Dec 23 2019

Mystery Foto #51 Solved: The 1917 Winton House Car Owned by James Melton


The Helck Family Collection challenged you again to solve this Mystery Auto.

Answers to the Mystery Auto questions:

  • What year was this house car built and who was the original owner?

​This house car was custom built in 1917 for Dr. Edwin John (E.J.) Fithian. Fithian of Grove City, PA was a medical doctor, co-founder of the Bessemer Gas Engine Company and the unsuccessful Prohibition candidate for Pennsylvania governor (1918) and U.S. Senate (1932).

  • Who were the manufacturers of the body and chassis?

​Built by the McKay Carriage Company of Fithian's home town Grove City, it was attached to a touring body 1917 Winton chassis and extended to a wheelbase of 221 inches.

  • When this photo was taken in 1957 which Peter Helck famous friend was the owner?

The Winton House Car was purchased by James Melton, a prominent star of opera, films and radio  and owner of a large antique automobile collection. 

  • Which museum owned the house car in the 1970s?

​The Winton House Car was later purchased by Harrah's Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada.  In addition to being displayed, it served as the registration center for Harrah's annual Swap Meet and Car Show.

  • Who is the most recent known owner of the Mystery Auto?

After Bill Harrah died in 1978, it was purchased at auction by Buck Kamphausen, a cemetery entrepreneur, a car and Titanic memorabilia collector and a partner in RM Actions..

​In 1985, the Winton House Car was sold to the Imperial Palace Auto Collection in Las Vegas. 

  • Kudos question: Link the manufacturer of the House car to a character that Howard Kroplick played in a cable series.

​I played Alexander Winton in the History Channel's 2012 cable series Men Who Built America.

Comments (3)

Congrats and kudos to Greg O. and Steve Lucas for correctly answering every Mystery Foto question.

Enjoy,

Howard Kroplick



Close-Ups


Margo Melton Nutt, daughter of James Melton, on the Winton House Car

Margo Melton Nutt, author of James Melton's wonderful biography on her father The Tenor of His Times, provides additional insight on the Winton House Car on her website and this email forwarded to me last week:

Hi Howard,yes, I remember it well. It was built for a well-to-do politician, Dr. E.J. Fithian, as his campaign vehicle as he stumped for governor of Pennsylvania in 1918. It was thirteen feet tall, and thirty-three feet long. It had Pullman style seats that folded into bunks, reupholstered in cut velvet by my father during its restoration. There was a tiny galley, with an ice-box (an ice-cooled, copper lined refrigerated compartment) and a small lavatory. The back deck, from which Dr. Fithian made his speeches, was surrounded by an wrought-iron railing (not sure if this was original, or added by my father). My father named it “The General” (as in General Beauregard, hence the Confederate flag you see in the photo. He had no special connection with General Beauregard, I think he just liked the name.)   It was built on the extended chassis of a 1917 Winton Six Touring Car. I have no idea who my father bought it from (or when, maybe late 1950s)—wish I knew—nor do I know who bought it after my father died (in 1961). Would love to know.  It was a pleasant place to hang out at antique car meets. He also took it, in 1957, to an event in Jamestown, Virginia that included my parents’ attendance at a reception for Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of that settlement.


The 1917 Winton House Car at Harrah's Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada


Howard Kroplick playing Alexander Winton in "Men Who Built America"




Comments

Dec 20 2019 Greg O. 10:22 AM

1917 Winton Custom House Car

-What year was this house car built and who was the original owner?
1917, The original owner was Dr. Fithian of Grove City PA. He used it to campaign for the Prohibition Party.

-Who were the manufacturers of the body and chassis?
1917 Winton 6-cylinder, 48-horsepower house car custom built by McKay Carriage Works

-When this photo was taken in 1957 which Peter Helck famous friend was the owner?
-Which museum owned the house car in the 1970s?
Bill Harrah purchased the Winton for his Harrah’s Automobile Collection in Sparks, Nevada

-Who is the most recent known owner of the Mystery Auto?
Automobile collector Buck Kamphausen acquired the vehicle when over twelve hundred of Harrah’s vehicles were auctioned off after Harrah’s death in 1978.

-Kudos question: Link the manufacturer of the House car to a character that Howard Kroplick played in a cable series.
Howard played Alexander Winton racing Henry Ford in The Men Who Built America on the History channel.

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Dec 22 2019 Phil Kneer 7:57 AM

Thank you for another year of photos and facts relating to Long Island, the Vanderbiltds and Motor Parkway.
Wishing you and your family the best of health and happiness this holiday season.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 
_____________________________________

Howard Kroplick

Thanks Phil! Happy holidays and a wonderful 2020 to all. 

Dec 22 2019 frank femenias 4:20 PM

Possibly a ‘20’s model, could this be the world’s first RV sporting Confederate flags?

Dec 22 2019 Steve Lucas 6:39 PM

That’s a 1917 Winton 6 cylinder 48HP house car with custom body by McKay Carriage Works originally built for Dr. E. J. Fithian of Grove City, PA. In 1957, it was owned by Metropolitan Opera star James Melton, who nicknamed it “The General”. In the 1970’s, it resided in the Harrah’s Automobile Collection in Sparks, Nevada. The most recent owner could be Buck Kamphausen, a California mortuary and cemetery entrepreneur. Our very own movie star, Howard Kroplick portrayed Alexander Winton in the History Cannel’s “The Men Who Built America” series.

Dec 26 2019 Chris Heisid 9:03 AM

The Men Who Made America was just on tv yesterday !  What a well done documentary.
Nice you could be a part of it . As Ive always said thanks for taking
Us on your adventures and bringing history to life.

Dec 29 2019 Bill Gilmore ` 3:02 AM

Since we’re referencing the great Winton-Ford race here.

Did they ever locate the race’s lost crystal punch bowl trophy?

I remember a big reward and nationwide search for it in time for Fords 100=year anniv. with no luck. ....Any news since?
______________________________________

Howard Kroplick

Bill, I believe it is still lost.

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