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The first new car in Kalamazoo. At the time, this horseless carriage was considered a toy for the rich—at best, a passing fad. But by 1902, the steam-powered Locomobile had earned widespread acceptance and was becoming one of the most popular automobiles in America.
Champion of South America. Found in Paraguay. After Ralph De Palma earned racing success in the Packard 299, the company developed this experimental twin-six racer along similar lines. In 1920, it was shipped to Argentina, where it won the “Championship of the Mile,” then raced successfully throughout South America until the end of the decade. It was discovered in Paraguay, amazingly intact, 70 years later.
This is a real Duesy. The price proves it. Duesenberg’s were the automobiles of the ultra-wealthy. And this Dual Cowl Phaeton with custom coachwork by LeBaron, is a perfect example. In 1929, it cost about $20,000.00—the equivalent of about 40 new Model A Fords. Built for the 1929 New York and Los Angeles Auto Shows, it later became a company demonstrator for the Hollywood elite.
Built with rare wood from Michigan’s Upper Penninsula—namely, birdseye maple, harvested from Ford Motor Company’s Iron Mountain forest facility. Henry Ford would not allow the use of such wood until there was enough to complete a vehicle. So production of these wagons was limited and Henry personally selected the dealers who would receive them.
“The Car of Tomorrow—Here Today!” Powered by a rear-mounted helicopter engine, the Tucker boasted many innovative safety features, including the first pop-out safety windshield, the first padded dash, and a center headlight that turned to light around corners. It was ahead of its time and gone before its time.
It gave us a new name for failure. When Ford Motor Company introduced its new Edsel Division in the fall of 1957, it was with great fanfare. The company expected to sell over 200,000 vehicles in the first model year. But rave reviews, standing ovations, and anxious buyers never materialized. Edsel ended 1958 with a total production run of just 63,000. The word “Edsel,” the car that had been named in honor of Henry Ford’s late son, was soon equated in popular culture with “failure.”
The car that led to a jet-powered future. Not. In 1963, Chrysler built 50 of these turbine cars and gave them to 200 consumers for three-month test drives. They ran on any flammable liquid, including: diesel fuel, unleaded gas, kerosene, jet fuel, home heating oil, peanut oil, tequila and even Chanel No. 5 perfume.
The first four-time Indy 500 winner. In 1977, legendary race-driver A. J. Foyt became the first person in history to win the famed Indianapolis 500 four times (1961, 1964, and 1967 were the other wins). Sponsored from 1973 to 1985 by Gilmore Racing, which was operated by Kalamazoo businessman Jim Gilmore (nephew of museum founder Donald Gilmore), Foyt drove a car identical to this one in that ’77 race.
A local legend, an American icon. Checker Motors of Kalamazoo was once the world’s largest taxicab manufactures. From 1922 until 1982, it produced cars that were utilized in major cities worldwide. This example, painted in the traditional green and checkerboard trim, is the very last Checker off the assembly line.