked.

In an era when few roads were paved, the company built an engine without valve covers. Despite that trap for dust and dirt, Miller said the engine needed little work when he bought the car.

It did come with options that bumped up the price. The electric starter and electric headlamps would have cost the original owner an extra $60, Miller said.

Most cars lose value the moment they are driven off the lot, but not the Four Ninety. Miller said he paid about $4,500 for the unrestored vehicle, more than nine times the cost of the base model. He later paid about $1,000 for a part just to get the speedometer working again.

Miller said he has long been fascinated by cars, but with four children to raise, he and his wife, Esther, had more dreams than money. Their stable now includes a 1927 Model T hot rod and a muscle-bound 1962 Ford Falcon with a 302-cubic inch engine.

"After the kids left the house, I sort of went crazy," Miller said.

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