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White car with large red and black text on side and hood

Vicki Wood drove at least one Chrysler 300 car from Carl Kiekhaefer's NASCAR team—though we can’t be sure this Kiekhaefer Chrysler in our collection was driven by her. / THF90106

Stock car racer Vicki Wood was born March 15, 1919, in Detroit. Her success on Detroit area tracks in the early 1950s caught the attention of Chrysler's public relations office. Sensing a promotional opportunity, they arranged for her to try for speed records at Daytona Beach in 1955 and 1956. Each time, she drove a Chrysler—and it's possible, though we can’t be sure, that one was the Kiekhaefer Chrysler in our collection, pictured above.

Wood set several records on the sands of Daytona Beach between 1955 and 1960. In three of those years, her times beat all the male drivers. In 1960, Wood set a one-way speed record of 150.375 mph—the fastest one-way run by a woman in the history of Daytona’s beach course. Wood retired in 1963 but, because beach racing ended in 1959 when Daytona International Speedway opened, she’ll always be “the fastest woman on the beach.”

She passed away on June 5, 2020, in Troy, Michigan.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

cars, race cars, by Matt Anderson, women's history, racing, race car drivers

Two women wearing lanyards pose with arms around each other, with a grandstand full of people in the background

Sarah Fisher with Lyn St. James. Photo courtesy Lyn St. James.

Born October 4, 1980, in Columbus, Ohio, Sarah Fisher raced quarter midgets and go-karts before age 10, and earned multiple karting championships in her teens. When she competed in her first Indianapolis 500 in 2000, she was only the third woman to do so (after Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James) and—at age 19—the youngest. With her third-place finish at Kentucky Speedway later that season, Fisher became the first woman to earn a place on the podium in an IndyCar Series event.

Red jumpsuit with black trim containing text and corporate logos on bodice
Racing suit worn by Sarah Fisher in 2009, which will be on exhibit in Driven to Win: Racing in America in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.  / THF176380

Fisher retired from driving after 2010 (and after nine starts in the Indy 500), but continued as a team owner. In 2011, Fisher became the first female owner to earn an IndyCar victory, with driver Ed Carpenter at the wheel.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

entrepreneurship, Indy 500, Henry Ford Museum, Driven to Win, women's history, by Matt Anderson, race car drivers, cars, racing

Woman sits in race car with feet dangling out open door; other people and cars in background

Denise McCluggage at Bahamas Speed Weeks, November-December 1959 / 1959NassauSpeedWeek_080

Denise McCluggage was born January 20, 1927, in El Dorado, Kansas. A journalist by trade, McCluggage was covering motor racing for the New York Herald when she developed an avocational interest in the sport. She had no formal training, but proved herself a natural talent on the track. Through the 1950s and 1960s, she raced against some of the era’s finest professional drivers. Along the way, she earned victories in sports car races at Nassau, Watkins Glen, and Sebring.

Woman leans against wooden post and talks to several other people, with additional people and cars nearby
Denise McCluggage Talking with Stirling Moss at Bahamas Speed Weeks, November 27 - December 10, 1961 / THF134439

McCluggage co-founded Autoweek in 1958 and contributed pieces to the magazine through the remainder of her life. McCluggage was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame in 2006, and died on May 6, 2015, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

cars, race car drivers, by Matt Anderson, women's history, racing

Red car with white hood; text in multiple areas including "34" on door and roof, "Wendell Scott" on roof

Wendell Scott, NASCAR’s first full-time Black driver, used this 1966 Ford Galaxie, currently on exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, during the 1967–68 seasons. (Vehicle on loan courtesy of Hajek Motorsports. Photo credit: Wes Duenkel Motorsports Photography.)

Stock car racing is a difficult business. Budgets and schedules are tight, travel is grueling, and competition is intense. Imagine facing all of these obstacles together with the insidious challenge of racism. Wendell Scott, the first African American driver to compete full-time in NASCAR’s top-level Cup Series, overcame all of this and more in his winning and inspiring career.

Portrait of man with text underneath: "Wendell Scott, Danville, Va."
Portrait of Wendell Scott from the February 1968 Daytona 500 program. / THF146968

Born in Danville, Virginia, in 1921, Scott served in the motor pool during World War II, developing skills as a mechanic that would serve him well throughout his motorsport career. He started racing in 1947, quickly earning wins on local stock car tracks. Intrigued by the new National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), formed in 1948, Scott traveled to several NASCAR-sanctioned events intent on competing. But each time, officials turned him away, stating that Black drivers weren’t allowed.

Undaunted, Scott continued to sharpen his skills in other stock car series. He endured slurs and taunts from crowds, and harassment on and off the track from other drivers, but he persevered. Of necessity, Scott was his own driver, mechanic, and team owner. Gradually, some white drivers came to respect Scott’s abilities and dedication to the sport. Through persistence and endurance, Scott obtained a NASCAR competition license and made his Cup Series debut in 1961. He started in 23 races and earned five top-five finishes in his inaugural season. On December 1, 1963, with his victory in a 100-mile race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, Wendell Scott became the first Black driver to win a Cup Series event.

Car, with large number 34 on door, on racetrack
Wendell Scott on the track—in a 1965 Ford Galaxie—in 1966. / THF146962

But that win did not come easy—even after the checkered flag fell. The track was rough, many drivers made multiple pit stops, and no one was sure just how many laps some cars had completed, or who truly had the lead. Initially, driver Buck Baker was credited with the victory. Baker went to Victory Lane, posed for photos, addressed the press, and headed home. Wendell Scott was certain that he had won and, as was his right, immediately requested a formal review. After two hours, officials determined that Scott was, in fact, the true winner. Scott received the $1,000 cash prize, but by that time the ceremony, the trophy, and the press were long gone. (The Jacksonville Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame presented Scott’s widow and children with a replica of the missing trophy in 2010—nearly 50 years later.)

Throughout his career, Scott never had the support of a major sponsor. He stretched his limited dollars by using second-hand cars and equipment. During the 1967–68 seasons, he ran a 1966 Ford Galaxie he acquired from the Holman-Moody racing team. That Galaxie was one of 18 delivered from Ford Motor Company to Holman-Moody for the 1965–66 NASCAR seasons. During the 1966 season, Cale Yarborough piloted the Galaxie under #27. Scott campaigned the car under his own #34, notably driving it at the 1968 Daytona 500 where he finished seventeenth.

Car, with large number 27 on door, in front of blurred stands full of people
Cale Yarborough at the wheel of the 1966 Ford Galaxie at that year’s Daytona 500. THF146964

Wendell Scott’s Cup Series career spanned 13 years. He made 495 starts and earned 147 top-ten finishes. He might have raced longer if not for a serious crash at Talladega Superspeedway in 1973. Scott’s injuries put him in the hospital for several weeks and persuaded him to retire from competitive driving. Scott passed away from cancer in 1990, but not before seeing his life story inspire the 1977 Richard Pryor film Greased Lightning.

Scott’s 1966 Ford Galaxie is on loan to The Henry Ford courtesy of Hajek Motorsports, which previously loaned the car to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. We are proud to exhibit it, and to share the story of a pioneering driver who overcame almost every conceivable challenge in his hall-of-fame career.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

cars, Driven to Win, Henry Ford Museum, by Matt Anderson, racing, African American history

The annual North American International Auto Show, a longtime January fixture in Detroit, made headlines this year by announcing a move to late September/early October. The shift promises warmer weather and less overlap with other events. It also offers an opportunity to reinvigorate a tradition that now competes against new marketing methods and sales opportunities driven by new technologies. With this big news in mind, we take a brief look at the history of auto shows through the collections of The Henry Ford.

Elaborate exhibit with cases, stacked items, and taxidermied animals
“Kansas & Colorado State Building Interior,” Centennial Exhibition, 1876. Auto shows have roots in industrial expositions and world’s fairs held in the 19th century. Few were as impressive as Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exposition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. / THF99942

Illustration of people on bicycles and in a car in front of the Arc de Triomphe
Official Program, “Fifth National Exhibition of Cycles, Automobiles and Accessories,” 1900. Bicycle manufacturers staged trade shows in the late 19th century to showcase their latest models and attract new customers. Auto shows evolved naturally out of these events. This January 1900 New York show featured bikes and cars. / THF124095

Floor show diagram; contains text
Second Annual Show of Automobiles, Madison Square Garden, New York, November 1901. The November 1900 New York Auto Show was America’s first all-automobile show. Manufacturers displayed more than 30 different models in Madison Square Garden. This program is from the next year’s event. / THF288260_detail

Woman in red coat and hat with scarf tied under chin as car drives down road with red brick buildings nearby
Program, “6th Annual Boston Automobile Show,” March 7-14, 1908. Soon, every major American city staged its own annual show. For would-be car buyers, these events provided a chance to research new models, and compare features and prices across different manufacturers. / THF108049

Image of front end of car with a woman in a large hat straddling it on a red background; contains text
Program, “Duquesne Garden 5th Annual Automobile Show,” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 25-April 8, 1911. This program from Pittsburgh’s auto show reveals that, in 1911, cars were still thought of largely as playthings. Non-commercial automobiles were classed as “Pleasure Vehicles” at the event. / THF108051

Woman in white coat and hat standing by a yellow car on a mauve background; contains text
Detroit Auto Dealers Association Eighteenth Annual Automotive Show Program, March 1919. Detroit’s auto show is among America’s oldest. World War I impacted the 1919 event. The show was delayed from January to March—giving time for automakers to shift back from war work to civilian production. / THF288268

Long, rounded car surrounded by barriers; contains text
Chrysler Thunderbolt, “It’s the ‘hit’ of the New York Show,” 1940-1941. Starting in the late 1930s, “concept cars” became star attractions at auto shows. These futuristic vehicles, like the Chrysler Thunderbolt, featured cutting-edge technologies and advanced designs. They remain mainstays today. / THF223319

Page with decorative pattern around edge; contains text
Program, “The Automobile Salon,” New York City, 1920. After cars went mainstream, some shows continued to cater exclusively to wealthy buyers. New York’s 1920 Auto Salon featured posh marques like Cadillac, Lincoln, Packard, Benz, Hispano Suiza, and Rolls-Royce. / THF207760

Pink and gray car on platform under another platform with musicians; a crowd of people and another car on a platform in the foreground; contains text
General Motors Motorama of 1955. GM took auto shows to new heights with its traveling Motorama expos of 1949–61. The events spotlighted futuristic concept cars and aspirational production cars. Crowds lined up to see the dream cars on display. / THF288302

Car in display with hood and trunk open
Electric Corvair at Detroit Automobile Show, 1967. New technologies are featured prominently. In 1967, Chevrolet showcased this fuel cell–powered electric Corvair. Some 50 years later, fuel cell cars still appear at shows—a futuristic technology whose time has yet to arrive. / THF103714

Circular photo of cars on display on a blue background; contains text
Program, “70th Annual Chicago Auto Show,” February 25 through March 5, 1978. Big auto shows benefit more than carmakers. Successful shows attract thousands of visitors, who spend money in restaurants, shops, and hotels. No wonder Chicago boasted its show as the “world’s greatest” in this 1978 program. / THF108058

Several images of cars on a black band on a white background; contains text
Advertising Poster, “1990 North American International Auto Show.” For manufacturers, auto shows provide a chance celebrate both heritage and innovation. This 1990 Oldsmobile poster features past models as well as the then-new convertible Cutlass Supreme. / THF111496

Van containing Muppet characters stopped behind barrier; Kermit the Frog in a booth in foreground; contains text
Muppet Traffic Safety Show Sponsored by Plymouth, North American International Auto Show, 1990. Auto shows became family affairs with kids joining the fun. In 1990, Plymouth partnered with puppeteer Jim Henson on a traffic safety ride, featuring animatronic Muppet characters, at the North American International Auto Show. / THF256326

Hubcap overlaid with leaf and arc of blue sky with clouds, all on white background; contains text
Automobiles and the Environment Conference at the 1998 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. In the late 20th century, environmental concerns grew increasingly prominent at auto shows. This program is for a special environment-focused conference held in conjunction with the 1998 Los Angeles Auto Show. / THF288272

Artwork of car in various colors running together like paint, on a red background that contains text
Auto Show Poster, “Detroit 2006: North American International Auto Show.” In the 21st century, traditional auto shows compete with flashy online presentations and press events. But NAIAS’s shift to fall promises new excitement for one of the automotive industry’s signature in-person events. / THF111553


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

by Matt Anderson, NAIAS, car shows, cars

Plane with white wings and body painted like a green-scaled fish, hanging upside from ceiling in front of yellow-and-red striped tent

The Curtiss JN-4 always turns heads in “Heroes of the Sky.” / THF39670

Walk into the barnstormers section of our Heroes of the Sky exhibit and odds are the first airplane to catch your eye will be our 1917 Curtiss JN-4 “Canuck” biplane. Whether it’s the airplane’s inverted attitude, its dangling wing-walker, or its fishy-looking fuselage, there’s a lot to draw your attention. And well there should be. The Curtiss Jenny was among the most significant early American airplanes.

Conceived by British designer Benjamin D. Thomas and built by American aviation entrepreneur Glenn Curtiss, the JN airplanes combined the best elements of Thomas’s earlier Model J and Curtiss’s earlier Model N trainer planes. New variants of the JN were increasingly refined. The fourth in the series, introduced in 1915, was logically designated JN-4. Pilots affectionately nicknamed it the “Jenny.” The inspiration is obvious enough, but even more so if you imagine the formal model name (JN-4) written as many flyers first saw it—with an open-top “4” resembling a “Y.”

Man standing at back of airplane with large text "CURTISS" painted on side
This Curtiss JN, circa 1915, left no doubt about its manufacturer’s identity. / THF265971

Despite not being a combat aircraft, the Curtiss Jenny became the iconic American airplane of the First World War. Some 6,000 units were built, and nine of every ten U.S. military pilots learned to fly on a Jenny. The model’s low top speed (about 75 mph) and basic but durable construction were ideal for flight instruction. Dual controls in the front and back seats allowed teacher or student to take charge of the craft at any time.

Our JN-4 is one of approximately 1,200 units built under license by Canadian Aeroplanes, Ltd., of Toronto. In a nod to their Canadian origins, these airplanes were nicknamed “Canucks.” While generally resembling American-built Jennys, the Canadian planes have a different shape to the tailfin and rudder, a refined tail skid, and a control stick rather than the wheel used stateside. (The stick became standard on later American-built Jennys.)

Man with arms upraised standing outside airplane in front of wing in midair
Barnstormer “Jersey” Ringel posed while (sort of) aboard his Jenny about 1921. / THF135786

Following the war, many American pilots were equally desperate to keep flying and to earn a living. “Barnstorming”—performing death-defying aerial stunts for paying crowds—offered a way to do both. Surplus military Jennys could be bought for as little as $300. The same qualities that suited the planes to training—durability and reliability—were just as well-suited to stunt flying. The JN-4 became the quintessential barnstormer’s plane, which explains why our Canuck is featured so prominently in the Heroes of the Sky barnstorming zone. As for the inspiration behind our plane’s paint job… that’s another kettle of fish.

Lure shaped and colored like a fish, with three-pronged hooks hanging from the tail and belly
Fishing lures, similar to this one, inspired the unusual paint scheme on our Curtiss JN-4. / THF150858

Founded in 1902, James Heddon and Sons produced fishing lures and rods at its factory in Dowagiac, Michigan. Heddon’s innovative, influential products helped it grow into one of the world’s largest tackle manufacturers. That inventive streak spilled over into Heddon’s advertising efforts. In the early 1920s, the company acquired two surplus JN-4 Canucks and painted them to resemble Heddon lures. These “flying fish” toured the airshow circuit to promote Heddon and its products. While our Canuck isn’t an original Heddon plane, it’s painted as a tribute to those colorful aircraft. (Incidentally, the Heddon Museum is well worth a visit when you’re in southwest Michigan.)

Every airplane in Heroes of the Sky has a story to tell. Some of them are even fish stories!


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Henry Ford Museum, popular culture, by Matt Anderson, flying, airplanes

Boxy blue vehicle in doorway; one person on hands and knees looking underneath; 2 other people standing nearby
The Mcity Driverless Shuttle arrives at The Henry Ford.

Thanks to a generous gift from the University of Michigan (U-M), The Henry Ford recently acquired its second autonomous vehicle: a driverless shuttle used by U-M’s Mcity connected and automated vehicle research center. Readers may recall that we acquired our first AV in 2018 – a 2016 General Motors Self-Driving Test Vehicle. While the GM car was an experimental vehicle focused on technology, the Mcity shuttle took part in an intriguing project more focused on the psychology of consumer trust and acceptance of driverless vehicles.

From June 4, 2018, through December 13, 2019, Mcity, a public-private research partnership led by U-M, operated this driverless shuttle at U-M’s North Campus Research Complex in Ann Arbor. The project’s purpose was to understand how passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers interacted with autonomous vehicles. In effect, the project was a way to gauge consumer acceptance of a decidedly unconventional new technology.

The shuttle donated to The Henry Ford is one of two fully-automated, electrically-powered, 11-seat shuttles Mcity operated on a fixed route around the research complex throughout the course of the study. The shuttles were built by French manufacturer Navya. In late 2016, Navya had delivered its first self-driving shuttle in North America to Mcity, where it was used to support research and to demonstrate automated vehicle technology. In June 2017, Mcity announced plans to launch a research project in the form of an on-campus shuttle service that would be open to the U-M community.

The Mcity Driverless Shuttle operated on a one-mile loop around the North Campus Research Complex at speeds averaging about 10 miles per hour. The service ran Monday-Friday from 9 AM to 3 PM. While its route avoided heavy-traffic arteries, the shuttle nevertheless shared two-way public roadways with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. It operated in a variety of weather conditions, including winter cold and snow; but was not used in more extreme weather, such as heavy snow or rain.

Side view of boxy blue shuttle with large windows and several people visible inside; grass in foreground and building in background
The Mcity Driverless Shuttle on its route at the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex. (Photo credit: University of Michigan)

While the shuttle and its technology are impressive enough, the impetus behind its use is arguably more important to The Henry Ford. The Mcity research project was the first driverless shuttle deployment in the United States that focused primarily on user behavior. Mcity’s goal was to learn more about how people reacted to AVs, rather than prove the technology. The two shuttles were equipped with exterior video recorders to capture reactions from people outside the shuttle, and interior video and audio recorders to capture reactions from passengers inside. On-board safety conductors, there to stop the shuttle in case of emergency, also observed rider behavior.

Mcity staff monitored ridership numbers and patterns throughout the project, and riders were encouraged to complete a survey about their experience that was developed by Mcity and the market research firm J.D. Power. Survey questions ranged from basic inquiries about age and relationship to the university, to more specific inquiries about reasons for riding, degree of satisfaction with the service, interest level in AV technology, and – most significantly – degree of trust in the shuttle and its driverless capabilities. The survey data was then analyzed by J.D. Power. You can learn more about the results through Mcity's white paper, "Mcity Driverless Shuttle: What We Learned About Consumer Acceptance of Automated Vehicles."

Along with the shuttle itself, U-M has kindly donated examples of the special signage installed by Mcity in support of the shuttle project. There are no current government regulations – at the federal, state, or local levels – for signage along a driverless vehicle route. Mcity developed its own signs to alert other road users to the shuttle’s presence. Samples include signs proclaiming “Shuttle Stop” and “Attention: Driverless Vehicle Route.”

Autonomous vehicles are coming to our streets – it’s no longer a question of “if,” but of “when.” Indeed, the Mcity shuttle project proves that AVs are, to an extent, already here. These driverless vehicles promise to be the most transformative development in ground transportation since the automobile itself. Self-driving capabilities will fundamentally change our relationship with the vehicle. The technology promises improved safety and economy in our cars and buses, greater capacity and efficiency on our roads, and enhanced mobility and quality of life for those unable to drive themselves. The Mcity Driverless Shuttle represents an important milestone on the road to autonomy, and it marks an important addition to The Henry Ford’s automotive collection.

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autonomous vehicles, Michigan, research, alternative fuel vehicles, technology, by Matt Anderson

roundhouse
The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse in Greenfield
Village. (THF2001)

Symbolic Structure
Apart from the ubiquitous small-town depot, there may be no building more symbolic of railroading than the roundhouse. At one time, thousands of these peculiar structures were spread across the country. Inside them, highly-skilled workers used specialized tools, equipment, and techniques to care for the steam locomotives that powered American railroads for more than a century.

Today, only a handful of American roundhouses are still in regular use maintaining steam locomotives. Visitors to The Henry Ford have the rare opportunity to see one of these buildings in action. The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse is the heart of our Weiser Railroad, the steam-powered excursion line that transports guests around Greenfield Village. Our dedicated railroad operations team maintains our operating locomotives using many of the same methods and tools as their predecessors of earlier generations.

roundhouse-original
Workers pose outside the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse on its original site in Marshall, Michigan, circa 1890-1900. (THF129728)

Roundhouses were built wherever railroads needed them, whether in the heart of a large city or out on the open plains. In 1884, the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad constructed its roundhouse in Marshall, Michigan – the approximate midpoint on DT&M’s 94-mile line between the Michigan cities of Dundee and Allegan. Larger railroads operated multiple roundhouses, generally located at 100-mile intervals – roughly the distance one train crew could travel in a single shift. The roundhouses on these large railroads served as relay points where a new locomotive (and crew) took over the train while the previous locomotive went in for maintenance.

inside-view
Roundhouses gave crews space to work, but also kept locomotives and equipment within easy reach, as seen in this 1924 view inside a Detroit, Toledo &
Ironton Railroad roundhouse. (THF116641)

Circular Reasoning
Railroads embraced the circular roundhouse design for a variety of reasons. It allowed for a compact layout, keeping the locomotives and equipment inside closely spaced and within accessible reach. The building pattern was flexible, permitting a railroad to add stalls to an existing roundhouse (or remove them) as conditions warranted. The turntable – used to access each roundhouse stall – simplified trackwork and didn’t require multiple switches to move locomotives from place to place.

not-roundhouse
Not all “roundhouses” were round. See this
example from Massachusetts, photographed in 1881. But round structures offered decided advantages over rectangular buildings. (THF201503)

Likewise, the single-space stalls and turntable allowed for convenient access to any one locomotive. Long, rectangular service buildings required moving several locomotives to extract one located at the end of a track. (If you’ve ever had to ask people to move their cars from a driveway so that you could get yours out, then you’ll recognize this problem.) The turntable had the added benefit of being able to reverse the direction of a locomotive without the need for a space-consuming “wye” track.

people
People made the roundhouse work, like this man at the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton’s Flat Rock, Michigan, roundhouse photographed in 1943.
(THF116647)

A Variety of Trades
Of course, roundhouses were more than locomotives, turntables, and tracks. Their most important feature was the variety of skilled tradespeople and unskilled workers who made them function. Boilermakers, blacksmiths, machinists, pipefitters, and more all labored within a roundhouse’s stalls. Large roundhouses might employee hundreds of people. The environment was noisy and smoky, and much of the work was dangerous and dirty – emptying ash pans, cleaning scale from boilers, greasing rods and fittings – but it had its advantages. Unlike train crews who worked all hours and spent long periods away from home, roundhouse workers enjoyed more regular schedules and returned to their own beds at the end of the day.

transform
Roundhouses faded after the transition from steam to diesel, illustrated by this 1950 photo taken at Ford’s Rouge plant. (THF285460)

Roundhouses Retired
With the widespread adoption of diesel-electric locomotives following World War II, the roundhouse gradually disappeared from the American railroad. Diesels needed far less maintenance than steam engines, and required fewer specialized skills from the crews that serviced them. Following dieselization, a few roundhouses were modified to maintain the new locomotives, while others were put to other railroad uses. Some were preserved as museums, and a few were even converted into shopping centers or restaurants. But most were simply torn down or abandoned.

The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse followed a similar pattern of slipping into disuse – though in its case, it was more a victim of the DT&M Railroad’s failing fortunes than the transition to steam. After a series of acquisitions and mergers, the little DT&M became a part of the Michigan Central. The much larger MC had no need for DT&M’s Marshall roundhouse, and the new owner repurposed the structure into a storage building. In 1932, the roundhouse was abandoned altogether. It was in a dilapidated condition by the late 1980s, when The Henry Ford began the process of salvaging what components we could. After many years of planning and fundraising, the reconstructed DT&M Roundhouse opened to Greenfield Village guests in 2000. Clearly, the building itself is rare enough, but it’s the work that goes on inside that makes it truly special. Today, the DT&M Roundhouse is one of the few places in the world where visitors can still observe the crafts and skills that kept America’s steam railroads rolling so many years ago.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village buildings, by Matt Anderson, railroads, Michigan, Greenfield Village

indy-500-sunliner
The 1953 Ford Sunliner, Official Pace Car of the 1953 Indianapolis 500. (
THF87498)

As America’s longest-running automobile race, it’s not surprising that the Indianapolis 500 is steeped in special traditions. Whether it’s the wistful singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the green flag, or the celebratory Victory Lane milk toast – which is anything but milquetoast – Indy is full of distinctive rituals that make the race unique. One of those long-standing traditions is the pace car, a fixture since the very first Indy 500 in 1911.

This is no mere ceremonial role. The pace car is a working vehicle that leads the grid into the start of the race, and then comes back out during caution laps to keep the field moving in an orderly fashion. Traditionally, the pace car’s make has varied from year to year, though it is invariably an American brand. Indiana manufacturers like Stutz, Marmon, and Studebaker showed up frequently, but badges from the Detroit Three – Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors – have dominated. In more recent years, Chevrolet has been the provider of choice, with every pace car since 2002 being either a Corvette or a Camaro. Since 1936, the race’s winning driver has received a copy of pace car as a part of the prize package.

amelia-pacecar-1935
Amelia Earhart rides in the pace car, a 1935 Ford V-8, at the 1935 Indianapolis 500. (
THF256052)

Likewise, honorary pace car drivers have changed over time. The first decades often featured industry leaders like Carl Fisher (founder of Indianapolis Motor Speedway), Harry Stutz, and Edsel Ford. Starting in the 1970s, celebrities like James Garner, Jay Leno, and Morgan Freeman appeared. Racing drivers have always been in the mix, with everyone from Barney Oldfield to Jackie Stewart to Jeff Gordon having served in the role. (The “fastest” pace car driver was probably Charles Yeager, who drove in 1986 – 39 years after he broke the sound barrier in the rocket-powered airplane Glamorous Glennis.)

Ford was given pace car honors for 1953. It was a big year for the company – half a century had passed since Henry Ford and his primary shareholders signed the articles of association establishing Ford Motor Company in 1903. The firm celebrated its golden anniversary in several ways. It commissioned Norman Rockwell to create artwork for a special calendar. It built a high-tech concept car said to contain more than 50 automotive innovations. And it gave every vehicle it built that year a commemorative steering wheel badge that read “50th Anniversary 1903-1953.”

ford-999
Henry Ford’s 1902 “999” race car poses with the 1953 Ford Sunliner pace car on Ford’s Dearborn test track. (Note the familiar clocktower at upper right!) (
THF130893)

For its star turn at Indianapolis, Ford provided a Sunliner model to fulfill the pace car’s duties. The two-door Sunliner convertible was a part of Ford’s Crestline series – its top trim level for the 1953 model year. Crestline cars featured chrome window moldings, sun visors, and armrests. Unlike the entry-level Mainline or mid-priced Customline series, which were available with either Ford’s inline 6 or V-8 engines, Crestline cars came only with the 239 cubic inch, 110 horsepower V-8. Additionally, Crestline was the only one of the three series to include a convertible body style.

wcf-999
William Clay Ford at the tiller of “999” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (
THF130906)

Ford actually sent two cars to Indianapolis for the big race. In addition to the pace car, Henry Ford’s 1902 race car “999” was pulled from exhibit at Henry Ford Museum to participate in the festivities. True, “999” never competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But its best-known driver, Barney Oldfield, drove twice in the Indy 500, finishing in fifth place both in 1914 and 1916. Fittingly, Indy officials gave William Clay Ford the honor of driving the pace car. Mr. Ford, the youngest of Henry Ford’s grandchildren, didn’t stop there. He also personally piloted “999” in demonstrations prior to the race.

As for the race itself? The 1953 Indianapolis 500 was a hot one – literally. Temperatures were well over 90° F on race day, and hotter still on the mostly asphalt track. Many drivers actually called in relief drivers for a portion of the race. After 3 hours and 53 minutes of sweltering competition, the victory went to Bill Vukovich – who drove all 200 laps himself – with an average race speed of 127.740 mph. It was the first of two consecutive Indy 500 wins for Vukovich. Sadly, Vukovich was killed in a crash during the 1955 race.

sunliner-side
Another view of the 1953 Ford Sunliner pace car. (
THF87499)

Following the 1953 race and its associated ceremonies, Ford Motor Company gifted the original race-used pace car to The Henry Ford, where it remains today. Ford Motor also produced some 2,000 replicas for sale to the public. Each replica included the same features (Ford-O-Matic transmission, power steering, Continental spare tire kit), paint (Sungate Ivory), and lettering as the original. Reportedly, it was the first time a manufacturer offered pace car copies for purchase by the general public – something that is now a well-established tradition in its own right.

Sure, the Sunliner pace car is easy to overlook next to legendary race cars like “Old 16,” the Lotus-Ford, or – indeed – the “999,” but it’s a special link to America’s most important auto race, and it’s a noteworthy part of the auto racing collection at The Henry Ford.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

racing, race cars, Indy 500, Ford Motor Company, cars, by Matt Anderson

Be Empathetic like AAA

May 15, 2020

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THF171209 / Automobile Club of Michigan Sign

It was my privilege to take over The Henry Ford’s Twitter feed for a while on the morning of May 14. Our theme for the day was "Be Empathetic." To me that means "be helpful and supportive," and those attributes remind me of early auto organizations like the Automobile Club of Michigan, founded in 1916. The Automobile Club of Michigan is one of several regional organizations that joined the American Automobile Association. Over the years, AAA’s work has included advocating for better roads, providing roadside assistance to stranded motorists, encouraging traffic safety generally – particularly near schools, and promoting tourism and travel by car throughout the United States. During my Twitter session, I shared several AAA items in the collections of The Henry Ford.

To the Rescue on the Road

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THF103500 / Pamphlet from AAA of Michigan, "Emergency Road Service Guide," June 1951 / front

AAA began offering emergency roadside service in 1915. This 1951 pamphlet lists affiliated service garages throughout Michigan.

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THF333431 / 1947 Ford Repair Truck at the Ralph Ellsworth Dealership, Garden City, Michigan, October 1946

This photo shows one of the AAA-affiliated wreckers that might've come to your aid in the late 1940s or early 1950s. In this case, it's a 1947 Ford.

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THF304296 / Toy Truck, Used by James Greenhoe, 1937-1946

Children could play their own "roadside assistance" games with a toy truck like this one, made circa 1940.

Keeping Children Safe

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THF153486 / Automobile Club of Michigan Safety Patrol Armband, 1950-1960

Speaking of children, one of AAA's most important initiatives is its School Safety Patrol program, established in 1920.

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THF208042 / Music Sheet, "The Official Song of the Safety Patrol," 1937

Safety patrollers help adults in protecting students at crosswalks, and in bus and car drop-off and pick-up zones. Their dedicated efforts were celebrated in "Song of the Safety Patrol" from 1937.

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THF289667 / Detroit Police Officer Anthony Hosang Talks with Safety Patrol Students on a Tour of the Ford Rouge Plant, May 10, 1950

Here's a group of Detroit safety patrol members in 1950. They're listening to police officer Anthony Hosang as a part of a tour through Ford's Rouge Plant – a reward for a job well done.

Reaching Your Destination

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THF104025 / "Official Highway Map of Michigan," Automobile Club of Michigan, 1934

AAA also helps drivers find their way by publishing road maps. Here's one showing the Detroit metro area in 1934. Many of the highway numbers are familiar, but their routes have changed.

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THF136038 / Log and Map of Automobile Routes between Detroit-Gary and Chicago, 1942

Here's a map of routes between Detroit and Gary-Chicago in 1942. The northern-most route (then U.S. 12) parallels modern I-94.

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THF151706 / Automobile Club of Michigan, "Know Michigan Better, Stay Longer," Sign, 1950-1960

AAA also promotes tourism, encouraging drivers to explore America – and their own states. Residents can "know Michigan better," and visitors can "stay longer."

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THF14793 / Travel Brochure for Holland Michigan, circa 1940

Springtime brings tulips, and what better place to enjoy them then Holland? (Holland, Michigan, that is.)

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THF14744 / Souvenir Book, "Northern Michigan, Lower Peninsula," 1940

Here's a AAA guidebook promoting travel to Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.

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THF9103 / Host Mark Magazine, "Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Musem, A Bicentennial Site," 1976

And here's a familiar sight on the cover of AAA's Host Mark magazine. It's Greenfield Village, where bicentennial celebrations were underway throughout 1976.

It was great fun sharing these pieces with our Twitter followers. I also enjoyed answering some questions about our wider transportation holdings along the way. “Be Empathetic” – it’s an important lesson anytime, but especially right now.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

 

#THFCuratorChat, cars, travel, AAA, by Matt Anderson