Realtor Escapes Present in 1913 Auto


As one of Henderson’s more controversial businessmen, Woodring Fryer frequently is at loggerheads with city and county bureaucracies.
Those real estate conflicts thrust the realtor squarely into the present. When it all gets to be too much for him, be reverts to the past. It’s as close as the garage behind his South Main Street office.
There the past – in the form of a sleek red and black automobile – awaits him.
His hand caresses the polished metal of the Henderson’s hood and then closes around the door latch.
Pulling open the wood-trimmed door of the 1913 roadster, he steps up on the oak running board and settles himself on the high seat behind the steering wheel. Taking something that looks like a faucet handle and inserting it in the ignition of the sleek old machine, he systematically performs the maneuvers necessary to bring the four-cylinder engine to life.
First he retards the spark, then advances the gas and makes sure the ignition is set on “battery.”
Finally, all systems are “go” and the 67-year-old vehicle (though it’s called a ’13 Henderson, it was built in 1912) comes alive with a roar.
There’s a great “V-r-oooooooom” and Fryer cuts back on the throttle. That makes the engine of the Indianapolis-born car run with a rhythmic beat called
“tapping its foot.”
Appearing as content as a king on his throne, Fryer admiringly surveys the interior of the roadster.
The simple dashboard is of oak, rubbed until it gleams. Even the cap of the gas tank – situated on the dashboard — is polished. “I really have to watch people with cigarettes,” Fryer said. “They always think that tank is some kind of novelty ashtray. Drop a lighted butt in that and it’s all over.” The car is dear to him for several reasons.
For one, he’s an antique car fancier who has, since he began collecting the vintage automobiles 30 years ago, owned dozens of them and prized them all.
For another, the Henderson is a rarity. For years, the one Fryer owns was beliered to be the single existing Henderson roadster in the country – perhaps in the world.
Another one has turned up and that, Fryer said, makes only two known to have survived. The car was made for a mere two years and likely never got going strong enough to have inspired popular demand, he said.
The scant amount of literature written about the Henderson consists mostly of early advertisements. One uses the slogan “Built RIGHT in Indianapolis” and lists a roadster for $1,285 and a touring car for $1,385. It also stales that the car has electric lights, self starter, a 4 1/8 by 5 1/4 motor of 44 horsepower on a 116 inch wheelbase and 34-by-4 inch metal-spoked tires.

The advertisement boasted that every Henderson car is assembled and driven 100 miles without adjustment.” That was pretty good, considering the railroad made the manufacturer ship the wehicles with empty gas tanks, Fryer grinned.
The Henderson, which Fryer purchased from another local antique car buff, isn’t merely for display.
On many a sunny afternoon he and his blonde wife, Vonda, can be seen tooling down the streets. They don’t go fast, but they get where they want to go and enjoy the ride.
The Henderson is not particularly economical to drive. “It gets about 25 miles to the gallon,” Fryer said, “which is less than you get with many old cars because this one has a pretty big engine.”
His 1905 REO is considerably more fuel conscious.
With that one-cylinder job, which requires a bit of cranking to start, Fryer can get 45 to 50 miles per gallon. But he goes considerably slower.
“This car has got three speeds,” he joked.
“Slow, super slow and stop.”
Nevertheless, the REO is one of his favorites.
“It’s an authentic museum piece,” he said.
“I know, because I bought it from a museum in Hypaluxo, Fla., in 1959.”
To get the venerable machine home, he purchased a large-bedded truck.
“I set out for Florida with three of my kids and we brought it back without any problems,” he said. “It fit perfectly into the bed of the truck.”
The REO “is one tough little car,” he said.
“I’ve driven it up the highest point that’s accessible by road in the New England states and I know one fellow who drove a REO up Pike’s Peak.” The car was built with quality in mind, he said.
“It was made by Ransom E. Olds, who gave it his initials,” Fryer said. “He started out building Oldsmobiles and found that they sold very well. It was important to Olds to constantly upgrade the car, but his associates didn’t feel that way. They were more interested in quantity.
“So Olds sold out to those associates and bought a wagon factory in Michigan. He converted it to an auto assembly plant and, within 90 days, was ready to start building the REO. It’s a lot more durable than those Olds of the period were.”
During a 1960 Glidden Antique Automobile Tour, he and Vonda put more than 500 miles on the car.
They didn’t, however, drive it at night.
“It’s got kerosene headlamps,” Fryer said.
“They’re about as bright as two lighted matches.”
He’s been known to don a large white duster, cap and goggles when driving the 74-year-old car.
He’s also been known to sport a 20-gallon Stetson hat while driving a 1927 Rolls Royce that was registered to England’s House of Lords and once allotted to a member of Parliament.
Those things make Fryer a conspicuous and memorable figure around town.
One former county court clerk has no difficulty remembering him. Because of Fryer’s insistence on keeping the original bill of sale for the REO, Mildred Musgrave Howard had to call Frankfort to see if she could accept a copy of the document.
“They let her, and it’s a good thing.” Fryer said. “That old bill of sale is worth as much as the car itself.
“If the state hadn’t let Mrs. Howard use a copy. I’d just have driven it without a license.”

The Gleaner, Thursday, June 14, 1979


Frank Boyett: Here’s more detailed information about the Henderson auto company: Historic Indianapolis