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cars museum travel

The Early Ford V-8 Foundation Museum

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 Cars

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.

The Experience

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!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Museum

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 […]

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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, 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.

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 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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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My Trip to the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum.

              Elkhart, Indiana, located just west of the Indiana/Ohio border, has quite a few museums in it. One is the RV Hall of Fame, the other Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum. The RV Hall of Fame makes sense, Indiana has a strong connection to the automotive industry, and Elkhart is the RV Capital of the World (there was even a motorcycle made there, called the “Elk.”) The comic book industry did not have that connection to Elkhart. Elkhart is like many other Midwestern towns, quietly nestled off of a major expressway that weaves through the heartland, but with a little more industry. So why here?
The Sheild used by Captain America, in the film Captian America: The First Avenger.
Captain America’s shield, from Captain America: The First Avenger.

              The connection is a lifelong comic book fan, Allen Stewart. A real estate agent by trade, his collection spans over 70 years and features everything from rare issue #1 comics to the Shelby Cobra Ironman landed on in the first Ironman movie, and the motorcycle from the first Ghost Rider movie. There is even an annual comic book convention there. One of the things that make this collection so impressive is that up until a few months ago, it was literally located in his backyard.

The Author with Adam West’s Personal Batman costume.

              I got the chance to visit The Hall of Heroes last year when it was still behind Mr. Stewart’s house. After a quick call to confirm its location (it was in a small row of homes that could almost be considered countryside.) I pulled into his driveway. Less then a minute later, I was greeted by him as he left his house. Once inside, I was greeted by comic books for sale, both new and old, and Captain America’s shield from the movie Captain America: The First Avenger. The first room was organized into the Silver and Golden Age of comics. It was hard to imagine how much more could be put on the shelves, as the walls were filled with countless items on display. There was even a small “Batcave” that housed, among other things Adam West’s personal Batman suit he used for appearances in the 70s and 80s, and the actual boots used in the classic 1960’s tv show. The second floor was stacked full of things, as well. On one of the shelves was a 1930’s wooden Superman action figure. Near that is the impressive, life-size Iron Man armor. There is even an old X-Men arcade game.
The Author with a lifesize replica of Iron Man’s armor.

              After going back downstairs, I headed to the only part of the building that wasn’t packed with rare comics and collectibles. In there is the Shelby Cobra from Iron Man and the Hell Cycle from the movie Ghost Rider. The Shelby Cobra actually came from Gas Monkey Garage, the famous custom car shop that is the focus of the reality tv show “Fast & Loud”, along with its owner Richard Rawlings. For a small donation, I was able to sit on both of them. In the case of the Shelby Cobra, I got to do several poses, including the iconic crash-landing pose. For my picture on the Hell Cycle, Mr. Stewart even plugged it in, causing the engine to glow; this was used to generate the effect in the movie. I bought a comic book describing the journey of the museum and got it autographed by Mr. Stewart. There are always new things being added to the Museum. Now that he is at a new location, there is much more space for everything. You can check out the website at https://hallofheroesmuseum.com/ or experience it in person at its new site: 1915 Cassopolis Street, Elkhart, IN 46514.I’m looking forward to seeing how much it has grown.

The Author with the Shelby Cobra used in the first Iron Man film.

The Author on the Hell Cycle from the movie Ghost Rider.

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The Pontiac-Oakland Museum


The Pontiac-Oakland Museum
             A museum that is well worth the time if you are into cars is the Pontiac-Oakland Museum in Pontiac, Illinois. It’s been at this location since 2011. I’ve been to the museum several times now and every trip back there is something new. Pontiac, Illinois is not unlike many other small cities in the Midwest. Its downtown is a square built around a courthouse. Pontiac, Illinois the sort of city that could easily be mistaken for a town. It’s about 3 hours from Chicago, out in the country surrounded on all sides by fields. The museum is located on the square, and frequently plays host to car shows representing all kinds of different makes and models.
             The museum is owned and ran by the husband and wife team of Tim and Penny Dye. It is truly a labor of love. The amount of work that goes into the museum by them and the volunteers is immediately evident as you walk in. The museum plays host to an ever-changing line up of cars that span a century of automotive history. There’s usually even a race car or two. It even goes beyond cars, there is a section dedicated to Chief Pontiac, the Ottawa chief that the brand is named for and a recreation of a 1960s (soon to be 1970s) campsite. The museum also has its own library. A room stocked with a wide range of books and magazines. Want to find a period road test of your classic Pontiac? There is a good chance it’s in there.
             There’s a gift shop with all kinds of cool Pontiac related items, including a few classic things. I picked up a dealer exclusive model of a 1979 Trans Am there. It’s well worth the trip for Pontiac fans as well as car fans in general. You can check out their Facebook page here and visit their website at http://www.pontiacoaklandmuseum.org/.