CHARLOTTE, Mich. (AP) – Joe Pray has been on a quest to bring a Dolson automobile back home for 30 years.
The crank-motor cars were manufactured in Charlotte from 1904 to 1907, just two blocks from Pray Funeral Home, the local resident’s family business.
The Dolson Automotive Company went bankrupt shortly after the turn of the century – and tracking down one of their cars has been a community undertaking.
But recently, years of keeping an eye on the few remaining Dolson’s scattered around the country finally paid off.
Pray, with the help of some local investors willing to help foot the bill for the car, bought what he believes is the last one of its kind at an auction in Plymouth.
The 1907 Dolson arrived by semi-truck to Pray’s family business on Aug. 1. A crowd gathered outside the parking lot to cheer on its arrival.
Residents cheered when it arrived and stayed to watch Pray and his father Joe Sr. crank up the brass auto, fill it with gasoline and take it for a short spin.
“This is the only one that anybody seems to know of,” said Pray, of the car, which still runs and retains most of its original parts. “It’s a nice car that’s been well maintained through the years.”
Pray said although the car was once listed for sale at $110,000 it was purchased at auction for considerably less, although he would not disclose the sale amount. Four other bidders attempted to buy the car but Pray said community members got lucky.
“We were hoping for a miracle and hoping there wouldn’t be too many people interested in it and it was our luck, they weren’t,” said Pray.
That hasn’t always been the case. In the mid-1980’s Pray said he and others formed a community group called “Friends of the Dolson,” committed to bringing the car back to Charlotte. But Pray said it sold for much more than residents had secured to buy it – and they lost out on the historic gem.
Local business woman and resident Christie Dutcher remembered the effort. She came out on Aug. 1 to see the car’s arrival and said it’s been a long process.
“Every time they raised more money the price of the car went higher,” said Dutcher, of previous attempts. “This is just a study in determination and perseverance.”
Pray said he now hopes the car can be used to promote the community. He said those responsible for it hope to form a trust or other entity that will ensure the car stays in Charlotte.
“We can use this to promote the community because it’s fairly unique,” he explained. “I think it’s part of the community’s history.”
Charlotte Mayor Dee Smith agreed. He attended the arrival as well and had high hopes for the historic car. “I think it will bring a lot of people into the community just to see it,” he said. “I hope it will bring a lot of notoriety.”
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