ST. LOUIS, Mo. A 1906 Moon Brothers’ buggy and a 1924 Moon Touring car are side by side at the Kemp Auto Museum in a special display on view through mid-September. Historians believe this is the first time two such historic St. Louis-built Moon vehicles of shared lineage have ever been displayed together.
The Kemp Auto Museum opened in 2006 and is home to dozens of classy Mercedes-Benz vehicles, plus specialty exhibits, including the 1924 Moon Touring shown here.
“There aren’t many Moon automobiles around, perhaps 100 or so, and many of those are in sad shape or not operable,” reports Gerald Perschbacher, columnist and longtime writer for Old Cars Weekly News & Marketplace. “There are far less Moon buggies in existence. Some experts claim there are 20 or less, in various conditions. Since it was new, this 1906 Moon Brothers’ version was owned by Janet Humphrey’s family near Washington, Mo. After a century of ownership, the family decided it should be sold and placed on display. Within three weeks of new ownership, the buggy was cleaned and refurbished, then displayed at the Kemp Museum.”
Perschbacher now owns the buggy, made by the original company from which the Joseph Moon buggy operation and later the Moon Motor Car Company traced their roots. “The Moon Brothers’ company sold as many as 5,000 buggies in a year’quite a production level in the late 1890s as the automobile cut into potential sales.”
From Moon buggy to touring car, and topped by a 1925 Pierce-Arrow, significant vehicles reflecting Midwestern and international history are on display at the Kemp Auto Museum in St. Louis.
The Moon touring car on display is a 1924 Series A version, a Light Six. It is estimated only five exist, and this example may well be the best restored of the lot. The touring car sports a rich yellow body with matching disc wheels plus black fenders. It has been a consistent trophy winner at area shows. The car is also owned by Mr. And Mrs. Perschbacher.
The two Moon vehicles reflect the progress made in transportation as America skipped from the buggy era to motorized transportation.
Kemp Auto Museum Curator Tom Savage was seeking a three-month display saluting cars made in St. Louis. When the exhibit opened in late July, two more cars had been added: a brassy 1904 St. Louis runabout with green body and black fenders, and a stately 1925 Pierce-Arrow Model 80 sedan, blue with black. The St. Louis was engineered and designed by George P. Dorris, who chose to stay in town instead of taking a job with Packard. The Pierce represented the status the name held in the St. Louis area. Local sales dynamo Sam Breadon not only was one of the most successful longtime distributors for the marque, but he had opened the first Ford agency in St. Louis and later owned the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
The Kemp Auto Museum has been inclined to display special vehicles, including the 1938 Cadillac V-16 Model 90 Town Car that had been owned by the Vatican. The car had been displayed in 2006, courtesy of Robert Pass of transport fame.
“Ringing the special display vehicles currently on view is a magnificent collection of classic prewar and artful postwar Mercedes-Benz motorcars, dazzling in the black setting of the display area, with special lighting accentuating form and design. It’s like a dream world,” says Perschbacher.
The Kemp Museum opened its 23,000 square foot gallery in April of 2005. It is in Chesterfield, Mo., a western suburb of St. Louis. The site, managed by a foundation, is along Interstate 64 (Highway 40) at exit 17 (Boone’s Crossing) is well situated for special weekend events attracting select crowds for social gatherings and celebrations. Admission to the museum is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $3 for children. Hours are 10-5, Wednesday through Sunday
The collection of more than 40 vehicles, mainly Mercedes-Benz cars, was established by the late Fred M. Kemp, son of German immigrants, who made a significant mark in residential housing in the St. Louis area. To contact the museum, call (636)537-1718 or check www.KempAutoMuseum.org.