History buffs are running out of gas in their quest to buy a rare, 92-year-old three-wheeled automobile they view as a monument to two Peoria men they consider the fathers of the American automobile.
After two years of unsuccessful fund raising, the Bring Home the Duryea Committee has shifted gears in a desperate bid to prevent the 1898 Duryea Motor Trap from being sold to Japanese collectors.The committee is trying to raffle off a new, $56,000 Cadillac Allante to save the luxury car's vintage ancestor: the Duryea Trap, which was built in a Peoria barn nearly a century ago and originally sold for $1,200.
The group is selling 100 chances, at $1,000 each, for an Oct. 6 drawing.
"We've raised $70,000, and we need $125,000 by Nov. 1, or we're going to lose the car," said John Parks, a leader of the effort to save the Duryea Motor Trap, built in Peoria by Charles Edgar Duryea in 1898.
"It's frustrating because this car will be lost forever if we don't raise the money," Parks said.
The Trap was the brainchild of Duryea, who, with his brother, J. Frank Duryea, in 1893 built the first American gasoline-powered automobile, now in the Smithsonian Institution.
About 12 Traps were built in the Peoria area in 1898-90. Just two remain, and one is in the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village, Mich. The other is owned by L. Scott Bailey, founder of Automobile Quarterly Magazine.
Bailey has offered to sell the car to Peoria. But after two years of work, the committee is far short of its goal.
"Mr. Bailey has had offers of $250,000 from Japanese collectors for the car, and I think he regrets agreeing to sell it to us," Parks said. "But he really believes it belongs back in Peoria.
"We do too, but it's been hard to get people interested in this project. It's not something that pulls at your heartstrings. Maybe we've been poor at approaching people."
Parks criticized the Peoria Historical Society for failing to assume leadership in the project.
"I'm disappointed that a lot of different organizations haven't been more active. Area car dealers have shown very little interest. I thought they'd be a natural group to help us," Parks said.