Monthly Archives: October 2016

Indiana Automotive Presentations

Over the years I have developed a number of Indiana automotive presentations. My educational and entertaining presentations have been booked by auto museums, auto clubs, community groups, schools, retirement centers, and folks of all ages.

Dennis E. Horvath presenting

The goal of my presentations is to share the story of Indiana automobiles with future generations. Some of my most popular presentations are: Mileposts in Indiana automotive history, Val’s Story – Witness to early automotive innovation, Indiana-built Automobiles and the Evolution of Automotive Advertising, Louis J. Chevrolet’s “Never Give Up” . These programs demonstrate the qualities of ingenuity, exploration, and leadership of Indiana auto pioneers.

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history takes a look at how Indiana serves as a model for our automotive industry and heritage. Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations created by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasing, for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.

Val’s Story – Witness to early automotive innovation shares how road improvement and developments in the early auto industry contributed to our auto travel and vacation enjoyment. As Val, I look at a life representative of two of Indiana’s auto centers.

Indiana-built Automobiles and the Evolution of Automotive Advertising covers how Indiana-built automobiles serve as a model of the evolution of automotive marketing in America. The presentation covers the evolution of automotive print advertising, factory brochures, and letters as directed marketing in the first half of the twentieth century.

Louis J. Chevrolet’s “Never Give Up,” shares all of his years racing and developing race cars and passenger cars. He put his best effort forward and enjoyed much success. His legacy is nearly forgotten, but perhaps we should all live by his motto “Never Give Up.”

I invite you to inquire about my Indiana automotive presentations for your group. Find out more here.

Let’s share this heritage with all generations.

National Recognition for Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum

One of my favorite automotive sites, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, has been named one of the “Fab 5 Automobile Destinations” by Old Cars Weekly and one of “America’s Greatest Automobile Museums” by Autoweek Magazine. This echoes my many recommendations over the years.

E.L. Cord's 1937 Cord Beverly

Old Cars Weekly says “the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is to the hobby as the Sistine Chapel is to Vatican City.” The article praises the work of the Auburn Automobile Company while pointing out that after touring the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, guests can take a few more steps back in time at the adjacent National Auto and Truck Museum. Here the company prepared the Cord L-129 models.

I believe the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is a unique place. It is one of the first museums built in an original automotive administration building. Much of the heritage of the Auburn Automobile Company took place on this site. Guests get a chance to walk the hallways and view the offices, drawings, and clay models created by Gordon Buehrig, Alan Leamy, and savvy entrepreneur E.L. Cord. Visitors get an overview of these marvels from concept to design through completion of a mechanical masterpiece.

Whenever someone asks me what are my favorite auto museums, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is one of the first ones I mention. If you ever plan a trip to the midwest, I recommend a visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Put it on your Bucket List today.

For more information on our automotive heritage, follow this link.

Back Roads to Jungle Park Racing

In its glory days, Jungle Park lived up to its image. Spectators came to see who could survive the call of the jungle on this treacherously dangerous race track. Closed for racing since 1955, nature has since taken back its domain. Today, the area is a tranquil, shady setting next to Sugar Creek near Turkey Run State Park.

C&L Service Sprinter at Jungle Park Reunion
C&L Service Sprinter at Jungle Park Reunion

Usually the spot is closed to the public. But periodically since 2003, race fans and a few survivors of the track gather here for a day to reminiscent, view a few restored race cars and replicas and swap stories.

One story we overheard while walking around the car show was about the time one driver flew over the embankment, was tossed from the car and landed near the bank of Sugar Creek. Most of the track didn’t have an outside retainer wall, so cars careening over the embankment were fairly common. High-banked turn also created high speeds, often up to 100 mph.

Jungle Park opened in 1926 at a time when auto racing was just beginning. In 1927, the reports tallied the deaths of one race official, a spectator, and one driver. Within the next four years, another three drivers died. Eventually the track lost its popularity, but not its reputation. The last race was marred by another major catastrophe. Driver Arlis Marcum swerved to avoid another car and hit a hole. The result caused the car to become airborne, fly over the fence and into the crowd.

A number of Jungle Park veterans went on to win the Indianapolis 500, including one of Indy’s all-time greats, Wilbur Shaw, who won the 500 in 1937, 1939 and 1940.

Yet, today, the tragedies are hard to imagine in this heavily wooded area. Now trees shade the track’s interior, and the buzzing roar of the cars is gone. It’s difficult to imagine such a peaceful place in the country as anything other than a nice picnicking area. But if you look closely, dig a toe into the dirt to find the track, and follow the oval pathway, you can imagine the racing legends and stories that occurred here.

If you want more information on Jungle Park during its heyday, check out the book by Tom W. Williams The Ghosts of Jungle Park: History, Myth and Legend – The story of a place like no other. Check it out on Amazon here.

For more information on our automotive heritage, follow this link.

Back roads lead to finding international hero

Luckily we can remember the heroes of past times via community preservation. This is the case of Lew Wallace, whose work is commemorated in Crawfordsville, Indiana, at The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum. Here we can learn more about a man who accomplished much during his life of 77 years.

Lew Wallace Study & Museum
Lew Wallace Study & Museum

Today Lew Wallace is primarily known as the author of Ben Hur, which was first published in 1880 and has remained in print ever since. But that his work as an author was only part of a remarkable life.

He was the youngest man to hold the rank of Major General during the Civil War. One of his greatest achievements at this time was saving Washington D.C. by holding off Confederate troops at the battle of Monocacy in Maryland. After the war, Wallace served as one of the judges in the trials of the conspirators involved in the Lincoln assassination and of the Andersonville prison’s commander Henry Wirz. Later he served as Territorial Governor of New Mexico. After publication of Ben Hur, which demonstrated his intense research in the Middle East, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

His writing repertoire also includes The Fair God and The Prince of India. To facilitate his writing and contemplations, Wallace built his study in which he could “grow reminiscent, fighting the battles of youth over again.” Inside Wallace built an impressive library with comfortable space for his own writing and reading pleasure.

After his death in 1905, the Wallace family opened the study to the public. Today the space contains some of his personal belongings and books—all designed to illustrate the life of an American Renaissance man.

The museum and study are located on 3.5 acres at 200 Wallace Avenue, Crawfordsville. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for students and free for children six and under. It is open February through mid-December, Tues. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I invite you to take this back roads trip.

For more information on Indiana rides & drives, follow this link.

Visiting Indianapolis’ automotive sites

Over the years I have developed Indianapolis Auto Tours to visit the city’s numerous automotive sites. I would like to share some of the highlights.

In the afternoon, we could kick-off our celebration at the James A. Allison and Frank H. Wheeler’s mansions along millionaire row on the Marian University campus. Let’s look inside these 100 year-old time capsules of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, automotive, and transportation founders.

Allison Mansion
Allison Mansion

Next, we’ll continue with an Auto Pioneer Burial Site Tour at Crown Hill Cemetery nestled along the Dixie Highway. Auto pioneers Carl G. Fisher and Louis Schwitzer are buried on Strawberry Hill near James Whitcomb Riley, President Benjamin Harrison, and Eli Lilly.

Later, we’ll tour the Stutz Motor Car Company complex on Capitol Avenue to view some automobiles built in the building from 1912 -1935. Building proprietor Turner J. Woodard has autos ranging from a Stutz Bearcat to a Stutz Pak-Age-Car.

On the next morning, we’ll go on an Auto Pioneers Tour visiting some mansions along Meridian Street and Fall Creek Parkway. We then continue along Indianapolis’ Automobile Row on North Capitol and auto manufacturing sites around the belt railroads circling the city.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum

After lunch, we’ll go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum to see Fisher’s custom-built 1905 Premier racer designed for the Vanderbilt Cup Race and the Fisher-era Stoddard-Dayton. Our afternoon will finished up by touring by the Prest-O-Lite and Allison Engineering factories on Main Street in Speedway.

It is interesting how this part of Indianapolis’ business and social heritage started over 120 years ago when Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, and Arthur C. Newby met while being members of the Zig-Zag Cycling Club during the 1890’s bicycle craze. Their friendships went on to form the genesis for ventures like the Fisher Automobile Company, Prest-O-Lite Company, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Lincoln Highway, the Dixie Highway, the development of Miami Beach, Allison Engineering Company, Allison Transmission, Indianapolis Stamping Company (the predecessor of today’s Diamond Chain Company), and National Automobile Company. These men and their ideas have brought employment and enjoyment to tens of thousand’s of individuals through the years.

I invite you to contact me at Indianapolis Auto Tours to customize your visit Indianapolis’ automotive sites.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.