The Gilmore Car Museum — North America’s Largest Auto Museum located just one hour south of Grand Rapids in Hickory Corners — has hand-selected some very special vehicles to display this year at the
Michigan International Auto Show (February 3-6, 2022). Visitors can also experience something very special as a handful of these vehicles will be driven on a custom course in Hall C (along the river) of DeVos Place, the new display area for the Gilmore collection of vintage vehicles.
“We are so excited to be back for the Michigan International Auto Show for our eighteenth year,” says Jay Follis, Curator for the Gilmore Car Museum. “This year, we are even bringing some amazing cars that folks can actually see in action!”
This year’s display includes:
- 1886 Benz — The Benz Motorwagen was not only the world’s first “concept” car it was actually the very first car! When Karl Benz applied for a patent in 1886 for his “vehicle with a gas engine,” little did he realize that his invention would change the world. Not only was his three-wheeler the first concept car with an internal combustion engine it is also regarded as the world’s first successful automobile. While the original Benz Motorwagen is displayed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany, a limited number of fully functioning, exact reproductions were produced for Benz Motorwagen in honor of their 100th birthday. The ride was not romantic; it was loud, smelly and the occupants felt every bump and vibration. It was very primitive, produced less than 1 hp and had a top speed of 8 mph, and yet birthed the auto industry.
This fascinating artifact – a fully functional precise replica of the first patented automobile – commemorates the dawn of motoring and exhibits mechanical design principles still in use today and was recently given to the Gilmore Car Museum by an anonymous donor.
See this vehicle in operation on the custom indoor driving track, inside Hall C.
- 1903 Columbia Electric Runabout — The Columbia Bicycle Company, one of the best-known names in bikes, entered the automotive field in 1897 by producing an Electric Motor Carriage. Electrics were clean, quiet, and easy to operate—they just needed an electric supply to charge the batteries. Electrical power began to serve American industry, cities, and the homes of the very wealthy in the 1880s and, much like the automobile, this new technology was regarded by most as a luxury and a curiosity. This 1903 Columbia Electric, often driven by women, became very popular in “electrified” cities such as Boston, New York, and Denver. By the mid-1930s, when electrical service was just reaching most rural homes, these initial electric automobiles had passed into history.
This fully-functioning electric car (built 119 years ago) was part of the original car collection of Donald Gilmore, founder of the Gilmore Car Museum and given to the museum in 1966!
Just 3 Columbia Electric Runabouts are known to remain in the WORLD: The Gilmore Collection, Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C. and a private owner in London.
Take a spin in this two-seater on the custom indoor driving track, inside Hall C. You will ONLY see this car in motion here at the Michigan International Auto Show!
- 1908 Cadillac Roadster (Model T Ford, introduced in 1908, had twice the horsepower than this Cadillac) — Like most new-technologies (i.e. computers and cell phones) advancements happen rapidly and between 1893 and 1903 the number of U.S. auto manufacturers had jumped from 25 to 170. Both the Cadillac Motor Car Company and Ford Motor Company began in 1903. By 1908, Cadillac was awarded the Dewar Trophy for the “most significant advance in the automobile industry”—the interchangeability of parts. Cadillac became known as the “Standard of the World.” Not to be left behind, rival Ford Motor Company introduced the Model T, also in 1908. The Ford Model T featured the smoother running 4-cylinder, 22 horsepower engines versus Cadillac’s single-cylinder, 10 hp engine. More than 15 million of these sturdy low-priced Model T Fords were produced with very few changes until 1927, making the Model T Fords the best-selling single model American car in history. This stunning 1908 Cadillac was purchased new in St. Louis, MO where it remained until it was discovered and restored 20 years ago by an Illinois car enthusiast from across the river. It was donated to the Gilmore Car Museum just last fall.
- 1913 Michigan — “KALAMAZOO: THE OTHER MOTOR CITY” — When you think of the auto industry most would rightly think Detroit as the Motor City. While it certainly never matched Detroit in auto production, Kalamazoo, MI has been the home of some fantastic automobile manufacturers. Names like Barley, Checker, Michigan, Handley-Knight, and Roamer are just a few of the 17 marques that were built exclusively in Kalamazoo during the last century. In the 1880s there were so many horse-drawn buggy builders in Kalamazoo that even some dubbed the manufacturing area as “Vehicle Square.” In 1911, one of those manufacturers (the well-known Michigan Buggy Company) decided to get into auto manufacturing by producing a 4-cylinder, 40 hp vehicle, nicknamed the “Mighty Michigan.” Due to high production and advertising expenses the company soon faced financial difficulties. It went from bad to worse when multiple employees were charged with fraud and embezzlement so that the 40-year-old company closed its doors within three years of starting car production. This very rare Kalamazoo-built car was restored then recently donated to the Gilmore Car Museum by a couple in Florida.
- 1927 Ford Model T Sedan — The U.S. entered World War II following the unprovoked attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. By February 1942, all domestic production of cars and non-essential items in the U.S. stopped. Strict rationing of tires, gasoline, oil, coal, firewood, nylon, silk, shoes, and household staples including meat, dairy, coffee and shortening began. In 1942 Donald Gilmore, founder of the Gilmore Car Museum, built a pair of tires out of wood and converted this Model T Ford to electrical power as his way of helping the war effort. This was also the FIRST car in the Gilmore collection.
Hitch a ride on the custom indoor driving track, inside Hall C.
- 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom I — This unique 1927 Rolls Royce began its life as a company experimental test chassis driven along the French Riviera, helping to refine the future Phantom I and Phantom II models. After testing, the car was sold to E. A. Wadsworth, an abstract artist, who had the lightweight aluminum custom Torpedo Phaeton coachwork built. The body seats four and features a detachable top that cleverly disappears into a hidden compartment when not in use. The car changed hands a few times before being sold to a U.S. serviceman in 1945. It was sold again 44 years later, fully restored, and recently given to the Gilmore Car Museum by a Carmel, IN donor.
- 1934 Continental — When you hear about a “Continental” automobile you may instinctively assume it must be a Lincoln Continental. That is not the case with this very rare car. Continental Motors (now Teledyne Continental Motors) of Muskegon, MI has been well-known since the early 1900s as a producer of engines to various industrial, auto and aircraft manufacturers. What you likely didn’t realize was that during the Great Depression of the 1930s they produced a car of their own. In 1931, the Grand Rapids-built De Vaux Car Company went bankrupt, owing nearly $500,000 to Continental for engines. In an attempt to recoup their loss Continental began to build the remaining bodies to create 1932 Continental-De Vaux cars. In 1933 Continental partnered with Hayes Body and produced 3,300 Continentals but stopped car production for good in 1934.
The 1934 Continental displayed here is one of the very last cars produced in Grand Rapids. Today, only three 1934s are known to remain: two given to the Gilmore Car Collection last Christmas by a donor in Spring Lake, MI and one unrestored car remaining in the donor’s collection.
- 1931 Marmon V-16 — Many consider the Marmon Sixteen as the most remarkable and technically advanced car of the 1930s and, in many respects, the masterpiece “Classic” era of automobiles. Their elegance, luxury, and performance made Marmon very competitive in the luxury car market. With Marmon’s legacy of winning the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 each of their 390 Sixteens produced were individually tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, recording a minimum of four laps at more than 105 mph. It was one of the few street-driven cars that could out-accelerate the famed Duesenberg Model J, while costing about one-third as much. After the Stock Market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression followed, Cadillac determined that bigger, more powerful V-16 powered cars would entice buyers. All of the U.S. luxury car manufacturers of the day followed suit but only Lincoln and Cadillac survived beyond the 1930s.
This stunning vehicle was recently donated to the Gilmore Car Museum by the Adderley Foundation of Royal Oak, MI.
- 1959 Corvette — The iconic Corvette—America’s sportscar—debuted in 1953 powered by Chevrolet’s Blue Flame straight-six engine but didn’t sell well. However, the car really took off in 1957 when a fuel-injected V-8 engine was included. This expertly restored 1959 Corvette Fuelie Racer is just one example that showcases the Gilmore Car Museum’s main exhibit CORVETTE: The Greatest Generations featuring spectacular Corvettes from every generation (on display at the Gilmore Car Museum through March 2022).
- 1961 Dink-Cycle Folding Motorcycle — The meaning of “compact” takes on a new definition when you look at the 1961 Dinky-Cycle’s folding Motorcycle / Scooter. It’s 30” wheelbase is definitely small but it gets even smaller: when the cycle is folded in half under the cylinder, the steering stem/handlebar is pushed down and the foot pegs flipped up, it becomes tiny. At around 50 pounds, 2.5hp and foldable to a small package, the Dinky-Cycles were marketed as being “convenient” for private pilots.
This example was carried by fighter pilot Air Force Cdr. Skip Staub during Vietnam War and recently given to the Gilmore Car Museum by his estate in Bradenton, FL.
- 1965 VW Beetle — German automaker Volkswagen introduced the Beetle in 1938 as basic transportation for the masses, much like Ford Motor Company had done in 1908 with the Model T. The VW Beetle didn’t arrive in America until 1950, but quickly became a cultural icon. The Beetle was built for nearly seven decades with very few changes, ending in 2019. With over 22,000,000 produced it became the world’s best-selling model car.
This untouched, all-original one-owner car is considered by VW Beetle enthusiasts as one of the best-preserved early U.S. Beetles in existence. It was gifted to the Gilmore Car Museum from the owners of a Washington, D.C. estate in the summer of 2021.
- 1968 Mercury Cyclone — This extremely rare muscle car is one any collector would be excited to find under their Christmas tree, and that is exactly what happened to the Gilmore Car Museum! With the Museum planning to replicate a 1960s car dealership as their new Muscle Car Museum a couple from Dorr, MI gifted this exceptional Mercury, finished in the very distinctive and rare Grecian Gold, just in time for the holidays. This amazing Cyclone underwent a 5-year-long, Concours quality “rotisserie” restoration and has amassed multiple national awards. It is considered by many as the finest example in the world. The Mercury Cyclone was the fastest car of 1968 setting a world record of over 189 mph at Daytona and winning the Daytona 500!
- 1992 Ford Explorer — This exceptional 1992 Ford Explorer Sport is a 100% all-original one-owner vehicle with only 36,700 miles on the odometer. The Ford Explorer, introduced for the 1991 model year, is considered by many as the spark that set off the modern SUV craze. This example was purchased by a high school student as his first car, and has served as his pride and joy for three decades. His father worked at Ford Motor Company and arranged to have it followed down the assembly line by his friends. The Explorer is in pristine condition—as if it just rolled out of the factory—and has never been exposed to winter weather conditions. It has only been caught in the rain a few times!
With its 30th birthday in 2022, the original owner felt it was time to ensure it was preserved for future generations to enjoy. That is when the owner gave the Explorer to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI.
A small display cabinet with early Michigan license plates, some from the early 1900s and self-made, will also be on display.
“Gilmore Car Museum continues to bring vehicles with great stories to share with our Auto Show attendees,” says Dawn Baker, Show Manager. “The connectiveness we see between people and their cars continues year after year, making each show unique in and of itself.”
Founded in 1966 in Hickory Corners, the Gilmore Car Museum – North America’s largest auto museum — is nestled on a 90-acre, park-like setting less than an hour south of Grand Rapids. The ever expanding, world-class museum is considered one of the top car museums in the nation. Celebrating more than 50 years, Gilmore Car Museum is open year-round and hosts a variety of car shows and special events.
The 24th Annual Michigan International Auto Show is presented by Gentex and hosted by the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association. It is one of 14 consumer expositions produced by ShowSpan Inc., in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1945, ShowSpan – a John D. Loeks / Studio C Company – has grown to be one of the largest producers of consumer shows in the Midwest.