Travis Collection Tour is a Tour de Force

27 Apr 2015 4:09 PM | Deleted user

Alan Travis is a tour de force all by himself, an exciting evangelist for the time when cars were just being invented. Alan and Mary Travis's car collection is an automotive tour de force, an astonishing assemblage of some of the world's earliest cars, each in astonishing condition and each owned by just a handful of people in more than 100 years. 

On Saturday, April 25, a troupe of JCCA people got the full show: Alan enthusiastically explaining the origin and development of his collection. He pointed to bicycles hanging from the ceiling that represented the earliest effort to move from animal-drawn transportation to something mechanical. One of the French bikes looked as if it came from Landis Bikes today. Then he began to roll out the cars.

One was an 1898 Jenaperrin, a French pioneer which Alan described as perhaps the oldest car in the US. It carried many of the basic design elements that continue today, including a steering wheel (instead of a tiller), brakes and accelerator. 

In fact, Alan said that if you're looking for cars from the turn of the 20th century, look to France. The industrial revolution took root there sooner, there were more good roads and there were great artisans who began building cars, so the French cars led the way. In the US, early cars such as his 1904 Mitchell were likely built by wagon makers and it took some time to catch up.

The pride of his extraordinary collection was outside, the 1907 Renault grand prix car that ran the Vanderbilt Cup. It's an example of how the auto industry changed rapidly during that time, advancing in just a couple years from cars that would top out at 30 mph to this monster that would do 88 mph.

It was about this time that the auto was beginning to come into its own. Instead of being used mostly for racing (and killing lots of spectators and drivers in city-to-city races), people who could afford them were starting to buy cars. Racing went to closed circuits where they could run more safely.

There's so much more to say about Alan and his collection, his restorations and his huge library of reference material. Search him on YouTube and you'll find some videos of him driving the cars. You'll also find him exchanging car excitement with Jay Leno. And show up at any big car event and you may find him, perhaps wearing his leather coat and gauntlet gloves, a man who loves to bring his excitement to others.

Here are two slide shows from the event from Mike Ferring and Greg Smith.

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