Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney, reunited with the Ford Mark IV 50 years after their Le Mans triumph. (Courtesy of Ford/Campbell Marketing)

Fifty years ago, on June 11, 1967, Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt made history by winning the first and – to date – only all-American victory at France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. For Ford Motor Company and race team Shelby American, it was the second consecutive Le Mans win, following the memorable 1-2-3 finish of 1966. But that first victory came courtesy New Zealander drivers Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, and the British-built GT40 Mark II. With Californian Gurney and Texan Foyt behind the wheel of the made-in-Dearborn Mark IV, the 1967 win was as American as the proverbial apple pie.

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Gurney and Foyt on the Le Mans podium in 1967. (From the Collections of The Henry Ford)

In conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Road Racing Drivers Club recognized Mr. Gurney, Mr. Foyt and the milestone anniversary in a special ceremony on April 6. The Mark IV left its usual place in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and headed west to join the veteran drivers in California, making for a rare reunion of the men and machine that dominated the Circuit de la Sarthe in 1967 and capped the fiery Ford-Ferrari feud. Gurney and Foyt shared their still-vivid memories of the race, reflected on changes in endurance racing over the past five decades, and resoundingly agreed that June 1967 marked a high point in both of their careers. (Just ten days before the ’67 Le Mans, Foyt won his third Indianapolis 500, and a week later, Gurney won the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix in one of his Eagle race cars.)

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Edsel Ford II presents A.J. Foyt with the Spirit of Ford Award. (Courtesy of Ford/Campbell Marketing)


Mr. Foyt received another tribute before the evening was over. Ford Motor Company director Edsel Ford II presented him with the Spirit of Ford Award, the company’s highest honor in auto racing. Foyt is only the 26th recipient since the prize was established 1988, and he joins a prestigious group of past winners like Carroll Shelby, Richard Petty, Denise McCluggage, John Force and Sir Jackie Stewart. (Mr. Gurney is a 1999 Spirit of Ford recipient.)

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Foyt and Gurney joined by a new generation of Ford GT drivers (L to R: Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Richard Westbrook and Sébastien Bourdais). (Courtesy of Ford/Campbell Marketing)

It was an incredible evening, not only because of the chance to reflect on 1967, but also due to the excitement building toward this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Ford will look to defend its 2016 class victory with the current Ford GT. Two of Ford’s 2016 driver teams, Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais; and Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, were on hand in Long Beach. Past and present came together when the “kids” joined Foyt and Gurney for a group photo with the Mark IV. Fifty years later, A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney continue to inspire – on the track and off.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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Many people know Steve McQueen as an actor in such popular 1960s and 1970s films as The Great Escape, Bullitt, and The Thomas Crown Affair. But McQueen was also a racecar enthusiast, to the point where he once reportedly said, "I'm not sure whether I'm an actor who races or a racer who acts.” 

To help shed some light on this issue, we’ve just digitized nearly a dozen photos of McQueen visiting designer Carroll Shelby’s Shelby-American shop in Venice, California, in 1963, including this image of both men at the shop. 

Visit our Digital Collections to see more images from McQueen’s visit, as well as tens of thousands more artifacts from our vast racing collections. Or, if you’re more interested in McQueen’s acting, check out our 1974 movie poster for The Towering Inferno.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Strategy Manager, Collections & Content at The Henry Ford.

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On Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, a dear friend of The Henry Ford, Bruce Bachmann, passed away. I’ve known Mr. Bachmann since February 2010 when I was welcomed into his Glencoe, Illinois home. Bruce and his late wife Ann invited me to see their spectacular collection of studio glass. I was struck by their gracious hospitality and passion for studio glass. Sociable and gregarious, the Bachmanns loved to talk about their studio glass “family,” a network of artists, collectors, and gallery owners. Over time, the relationship grew into a friendship and ultimately, the donation of the Bachmann’s collection to The Henry Ford in 2015. This collection is the heart of the recently opened Davidson-Gerson Modern Glass Gallery in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. A significant portion of the upcoming Davidson-Gerson Gallery of Glass in Greenfield Village, opening this spring, features masterpieces from the Bachmann’s collection.

Bachmann Master Bedroom 1

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This piece of studio glass, shown above, from Richard Royal’s Relationship Series, was a favorite of Bruce and Ann Bachmann. It lived in their master bedroom and was one of the first pieces they saw as they awoke every morning, a warm reminder of familial relationships. The artist describes the piece as the abstracted arms of a mother and father holding a child. The Bachmanns were devoted to their four children and grandchildren, likewise they saw their relationship with The Henry Ford as an extension of their own family, and a place where families gather and spend time together. 

Bruce will be missed by all of us at The Henry Ford who have worked closely with him over the past seven years. A link to his obituary can be found here. See more pieces from the Bruce and Ann Bachmann Glass Collection in our digital collections.

Charles Sable is Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford.

Ford Motor Company devoted its employees and manufacturing facilities to military production during both of the 20th century’s world wars. Ford’s efforts in World War I were slow to start, given Henry Ford’s outspoken opposition to the conflict, but once the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the automaker rose to the challenge. Over the next two years, Ford built passenger cars, supply trucks, aircraft engines, gun caissons, tanks, helmets and body armor. Ironically, one of Ford’s best-known wartime products, the Eagle anti-submarine boats, never saw action before the Armistice. However, the factory that built the Eagle boats subsequently became the core of Ford’s River Rouge plant.

Ford’s efforts for World War II were greater still. Like other American automakers, the company suspended all civilian production in February 1942. Ford famously turned out B-24 bombers at its Willow Run facility, but it also produced a variety of wheeled vehicles including jeeps, amphibious cars, armored cars, trucks and tanks. Ford’s non-vehicle production included military gear of every type, from aircraft engines to guns to helmets to tents.

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Red Cross Workers with a Ford Military Ambulance at the Highland Park Plant, 1918. THF 263442

Needless to say, ambulances were among the most crucial vehicles used in both wars. During World War I, Ford personal collaborated with the United States Surgeon General’s Office and frontline drivers to design a Model T-based ambulance ideal for battlefield conditions. The company donated $500,000 to the Red Cross, enabling the humanitarian organization to purchase nearly 1,000 vehicles for wartime use – including 107 ambulances. Beyond those Red Cross units, another 5,745 ambulances were built for the Allied armies.

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Red Cross Motor Corps members took classes in auto maintenance. These women are checking under a Ford ambulance’s hood in 1942. THF 265816

Dodge produced most of the frontline ambulances used by American forces in World War II, but Ford units were active on the homefront. The Red Cross’s Motor Corps, established in World War I, rendered important service during the Second World War as well. Corps drivers working in the United States ferried Red Cross staff and supplies, couriered packages and messages, and occasionally stepped in to assist with Army and Navy transportation needs. An estimated 45,000 women were active in the Motor Corps during World War II. Corps members generally drove their personnel vehicles in this service, but Ford-built ambulances were also used in the transport of the sick and wounded.

In honor of National Red Cross Month, take a look at our digital collections to see more artifacts related to the organization.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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We’ve all read about Rosie the Riveter, but what about her mother? Over a million women worked in factories in WWI building Liberty engines, airplanes, working in munitions factories, and warehouses. Others volunteered for the American Red Cross driving ambulances, working in canteens, transporting people and supplies in the Motor Corp., and as nurses. Still others set up daycares for working mothers, knitted clothing and medical supplies, and rationed food so that soldiers would have more. With 2017 marking the 100th anniversary of American involvement in WWI, we took a look at how these women contributed to the war effort in the U.S.

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Part of the reason little has been said about women factory workers in WWI is that, unlike in WWII, most of the women who worked in wartime industries had already been working in factories prior to the war. It was only in the last few weeks before armistice was signed that middle-class homemakers were being mobilized to work in factories. But the women who did work in the factories manufacturing munitions, airplanes, trucks, and Liberty Engines, were not in these industries prior to the war. Women, during WWI, made a huge shift from traditionally women’s industries such as food processing and textiles to traditionally male industries, such as heavy manufacturing and vehicle production. This came with pushback from their male coworkers, and after the war, many of these women were forced back into traditionally female occupations, but during the war women proved they could perform jobs in these industries in support of the war effort (and also to earn a much better living).

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In Detroit, most of the automotive factories were manufacturing items for the war. In addition to providing vehicles, planes, and components, Packard, Lincoln, Ford, and GM all produced the Liberty Engine for airplanes. The factories, short on men during war, employed women to work on the engines. It was said manufacturers preferred women in some of the work as they were more detail oriented and better suited to delicate work requiring a fine touch. Ford Motor Company, who at the time employed almost no women at all, began hiring women in August of 1918, by the time armistice was signed in November they had employed 500 women from one time to another in the factories. From the extant photos, Lincoln Motor Company appeared to have hired even more women, putting them to work at everything from gauging pistons and valves to welding.

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Many women worked for the American Red Cross during the war. Detroit had its own chapter of the Red Cross and Ford Motor Company provided ambulances, trucks and cars in a $500,000 contribution. Women of the Red Cross conducted training sessions with their Ford ambulances outside the Highland Park factory. Women also transported sick patients, medical supplies, and doctors and nurses to and from hospitals during the Influenza Epidemic. In addition, volunteers in the Motor Corp used Ford vehicles, and others, to transport supplies to canteens, deliver surgical supplies, knitted garments, and other materials and personnel.

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Women also worked from their homes to aid the war effort. Posters of the time encouraged women to volunteer for the Red Cross, asking them if they had a Red Cross service flag in the window of their home, support the YWCA helping women factory workers, join the Women’s Land Army, and to buy war bonds. Women at home were also encouraged to conserve food by using less wheat and meat, growing home gardens, and show children the importance of rationing. Cookbooks giving recipes avoiding wheat included recipes for corn and bran muffins, and potato doughnuts, while other pamphlets instructed housewives in gardening, and home canning and drying. Posters often compared U.S. women to the hard working, hard suffering, women of France, encouraging women to do their part to help out.
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While the U.S. was only directly engaged in the war for ­­­19 months, the U.S. industry had long before been manufacturing for the war, and women were engaged in the public and home sectors working in factories, volunteering, and rationing. The shortage of men during the war allowed women to enter jobs they were previously barred from, at the same time the importance of cooking, making, and volunteering took on new proportions for women as well. Though many of the women working in factories had to give up their jobs, and opportunities for women diminished as the men returned from war, women of WWI played a key role in the war effort both in industry and at home.

If you’re looking for more World War I resources, the Benson Ford Research Center can help you find them. We’re open Monday-Friday 9-5, AskUs a question or make an appointment today.

Kathy Makas is a Benson Ford Research Center Reference Archivist at The Henry Ford.

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In the digital age, it’s easy to keep up with your favorite bands—you might sign up for their email list, follow them on social media, or get text alerts on your phone. In any of these cases, you’ll probably know when they’re coming to your town to perform.

In the mid-20th century, though, posters were a way to show potential fans which acts would be performing, where, and when. Bright colors, bold graphics, and dramatic fonts caught the attention of passers-by in cities where dozens of venues competed for audiences.

With the 50th anniversary of the Summer Of Love just a few months away, we’ve just digitized a few great examples of rock posters dating between 1969 and 1971, including this poster advertising Chuck Berry, the Sir Douglas Quintet, and Boz Scaggs at Pepperland in San Rafael, California, in 1970.

Visit our Digital Collections to see more rock posters or other rock-related artifacts—and rock on!

Update: This post was originally written on March 13, 2017, only a few days before Chuck Berry’s death at the age of 90. I obviously had no foreknowledge of that event to come, but this poster, out of all the ones we digitized, caught my eye because Mr. Berry holds such a large place in our collective memory, and is an artist I deeply respect and enjoy. I’m glad that The Henry Ford is able to preserve and share some of his quintessentially American legacy. Hail, hail, Chuck Berry—may you rest in peace and your music live on.  –Ellice Engdahl, 3/20/17

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Strategy Manager, Collections & Content at The Henry Ford. 

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Beast and Belle hand puppets. THF342892, THF342891
 

When Walt Disney Pictures released its animated film Beauty and the Beast in 1991, the company received its best movie reviews in almost 50 years. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars out of four, saying that, “Beauty and the Beast reaches back to an older and healthier Hollywood tradition in which the best writers, musicians, and filmmakers are gathered for a project on the assumption that a family audience deserves great entertainment, too.” Movie-goers of all ages agreed—this film was a winner.

Lesser known is the fact that this movie broke new ground in ways that we often take for granted with animated films today. On the eve of Disney’s soon-to-be-released live-action version of this classic film, we take the opportunity to reflect upon the many breakthrough—even revolutionary—aspects of the original film.

1. It was the first animated film in history to use a screenplay in addition to the usual storyboards. This made the resulting story more akin to a live-action movie than to the extended cartoon quality of other animated films produced up to that time.

2. The screenplay was written by a woman! In a field dominated by men, Linda Woolverton—whose primary experience had been writing scripts for children’s television shows—was the first woman to write an animated feature for Disney.  Woolverton, who claimed that she possessed some of Belle’s characteristics and that Gaston had “tinges of guys I used to date,” brought a believable quality to the characters as she worked with the film’s changing stable of story writers.

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Belle Burger King figure. THF 101187


3. Belle was a new kind of princess, ushering in a whole new generation of more free-thinking, dynamic princesses like Mulan, Rapunzel in Tangled, and Merida in Brave. In writing the screenplay, Woolverton said, “I wanted a woman of the 90’s, someone who wanted to do something other than wait for her prince to come.” The casting of Paige O’Hara (a Broadway actress and singer) as the voice of Belle was a purposeful attempt to add a unique, more grown-up quality to Belle’s personality.

4. The other main characters also broke traditional molds. Full of depth and complexity, Beast and Gaston turned the role of the classic, stereotypical Disney prince inside out. Beast, who was “mean and coarse and unrefined” during most of the film, turned out to be the prince, while Gaston—whose dashing looks make him a more likely hero—turned out to be the villain.

5. The music was stunning. When Walt Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg insisted that the film have a Broadway musical quality, he brought in songwriters Alan Mencken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics) fresh from their success with The Little Mermaid. Mencken and Ashman outdid themselves, creating the emotionally complex songs that moved the narrative forward and furthered our understanding of the characters and themes. Mencken and Ashman received Academy Awards that year for best original song (Beauty and the Beast) and best original score. 

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Songwriters Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman turned their talents to Beauty and the Beast after completing The Little Mermaid. THF 308964

6. It helped kick movie studios’ use of computer animation into high gear. Beauty and the Beast was produced using a blend of traditional hand-drawn animation and CAPS, a computer-animated production system. While not the first movie to use computer animation, the success of such effects in this film—especially in the stunning ballroom scene—convinced Disney and other film studios to invest further in this technology.

7. It brought The Walt Disney Company back to being a force to be reckoned with. After a string of minor box-office releases, Disney’s animation department started turning things around with Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1986) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Beauty and the Beast was an even bigger hit, ushering in a wave of successive hits from Aladdin to Tarzan.  

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Aladdin and Magic Carpet Burger King figure. THF 311312


This era, sometimes referred to as the “Disney Renaissance,” also saw a constant barrage of marketing tie-ins with each new film—related merchandise, Broadway musical adaptations, and Disney theme park attractions—laying the foundation for present-day cross-marketing techniques.

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Chip and Cogsworth from Pizza Hut. THF342889, THF342890 


8. It brought prestige to animated films. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to pull in more than $100 million at the box office.  It was also the first animated film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture at a time when the nominations were limited to five choices rather than today’s ten. The Academy’s later addition of a Best Animated Feature category can trace its lineage directly back to the success of Beauty and the Beast. In 2002, the National Film Registry selected Beauty and Beast for preservation by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

9. It inspired a new generation of movie-goers, especially young girls who identified with Belle and saw her as a role model. In a recent interview, Emma Watson (who plays Belle in the new live-action film) described how taken she was with this character as a young girl:

I just fell in love with Belle. She was this feisty young woman who spoke her mind and had all these ambitions and was incredibly independent and wanted to see the world and was so smart. And I loved how she had this relationship with Beast that was just toe to toe and that seemed to me to be such a dynamic and interesting kind of relationship that I’d never seen before in a fairy tale. I was just enamored of the whole thing.


Today, Ms. Watson is an activist for women’s rights. A coincidence? Perhaps, but just possibly a direct connection back to her early identification with Belle.

10. The film’s messages are still relevant. The themes of tolerance, acceptance, and beauty being in the eye of the beholder not only continue to resonate today but can provide important lessons for future generations of young movie-goers.

So, if you haven’t seen the 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast in a while, dust off that old video or DVD or watch the movie online, and see for yourself why this “tale as old as time” is still timeless.

Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

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Examining the social and economic context of The Henry Ford's rare Paul Revere teapot. Other examples can be seen in some of the country's premier art museums. THF 166148

Today, coffee and tea are enjoyed by millions of people, including blog readers. While connoisseurs of these beverages take their enjoyment very seriously, the relative affordability of these caffeinated drinks means that almost anyone can “benefit” from a caffeine boost and also enjoy their flavors. The resulting billion-dollar industries help power the world economy – and its workforce.

America has an especially close relationship with these drinks, one that dates back to before the country was formed. In modern times, coffee has dominated American tastes, but until the 20th century, Americans favored tea. Although still popular, tea drinking in America can be traced back to trade with China by Dutch merchants in the early 1600s.

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Today, fast-paced Americans prefer their caffeinated beverages on the go, often consuming them from disposable drinkware. This is in marked contrast to colonial America, where these beverages would have been served from vessels made to impress and consumed as part of elaborate entertainments expressing the host’s good taste. THF 102595


Dutch traders not only introduced Chinese tea to their colony in present-day New York, but also introduced it to Europe. The hot drink quickly rose in popularity and by the end of the 1600s, tea became the most favored hot beverage in Britain. To support the mass consumption by its citizens at home and in its colonies, England became heavily involved in the China trade and the importation of tea.  

As social customs evolved around the drinking of tea, so did the equipment used to consume the beverage. Wealthy citizens could afford to have their teapots fashioned in silver and silversmiths in the colonies, like Paul Revere, learned how to create silver designs from imported English examples. Son of Apollos Rivoire, a French immigrant and Boston silversmith, Paul Revere got his start as his father's apprentice. 

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Pictured here, an English teakettle-on-stand. Paul Revere imitated designs from English silver objects and pattern books in order to create silver in the most fashionable styles. THF 155178 

After his father died in 1754, Revere started his career producing a wide variety of silver objects, including elaborate teapots for his wealthier clients. By the 1760s, the colonies faced increased taxation as England attempted to pay off their war debt from the French and Indian War. High taxes on imports like tea angered colonists, resulting in boycotts that affected what Revere could produce as a silversmith.

These taxes led Revere to join a resistance group known as the "Sons of Liberty" whose members included some of his customers angered by the increased taxation. The organization helped fuel anti-British sentiment in the colonies and Revere aided the groups’ cause by printing propaganda that provoked colonist anger towards the Crown. 

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As a member of the Sons of Liberty, Paul Revere helped energize the movement toward American independence by printing illustrations like this one of the Boston Massacre. An active citizen, he was part of numerous other civic organizations. THF 8141

In 1773, with tensions mounting, Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty protested England's control over the tea trade by boarding recently docked British tea ships in the Boston harbor and dumping some of their tea chests overboard. The British responded to the event, known as the Boston Tea Party, by shutting the port of Boston and stripping the Massachusetts colony of its right to self-government. 

War erupted in 1775 when Britain moved to seize the colonists' gunpowder and firearms outside of Boston. Revere made his famous midnight ride during this time to warn some of his fellow patriots that the British were on their way to arrest them. While patriot duties limited Paul Revere's silversmithing during the Revolutionary War, he returned to his craft as the war came to an end in the 1780s.  

Post-war American silver customers preferred the neoclassical design that became popular in Europe during the war. In the years before the War, silver customers had preferred the Rococo style, an aesthetic known for its ornate decorations and curvilinear body designs. In contrast, neoclassical silver celebrated the classical style of Greece and Rome, making use of symmetry, hard lines, and an emphasis on simple forms. As a master craftsman, Revere developed an elegant and personal interpretation of the neoclassical style.

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This 1782 teapot shows Revere’s experimentation with the neoclassical style.


The neoclassical teapot shown above was created in 1782 by Revere. Only six teapots featuring this cylindrical body are known to exist and were some of the last that Revere hand-forged, hammering or "raising" them up from a block of silver. In 1785 Revere acquired silver rolling machinery that he used to produce silver sheets. These sheets were cut to form standardized pieces and allowed Revere's shop to produce silver products more quickly. An example of a Revere teapot made from this later method can be seen in our collections here.

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On the bottom of the 1782 teapot, the clear markings of Revere are stamped next to a monogram that can be attributed to Joseph and Sarah Henshaw of Boston. THF 166147

With the assistance of the Massachusetts Historical Society, home of the Revere Family Papers, Revere's own record books identified Joseph Henshaw as the patron for this teapot. The records show that on February 22, 1782 Paul Revere made a note that he needed to make a teapot and spoons for Joseph Henshaw. By April 27, 1782 it appears that Revere had completed the order and marked the weight of the teapot as "16-17". This weight of "16-17" can be seen scratched on the bottom of the teapot in the upper right of the picture above.

Joseph Henshaw was a prominent Boston merchant. With his wife Sarah, the two used their home to help plan further American resistance by occasionally hosting "Sons of Liberty" meetings. It was his membership in this radical group that led Joseph Henshaw to form a friendship with Paul Revere. While this teapot is a good representation of the tea culture that existed in the colonies, it is also a symbol of Revere and Henshaw's relationship, a relationship that helped establish the United States of America.

See more on Paul Revere's life from our Digital Collections in this expert set.

Ryan Jelso is Associate Curator, Digital Content, at The Henry Ford.

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“Madam X,” a 1939 Cadillac Sixty Special and one of the stars of the 2017 Detroit Autorama.

The car show season usually feels far away in late February. (Usually. Maybe not this year, when Detroit temperatures have already approached 70 degrees.) But the weekend of February 24-26 brought us a tease of the top-down, volume-up cruising weather to come. More than 800 cars filled Cobo Center for the 65th annual Detroit Autorama, among the most important shows in the hot rod and custom car hobby.

IMG_6275The VW Beetle-based “Baja Bandeeto,” showing that presentation is everything.

Naturally, Autorama doesn’t simply open the doors to kick off the event. No, it starts with something special. This year launched with a nod to The Dukes of Hazzard, the downhome television series that undoubtedly influenced every Autorama participant born between 1970 and 1980. The Northeast Ohio Dukes stunt show team patched together a derelict Dodge Charger, gave it the necessary orange paint, and jumped it 134 feet over Atwater Street, just outside Cobo Center. The flight was fantastic, but the landing… well, that Charger needs more care than Cooter Davenport can give it if it’s ever going to fly again.

IMG_6367“More Aggravation,” recipient of the very first Ridler Award in 1964.

Autorama’s top prize is the revered Ridler Award, named for early show promoter Don Ridler. Qualifying cars cannot have been shown publically prior to Autorama. Judges announce their “Great 8” – the eight finalists – at the Ridler’s Ball on Friday night. For the rest of the weekend, anticipation builds until the winner is revealed at the end of Sunday’s awards ceremony. The winning owner earns a small piece of immortality, with her or his name forever engraved on the trophy and added to the Winner Archive, and a not-so-small chunk of change in the form of $10,000. This year’s Ridler Award went to “Renaissance Roadster,” a scratch-built 1933 Ford powered by a GM big-block 427 crate engine.

IMG_6336One of the Rat Rods – the deliberately under-restored cars – that populated Autorama Extreme on Cobo Center’s lower level. Even in this condition the ’55 Chevy’s inherent beauty shines through.

For the fourth year, The Henry Ford presented its Past Forward award. With the prize, we look to honor a car that 1.) Combines traditional inspirations with modern innovations, 2.) Exhibits a high level of skill in its construction, 3.) Captures the “anything goes” attitude of the hot rod and custom car hobbies, and 4.) Is just plain fun.

IMG_6297“Pearl Necklace,” winner of The Henry Ford’s Past Forward award for 2017.

For 2017, we found all of those qualities in “Pearl Necklace,” a 1959 Ford Galaxie 500 built and owned by John Oberg and Roy Oberg. Apart from the pearlescent paint that inspired its name, and the beautiful marbled wheels (with retro Ford Motor Company logos on the hubs), “Pearl Necklace” could almost pass for stock. But this Galaxie’s a sleeper. The 352 V-8 was bored out by .020 inches, the stock differential was replaced with a 3.73 gearset for faster launches, and the transmission was replaced with Ford’s rugged C6 automatic to handle extra torque. Not that the car was too shabby even when originally built. Plaques on the door proudly boast that it’s “Air Conditioned by Ford Select Aire,” a ritzy option that accounted for almost 20 percent of the original $2,500 sticker price!

IMG_6394This 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was pointed west in Cobo Center, but it was eastbound in spirit.

But the best thing about “Pearl Necklace” was simply this: The car was a labor of love, built by John and Roy (with help from one or two friends) in a two-car garage over the course of 26 years. It’s that kind of dedication that makes a custom car special – and makes the Detroit Autorama a car show like no other.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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As cars became more widespread during the early 20th century, mechanized vehicles began to replace horses and wagons in wartime. While tanks were tested on the battlefield during World War I, there was also a need to remove wounded soldiers from the front quickly, safely, and efficiently. Ford Motor Company’s Model Ts were light, economical, and easy to operate, which made them perfect for this need.

We’ve just digitized dozens of photographs and drawings showing these innovative World War I–era Ford Model T ambulances, including this October 1918 demo picture, with the wartime message “On to Berlin” visible on the shoe soles of the “patient.”

Visit our Digital Collections to browse more photographs and technical drawings of Model T ambulances.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Strategy Manager, Collections & Content at The Henry Ford.

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