The Ford National Museum
An interesting and instructive extract from a letter written by Leading Naval Airman D.B. McLean, of the R.N.Z.A.F., describing some of the cars he saw whilst in Detroit, U.S.A.
We had not realised just how extensive, and of what appeal to the enthusiast, is the Ford Motor Company’s National Automobile Museum at Detroit until the other day. It so happened that last summer Leading Naval Airman D.B. McLean, of the R.N.Z.A.F., came to this country in the course of his training and we were able to introduce him to some enthusiasts here, who gave him as good a time as they could and showed him a few real motorcars. In a recent letter to one of these enthusiasts, from his present base at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Pensacola, McLean describes some of the cars he inspected at the Ford Museum while he was in Detroit. We have pleasure in publishing below this part of his letter. He further mentions seeing an Austin Eight, a T-type M.G., an early Rolls Royce tourer and a V12 Lagonda on his arrival in Florida, not to mention several Italian-built Fiat “500s” and two 1932 Packards with giant brake drums and clean eight-cylinder engine with alloy sumps. In Detroit he noticed a 135-b.h.p. Straight Eight Pierce-Arrow, an A.C.F. ‘bus with fine old Hall Scott engine, a V16-type La Salle with Buda diesel motor, the little two-cylinder Crossleys and a Hupmobile “Skylark,” which was a light model for which the old Cord body-dies were used. In Detroit a 1935 Hudson Eight roadster could be bought for about £16, but down South prices were three times as high. His description of the Ford Museum reads as follows:
The most interesting day I spent in Detroit was at the Ford Museum, and it took me many hours just to get round the transportation division thereof. Among the motor-cycles were the original Indians, made by the old Hendy Company, a very neat four-cylinder Cleveland (circa 1928), three early Wanderers, a Humber from the 1890’s, the ubiquitous Ricardo, one of the very early and distinctly “bicyclish” Harleys, and, believe it or not, a gleaming modern B.M.W. Among the sectional engines and chassis let me first of all record the startling apparition of a completely sectioned Model “T” Ford!
Practically all American engines are there, from the old one-lung Cadillac down to the 1934 V8, including the Stearns and the Pierce-Arrow, old type. Also a complete set of Ford products, even the English jobs and the French V8, from No. 1 (the one for which Henry had to make a hole in the wall to get it out) down to the 28,000,000th V8. A collection of American carburetters from the earliest days was also most interesting, with the old Honeys, Stewarts, Scheblers, Marvels and Strombergs in prominence. Among the steam cars were two Stanleys (lovely jobs), several Whites, a Locomobile and a Doble (in appearance very like a 1926 Packard tourer). In the petrol field the collection led off with the usual De Dions, of course, including a V8, and all types of early Americans, including Stevens Duryea and Regal (the latter very low slung); one-cylinder Cadillac; one-cylinder Olds, Columbia, Eagle; 1908 Buick; a V8 Chevrolet (very early, about 1917); another Chevrolet of a type of which only 24 were made, as the cooling baffles infringed the Franklin patents; several early Franklins; an early International truck; a Reo car (very “Fordish” with planetary glass – I am certain there was a connection between Olds and Ford now); some early Whites; a Saxon (yes, really); a lonely M-type M.G.; a 1924 Austin Seven; a Mercédès (I should say “36 220”), looking very impressive; a Brescia Bugatti in yellow, once owned by Edsel Ford; several Rolls Royces, some of them owned by J.P. Morgan; early Packards and Studebakers; an all-aluminium sedan built by Aluminium Industries, Detroit, completely aluminium and rather Vauxhallish in appearance, with flutes and aluminium chassis, the motor was built by Pierce-Arrow and had a steel-linered aluminium block; nothing much is known about the car. Also some early Chalmers, a speedy and very substantial Matheson, and numerous others.
Particularly wicked was a tiny twin-cylinder monoposto Scripps Booth – struck me it might have been a crib of the G.N. Particularly imposing was the Lincoln limousine constructed by Ford for the King and Queen’s tour of the States. It is a closely guarded secret as to just what this car cost, but the rumour is in Detroit that the figure was not far short of £150,000, and there is no other “just such a one,” which must be a record for the Ford works. Certainly a nice job for its purpose. Nothing startling about the “mill” though. All the Ford types were there, A, B, C, D and so on to T and the late A, B4, V8 and so on. K, a giant old six-cylinder, was most impressive, with semi-elliptic springs. Also a six-cylinder Model “T” (no fooling!), with polished aluminium 2-seater body, used by Ethel Ford while at school, and standing proudly on a dais stands that wonderful old-timer “999,” a tremendous four-cylinder with open differential and hand cone clutch – hats off to Barney Oldfield! Also present is the Model “C” which Henry Ford drove over the mile in 26 secs. There is an Owen Magnetic in the show, with a truly beautiful six cylinder motor, nicely finished. Two of the old big Renaults also. Another interesting thing is Ford V8 engine No. 1, still with the assembly line tag “Hold for Mr. H. Ford” on it.