How do i describe something so amazing? Henry Ford, the mind behind the Ford Motor Company, has a museum named after him. So, your thinking its going to be about cars? Your right, but then again you aren’t. Inside of this massive building is a treasure trove of some of the most wonderful things ever made by man, only about a sixth of which was about cars. So where to start, this is for an automobile blog, so lets save that for last.
First of all, this has to be the most beautiful building I have ever had the privilege to walk through. The building was built at the time when Ford was the largest and most wealthy company in the world. So, unsurprisingly, they spared no expense. The outside was beautiful. It had large, very nearly, floor to ceiling windows, beautifully aged brick, with marble in-lays. It’s absolutely stunning. The inside, though, was a whole other story, let me tell you, it is absolutely breathtaking. Marble pillars, gold leaf trimmed ceilings, intricate hard wood floors; everything that you can expect in the inside. Like I said, the most beautiful building I have ever been in. Now, on to the contents of the museum
The museum itself is separated into sections, so we, naturally, started with the section to the far left. Greeted with the original Oscar Meyer weenie mobile, we had no idea what to expect. It almost seemed out of place because the section was about the evolution of farm equipment. Something that, being from Indiana, we had a fair amount of knowledge about, especially Brenden. From early hand tools, to the modern combines, it was all there.
Next we strolled over to a section dedicated to the evolution of furniture and interior design. A subject that we knew, virtually, nothing about. I am glad that we took the time to walk through it though. We all agreed that a marshmallow couch is a must own for any person, whether it is out of place or not. This, in our opinion, was the coolest piece of the Ford collection, furniture wise.
Next we came across a section dedicated to planes. Something that Brenden and Derek knew much more about than I. The section contained an assortment of pre-war airplanes. There was, oddly, only one example of the famous Ford Tri-motor. Also, hidden away in its own corner almost, there was a winter kitted Fokker Tri-Motor. Finally, at the center of the section, on stands way above everything else, was a Northwest Airlines DC-3. All of the planes in the area were dwarfed in size compared to this commercial airliner. Ending the area was a paper airplane exhibit, where, you could make your own paper airplane and see how far you could get it to fly. Of course we are going to participate in this, and, embarrassingly, we had a poor showing.
After the planes, we had arrived. Finally, the cars, what we came for. Like the farm equipment. It started from the beginning. From one of the first cars, to one of the most recent innovative cars. From road cars to Daytona winners, they had it all. I’ll talk about the stand outs, for me. Chassis number 3 of 6 1932 Bugatti Type 41, or better know as the Bugatti Royale. This is the only full cabriolet of the 6. Originally sold to Josef Fuchs in 1932 for $43000, or approximately $750,000 today. Fuchs brought it with him to New York in 1937. In 1947 Charles Chayne came across the royale in a New York scrap yard, which is hard to believe, purchasing it for $400, the equivalent of $4268 in today’s money, unbelievable. The car remained in Chayne’s possession for ten years until, he donated it to The Henry Ford in 1957.
Next we came across the original Ford Mustang Concept. This stunning looking sports car debuted at the 1962 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Where it was lapped by, legend, Dan Gurney, who was setting lap times slightly off pace of the Formula One vehicles times turned that weekend. The car, a mid engine – rear drive layout, which would have been fricking amazing if it had carried over to the production car. Think of all the American sports cars that were created because of the mustang. Now imagine most of them being mid-engined, assuming that Chrysler and General Motors would have followed suit. How crazy would that be? Unfortunately the only thing that carried over to the production model was the rear drive. None-the-less a truly unique car that sparked a revolution of automotive styling and performance in the United States.
The best car, in my opinion, in the collection was a 1967 Ford GT40 mkIV. This specific one had won both the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 1967 24 Hours of LeMans, the only two races that it participated in. Only four people were so privalaged to drive it, and they are some of the best to ever race. Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren piloted it at Sebring, and Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove at LeMans. The more spectacular performance was at LeMans. The MkIV was the only GT40 fitted with a roll cage, and it proved its purpose when it saved Mario Andretti’s life in a violent crash in the esses at LeMans. The crew repaired the car to a state where it could continue on to take the checkered flag. Standing in front of a LeMans winner, a GT40 LeMans winner. Not something you get to do too often.
We finished the day with some mid-afternoon lunch at a diner, which was inside the museum. As we ate we, as a group, reflected upon what we had seen over the course of the day. Undoubtedly it is an experience I won’t soon forget. As we walked out of the most beautiful building I’ve been in, the trip came to a close. Well worth the twenty or so dollars that it cost to get in. A three hour drive awaited us back to Fort Wayne. And when the tree of us are in a car together, there is never a dull moment. BJ