Categories
cars museum travel

The National Automotive and Truck Museum

The National Automotive and Truck Museum, an impressive collection of cars and trucks, is located in Auburn, Indiana. It is an unassuming building neatly tucked away behind the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. It could easily be missed if you were not paying attention. However, not going to The National Automotive and Truck Museum would be doing yourself a major disservice if you are already at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. It is a separate building (with a separate ticket.) It also includes one of the most valuable American vehicles ever made, but more on that later.

Dodge Tomahawk
The Dodge Tomahawk concept bike. Note the VIper V-10.

Pre-war classics and a unique “barn” find.

Once you get your ticket and leave the gift shop, you’ll come across a room chock-full of die-cast cars representing countless brands and models and a collection of pedal cars. Some of these antique pedal cars are nearly identical to their full-sized counterparts, many of which can be found in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum across the parking lot. Just pass that room; you will find yourself in a large section filled with early 20th century cars. These cars include a 1935 Cord that goes far beyond what would be considered a typical “barn find.” It was buried on the factory grounds and only discovered in the 1980s. Despite the effects of about 50 years, pressure, dirt, and water, the body is surprisingly intact, given the circumstances.

A picture of a rare painted DeLorean.
A rare red DeLorean. It was part of a factory test to see how paint would work on the stainless steel body.

The Car Room

Exiting that room, you come upon the main room for the car section. It is filled with an incredible amount of variety, from the massive, iconic GM Futurliner, to the diminutive pre-war Austin 7. There’s the replica of the Essex Wire Shelby Cobra race car. There are also some interesting stories behind some of the cars. The 1981 DeLorean with a red paint job? As per the Museum, it was part of a test to see if the paint would work on the unconventional body. The red stands out as almost every DeLorean is the same unpainted stainless steel. The unassuming 1995 Ford Crown Victoria? It belonged to Hollywood Icon Katherine Hepburn. There’s also the legendary concept bike/quad, the Dodge Tomahawk. It is essentially a four-tire motorcycle powered by a Viper V-10 engine. As of writing, I’ve been to this Museum three times, and they keep the cars in rotation.

A picture of a Futurliner.
The Futurliner, notice the central position of the driver.

The Futurliner

At the far edge of the room sits a 1953 GM Futurliner, one of just a handful made. These trucks, which look like an RV mixed with a semi truck toured the country showcasing new-for-the-time technology. They are roughly the size of a full-size RV or a city bus, and the fact that they don’t have side windows them look even larger. One side of the Futurliner opens to show the display, and lights extend up out of the roof, forming a sort of wordless marque. Interestingly, the driver sits in the middle and very high up. When looking up at the Futurliner from the front, it makes you appreciate just how high up the driver is. The engine sits forward, under the driver. Surprisingly, for a vehicle of that size, it does not have two rear axles common in modern city buses and RVs. Instead, it has eight wheels, two at each corner. The front bumpers follow the round front and back of the Futurliner and blend seamlessly into the sides of it. They also have a display example of the type of straight-6 that powered it. One of these sold at an auction for 4.1 million dollars. For a while, this was the most expensive American vehicle ever sold at an auction. You can learn more about the Futurliner on the website Futurliner.org.

A horse drawn fuel tanker.
A horse drawn fuel tanker.

The Truck Room

The basement floor is the truck section, and it takes up almost every bit of space that the ground-floor car level does. It features over 100 years of personal and commercial trucks and even a land-speed record holder semi-truck that did well north of 200 mph. One of the things that immediately catch your attention is the row of fuel-haulers, in ascending order by age, starting with a horse-drawn one. The horse-drawn fuel-hauler is a perfect wordless metaphor for the transitional era of the early 20th century. Walking through the trucks, I was impressed by just how many early 20th century trucks there were, a chain final drive in place of a driveshaft is not an uncommon sight there. A cool thing about the trucks is that some of them come from the area. There is even a bus that was made in Auburn called a McIntyre. The 1911 model they have is far removed from what would constitute a modern bus: Three rows of seats and not a roof or window in sight, but it did what was made to do. Like the car floor above it, the truck section goes way beyond the Big Three, featuring brands like Studebaker and highlighting early examples of familiar truck brands like International.

An antique truck.

The Experience

One of the great things about The National Automotive and Truck Museum is that you can take as much or as little time as you want. The Museum is divided up into several large rooms, and you don’t have to walk far to see it all, despite the size of the collection. However, time permitting, you may feel like digging deeper, reading the stories of the cars and trucks on their plaques, and checking out more of the extensive Futurliner exhibit. If you find yourself at The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, the trip across the parking lot to this Museum is a worthwhile one. The Museum truly is a companion to the ACD Museum, as opposed to an afterthought. You can check out the Museum online at natmus.org. Also, you can view my blog about the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum here: https://carsandadventures.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/the-auburn-cord-duesenberg-museum/. I’ll be writing another blog about the final car museum I visited that day: The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum. Have you been to The National Automotive and Truck Museum? Let me know in the comments! As always, thanks for checking out my blog!

Categories
cars

The Cars of Elvis Presley

I recently got a chance to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, the famed home of Elvis Presley. After touring the house, I checked out the Elvis Presley Car Museum across the street. It is part of Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a museum dedicated to him. It contains many of the cars the iconic singer owned throughout his life. There were three whole large rooms devoted to his cars, motorcycles, and boats. Elvis’ love of cars is well known, but it is still amazing to see the variety of vehicles on display. It is one of several large exhibits on display at Graceland.

One of Elvis’ Cadillac’s, this one has been customized.

Elvis had a wide range of cars that he liked, from a Ferrari Dino to a 1976 Stutz Blackhawk. His range of cars he was interested in was as varied as his career, which took him from music to movies and back to music.  Although his cars represent a wide variety of tastes and styles, and his love of Cadillacs was well known, he had an affinity for German cars, of which, two Mercedes Benz are on display in the Museum. The collection includes a Mercedes Benz limousine, which would have been a rare sight in the ’60s. Elvis’ interest in Germany cars makes sense, as he was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army in the ’50s; it no doubt left an impression on him. There was a beautiful 1960 MG MGA convertible. One of the most distinctive cars of his on display and one that perfectly encapsulates Elvis is his custom 1950’s Cadillac, with its hard to miss purple paint, gold rims, custom paint, and side pipes. An interesting little detail is that the side pipes are red on the inside. His famous pink Cadillac was there as well.

Elvis’ Stutz Blackhawk. Note the chrome stripe down the side of the car.

One of his latest and most unique cars was his Stutz Blackhawk, a luxury coupe based on a Pontiac, and powered by a Pontiac motor. The Stutz Motor Company made luxury vehicles based on mass-produced American cars in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It was a revival of the original Stutz company. The original Stutz Motor Company dates to the early days of automotive history. What stands out about the Blackhawk is the large headlights, a call back to huge headlights found on luxury cars of the ’20s and ’30s and the chrome side pipe, which is most likely also a callback to high-end pre-war cars.

Elvis’ custom chopper. Despite the radical style the bike is surprisingly practical for a chopper, with front and rear suspension and brakes.

His motorcycle collection included countless Harley’s. Elvis was a longtime Harley fan, even appearing on the cover of the official Harley magazine early in his career. The exhibit goes beyond cars and motorcycles. Numerous boats of Elvis’ are on display as well, and even a tractor and golf cart are there. One of his most unique vehicles is no doubt Elvis’ snowmobile, modified for the Memphis climate by replacing the skies with wheels. The wheels were interestingly a factory kit.

A VW-based dune buggy.

The collection of cars would be impressive even without their connection to Elvis. The whole setup is very well done, letting you get up close to the many cars, motorcycles, and more on display. The Elvis Presley Car Museum stands out as one of the most memorable experiences from my visit to Graceland (although my love of cars may make me a little biased.) If you ever find yourself in Graceland, check out the Elvis Presley Car Museum, it is worth your time.

Categories
cars travel

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum

I got the chance to go to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, Indiana again.  It is one of the most impressive car museums I have visited. The Museum represents Duesenberg, Auburn, and Cord, high-end early 20th-century car brands, who eventually came under the ownership of the same company. It is rare to find a car museum that houses so many cars worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, but here it is the norm.

The first road going Duesenberg ever made.
A 1921 Duesenburg. It features a custom body designed to accommodate it’s 7 foot tall original owner.

Auburn, Indiana, is a small college town (city to be exact) in the northeast corner of Indiana (almost to Ohio.) Its connection to cars is strong; its nickname is “Home of the Classics” due to the number of car brands it produced. It also plays host to a massive collector car auction held at a designated site just outside of town. Auburn also features several car museums besides the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. These museums include the National Automotive & Truck Museum, the Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum, and the International Monster Truck Museum and Hall of Fame.

Auburn car on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum.
An Auburn convertible.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum is housed in the company’s original three-story headquarters, which came complete with an Art Deco style showroom. Just standing in the showroom takes you back to the jazz age. There is even period-correct music playing. The showroom features over twenty Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs from different times in the company’s history. Although the company did not last long, thanks in part due to the Great Depression, they created some of the most elegant cars of the period, complete with technological innovations that would take decades to reappear. These included superchargers, hideaway headlights, and front-wheel drive. The Duesenbergs stand out in their variety, for not only color but bodies as well. A Duesenberg was bought from the manufacturer as just a motor, a frame, and not much else. A coach-building company was then hired to complete the car. This lead to some astonishing variety. Duesenberg’s are also known for their impressive even by today’s standards performance. A Duesenberg naturally aspirated straight-8 motor produced 265 horsepower, while the supercharged variant put out well over 300. Their performance is a reflection of their history. The Dusenberg race cars did very well on the track. These cars were well received by celebrities. Famed pilot Amelia Earhart owned a Cord, and actor Gary Cooper owned a Duesenberg.

1948 TASCO car.
The Tasco. Note the t-tops.

Aside from the three brands on display in the showroom, there was an exhibit on cars of that era with a large number of cylinders, V-12s, and V-16s. I was particularly impressed by a beautiful V-16 Cadillac on display. Although the large cylinder era did not last long (the exhibit mentioned the increasing performance of the V-8 and lighter-weight cars made them unnecessary), the American V-12 has an interesting, if obscure, footnote in pop culture. In the original version of the icon rockabilly song “Hot Rod Lincoln,” the titular car is powered by a V-12, and not a V-8 like in later versions.

A 1911 Metallurique. An early sports car.
A 1911 Metallurique. This one was used in the 1965 comedy “The Great Race.”

Just past the main hall is a smaller room that features some interesting, non-A.C.D. cars. These included some iconic 50’s cars, a 1911 Metallurique that was featured in the 1965 movie “The Great Race,” and a 1933 Checker Cab. The second level is accessible from the grand staircase in the showroom. It would not look out of place in a historic mansion. The second level features an automotive-themed art gallery and a foot-tall version of the “Spirit of Ecstasy,” the famous hood ornament found on Rolls-Royces.

A replica of an Auburn on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum.
A replica of the 1929 Auburn Cabin Speedster. The original was destroyed in the 1929 LA Auto Show fire.

The third floor features more collections of cars and Company offices that look as though they did 80 years ago. There are also miniature clay-mockups of some of Cords. There was a special exhibit on this floor relating to infamous Indiana bank robber John Dillinger, which includes one of his Tommy Guns. There was also an exhibit on cars made in Indiana. In the early 20th century, during the dawn of the car, there were quite a few from Indiana. The 3rd floor also featured one of the most unique one-off cars of the ’40s: the Tasco. What makes this one-off sports car so interesting is not just the aviation-inspired interior and exterior, but its use of a t-top. Roughly 20 years before it appeared on a Corvette.

V-16 Cadillac, part of an exhibit on V-12 and V-16 cars.
A V-16 Cadillac.

This was my third trip to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, and each time there has been something new. Because of the other car museums nearby, I was able to go to three in one day: The National Automotive and Truck Museum (which is on the property) and the Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum (which is just across town.) I will be covering both of those museums in upcoming posts. This is the first of three articles I will be writing about car museums in Auburn. If you have been to the Museum or have anything to add, please let me know in the comments! You can visit their website at www.automobilemuseum.org.  

Categories
Uncategorized

Happy (Belated) Birthday to Car Customizing Icon Gene Winfield!

The Strip Star, created by Gene Winfield. Picture by Larry Stevens.

Earlier this month, on June 16th, legendary custom car builder and hot rodder Gene Winfield turned 93. He has shown no sign of slowing down. His custom cars have appeared in countless movies and TV shows. The TV shows have ranged from the original Star Trek to the classic Batman TV series. He has designed vehicles for several sci-fi movies, which means he has not only helped shape the look of the custom car scene but also the look of science fiction. Also, he worked on the hood scopes for the prototype of the 1969 Pontiac Trans Am. His custom cars range from traditional hot rods to radical, futuristic creations. It is no wonder he has been asked to create so many vehicles for sci-fi films. He even designed the Galileo shuttle used in Star Trek. He has been featured at car shows all over the world, often chopping tops with his crew.

A custom 1935 Ford Truck made by Gene. Picture by Sicnag. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

He also holds multi-day car metalworking classes. My father had the chance to attend one, and he got a lot out of it. After decades of experience, Gene has a lot of knowledge. He even created a painting technique known as the “Winfield Fade.” This is where colors gradually transition, as opposed to a sudden change, and is showcased on many of his custom cars. With his seemly boundless energy, Gene continues to be a significant force in the custom car world. You can check out his website at www.winfieldscustomshop.com.

Categories
travel

Elvis Presley’s Graceland

Earlier this year, on my way back to Louisiana, I got a chance to stop at Graceland, the fabled home of Elvis Presley. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, it has inspired more than one hit song and has been a tourist attraction for around 40 years. The area around it was a lot more remote when it was built in the ’30s. Not only have businesses like restaurants grown up around Graceland, but a neighborhood has as well.

The front of Elvis' Graceland, as viewed from the side.
The front of Graceland, still decorated for Christmas.

After getting my ticket and being handed my iPad and earphones that I would use for the tour across the street, I rode the shuttle through the gates and up the massive, circular driveway. The house itself rests on a hill, adding to its mystic. The front of the house has elegant Roman columns. If you thought the driveway looked like it would make a good go-kart track, you aren’t alone. The iPad (with parts of the tour narrated by John Stamos) told us that Elvis used it as such. The house itself is good-sized, especially for the time period it was built, but the rooms themselves are more average-sized. The decoration of the rooms can only be described as extravagant. I went in January, so the front yard and house were still decorated for Christmas. The entrance was lined on both sides with Christmas trees. One of the rooms in the house had a beautiful white Christmas tree, which was very trendy during the 1970s. The dining room looked as if it was set for a Christmas dinner, the table was adorned with plates, and another Christmas tree sat at the far end. The tree was covered in ornaments and draped in tinsel. It had a stocking that read “Elvis.” The 2nd floor is off-limits, out of respect for Elvis and his family’s privacy. The first floor is where he received guests. The tour takes you through gorgeous rooms and into the very finished basement complete with three TVs, and eventually through the legendary jungle room. Like its namesake, the Jungle Room features large amounts of green, both on the ground and ceiling, plus plenty of plants. It is even mentioned by name in the hit song “Walking in Memphis.” In the large, hilly backyard horses graze, the same as when Elvis lived there. The last part of the tour is the small cemetery where Elvis and his parents are buried. It was very beautiful and peaceful. It is fitting that a celebrity who was so accessible to his fans, signing countless autographs, would have hundreds of thousands of visitors to his final resting place decades after his passing. After getting on the bus back to the visitor’s center, I felt like I knew Elvis, like he had me over to his house.

Graceland's dining room table, set for a Christmas dinner, complete with a Christmas tree.
The Dining room, set for a Christmas dinner.

The whole Graceland attraction is massive, besides the house itself. There is a huge museum that goes beyond Elvis, a bar, a steakhouse, an ice cream shop and, a concert arena that frequently plays host to big-name acts. There is a lot to see and do just across the street. Many of Elvis’ cars, boats, motorcycles, and planes are on display as well. The cars alone take up multiple rooms. The planes were impressive to walk through, although you need to buy a separate ticket for it. I had never been in an airplane quite like his 1958 Convair 880 jet. It was interesting to be in an airliner-sized plane that was so personalized. There are many other displays about Elvis, including a detailed exhibit about his time in the military. There was a fascinating display about Sun Records, the groundbreaking record company Elvis was signed to early in his career. The Elvis satellite radio channel also broadcasts from Graceland. There was also an exhibit about celebrities who had been inspired by Elvis and features their clothes or costumes. The extensive list included, among others, Johnny Cash, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the band KISS. There is a lot to see and do, and it is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Elvis.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Gilmore Car Museum

Recently I had a chance to go to the Gilmore Car Museum, just northwest of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Like many towns and cities in Michigan, it has strong ties to the automotive industry, and interestingly enough was the birthplace for Gibson guitars. Located on a farm out in the hilly countryside, the museum has been around for over 50 years and features over a hundred years of automotive history. The museum also plays host to car shows throughout the year. Its made up of 100s of cars as well as rotating displays.

A Tucker Torpedo. The First one I’ve seen in person.

The first room was an exhibit dedicated to women’s impact on cars. I was greeted by a Tucker Torpedo, a highly advanced and incredibly rare helicopter engine-powered car from the late ’40s. The next section of the museum was a Ford vs. Ferrari themed one has the movie had just come out. Naturally, there was a Ford GT and a Ferrari. The Ferrari interestingly enough had belonged to Nicolas Cage at one point. Making my way through the museum I was amazed by the variety of cars on display. 

A Ferrari once owned by actor Nicolas Cage.

 There was a large hall dedicated to muscle cars, with some very rare ones on display. These included a Shelby Mustang and a Mr. Norm Mopar. I had also come across a Honda motorcycle customized by GM to accompany its Pontiac Banshee show car as well as a real Shelby Cobra and a Corvette concept car. There was an entire section dedicated to Lincolns and a whole building devoted to Cadillacs. It was cool to see all the early cars on display, from the 20’s and older, but one of the most surprising things I came across was a Lincoln concept car that was only a few years old. I did not expect to see that at a museum not dedicated to any one particular brand.

An Oldsmobile 442 in the muscle car exhibit.

If you are a fan of cars, I would recommend the Gilmore Car Museum. It has something for everyone. They are always rotating exhibits. In 2021 they are adding a new muscle car exhibit. You can view their official website here. Check it out to see their upcoming events. Know of a car museum or car event I should go to next? Please send me a message and let me know! Don’t forget to subscribe to get an email when a new article comes out.

Categories
Uncategorized

A little about me.

I’ve been writing the Cars and Adventures blog for a few years now. I’m a lifelong car and motorcycle enthusiast originally from Indiana, about an hour from Chicago. I wanted a way to combine my love of cars and travel. Occasionally I’ll go off-topic, but I tend to stick to cars and travel. I primarily write about car-related events and locations I visit. I recently choose to move my website to WordPress. I’m new to WordPress, so if you have any advice or suggestions for my site, please feel free to reach out to me. Also, if there are any topics you think I should cover, please let me know!

Categories
Uncategorized

Drone Photograpthy of the Midwest.

I’ve been into drone photography for several years now. I usually take pictures of the landscapes in the countryside near my home in Indiana. My subjects, out of convenience, tend to be rivers, farm fields, and small woods near me. Getting a drone was sort of a natural evolution for me. I have always liked airplanes and photography as well as RC cars. I grew up south of the middle of nowhere, so my interest in landscape photography was a forgone conclusion.
A creek that runs to the Illinois Border.

I use a GoPro Karma drone with a GoPro Hero Black 5 camera. I went with a GoPro camera because I had another GoPro camera, and was a fan of it. I also really liked the controller. Many drones require a cellphone to be placed on the controller to act as a screen. The GoPro Karma controller has a built-in touch screen. An interesting feature of the Karma is that it has an integrated flight sim to help teach the basics of drone flight. This is accessed entirely through the controller. The Karma also can follow pre-planned flight paths. Although the GoPro Karma has been discontinued, it still receives updates. It has almost 20 minutes of battery life and can reach almost 40 mph when it is in sport-mode. It takes video as well as pictures, and its pictures are noticeable due to the distinctive “fish-eye” look due to its lens.
Looking towards Illinois from an Indiana farm.
All the pictures here have been edited using Instagram. I got into using Instagram by chance. I had been uploading my drone pictures to it and figured I would try it out. Most of my edits involve cranking the saturation to the max; I also enjoy giving the sky extra color. I think it helps make the picture more interesting. I tend to use a lot of lines in my photos, stuff like rivers and country paths. I look forward to flying new drones and trying new photo editing software.

Wetlands near my neigborhood.
Just outside of my neighborhood.

Categories
Uncategorized

French Lick, Indiana or Bust: My Odyssey through the Heart of the American Heartland.

 If you’re not from Indiana, or the Midwest, or America, or even if you are from Indiana, you could be forgiven if you think that a motorcycle road trip set entirely in Indiana would be boring. In my early 20’s I undertook a series of increasingly long motorcycle road trips with my father cumulating with one that took us to the banks of the winding Ohio River. We were able to peer across the river to Kentucky.
I was still on my first street bike then. A 1984 Honda Sabre that I had gotten in high school. It was advanced for the era, with dual front disc brakes, a liquid-cooled V-4, a 5-speed with overdrive, and shaft drive. It even had a gear indicator. The engine size had been reduced from 750cc of the previous year to 700. I didn’t have saddlebags for it, but I was able to tie down an overnight bag to the passenger seat. My father has a 2006 Harley Davidson Soft Tail Deluxe; it looks like it rode out of the 1950s complete with white walls. He did the heavy lifting with the luggage.
We left out of our small hometown on the Southernmost tip of what is known as Northwest Indiana. A grouping of increasingly big towns and cities that lead to Chicago. Leaving out of Lowell, Indiana, we headed south on US 41, famously mentioned in the Allman Brothers song Ramblin’ Man. This part of US 41 is rural. A few small towns dot the road, but it’s mostly farm fields and bits of what used to be a mighty forest. By the evening, we arrived at the city of Terre Haute, where we spent the night, roughly 135 miles away. Leaving out early in the morning, our trip was much the same as it had been, rural farmland with light traffic. That is until we saw the plane. Crop dusters are an amazing sight to behold. Their necessary yet acrobatic flying conjures up images of old-time barnstormers. Flying low enough to make sure whatever the hell pesticide it is they are spraying gets on the crops and pulls up quick enough to dodge telephone wires. The plane we saw was a crop duster, and it was coming in hot. We both wear full-face helmets; my father, looking behind him, noticed I had my visor down. He did the same. Cutting from right to left across my field of vision, the pilot pulled up as he closed the mechanism that releases the pesticide. It wasn’t exact as both of us, and our bikes were hit. I can honestly say without exaggeration that I have been crop dusted, probably one of a handful of people in all of history who can say the same. When we came to the next stoplight, we discussed what had happened. We then headed to a carwash in Washington, Indiana, for our bikes and ourselves. We hosed off our jackets, helmets, and motorcycles. That left only one question, what was it that sprayed us? Calling poison control wouldn’t help as there are so many things it could be. We needed to go to the source. We needed to find a crop-duster. That’s where Mom came in. We called home and let her know what happened. We later learned that my mom had gotten ahold of a crop duster, he paused the conversation saying he had to make a turn… in his plane. Turns out what we had been sprayed by wasn’t anything to be alarmed by. It was a short ride that day, only about 70 miles, just as well, given our distraction. After checking in to our hotel and dropping off our luggage, we headed to one of my favorite restaurants: Pizza Hut!
Our third day brought about a radical change in terrain. Gone were the long highways and vast expanses of farmland. Enter the Hoosier National Forrest. We were met with winding roads and massive elevation changes that wound through the deep forest. No fields in sight, as if by magic when we left the woods, we were greeted by another radical change in scenery: French Link, Indiana. French Lick does not look like it belongs in Indiana, surrounded by hills and forests on all sides. It even has a casino. Its sort of a resort town. It’s probably been called the French Rivera or the Los Vegas of Indiana at some point. We stopped off at the Indiana Railway Museum, which is outdoors. They had a steam locomotive, some train cars, and a handcart. They even offer train rides. We then headed to the West Barden Springs Hotel. Like many things in French Lick, the West Barden Springs Hotel does not look like it belongs in Indiana. It looks like a colorful castle mixed with a circus tent. We rode down the long brick driveway that lead to it, then we went into the massive dome that made up a large part of the building. In the outer circle, there were a variety of shops, including, interestingly enough, a Harley Davidson gift shop with a classic Harley on display.
https://scontent-atl3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/37879_445845044282_1405841_n.jpg?_nc_cat=107&_nc_ohc=iLnugZZg9iUAQkWEOnJu4MuQkBrrfx68PvbDUkozfEGaSt6mpLUVq90Og&_nc_ht=scontent-atl3-1.xx&oh=023470e975482f27b85f79613804752f&oe=5EA9B18E
The author with his 1984 Honda Sabre at the West Barden Springs Hotel.
After leaving French Lick, we headed south, back into the countryside to Santa Clause, Indiana, a town famous for its Santa Claus themed amusement park. We then headed to the small border town of Tell City that is set against the winding Ohio River that marks the southern border of Indiana with Kentucky. We rode through the small town to the floodwall on the outskirts of town, following a road that runs on the other side. From there, we were able to see to the banks and hills that represented the start of Kentucky. From there we rode east tracing the Ohio River, on what is known as the Ohio River Scenic Byway. It’s a two-lane road. Hills and woods to our left. Passing a lock in the river. Turning inland, we rode up a steep hill to a lookout nestled in a forest that overlooks locks of the Ohio River known as Eagle’s Bluff. From there, peering over the trees on the hill, you get an amazing view of the locks, as well as the distant, forest cloaked hills in Kentucky. We then rode north to Bloomington, home of Indiana University.
From there, we headed northwest, hitting a light, steady rain, we stopped to put on our rain gear.  We eventually rejoined the path we took down in back north up Route 41. On our way back we stopped in New Port, a small city, known for its annual antique car hill climb. We rode up the hill that leads out of town that makes up the course, a line in the road painted to indicate the finish. Just as we did coming down, we passed just West of West Lafayette. Best known for being the home of Purdue University. Overall, we put on over 800 miles on our bikes. Both bikes did great with no mechanical problems. I’m looking forward to going on more and longer trips with my dad.
Categories
cars Uncategorized

The Pontiac Pegasus: The Time Pontiac put a Ferrari V-12 in a Firebird.

In 1970 Pontiac created one of their most unusual concept cars of all time. A Ferrari V-12 powered Pontiac Firebird. It seemed to blur the line between a passion project and a concept car. However, under closer observation, the practical nature of it is revealed. GM was no stranger to usual concept cars; the name Firebird itself comes from a series of turbine-powered concept cars from the ’50s. But why would Pontiac, a company famous for its performance cars and engines, put a Ferrari V-12 in one of their cars? At 4.2 liters, the V-12 was much smaller than the average performance V-8 to come from GM. The amount of passion that went into the car was obvious. There was not only a custom Pegasus logo on the grill but a Porsche-esque coat of arms on the hood. An original design. The name Pegasus is derived from combing the Firebird (a mythical creature in its own right) and that of a horse. The Ferrari logo depicts what is known as “the Prancing Pony.” The result is the legendary mythical winged horse, the Pegasus.
The Pontiac Pegasus at the 2019 Trans Am Nationals.
This year I had the chance to see the Pontiac Pegasus in person; it was part of a group of show cars brought to the Trans Am Nationals in Fairborn, Ohio. It was in excellent condition. I even got to hear it run as it was moved for the night. Oddly enough, it gave off a low rumble that would not be out of place coming from a small block Chevy. It was great to get up close and see it with the hood opened and closed.
The Ferrari V-12. It is paired with a 5-speed Ferrari transmission.
By 1970 the second generation of Pontiac’s pony car, the Firebird, was released. It was lower and sleeker than its predecessor. The muscle car performance wars of the ’60s were winding down, curtailed by environmental legislation. A headline on an issue of Hot Rod magazine read: 71’ Cars, Will they Perform? Pony cars were still going strong. The popular road racing series, and Trans Am namesake the SCCA Trans-Am series was going strong, showcasing the handling of the pony cars. The Pegasus was a perfect showcase of that handling, with a lighter V-12 then the normal V-8 that came with the Trans Ams and Formulas.
The Pontiac Pegasus’ interior. Note the Ferrari gauges.

I was first introduced to the Pegasus by the great book “The Fabulous Firebird.” It gave an excellent description of how the Pegasus came to be, but one part always made me curious. It was said that Enzo Ferrari himself donated the motor. This connection was odd to me, as there wasn’t much of a relationship between Mr. Ferrari and the American auto industry, especially after Ford’s attempted purchase of Ferrari. While at the 2019 Trans Am Nations I had a chance to speak with a former Pontiac engineer, it turns out, Bill Mitchell, at that time GM’s design vice president, and the man behind the project was a big car collector and someone who had a lot of connections within the industry. The motor was sent courtesy of a U.S. Ferrari dealership.

The car itself has many interesting design elements. Including a racing-inspired gas cap on the trunk area of the car. (this design was also included on the 1974 Pontiac concept car the Banshee.) There were also fog lights, which could be a nod to the car’s European influence. Despite the European influence, a uniquely American design touch is featured on the car. Much like the Firebird Formulas and the 1969 Trans Am, the Pegasus features an air cleaner inside the hood itself, taking advantage of the cold air available. In perhaps a nod to racing rules dating from before the car was made, there was a full-sized spare tire prominently displayed in the back of the car under the rear glass.
To the Author, the Pegasus is a passion project with real-world bearings, from a time when GM was the largest manufacturer on the planet, and the future of cars and how they would perform was in doubt. Today we find ourselves in a similar situation; it will be interesting to see how much the performance enthusiast is considered as vehicles continue to evolve.