Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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December 8, 2012

1923 Apperson car donated to museum garage

Car collector wills car to museum.

A 1923 Apperson car made in Kokomo has traveled a long way, but it has finally returned home.

The gleaming dark green cruising car was placed in the Elwood Haynes museum garage when it arrived in Kokomo last week. The New Hampshire owner, the late Stanley Hamel, was an avid car collector who had visited Kokomo in years past to visit the museum, where he arranged to have the car shipped following his death.

Hamel’s niece, Karen Hamel Simas, said her uncle dearly loved the car.

“He was a special person who had special things,” Simas said. “He wanted others to enjoy them.”

Lloyd Graves, a good friend of Hamel’s, spent much of his past 50 years with Hamel and the Apperson. In the 1950s, Graves went with his friend Robert Webber to purchase the car for $200.

“In those days, you could buy a pretty good old car for [$100, $200 or $300],” Graves said. “It was a good deal for everybody. We had great fun with it for a few weeks. [Webber], being the business type, figured he may as well put it out. He doubled the price and Stanley came out and bought it.”

Hamel purchased the car from Webber, an antique shop owner, for $400. Not knowing much about antique cars, Hamel asked Graves if he could help him work the vehicle.

“He said, ‘Well, if I buy this car, could you show me how to run it?” Graves said.

And a long friendship was born.

“A 56-year friendship,” Graves said. “I guess you could say it developed over the Apperson.”

Though Hamel learned from Graves about that car, Graves said he learned plenty in turn from his friend.

“Funny how these things happen,” Graves said. “Stanley had graduated from Harvard, and I always say, and I’ll say today, that Stanley was my education. He was usually right. And he spent his whole life guiding people in various ways. He was a very, very important person in my life.”

After purchasing the Apperson, Hamel restored the vehicle. Since the original blue paint was all but gone, he painted it in its present dark green color. Hamel took particular care of the jackrabbit-shaped hood ornament, which Graves said is made of German silver. He said Hamel would lock up and put away the ornament anytime he was away from the car so it wouldn’t be stolen.

Pete Kelley, who works at the Elwood Haynes Museum, said the animal ornament was representative of the speed of the cars.

“All Apperson cars go by the nickname, ‘Jackrabbit,’” Kelley said.

The six-cylinder, 46-horsepower vehicle was built at a plant at 1300 N. Washington St. in Kokomo. The Apperson brothers made their own cars from 1901 until they closed in 1926. Kelley said it’s difficult to know how much a car like Hamel’s could be worth.

“You know, something like this, you can’t put a dollar amount on it,” he said. “It’s how bad do they want it?”

John Martino, superintendent of parks in Kokomo, said the city is thrilled to have the addition.

“I’m deeply honored that his family decided to donate the car to the Elwood Haynes Museum,” Martino said. “We have a tangible piece of evidence of Kokomo’s automotive heritage. A car that was actually made here in 1923.”

Graves said he’s happy that his friend’s prized car is being appreciated. He misses Hamel, but knew he was ready to go.

“He loved to drive,” he said. “If he couldn’t drive around, he just didn’t want to be here.”

Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-454-0570 or by email at megan.graham@kokomotribune.com.

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