Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 14: Odds and Ends and Hudsons

The Gilmore Car Museum offers so much to see!  After visiting so many of the associated car museums, we were headed toward the last one on our tour which was devoted to Hudsons.  However, on the walk over we stopped in another big barnlike structure which housed some very interesting cars.

1940 American Bantam Model 65 Standard Coupe
The American Bantam Car Company began in 1929 as the American Austin Car Company, building small cars based on the British Austin Seven chassis in a factory in Butler, Pennsylvania.  Although the cars were wonderfully styled, looking like cartoon versions of big American Art Deco car designs, and very economical, they simply did not sell during the Great Depression.  This Standard Coupe, powered by a four cylinder 22 hp engine, had a list price of $399.  Apparently Disney cartoonists liked the Bantam roadster so much that they used it as the basis for Donald Duck's 1934 Belchfire Runabout.

The American Austin Car Company went bankrupt in 1932 and was revived (twice) afterwards by an enthusiastic salesman named Roy Evans.  The company was relaunched in 1937 as the American Bantam Car Company and began production in 1938.  Only 7,000 vehicles were produced when production ended in 1940.  American Bantam went on to fame, albeit no fortune, with the development of the Bantam Reconnaissance Car, which was to become the Jeep.  It was not felt that Bantam had the capacity to build the vehicle and the U.S. Government awarded the contract to Willys and Ford.

1946 Stout Scarab 46 Experimental aka "Project Y"
William B. Stout was a noted engineer who came up with a number of advanced concepts in both the automotive and aeronautical fields.  His 2-AT "Air Pullman" all-metal monoplane of 1924 used some of the ideas of German aviation pioneer Hugo Junkers and was eventually developed into the famous Ford Trimotor airliner.  Stout started the Stout Motor Car Company in 1934 to build the Stout Scarab, an extraordinary car that used lightweight metal in its construction and an advanced independent suspension for a smooth ride.  It featured wonderful streamline Art Deco styling but its complexity made the Scarab very expensive and only nine, no two of which were identical, were built when production ended in 1939. Commentators have likened its concept to today's minivan in terms of space utilization.

The Scarab concept was dusted off after World War II by Stout after discussions with auto executive Joe Frazer, who had purchased the assets of the defunct Graham-Paige Company and wanted a new design.  The 1946 Stout Scarab Experimental, or "Project Y," was developed in conjunction with Owens-Corning and had a frameless fiberglass body, air suspension, wraparound windshield, belt drive rear wheel drive, and push-button electric doors.  The body, more conventional than the 1934 Scarab, was designed by Howard "Dutch" Darrin. The prototype car, which cost $100,000 to build, featured a rear-mounted 90 hp Ford V8 but was never put into production as the estimated sales price of $10,000 for this futuristic car would have been too high for the market.  It was the first car to be built of fiberglass and the concept paved the way for the 1953 Corvette and the 1954 Kaiser Darrin.

1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet
1940 was the first year of production of the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr-derived Continental, which had been the pet project of Edsel Ford and designer Bob Gregorie.  Only 350 of these convertibles were built in the 1940 model year compared to 54 coupes.  All were powered by the same long-stroke 120 hp V12,derived from the Ford flathead V8, used in the Lincoln-Zephyr.  The Continental weighed 3,890 lbs and cost $2,840.

This Continental was purchased new and owned by the brother of the Gilmore Car Museum founder.

1940 Packard Model 1807 Custom Super Eight One-Eighty
The successor to the Packard Twelve as the top-of-the-line model of that company, the One-Eighty featured lavish fittings and a 356 cu. in. 160 hp engine.  Introduced in 1939, 1,900 One-Eightys were produced in the model year, including a number with custom bodies by Rollson and Darrin.  This particular Packard was owned by a collector who had restored 200 Packards and served as Executive Director of the Gilmore Museum from 1980 to 1990.

1917 Mercer 22-73 Runabout
Mercer Raceabouts must be considered, along with the Stutz Bearcat, as the quintessential American sportscar.  The company was founded in 1909 in Trenton, New Jersey (and named after Mercer County) by the wealthy Roebling and Kuser families.  The first cars were built in 1910 but the famous T-head Raceabout, designed by a brilliant engineer named Finley Robertson Porter, came a year later.  With its minimal bodywork, excellent handling, advanced transmission and a powerful engine, the Raceabout was force to be reckoned with as a race car, winning in five of the six events entered by the company in 1911.

Mercers were expensive cars and no more than 500 were produced in a year, with only 150 of those being Raceabouts.  However, personnel changes were to roil the company as Roebling family members passed away--including Washington Roebling II, a key manager, who perished in the Titanic disaster of 1912!--and Porter left in 1914.  In 1919 the company was taken over by a Wall Street group headed by a former Packard Vice-President and his attempts to build a new automotive giant on the General Motors model based on Locomobile, Simplex and Mercer quickly failed.  By 1925 Mercer existed in name only although an attempt was made to revive it in 1931 when a single prototype was built.

This 1917 Runabout, offering considerably more creature comforts than the hairy-chested Raceabout, was powered by a four cylinder engine of 70 hp and rode on a 132 inch wheelbase.  It weighed 3,500 lbs and was priced at $3.750; 150 were built that year.  This particular car was owned by a gentleman who actually spent his childhood years on a farm located on what are now the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum.

1903 Ford Model A Runabout with Tonneau
This was the first fruit of Henry Ford's third attempt to get into the car manufacturing business.  Powered by an 8 hp two cylinder engine, the Model A broke no new technological barriers but was considered reliable and good value for money in those early days of the automobile.  1700 of the Model As were produced over fifteen months, priced at $850, with the removable tonneau an additional $100.  The chassis and engine of the car were produced for Ford by the Dodge Brothers, who were to become the largest supplier of auto parts in the world.

1910 Ford Model T Touring
The Ford Model T was introduced in 1908 and by the time production ended in 1927 fifteen million had been built and the world changed.  This example is the oldest Model T in the Gilmore's collection.  Until the end the Model T, "Henry's Own Ford," continued to be driven with its unusual planetary gear transmission and the Gilmore offers a weekend Model T driving school for those wishing to be educated in this archaic skill.  While walking on the grounds, we saw a black T underway.

1919 Stutz Series G Bulldog
Harry C. Stutz, who ran an auto parts company in Indianapolis, built a car to race in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race in 1911.  His car finished eleventh in a credible performance (although out of the prize money) and this positive result for the unknown car gave the company its first slogan: "The Car That Made Good in a Day."  The famous 60 hp Bearcat model was introduced the next year and Stutz made history as its stock cars won races at an impressive clip.  But popularity meant expansion and then a public stock offering.  In 1919 Harry Stutz was manipulated by a speculator out of his company and he went on to found H.C.S., which was not very successful.  The speculator was not either as he was broke by 1922 and a new group took over the company, running it until Stutz ended production in the Great Depression after producing so many memorable cars.

The Series G Bulldog here is similar to the famous Bearcat in mechanical terms, with a 4 cylinder 80 hp engine, but had a four passenger touring body with a top, full windshield and side curtains for $2,850.

1917 Packard Twin Six 2-25 Touring
In 1915 Packard became the first company to offer a 12 cylinder engine in one of its cars and the Twin Six remained in production until 1925, selling over 35,000 examples.  The engine was designed by Jesse Vincent, Packard's head of engineering, who was also responsible for the V12 "Liberty" aircraft engine used in World War I.  This car, weighing 4,550 lbs, had a factory price of $2,865.  In 1921 Warren G. Harding became the first President-Elect to go to his inauguration in a motor car and a Twin Six was the chosen vehicle.

1911 Buick Model 32 Roadster
In 1904 William C. Durant took control of Buick as the foundation company for what was to become General Motors in 1908.  Buick, in the hands of Durant, became a remarkable success story with its advanced overhead valve engine, and scored well in racing with such drivers as Louis Chevrolet and "Wild Bill" Burman.  This Roadster featured a four cylinder engine of 165 cu. in., making 22.5 hp.  The car cost $800, weighed 1,695 lbs and 1,150 were produced.

The next building we came to featured cars from the Hudson Motor Car Company.  This building was the original one put up by Donald S. Gilmore to house his growing car collection and opened to the public as a museum in 1966.  Hudson was founded in 1909 and set a record, selling 400 cars in its first year of production.  The company shifted into six cylinder models in 1913 and proclaimed itself the largest producer of six cylinder cars in the world and that same year announced a stock dividend of 100%.  In 1954 Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator to become the American Motors Corporation, which was eventually merged into the Chrysler Corporation in 1990.  In 1929 Hudson produced 300,000 cars, its best year, and although it weathered the Great Depression its glory days were behind it.  Use of the Hudson name was discontinued after 1957.

1937 Railton Rippon Special Limousine
After British car maker and designer Noel Macklin sold his Invicta car company in 1933, he looked at other automotive projects and was impressed by Hudson's engine and chassis design but not by the company's bodywork.  He arranged with Reid Railton, a noted designer of world speed record vehicles, to use Railton's name on a new line of cars and the Railton, an Anglo-American hybrid was born using American drivetrains and British coachwork.

The unique example on display at the Gilmore was the car ordered by Col. Reginald Rippon of Rippon Brothers, Britain's oldest coachbuilders, for his personal use.  Constructed at the Rippon workshop in Yorkshire, the car featured fitted luggage, two sliding sunroofs, and a toolkit, all matching the car, along with a secret compartment for Col. Rippon's sporting rifles.  The inlaid walnut cabinet in the rear opens up into table tops and included a silver cognac flask and other amenities.  The car, with aluminum coachwork, has built-in jacks and is powered by Hudson's 245 cu. in. eight cylinder engine making 122 hp.

(Note: this car was on loan from the Hosteler Museum collection of Hudsons.  That museum was closed and its contents auctioned in August 2018, with this car selling for $462,000)

Railton cars would be built on Hudson underpinnings until 1940, when war production took precedence.  Macklin sold his interest in the company to Hudson in 1939 to concentrate on powerboats which were produced for the Royal Navy.

1927 Hudson Supercharged Tourer
This remarkable car, meant to invoke the glorious racing cars of Bentley and Stutz at LeMans in the interwar period, was constructed by Australian craftsman Wolfgang Rebien in the 1990s using techniques of classic coachbuilding.  The Vanden Plas-inspired body is framed in Brazilian mahogany with aluminum body panels.  The engine is a six cylinder 302 cu. in. Hudson model with addition of a supercharger which is said to increase the base engines's 93 hp output by one-third.

1928 Hudson Convertible Sedan
This is a rare example of a large series Hudson chassis receiving bodywork from a noted coachbuilder, in this case the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, California.  The list price on this car would have been $5,000 compared to $1,850 for a standard convertible sedan.  Murphy was also responsible for the design of two Hudson production models, the Victoria and Landau Sedan.

(NOTE: This car was on loan from the Hosteler Museum of Hudsons.  That museum was closed and its contents auctioned in 2018)

The final attractions at the Gilmore Car Museum for us was a small building that had a display of pedal cars:

Also on display was a 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Sedanca de Ville used in the 1967 Disney film "The Gnome-Mobile," about a pair of children trying to save a redwood forest where "little people," a group of gnomes, live.  Walt Disney, who was a friend of museum founder Donald Gilmore, sold the Rolls-Royce and the accompanying movie set of its back seat, four times actual size, for the price of shipping.  Apparently the Disney company never releases any of its sets so this is quite an unusual attraction.

The real Rolls-Royce back seat...
...and the massively scaled-up version

No comments:

Post a Comment