Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Virginia Museum of Transportation – Part I (Autos)

After our interesting and fun visit to Black Dog Salvage, our next stop was the Virginia Museum of Transportation.  It’s located in an historic old railroad structure next to the tracks not too far from the center of the city.

The cost of admission was very reasonable…$8.00 for seniors (60+) and $10.00 for younger ‘adults’.  We started out with the automotive portion of the museum…

The first car that greeted us in this part of the museum was this 1918 Kline Kar.  This 7 passenger touring version is one of only 2 known surviving vehicles produced by the Kline Motor Car Company.  It is about 75% restored.

The company began operations in York Pennsylvania but later moved to Richmond Virginia.  As such, the “Kline” was one of only a handful of cars produced by Virginian companies.  The others were the ‘Virginian’, ‘Dawson’ and the ‘Piedmont’.   

The Kline had a 6 cylinder engine that delivered 25 horsepower.  About 800 of them were built.  They were hand-built and therefore, as other automobiles began coming off assembly lines, the Klines were expensive.  By way of comparison, a Model-T could be purchased for $600.00 while a Kline cost came in at $1,495.00!

Fittingly enough, the next automobile in line was this 1923 Piedmont Touring Car Model 4-30.  Piedmont was the only auto company that was ever chartered in Virginia.  This auto was powered by a Lycoming 4-cylinder engine and it could reach a top speed of 45 mph! 

The body was assembled in Lynchburg Virginia.  The company also produced cars for Bush (Chicago), Lone Star (Texas) and Alsace (Europe). Piedmont only produced a total of 3,000 Piedmont autos and the company went out of business primarily due to the cost of their vehicles.  This is 1 of only 3 known Piedmonts in existence.  

This model of the automobile spelled the demise of so many auto makers… It’s a 1914 Model-T Touring Car.  Ford’s assembly line production process enabled the company to produce a relatively affordable automobile for the masses.  This version originally cost $550.00.  The Ford Model-T was built from 1908 – 1927, with a total of 15,000,000 versions produced!

This particular Model-T was driven until the late 1930’s when it was permanently parked in an open garage on a farm.  A hen even nested in it!  It was purchased by an auto buff in 1971 and it took him 7 years to complete the restoration…

This classy restoration is a 1930 Ford Model AA.  It’s a heavy duty commercial truck version of the Ford Model A that spent its working years in Salt Lake City Utah.  Ford didn’t like to waste materials or parts and this truck used the cab and sheet metal left over from a 1929 model.  This vehicle was probably the first to use Budd wheels and lug nuts…which are still being built and used today.

I ‘borrowed’ this photo from Wikipedia.  This Model AA is still in service in Uruguay.  Cuba still has some on the road as well…80 years after their introduction.  The enthusiasm continues for these trucks here in the USA as well.  There are 2 national clubs for the Ford Model AA.

Many of you will recognize this as a DeLorean.  This 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 was built in Dunmurry Northern Ireland…which is where the company’s plant was located.  This short lived business produced a total of 9,967 cars.  The current DeLorean operation in Houston Texas is not related to the original company. 

The iconic DeLorean was known for its distinctive gull-wing doors.  Fast enough for its day, the car could accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in 10.5 seconds.  By comparison, a current Chevrolet Corvette Model Z07 can hit 60 mph in only 2.95 seconds!  Of course, the DeLorean is best known and loved for its role in the movie classic, “Back to the Future”.

Now this little car brings back memories…scary ones at that!  This is a 1953 MG TD Midget.  Around 30,000 of these cars were produced in England by Morris Garages.   They weren’t particularly fast off the line but like many sports cars they encourage the feeling of speed.

I will never forget riding with my grandmother… She had purchased one of these (painted burgundy).  She was a very prim and proper woman, quite conservative.  That is until she got behind the wheel of her MG Midget!  After one ride with her past Ella Sharp Park in Jackson Michigan at about 60 miles an hour, (40 mph zone), I refused to ride with her any more.  My brother quickly followed in my footsteps!

Speaking of my old home town… This is a 1922 Earl Model M.  It was built in Jackson Michigan by Clarence A. Earl, the former President of the Briscoe Automobile Company.  It’s basically a modified version of the Briscoe.  This auto cost $1,184.00 when it was purchased.  It had a 37.5 horsepower motor. 

The company failed because its low volume production philosophy just wasn’t the route to success vs. high volume production lines.  The company operated from 1921 to 1923.  Only about 2,000 of these cars were ever built and as a consequence, they are quite rare today.

This is a 1928 Willys Overland Whippet.  This 6-cylinder 72 horsepower automobile was originally introduced in 1926 by Willys-Overland as a new brand of smaller car.  During the roaring twenties, it was known as one of the fastest cars around.   Following the market crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression, production was of the Whippet ceased 1931.


·       During World War II, Willys-Overland was contracted to build military jeeps, which launched its reputation as a jeep manufacturer.

·       In 1949, Willys Wagons created the first sport utility vehicle by offering four-wheel drive.

This is a 1930 Durant Model 6-14.  It was built in Muncie Indiana and it had a 6-cylinder 58 horsepower engine.  It sold for $845.00 or about $36,000 in 2015 dollar equivalents.  Although it is popular enough to have its own collector’s club, I think that the most interesting thing about the Durant was the man who was responsible for starting the company…

William Crapo "Billy" Durant (1861 – 1947) was a leading pioneer of the United States automobile industry.  After creating the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, which ultimately became number one in the world in the manufacturer of horse drawn carriages, he went on to conceive the modern system of automobile dealer franchises.  He also created the system of multi-brand holding companies with different lines of cars, co-founded General Motors as well as Chevrolet in conjunction with Louis Chevrolet.  Just for good measure, Durant also founded Frigidaire.  When he died, he was almost broke…

This sleek beauty is a 1936 Cadillac Fleetwood Coupe.  It has a 346 cubic inch V-8 flathead engine that delivers 135 horsepower.  

This model included the first hydraulic brakes on a Cadillac.  To accommodate additional passengers, there was a rumble seat behind the interior passenger compartment.  That concept was adapted from the seating for servants on some horse-drawn carriages.  It was also referred to as a "mother-in-law seat."  

I took this photo because it was an interesting and useful adaptation of a Hummer H1.  This was 1 of 6 former military Hummers that was converted to a wild fire fighting vehicle in Virginia.  It provided fire crews with access to remote areas and rough terrain.  Equipped with a 250 gallon water tank as well as a built in foam system, it could pump water on a fire or hot spot at a rate of 120 gallons per minute. 

I clearly remember this car… It’s the 1962 Studebaker Lark.  This of course was the taxicab version.  This version of the Lark, originally called the "Econ-O-Miler," was built on the station wagon's longer 113 inch wheelbase.  The extra 4.5 inches of wheelbase translated into extra rear seat legroom and space for luggage, both of which of course were important in the taxi trade.

Continuing with the theme, this is a 1955 Studebaker President "Speedster".  The 8 cylinder engine accompanied by a 4-barrel carburetor that powered this top-end Studebaker developed 185 horsepower.  The speedometer showed a ‘top end’ speed at 160 mph!  
Only 2,215 Speedsters were manufactured.  It was the predecessor of the famous Studebaker ‘Hawk’ series.  As Studebaker’s top end model, the Speedster featured special 2-tone paint, leather upholstery, wire wheel covers, power steering and power brakes.

Much to Laurie’s mother’s dismay, her dad brought home a Studebaker Golden Hawk one day… It was beautiful but it wasn’t too practical for a large family!  Unfortunately, the museum didn't have a Golden Hawk on display... 

This is a 1950 Studebaker Land Cruiser… (At this point in my youth our family car was the more ‘tank like’ Hudson Hornet)  Starting at roughly $2,000, this car had a 6-cylinder engine that delivered 102 horsepower.  It also had a braking system that prevented the car from rolling backwards on a hill when using the clutch to shift the manual transmission.  Another improvement was the ‘pneumatic’ antenna that significantly improved radio reception! 

After World War II, most automakers offered vehicles that resembled the boxy pre-war designs.  However, Studebaker’s engineers developed this new, modern look.  It was based on airplane profiles that were so popular in post-war America.

Continuing with the theme, this is a 1912 Studebaker.  Although they started out as horse drawn carriage and wagon builders, the Studebaker brothers entered the auto business by building auto bodies for electric car maker the E-M-F Company in Detroit.
At first E-M-F built the cars and Studebaker distributed them through their wagon distributors…accumulating a small fortune along the way.    Eventually, the brothers took control of E-M-F and after building some electric vehicles themselves, they shut down that operation and moved to internal combustion power automobiles.  The company closed its last auto manufacturing facility in Hamilton Ontario Canada in 1966.

The reverse cycle is completed!  This is an 1870 Studebaker Half-Platform Wagon…minus the necessary horse!  It was manufactured by Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company in South Bend Indiana.  "Half-platform" refers to the spring arrangement.  This wagon had platform springs on the rear and elliptic springs on the front.
Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the company was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, and the military.  During the height of westward migration and wagon train pioneering, half of all the wagons used were Studebakers.  They made about a quarter of them, and manufactured the metal fittings for many other builders in Missouri for another quarter-century.

Abraham Lincoln as well as Presidents Harrison and Grant owned Studebaker carriages and as a matter of fact, Lincoln rode in one on the night he was assassinated.  As you can see in the photo above, the Budweiser Clydesdales still pull at least one Studebaker built wagon… 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for coming along on the tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

1 comment:

  1. There are some really spiffy cars there! I love that '55 Studebaker and the sleek '36 Cadillac. The Whippet is cool, but never heard of the Earl. Cute story with your grandmother. What a great car she had! My mother drove like your grandmother. She had the heaviest foot this side of the Mississippi! We've seen the Budweiser wagon, it's a beauty with the Clydesdales pulling it.
    Interesting post, Dave! Take care