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The Reconstruction 2008

Reconstruction: The Brixia - Zust

The Zust Wheel Build:

The hubs for the wheels are also being custom made. Designed by a collaboration of all three fabricators on this project, the final working drawings and actual machining fell to Stamco in Edmonton, Alberta. A two piece steel system will lock the wooden spokes to the felloes and the hub, ensuring a tight perfect fit.
One of the challenges was trying to get the hub size as close as possible to the 1907 size of approximately 9 inches yet still have enough room for a Ford bolt pattern on disc brakes. We think we have succeeded.

Reconstruction: The De Dion

The Thomas Flyer Wheel Build:

The Thomas Flyer, Protos, Zust, and de Dion wheels are being created by master wheelwright Dale Anderson. Using steel rims from a variety of sources, the wood needs to be steamed and bent into the correct arc for each size rim and then carefully dried so as not to crack the wood. Too much pressure or too fast a drying process can render these wheels brittle and dangerous. But, when executed by a master like Dale, you end up with beautiful wheels of the correct vintage.

The hubs for the wheels are also being custom made. Designed by a collaboration of all three fabricators on this project, the final working drawings and actual machining fell to Stamco in Edmonton, Alberta. A two piece steel system will lock the wooden spokes to the felloes and the hub, ensuring a tight perfect fit.

One of the challenges was trying to get the hub size as close as possible to the 1907 size of approximately 9 inches yet still have enough room for a Ford bolt pattern on disc brakes. We think we have succeeded.

Reconstruction: The Protos

We need to have the Protos appear as it did in New York City on February 12, 1908.

The chassis for the Protos started in July 2006. We were very fortunate to have actual drawings and schematics in a 1:10 scale from the Siemens Archives in Munich, the company that ended up buying into the Protos firm in the fall of 1908. During our research and filming trip to Munich in February 2006, we were able to obtain very clear photos of the actual Protos as it looked when it entered Paris. The cooperation of the Deutches Museum, the Siemens Archive, and Herr von Siemens have greatly aided in the construction of an authentic replica for the film.

Phase 1: Chassis. The challenge was to build a chassis that exactly replicated the original Protos. With the aid of high quality drawings, new photos, and archival photos, the build team at Wadson's has been able to manufacture many of the old parts through CNC machines. For example, the rear spring mounts were set off from the chassis as opposed to a modern spring system; as a resuslt, they had to be built from scratch. As well, the front axle had a definite curve to it as did the front chasis cross member on which the radiator sat. In the pictures you can see the CNC version which will replace the one in behind.

Another challenge has been giving the car a correct right-hand drive with a shaft that would appear original.

For safety and ease of operation, the brake system is a GM disc brake system on a Ford spindle and bolt pattern. The rear brakes are drum based. The next stages will see the chassis completed with steering, brakes, front axles/springs ... and then on to the metal work for the hood and fenders. The firewall and the toebraces are now roughed in.

The motor is simply a small 4 cyclinder carburated truck engine and transmission. It will never be seen in the movie but will be detailed and spruced up.

The brass work has just been purchased from Stan Reynolds' Sales in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. Some modifications will need to be done to the headlamps, but in general they are in excellent condition.

The Coach Building: The fabrication of a frame is one thing; the construction of the superstructure and coach building is something else. While we had very good schematics on the chassis, there was very little information on how exactly the Protos was constructed since it was a one-off car built solely for the Race.

With Jeff Howe of Howscenics and Marty Shostak of Shelmar Construction as the leads, hours were spent pouring over photos of the Protos in order to come up with an authentic design. And then the work began.

Ivan Siemens and his team are meticulously recreating the Protos, as it appeared when it arrived in New York in February 1908. Made from plank wood, even the seats are hand-made to replicate the original design.

We know that the Protos was radically changed in Vladiovstock; one of the challenges, therefore, was to create a Protos that could then be easily reworked into the version that sped across Siberia, Asia, and Europe.

The canvas and hoops were another challenge, as very few pictures of the Protos’s trek across America exist. But we have found just enough to ensure historical accuracy.

When the coachwork is completed, it will go back to Wadson’s for final metal work, painting, and detailing. Ray Fowler will be in charge of the final lettering and prop detailing on the cars. He was one of the drivers in the 1985 Great Race Challenge that saw the original Thomas from the Harrah Collection once again speed across America.

Wheels: The wheels and rims have been one of the largest problems to solve as they need to be wooden artillery style spokes but the hub needs to fit to a modern disc/drum system. The answer with the help of Dale Anderson in Prince Albert Saskatchewan, Wayne Wadson, and the machinists at Stamco Fabricating in Edmonton. An elegant solution, we’ll post pictures as soon as the prototype arrives in Edmonton.

Phase 2: Coachwork, upholstery, paint, canvas. Soon.

Keep watching as we progress with this build ... and soon the Thomas Flyer's chassis.

UPDATE:Hans Koeppen’s Protos chassis is now out of paint and put back together, complete with brass sidelights and brass radiator. The headlights for the Protos were purchased from George Holden of Veteran Auto Lights in Syracuse, New York State. They will be installed before the Protos goes back to have the coachwork added.


Today, October 31, 2006 the car was fired up and drove! It was a very exciting moment for all of us.

Wheel Build: The Thomas Flyer, Protos, Zust, and de Dion wheels are being created by master wheelwright Dale Anderson. Using steel rims from a variety of sources, the wood needs to be steamed and bent into the correct arc for each size rim and then carefully dried so as not to crack the wood. Too much pressure or too fast a drying process can render these wheels brittle and dangerous. But, when executed by a master like Dale, you end up with beautiful wheels of the correct vintage.

The hubs for the wheels are also being custom made. Designed by a collaboration of all three fabricators on this project, the final working drawings and actual machining fell to Stamco in Edmonton, Alberta. A two piece steel system will lock the wooden spokes to the felloes and the hub, ensuring a tight perfect fit.

One of the challenges was trying to get the hub size as close as possible to the 1907 size of approximately 9 inches yet still have enough room for a Ford bolt pattern on disc brakes. We think we have succeeded.

May 15, 2007
There was much less guess work with the Protos simply because of the schematics that the Siemens Corporation was able to provide. As with the other cars, Dale Anderson’s artillery style wheels really took the car to the next level of authenticity. Yet all the cars were built with safety for the actors the main concern. The Protos went before the cameras March 25, 2007. Next, a stop in Buffalo (aka Fort Edmonton).

Reconstruction: The Thomas Flyer

The Thomas Flyer Wheel Build:

The Thomas build has been challenging. We have not been able to find any schematics as we did with the Protos. But, we have a wealth of photo evidence, and two commercially available models. As well, we had wonderful help from Denise Sims at the NAM in Reno.

One of the most difficult questions was "what did the car look like at the beginning of the race?" Most of the archival pictures were of the front end of the cars. But, we lucked out and were able to blow up a photo from our collection to actually see what the rear end of the car looked like, albeit from a “birds eye view.” And a German source was able to provide a picture of the Thomas in a garage just prior to the start of the race.

The chassis work was designed by Noel at Wadson’s in Edmonton. Using a number of references (including statistics from the NAM in Reno, models, and several hundred photos) Noel was able to design the chassis in the computer. A good deal of computer design was also used to fabricate the rear spring hangers as well as the radiator shell etc.

The steel cowl has been made out of three pieces of metal, bent to the shape of the original Thomas. The radiator shell (which has not been cutout yet) will soon don the famous Thomas Flyer signature as part of the shell, which will then be brassed.

The fenders are being rolled now. The most difficult part here will be adding the beading which Randy Kvill of the Reynolds Museum pointed out would be how most of the fenders from this era were made.

The rear end of the Thomas has also had to have custom axles created that will be able to take the chain-drive. It will be a working chain; although not powered by the engine but rather by the actual axles, Wayne Wadson was very concerned about the safety of the chains. After all, filmmakers are not racecar drivers. To that end he will be adding "safety housings" for the chains themselves, which will be in place all the time unless the car is being filmed in front of the cameras.

Wheel Build:The Thomas Flyer, Protos, Zust, and de Dion wheels are being created by master wheelwright Dale Anderson. Using steel rims from a variety of sources, the wood needs to be steamed and bent into the correct arc for each size rim and then carefully dried so as not to crack the wood. Too much pressure or too fast a drying process can render these wheels brittle and dangerous. But, when executed by a master like Dale, you end up with beautiful wheels of the correct vintage.

The hubs for the wheels are also being custom made. Designed by a collaboration of all three fabricators on this project, the final working drawings and actual machining fell to Stamco in Edmonton, Alberta. A two piece steel system will lock the wooden spokes to the felloes and the hub, ensuring a tight perfect fit.

One of the challenges was trying to get the hub size as close as possible to the 1907 size of approximately 9 inches yet still have enough room for a Ford bolt pattern on disc brakes. We think we have succeeded.

The Thomas Flyer has the skeleton of its seats in place. The boys at Wadson’s need to do this in order to properly set the steering wheels and pedals. There is only so much you can do from photos. Sometimes a test fit is in order. The shroud for the rad is in place but the centre has not yet been cut for the core.

The Thomas from a side view. You can see the beginnings of the inner fender supports. The hood will now be sent away to have the louvers punched in them.

January 19, 2007: New photos

May 15, 2007With the coachwork completed by Shelmar Construction and the wheels delivered by Dale Anderson, the Thomas looked just as it did 99 years ago when it rolled off the rail car and into the New York Times main floor lobby. With authentic period shovels, picks, rope, more than 100 leather buckle straps, and a roped steering wheel … the Thomas went before the cameras March 24, 2007. Now, on to the summer shooting!