Gertie’s first car to inaugurate new span

April 10, 2007 

The new Tacoma Narrows bridge’s opening ceremony will feature the first car to drive across Galloping Gertie on July 1, 1940.

The historic V-8 1923 Lincoln Touring Car, now owned by the Titus-Will family of car dealerships, will make the trip over the Narrows.

James Will, president of Titus-Will Enterprises in Tacoma, said state transportation officials have told him the vintage car will be the first to cross in July.

Tacoma’s LeMay Museum is helping coordinate the details, Will said. The festivities will also feature some of the museum’s antique vehicles.

The rare, blue and black Lincoln was the favorite company car of Leon Titus Sr., Will said. The dealership was in Olympia at the time.

State archives show it carried Gov. Clarence Martin over Gertie during its opening ceremony. On other occasions, it transported Queen Elizabeth, Franklin Roosevelt and legendary Hollywood actress Lana Turner.

The dealership stored the convertible at its office at Sixth Avenue and Broadway in Tacoma, where it sat unused for almost six decades. In 1996, the company hired a pair of vintage car enthusiasts to restore the Lincoln. It took three years.

Will said the company has used the car in a few parades and events since then, including the funeral procession for LeMay Enterprises founder Harold LeMay.

Will said he’s happy the Lincoln will be part of another historic event this summer.

“It’s part of our heritage,” he said.

Year built: 1923. Only 3,432 were made.

Price: Between $3,800 and $4,000 for same model in 1923. It appraised for $31,750 in 1988, before it was restored. The company hasn’t calculated its value today.

Seats: Seven

Exterior: Convertible. Black and blue steel panels

Interior: Leather

Restoration improve-ments: Nickel-plated radiator shell and vertical radiator louvers; new hood; rounded fenders; 21-inch wire wheels; front brakes; high- and low-beam headlights; three-color taillights; and classic greyhound hood ornament.

Miles: The odometer says 16,538, although the company estimates it’s more likely around 116,000 miles.

Brent Champaco: 253-597-8653

brent.champaco@thenewstribune.com

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