George Hess is a Maytag-Mason expert

On the road, George Hess gets a wave from almost every car when he’s driving his 1910 Maytag-Mason. It is so unusual to see a car of this vintage, much less see one rolling down the road under its own power, that people can’t help but respond.

 The Maytag-Mason is a fairly obscure car. The first Mason was designed and built in Des Moines in 1905 by Fred and August Duesenberg. Their car has a two-cylinder, 200-cubic-inch engine mounted under the seat. It produces between 24 and 28 horsepower. Fred L. Maytag invested in the company in 1909 and moved the factory to Waterloo in 1910. Maytag soon sold his interest in the company and by 1912 the name reverted back to Mason Motor Co. The company went bankrupt in 1915 and was totally out of business by 1917. Approximately 1,500 cars were built, but only about 20 of them exist today. One is in the Everest Kansas Historical Society. 

 Fred Duesenberg raced a Mason in the 1907 Kansas City hillclimb, and flipped the car.

 Hess, of Lenexa, has long admired the Mason brand. After 10 years of searching, he found this car. The first buyer was J.D. Hasik of Abie, Nebraska. Leo Bongers, a collector from David City, Neb., owned it for a while. Temple Baldwin of Kimberly, Idaho, got the car from Bongers in 1993 and began a three-year restoration. Hess bought it in August 2003.

 The Maytag-Mason is an imposing vehicle. Baldwin’s restoration is flawless. The paint looks as if it could have come from the assembly line yesterday. Every detail, from the tiny brass primer cups on each cylinder to the cast aluminum bulkheads, is period perfect. The polished brass lights glisten.

 On the day I visited, Hess started his car with two cranks. It idled with the same putt-putt exhaust sound as a two-cylinder tractor or motorcycle. The two-speed transmission gives the car a top speed of more than 40 miles per hour. There is no windshield, and the driver and passengers sit bolt upright in the breeze. A short ride made me realize just how much today’s drivers are sheltered from the elements.

 Why is Hess so fascinated with the Maytag-Mason? First, he admires the Duesenberg’s engineering, and second, he loves the idea that a Maytag-Mason finished the Glidden Tour in Kansas City in 1909, giving it a local historical connection.