Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

At Maker Faire Detroit 2019 this weekend we’re celebrating a decade of makers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. While making your way both inside and out of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation enjoying the ultimate celebration of geek culture, make sure to be on the lookout for a collection of artifacts from the collections of The Henry Ford that complement the maker spirit. 

Much like the fascinating diversity of makers you will encounter across the faire, the selection of artifacts, many not often seen on display, let alone actually operating, also represent a quite an array of ingenuity. They run the gambit from delicate artistry to powerful brawn. These artifacts will be out of storage for a limited this weekend - get your tickets now to see them for yourself.

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Violano Virtuoso, 1925 

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Mechanical Singing Bird, 1890-1910 

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Mutoscope, 1900-1905 

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“Electric Traveling Crane” Arcade Game, circa 1933  

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1922 Detroit Electric Coupe 

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Replica of 1896 Ford Quadricycle 

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Port Huron Steam Traction Engine

Jim Johnson is Director of Greenfield Village and Curator of Historic Structures & Landscapes at The Henry Ford.

Maker Faire Detroit

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“I was angry at the world, but The Henry Ford changed my life. 
Every time I felt like giving up, the people here have encouraged me to do better. Because they saw something in me I couldn’t see for myself.” - Sylvia Maddox, 19 years old. Graduate of the Youth Mentorship Program, June 2019

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“Celebration” was a word that echoed through the Youth Mentorship Program office frequently over the 2018/2019 school year, and with good cause. Going into its 30th year of existence next year, the YMP celebrated not only the accomplishments of 14 student participants, but four graduates; Ann Odom of Tinkham Educational Center in January, and Natalie Wilkie of Wayne Memorial High School, Sylvia Maddox and Jada Shorter of Tinkham Educational Center in June. All four graduates were accepted to colleges of their choice prior to graduation and are preparing to begin this upcoming fall.

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The Youth Mentorship Program, a direct partnership between The Henry Ford and the Wayne-Westland Community School District, gives high school students the chance to earn additional credits and life experience by spending the second half of each school day working with a full-time employee of The Henry Ford, who volunteers to serve as a mentor. People learn in different ways and normal schooling isn’t for everyone; the YMP provides an atmosphere where students can succeed in an environment different from the traditional classroom. When the students graduate, they leave with strong communication and interpersonal skills, responsibility, and the awareness that they can succeed, reflecting the goal of the YMP to provide positive changes in young lives. This past year students have participated in placements at the William Ford Barn, Firestone Farm, Pottery Shop, Glass Shop, Call Center, and Institutional Advancement, Photography, and Food Services departments.

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Over the past two years, with the assistance of our committed and generous donors, we have expanded the framework of YMP to increase educational and engagement opportunities for our students specifically catered to their interests. Our students have participated in campus tours of local colleges, with career guest speakers in employment fields of their interest, and Employment Boost workshops where they are thoroughly trained in resume writing and job interview skills. The YMP aims to ease the transition of life after high school for our students, and these new opportunities assist whether our students are heading to college, a school of trade, or the workforce.

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Thirty years is an incredible feat for a program such as the YMP. The longevity of this program is a result of the strong partnership between The Henry Ford and the Wayne-Westland Community School District and their overwhelming commitment to student success. A phrase we hear time after time from present and past students is how the YMP is like a second family and further, home. We are incredibly honored to serve the students of the Wayne-Westland community and be a part of their journeys. The past 30 years of YMP has had a huge impact on not only the students it serves, but The Henry Ford as a whole. We look forward to seeing what the next 30 years bring!

Emily Koch is Program Director of the Youth Mentorship Program at The Henry Ford. The Youth Mentorship Program at The Henry Ford is made possible thanks to our partners at the Comerica Charitable Foundation and the Applebaum Family Compass Fund.

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We recently got together a number of our curators and staff, who are Star Trek fans and frequent visitors to our current exhibit "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds," to brainstorm the many connections we might make between the collections of The Henry Ford and the media empire that is Star Trek. During that discussion, someone threw out an example of a name shared across both—but as we dug deeper, we also discovered the artifact had an interesting parallel to (or contrast with) the ship or character. Locating more of these seemed a fitting tribute to Star Trek’s characteristic combination of humor and seriousness.

Below are some similar examples we came up with. What other artifacts can you think of from our collection that share a name with—and perhaps a philosophical tie to—Star Trek

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1984 Plymouth Voyager Minivan

Chrysler boldly went where no carmaker had gone before when it introduced the minivan for 1984. With taller interiors and flatter floors (front-wheel drive eliminated that pesky driveshaft tunnel), minivans generally had more interior room than station wagons, and soon supplanted them as the ideal family car. And, at around 20 miles per gallon, the Plymouth Voyager probably got better fuel mileage than the U.S.S. Voyager of the eponymous series! –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Gondola Landing after Piccard Stratosphere Balloon Flight, Cadiz, Ohio, October 23, 1934

Four hundred thirty years before Captain Jean-Luc Picard would command the U.S.S. Enterprise, Jean and Jeannette Piccard engaged the stratosphere in a metal gondola attached to a hydrogen balloon.  –Jim Orr, Image Services Specialist

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Vulcan Brand Appliances Advertisement, 1905, "Vulcan- Handy Things for Every Home"

Star Trek’s half-Vulcan, half-human science officer, Spock, represented the polar opposite of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. While the Roman god served as a harbinger of volcanic destruction, Spock modeled cool composure. In 1905, Vulcan Brand Appliances embraced the Roman mythology and marketed their toasters and curling-iron heaters as handy things for every home. What would Spock think?  –Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

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Google Nexus Q, 2012

It didn’t sweep you into an extra-dimensional fantasy realm like the Nexus that trapped Kirk and Picard in Star Trek Generations, nor did it use omnipotent powers to tease your crew like the meddlesome Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the Google Nexus Q could keep you entertained for hours on end with music, movies, and TV shows.  –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Scot Towels, circa 1937

Montgomery Scott, known as "Scotty," is the Chief Engineer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. The heavy Scottish accent adopted for the role by Canadian actor James Doohan became one of Scotty's hallmarks, as did his intense pride in the Enterprise, his sense of humor, his complaints when the ship encounters yet another tight spot, and the way he always tells Captain Kirk repairs will take longer than they actually will. Still, like this roll of Scot Towels in our collection, which would have facilitated quick and easy cleanup of mid-20th-century messes, Scotty always comes through when the 23rd-century Enterprise is in need of a quick fix.  –Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections and Content Manager

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Trade Card for "White Cloud," "Mechanic," "Coronet," and "Mikado" Soap, James S. Kirk & Co., circa 1885

James S. Kirk was born in Scotland (not Iowa, like Enterprise captain James T. Kirk) and established his soap company in Utica, New York. He relocated the business to Chicago in 1859 and, by 1900, had built it into one of the largest soap manufacturers in the world, producing 100 million pounds of the cleaner each year.  –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Tread Power, circa 1885

Gene Roddenberry (1921–1991) considered the United Space (or Star) Ship Enterprise as the main character of Star Trek. But why the name "enterprise"? In response to 1960s counterculture, veterans of World War II, including Roddenberry, did not want anyone to forget the need to ally against evil. The name "enterprise" conjured up associations with action that changed the course of human events. Decades before Star Trek, companies used the term to imply initiative and progress. The Enterprise Manufacturing Company produced an endless-belt tread power, on which a dog, goat, or sheep walked to generate power for myriad uses on family farms.  –Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

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1896 Riker Electric Tricycle

Andrew L. Riker was a pioneer builder of both electric and gasoline-powered automobiles. He may not have served as first officer aboard a starship like Will Riker of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Andrew Riker did serve as first president of the Society of Automotive Engineers!  –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Steam Engine Lubricator, 1882

Star Trek's Leonard McCoy would remind you that he's a doctor, not a locomotive fireman. This steam engine lubricator was patented by African-American mechanical engineer Elijah McCoy, who may have had more in common with Bones' shipmate Scotty.  –Jim Orr, Image Services Specialist

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Trade Card for Excelsior Botanical Company, circa 1885

The Latin root, excello, meaning "to rise," inspired many companies with aspirations. Excelsior Botanical Company marketed cure-all preparations and "excelsior" became the synonym for packing material made from wood chips or pine needles. All of this happened more than a century before the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, in which Hikaru Sulu commanded the U.S.S. Excelsior starting in 2290.  –Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds


As any member of the railroad operations team in Greenfield Village will tell you, there’s never a shortage of work to be done at the roundhouse. Learn more about a typical day of making sure everything is running smoothly from early in the morning to late in the evening.

The beginning of a day in railroad operations starts when the scheduled fireman arrives at 6:30 am in the morning. Upon arriving he’ll look over the day’s locomotive for anything that might be out of place. When he’s satisfied, he will begin by cleaning the remnants of the previous day’s fire from the firebox.

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A fresh bed of coal will be laid down and he will then light a new fire. For the next two hours, the fireman will continue to tend this fire as the boiler builds steam pressure. He will also fill oil cans, clean the cab, and tidy up in general around the engine. At 7:00 am, the morning mechanic reports for duty. He’ll wash and assist in oiling the engine.

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The morning mechanic is also present for any mechanical failures that may arise as the locomotive “wakes up.” At 7:30 am the engineer arrives; he starts his day by inspecting the passenger cars that will be pulled behind his locomotive. After this, he will proceed to the locomotive and look the engine over before beginning the process of oiling and greasing. Around 8:45 am the fireman will have the boiler near operating pressure; at this time the locomotive is ready to start its day. The engineer with fireman onboard will take the locomotive from the roundhouse area out onto the railroad to retrieve the train cars. Once coupled up, a test of the air brakes and a final inspection is performed. This is done to ensure that the brakes are operating correctly.

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At 9:00 am the conductor reports for duty and boards the rear of the train, which then proceeds up to Firestone station to receive the first passengers of the day.

Did you know that the train will make 13 trips around the railroad in a single day, covering just over 30 miles? Amongst these trips the engine crew takes on water four times and will take on coal only once. Throughout the day the fireman will maintain a steady, hot fire, adequate steam pressure, and a safe water level in the boiler.

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The engineer will replenish oil and grease to important components of the locomotive, as well as ensure a safe and comfortable ride to our passengers.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, our mechanical department will perform various duties to keep the railroad up and running.

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These duties include rebuilding spare parts, manufacturing new parts, boiler washes, boiler water testing, and disposing of dumped ash; just to name a few. Like we said, there is never a shortage of work to be done at the roundhouse.

As the day ends, the train pulls into Firestone station at 5:00 pm to unload the last of its passengers. This signals the end of the day for regular train service; however, there is still much to do for railroad operations. The train crew will back the train from Firestone station to near the roundhouse. They will park the passenger cars for the night and turn the locomotive over to the evening mechanics, also known as hostlers. The locomotive will be run back to the roundhouse where it will receive a thorough inspection, a good wiping, and any repairs that need to be made.

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Finally, the engine will be parked next to the roundhouse on the washing rack. Its boiler will be topped off with water and a large mound of coal, known as a bank, will be shoveled into the firebox. With the smokestack nearly capped, allowing only a small amount of smoke to escape, the bank will slowly burn overnight, maintaining a small amount heat in the boiler. The evening hostlers normally finish their day at 6:30 in the evening. However, this can be much later depending on the extent of needed evening repairs; every day on the railroad can lead to something new.

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Mac Johnson is Roundhouse Foreman at The Henry Ford. Matt Goodman is Assistant Manager of Railroad Operations at The Henry Ford.

One Last Winter

January 18, 2019 Think THF
naias1Lexus, which itself debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, tantalizes visitors 30 years later with a drop-top concept version of its sporty LC coupe.

A Visit to the 2019 North American International Auto Show

It’s January in Detroit which means – for one last year – it’s time for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Traditionally, flashy concept cars and new production models are the talk of the town, but this year all the buzz concerns the show’s impending move to June next year. It’s a major shift – undoubtedly the biggest since the show added “International” to its title 30 years ago – but there are valid reasons. Detroit’s weather generally isn’t what you’d call “pleasant” in January; the countless people who put the show together in Cobo Center invariably find themselves working through the holiday season; and automakers are now finding themselves stretched between NAIAS and the Consumer Electronics Show, which wraps in Las Vegas just days before NAIAS opens.

It’s no secret that NAIAS – and auto shows in general – are suffering from flagging interest, both from the public and from automakers themselves. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of upmarket marques pull out of the Detroit show. (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are all conspicuous by their absence in 2019.) The move to summer might reverse this trend, too.

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The 2020 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 – with a menacing mug to match its hellacious horsepower.

None of this is to suggest that NAIAS is a disappointment this year. There’s still lots to see. Ford Motor Company’s trucks and SUVs are front-and-center at the Blue Oval’s booth. The reintroduced Ranger pickup gets the prime real estate, but it’s the all-new Ford Explorer getting the rave reviews from the press. My favorite, however, is the forthcoming Shelby Mustang GT500. The 700+ horsepower beast arrives for 2020 to battle the Demons and Hellcats of the world. Mr. Shelby would’ve been proud.

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After an absence of nearly 20 years, the Toyota Supra returns for 2020.

Toyota grabs some of NAIAS’s biggest headlines with the return of its Supra sports car, not seen since the fourth generation ended production in 2002. Purists may be irked that many of the Supra’s makings – including its 3.0-liter straight-six – are of BMW lineage, but the look is all Toyota. One can even see a little 2000GT in its lines. Start saving now, as prices are expected to start just north of $50,000.

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Kia’s themed test track, for its new Telluride, livens up Cobo Center’s back wall.

With gas prices low again, Americans have fallen back in love with their SUVs and crossovers. Kia answers the call with its new-for-2020 Telluride SUV, first previewed as a concept car at the 2016 NAIAS. The Telluride will be the largest vehicle in Kia’s lineup, with room for eight in its three rows of seating. Expect to see it in showrooms this May.

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I love the pearlescent paint on this Volkswagen Beetle, though it would look even better with red, white and blue racing stripes and a big roundel on the hood.

Volkswagen has the inauspicious distinction of being the only European automaker with a major presence at NAIAS this year. True to form, though, the German marque has some of the show’s most imaginative displays. Several of its models are parked on a recreated soccer field, in celebration of VW’s sponsorship of the U.S. Soccer Federation. (Automakers have long-standing relationships with America’s pro baseball, football and basketball leagues, but VW becomes the first automotive company to serve as a presenting sponsor for U.S. Soccer.) The company’s interactives are good fun, too. Little ones will enjoy the touch screen coloring “books” that allow them to paint Beetles in any number of groovy colors – accessorized with flowers and peace symbols, of course.

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Harley Earl’s shadow hangs over Cadillac – in this case in the form of a high-finned ’59 Caddy perched above a modern CTS-V.

Sad to say, traditional three-box sedans are fading fast in Detroit. Ford and Chevrolet both have announced plans to all but end sedan production (not including specialty models like Mustang and Corvette, of course). Cadillac seems headed in that direction, too. The upmarket carmaker’s big debut this year is the 2020 XT6, a three-row SUV that might replace the full-size CT6 sedan in Cadillac’s North American lineup. The company’s ATS and CTS sedans are set to bow out this year as well.

NAIAS 2019 may feel a bit lower-key than other recent editions, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. In fact, I recommend that you spend some extra time soaking up the sights and sounds at this year’s show. After all, we’ve got a 17-month wait until the next one!

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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Stemie Coalition Logo-jpegI’m pleased to announce that The Henry Ford and the STEMIE Coalition have officially joined forces to strengthen our invention education offerings across the country and around the world. Several members of the STEMIE Coalition are now part of The Henry Ford organization.


For those of you who don’t know, The STEMIE Coalition is a non-profit, umbrella membership organization of youth invention and entrepreneurship programs across the U.S. and globally and is best known for producing NICEE, the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo.

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We held the 2018 NICEE for the very first time here in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation this past June, and now we will be the permanent home of that program during which more than 400 students from 20 states and two countries qualified to attend.   

In fact, when we started the conversations around the planning and hosting of NICEE here at The Henry Ford, it was then that we realized how similar our missions are, that both organizations shared a vision of creating the next generation of innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs and it was apparent to us that combined, we could reach significantly more students and make a greater impact.

I see this as a marriage of missions. The STEMIE Coalition’s mission to train every child in every school in invention and entrepreneurship skills aligns with The Henry Ford’s quest to move our country forward through innovation and invention. This expands the pipeline of products available to address kids preK-12 and to increase the accessibility of invention education for students of all backgrounds. This is an investment in unleashing the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and creating tomorrow’s workforce.

Thank you, as always, for helping The Henry Ford activate our mission and for your continued support. See you soon.

Patricia E. Mooradian is President & CEO of The Henry Ford.

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Only at Motor Muster! The 1st Michigan Fife & Drum Corps passes a 1955 Buick Special Riviera.

Another summer means another car show season. Here at The Henry Ford, that means another Motor Muster. Our 2018 event goes down as one of the most exciting in recent memory, with a host of new activities and experiences – and more than a few great cars, too. Some 700 automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bikes and military vehicles filled Greenfield Village with the sights and sounds of mid-20th century motoring.

mm2Chevrolet’s long-running small-block V-8 – under the hoods of the 1957 Bel Air and Corvette seen here – is a perfect example of an iconic engine.

Our theme this year broke with tradition. Rather than feature one particular make or model, we celebrated “Iconic Engines of Detroit’s Big Three.” Our profiled power plants included Ford’s flathead V-8, which brought horsepower to the masses from 1932-1953; Chevrolet’s small-block V-8, which remained in production, in one form or another, from 1955-2003; and Chrysler’s celebrated hemispherical combustion head engines, first marketed under the “FirePower” name before gaining the better known – and still used – “Hemi” moniker. The broader theme allowed us to make the most of a visit from the Early Ford V-8 Club of America, as well as a consortium of dedicated Mopar owners and fans.

mm3Moving under its own power for the first time in several years, The Henry Ford’s 1956 Chrysler 300-B recalled NASCAR’s early days.

Each of these iconic engines was on view in our special display tent across from Town Hall. From The Henry Ford’s own collection came a 60-horsepower variant of the Ford V-8. Our Chrysler 300-B, from the Carl Kiekhaefer team that dominated NASCAR’s 1956 Grand National series, not only sat in the tent but also wowed crowds with Hemi-powered noise during our Saturday afternoon racing Pass-in-Review presentation. We rounded out the tent’s Big Three display with a small-block-powered 1955 Chevy Bel Air courtesy of show participant John Dargel.

The Ford V-8 was an especially appropriate choice for Motor Muster. Some of the engine’s early design work was done by a small group of engineers working out of Thomas Edison’s Fort Myers Laboratory in Greenfield Village. The lab provided the team with privacy and freedom from distraction – and maybe even a little inspiration.

mm4Tether cars peaked in popularity in the years surrounding World War II, though newer models – like this 1990s example – continue to be built by enthusiasts.

We added a small-scale surprise to the tent this year. Throughout the weekend, visitors could watch our conservators at work on a gasoline-powered tether car. These miniature racers competed against the clock while tethered to a central pivot, or against each other on scaled-down board tracks. The featured car was one of dozens acquired by The Henry Ford from the E-Z Spindizzy Foundation in 2013.

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Scenes from the World War II home front came to life at our small-town War Bond drive.

Building on the “historical vignette” concept that debuted at last year’s Old Car Festival, this year’s Motor Muster included period settings for each decade represented by the cars in the show. For the 1930s, we staged a Civilian Conservation Corps camp at the McGuffey School. For the 1940s, we reenacted a home front War Bond drive, circa 1943, along Washington Boulevard. (In keeping with the theme, Spam sandwiches were available for lunch!)

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The 1951 General Motors Le Sabre concept car, on loan courtesy of our friends at GM, was a highlight of the “FuturaFair” auto show vignette. GM also provided the 1958 Firebird III.

The 1950s were represented by a Motorama-style auto show in the Village Pavilion. Our “FuturaFair” display included three of that decade’s notable concept cars: the 1951 GM Le Sabre, the 1953 Ford X-100, and the 1958 GM Firebird III. At the Scotch Settlement School, a happy group of revelers enjoyed a suburban-style picnic set in the 1960s. And the Spirit of ’76 reigned at the foot of the Ackley Covered Bridge, where the 1st Michigan Fife & Drum Corps and the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps performed Bicentennial-themed concerts throughout the weekend.

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Badminton kept our Bicentennial vignette lively, while mid-1970s AMC wagons and cars provided atmosphere.

If just looking at cars wasn’t enough, visitors could learn about them either by watching our narrated Pass-in-Review programs at the Main Street grandstand, or by sitting in on one of several presentations in the Village Pavilion. Topics included everything from Ford factory paint methods to the lasting impact of the Chevrolet Corvair. Of course, you could also learn simply by asking the owners about their cars. They enjoy sharing share their stories: where they found the car, why they bought it, and why they love the hobby.

It was another magical weekend filled with good friends, good food, and hundreds of vintage vehicles. And for our 2018 Motor Muster award recipients, it was a winning weekend as well. What better way to welcome another summer?

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Motor Muster

Auto Shows

June 15, 2018 Think THF
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National Automobile Show Official Program, 1956. THF206474

A big city auto show is a magical place. Automakers turn heads and grab headlines with futuristic concept cars and the latest production models. Suppliers and aftermarket vendors mount elaborate displays promoting everything from gearboxes to floor mats. For the public, it’s a chance to do some serious research on that next big car purchase, or to simply dream while gazing at sports cars, luxury sedans and special edition trucks.

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Program, "70th Annual Chicago Auto Show," February 25 through March 5, 1978. THF108058


Auto shows are part trade show and part show business, but they’ve been a part of the automotive industry from the beginning. We’ve put together a new Expert Set featuring programs and posters drawn from the past century. See how much has changed – and how much hasn’t – in selling the American automobile.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Concept Cars

June 13, 2018 Think THF
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Topps "World on Wheels" Series Collecting Card, circa 1951 General Motors Le Sabre Experimental Car, circa 1954. THF207260

Nothing stirs the imagination like a concept car. These dream vehicles offer a tantalizing glimpse into the future with dramatic styling features and sophisticated technologies that may (or may not) be right around the corner for us everyday drivers. Most concept cars never make it into regular production, though two notable examples – the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper – did make the leap from fantasy to reality. (Sadly, my favorite concept car – the 1986 Corvette Indy – did not.)

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Concept cars are, by nature, ephemeral things. Once they’ve toured enough auto shows and generated enough buzz, they often get scrapped. One, the 1955 Lincoln Futura, went on to even greater glory after it was rebuilt into the Batmobile for the 1966-68 Batman television series. Other lucky vehicles found homes in museums.

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The Henry Ford has several concept cars in its collection, ranging from the sheltering Cornell-Liberty Safety Car to the shimmering Chrysler Turbine. We’ve pulled together cars, models and promotional materials in a new Expert Set celebrating these fantastic dream machines. Take a look and wish away!

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

dodge-demonDodge Demon 1.0: “Insidious,” one of 800 hot rods and custom cars on view at the 2018 Detroit Autorama.

There’s still snow on the ground in the Motor City, but car show season is officially underway after the 66th annual Detroit Autorama, held March 2-4. Some of the wildest, weirdest and/or most beautiful customs and hot rods filled Cobo Center in a celebration of chrome and creativity. For those who’ve never been, Autorama is a feast for the eyes (and, at closing time when many of the entrants drive off under their own power, the ears). Some 800 cars, built by the most talented rodders and customizers in the country, are brought together under a single roof to be admired, coveted and judged.

chevy-truckWit is as much a part of the customizer’s toolbox as wrenches and rachets. Check out this 1955 Chevy “Bad Humor” ice cream truck, surrounded by used popsicle sticks.

The most prestigious prize at Autorama is the Ridler Award, named in honor of show promoter Don Ridler. Only cars that have never been shown before are eligible. On Autorama’s opening day, the judges select their “Great 8” – the finalists for the Ridler. Anticipation builds throughout the weekend until the winner is announced at the end of the Sunday afternoon awards presentation. In addition to considerable bragging rights, the Ridler Award winner receives $10,000 and enshrinement in the online Winner Archive. This year’s Ridler went to “Imagine,” a silver 1957 Chevrolet 150 owned by Greg and Judy Hrehovcsik and Johnny Martin of Alamosa, Colorado.

chevy-camaroOur 2018 Past Forward winner, a 1956 Continental Mark II with a fifth-generation Chevy Camaro powertrain under the body.

Each year The Henry Ford gives out its own prize to a deserving Autorama participant. Our Past Forward award recognizes a car that 1.) Blends custom and hot rod traditions with modern innovation, 2.) Exhibits a high level of craftsmanship, 3.) Captures the “anything goes” spirit of the hobby, and 4.) Is just plain fun. Our 2018 winner, a 1956 Continental Mark II owned by Doug Knorr of Traverse City, Michigan, and built by Classic Car Garage of Greenville, Michigan, had all these qualities in the right combination. Everything about the car said “Continental,” only more so – from the oversized turbine wheels to the elegant Continental star on the valve covers. And if the 400-horsepower LS3 Camaro V-8 under the hood doesn’t say “anything goes,” then I don’t know what does.

dodge-monacoThe 1976 Dodge Monaco – notably a model made after catalytic converters, so it won’t run good on regular gas.

If chrome-plated undercarriages aren’t your thing, then Autorama Extreme was there for you again this year on Cobo’s lower level. Shammy cloths and car polish are decidedly out of place among the Rat Rods down below. In addition to show cars, vendors and the ever-popular Gene Winfield pop-up chop shop, Autorama Extreme features a concert stage with ongoing musical entertainment. There’s always a healthy dose of 1950s rockabilly on the schedule, but this year’s lineup also included a Blues Brothers tribute act – complete with a 1976 Dodge Monaco gussied up (or down, I suppose) into a fairly convincing copy of the Bluesmobile.

ford-model-aUnpolished and proud of it. A 1930 Ford Model A with the Rat Rods in Autorama Extreme.

amc-spiritNot everything at Autorama is textbook classic. Here’s a 1980 AMC Spirit patriotically living up to its name with lots of red, white and blue.

lethal-t“Lethal T,” for those who’ve always dreamed of putting a 427 Cammer in a Model T. 

If you haven’t been to Detroit Autorama, then make a point of being there in 2019. You won’t find anything quite like it anywhere else in the world.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.