About this project

B.R. Howard was contracted by the National Park Service to conserve an original 1911 Detroit Electric, Victoria L-1 owned by Thomas Edison. The car is located at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park at his Glenmont Estate. The garage housing his vehicles was recently restored and is now open to the public.


What we did

The Victoria arrived at our studio where it was extensively documented and photographed. Paint samples were gathered and sent for microscopic cross sectional analysis in an effort to determine if the car had ever been repainted. The photomicrographs revealed that the still contained its original black paint beneath unevenly applied layers of darken varnishes. 

Localized aqueous based cleaning tests were performed on the surface of the car and a method was discover that allowed the varnish layers to be safely removed exposing the original black paint. The areas of lifting and tenting paint were locally consolidated and re-adhered to the substrate and areas of loss were in-painted to patch.

The fenders, running boards, battery hoods, and lamps were carefully removed from the vehicle to facilitate treatment; all original fasteners were labeled and retained for re-assembly. The chassis and components were covered in a heavy accumulation of dirt, grime, and hardened oils. Surfaces were thoroughly cleaned using dry ice blasting,  solvents and mechanical methods.

The leather fenders had large tears, losses, and the perimeter stitching had failed causing the leather to sag.  The edges of the leather were consolidated and adhered to the metal fender.

Silicon rubber was used to make a mold from the remaining stitched leather edges around the fenders and the cast inserts were toned and integrated were losses had occurred.

The interior textiles were also cleaned and stabilized by our textile conservator before the vehicle was returned to the NPS.