Hagerty Video: Underground VAULT at the Henry Ford Museum has amazing car stories | Barn Find Hunter

Reading Time: 12 minutes
Posted: 2023-02-07 14:00:08
Author: Hagerty
Episode: 133

In this episode of “Barn Find Hunter,” Tom cotter has the pleasure of viewing the underground car collection at the world renowned Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. From new cars to old, the collection is littered with amazing stories and visuals to WOW any car enthusiast. Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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0:00 Teaser
0:11 Intro
1:00 Reveal
1:39 1953 Ford X100
3:18 1983 Ford Eno-car
3:56 1929 Chevy
4:35 Presidential Baker Electric
5:46 Buick Riviera
6:22 Steve Kinser Outlaw car
6:46 Myers Manx
7:58 FIRST Ford Factory Race Car – 1906
9:19 1987 Bill Elliot Cup car
9:43 Yellow Cab TAXI
10:31 JP Morgan Rolls Royce
11:08 Cut in half Ford GT
12:00 Indy 500 Model T
12:29 Edsel Ford 1941 Lincoln Continental
13:35 (Aluminum Ford Taurus) 1993 Mercury Sable AIV

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Jason Cammisa on the Icons | The definitive car review
Revelations | Untold Stories About Automotive Legends with Jason Cammisa

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Hagerty Video Transcript

– Circuits right here. – So this was a real car? – [Matt] This was a real car, actual, functional, drivable car. – [Host] You can see circuit boards here. – [Matt] Henry and Frank Kulick were gonna go race in the first Indi 500 in 1911.

And officials said, “No, this car is too light.” – If you’re one of the up to 1.8 million people a year that walk through the doors of the Henry Ford Museum, I don’t have to tell you how amazing this place is. But we’ve become friends with Matt Anderson. Matt, thank you. – Hey, my pleasure.

– Matt is the curator of transportation for the museum, and he’s allowing us today to go into a warehouse that contains vehicles and other things that they don’t have room for anymore. So tell us what are we gonna go see? – We’re gonna go into one of our storage buildings

Where you’re gonna see not just lots of cars but lots of other artifacts, fire engine, horse drawn vehicles, agricultural equipment, all of those things that we often just don’t have physical room to have on exhibit at this time. – [Host] I’m ready to go. Let’s go – [Matt] Take a look. – So Matt, I’ve been to the museum, but it’s not just about cars, it’s about toasters and lawn spreaders. Tell us about what the Henry Ford Museum is. – We collect a little bit of everything. We’re a Museum of American innovation, and that’s not just innovation and transportation,

But it’s innovation in making your breakfast or innovation in growing the wheat that goes into the bread that goes into the toast. So even from Henry Ford’s time we were collecting a little bit of everything. – [Host] Well, where are the cars. – Let’s go on down. We’ll take a look.

– [Host] All right, cool. Like what am I looking at here? – [Matt] This is one of my favorites. This is the 1953 X-100. Ford built this for what was then their 50th anniversary, but it is a fully functional concept car. – [Host] 1953? – [Matt] 1953.

So they advertised it as having more than 50 innovations for 50 years. It’s got some really cool things. You notice the roof slides back there. It’s got a rain sensor built into it, so it’ll close itself up if the weather turns dark. It’s got a built-in car phone, a radio phone,

Which is pretty forward thinking. – [Host] Wow. – It’s got some weird stuff too. For example, there was an electric razor that was built into the glove box. So you get stuck in traffic, I guess you can shave on your way in. Also has a variable volume horn, which you could use,

I guess a little louder in rural areas, softer in the city. – This is a one of one, I guess. – Yes, one of one. And this car, Ford made a big deal of this one. They took it on the show circuit in ’53.

They drove it on its own four tires to the shows to kind illustrate just how functional it was. – [Host] So this has mileage on it? – It does, it does. It is also a heavy car, close to 10,000 pounds, with all that gadgetry in it, so yeah.

But you look at it, and you can see a little of the Lincoln and even the Thunderbird in the rear end. It comes a few years later. – You have a close affiliation with Ford, but you’re not exclusively Ford. So this is made by Ford,

But something else here might have been made by GM, right? – Absolutely, we collect a little bit of everything. Even Henry Ford was collecting a little bit of everything when he was alive. And yeah, as long as Henry was around, it was all kind of the same thing. Ford Motor Company, the museum,

It was all under his ownership. But after he passed away in ’47, we began to separate ourselves. So we are a separate organization, entirely distinct from Ford Motor Company. – Show us some of the cars that you think that our viewers would be curious about.

– The good and the perhaps not so good’s the way to put it. The 1983 O’Connell car is one of my favorites. Fords- – Right here? – [Matt] Yes. – [Host] And it’s a Ford. – [Matt] It is a Ford. It never made it into production.

We can probably all be grateful for that. – (laughs) Oh, geez. – But it was their attempt to build the cheapest possible car that they could, right? Going through a recession, rather, in the early 1980s, right? – Wow! – [Matt] People looking for basic, honest transportation,

Also trying to fight the imports at that time too. – So is it fiberglass? – It is, yes. And it’s just for show, not functional, but. – [Host] Wow, okay. All right, so what else do we have here? – [Matt] The ancient enemy here, Chevrolet, a 1929, of course.

The stove bolt six and that’s what kicks off Ford to design the V-8 which comes out a few years later. So you gotta have that. – [Host] So that was an overhead valve? – [Matt] Yes, yeah. Yeah, the stove volt six. – [Host] So what year is that? – [Matt] ’29.

– [Host] So think about it. ’29, Ford was building a four cylinder L head or flathead engine. This was an overhead valve six. GM was so far ahead of Ford as far as engine technology at the time. And so Henry, You know, like so stubborn, he finally gave in and produced a flathead V-8, which may or may not have been as good as this engine. – Yeah, no. – It’s hard to say. – We also have this one sometimes overlooked. This is a car that was used by five different first ladies

Of the United States. So it’s a Baker Electric 1912, and it was purchased by William Howard Taft who’s the president who motorized the White House Fleet. It was used by his wife, both of Woodrow Wilson’s wives, Calvin Coolidge’s wife, Grace Coolidge, right on up into 1927 when it was finally retired.

– [Host] And so you’ve had it that long? – Yeah, we acquired it shortly thereafter. And that was the fortunate thing. Mr. Ford had the resources, and not just financially, but the network, you know. He essentially had a museum drop off location in every city in the US.

People could go to the dealer, drop off an object, it got its way here. – [Host] These are leather fenders. – [Matt] Leather fenders on that, yes. – [Host] Wooden body? – [Matt] Wooden body, yeah. The leather fenders are sort of like the carbon fiber of the 1910 period, if that makes sense.

– Wow, cool. – Lightweight, but functional. – So is that a running car? – It is not at this time. And that’s a great question too. You know, some of our cars do operate, but we tend to not operate them. Because once you put a car into operation,

You know, that’s a continuing commitment to keep it going. You know, frankly, we just don’t have the resources or the staff to drive 300 cars once a month or whatever it would take. – So what else is cool here? – Yeah, let’s walk down another aisle here. Look at some stuff.

You know, when we collect cars, we’re collecting the cars, but we’re also collecting the stories, so cars associated with important people. Got a Buick Riviera under the cover here designed by Bill Mitchell. – So, I mean, you know, arguably, one of the most beautiful American shapes ever designed.

I mean, just look at these lines. Just crisp and just beautiful. Is this an unrestored car? – It is, yeah. A lot of the cars we have are unrestored. We have a few restored cars as well, so it’s a… – [Host] The car is on jack stands.

– [Matt] Exactly, we try to put every car up on jack stands. It also saves wear and tear on the tires. – [Host] No kidding. (chuckles) So we’re looking at an electric car. Now we look at a sprint car. – [Matt] Yeah, this is exciting. This is one of our newer acquisitions.

We just did a new racing exhibit that opened in March of 2021. And as sometimes happens, that got a lot of interest from other people who came to us with offers. We did not have a World of Outlaw sprint car in the collection, needed one.

So this one was driven by Steve Kinser in the 1993 season, and he’s the king of outlaws. So you couldn’t ask for better. – [Host] Now there’s something that I love. I am the original Meyers Manx fan. Have owned one for a while but have admired them my whole life.

– And again, a great story. We had a young man and his grandfather who worked together to build this thing here in southeast Michigan, so. – Isn’t that something? – Intergenerational story. – [Host] The Meyers Manx was named after a guy named Bruce Meyer. He was an artist, surfer, a sculptor, off-road racer.

Off-road racing at the time was like, you know, taking a body off an old sedan and shortening the chassis and it had a V-8. And he came up with the idea, wow, Volkswagen is so light. The engines in the back right over the drive wheels.

What if we shortened the chassis 14 1/2 inches, put on this fiberglass body? It became an overnight sensation, so much so that because he could not patent this design, numerous other car companies started to make fiberglass replicas of it. And he wound up going from, you know, the penthouse to the poor house.

He went bankrupt. Only in recent years, he died recently, only in recent years has he kind of reclaimed that automotive sculpture that he built here. This is like a folded piece of paper. And there are some people who say this is the most pure automotive form ever made.

– This is cool, early Ford racing vehicle. It is a racer based on the Model K, which was Ford’s short-lived six cylinder car on the road to the Model T. This was driven by a fellow named Frank Kulick who was Ford’s first real factory racing driver. – [Host] Wow! – Really interesting character.

Got involved in a bad wreck, in fact, with this car at Lansing in a race where broke his leg, so severely, in fact, he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. But you know, like any racer, he just got back in the seat and kept at it

After he healed up. – [Host] So what year is it? – This one would’ve been raced 1906 when the Model K was in production and then continued to be raced a few years thereafter, but. – So it has a cast aluminum crank case. And are these like copper covers over the cylinders?

– [Matt] Yes, yes. – [Host] Huh, wow. And it has a provision for two spark plugs per cylinder? – It does, it does. But yeah, just a single spark plug in the racing version here. And yeah, Ford raced right up till 1913 or so, at which point, you know,

They just frankly didn’t need to race. They didn’t need the headache ’cause they were selling so many Model Ts already. – So how fast could this go? – Oh, I’m trying to remember off the top of my head. I mean, it would’ve been close to 100 miles an hour,

If not a little better, so. – I mean, can you imagine no seat belts, no roll cage, no protection, wow. – It took a special kind of courage to drive these cars. – Yep, yep, yep. And so this is the original, this is the car, man.

– [Matt] All right, we got another race car while we’re in the neighborhood there. Briven by Bill Elliot, set the all time NASCAR speed record, 212 miles an hour. – [Host] Talladega, I was there. – Absolutely. – Wow. – 1987 Thunder. – And this is the car? – This is the car, yes.

Yeah, we’ve had it since 1987 through the courtesy of Ford Motor Company. They were not a part of Ford. That said, we still have a nice shared history, and they often look out for us when there are opportunities to acquire something really special like this.

– I’m seeing a taxi cab over there, a yellow cab, and the headlights do not mounted where you think they would be. They’re on the cowl. – Yeah. – Do you know why that is? – I don’t, to tell you the truth, why on this particular cab they’re up on the cowl.

But unconventional, to say the truth. But yeah, I have to have a cab in the collection. In fact, we’ve got two of them. We have this one, which is from John Hertz’s Yellow Cab Company, the originator of the taxis, if you think of it. Then we also have a Checker that’s on display

In the museum itself right now. And that’s when people think of cab. I think even today, they still think of Checker cabs even though they haven’t been built for 40 years. – [Host] Is this a Checker? – This is a Yellow. So this is a- – So it’s a brand Yellow?

– Yep, the brand was Yellow Cab company. – So check this out. There were so few phones. I don’t know what town this was in. All you had to do is hire… It’s no area code, no nothing, just 73. And you got the cab company, like, wow.

So I’m looking at the height of this thing. Holy mackerel. – [Matt] Yeah, that belonged to JP Morgan Jr., son of the famous financeer. But yes, a Rolls Royce, and this one was actually built in New Jersey. Most of them built in New Jersey were left-hand drive,

But Morgan ordered this with the proper right-hand drive or what he thought was proper for a Rolls Royce. – [Host] So is this a Springfield car? – [Matt] Yes, that’s right. That’s right. – [Host] So the chassis was made in Massachusetts, and it was bodied in New Jersey?

No kidding. – Yes, that’s correct. But one of those cars that looks like it’s 1 1/2 times life size, you know? (chuckles) – [Host] And yeah, look at the Crosley across the way here, like, oh, geez. Now here we have a sliced and diced Ford GT.

– [Matt] Yeah, the second generation GT from 2005. And this was put together for, well, I should say it was taken apart for the auto show circuit that year. – So this was a real car? – [Matt] This was a real car, actual, functional, drivable car.

And they got in and cut it right down the middle. And it’s just incredible. I mean, cutaways are an old idea. They’ve been building those since they’ve been building cars. But to think that that technique still appeals to people in the early 20th century.

– Do you think this literally was a saw going through this car? – [Matt] They described it as kind of peeling apart an onion, right. They cut it apart in layers using different techniques depending on what they were going through. – You can see circuit boards here. Here’s the supercharger’s cut in half.

I mean, here’s the whole engine. Here’s the crank case. Ha, geez. That is a cutaway car, my god. No, another race car. Look at this. – [Matt] Yeah, another Frank Kulick car. This is based on a Model T. I would hesitate to- – Two seater.

– I would hesitate to call it a Model T. It’s got a four cylinder engine. That’s about where the comparison ends. But as the story goes, Henry and Frank Kulick were gonna go race in the first Indi 500 in 1911. And officials said, “No, this car is too light.”

As the story goes, Henry then turned to the official and said, “We’re building race cars, not trucks.” Like, tell me this thing’s too light. – Wow, wow, wow, – So that was it. Got a car owned by a president of Ford Motor Company here, our 1941 Lincoln Continental, belonged to Edsel Ford himself.

– [Host] This was his car? – [Matt] His personal car. And of course, if you had to pick one car to tell Edsel’s story, this is it. The Continental is his great contribution to the- – So I’m kind of an Edsel Ford fan,

And I’ve read just about everything I can about the man. And he did so much, or he tried to do so much, for Ford Motor Company, to bring European styling, cutting edge styling, to America. Often, his father said, “No, we’re not gonna do that. we’re not gonna do that.”

You know, this is like a piece of automotive sculpture, just fabulous. So this was a coach-built vehicle that, you know, kind of mirrored what was going on in Europe with Della Hayes and Talbot-Lagos. And he built it with a a 12 cylinder Ford Flathead V or Lincoln Flathead V-8. Just beautiful.

And this was his own car. And he loved this color, this dove gray. That was his thing, yeah. – He did, he did. – [Host] Has that been restored or is that original? – [Matt] This is original. We think it’s been repainted once or twice, but.

– [Host] Well, that might be the most special car in here for me. – [Matt] Yeah, well you mentioned concept cars. I like this. This is a 1993 Mercury Sable aluminum intensive vehicle, AIV, so the body panels are all aluminum. Some of the frame is aluminum. The engine is aluminum as well.

– You know, for a while, the brother to this Taurus was the best selling car in America. I remember when it came out like, oh my God, you could make a car that looks like that. – [Matt] We’ve got a Taurus on display in the museum, and people sometimes ask,

“What the heck do you have that for?” And it’s just so the omnipresent, this arrow look, that people forget that it had to start somewhere. How influential that Taurus was. – Well, Matt, I really appreciate. This has been a real special morning- – Our pleasure. – For a historian

And for a barn find hunter and for a Ford enthusiast. So hopefully you’ll see these cars if you come to the Henry Ford Museum. And you’ll see these cars maybe rotated in and out of display. So if you’ve been here once, several years ago, you need to come back again

And see what you’re constantly working on. It’s a constantly evolving thing. – Yeah, the space never looks the same two days in a row. New things coming in, going out all the time. – Thank you so much. – Thank you. – Happy hunting.