Zink Motor Company (“The Garage”) in Appleton City Missouri started life as the Motor Inn in 1913 owned by the Schuller brothers. The Motor Inn sold both Ford and Buick automobiles from 1913 through 1916/17. In 1917 we transitioned to selling Ford and Dort automobiles. Adding Fordson tractors to the lineup in 1918/19. Our original building was located 200ft west of our current location and was a mixed use facility. Three quarters of the building was used for automotive sales and service. The remaining quarter was used to house the Appleton City Fire Department. The Zink family purchased the business in 1916. Changing the name to Zink Motor Company in 1920. In 1918 they decided it was time to expand and built a state of the art facility designed by Ford Motor Company. It was a two story brick building with a 6,900 sq ft footprint with 13,800 sqft between the two floors. The showroom and vehicle storage area was located on the first floor. The Service Department and Body Shop was located on the second floor. From notes passed down by Wilbur Zink we know that per Ford guidelines in the early days we didn’t have an outdoor lot to display vehicles for sale. Every aspect of the business was contained within the four walls of our store.
Many early automobile owners in Appleton City only drove their vehicles when leaving town and chose to store their automobiles at our dealership. That is what much of the main floor storage area was used for during the Model T days. The second floor service Department and Body Shop was and still is accessed by driving or walking up a 51ft long wooden ramp. We have notes stating that most of the Mechanics choose to back the T’s up the ramp to keep them from running out of fuel before reaching the top. The ramp is rather steep and does try your nerves a bit driving a car up or down it. I have navigated the ramp in both reverse and going forward in low gear. Personally I have found that the float bowls hold enough fuel to make it up the ramp nose first without sputtering or stalling. When going up the ramp, after making the transition from the concrete floor to the wooden ramp. You have to advance the spark and apply additional throttle to maintain momentum. When going up in reverse it is definitely challenging to look over your shoulder, keep a hand on the steering wheel, while adjusting the throttle and spark advance simultaneously. Another reason I prefer to drive up nose first.
Driving down the ramp comes with its own set of challenges. Because of the steep angle, gravity overtakes the T’s ability to slow itself. It is a fine balance between trying to slow the car and not skidding the tires. Regardless of how hard you try to slow the car it continues to build speed as you make your way down. It is critically important that the car is squarely positioned and the front tires hit the transition from ramp to concrete at the same time. I learned this lesson the hard way. A few years ago the rear tires skidded just before reaching the bottom which caused the left front to transition a fraction of a second before the right front. This caused the car to develop a violent repetitive bounce. It took the steering full lock to lock several times before I was able to bring the car to a stop. By the grace of God without making contact with the wall. The many scratches on the brick wall alongside the ramp tell the story that I’m not the first person to go on that ride. There was a cable winch that was used to pull inoperable vehicles up the ramp to the service bays. The winch was removed decades ago. But a patch in the floor shows where it was located and grooves worn in the floor by the cable where the second floor meets the ramp shows further proof of its existence.
Some of the Zink family records mention that we received new Model T’s from Ford two in different ways. Some were sent to us by rail in crates. Others we had to make the 70 mile journey to the Kansas City plant and pick up. I found an article in the Appleton City Journal dated July 19th, 1917 titled “Another Flook of Fords” that outlines a trip to Kansas City to pick up new automobiles. It is a fun glimpse into what traveling in a T was like back then. It is a good read that I will share with you now.
“Dee Zink - local Ford agent, accompanied by 10 gentlemen, went to Kansas City Friday morning to bring down a cargo of new Fords. They brought home seven new Fords and one Dort, and all of them were sold when they got home and other buyers turned down.
Part of the boys started home late Friday evening and from the stories they are telling, must have had some experiences along the way with mud, engine troubles and a lack of lights. The engines were new and the hot magnetos soon burned out the headlights. They did say that Roy Shoop took turns riding on the radiators of different cars and striking matches to light the way. He admits that he used up two boxes of matches. Some of the boys were new at the wheel and did not know the roads very well and others had to keep tabs on them. Ben Brown played the rabbit and tortoise act by running ahead into Adrian where he went to bed, but was later aroused and then beat the other fellows home. They spend most of the night on the way home. The rest of the bunch stayed over in the city until Saturday and came home in good shape.”
Jeff Cross began purchasing stock in Zink Motor Company in 1984. Becoming 100% owner in 2002. In 2015 we began the process of peeling back the layers and restoring our 1918 building. The second floor service dept is displayed as it appeared in the late teens and twenties. As well as having a 1919 Dort Model 11 and many original items on display in our showroom. We are very proud to have a Henry Ford era dealership that has been continually selling and servicing Ford automobiles for over 100 years.
We have a passion for automotive history and enjoy sharing our history with others. Each year on the second Saturday in July we partner with the Appleton City Car Show and empty our building of as many modern items as possible, fill it with early Fords and re-create a scene from the teens and twenties. It is a great event that will take you back in time. I hope to see you there!