Day nine of The Drive Home IV started out on a positive note, even if it didn’t end that way. Our predawn departure from the hotel for the Gilmore Museum was unexpectedly joined by Hemmings reader David Irvine who followed along in his Volvo P1800ES. Despite a light dusting of the white stuff, it seems the Michiganders around Hickory Corners really take their classic-car passion seriously.
That passionate support helped create and continues to drive the Gilmore, which defies the typical stereotype of an automobile museum. Situated on a lush 90-acre rural campus composed of 20 buildings, some of which are dedicated to individual clubs and marques, the complex utilizes its outdoor spaces as equally well as its wonderful exhibition halls. The effect is like being in a national park devoted to vintage vehicles.
As a first-time visitor to the Gilmore, a few preconceptions were quickly dismissed. One is that the museum houses solely American classic cars from the Teens to the Forties. While there is a great collection of these iconic vehicles, there are also customs, low-production vehicles, motorcycles, travel trailers, muscle cars, and barn finds. In short, something for everyone.
The second dispelled notion is that this is some stuffy old institution. An active membership ensures the vibrancy of the place, and you feel a real sense of ownership among museum members who regularly visit at weekly or monthly intervals, just as they showed up here to greet us this chilly morning with coffee and donuts.
With the sun rising over a pair of Duesenbergs set in the snow, it was a magical moment that produced one of the great images of our winter Drive Home trips. If the Gilmore Museum is not the finest automobile museum east of the Mississippi, it is certainly in the conversation.
Which is why it was great to see the Gilmore staff warmly welcome the America’s Automotive Trust team. A great selection of vintage cars showed up to lend support to our little road trip to Detroit, with the realization that promoting the enjoyment of vintage vehicles is everyone’s mission. Hopefully, this can be the start of an increased partnership between these entities.
With scores of bad puns dancing in their heads, the Drive Home team set out for Hell, Michigan. But in a gas station parking lot just short of Hell, the Ford F-100 had its first failure-to-proceed issue. Namely, the starter seemed to have seized. No amount of banging on it or bypassing the solenoid would unstick it, so the decision was made to load it onto our other spare trailer and make tracks to Lincoln of Troy, the dealership at the start of the next day’s procession down Woodward Avenue. With the help of some fellow motorists – some who had offered to run home to get a winch or tools – we pushed the F-100 up onto the car hauler and proved that Hell is actually full of angels.
So now, we were down to two running vintage trucks, with two on trailers. We called ahead to Lincoln of Troy to let them know we were coming, and to get the parts delivered before they closed. Pulling into the shop, dealership owner Paul Sabatini put his shoulder to the dusty pickup, helping to push it into technician Jeremy Yerke’s service bay to once again save our bacon, just as they have in the past.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew had arrived in Birmingham, Michigan, at our hotel stop with ominous news about the 1962 International Travelette. It seems they had lost reverse and first gear in the transmission, with a noise that sounded like a clutch throw-out bearing going bad. After settling her nerves, Corn Binder-pilot Tabetha Hammer assessed the situation and elected to make the morning run down Woodward Avenue and into the Cobo Center display for the North American International Auto Show.
With clear but cold weather, Saturday morning’s turnout of media, sponsors, and fellow enthusiasts was the largest yet in the four years of The Drive Home. Local news vans followed the group of more than a dozen collector vehicles and our Drive Home IV trucks, all under their own power except for our 1955 Chevy 3600. Troopers from the Michigan State Police escorted the convoy, leap-frogging the procession to close down intersections and let the parade pass.
Finally gathering at the end of Woodward Avenue at Spirit Plaza, the team could begin to relax and reflect on their 10-day accomplishment. We took the Chevy off the trailer and fired it up to drive the last block to Cobo Center; its hastily stabilized rod knocking only slightly, but enough that we didn’t want to risk further catastrophic damage with prolonged use. Driving the carpeted hallways of Cobo – something that is rarely, if ever, allowed in the Detroit Auto Show – we placed our trusty steeds outside the entrance to Hall D, and the latest and greatest in automotive evolution.
For a number of reasons, the auto show wants our trucks to be displayed clean. To be honest, they are only wearing the lightest coat of road dust on them for their 3,200 winter miles; not enough to visually drive home the point that they had been driven cross-country, so they will be cleaned and detailed for the show opening.
It’s the last winter drive for The Drive Home project, and the 30th anniversary of the Detroit Auto Show since it was prominently rebranded as the North American International Auto Show. The crown jewel of American auto expos will move to a June date in 2020. Its another huge transformation in the marketing landscape for the automakers, and if you have fond memories of this grand winter tradition you may want to brave that cold wind off the Detroit River one more time, if only for sentimental reasons.
As for our brief four-year tradition plying America’s wintry byways, we will cherish the memories while continuing to celebrate with the new friends made on the road, and we will be back in the summer of 2020 with new passion towards sharing our love affair with the automobile.
For additional coverage of The Drive Home IV, click here.