Around Town

Preserving Family History With a 1910 Oakland Roadster

A North Kingstown man restores a rare, 106 year old automobile to pristine condition

So Rhode Island Magazine ·

In 1930, a young blacksmith named Ernest Bailey purchased a used 1910 Oakland Model 24 Roadster in New York and drove it back to his hometown of North Kingstown. At the height of the Great Depression, the blacksmith was expanding his business to car sales and repair. Eighty-six years later, the family-owned Bailey dealership is thriving and the 1910 Oakland is only one of two known model 24s in the world.

When the car was made, Oakland Motors was only three years removed from its origins as a horse-drawn buggy manufacturer. This is why the steering wheel is on the right hand side as buggy drivers needed to see the ditch to avoid dropping off the road. The Model 24, originally listed at $1,000, boasts solid brass fittings, wooden spoke wheels and a 30 horsepower four-cylinder engine.

Ernest drove the car for a short while, but for nearly 70 years the car was locked away in a barn or, in later years, displayed in the dealership show room as an antique oddity. When Ernest died in 1999, the car was passed down to his son Keith. At this point, the car had deteriorated, been taken apart and was being stored in boxes. Keith considered selling it as-is or junking it for whatever he could get. It wasn’t until his mother’s death that Keith was inspired to restore it. “I promised my mother, Alice,” says Keith. “She told me upon her passing that she would’ve liked to have seen the car restored to original condition.”

A long, arduous and expensive seven years later, the car had completed a full concours restoration. Due to the rarity and impeccable condition of the Oakland, Keith started attending – and winning – awards from car shows hosted by the Antique Automobile Club of America. Since 2010 the car has won 17 awards, including the Senior Grand National Award at the AAC car show in Williamsport, PA in June.

When asked why he works so hard to preserve the vehicle, Keith doesn’t hesitate, “Pride, knowing that there’s only two known in the world and that my father purchased it. If it wasn’t my father’s I would’ve junked it.”

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