Research Trip…Cars, Cars, Cars!

So Monday’s post was about Bruce Coville’s keynote speech at the Spring Spirit conference, and I still haven’t gotten around to writing up a summary post of the whole conference. Friday, maybe? Anyway, f you haven’t read the Monday post yet, and you’d like to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of Bruce’s The Monster’s Ring, go here and leave a comment.

Today, I want to talk about cars.

After I signed up for the conference, and after I decided to go up Friday and spend the night ahead of time, and as I was researching what kind of cars my MC would be riding around in, I discovered that the California Automobile Museum is in Sacramento, barely 30 minutes from Rocklin, where the conference was being held. So guess what I decided to do on Friday afternoon?

I drove up to Sac, had lunch, then showed up at the doors of the museum. I’d emailed the curator ahead of time, so he knew I was coming (although I’m not sure he know what kind of conversations we’d be having….”Wow, that brass trim on the windshield would be a lovely place to smack someone head during a car wreck, wouldn’t it?”). He was a wonderful person, took me around and showed me all the relevant cars, helped me understand what was standard for the time and what was different between the more luxurious cars and, oh, say…the Model T. Yes, the cars came with a toolbox on their running board (no trunk), not to mention an acetylene tank and generator for lighting the headlights. Well, okay, you needed a match, too. SERIOUSLY!

I had a wonderful time, took tons of notes, and after we were done talking, he left me to wander through the museum and take lots of pictures. Some of which I’m going to share with you–just remember that I’m a lousy photographer, I was taking these with my Blackberry (because I’m so lousy I don’t do any better with a real camera!), and these are the best of the lot! So everything in the museum was even more beautiful than it will look to you here.

Here are some shots of the cars I needed to see for research purposes. (Keep in mind I’m a lousy photographer!)

Here’s a 1908 Model T, which was before they only came in black.

Here’s a 1912 Cadillac Torpedo.

And here’s a 1926 Cunningham ambulance. Later than my period, but the same company was making ambulance back in 1911/1912. They were also making hearses, but let’s not go there.

And here are a few of the pics I sent to my husband, just to drive him crazy with the pretty-please emails. Note: He is not a Citroen fan. I think they look like particularly cute armadillos.

I have always wanted one of these.

And don’t we all think this is the tow truck from the movie Cars? The one that went out to the pasture to do some tractor-tipping? Only this one doesn’t have a speck of rust.

It was a great afternoon. I felt a bit like a character out of Firefly, because everything was “Shiny!”  If you’re ever up in Sacramento, I recommend this museum as a stop, especially if you have any car-crazies in your family!


  1. Looks like the trip to the museum was well worth it. The thought of having to use a match to light my headlights is terrifying! I’d likely hit the gas line and blow myself up 😛


    • beckylevine says:

      You had to have another one for the cute lantern-like sidelamps–those were kerosene! I’m with you. I’ll stick to just pulling out the little knob.


  2. I was a bit spooked by the fact that the UK driving test included a couple of maintenance questions before the 40-minute drive. But now I’m thinking that demonstrating how to check the brakes is a breeze compared to lighting gas headlights!


    • beckylevine says:

      Eep. How DO you check the brakes?! Braking in the old days, apparently, was pretty much down-shifting to slow down, then putting on the hand brake. No brake pedal. 🙂


  3. What fun to be able to combine research with a writing conference. You are gathering a great many juicy bits and pieces for you enriching your novel.


  4. Now this is the kind of research I could get into. The hunting through books,magazines, online for one little fact, well…I’m a tad lazy when it comes to that. Glad you found what you were looking for, Becky!


  5. Fun post! Hmmm… wonder how I can manage a trip to sacramento to see the car my character’s grandfather drove….OW! I hadn;t even though of it. The auto show in Charlotte, NC just happened this weekend. Why didn’t I think of going?! Bop on th head moment.


    • beckylevine says:

      Oops! Keep your eyes open. And google car museum’s–there might be one closer than you think. What WAS your character’s grandfather’s car–do you know?


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