Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Enthusiasm is catching, no matter the subject.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed spending time with Tom Elliott of Clinton, Arkansas.  He truly enjoys old wagons and that passion is a familiar sight at countless western events, trail rides, and chuck wagon competitions. 

It seems he’s always working on a new project in his shop and that bond to the old west is continually reinforced by a healthy interest in the history of the early wagon industry.  As another in a series of interviews we’ve been conducting, Tom was gracious to answer a few questions about his wagon-hobby-turned-business…

Whatever the topic, sometimes the story behind the story is the most interesting.  With that in mind, we asked Tom if he could give us some insight into his work with wagons along with the kind of services he offers.
“I enjoy the process of research, restoration, and replication of original metal parts for wagons.  We offer several for sale on our web site at  I also have a second web site  As far as I can tell, I'm about the only place you can buy new seat springs made just like the originals.  I'm not a blacksmith although in researching my family tree I had many blacksmith relatives.  I have one of the best blacksmiths in the country that works for me.  Same thing with pin striping.  I don't have that kind of talent but I've got an awesome pin striper who does my work.”

Tell us about your beginnings, Tom… how did you get started?
“I always loved western history and old wagons. One day at an auction in 1999 I bought an old wagon, took it home, tore it apart, rebuilt it with a new tongue and groove floor and I was hooked!”

What do you consider your most significant accomplishment in your business?
“It’s gratifying to help folks connect with hard-to-find wagon parts.  I also enjoy providing advice to people who have no idea where to begin in the restoration of a wagon.  I've been there and done that so I can relate to their problems.”

What's the most memorable vehicle (or part) that you've found or worked on?
“That's a tough one.  Each new project is memorable to me.  I guess one that really sticks in my mind though was a metal-wheeled Springfield wagon that had belonged to a client’s grandfather.  As you can see from the picture it was a pile of rusted metal and rotted wood.”

What are some of the projects you currently have in your shop?

“I have a high wheel Bain I need to get started on and I just bought a 1916 Pontiac spring wagon that's in pretty good shape but needs some minor work.”

What's your favorite early vehicle brand and why?
“Although I've never seen either one in person I guess it would have to be a Joseph Murphy freight wagon and the stagecoaches made by Abbot-Downing.  The number of wagons they turned out and the quality of work they did just amazes me.  Wouldn't it be great if we could go back in time, meet these people and work in their shop for about six months?”


What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
“Helping people with parts and restoration advice is important to me.  I also enjoy seeing the finished product of my restorations from a badly deteriorated old wagon to a like-new wagon. I've preserved a piece of history!” 

Thanks to Tom and all those we’ve interviewed to date.  They’re a special breed committed to education, preservation, and perpetuation of western-wheeled history.  You can learn more about Tom by visiting his website at  There’s plenty to take in on the site so enjoy your time there and tell him ‘hello’ from us. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What’s the Name of this Western Buckboard?

As I’ve shared numerous times before, the early horse-drawn vehicle industry was a complex and often complicated mix of vehicles, styles, uses, construction, and regional preferences.  In our continuing work to showcase some of the modern-day obstacles to authoritative study of the vehicles, we issued a friendly challenge last week to identify the name applied to a particular western buckboard marketed by Studebaker.  We had quite a few page views but, unfortunately, no guesses were ventured. 

Okay.  Now comes a small confession.  I deliberately left out some crucial information but, I did so to help point out the difficulties in conclusively researching these pieces.  We don’t always have the luxury of a maker tag or some other identifying mark, so it’s crucial to know the distinctions promoted by specific brands.  While the buckboard shown was indeed made and marketed under the Studebaker umbrella, it was sold as part of their “World Vehicles” or World Buggy Company brand in South Bend.  These buggies, carriages, surreys, and spring wagons were typically positioned as a quality brand but they were more competitively priced. 

Studebaker called this specific vehicle… a Prospector’s Buckboard.  The image came from a century-plus-old catalog distributed through the Studebaker Bros. Company of California with offices in San Francisco. It’s just one of numerous buckboard styles and names that were created by horse-drawn vehicle firms throughout the U.S.  The complications involved in these studies are why we continue to have such a strong focus on acquiring significant amounts of original, primary source materials covering western vehicles.  It’s what consistently sets the Wheels That Won The West® Archives apart and it’s allowed us to assist countless individuals, collectors, businesses, museums, writers, and enthusiasts the world over.

Finally, we’ve had a number of folks sign up to receive notifications each time we post our blogs.  Don’t forget, though, you will receive an email asking for confirmation of the sign-up BEFORE you’re able to be officially on-board.  So, if you haven’t done so, please confirm the sign-up.  We’re looking forward to your visits each week!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Can You Identify This Buckboard?

A few weeks ago, we highlighted some of the challenges with identifying western vehicle types.  (See October 9, 2013 blog)  In that post, we profiled an Arizona buckboard built by Studebaker.  In doing some further research, we’ve uncovered a number of additional buckboard styles.  So many, that the perception of a ‘simple’ buckboard could easily become a misnomer.
Understanding that western buckboards came in a variety of styles, below is another image showcasing one of these vehicles.  Can you provide the proper name for this specific buckboard?  We’ll give you a hint by relaying that this, as with our October 9th blog, was also built by Studebaker.  Looking forward to hearing from you and, as with the last post, we’ll be happy to credit all correct answers.

Good luck! 

By the way…  If you haven’t signed up to receive this weekly blog via email, just type in your address in the “Follow By Email” section above.  You’ll receive a confirmation email that you’ll need to verify before you’re officially on board.  Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of assistance.  We’re looking forward to your visits each week.