Michigan International Auto Show
January 31 - February 3, 2019
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Gilmore Car Museum Vehicles

PLEASE NOTE: The following information is from the 2018 Auto Show. The 2019 show details will be posted soon.



It’s 2018, and things have certainly changed in the American Auto Industry that is now more than 120 years old. In fact, the nation’s very first auto show took place in Detroit in 1899 and the Michigan International Auto Show held in Grand Rapids began exactly 100 years later in 1999.

This year, the Gilmore Car Museum showcases many of the changes that have taken place in those 120 years with their display Automotive Innovations “On the Eights.”


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



1898 – Arrived in Shipping Crates

In 1898 the “new-fangled” automobile was seen in the United States as only a passing fad of the wealthy, while a growing automotive industry had been well underway for a full decade in Germany and France. Only around 25 American manufacturers were producing these “horseless carriages” and less than 1,000 cars had sold nationwide. The country’s very first printed car ad also first appeared and encouraged readers to “Dispense with a Horse!”

The Locomobile Steam Carriage was ordered directly from such a magazine ad – there was not such thing as a “car dealer” at that time – and was delivered to the owner via their local train station in a wooden crate. Not everyone was fond of these “magical toys” and many feared what the world was coming to when they first saw one. A nearby sheriff even threatened the out-of-town owner, “you’ll be thrown in jail if you ever drive that contraption again!”



1908 – A Car for the Masses

Like most new-technologies (i.e. computers and cell phones) advancements happened rapidly and within just ten years the number of U.S. auto manufacturers had jumped from 25 to 170. In 1908, General Motors was created and competitor Henry Ford introduced the Model T – an affordable car for the masses.

More than 15 million of these sturdy, low-priced Model T Fords (like the example shown) were produced with very few changes until 1927, making it the best-selling single model American car in history.



1918 – Forgotten Brands

Since 1898, more than 545 American auto manufacturers had begun but by 1918 only slightly more than 100 were still in business. Some of those surviving would make their mark on automotive history in 1918: General Motors added Chevrolet to its stable of companies and half of all the automobiles in the world were Henry Ford’s Model T.

The 1918 Mercer Runabout displayed at the Show represents just one of the many forgotten start-up automotive firms that didn’t last. Washington A. Roebling, II – whose family built the Brooklyn Bridge – founded the Mercer Automobile Co. in 1910. His family struggled until 1926 to keep the company afloat after he died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.



1928 – Bought Sight Unseen!

Considering that only about 1,000 American automobiles were produced in 1898, it’s remarkable that within only three decades the number of U.S. built cars on the road reached a staggering 21 million by 1928.

1928 also marked the first year of Henry Ford’s next huge success after he announced that a new Ford car would replace the Model T. More than 400,000 buyers purchased the all-new Model A Ford sight unseen!

Ford Motor Company went on to sell 5 million Model A Fords in just four years.



1938 – The Peoples’ Car

While not an American-built car, the Volkswagen Beetle was introduced in Germany as “The Peoples’ Car” in 1938. This icon would eventually surpass the Model T Ford to become the best-selling single-model automobile in world history. It would take the Beetle 37 years of sales to exceed the standing record of 15 million cars sold, as opposed to what Ford achieved in just 19 years.



1948 – Futuristic Dreams

The 1948 Tucker Sedan was like no other auto previously produced. It featured many safety innovations including the first pop-out windshield, padded dash, passenger crash chamber, and a center headlight which turned with the steering wheel to light the way around corners.

Powered by a helicopter engine mounted in the rear and capable of sustained speeds of 120 mph, the Tucker ’48 was introduced to great fanfare and public interest.

Due to financial problems and a Grand Jury indictment, only one prototype and 50 cars were produced before the venture collapsed. All defendants in the case were found not guilty, but their acquittal came too late to save the company. This example shown is the 47th of 50 cars produced, and is the lowest mileage original Tucker in existence with less than 65 original miles!



1958 – Strong and Steady

While Ford and Chevrolet have traded being first in U.S. sales on and off since 1927, Chevrolet began a remarkable streak of claiming that top honor beginning in 1936 and holding it for two decades. Ford recaptured the sales lead in 1957, but then a recession hit the U.S., naturally impacting consumers.

Chevrolet easily regained the industry sales lead in 1958, in part due to the introduction of the all-new Impala model, which is still produced today.




1968 – Automotive Safety

In 1968, seat belts, padded dashboards, safety glass, and other automotive safety features – many appearing 20 years earlier on the 1948 Tucker Sedan – became mandatory equipment. Congress enacted Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards partially in response to Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which vilified Chevrolet’s rear-engine Corvair by calling it “a one car accident.”

The Corvair Rampside Pickup displayed, with its rear-mounted, air-cooled engine and side loading ramps, was still one of the most innovative vehicles in GM history.




1978 – Smaller, More Reliable and Fuel Efficient

Following more than a decade of producing gas-guzzling high-performance muscle cars the American auto industry was forced to adapt to the reality of the early 70s oil crisis, enactment of Federal Clean Air Act, and the 1978 CAFE Fuel Economy Standards.

The American buyer had shifted their attention to smaller, cleaner to operate, higher-mileage cars. Subcompact cars such as the Chevrolet Vega and Chevette, Ford Pinto, and AMC Gremlin and Pacer have become symbolic of the era.




1964 Checker Taxi Cab

This Checker New York City Taxi Cab is a survivor of Hurricane Harvey – August 2017 from Kingwood, Texas, and will be on display at the Auto Show.