Packards, Marmons, and a One-of-a-Kind 1911 Franklin

Ted Davis’s collection is rooted in heritage and history with a focus on the unique

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Journals

Photo Credit: Ted Davis

Packards, Marmons, and a One-of-a-Kind 1911 Franklin

Ted Davis’s collection is rooted in heritage and history with a focus on the unique

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Journals

Photo Credit: Ted Davis

Car culture has been in Ted Davis’s blood since childhood. His father owned Ford Model As and Ts when he was growing up. His great-uncle owned a race car garage and attempted to race at Indianapolis several times.

“He trained my father to be an auto mechanic,” Ted said. “When I was growing up, my dad worked in the repair shop at the Ford dealership in Broken Bow, Oklahoma.”

Before his father died young at age 49, Ted promised he would attend college. He followed through on his promise and after graduation, he moved to Oklahoma City where he started a business assembling disc drives and building voice coil motors. In 1996, he sold his company to Siemens, but kept a contract manufacturing business in OKC. Now semi-retired, he spends 60% of his time restoring antique cars, performing the work manually himself. In his expansive machine shop, he fabricates hard- or impossible-to-find parts for antique race cars.

“The automobile changed people’s lives more than any other invention in American history,” said Ted. “That matters to me because I don’t think that we would be as advanced in our social activities and industrial capabilities without the automobile.”

Ted has re-created two 1903 Packards using original blueprints, which are virtually impossible to find. When Curtiss-Wright acquired Packard/Studebaker, the company set about destroying many old documents, including blueprints. Luckily, Ted’s friend, Dick Teague, was working for the company as an engineer when the facility closed in 1958. He was able to sneak blueprints out of the facility by hiding them under the hood of his car. When Teague was later diagnosed with cancer, he passed many of the documents to the Detroit Public Library and the rest to Ted.

Packard Gray Wolf

Packard Gray Wolf

One of the Packard recreations is a Gray Wolf, the model that set the land speed record — 77mph — at Ormond Beach on January 30, 1904. That car was raced time and time again before it was finally destroyed. One hundred years later — on January 30, 2004 — Ted drove his Gray Wolf at Ormond Beach to commemorate the accomplishment.

“The Gray Wolf was the very first streamlined car,” Ted said. “The radiator was placed on the side of the frame to make it aerodynamic. It beat a lot of big cars like Mercedes that had twice the horsepower.”

Gray Wolf and Electric Streamliner

Gray Wolf and Electric Streamliner

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Ted also owns a business reproducing Packard parts, which makes 600 items for 1930s Packards available to collectors and restorers around the US.

He is currently restoring a 1933 Miller FWD V-16 Indianapolis Racecar, and hopes to have it ready for display in the near future.

Ted has two 1932 Marmon B-16 sedans, built ten blocks from Indy Motor Speedway, which Marmon used to test its cars. “If you bought a 1932 Marmon V-16,” Ted said, “it had to make five laps around Indy Motor Speedway above 100 mph before they would sell it to you.”

1911 Franklin

But Ted’s favorite car is his all-original 1911 Franklin, which was used by Ralph Hamlin to win second place in the 1910 Cactus Derby Desert Race in Arizona. Designed to demonstrate the reliability of early automobiles, the Cactus Derby was run from 1908 until 1914, and covered 600 miles of dirt road and stagecoach trails.

“Ralph Hamlin owned the largest Franklin dealership in America,” Ted said. “He partnered with another dealer to start the Motor City Dealers Association and used the race to promote the reliability of automobiles.”

1911 Franklin

Ted’s Franklin is believed to be one of only two completely original Brass Era (pre-1915) race cars in existence, making it even more special to him.

“The only other one is the Locomobile ‘Old 16’ race car that won Vanderbilt races on Long Island,” he said. “I’ve always tried to collect one-offs that have significant history.”

Ted has collected a slew of awards — including four at Pebble Beach in 2012, beating out a Collier Mercedes that placed second in the Open Wheel category. The Franklin was also awarded “Most Original Car” at Amelia Island in 2010 and received a FIVA Award for Best Pre-War/Most Preserved Vehicle.

Ted also holds a fascination with antique bicycles. He once owned over 400, dating from 1868 to the 1980s. He has since donated them to the Oklahoma Science Museum for display in children’s exhibits.

But vehicles with engines will always be his first love. He owns 24 cars and four antique motorcycles — each with its own rich history.

When asked about his bucket list, he’s already marked off one significant item: participating in the 100th anniversary of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 1996. He drove a 1903 Cadillac, while his daughter drove an 1899 Perfecta Quadricycle.

And he stays in touch with his roots. He recently participated in a vintage race at the Milwaukee Mile, where each year he races a 1913 Indy race car.

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