Michigan International Auto Show
February 1-4, 2018
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Gilmore Car Museum Vehicles

PLEASE NOTE: The following information is from the 2017 Auto Show. The 2018 Gilmore Car Museum information will be posted soon.

 

 

What started in 1963 as a hobby for Donald S. Gilmore, a retired executive of pharmaceutical giant The Upjohn Company, soon grew to over 45 cars. At the urging of his wife Genevieve, the not-for-profit Gilmore Car Museum opened its doors to the public in 1966 with Otto Kneble of Star City, IN becoming its first paying customer. Who could have envisioned just over fifty-years ago that The Gilmore would become one of the largest and most respected auto museums in the nation?

Today, more than 500 amazing automobiles ranging from horseless carriages to classic Duesenbergs, the elusive Tucker to Model T, and even Muscle Cars are showcased in the museum just an hour south of Grand Rapids.

Over 100,000 visitors are drawn there annually – not just for the cars, but for the park-like campus that includes several historic buildings, a 1940s diner, a recreated 1930s gas station, and a recreated vintage auto dealership now.

Barry McGuire, host of the Car Crazy TV series recently described the museum like this: “There is no place on earth like the Gilmore – its 90-acres of car guy Heaven!”

The Gilmore Car Museum agrees and has presented a stunning array of automobiles during the Michigan International Auto Show since 2004. This year the Museum presents “The Next Great Idea” to showcase several cars and automotive innovations as they’ve appeared throughout past decades, and may well have been a highlight of similar annual venues.

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Gilmore Car Museum vehicles expected to be on display at the Auto Show include:

 

1908 Stanley Steam

Steam-powered and capable of 127 mph!

With steam cars being the number one seller in those pioneering days of the “horseless carriage” and being that a Stanley had just made a speed record of over 127 mph, many assumed steam-powered vehicles were certain to out-sell electric and gas-powered cars for good.

However, the Model T Ford was also introduced in 1908 and the gas-powered Ford, affectionately known as the “Tin Lizzy” chugged along in history.


 

1911 Pierce Arrow

Top of the line options including automated turn-by-turn directions (the GPS of 1911!)

The utmost in automotive luxury and style and the most up-to-date hand-crank starter and match-lit headlights. Of course a respectable automobilist would never venture far without the most advanced device to provide the accurate automated turn-by-turn directions of a Rhodes Pathfinder (what we would consider the “GPS of 1911”).

…However, Cadillac introduced the electric starter and utilized electric headlights the following year, thus making the cars of 1911 obsolete! Meanwhile, we waited for about another 90 years for GPS, Google and Map Quest to provide automated turn-by-turn directions.


 

1915 Woods Mobelitte

First “smart” car at 40 mpg, 1/6 of the average car cost.

“Smart Cars” – those super small, inexpensive automobiles with great gas mileage – became the craze…about a hundred years ago! At $304.00 this example was about 1/6th the cost of an average car and offered several options under $10.00: speedometer, headlight and BRAKES!

…With gas at about 25 cents per gallon and the price of a Ford Model T runabout dropping to only about $440.00, the fad for these little cars soon passed.


 

1917 Locomobile

Advanced luxury with side curtains for all-weather protection.

Known for advanced luxury these elegant autos, one of the most expensive manufactured in the United States, offered options such as snap-on side curtains for all-weather protection. Advertised as the “Exclusive Car for Exclusive People,” they became popular with names like Vanderbilt, Wanamaker, Melon, Gould and the Hollywood elite such as Tom Mix, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille.

…The car’s design remained little changed through 1925 and the firm failed to keep up with automobiles advances offered on far less expensive autos. The Locomobile Company was defunct by 1929. 


 

1934 DeSoto Airflow

Very first in streamlining aerodynamic design.

The Chrysler and DeSoto Airflow models were the very first automobiles designed using wind tunnel technology. It was then that engineers discovered typical cars of the day – designed like two boxes – pushed far less air and were more efficient when driven backwards!

…The aerodynamic ushered in “streamlining” on everything from trains to toasters and is a foundation of automotive design today. It is also responsible for the technology of “wind drag” and “bump drafting” utilized in NASCAR.


 

1954 Kaiser Darrin

Fiberglass sports car with sliding doors.

Introduced in 1953, the same year as the Corvette and also made with fiberglass body, this car offered unique doors that slid into the fenders.

…While manufactured by Henry Kaiser, the industrial hero who was able to mass-produce the now iconic WWII Liberty Ships on an unprecedented scale, only about 440 of these cars ever made it to market.


 

1958 Edsel Pacer

Featuring push-button transmission and several other innovations, the Edsel became a brand new division of Ford Motor Company. It was promoted as the “market-researched perfect car for the American consumer.”

…However, American buyers weren’t sold on it and many found the car “unattractive, overpriced, and overhyped.” Just the name “Edsel” has become a popular synonym for a commercial failure.


 

1957 Chrysler New Yorker

Brought entertainment to passengers with an under-the-dash record player.

Chrysler Corporation became the first automaker to offer something beyond just listening to an AM radio while on the road: the “Highway Hi Fi” under-dash record player. Rather than playing the vinyl records you had at home – standard 78, 45 or 33 1/3 RPM speeds – these required special 7″, 16 2/3 RPM discs available exclusively from Columbia Records.

…Chrysler offered the option only in 1956, 1957, and a revised model in 1960. Within a few years, however, the all-new static free FM Radio was “the next big thing” in automotive innovations and made the under-dash record player defunct.


 

1975 Bricklin SV-1

Was touted as a fiberglass / acrylic “safety” sports car with gullwing doors.

This gull-winged “safety” sports car built in Canada far exceeded safety requirements of the day and included a built-in roll cage, side guardrails and shock absorbing bumpers. Offered in 5 body colors, the cars were not painted but had color-infused Acrylic vacuum wrapped around the fiberglass body.

…Perhaps it was the futuristic styling, innovated body or a sticker price about 1/3rd more than a Corvette that sealed its doom after 3 years of production.


 

 

1935 Packard  |  2017 GREAT RACE  |  High School Entry Car

Visitors to the Michigan International Auto Show will see the Gilmore Car Museum’s first-ever entry for the world-renowned 2,400 mile “Great Race” running this June. The 1935 Packard 2-door (its restoration still a work in progress) will head out from Jacksonville, FL with a team of select teenage navigators and adult mentors/drivers, all from the Museum’s Garage Works high school program. Student navigators will be equipped with only a stopwatch, notepaper and pencils – maps, GPS and cell phones are NOT ALLOWED as part of the race. About 120 teams must precisely follow written instructions right down to the number of seconds spent waiting at stop signs or traveling at a particular speed in order to reach the finish line in their pre-1972 auto nine days later during Traverse City’s Cherry Festival.

Most competitors will be vying for $250,000 in total winnings. The high school and college teams however, compete for scholarship funds and, much like its 1908 namesake, simple bragging rights that they made it through the race.

In 1908, the original “Great Race” was an unimaginable endurance race from New York to Paris by automobile. The proposed route would take the drivers through the wilderness of the United States, into Canada, across the frozen Bering Strait and onto the frozen tundra of Siberia with a finish line – 24,000 miles later – in Paris, France. This was a time when the automobile was in its infancy, and paved roads and accurate maps were nearly non-existent. The winner of the bragging rights was the only American-made entry: a Thomas Flyer completing the race first in a mere 169 days!