Monthly Archives: July 2015

Take a ride on the Sauk Trail

I enjoy driving across the Sauk Trail where it crossed Indiana through Dyer, Merrillville, Valparaiso, Westville, LaPorte, and New Carlisle. This was something I’ve wanted to cross off my bucket list for a couple of years.

Lincoln Highway Kiosk
Lincoln Highway Kiosk
In New Carlisle

For some time, I’ve been interested in the trails used by the Indians in Indiana. The Buffalo Trace in southern Indiana and the Sauk Trail in the northwest corner are the most well known. I find it particularly interesting that buffalo and deer first used these trails, followed by Indians on foot, fur traders, and finally by settlers in wagons from the east.

The Sauk Trail ran from Rock Island, Illinois, through northwestern Indiana, up across southern Michigan to Detroit. The Indiana portion today follows the early route of the Lincoln Highway. With this in mind, we gathered up our maps and other resources to use roadside archaeology to get some idea of where early Indians traversed our state.

Geographically in Indiana, the Sauk Trail follows where the prairie meets the eastern deciduous and northern conifer forests at the southern end of Lake Michigan. For centuries, Indians traveled along paths in single file until they had beaten a narrow trail into the soil. They went around hills, lakes, swamps, and thick underbrush. Thus, an original trail was quite crooked. Later, when surveyors were laying out the United States Road from Detroit to Chicago, an early successor to the Sauk Trail, some of this crookedness was straightened out. Again, when the original Lincoln Highway was platted through the area, the trail’s direction received further smoothing.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I enjoy touring on Indiana’s two-lane highways. The western part of the original Lincoln Highway in Indiana provides a realistic impression of the Sauk Trail of yesteryear. If you want an in-depth look at this section of the Lincoln Highway, I invite you to visit the Lincoln Highway Association website.

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.

My vote for the best car show in Indiana

My vote for the best car show is the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival over Labor Day Weekend in Auburn, Indiana. Events start on the Tuesday before Labor Day and continue through the Monday holiday.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg
Auburn Cord Duesenberg
Automobile Museum

It all started out over 50 years ago as an annual gathering of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club and morphed into one of the largest gatherings of car crazy enthusiasts on the planet. Festival events kick off with the Annual ACD Festival Hoosier Tour on Tuesday. Events planned for Thursday include the Kick-Off Luncheon, Quilt Show, and the Annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum Benefit Extravaganza. Friday continues the fun with a sausage & pancake breakfast, cruise-in, and ice cream social.

“The Parade of Classics,” is one of the premiere festival events in my opinion. This is when nearly 300 cars from the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club drive through Auburn’s streets to Courthouse Square on Saturday afternoon. If you can only do one thing over the weekend, the parade is my pick. Some Sunday events are an outdoor garage sale and flea market, an arts and crafts show, an antique show and market, and the Auburn Concours d’Elegance.

Bookending the festival is the Auburn Fall Collector Car Auction, Car Corral, and Swap Meet, starting on the Wednesday before Labor Day and continuing through the following Tuesday. This event features over 5,000 cars that range from one-of-a-kind models to daily drivers. If you are looking for auction bargains, show-up early on Wednesday because the interest builds towards Sunday and Monday.

I’ve been to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival numerous times and always find new events to enjoy. Plus, there are events for those interested in things other than automobiles. It’s a great weekend for the whole family.

Automotive contributions from Frankfort Indiana

Recently, on a car club outing to Frankfort, I was reminded of the automotive contributions made by Hoosiers in more than 40 Indiana cities and towns. I viewed an excellent 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe Woody. That prompted my memory that the U.S. Body & Forging Company in Frankfort produced Dodge and Plymouth wooden station wagon bodies from 1937 and 1950.

Plymouth Bodies
U.S. Body & Forging
Producing Plymouth wooden
station wagon bodies

The company came to Frankfort in 1937 after a flood forced it to relocate production from its plant in Tell City, IN. In 1940, Plymouth’s wood station wagon was made part of its regular passenger car line through early 1942, when the USB&F plants converted to war work.

Following the war, USB&F resumed production on Plymouth’s station wagons, which were built through 1950. USB&F bodies featured wood framing in Ash with the panels in a choice of Ash, Maple, or Honduras Mahogany. Finished bodies were shipped completely assembled, five per semi-trailer, from Frankfort to respective Dodge and Plymouth plants for final assembly onto the chassis.

Plymouth’s final woody was the 1950 Special Deluxe. The introduction of Plymouth’s all-steel 1950 station wagon ended the firm’s association with Chrysler Corporation.

The next time you see a Dodge or Plymouth station wagon from this era you’ll know that the wooden body was made by Hoosier craftsmen in Frankfort, IN.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link

Stutz Motor Car Anniversary

This summer marks the 104th anniversary of the first Stutz Motor Car. Yet, at least equally significant is Harry C. Stutz’s involvement in developing many other vehicles that crossed the American landscape.

He designed a transaxle that combined the transmission and the rear differential in one unit. This transaxle became standard equipment on many other automobiles besides Stutz cars.

1912 Stutz Model A
1912 Stutz Model A
Copyright © 1912 Stutz Motor Car Co.
Photo courtesy of the Stutz Club

His own manufacturing commenced in early 1911. Stutz formulated his dream of a quality sports car built from assembled, high-quality components manufactured by outside suppliers at a price below $2,000. The first Stutz was built in just five weeks and was immediately taken to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the inaugural running of the 500 Mile Race. Gil Anderson drove the car to an eleventh place finish.

Later that summer, the Ideal Motor Car Company was organized for manufacture of the Stutz Model A, a duplicate of the Indy race car. New Stutz models were offered as a two-passenger roadster, four-passenger toy tonneau, and a five-passenger touring car. Each was priced at $2,000. Lighting was provided by a Prest-O-Lite system. Stutz emphasized its 1911 record of competing without any adjustments in two additional “great races” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Santa Monica, California. A Stutz Model A torpedo roadster served as the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912.

The famous Stutz Bearcat sports car appeared in 1912 for a run of 10 years. It followed the usual Stutz recipe of a low-slung chassis, a large engine, and other bare necessities–hood, fenders, a right-hand raked steering column, two bucket seats, a fuel tank behind the seats, and wooden spoke wheels. The Stutz Bearcat was a popular car in the $2,000 price range. Its ap¬peal was boosted by Stutz’s success at the race track. Bearcats finished fourth and sixth at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912 and won numerous other races that same year. The next year a Bearcat finished third at the Indianapolis 500, and by late fall Stutz driver Earl Cooper was crowned the National Champion after winning six consecutive races.

In June 1913, the Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized as the Stutz Motor Car Company, with Harry Stutz as president. The Stutz White Squadron racing team did extraordinarily well in 1915 (its last under factory sponsorship), with victories at several tracks. Also in 1915, Cannonball Baker drove a stock Bearcat cross country from San Diego, California, to New York City, New York, in a record-breaking time of 11 days, 7 hours, and 15 minutes.

In the years preceding World War I, Stutz’s sales increased nearly ten-fold—from 266 cars in 1912 to 1,873 five years later.

Harry sold his interest in the company that bore his name in June 1919, and founded two new automotive ventures—the Stutz Fire Engine Company and the H.C.S. Motor Car Company. The Stutz Motor Company went on to manufacturer many cars of distinction like the Safety Stutz, the Stutz Blackhawk, the Stutz DV-32 and the Stutz SV-16 through 1934.

So take a few moments to celebrate the contributions of Harry Stutz 104 years ago.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Additional Car Culture Web Resources

From time to time I list additional “Car Culture Web Resources.” Recently, I found two more to share with you.

Hemmings Blog

If you enjoy the many Hemmings automotive publications, then you have to check out the Hemmings Blog. This site is a collection of various collectible car topics.

One post focused on Carlo Abarth and the cars he built using Fiat mechanical bits. One photograph shows Carlo with his Franco Scaglione-designed Bertone-bodied Fiat Abarth 750 that he drove to a number of records at Monza. He is receiving renewed interest now that Fiat is marketing a new Fiat 500 Abarth edition automobile.

Another Hemmings feature that I like is its vintage photos of street scenes across America. It is quite interesting to attempt to name the various cars in the photo. It’s a blast from the past.

The Hemmings Find of the Day highlights interesting autos from the Hemmings Classifieds. One that I liked was a 1960 Chevrolet Nomad Wagon. This one-owner original appeared as a time machine to another era. Its two-tone metallic blue paint with red and white interior and Corvette inspired dash beckoned to me.

The blog also announces interesting automotive items for auction across the country. Two recent items were Steve McQueen’s uniform from his movie “Le Mans” and the ambulance that transported John F. Kennedy’s remains from Parkland Hospital in Dallas to Love Field.

I enjoy checking the Hemmings blog frequently to see what’s new. I believe you will also.

The Old Motor

The Old Motor is billed as an informative and entertaining antique automobile photo magazine. It offers an interesting view of car culture around the world.

The Old Motor presents a different take on vintage street scene photos. One of Beverly’s Grill in Oklahoma City shows an excellent example of art deco architecture and vintage autos. I like how the site showcases features of the buildings and automobiles.

Another feature is vintage photograph collections. One that I have been following is the Fred Roe collection of Duesenberg items. A Duesenberg LeGrande dual cowl phaeton J-107 was quite stunning in its time.

Photos of early vintage races are also featured. One shows Barney Oldfield in the Ford 999 and Charles Wridgeway in his Pearless at the Empire City track in 1903. It is interesting to look at primitive mechanical arrangements of these early racers.

My previous “Car Culture Web Resource” offering was Top Car Culture Web Resources. I invite you to peruse Hemmings Blog and The Old Motor regularly to get your fix on all things automobilia.