Its chassis a satin midnight blue, its wood spokes and steering wheel a lustrous patina, the rare 1921 Anderson car returned home safely to Rock Hill on Tuesday.
It is one of only 11 known to exist and made by Rock Hill's former Anderson Motor Co., the car manufacturing company of the South in its time. The Model C, five-passenger touring car had been lovingly housed and tended in a Michigan family's garage for about half a century, only venturing out for Sunday afternoon drives.
At least half a dozen members of the Anderson family turned out Tuesday to await its arrival by truck. Of those Anderson cars known to exist, four are owned by the Anderson family and one is at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.
This one will be housed at the Cotton Factory until the Culture and Heritage Museums of York County's Museum of Life and the Environment is built.
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Victoria Spector of Michigan has slowly liquidated her father's estate since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago, but the little blue Anderson, one of 15 cars in his collection, was the most difficult to part with. It was his favorite.
The car's appraiser had approached an interested Jay Leno about the car, but Spector had too many memories for that, she said. She sought out the car's origins on the Internet and offered it to the Culture and Heritage Museums in York County.
Museum leaders say the car is significant as an environmental history artifact.
"The automobile is central to some of the most important issues of our time," said Owen Glendening, deputy director for interpretation for the museums.
Spector said she cried when it left Michigan and again Tuesday when she learned "our baby" had arrived safely.
"This is the most perfect place for this little car to be," she said during a phone interview. "A part of my family has gone with this car. This is such the right thing to do."
The Anderson Motor Co. itself is a relic of Rock Hill history. The company grew from the Rock Hill Buggy Co. founded in 1886 by John Gary Anderson and his father-in-law, Adley D. Holler. The Anderson Motor Co. handmade the high-end cars from 1916 to 1925. They sold for $1,650 for the five-passenger touring car to $2,550 for the sedan.
That compares with $345 to $760 for the mass-produced Model T Ford. But the Anderson was assembled meticulously. Among other things, Anderson offered color compared to Ford's inevitable black. The company bought land for its ash trees and made the chassis of wood with steel over it.
The touring car that rolled into Rock Hill on Tuesday still runs. Its clock works. Its radiator cap contains a thermometer visible to the driver. Part of the Anderson motto, "A Little Bit Higher in Price, but Made in Dixie," is emblazoned on the radiator cap.
There is a footrest on the back seat floor. There are no seat belts, but a bar is fixed to the back of the front seat's leather upholstery for passengers to hold onto as the Anderson jostled along rutted, unpaved roads.
Walter Hardin, an Anderson family member and a car aficionado, lifted one side of the hood Tuesday to touch the engine with a gloved hand.
"This is the original engine," he announced to the small crowd. "That's the engine that did in the company."
Aluminum was the new metal of the period, and Anderson made the engine block of aluminum. The Anderson cars with aluminum blocks did well for hundreds of miles, then blew up.
The company went belly up in 1926 and the building sat vacant until 1928 when the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. bought it.
The museums bought the car from Victoria Spector for its appraised value of $60,000. Her father, Nathan Theodore Spector, had purchased it from a Connecticut man in 1955 for $400 and restored it. The car promptly won a blue ribbon first prize for beauty and authenticity of restoration at an annual auto festival at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
Although Spector was an upholsterer, he came from a family of Cadillac dealerships and collected old Cadillacs. But the Anderson was special.
"This little Anderson has been around since I was a baby," she recalled. "It has a lot of memories. The Cadillac and the truck would sit out. This car was always in the garage. We never wore shoes in it."
She remembers sitting beside her dad or in the back seat on Sunday afternoons as her dad drove around the neighborhood, sometimes tooting the horn. The car never went out in the winter.
She had the car polished to perfection before shipping it off.
The Anderson has a two-sided hood. Learning that the hood had been lifted upon its arrival in Rock Hill, Spector issued a word of caution.
"You have to put a towel down when you open both sides of the hood," she said. "It will scratch."