Hungerford Rocket Car Photograph Collection

Daniel D. Hungerford and his brother Floyd S. Hungerford shared a great interest in rockets. They began by studying lighter than air craft and built an airplane engine in 1909. By 1913, they had bought their own airplane. In addition, the Hungerford brothers worked as glider mechanics, during which time they invented a rocket-powered soldering iron to aid in their work. They had plans for a rocket lawn mover, but this was never completed. The Hungerfords designed a rocket-powered automobile that they debuted on November 2, 1929 in their hometown of Elmira, New York. The Hungerford Rocket Car, named the Shirley Lois Moon Girl after Daniel's daughter, was based on a 1921 Chevrolet 490 chassis covered with a framework made of basswood strips, isinglass windows, and plate glass covered with heavy cardboard that had been painted black. The Hungerfords then had a special fuel injection pump and the rocket motors installed at Gould Pump Works in Seneca Falls, New York. The car's design featured four exhaust pipes in the rear, although only one was actually utilized. In 1932, after operating the Shirley Lois Moon Girl on public roads for more than two years, the Hungerfords decided to register the car with the state of New York. After much debate, the New York Bureau of Motor Vehicles agreed to register the car provided "rocket" was listed on the form under type. Shirley Lois Moon Girl was given New York license plate number 4J74-78 and was registered until 1952. Over time, the car was improved including the addition of new parts and equipment, new paint, and the replacement of the original Chevrolet cooling system with a 1927 Waco airplane radiator. The Hungerford brothers exhibited Shirley Lois Moon Girl at fairs and other events throughout New York and Pennsylvania, and a letter about the car written by the Hungerfords was read on the radio program "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" on January 15, 1934. The last exhibition of Shirley Lois Moon Girl took place at Colussy's Airport at Coudersport, Pennsylvania on July 29, 1934. The Hungerfords had initially planned on large-scale manufacturing of the Hungerford Rocket Car with the Shirley Lois Moon Girl being simply a prototype, but no other rocket cars were ever made. The Hungerfords also discussed building a rocket that could reach the moon, a project that never made it past the planning phase. Floyd S. Hungerford died in December 1963. Daniel Hungerford allowed Ralph Hodge of Cohoes, New York to take possession of the car in the mid-1960s with the understanding that, in the event of Hungerford's death, it would become Hodge's property. Hodge cleaned the vehicle and replaced the rotting cardboard with aluminum, and the Shirley Lois Moon Girl took part in a number of parades and civic events in New York. Daniel S. Hungerford died in 1968. For a time, Shirley Lois Moon Girl was on display at "Harrah's Automobile Collection" in Las Vegas, Nevada. Upon the death of Ralph Hodge, his attorney, and one time assistant district attorney of Albany county, Daniel Dwyer took ownership of Shirley Lois Moon Girl. Before his death in 1992, Dwyer donated Shirley Lois Moon Girl to the New York State Museum at Albany.