One of the biggest surprises of 2020 in the automotive world was the announcement of the fully electric GMC Hummer EV. The brand, whose original production ended in 2010, was famous for its massive size and off-road ability. Its discontinuation was a product of rising gas prices. It was one of several GM brands, alongside icons like Pontiac and Oldsmobile to be discontinued in that time, when GM was in significant financial trouble.
The Original Hummer
Few vehicles say “heavy-duty off-road performance” like the legendary military-derived Hummer H1. One of several iconic civilian vehicles with military origins, the Hummer H1 was first produced in 1992. The popularity of the H1 helped launch the Hummer brand, with the H2 and H3 models following. With each model, the Hummer got smaller and more economical, with the H2 and H3 ditching the flat, angular military design and exterior hinged doors with smoother lines, giving them a more “civilian look”. The last H2 and H3 rolled off the line in 2009 and 2010, respectively, leaving the brand dormant for a decade.
The Hummer EV
The fully electric Hummer EV differs significantly from its predecessors, although it shares traits with the previous Hummers. This time, the Hummer EV will be sold under the GMC brand. The dimensions of the Hummer EV are comparable to the H1, coming in at 216.8 inches long, 81.1 inches high, and 86.7 inches wide (without mirrors) to the H1’s 187 inches long, 77-79 inches high and 87 inches wide. As a reference, a 2021 four door Jeep Wrangler is 188.4 inches long, 73.6 inches high, and 73.8 inches wide.
The style for the EV is similar to the more modern, civilian style of the H2 and H3. One of the biggest surprises of the Hummer EV, aside from its electric power, is the multitude of radical features it has, many of which are geared to help it perform off-road. One of the most talked about features is undoubtedly the optional “crab walk.” Essentially, what it does is move the vehicle diagonally; all four wheels turn in a single direction, while the Hummer EV faces forward. It also has an under-body camera, giving the driver a unique view of the road or trail. Given the electric power of the Hummer, it has a decent-sized storage area under the hood. On the inside, it features a wide-screen infotainment center, with a fully digital gauge cluster, as well as a pitch and roll gauge.
Like the new Ford Bronco, the Hummer EV has a first edition version, known as “Edition 1”, which has already filled up its reservations. It has a release date of Fall 2021. GM estimates that it will do zero to 60 in 3.0 seconds, putting it well into supercar territory. As a comparison, the Tesla Model X SUV does zero to 60 in 2.6 seconds. The three other models are slated to be released from highest to lowest spec-level, with the top-of-the-line Hummer slated to arrive in Fall 2022. The different models will come with either two or three electric motors.
The new Hummer looks to be a unique blend of brute strength and modern technology. By using the Hummer name, GM is likely targeting off-road enthusiasts who have not considered an electric vehicle. The use of an iconic name for a new electric vehicle was also utilized by Ford with their Mustang SUV. With GM’s recent commitment to only selling electric vehicles by 2035, it will be interesting to see if other iconic models are revived as electric vehicles as Hummer was. You can check out the Hummer EV on GMC’s website here: https://www.gmc.com/electric-truck/hummer-ev.
Few names are as synonymous with hot rodding culture as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. For decades he built some of the most innovative and unique custom cars the hot rodding world had seen. However, he is probably best known for his creation of Ratfink, a cartoon rat. With Ratfink’s trademark bulging eyes, the cartoon rat adorned countless t-shirts, posters, and comic books, often sticking out of a cartoon hotrod, with his hand on the shifter. Recently, I had the chance to visit an Ed Roth exhibit at the National Corvette Museum entitled “Car-toon Creatures, Kustom Kars and Corvettes: The Art and Influence of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.” Many of his legendary cars were on display, as well as plenty of memorabilia and some of his Equipment.
“Kustom” Cars, Ratfink and More.
Ed Roth went far beyond just making wild cars. Besides his famous Rat Fink character, Roth created countless t-shirts with his iconic monster characters. To the general public, one of his best-known endeavors creating “monster t-shirts”, although he was also a pinstriping pioneer. The art of pinstriping developed rapidly in the 50s and 60s, and Roth was one of the artists at the forefront. He even went on to create two books on the subject. He helped shape the look of hot rod culture and even the sound. In the 1960s, Roth put out three surf rock albums under the name Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos.
Wild Show Cars.
In a span of about 40 years, Roth created some of the most innovative and imaginative custom cars in the show car scene. These creations ranged from the more traditional Tweedie Pie to the bubble top, hand-controlled Beatnik Bandit, both of which were on display at the Museum. Roth also went beyond the conventional power plant of the hot rodder: the V-8. He used everything from V-8s, air-cooled VW motors, Corvair motors, and Triumph motorcycle motors. He was a big fan of putting the engine behind the driver, saying in an interview that that was the best spot for it. Many of his cars had Sci-Fi influences. He made more than traditional hotrods, with wild creations like his MINI based Surfite surfboard hauler and the twin-Triumph motorcycle motor-powered hovercraft dubbed the Rotar. I had the opportunity to see the following Roth cars at the National Corvette Museum.
The Beatnik Bandit
Arguably Roth’s most famous car: The Beatnik Bandit, carries his trademark space-age bubble-top roof. Interestingly, it is controlled entirely by a central joystick type lever located in the middle of the interior. The joystick even controls braking and acceleration. There was even a “sequel” to the car Roth made in the form of the 1995 Beatnik Bandit II.
Another one of Roth’s cars with space-age influence the Orbitron, like the Beatnik Bandit sports a bubble top. It even comes equipped with a color TV. The driver sits far back, over the rear axle. One of its most unique features is its asymmetrical front end. The Orbitron has a story as wild as it. Lost for many years, it was discovered in rough shape outside of a store just over the Mexican border. It received a full restoration (and a new TV!)
One of his wildest cars, unfortunately, the original was scrapped after the customized frame broke. The wild twin-engine/transmission car was recreated in painstaking detail. Like the Orbitron it also features an asymmetrical front end. It comes with a single seat.
A more traditional custom car (at least by Roth standards!) Tweedie Pie is done in the t-bucket style. According to Ed Roth’s website, Tweedie Pie was purchased by Roth already customized and modified from there.
One of Roth’s many VW-powered machines, the low-slung diminutive Wishbone features skinny front tires, not unlike those found on early dragsters. Roth had intended for the Wishbone to be used as a design for the Revell car model company, but it was rejected due to its shape. Its restoration by Galpin Motors was documented on an episode of the Discovery TV show “Driven,” the post-restoration car debuted at the Exhibit.
The outlaw is a unique combination of a traditional t-bucket, which was very popular in the 60s, and Roth’s boundless imagination. The result is a car that is more reserved than many of his creations and yet uniquely Roth. Amazingly, according to Roth’s website, it once utilized an actual Revolutionary war sword for its gear shifter.
The National Corvette Museum Exhibit
The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has an ongoing Ed Roth Exhibit entitled “The National Corvette Museum Exhibit: The Art and Influence of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth,” until April 2021. The wild bubble tops and blowers of the cars at the Ed Roth exhibit might seem out of place at first glance in a museum filled with sleek production Corvettes, however there is a unique connection Ed Roth. He was a tremendous influence on former Corvette designer Tom Peters. I recently had a chance to visit the Museum and see the Ed Roth Exhibit. Not only did the Museum feature many of his icon hot rods, but his trademark tuxedo, his t-shirt press machine, and countless Roth merchandise. The display shelves are packed with diecast cars, models, and Ratfink figures. There is even a roughly life-size Ed Roth statue, naturally made of fiberglass, his preferred material to create cars with. The Museum also hosted an Ed Roth Ratfink Reunion. Besides Ed Roth’s custom cars, several show cars were inspired in part by Roth. The Museum also played host to an Ed Roth Reunion event. The exhibit will run through April 2021.
The Ed Roth Legacy.
Some twenty years after Roth’s death, people still wear “Monster” T-shirts and have Ratfink posters in their garages. His cars still make appearances at events across the country. Every year fans embark on a hotrod pilgrimage to Manti, Utah, where the annual Ed Roth Ratfink Reunion is held. Actor John Goodman even portrayed him by voice in the 2006 documentary “Tales of the Ratfink.” If you missed my blog about the National Corvette Museum, you can read it here. You can also check out the official Ed Roth website at Ratfink.com. For information on the exhibit you can check out the page on the Corvette Museums website here.
February 12, 2014: Imagine, for a second, that you work as a security guard for the National Corvette Museum. It’s hours before opening, so nothing is going on. Suddenly, a motion sensor goes off. Someone trying to steal a ‘Vette? You head to the Skydome section of the Museum, expecting to confront would-be thieves; instead, you see that cars are missing, wait, there’s more. You see a massive hole where a floor used to be. Earthquake? No, not in Kentucky. A sinkhole! This might sound like the start of a Corvette-themed-horror film, but on that day in February, it was a reality.
Located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the National Corvette Museum is just across the street from the GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where Corvettes are made. Bowling Green is in the southern end of Kentucky, north of Nashville. Arriving at the Museum, we were greeted by a guide in a Corvette-styled golf cart who directed us where to park. Passing the “Corvette Only” parking spaces, we headed inside. The large entry hall is where Corvette buyers who opt to pick up their Corvettes at the Museum take delivery of their cars. After getting our tickets, we saw a cross-section 1953 Corvette and some early examples of sports cars, including a beautiful MG. The MG had served as an inspiration for the creation of the Corvette. Next, there was a short film tracing the history of the Corvette from its creation to the present day. The room it is in is indistinguishable from a movie theater, complete with licensed music, showing just how much went into making this a world-class museum.
The following section, called the “Nostalgia Area” of the Museum, traces the Corvette from its earliest days in the 50s into the late 60s. Not only are there some beautiful Corvettes on display (including a 1955 Thunderbird to give an example of some early competition), but it was set up like a 1950’s town, complete with a gas station with vintage gas pumps and garage. There are even a 1960s dealership showroom and a 1970s assembly line.
The next area is dedicated to Corvette’s extensive, decades-spanning racing career, from the earliest days to recent ones. There are two race cars from 1957, including the iconic 1957 Corvette SS race car. It looks like a concept car, but it competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring. There are some more recent race cars as well, such as the multiple race-winning 2015 Corvette C7.R (in as raced condition!). The section also has one of the wildest prototypes Chevy has come up with. A 1959 mid-V8 engine open-wheel car build to Indy-car Spec. It serves as proof that GM was experimenting with mid-engine design long before it becomes commonplace, even in race cars.
The mid-engine prototype works as a great segue into the next room: The mid-engine Corvette room. Starting in the 1960s, Chevy made many different mid-engine Corvettes. Interestingly, they looked more like production cars than an extreme, attention-grabbing show car made to generate buzz at an auto show. There was a pair of 1960’s era ones, who’s design reflected the aggressive late 60s-70s’ Vettes. An interesting piece of GM history intertwined with the Corvette in the form of a mid-engine Rotary powered Corvette is on display from 1973. GM had considered utilizing the Rotary-motor in their cars around this period. The section ends with the modern mid-engine Corvette. I love how the exhibit shows the mid-engine Corvette was a long-held dream.
Corvette Cave In! The Skydome Sinkhole Experience.
The next section of the Museum, right before you get to the Skydome, the Cave-in’s fabled site, is a section that explains the cave-in that caused multiple rare and historically significant Corvettes to fall into the cave below. The exhibit tells of the geology of Kentucky and its cave systems. In fact, The Corvette Museum is not far from Mammoth Cave, the longest known cave system in the world. Like everything else in the Museum, this exhibit is incredibly well done and looks like it was taken from a natural history museum. It also deals with the world-wide media storm that followed. Something the Corvette Museum was quick to capitalize on what happened. Turning a disaster into a triumph, as webcams were set up to document the construction crew’s recovery of the cars. At the end of the section is the chance to experience what the cave in looked and sounded like from underground. Complete with falling Corvettes.
The Post Cave In Skydome.
Walking out of the darkness of the cave in experience and into the light of the Skydome, it is hard to believe anything happened here. The only clues to suggest that anything happened, are the occasional dusty, smashed-up car, the lines in the floor indicating where the cave in happened, as well as the boundaries of the cave, and the window in the manhole cover that lets you look down into the cave itself. Beyond the remnants of the cave-in, there is plenty to see in the Skydome. There are, of course, the cars that fell into the cave. These included aftermarket-modified, classic, and significant Corvettes like the 1.5 millionth Corvette made. These had received varying degrees of damage, based on how they fell. When recovered, one ‘Vette was able to start shortly after it was brought up. One especially interesting Corvette on display in the Skydome was the only Corvette ever owned by Zora Arkus-Duntov, known as the “Godfather of the Corvette.” There is also a V-12 boat motor-powered Corvette concept car. The V-12 powered Corvette was created in response to Dodge unveiling their V-10 powered Viper. The inside of the Skydome features pictures of people who have had a significant impact on the Corvette in some way.
Car-toon Creatures, Kustom Kars and Corvettes: The Art and Influence of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.
After the Skydome was the special, limited-time Ed “Big Daddy” Roth exhibit, Roth was the legendary custom car builder behind some of the wildest custom cars in the 1960s and artist behind the iconic “Ratfink” character. It featured many of his legendary custom cars, as well as vehicles inspired by him. Hidden throughout the Museum in various exhibits are small “Rat Fink” figures. Why here at the National Corvette Museum of all places, you are probably asking yourself. It turns out Ed Roth was a massive inspiration for former Director of Exterior Design for the Corvette Tom Peters. The exhibit runs until April 2021.
One thing about leaving the Corvette is that when you go, you will be wanting a Corvette. If you have one, you’ll probably be wanting another one. Being in production for over 60 years, you will have plenty of types to choose. It is nothing short of incredible how the National Corvette Museum could take the cave-in and the international attention generated by the cave-in and keep the public invested in the recovery of the cars. You can learn more about the National Corvette Museum on their official website here: https://www.corvettemuseum.org/. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll delve into the details of Ed Roth’s many cars, as well as the Ed Roth Exhibit. Have you been to the Corvette Museum or know of a car museum I should visit? Let me know in the comments!
It is hard to understate the impact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its signature race: The Indianapolis 500, has had on Indiana. It has ingrained itself into Indiana culture as no other event has. For over 100 years, it has held a wide range of events, from hot air balloon races to the iconic Indianapolis […]
It is hard to understate the impact the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its signature race: The Indianapolis 500, has had on Indiana. It has ingrained itself into Indiana culture as no other event has. For over 100 years, it has held a wide range of events, from hot air balloon races to the iconic Indianapolis 500 itself.
For the first time in about 20 years, I returned to the track to take a tour of it and visit the onsite Museum. Getting to the Museum involves driving underneath the track, in a surprisingly sizeable multi-lane tunnel. Arriving in the infield, you are presented with a large infield, beyond it is the imposing Museum. I headed inside and for $22 I had a ticket to the Museum and a ride on a trailer around the track (complete with a stop at the start/finish line.) The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is famous for its early days of being paved in bricks, now only a strip at the start/finish line remains.
Located just outside of downtown Indianapolis, the track was founded in 1909 on farmland; in fact, one of the farm’s original barns remains at the track today. Today, it is surrounded by suburbs. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway contains an oval, a road course that uses parts of the oval, and even a dirt track in the infield.
There are two ways to take a tour around the track: A bus ride, or the open-air “Kiss The Bricks” tour that takes you around the track on an open-air trailer and makes a stop at the iconic brick-covered start/finish line. Literally kissing the bricks is a tradition for victorious race teams since the 1990s. The tour gets you close to some of the “landmarks” of the Indianapolis Speedway. When the tour made its stop at the start/finish line, I was able to get a great look at the newly-installed elevator platform that raises up the winner’s car, the Pagoda, a tall, distinct building that houses race officials as well as broadcasters, and a glimpse into the garage area.
It is hard to appreciate the size of the track just by seeing it on tv. It is longer than many major oval tracks coming in at 2.5 miles. Standing at the start-finish line and looking towards the previous turn makes it appear to almost disappear into the horizon. To put into perspective just how big the track is, there are several holes of a golf course within the infield of the course compete with water hazards and the branching routes that make up the road course. The shape of the oval stands out as much as its length, with four straights, as opposed to the typical two. There is also very little banking in the corners, especially compared with similar NASCAR tracks like Talladega and Daytona.
As we went around the track; I was blown away by just how big the grandstands are. As you round the final corner to the start/finish line, you become aware of just how many people this track can hold as large grandstands rise on both sides to tower over you. The tour naturally has a stop at the start/finish line, still paved with bricks. Interestingly, the bricks aren’t flush with the track and would undoubtedly be noticeable to racers.
After going around the track, we headed into the Museum through a side door. We were greeted by a cross-sectioned example of the latest Indy car, showcasing the many technologically advanced features of a modern Indy Car. There is also a row of tires, from the earliest tall and skinny tires that looked like they belong on a horse-drawn buggy, to modern wet and dry weather tires. Beyond that was a row of Indy cars and a classic hot rod. The next section was a room with smaller items, including a letter from Enzo Ferrari (in Italian naturally.)
Moving on into the main room, on display were many cars from the Museum’s “vault.” These include both race and non-race vehicles, and some of them had close ties to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Notable cars on display were a Ferrari 250 LM, an early exam of a mid-engine Ferrari, and a Ford GT40. Another iconic race car on display was the 50s era Mercedes-Benz W196. Unique to the W196 is that it is essentially an F1 car with a full body on it, right down to the driver sitting in the middle of it. The body had been added to make it eligible (in its day) for sports car racing, while still maintaining the advantages of an F1 car. The “vault” also included two vehicles owned by Indy 500 super fan Larry Bisceglia. Mr. Bisceglia, who had attended Indy 500 races for decades, was famous for being first in line when the gates opened at the track for the race, even if it meant camping in his vehicle. He was well known enough at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he was given a key for the track, good for any time, and was even presented with a new Ford Van to replace his old, even for the time, DeSoto on the starting line. Both of those vehicles are on display. There are also some non-racing related vehicles there, such as the 1932 Mercedes-Benz owned by Faisal 1: the former King of Iraq.
The Museum’s main section dedicated to Indy cars spans from the first car to ever win the Indianapolis 500 to some of the most recent. The winning car of the first-ever Indy 500, held in 1911, was one of two cars on display that are part of the National Historic Vehicle Register. The first car to win the 500, a 1911 Marmon Wasp was innovative in that it is believed to the first race car with a rear view mirror. The rear view was actually a concession in the name of safety as the car was entered as a single-seater, with no riding mechanic. In the early days of Indy Car, a mechanic was normally required to ride with the driver. One of the riding mechanic’s jobs was to be an extra pair of eyes for the driver. The other car from the National Historic Vehicle Register is a 1938 Maserati 8CTF.
Since the Museum features over 100 years of Indy cars, it is easy to trace their evolution, from a high center gravity and tall tires to today’s low and sleek cars. The main entrance features a large trophy with the faces of Indy 500 winners on the side. In the early years, both driver and riding mechanic are included on it.
One of the unique things about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is that you can experience the reason for the Museum onsite. There are multiple races throughout the year, but even if there is no race going on, if you are a motorsports fan, there is bound to be something you’ll enjoy. After visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was down to Kentucky’s green hills to the National Corvette Museum, which is the subject of my next blog. You can check out the Speedway’s official website here: indianapolismotorspeedway.com. You can also visit the Museum’s website here: https://indyracingmuseum.org/.
The Indiana Dunes, formed by ancient glaciers, has long been a popular summer hangout spot for Northwest Indiana, Chicago, and beyond. Sitting on Lake Michigan’s southern tip, the State Park and nearby recently formed National Park covers miles of lakefront and land inland. Located in Northwest Indiana, the Indiana Dunes stands in stark contrast to the majority of Indiana. The sandy environment and the Dunes’ unique ecosystems differ significantly from the plains, prairies, and the rolling hills of Indiana. It has been a state park for almost a hundred years, and just a few years ago, it became a National Park. Conveniently, there is a train station just down the road from the entry point of the Park. The South Shore Train line runs from Chicago to South Bend. The South Shore stop in Chesterton: The Dune Park Station, is connected to the Park by a trail. It’s a bit of a walk, but it might be convenient for those arriving from Chicago or further east in Indiana. Although it is not far from cities, it still feels like you are removed enough from the rest of the world to relax. It is best known for its long beaches that stretch out into the horizon, and its tall sand dunes that rise behind the beach, although the Park goes way beyond the miles of beachfront.
I had a chance to go to The Indiana Dunes recently. I realized I had forgotten how fun it was to explore the beach and trails. There is a great visitor’s center just down the road from the beach. I stopped there on my way to the Park. It is a good idea to stop there to get a map for the many trails if you plan on hiking. Going down the road, heading to the main gate, you are surrounded on both sides by a thick sea of trees. I followed the road and roundabout to the main parking lot for the Park. It gives you access to the bathhouse, the beach, as well as some trails. On my trip, I was surprised to see how far some people came by their out of state license plates.
The beach is what most people think of when they think of The Dunes, and it sees the most visitors by far, with Porter Beach being its best known. The beach and Lake Michigan’s size can easily give the illusion of being at the ocean, as the sand stretches into the horizon and the water disappears out of view. When facing the water, you can see the hazy mirage of skyscrapers rising out of the water to your left. There are several beaches in the area open to visitors. Beyond the beaches are the massive sand dunes, which offer a great vantage point above the beach and into Lake Michigan. The great thing about the beach is how much space there is; it should be easy to find room even on the busy days just by walking down it.
The Dunes and Beyond
The rest of the Park is made up of steep sand dunes, wetlands, and forests. Trees cover much of the Park. It plays host to a diverse range of plant life. There are also a variety of interconnected trails that wind through the sand dunes. There is a sizeable shaded campground on the other side of the Dunes from the beach, making it perfect for RVers. The great thing about the trails is how accessible they are to both the beach and the campground. Much of the trails are sandy hills, giving a great workout, although there are easy-going ones as well. The great thing about how the trails are organized is that you can make a path shorter or longer, depending on which ones you follow. The trails range from just under a mile to over five miles, with varying levels of difficulty. The way the trails loop makes it possible to make your own trail. There are several “mountains” in the area, which are hills over 120 feet tall, including the famous Mount Baldy, known for moving slightly every year.
Another great spot to see wildlife, or just have a great view is the Dunes Birding Platform. It can be reached by following the roundabout near the Park entrance to the West Parking Lot. Depending on the season, many different species of birds can be seen; however, that is just one benefit of the Platform. It offers a great view of the beach and lake, and on the other side of the Platform has an excellent view of the rolling, grassy hills that dominate that area. There is also the Indiana Dunes Nature Center, just down the road from the beach, and still within the Park.
With so much to do, the Indiana Dunes does not have to be a strictly summer trip. Of course, the beach is fun, and the lake offers plenty of boating opportunities, but If you don’t mind the cold, there is stuff to do year-round. When I went, it was too cold to swim, but plenty of people had come to walk the beach, hike the trails, and bring their RVs to camp. If you have your own skis, there are cross-country skiing trails when the snow hits. It is fun to explore around the Park and see what is beyond that hill or down that trail; chances are there will be something for you. For the latest updates about openings, closings, and hours, please visit the official website here before you go: https://www.nps.gov/indu/index.htm.
When Ford unveiled the new Bronco, years after its original discontinuation, the social media response was immense. Its angular, aggressive styling stood out among the sea of practical SUVs that had long abandoned off-road performance. Indeed, the Bronco seemed to be gunning for the off-road king itself, the Jeep. The classic Bronco was a predecessor to the modern SUV, with a truck frame, high ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and a removable hardtop roof section that included both the rear window and the side windows behind the driver door. It also was a competitor to the Jeep. What many people do not realize is just how extensive a history that Bronco has. It is a history that Ford drew heavily upon for the creation of the new Bronco. After being out of production for years, in July 2020, the new 2021 Ford Bronco was revealed to the public in three different versions, the more traditional two and four-door versions based heavily on the original, with flared fenders, removable doors, and roof and the more modern-SUV Sport model. With those, the Bronco manages to cover multiple market segments. Within those versions, there is plenty of variety as well.
The Original Broncos.
Many people might not realize that the Bronco is almost as old as the Ford Mustang, debuting just two years later, in 1966, and having an uninterrupted production run until 1996. It also pre-dated the 4×4 craze of the 1970s by several years and the SUV craze by several decades. It also comes with a strong off-road racing heritage; there was even a famous race-track version, in legendary race car driver Parnelli Jones’ Big Oly Bronco, with its distinctive sprint car style wing on the roof. It even had a movie cameo, appearing as one of the cars stolen in the original 1974 version of Gone in 60 Seconds. As a testament to the Broncos performance heritage, it even won the Baja 1000 in 1969. When the SUV came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bronco saw increased competition, many of which were more refined and offered more everyday practicality, some of which had four doors. The SUV saw its main role go from off-road performance to comfortable family-hauler. The Bronco got in on the act, with an optional Eddie Bauer package, providing pinstripes and a custom interior. By the mid-90s the SUV had been standardized with four doors, and plenty of competitors had joined the market, cars like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer, which were far more practical for a family. When the last Bronco rolled off the line in 1996, the market had changed drastically.
The 2021 Bronco
The base model two-door Bronco starts at just under $30,000 and goes up from there. There are several different trim levels, offering things like luxury and performance. In this day and age of standardized cars with ever-increasing luxury, Ford has dared to make an enthusiast SUV, one that targets the hardcore off-roading crowd, complete with a rugged body-on-frame design. A body-on-frame is a bit of a standout nowadays when so many SUVs have abandoned their pickup truck origins and have gone with unibody construction. The 2021 Bronco merges traditional features like an optional manual transmission and a solid rear axle with cutting-edge features like driving modes for specific off-road conditions and exclusive low-speed cruise control for trails. There is even an option that provides marine-quality seats and drain plugs to help make the interior water-resistant. While many Broncos will undoubtedly become modified not long after they are bought, options like 35-inch tires make that less necessary. Like the classic Bronco, there is a removable hardtop and doors, and for a modern twist, there is a digital infotainment center in the center console and a digital screen at the center of the gauge cluster. Power is provided by either an EcoBoost four-cylinder or EcoBoost V6 motor. The V6 is expected to have 310 horsepower and an impressive 400 pounds of torque. There is an optional mode for fans of rock crawling where a single pedal controls gas and braking.
The 2021 Bronco Sport
Providing a more contemporary SUV experience is the Bronco Sport, with its fixed top, seating for five, and more reserved styling. It has a lower price too, starting at just over $25,000. Keeping with its more contemporary design, it has lower ground clearance than the Bronco models, although it still features many off-road based features, such as standard 4×4 and optional tow-hooks. It has some impressive stats as well, with 23.6 inches of water fording ability despite a lower ride than the Bronco. It is powered by either a 1.5 or 2.0 liter four-cylinder EcoBoost.
Being out of production for years means that the Bronco lags behind the Jeep in aftermarket support. However, at launch, the Bronco has hundreds of factory-approved aftermarket parts. Something vital to the off-road crowd who is always demanding that extra edge on the trail. It will not be hard to get a Bronco just the way you want it, given the many versions available. It will be interesting to see if consumers, especially off-road enthusiasts, chose the (somewhat) newcomer Bronco when it debuts in 2021, over the tried and true Jeep and the reinvented Land Rover Defender. The Bronco Sport is launching late in 2020. The Bronco manages to be a fresh face with new ideas and a tried and true nameplate familiar to automotive enthusiasts for decades. What do you think of the new Broncos? Let me know in the comments!
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 […]
One of Auburn, Indiana’s great car museums is the Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum. This museum was my third and final car museum stop of the day, having already been to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and the National Automotive and Truck Museum back in town. It is dedicated to Ford Flathead V-8s and the vehicles that were powered by them. It is incredibly well set up; its displays are far beyond what is often seen at a typical car museum. Being a car museum in Auburn, Indiana means there is stiff competition, however, The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum holds its own. Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum is located just outside of Auburn, on the other side of the expressway that hosts the Auburn Fall Classic Collector Car Auction. Part of the building itself is made to look like a set of gears and is a replica of the “Ford Rotunda” used at the 1933 Worlds’ Fair. The Ford Rotunda was a gear-shaped building that held the Ford exhibit at the World’s Fair. On the inside of it, there stood a giant globe showcasing Ford factories and resources around the world. It is not far from RM Auctions, which hosts the famous collector car auction in Auburn.
The beginning of the Museum features some of the many cars powered by the flathead V-8 through the years. They even have a cutaway engine on display. Although it is a slight deviation from the V-8, there is also an impressive Lincoln V-12 on display. What surprised me about the Flathead Ford V-8s was just how long they were made. I had always associated them with the 1930s, but they were used in Fords in the U.S. from 1932 until 1953. For perspective, that is the year the Chevy Corvette debuted, and just two years out from the Ford Thunderbird. Although well before the Flathead V-8, there is even a 1904 Ford Model B there. One of the most elegant cars on display is undoubtedly the burgundy V-12-powered 1937 Lincoln Zephyr coupe.
The 1936 Ford Dealership.
A large section of the Museum is dedicated to a replica of a 1936 Ford dealership, complete with every model of car (and pickup) that Ford offered in 1936. A fact that shocked me was that in 1936 the only engine available in Fords was the Flathead V-8. It speaks to how well it was designed, providing both performance and economy, with fuel economy being critical to potential buyers as the depression dragged on. There is even a stainless steel 1936 Ford there. It was the result of a collaboration between Ford and Allegheny Steel. The car was one of several stainless steel concept Fords made over the years. There is a striking contrast between the classic 30s body style and the shine of stainless steel. Unlike the famous stainless steel sports car the DeLorean, the body of the Ford has a chrome-like shine to it. For one year of cars there is a lot of variety, such as the woodie station wagon and the delivery van. To top it all off, there is a period-correct cash register.
The Speed Shop
On the other side of the building is The Speed Shop. It includes a replica of a vintage Indy Car complete with a seat for a riding mechanic (once required for the Indianapolis 500), a hot rod, an early stock car, and some other unique vehicles. There is even a Turbine-powered Ford tractor. There is a large selection of period-correct aftermarket parts for Flatheads and high-performance Flatheads on display. Since so many Flathead V-8s were made, it naturally found its way into hot rods and race cars, which meant there was a strong demand for performance parts.
Although The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum is one of several car museums in Auburn, Indiana. It takes its narrow focus and does it incredibly well, from showroom stock on one end to heavy-specialized race cars on the other end. It does not take long to get through, but it is easy to be drawn in, especially at The Speed Shop. It leaves you with an appreciation for the longevity of and how widespread the Flathead V-8 was, from passenger cars to race cars. It is a name synonymous with V-8s, well before the 426 Hemi or the 350 Chevy Small-block. The Flathead V-8 no doubt influenced engines and helped shape the American car culture for years to come. You can check out their website at fordv8foundation.org. You can check out my blogs about two other great car museums here: Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and the National Automotive and Truck Museum. Have you been to the Museum, or know a car museum or event I should go to next? Let me know in the comments!
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, although you can get a Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum/National Automotive and Truck Museum combo ticket if you want. It also includes one of the most valuable American vehicles ever made, but more on that later.
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 for years and only dug up in the 1980s. Despite the effects of about 50 years, pressure, dirt, and water, the body is surprisingly intact, given the circumstances.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.