Tim Cerny’s love affair with antique cars and transportation history dates back to his childhood days in Arlington, Virginia.
It followed him to his adopted home of Fairbanks and flourishes today at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.
“I don’t really remember what hooked me, but I always had an interest [in antique automobiles],” Cerny said. “But having the museum just became kind of a personal dream of mine.”
The dream started becoming a reality about seven years ago.
The museum collection features more than 84 American-made antique automobiles and showcases the heritage of the automobile during Alaska’s post-Gold Rush era. It also features an outstanding collection of historical fashion clothing.
“It’s not just a car museum,” Cerny said. “We like to think we have something for everyone.
“We try to bring Alaska transportation history to life with an extensive array of historical photographs and video as well as the cars themselves.”
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is located at Wedgewood Resort, minutes from downtown Fairbanks.The resort features a hotel, seasonal restaurant, meeting facilities, banquet services and an adjacent wildlife sanctuary.
“As for the museum, we just finished our fourth season and are still working to get the message out that we’re here,” Cerny said. “We’ve used referrals, car shows, magazine articles and the Internet to grow our visitor numbers.”
Most of the automobiles in the museum look like they just rolled off the showroom floor. Photos of Alaska motoring history fill the walls. More than 70 antique photographs depicting the first automobiles to reach Alaska and its mining camps are on display. Along with this impressive display of antique photographs, the museum includes exhibits and antique movie footage that illustrate the extraordinary challenges faced by Alaska’s pioneering motorists. Visitors will see examples of how Alaskans modified vehicles to travel on snow, cut firewood, ride the rails, and even power a paddlewheel boat down the Yukon River.
Museum visitors have taken notice as evidenced by comments like the following left on travel websites.
“What an unbelievable collection,” the visitor wrote. “How all these cars ended up in Fairbanks is amazing.”
Earlier this year, the museum earned a prestigious “Best in Class” distinction at the Pebble Beach (Calif.) Concours d’Elegance, one of North America’s best-known car shows.
“There was an audible gasp among the crowd when people learned [the honored car] belonged to a museum in Alaska,” Cerny said. “But we’re proud to know we have several award-winning cars here, as well as some of the rarest antique automobiles left in America.”
Visitors to the auto museum almost universally come away from the place pleasantly surprised. There is nothing surprising about the way Cerny feels about his longtime relationship with First National Bank Alaska and veteran bankers Bill Renfrew and Jenny Mahlen.
“The fact many of First National’s employees have been with the bank for so long and supported their customers over a matter of decades is really valuable,” Cerny said. “The bank knows our business in the best possible way and it enables its bankers to react quickly to what we need.”
Cerny looks forward to keeping the dream going as the museum attracts more and more visitors.
“We’re just getting started,” Cerny said.
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