Here are my thoughts on what should be on the Indiana Automotive Heritage Corridor tour. First up would be Auburn with the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, the National Automobile and Truck Museum of the United States, and the Early Ford V-8 Foundation & Museum. Next would be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Just up the road a little bit is the Kokomo Automotive Museum. The corridor would finish up at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend. The last two stops on the tour give the visitor a glimpse of the start and end of Indiana’s first generation auto manufacturers.
The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is the only auto museum occupying an original factory showroom and administration building. The art-deco structure was built in 1930 for the Auburn Automobile Company and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. MSNBC has named the museum one of the “Top Ten Gearhead Destinations in the United States.”
I always enjoy finding new treasures during my visits to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Everyone I recommend it to agree with my accolades for this Indiana automotive gem. You should be sure to visit ACDAM on any trip to Indiana.
The next door north of the ACDAM is the National Automobile and Truck Museum of the United States in the original Auburn Automobile Company service building and experimental building. NATMUS displays outstanding examples of postwar cars and trucks ranging from 1907 to modern concepts.
The newest addition to the Auburn automotive scene is the Early Ford V-8 Foundation & Museum just west of the south I-69 interchange. The museum highlights the flathead V-8 era of Ford history with engines, transmissions, a dashboard collection, showroom banners, and “cut-a-way” models. The museum has enough fantastic Ford items to keep you exploring for some time.
Next it’s time to head south on I-69 and then west on I-465 to Crawfordsville Road and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. The HOFM is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Race days are celebrated 363 days a year at the museum. The museum features history-making racecars going back to Louis Chevrolet’s 1909 Cobe Cup winning car, all the way up to today’s 200-mph record breakers. Museum special collections include an original garage area façade, the trophy collection, and other rotating exhibits. The museum is inside the famed oval, so make sure you visit the Louis Chevrolet Memorial just west of the museum entrance. Then take a tour around the track (when available).
Back on the road again, go north from Indianapolis on U.S. 31 to the Kokomo Automotive Museum. The museum celebrates the “City of Firsts” being home to Elwood Haynes, who built one of America’s first gasoline-powered automobiles in 1894. In addition to antique autos, KAM displays include a recreation of an early auto machine shop, vintage advertising, and a 1950’s era diner and service station diorama.
We’ll finish up our trip on the corridor further north at the Studebaker National Museum at 201 S. Chapin Street, in South Bend. The museum honors one of America’s most esteemed independent automobile manufacturers. SNM traces Studebaker’s transportation heritage from 1852 through 1966. Seventy vehicles in the collection are displayed at any time ranging from presidential carriages and bullet-nose beauties to experimental cars. The SNM archives across the street provide a wealth of historical information for Studebaker, Packard, and several local businesses.
This tour on my proposed Indiana Automotive Heritage Corridor provides a look at Indiana’s rich car culture that continues today. I hope to see you somewhere along the corridor.
For more information on Indiana auto museums follow this link.
There are a number of ways to Celebrate Indiana Car Culture in 2016 during the Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration.
The folks at the Kokomo Automotive Museum (KAM) are presenting Kokomo Salutes Indiana’s Automotive Heritage 1894-1964 in September 5-11, 2016. It starts off with the “Hoosier Heritage Bicentennial Driving Tour” on September 5-8, followed by the “2016 Grand STuTZ” – Celebrate the “Car that made good in a day” – September 7-11, “Indiana Grand Classic”- Enjoy 50 Full Classic automobiles from motoring’s grandest era – September 8-10, “Haynes-Apperson Reunion”- See up to 50 Kokomo-built cars return to the “City of Firsts” – September 9-10, and the “Grand Indiana Bicentennial Motor Muster” See rare Indiana-built cars mingled with fine Full Classics and Milestone quality machines in a rolling park setting – September 11. This is a great selection of events for auto hobbyists.
Currently the “Hoosier Made-World Driven” exhibit is being hosted by three of Indiana’s leading transportation museums through October 3, 2016. This three part exhibit displays Indiana’s contribution to the evolution of the automobile from the 1890s to the 1930s. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, Kokomo Automotive Museum, and Studebaker National Museum are partnering in this must see exhibit. The Studebaker National Museum features the “Brass Era” (c. 1900-1915); the Kokomo Automotive Heritage Museum showcases the “Jazz Era” of the late ‘teens and early 1920s; and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum spotlights “Classic” cars of the 1930s “Classic Era”.
So, what other types of events and projects might involve the public at large and develop additional auto heritage resources?
One item might be tours of factory sites, auto pioneer homes, and other auto sites. KAM is doing this for Kokomo, and we have developed such a tour for these sites in Indianapolis. Perhaps other towns like Auburn, South Bend, and Richmond could do the same.
Another item might be developing experiential events with vintage cars. For instance the Model T Ford Museum in Richmond could host a demonstration of starting and operating one of its cars. One of the other auto museums could host an event featuring automotive styling through the years.
Another institution could create a repository of automotive artifacts for researchers and the general public. This collection might include books and videos featuring Indiana’s automotive heritage. Another collection might feature online resources to engage new automotive enthusiasts. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will celebrate the 100th running of the 500 this year, so maybe they will create a resource to celebrate that ties racing into the development of automobiles.
What thoughts do you have on celebrating Indiana’s car culture during the Bicentennial celebration in 2016? Let’s share our automotive heritage with future generations. I encourage you to jump in your favorite ride and “Hit the Highway to History.”
For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.
Last Sunday, I got a preview of the Hoosier Made: World Driven exhibit preparation at the Studebaker National Museum. The exhibit opens November 20, 2015, and runs through October 3, 2016. This exhibit is an officially endorsed Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
“Hoosier Made: World Driven” looks at the heyday of Indiana’s automobile industry when some of the world’s finest motorcars were built in Indiana. The exhibit will be presented at Indiana’s three leading transportation museums, each with its own special exhibit focus. The Studebaker National Museum in South Bend will feature the “Brass Era” (c. 1900-1915); the Kokomo Automotive Heritage Museum in Kokomo will showcase the “Jazz Era” of the late ‘teens and early 1920s; and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn will spotlight “Classic” cars of the 1930s “Classic Era”.
The Studebaker National Museum will showcase vehicles and artifacts from the Brass Era (Pre-1915), featuring an Apperson Jackrabbit, a Haynes Speedster, a Marmon Speedster, a Sterling Touring car, a Pratt-Elkhart, and many more! I enjoyed viewing these early examples of Indiana’s automotive industry. Studebaker National Museum on Facebook
The Kokomo Automotive Museum will showcase Hoosier cars of the “Jazz Age” of the late teens and early 1920s, when Indiana’s automotive production was at its peak. Five Kokomo-built Haynes and Apperson touring cars show the elegance that motoring could be in the Roaring Twenties. Kokomo Automotive Museum on Facebook
The 1930s is often referred to as the Classic Era of Automobiles. During this period Auburn, Indiana, was in its prime, creating and producing automobiles both beautiful and powerful. During this period Art Deco styling became a prevalent art form seen in automotive styling. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum will exhibit this beauty and power by showcasing the high-style of the 1930s. Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum on Facebook
I encourage you to visit all three museums for the price of two. Get your passport (available at all three museums) stamped at two museums and get into the third museum for free. Then jump in your favorite ride and “Hit the Highway to History”… your next museum stop is less than 100 miles away!
Maybe I’ll see you along the way. Happy Hoosier Motoring.
For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.
Occasionally someone asks about my recommendations for auto museums in Indiana. Northern Indiana has some great car culture destinations.
Auburn Indiana probably has the best concentration of auto museums of anywhere outside of Michigan. The best known and one of the best car museums in the country is the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. The ACDAM is the only auto museum occupying an original factory showroom and administration building. The art-deco structure was built in 1930 for the Auburn Automobile Company and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum dedicates a large portion to Indiana-built automobiles from the 1890s through 1960s. Other highlights are the Cadillac, Packard, Rolls Royce and race cars among this 100-plus automobile collection.
Immediately behind the ACDAM are the buildings now housing the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States. This site once contained the production of the L-29 Cord as well as the service facility for the Auburn Automobile Company. NATMUS features trucks and other vehicles from 1907 to the present.
Just off the I-69 Auburn exit is the Kruse Foundation complex. Two buildings at this site are of interest to auto aficionados. The Kruse Automotive and Carriage Museum and the Early Ford V8 Foundation Museum. The KACM features a collection of classic cars, television and movie cars, hot rods, and antique carriages. The Early Ford V8 Museum focuses on Fords from 1932 to 1953, as well as other vehicles powered by Ford flathead V8 engines.
North of Auburn on I-69 and west on US 20 in Shipshewana is Hostetler’s Hudson Auto Museum. Over 25 years ago, what started with a single vehicle, has grown to include the largest collection of Hudson automobiles and trucks in the world. Today, the collection includes the Hudson, Essex, Terraplane, Railton, and Dover brands.
Further west on US 20 in South Bend is the Studebaker National Museum. The SNM covers 114 years of its namesake’s history. “Studebaker is the only company to span the time from settlers’ wagons to high performance automobiles,” according to museum material. The museum has the Studebaker family’s own Conestoga wagon, used to move them to South Bend, and an Avanti, the last car made in South Bend. The carriage that Abraham Lincoln rode to Ford Theater on the night of his assassination is also on display.
Finally, travel west on IN 2 to LaPorte to see the LaPorte County Museum. The museum houses the Dr. Peter C. Kesling Automobile Collection, numbering over 30 vehicles. The collection includes vehicles built by Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Baker Electric, Ford, Tucker, and Dodge. In 2003, Dr. and Mrs. Kesling drove the collection’s Winton from California to New York City, retracing the path of the first coast to coast auto journey by Dr. Horatio Jackson in 1903 in a similar Winton touring car.
I believe northern Indiana is your best bet for an auto enthusiast’s total immersion into car culture. Where else in about 120 miles can you see seven auto museums? Do it in one trip or break-up the enjoyment in to multiple adventures. Be sure to call any of these sites before you finalize a visit. Check out my Indiana Museums page @http://cruise-in.com/museums/