Truck stops: Touring region’s auto museums

The last week in May, I spent three days in northern Indiana. When I left, the fields around here were still too wet to get into and, although one usually sees dust clouds in every direction across northeastern Ohio and Indiana at this time of year, tractors and chisel plows and disks were all parked. Oh, there was a lot of corn planted in Indiana with most of it up a couple of inches, but many of the planted fields had huge lakes in them, some complete with geese and ducks.

But my trip wasn’t to report on crop conditions, but to visit some museums and to take in the Antique Truck Historical Society’s annual truck show.

Museum stop

My first stop was in Auburn, Ind., at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum. I’ve been there several times in the past, but it usually changes some and is always fascinating to an old car lover.

The Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg cars built during the 1930s are some of the most beautiful machines ever created — all sweeping fenders, incredibly long hoods and oceans of glittering chrome — and dozens of them are displayed on the floors of the Auburn Automobile Company’s original art-deco showroom and office building.

Upstairs, in the original design room, the visitor can sit down at a drawing board and create his own dream car. Next to the design room is the mock-up room with a clay model of Gordon Buehrig’s legendary Cord 810.

Indiana built cars

There are lots of other cars as well, including many examples that were built in Indiana, such as Haynes-Apperson, McIntyire, Imp Cycle-Car, Studebaker, and Zimmerman.

There’s a beautiful 1930 Ruxton with its strange Woodlite headlights, a rare, Mercury-powered and Gordon Buerhrig-designed 1948 TASCO sports car, which had a T-top twenty years before Corvette.

I could go on, but you get the idea — this is a great museum.

National Automotive Museum. Behind the A-C-D Museum, in one of the old Auburn Automobile Co. factory buildings is the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States [NATMUS], where I managed to spend a couple of hours. This museum features an extensive collection of toy trucks and cars, including pedal cars, as well as old trucks and cars from the early 1900s through the 1970s.

Some of these are rare, with one I’ve never seen before — the 1948 Davis Divan car, a lozenge shaped three-wheeled car that seated four across its single seat. In addition, Davis built two or three jeep-like 3-wheelers, which were pitched to the U.S. military with no success, and one of them is displayed as well.

WWII Victory Museum

Next morning, I was at the WWII Victory Museum bright and early. This outstanding museum is in Auburn as well, and features a large display of WWII combat vehicles and weapons from most of the combatants in that struggle, including the United States, Canada, England, Poland, Germany, and Italy, with a few from Japan.

These are arranged in diorama-like settings with mannequins dressed in the correct uniforms to lend authenticity to the scenes. After about five hours there, it was on to Kendallville, Ind., and the Mid-America Windmill Museum.

Here I saw a replica of what’s said to be the first windmill built in the United States, a big, 52-foot, post-type mill, with four wooden sails and a long heavy angled lever, with a wooden wagon wheel on the end to turn the whole mill into the wind.

There were more than 50 windmills on display, including those made by Flint & Walling, Stover, Dempster, Fairbanks-Morse, Aermotor, Eclipse and Halliday, plus others. In addition, there was a poster display on the history of the development of windmills inside a restored barn on the premises.

American Truck Historical Society

American Truck Historical Society

Saturday morning I hotfooted to the St. Joseph 4-H Fairgrounds near South Bend for the 40th Anniversary National Convention & Antique Truck Show presented by the American Truck Historical Society [ATHS].

It was a huge show, with virtually the entire fairgrounds, and even some of the buildings, filled with trucks of all sizes and vintages. Trucks from tiny Crosley pickups to huge Macks, and everything in between, were displayed for the enjoyment of old truck lovers like me.

Probably the oldest was a 1907 IHC Auto Buggy, while there were hundreds of road tractors from the 1970s and ‘80s — although those don’t seem to me to be really antiques, but I guess they’re considered “classics.”

There were several super-rare examples: a 1930 Luedinghaus tractor — only 13 were made in St. Louis — pulling a 1922 La Peer semi-trailer; a 1914 Denby; a 1922 Avery; a 1921 Packard; a 1923 Star huckster wagon; a 1925 Gotfredson; a 1920 Garford; a 1939 Diamond T Pac-Age-Car, set up as a milk delivery truck; a 1932 Republic; a 1935 Stewart; a 1917 FWD with a beautiful paint job like none that ever came from the factory; and a 1914 Defiance made in Defiance, Ohio.

There was a 1933 Differential 2 1/2 ton made in Findlay, Ohio. The Differential had a 3-way hydraulic dump body that could dump to either side as well as to the rear. It’s a good-looking truck, but it was only built from 1931 to about 1936 and not many were made.

I saw a 1949 International KB7 truck that had a tag on the side showing it had been sold by O.S. Hill & Co. in nearby Lisbon, Ohio, and there was a cute Crosley Farm-O-Road, the little jeep-like car that was introduced about 1950.

Just inside the entrance to the fairgrounds was a nicely restored 1936 GMC pickup truck, painted yellow with black fenders and for sale. I’d love to have had it, except that the price tag was $39,900!

Rusty Iron lovers

The Auburn area is a mecca for Rusty Iron lovers. Besides the A-C-D, NATMUS, and WWII Victory Museums mentioned, there’s also Hoosier Air Museum, Garrett Historical Railroad Museum, and The Early Ford V-8 Museum.

Then there’s the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, which I didn’t have time to visit this trip, although I’ve been there before.

About the Author

Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules. More Stories by Sam Moore

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