Category archives: Museums

Historic ‘last Hudson dealership’ becomes National Hudson Museum

A new model will be featured annually in the old showroom | Kevin A. Wilson photos
A new model will be featured annually in the old showroom | Kevin A. Wilson photos

What was known for decades as the world’s “last Hudson dealership” will retain its focus on the history of Detroit-built Hudson, Essex and Terraplane cars and trucks now that the National Hudson Essex Terraplane Historical Society (HETHS) has struck a deal to house a new museum within the Ypsilanti, Michigan dealership.

“I’m really pleased with the news,” said the dealership’s long-time proprietor Jack Miller. “It keeps the dealership intact and focused on Hudson. And with Ed Souers involved, I’m confident it’s in good hands.”

The National Hudson Motor Car Company Museum is slated to open in late September, on the same weekend as the annual Ypsilanti Orphan Car Show, which this year takes place September 21. Until then, the museum will continue to operate in its current guise at 100 Cross Street, hard beside the railroad tracks in Depot Town, the city’s historic district.

Souers, spokesman for HETHS and the manager of the new Hudson museum, announced the agreement with Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum (YAHM) president Ron Bluhm.

Old dealership will become national museum
Old dealership will become national museum

Miller retired as curator of the Ypsilanti museum last year and was honored during the Orphan Car Show, which he’d cofounded 16 years earlier, leaving his many friends in the business and collector-car community worried about the future of the institution he’d nurtured.

While the dealership itself resides in a structure even older than Hudson (which was founded in 1909), the museum was created in 1996. With the leadership, notably, of Peter Fletcher, a prominent Michigan politician and Ypsilanti philanthropist and historian, the historic structure was preserved by expanding its mission. And its floor area.

Fletcher and others helped secure backing to construct an addition to the old dealership that linked it to a former post office just east on the same block of Cross Street. In the expanded space, the focus broadened beyond Miller’s Hudson-centric dealership displays to recognize the community’s automotive connections. These include Tucker (Preston Tucker lived in Ypsilanti and built cars at Willow Run), the products of Kaiser-Frazer that were also built at the Willow Run factory, and later Willow Run products like the Chevrolet Corvair and Hydramatic transmissions.

YAHM’s exhibits include many vehicles, plus signage and a vast collection of materials related to the area’s car dealerships, clubs, racing activities and more. It also houses the collection of CORSA, the Corvair Society of America.

The expanded portion will continue to tell those stories, while the new Hudson Motor Company Museum will be housed entirely within the original dealership. Externally, the old dealership is distinguishable by its green-painted walls while the newer portion is done in yellow.

Adjacent building provides room for expanded displays
Adjacent building provides room for expanded displays

Originally an electric power plant converted to a factory, its origins as a new-car dealership trace to 1916. A Dodge outlet for a dozen years, in the late 1920s it shifted to Hudson.

Carl Miller, Jack’s father, bought it with a partner in 1932 and ran it as a Hudson sales and service point until the brand’s demise in 1957, following the merger with Nash-Kelvinator that created American Motors. New American Motors products (Nash and Rambler) appeared in the showroom until 1959. The franchise was dropped at that time and Carl Miller opted to just sell used cars and provide service for the many he’d sold over the years.

After Jack Miller took over, he operated a Hudson parts and service business favored by collectors long after the brand was fading from public memory. He also continued to restore Hudson, Essex and Terraplane cars and trucks. By selling at least one such vehicle every year while operating within the original structure, Miller built a reputation as “the last Hudson dealer.” He sold off his remaining parts in 1996 when YAHM was founded and became curator of the museum.

Until he retired, the dealership portion remained devoted entirely to Hudson, Essex and Terraplane products, including among its holdings an original NASCAR “stepdown” Hudson race car—the number 92 as driven by Herb Thomas–that he found and restored. It has appeared several times at Daytona vintage events. Since the Pixar animated film Cars appeared in 2007, children especially have delighted in visiting this original “Doc Hudson” in the museum. The car also spent a year on loan to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame museum.

While the YAHM put many collectible cars and memorablia holdings in its own right, Miller had retained title to many of the important Hudson vehicles and a huge collection of original factory papers, photos, memorabilia and records that he’d acquired over the years. He also kept the dealership’s own sales and service records on file. When Miller retired, he sold most of his cars, including the racer, along with the records to noted Hudson collector Souers.

This collection and those of others will feature in the new museum. Souers has previously displayed several rarities from his own outstanding collection, including an original Hudson Italia and a one-off prototype Hudson Jet convertible, at either or both the museum and the Orphan Car Show.

“He knows his stuff and will honor the heritage well,” said Miller.

Souers noted that the Nash/Hudson merger took place in 1954. “It is only fitting that we commentate the 60th anniversary by establishing the National Hudson Motor Car Company Museum in Ypsilanti, near Hudson’s Detroit birthplace,” he said.

HETHS has worked toward creation of a dedicated museum for Hudson Motors for some years; it was the topic of some discussion at the marque’s 100th anniversary gathering in Detroit in 2009. Several other potential locations had been considered, but the Ypsilanti dealership site ultimately won out as the most natural place. It is only an hour’s drive west of Hudson’s original home in Detroit and well within the southeast Michigan “Motor Cities National Heritage Area” that groups, under a National Parks system program, many historic sites in the region. YAHM is a designated “gateway” to the entire Heritage Area—visitors can start there and receive guidance to other attractions throughout the area.

YAHM president Bluhm said the plan is to change the showroom display annually with one car (all that fits in there) surrounded by objects, ads and other displays appropriate to the year in which the featured car was built.

Service area will be used to put cars into cultural context
Service area will be used to put cars into cultural context

These annual model changes will, over time, depict the entire history of the company, with the place of honor going to cars ranging from a 1910 Hudson Model 20 through the last to wear the badge, built at Nash’s plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1957.

Displays in the service area, where Miller long worked on restoration projects, will now put Hudson Motor Company’s heritage in context with American history.

Bluhm says he’s excited about the prospects for raising the profile of the entire museum while expanding on its origins as a Hudson store. A recent acquisition at the YAHM includes furniture and other objects from the offices of the short-lived company Henry J. Kaiser founded, so while the focus on Hudson continues, so, too, does the expanded mission.

“Our partnership (with HETHS) provides us an opportunity to enhance our Hudson collection and place our museum on the national stage with other major auto museums,” Bluhm said.

Museum has staging area for clubs, driving tours.
Museum has staging area for clubs, driving tours.


Corvette museum visitors can view the full sinkhole through August

Visitors photograph the sinkhole | Corvette National Museum photos
Visitors photograph the sinkhole | Corvette National Museum photos
Museum staff views the sinkhole
Museum staff views the sinkhole

Officials at the National Corvette Museum have decided to delay reconstruction of the Skydome so visitors can see the sinkhole that opened February 12 and swallowed eight cars. Repairs will be delayed until after the museum’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, scheduled for August 27-30. Continue reading

Museum celebrates more than Olds and his mobiles

1908 REO Runabout Model B at the Olds Museum in Lansing, Michigan | Steve Purdy
1908 REO Runabout Model B at the Olds Museum in Lansing, Michigan | Steve Purdy photos
R.E. Olds Museum sign
R.E. Olds Museum sign

Several years ago, Collectable Automobile magazine called Lansing’s R.E. Olds Transportation Museum “one of the ten best small car museums in the country.” We still agree.

Housed in an old city bus garage on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Lansing, Michigan, the museum preserves and celebrates not just automobiles but trucks and a variety of other locally made products with wheels and motors. Plenty of artifacts and displays make it remarkably entertaining as well as enlightening.

With a substantial General Motors presence, there have been times in the past when more cars were made in Lansing than in Detroit. In recent years, a new GM assembly plant was built west of town and the famous Grand River plant was entirely rebuilt to produce a variety of Cadillacs. The next-generation Camaro will be added soon.

Lansing has been a car town for more than a century and Ransom Eli Olds was the biggest part of that.IMG_1046

The Olds family built stationary engines in the late 1800s when Ransom decided he would make an automobile. He experimented with a variety of designs, beginning with a steam-powered contraption in 1887. He came up with a gasoline, internal-combustion car that would be reasonably practical in 1897. He immediately formed the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, building just a few dozen cars over the next few years.

On display at the museum inside a climate-controlled glass enclosure is one of the original 1897 cars, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution. An accurate reproduction of the car also is on display where you can get a closer look at the simple but innovative mechanical details of this early car.

R.E. Olds was a contemporary, friend and competitor of the pioneers of the emerging auto industry at the turn of the 20th century. He is credited with being first to use an assembly line to mass-produce automobiles at his new Detroit factory when he launched the “Curved Dash” Olds in 1901.

Curved Dash Olds and work station
Curved Dash Olds and work station

The museum tells the Curved Dash story from many angles. It was the result of his goal to make an inexpensive car for the masses, preceding his friend Henry Ford’s similar goal by years.

The museum features a display of a work bay rebuilt from beams salvaged from a demolished 1912 factory. The diorama shows details of how the Curved Dash Olds was made and is fleshed out with tools, equipment and parts that illustrate the process.

When R.E. Olds left the company, he founded a new company in Lansing and named it by using just his initials – REO. That company built a variety of cars from 1905 through 1936 and trucks of many sizes beginning in 1911 through the mid 1970s. Executives from the truck building operation formed another truck building enterprise called Spartan Motors and continue to build trucks and specialty chassis today in nearby Charlotte.

R.E. Olds was not the only guy making cars and other vehicles in the Lansing area. The museum also tells stories of the Bates Mule Tractor Company, Driggs Airplanes, Durant and Star automobiles, REO mowers and other products.

A special display housed in a glass case near a World War II exhibit features 14 amazingly detailed, fully operational model engines – radials, horizontally opposed, and other configurations – made entirely without plans by local machinist, Leroy Martin.

The centennial mural
The centennial mural

Other artifacts preserved in the museum are a substantial section of a large mural depicting the REO Administration Building produced to honor the 2004 REO Centennial celebration, some stained glass panels with artfully stylized rockets from the old Oldsmobile administration building, the Olds building’s huge mahogany conference table, service signs, a full-size Fisher Body Napoleonic Coach, a substantial collection of the Olds stationary engines, and a variety of the Olds family artifacts.

Perhaps the most fascinating display in the museum is the “Mama and Baby REO.” In 1905 the company built an exact, fully functional, one-half scale 1906 REO for display at the New York Auto Show to promote the yet-to-be-built real car. It was later sold to the circus and then disappeared for many years.

The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum is at the end of Museum Drive, a few blocks east of the State Capitol Building. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5. For more information go to:

Car designer Peter Brock to lecture at Blackhawk

Peter Brock will sign copies of his recent Corvette Sting Ray book | Brock Racing Enterprises
Peter Brock will sign copies of his recent Corvette Sting Ray book | Brock Racing Enterprises

Car designer, author, racing-team owner, photo journalist – Peter Brock has excelled at all his pursuits, starting at the age of 19 when he joined Bill Mitchell’s group of stylists at General Motors, where he became a leading force in the creation of the Corvette Sting Ray.

Brock will present a lecture at noon Sunday at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, Calif., focusing on his time as one of the youngest designers ever hired at GM Styling and how he worked with Mitchell, Harley Earl, Zora Arkus-Duntov and Ed Cole in producing the groundbreaking 1963 Sting Ray.

Part of the museum’s Spring Speaker Series, the lecture by Brock coincides with the 34th annual “A Legend on Display” car show presented by the Northern California Corvette Association, which takes place in the museum plaza. More than 100 cars are expected.

Brock's 1957 sketch helped launch the Sting Ray | General Motors
Brock’s 1957 sketch helped launch the Sting Ray | General Motors

Brock will be available to sign copies of his 2013 book, Corvette Sting Ray: Genesis of an American Icon, in which Brock gives an insider’s look at how the Sting Ray came about, and the many competing decisions that went into its design.

A sketch made by Brock in 1957 was picked by Mitchell as the focus for the second-generation Corvette and spawned one of America’s most famous show cars, the Sting Ray Racer of 1959. It also provided the direction for the eventual production Sting Ray that appeared to manic acclaim in the fall of 1962.

Brock is most-famous among racing fans for his work with Carroll Shelby, who hired the young designer as the first employee for his performance and racing endeavors. Brock accepted the challenge from Shelby of creating a version of the Cobra roadster for high-speed performance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The result — the iconic Cobra Daytona Coupe — succeeded in beating reigning Ferrari for a GT-class win at Le Mans. It also was the first American car to win the FIA’s GT World Championship.

Brock ran his own racing team at one point, under Brock Racing Enterprises, which campaigned Datsun 510 coupes to conquer Alfa-Romeo and Porsche in Trans Am 2.5 competition. The BRE Datsuns became famous for taking their blue-and-orange livery into victory lane.

For more information about the lecture, the Corvette show and other events at the Blackhawk Museum, see

Corvette museum considering options for preserving not only cars but part of the sinkhole

Exploration of sinkhole continues | National Corvette Museum
Exploration of sinkhole continues | National Corvette Museum

With all of the damaged vehicles removed from the sinkhole beneath the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum, options are being considered about the repairs needed to restore the facility and those vehicles. One option is to preserve a portion of the sinkhole for future museum visitors to see and to learn not only about the collapse, but about the ground beneath not just the museum but the entire area. Continue reading

$7 million GT40 goes to Utah motorsports museum

The Ford GT40 was raced by Shelby America during the 1965 season | Mecum Auctions
The Ford GT40 was raced by Shelby America during the 1965 season | Mecum Auctions

The Ford GT40 prototype racecar that hammered sold at a record $7 million April 12 at the Mecum auction in Houston will be put on permanent display at the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum in Tooele, Utah.

Continue reading

It’s the Petersen’s turn to celebrate Mustang’s birthday

Eleanors from both Gone in 60 Seconds movies will be at the museum | Petersen photos
Eleanors from both Gone in 60 Seconds movies will be at the museum | Petersen photos

The big celebrations at the New York Auto Show and at speedways in Charlotte and Las Vegas may be over, but festivities staged to observe the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang continue.

This weekend, May 3-4, the Petersen Automotive museum presents Mustang Madness which will include:

  • An all-Mustang car show.
  • A look at the next-generation 2015 Mustang that doesn’t arrive in Ford dealerships until sometime this fall.
  • The unveiling of the museum’s Mustangs Forever: 50 Years of a Legend exhibit.
  • Live interviews with various “Mustang Heroes.”
  • A visit Saturday morning by Mustang RTR creator and world drift-driving champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and one Sunday morning by Beau Boeckmann, president of Galpin Auto Sports (Galpin Ford is the sponsor for the special weekend Mustang celebration at the Petersen).
  • Additional appearances by Bob Fria with the first Ford Mustang, by Hollywood Hot Rods’ Troy Ladd with his custom Mustang, and by Pure Vision’s Martini Mustang.
  • A “Value of the Mustang” seminar Sunday afternoon by experts from Hagerty Collector Car Insurance.
  • Screenings of both the 1974 and 2000 versions of the movie, Gone in 60 Seconds, with the Eleanor Mustangs from both movies on display.
  • Food tents, live music and a play area and scavenger hunt for children.
  • A special museum rooftop Mustang Lounge.
It will be all-Mustangs at the show
It will be all-Mustangs at the show

Speaking of the all-Mustang car show, there will be prizes awarded, and Henry Ford III will present a special Ford Heritage Award.

For more information and a time schedule, visit the website.


Ruby 2: Corvette owner donates her 40th Anniversary car to replace the one damaged in sinkhole

Lynda Patterson delivers her cherish 40th Anniversary car to the museum | National Corvette Museum
Lynda Patterson delivers her cherished40th Anniversary car to the museum | National Corvette Museum
1993 'Ruby Red' 40th anniversary car
Damaged 1993 ‘Ruby Red’ 40th anniversary car

It was nearly 20 years ago that Mike and Lynda Patterson decided that someday they’d donate their Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette to the National Corvette Museum. Someday turned out to be April 17. Continue reading

British museum celebrates 21 years with 21 icons

Stirling Moss and the MG EX181 set speed records at Bonneville | Heritage Motor Centre photos
Stirling Moss and the MG EX181 set speed records at Bonneville | Heritage Motor Centre photos

Britain’s Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, Warwickshire, celebrates its 21st birthday in May with a special exhibition, “21 Years 21 Icons.” We asked if we could get the list of the 7 vehicles, inventions and people who will be featured.

Not yet, we were told. It’s still a secret.

Curator Stephen Laing in the original cutaway Mini
Curator Stephen Laing in the original cutaway Mini

However, we did get a sneak peek in the form of three photographs — one of Stirling Moss, one of a disc brake and one of curator Stephen Laing sitting in a cutaway of the original Mini.

“Since the Museum opened on 1 May 1993, its collection has been renowned as one of the finest selections of British motor cars,” the centre said in announcing its anniversary exhibition. “The museum tells the story of the people that have shaped Britain’s love affair with the motor car and also houses some of the world’s best-known examples of automotive design and technology. “

The exhibition opens May 2 and runs through December.

“For each of the 21, the exhibition will explore their history and why they are so important to Britain’s automotive evolution,” the news release said.

Pub No. H 5837 Acc No. 90/42/63
The disc brake

“The Heritage Motor Centre has been celebrating the best of Britain’s car industry for 21 years,” Laing said. “It has been a difficult task to choose just 21 products, people and pioneering inventions that represent motoring, the motor car and its industry in Britain.”

In addition to its 21st anniversary celebration, the centre announced that it will receive more than $6.2 million from its Heritage Lottery and will use those funds to construct a new two-story building to house its reserve car collection, workshop and learning education zone. The new facility is scheduled to open in 2015.

“It will allow us to make our collections far more accessible,” said Tim Bryan, head of collections and interpretation.

The Heritage Motor Centre is home to the world’s largest historic collection of British cars and draws together the collections of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust with more than 300 vehicles.

Last — and most badly damaged — Corvette freed from sinkhole beneath museum’s Skydome

Mallett Hammer Z06 is loaded for transport to the exhibition hall |National Corvette Museum photos
Mallett Hammer Z06 is loaded for transport to the exhibition hall |National Corvette Museum photos

“It looks like the worst one… a lot of parts and pieces,” Mike Murphy, chief executive of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction, said as the last of the eight Corvettes swallowed by a sinkhole emerged from the abyss beneath the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum. Continue reading