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Century-old car makes debut at Yellowstone County Museum in Billings

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-01 13:29:38-04

BILLINGS — Staff at the Yellowstone County Museum in Billings cut the ribbon on a brand new vehicle exhibit on Saturday: a beautifully restored 1907 Reliable Dayton High Wheeler.

“If people went cross country in something like this, they were pretty brave," said Don Cantrell, vice chairman for the Yellowstone County Museum Foundation Board.

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Yellowstone County Museum Foundation Board Vice Chairman Don Cantrell speaks with MTN News during the debut of the new 1907 Reliable Dayton Highwheeler.

Described in it's original advertising as, "a car free from fads, theories and experiments," the vehicle reminds one why a car used to be known as a horseless carriage.

The 20 horsepower, chain-driven high wheeler is fixed with four carriage-like wheels, which were able to traverse the same ruts and trails carved by horse-drawn transportation.

Vera Beth Johnson poses in period clothing while in the front seat of the 1907 Reliable Dayton High Wheeler at the Yellowstone County Museum in Billings.

“Cars like this were out in this area. In 1907, there were less than 120 miles of roads that were improved roads in the United States. Early car makers had to have high wheeled cars like this to follow in the tracks that the high-wheeled wagons made. These had to travel across rivers. There were no bridges. So if you are going to ford a river, you would have to have the car or the wagon off the ground," Cantrell said.

The vehicle is one of three of it's model that have survived over the years, Cantrell said.

Cantrell said the idea to purchase the vehicle came about after he learned a friend of his in Bozeman owned the antique piece of machinery.

“I wanted to see if I could send something up here that would represent early transportation and kind of fit in with the museum," Cantrell said.

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The original advertisement for the Reliable Dayton Motor Car from the exhibit board at the Yellowstone County Museum in Billings.

The museum board bought the car for $10,000 dollars and its members will raise money from the community to help pay for the purchase, Cantrell said.

A lead donation of $2,000 from the Yellowstone Roaring 20's Auto Club got them off to a good start.

“We’re going to ask people of the community to help us purchase the car and put the money back in the museum fund. That’s what we’re hoping to do.” Cantrell said.

Other companies in the Billings area donated time and services, Cantrell said. Wright's Custom Repair Inc. donated sandblasting to the motor, Kirk's Upholstery redid the top canvas, and NAPA Auto Parts provided the paint.

People can see the car for free at the Yellowstone County Museum, located near the Billings Logan International Airport at 1950 Terminal Circle. To learn more about the museum and its other exhibits, visit its website by clicking here.

A plaque informing museum visitors of the fundraiser to help pay for the new high wheeler.