Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 2

Still in the Heritage Center building at the Gilmore, we next came to a remarkable display of five Auburn cars, all in matching colour as a dealership (a very high-end dealership) might have had them on display to show off the different body styles.  These cars were in the expensive "Salon" level, featuring chrome trim on the fenders and hood louvers, and special bumpers.

1934 Auburn V-12 Salon Brougham

1934 Auburn V-12 Salon Sedan (foreground), 1934 Auburn V-12 Salon Phaeton (behind)

1934 Auburn  V-12 Salon Speedster, one of nine produced in 1933/34 to a design by Al Leamy

1934 Auburn V-12 Salon Phaeton

1934 Auburn Rumble Seat Cabriolet

The Auburn Salon cars were on special display and were not part of the Gilmore Museum's own collection.  That was not the case for the next car, which became part of Mr. Gilmore's original collection in 1966.  It has to be one of my favourite examples of the Duesenberg marque.

1929 Duesenberg J Dual Cowl Phaeton with bodywork by LeBaron
This car, J-111, was the 10th Duesenberg Model J to be built and served as a display car at the 1929 New York and Los Angeles Auto Shows before being used as a demonstrator for the elite of Hollywood.  It was eventually acquired in 1939 by avid Duesenberg enthusiast James Talmadge, who apparently would have been only 17 at the time!  The car underwent restoration and Talmadge eventually traded it for a Model J Convertible Roadster.  After coming home from World War II, Talmadge discovered the car abandoned at a service station and bought it back for $110.  It eventually came east and was restored again.  Talmadge, whose birth name was actually Joseph Talmadge Keaton, was a noted Duesenberg owner, with eight of the storied cars passing through his ownership, and was one of two sons of silent screen comedy legend Buster Keaton.

LeBaron Inc. was founded by Raymond Dietrich and Walter Hibbard in 1920 as a freelance consultancy while both designers worked for Brewster & Co., which fired them on learning of their project.  LeBaron went on to design and build custom bodies for many great cars in the 1920s and 1930s, although both founders had left for other ventures by 1925.  The company was bought by a mass-market firm, the Briggs Manufacturing Company, which made bodies for Ford, Overland, Hudson, Essex, and Chrysler, and kept LeBaron for special custom work.  LeBaron influence was felt in the Ford Model A.  As carmakers developed their own in-house design capabilities, the need for LeBaron declined and all of Briggs' US operations were purchased by Chrysler in 1953.  The LeBaron named was used on some Chrysler models into the 1980s.

1934 Ford Model 40 Station Wagon
Although inferior to steel in terms of strength and durability, wood was a traditional coachbuilding material that saw one of its nicest application in the much-loved "Woodie" wagons.  Unlike its descendants in the 1960s that used plastic faux-wood siding, this Ford features finely worked birds eye maple.  Ford was a vertically integrated company and the wood was sourced from Ford's own forests in Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Apparently Henry Ford was very choosy about the wood used in his vehicles and no flaws were permitted.  This wagon, with what was essentially a custom body, sold for $660 when new, and 2.905 were built.  It is powered by a V8 engine of 65 hp.

1932 Chevrolet Deluxe Sport Roadster, with rumble seat
In 1932, Chevrolet introduced a completely restyled line of cars, influenced heavily by Cadillac design.  The Deluxe Sport Roadster is considered one of the most attractive cars of the era but while Chevrolet sold 8,552 roadsters that year, few were this model.  It is powered by an inline six cylinder engine of 60 hp and originally cost $500.

1934 DeSoto Airflow Four Door Sedan
The Chrysler Airflow, along with its DeSoto-branded stablemate, was introduced in 1934 as the world's first mass produced car to be designed with a focus on aerodynamics.  Revolutionary in many ways, it offered excellent passenger comfort, a superior power-to-weight ratio and unibody construction in addition to its streamlined appearance.  However, manufacturing challenges for this completely new car led to quality problems and coupled with the public's lack of acceptance of its radical appearance, the Airflows were off the market by 1937.  While Chrysler had continued to offer some follow-on 1933 cars in addition to the Airflow, all DeSotos that year were only Airflow models.

1930 Packard Custom Eight 740 Phaeton
This Packard Custom Eight features the Packard straight eight cylinder engine first introduced in 1924 and that successfully carried the company through some of the worst Depression years.  The Custom Eight came in eleven different body styles and the company offered fifteen individual custom designs.  The Packard catalogue featured designs from leading coachbuilders including Rollston, LeBaron, Fleetwood, Murphy, Dietrich and others.  The 1930 Custom Eight introduced a four-speed transmission and shatterproof glass to the line, and 6,200 were built.  The 740 Phaeton on display would have been a very expensive $3,190 in 1930.

1932 Hupmobile Series B-216 Roadster
Another of Detroit's near-forgotten automakers was Hupmobile, which produced some 500,000 vehicles between 1909 and 1940.  It was considered a strong competitor of Ford and Chevrolet and made exclusively four cylinder cars between 1909 and 1924 but moving into eight cylinder cars in 1925 was the start of the end of the a company that had done well in the mid-priced market.  Although the firm had its best year in 1928 with over 65,000 cars sold, the following year saw sales collapse by 25%.  The advent of the Great Depression magnified Hupmobile's problems and a last-ditch effort to build a car using old Cord 812 body dies as the Hupmobile Skylark in a joint venture with Graham-Paige (who would sell the car as the Hollywood) did not stave off the inevitable end and Hupmobile ceased operations in 1940.  The company had produced some innovative and attractive cars; this charming roadster was listed new at $1,075 and featured a 75 hp straight six engine.

1939 Packard V12 Rumble Seat Coupe, towing a 1936 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer
Determined to find a better way to go camping, Mr. Arthur Sherman of Detroit introduced the Covered Wagon "Conestoga" travel trailer at the Detroit Auto Show in 1930 and sold 117 units that year as the Covered Wagon Company became a successful business.  It was a pioneer in introducing affordable camping trailers to the masses and at one point was building 1,000 trailers each month, a remarkable feat during the Great Depression.  Camping trailers developed by Sherman and his company included many industry firsts, like electric brakes, a patented waterproof exterior called Shermanite (galvanized steel stamped to plywood), sinks with running water (thanks to a hand-pump tap), a Readykook cast iron camp stove, a lead-lined icebox, full cabinetry, and a sofa that folds into a bed.  The 1936 model owned by the Gilmore Museum was the first to offer electric brakes.  The trailer retailed for $395.  The Covered Wagon Company switched to the manufacture of truck bodies of the US Army during World War II and ended all production in 1945, although some consideration had been given to resuming trailer manufacture. 

1936 Packard Dietrich Convertible Victoria
This massive Packard V12 convertible (weighing in at 5,580 lbs) was ordered new by a member of Franklin Roosevelt's cabinet.  It has a custom body by Dietrich and was one of 27 built.  Altogether some 682 Convertible Victorias were constructed by Packard.

1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I 40/65 Tourer
Purchased in 1963 by Donald Gilmore, this Rolls-Royce Phantom was produced at the American Rolls-Royce plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, with the fine tourer body by Rolls-Royce's Brewster & Co. subsidiary in New York.  One of 33 made, this Phantom I sold for a staggering $13,325 as the Jazz Age was about to end.  Rolls-Royce's US factory did not survive the Great Depression, going bankrupt in 1934.

Continue to Part 3 of the Gilmore Car Museum visit here.

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