Iowa’s Automobiles: An Entertaining and Enlightening History By Bill Jepsen

Hi Gang…

Have I got a gem of a book to share with you – and a new “friend of fiberglass” to introduce too 🙂

The book is called “Made in Iowa:  Iowa’s Automobiles – An Entertaining and Enlightening History” by Bill Jepsen, and it’s a fantastic book for anyone interested in reading detailed, comprehensive, and interesting research on cars from the early part of American automotive history.

I first came across this “find” from good friend Jim Degnan of Castaic, California.  I was visiting Jim in 2009 and learning more about his interest in cars, his friends, and his overall exuberance for life.  He’s just one great car guy to spend some time with.  One of the resources he shared with me was this book published in 2007 about cars from his home state of Iowa.

I’ve never thought of Iowa as the “Detroit of the Midwest.”  Boy was I wrong!

Cars built in Iowa included the Colby, the Frazee, the Mason, the Adams Farwell – and more.  This sounded more and more like the lost names of our fiberglass cars from the ‘50s to me, and the story Bill Jepsen told in his book was compelling.

I had to know more…

And Iowa has been good to fiberglass in a way you might not have expected.  We don’t know why, but some really neat fiber cars have ended up in Iowa including a Meteor, the Chicagoan, the LeMans Coupe, and even the non-fiberglass “Cinnamon Girl” (of course the last one was built there – so no surprise on where it was found!)

I love car hunting in Iowa, and Bill Jepsen and his book could teach me more.

Iowa’s Automobiles By Bill Jepsen: Foreword

Listening to the story of Bill’s research on cars from Iowa reminds me of our own journey documenting the forgotten lands of fiberglass.  Let me share the first few paragraphs of the “Foreword” in Bill Jepsen’s book and you’ll see what I mean:

“I have always been a “car guy.”  Heck, I was a “car kid.”  I remember sitting on the front steps of our family’s Davenport home on Locust Street watching all of the cars go by, trying to name them.  I was all of five or six.  Sometimes my Dad would join me and gently correct me when I was wrong.

He would tell me tales of cars like the Velie (made just across the River), the Auburn and the fabulous Duesenberg.  Fifty some years later I am still afflicted with the malady of “car craziness.”

This book has been brewing inside me for some time now.  Several years ago I started collecting magazine and newspaper articles that pertained to automobiles associated with my home state of Iowa.  At first I simply retained the ones I happened to come across in my extensive reading of automobile magazines.

Looks Like The "Meteor" Name Was First Used Much Earlier Than We've Thought For Automobiles.. This "Meteor" Is From Iowa.

However, after a while I actively sought out this elusive information.  The first Iowa automobile that I had information about as the Mason (later to become the Maytag-Mason).  The article was in the September-October 1980 issue of Antique Automobile, the official publication of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America). 

At the end of that article they also published a list of over fifty automobiles manufactured in Iowa.  I was captivated!  The list was just that, a list.  There was precious little information about the names on the list.

I felt compelled to find out more about all of the automobiles named.”

Thoughts From Bill Jepsen:

I asked Bill if he could give us a short overview of his book here at Forgotten Fiberglass.  Ever the gentleman, Bill agreed.   Here’s a more “official” overview of the book that discussed the background and detail – blood, sweat, and tears that Bill put into making his “baby” a reality.  And the book is wonderfully detailed with great photos throughout – over 340+ pages.

Here’s what Bill had to say:

While the State of Iowa will never be mistaken for Michigan, Indiana or Ohio when comparisons of activity in the automobile industry are made, Iowa, nevertheless, has a rich history in this area.  Iowa’s Automobiles examines this history in minute detail.

Most of the activity took place in the period from 1900 to 1915 when, it seemed, every blacksmith, buggy maker, mechanical engineer and entrepreneur was trying his hand in the fledgling automotive industry.  This 344 page hardback book is the fruition of twenty years of research and six years of writing.

It is comprised of six sections:

  • Dreams, Schemes and Misinformation
  • Yes…No…Maybe
  • One Off – Limited (this is my favorite section, gang)
  • Just For Kids
  • Prototypes
  • Manufactured

There are over twenty stories falling into the Manufactured category.

The book also contains a Personality Profiles section featuring the Iowa connections and stories of Fred & August Duesenberg, Walter Chrysler and William Galloway. Iowa’s Automobiles has been the recipient of universally glowing reviews. It is also the 2008 recipient of the prestigious Thomas McKean Memorial Cup presented by the Antique Automobile Association of America.

Signed copies of Iowa’s Automobiles are available directly from the author for the price of $30.00 (postpaid).

E-mail me (Bill Jepsen) at  willinjep@gmail.com  or call (515) 432-8807

Summary:

What makes Bill Jepsen’s achievement in producing this book even more remarkable is that he took it upon himself to research, write, produce, print, and distribute this book.  Self-publishing all the way!  And the book was 20+ years in the making.  He sounds like our kind of “car guy.”

Thanks goes to Bill Jepsen in taking the time to create such a fascinating resource for us car guys out there.  Also, a fiber-salute to good friend Jim Degnan for turning me onto such a cool book – and a new friend of fiberglass.  Thanks Jim 🙂

And be on the lookout for another Iowa car to make an appearance here again soon at Forgotten Fiberglass – Lloyd Templeton’s Saturn.  Click here to review what we had to share about this sport custom in a recent article on our website.  I’ll be featuring Bill Jepsen section of his book about this Iowa car here at Forgotten Fiberglass.  Bill’s article has more history on this car than I’ve ever seen before.  The next story on the Saturn Sport Custom will be a blast for each and every one of you.

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff


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Comments

Iowa’s Automobiles: An Entertaining and Enlightening History By Bill Jepsen — 4 Comments

  1. The Spaulding was built in a very charming town on the Lincoln Highway [US 30], Grinnel IA. They have started a museum there. Several of my friends in Colorado owned the only known Spaulding car. It changed hands several times as a basket case project. It is now being restored at the museum’s shop. The Spauldings started building buggies and in 1916 switched to truck manufacturing,

    US 30 is a great way to see middle America in a vintage car. I drove my 1933 MG special to Elkart Lake WI via 30 several years ago.

  2. Hugh–You are almost right. Grinnell is not on US Highway 30 (The Lincoln Highway), but rather on US Highway 6. Highway 6 is is also a very historic highway and has been known as “The River to River Road”, The Great White Way and The Grand Army of the Republic Highway at various times in its history.

    Highway 30 runs parallel to Highway 6 about 25 to 30 miles to the North.

    The story of the Spaulding is a great one. The “only survivor” that you refer to has been restored (sort of). They have decided to just do the chassis although there is interest in fabracting a body for it. Big job!

    • Most of the way I went was US 30, but I did go through Grinnel and went to Mid-States Cobra plant and to visit with Dwight at his Gibbon NE shops.

      There was not much left of the Spaulding when first in Colorado. Each owner found a few more parts, but still a long way from a restoration. Spaulding, like many assembled cars bought their frames from some one like A.O.Smith. The first owner/friend figured out the inter-change. Many of the brass era cars we had in Colorado had been chopped up and converted into AG equipment. They were strong, low milege, and cheap during the period of WWII when tractor manufacturing was ended.

      It was 1990 andI did go into Grinell just do to knowing Spauldings. Hugh

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