Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 10: CCCA Museum

The Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) was founded in 1952 and is dedicated to the collection, preservation and enjoyment of fine automobiles.  It is focused on high-end vehicles built from 1915 to 1948.  On the club's website it states:
Usually the cars recognized as "CCCA Classics" were built in limited production numbers and were quite expensive when new. As a group, they represent the pinnacle of engineering, styling and design for their era.
The list of "CCCA Classics" includes all of the big names you would expect, such as Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg, Cord and so forth, along with specified models--all eight and 12 cylinder Auburns, or the 1929 Hudson Series L, for example--and then a great number of extremely rare and obscure marques: Biddle, Julian, Dorris, Templar, Wasp...

The idea of locating a CCCA Museum on the ground of the Gilmore began in 1984 and an historic two-story barn dating from the 1890s was found near Hickory Corners, disassembled, relocated to the grounds and rebuilt on the Gilmore site.  It was dedicated in June 1987.

The CCCA Museum houses an excellent selection of classic cars and mascots and walking into the entrance one sees them arrayed ahead in beautiful surroundings.  But the visitor is also struck by a drafting table and stool to the left.  It turns out that these are holy relics to classic car enthusiasts: they belonged to Ray Dietrich, the designer of many of the most beautiful cars to have been built in the Golden Age of Coachbuilding.

Raymond H. Dietrich (1894-1980) began his career at the age of 12 (!) as an apprentice engraver with the American Bank Note Company in Manhattan before moving on to a piano parts firm (as well as semi-pro baseball as a pitcher) until he joined Brewster & Company in 1913, his interest now turning to the automobile.  Trade school and completion of his apprenticeship followed, and he returned to Brewster after as stint at Chevrolet.  There he met Thomas Hibbard and the eventual result was the founding of LeBaron, Carrossiers, in 1920.  The company's focus was on design, with the actual coachwork building farmed out to specialists.  Dietrich was so highly regarded that Edsel Ford was anxious that he come to Detroit full time.  Leaving LeBaron, he established Dietrich, Inc., in 1925, backed by the Murray Body Corporation.  The company flourished until the Depression began and the designer left in 1930 to continue as a freelancer and consultant, doing work for Graham Paige, and Franklin before becoming head of design at Chrysler in 1931, staying there until 1938.  At that point he did work for Checker and then assisted in the design of the 1948 Tucker.  Dietrich continued to be active in coachwork design for limousines and show cars, ending his automotive work in 1960.  Following his death in 1980, his wife donated his collection of letters, drawings and drafting instruments to the CCCA Museum in 1995.

Ray Dietrich was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1974 "for his artistic ability and talents as a designer and creator, designing some of the great automobiles--Lincolns, Packards, Franklins, Pierce-Arrows and many other classics."

1938 Packard Victoria Convertible
Although Dietrich left Dietrich, Inc., in 1931, the Murray company continued to use his designs, with some updates, for years afterwards.  This 1938 Victoria Convertible was, at $6,000, the most expensive car available from Packard with an in-house body and bore a Dietrich label.  By 1939 the market for luxury cars had declined to the point where only Lincoln, Cadillac, and Packard remained.

1932 Pierce-Arrow Model 54 Club Sedan
The eight cylinder Series 54 was Pierce-Arrow's least expensive car, priced at $2,800, but while the model represented the majority of the company's sales that year (1,787 cars of 2,152 total--compared to over 10,000 in 1929), the company, then owned by Studebaker, was losing significant money.  In 1933 Studebaker was bankrupt and Pierce-Arrow was sold off to resume its life (albeit short) as an independent car manufacturer.

1928 Stutz Chantilly Sedan
This fine Stutz is equipped with a Weymann body, which used leather-like Zapron fabric stretched over a wooden frame.  The advantage of this construction, more common in Europe, was lightness and enhanced performance, elimination of squeaks and rattles, and its receptivity to more colourful paint colours.  Fewer than a dozen Weymann cars remain.  This particular Stutz was equipped with a rudimentary form of safety glass, with wire cast into the panes that would break into small pieces rather than large shards.  The new price of this Stutz was $4,120.  Stutz, another Depression victim, would only survive until 1934.

1937 Packard Twelve  1507 Coupe
Weighing in a 5,255 lbs, this magnificent V12 Packard was one of 1,300 produced.  Powered by a 175 hp engine and costing $3,420, it boasted independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes.  Packard was able to weather the Depression by relying on its "Junior" line of cars, of which some 118,000 were built in 1937, but the big V12 and eight cyclinder "Senior" cars gave the marque its luster.

1933 Stutz  DV-32 Monte Carlo 
The Stutz DV-32 was offered in factory and semi-custom bodies and the American Weymann Company's "Chateau Line" included the rakish Monte Carlo sports sedan, with its low roofline and integrated luggage compartment under a smoothly curving tail.  The Monte Carlo was available on the DV-32 chassis from 1931 until 1933 and soon after the body style was introduced in Weymann's Zapron synthetic leather there was another variant available in aluminum, as this is this example.  Only two 1933 Stutz DV-32s exist with the Monte Carlo body; it was the largest and most expensive Stutz available in the day, costing $6,595.

1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith Touring Limousine
The Wraith was introduced in 1938 as an all-new design but was produced for only two years before wartime requirements ended its production after 491 were built, making it one of the rarest Rolls-Royce models.  It was sold as a bare chassis for $5,000. This example is fitted with a custom body by James Young Ltd. of Derby, England and is powered with a six cylinder engine of 115 hp.

1931 Cadillac 370A Convertible Coupe
Cadillac introduced its V12 engine in October 1930, just nine months after the V16, and the car rode on a 140 inch wheelbase shared with the V8 models.  It featured hydraulic shock absorbers, synchromesh transmission, and vacuum-assisted brakes and all engine wiring and plumbing was hidden from view.  The body was by the Fleetwood Metal Body Company, which was part of the Fisher Body Division of General Motors, and which relocated from Pennsylvania to Detroit in 1931.  In 1931 a V12 Cadillac roadster paced the Indianapolis 500.

1933 Lincoln Model KB Phaeton
To compete with the multicylinder rivals at Cadillac, Packard and Marmon, Lincoln introduced its own V12 in 1932.  It is no surprise considering its $4,300 list price that only six of these beautiful Lincoln KB Phaetons were built during those Depression years.  The following year Lincoln brought in a less complex engine with better performance and continued to offer V12 cars (albeit in the smaller Continentals) until 1948, the last American car maker to do so.

1929 Lincoln Model L Four Door Limousine
The sign accompanying this car is so interesting I reproduce it in full:  "This 1929 Lincoln 4-Door Limousine with coachwork by the Willoughby Body Company was ordered by a Mrs. Stien of Greenwich, CT. She refused delivery of the car because she did not like the restyled 1929 Lincoln fenders. At her request the car was returned to Willoughby and given 1928 fenders and radiator shell. She also had the side mount spare tire installed with wood cabinets behind the front seat rather than the typical jump seats. Another feature were early tinted windows and a rooftop luggage rack for use during long trips.  This Limousine is in original, unrestored condition."

1948 Jaguar Mark IV Drophead Coupe
SS Cars Limited was renamed Jaguar Cars Limited and post World War II production began, as was the case for many manufacturers, with warmed-over pre-war models as a stop gap until new cars could be designed and produced.  Offered as the  1.5-Liter, 2.5-Liter or 3.5-Liter, the cars were retroactively renamed "Mark IV" as they were followed by an all-new Mark V in late 1948. The all-steel bodies were offered in either sedan or convertible styles.  This car, with the luxurious interior that was to be a hallmark of Jaguar, was powered by the 3.5 liter engine and would have cost $2,400 when new.

1932 Buick Series 90 Four Door Club Sedan
It is not much remembered today as it becomes known as only the brand that Chinese sales are keeping alive but Buick was the original foundation of General Motors and had a reputation for high quality and advanced engineering.  A number of Buick models between 1930 and 1941 are classified by the CCCA as Full Classics.  At $1,820, this Series 90 car was twice as expensive as the entry-level Series 50 Buicks.  1932 was the year that Buick offered "Wizard Control" synchromesh transmissions in its cars.  This Club Sedan, a new body style in 1932, was a top-of-the-line car weighing 4,620 lbs and powered by an inline OHV eight cylinder engine of  113 hp and with 250 lb-ft of torque @ 1400 rpm.  Wire wheels and dual sidemounts were standard on all Series 90 cars.

1930 Packard 734 Sport Speedster Sedan
One of the most desirable of all classic Packards, the Speedster series was introduced to meet competition from Cadillac's V16 cars.  The model used a highly modified Standard Eight chassis coupled with an also modified Deluxe Eight engine.  The cars were lower than regular Packards and bodies, which came in four styles, narrower.  A range of options were available and the Speedster had a unique dual updraft carburetor.  In its highest-performance configuration, the car, priced at $6,000, was capable of 100 mph.  For some reason, Packard did little to promote these cars and only 113 were built, with a mere 16 in the sedan version.

1939 Buick Century Series 60 Dual Cowl Phaeton
This extraordinary one-of-a-kind car was given a "Redfern Salon Tourer" body by a car dealership that also did custom bodywork in Kent, England.  Maltby's Motor Works Ltd. offered a range of bodies and not only did Buicks but a range of others, including Lagondas and Oldsmobiles, as well as commercial vehicles.  The car in the museum, which is left-hand drive, was shown at the New York Auto Show in 1939 and was sold to a Danish furniture manufacturer.  The outbreak of war prevented the car from being shipped to Europe and it was stored in a warehouse for the duration.  In 1960 the owner died and willed the car to his chauffeur, who took it to Denmark where, a decade later, it was acquired by a GM executive.  The car has fitted luggage for its oddly-shaped trunk, and an extensive tool kit.

Members of the British Royal Family liked 1930s Buicks and purchased a number of McLaughlin-Buicks from Canada and the Prince of Wales ordered a customized Series 90 Limousine in 1936.  Subsequent to his abdication as King of England, the car followed him in exile to France.

1936 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
The Roadmaster was introduced in 1936 as a sportier alternative (!) to the more formal Limited series of Buicks but above the mid-level Century models.  It came in either four door sedan or convertible phaeton versions and was an immediate success.  It is powered by a 320 cu. in. eight cylinder engine of 120 hp and was listed at $1,565.  1936 is seen by automotive historians as the year that Buick underwent a renaissance, with dramatic new styling and technical advances including independent front suspension and alloy pistons.  The big Roadmaster, weighing 4,228 lbs, was capable of 90 mph.

1930 Cadillac Series 353 Convertible Coupe
Although 1930 marked the introduction of Cadillac's V16 and V12 engines and the beginning of multicylinder competition among luxury carmakers, Cadillac was able to weather the Great Depression primarily thanks to its V8 models.  This Convertible Coupe, priced at $3,595, featured one of the seven body styles offered through the Fisher Custom Line, but another eleven styles were available as semi-customs through the Fleetwood division.

1947 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette Fastback
Known more commonly as a Cadillac Streamlined Fastback Coupe, this car was essentially a continuation of pre-World War II cars in terms of engineering and with only minor styling facelift efforts.  The demand for cars was so high that it would not be until 1948 that newer designs were needed in the marketplace.

1938 Buick Series 40 Special
This right-hand drive Buick was deliver to the Singer Sewing Machine Company in London and given a custom body by Lancefield Coachworks, a maker of bespoke bodies for expensive chassis from 1921 until 1948.  The car, with an all-aluminum body, can have its convertible top closed, open, or open only over the front seats.  The car has only 24,000 original miles on it.

1935 Cadillac Series 353 Rumble Seat Coupe
By 1935 rumble seats must have been something of an anachronism but Cadillac, anxious to get all the business it could in difficult economic times, offered no fewer than 240 combinations of series,  styles, engines, and coachbuilders in 1935 and while sales were half of what they had been pre-Depression, Cadillac remained the most successful luxury car brand.  This V8 Coupe had a factory price of $2,435.

1940 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible Coupe
1940 marked the introduction of Cadillac's sleek new Series 62 with a raked windshield.  The Convertible Coupe, priced at $1,795, was introduced mid-year.  All Series 62s featured sealed beam headlights and running boards and sidemount spares were still available as options.  The car had a 135 hp engine displacing 346 cu. in. and weighed 4.045 lbs.

1933 Cadillac 370C Town Car
The only known example of this Fleetwood-bodied Town Car known to exist today, this 370C features Cadillac's V12 engine of 112 hp and would have been identical to V8 models of the same year.  At 5,400 lbs and costing nearly $5,000, this car would have made a statement pulling up to the opera in 1933.

Hispano-Suiza Mascot
The museum has an amazing collection of motoring mascots, donated by one of its members.  From the CCCA Museum's website:
The Marvin Tamaroff Mascot Collection is a world-class collection including many rare, one-of-a-kind sculptured pieces. Believed to be the largest in the world, the collection of nearly 700 rare, exciting and original hood ornaments are displayed in the CCCA Museum for visitors to enjoy.In the early days, automobile manufacturers started adopting “mascots,” also known as hood ornaments, as artistic decorations for their radiator caps. Artists would create special designs and figures for that market, and their signatures or initials may be seen on many of these ornaments, usually on the back side of the mascot. Visitors frequently ask what make of car used these mascots. There is no simple answer, because most were purchased as special accessories from dealers or specialty shops and mounted onto whatever car the owner was driving. The Tamaroff Collection includes many factory-standard mascots such as the Rolls-Royce Flying Ladies, Mercedes-Benz three-pointed stars, Bentley flying letter B’s and Jaguars.
For the visitor's enjoyment, you can get a look at each one of the mascots without the reflection of the glass cases through an online viewer here.

Upper Floor of the CCCA Museum

1929 Lincoln Model L Sport Phaeton
Under Edsel Ford's direction, staid Lincoln had become one of the most stylish brands in America and this fine Sport Phaeton featured a custom body by Locke & Co. of New York.  It was used by the Detroit Police Commissioner; Lincoln Phaetons were assigned to each Detroit Police Precinct for the use of special squads and chief detectives in the Prohibition Era.  The fast Lincolns were liked by criminals as well as law enforcement.

1937 Cord  812 Supercharged Beverly Sedan
An iconic Gordon Buehrig design of the 1930s, the Cord 810/812 was available in four body styles.  Originally meant to be a "baby Duesenberg," the Cord was technically advanced and in the Beverly Sedan version quite luxurious.  This car came from the last year of production, with around 3,000 Cords having been built between 1935 and 1937, and with Duesenberg and Auburn already gone this was, fittingly, the final car from the E.L. Cord business empire.

1929 Cord L-29 Town Car

The 1929 Cord was America's first production front-wheel drive car, inspired by the Indy 500-winner Miller-powered racecar.  While perhaps overweight at 4,300 lbs and underpowered with only 125 hp, it was a strikingly good-looking car with a low hoodline.  5,000 were produced between 1929 and 1932 but only 43 had custom bodies.  This example features a body by Belgian coachbuilder D'Ieteran Freres, which produced around 6,000 bodies between 1897 and 1940, and still exists today as the Belgian importer of Volkswagen Group cars.  The body on this Cord was transferred from the owner's 1927 Minerva, a common practice in the coachbuilt era.

1926 Wills Sainte Claire Model T-6 Four Door Phaeton
Production of the Wills Sainte Claire began in 1921 following C. Harold Wills' rancorous departure from the Ford Motor Company in 1919 but collapsed in financial difficulty a year later.  It was revived by Wills in 1923 and manufacturing of this high quality but expensive car continued only until 1927.  This 1926 example features a phaeton body by the Gotfredson Body Company of Wayne, Michigan.  This was a company related to American Auto Trimming, which had flourished by producing Ford Model T bodies, and also had operations to make commercial vehicles in the US and Canada.  The Wills' 65 hp V8 engine was inspired by the World War I aero engines produced by Hispano-Suiza and featured a twin overhead camshaft and one-piece cylinder head and block.  It was expensive to build and apparently too complicated for most mechanics to service.

1931 Packard 833 Club Sedan
In 1931 Packard cars represented 50% of all luxury car sales worldwide.  Eleven different body styles were offered for the Model 833 in 1931, and the L-head straight eight engine was upgraded to 100 hp.  The five passenger Club Sedan shown would have cost $2,675.

Continue to Part 11 of the Gilmore Car Museum visit here.

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