Monday, May 28, 2012

Barn Finds at the Gilmore

by Nancy DeWitt

I recently toured the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, Michigan. This place should be on every car lover's bucket list! The Gilmore is actually a collection of several museums, including the original Donald S. and  Genevieve Gilmore collection. Most, like the Classic Car Club of America Museum and Pierce-Arrow Museum, are located in historic or replica barns spread out on a beautiful 90-acre campus.

The Gilmore's centerpiece is the new 45,000 square-foot Automotive Heritage Center, which houses a theater, six exhibit galleries, gift shop and a fantastic library. After touring that I wandered over to the Campania Barn (pictured above), where I found this "Waltz Blue" 1948 Tucker sedan. It's the lowest original mileage Tucker automobile in existence, with less than 50 miles on the odometer.

While most of the cars on display look like they just rolled off the showroom floor, there are some interesting unrestored vehicles as well. This very rare 1924 Barley 5-passenger touring remains in its original, unrestored condition. Only two Barleys (sisters to the Roamer automobile) are known to survive, and both are at the Gilmore. The one pictured here may not be flashy, but it represents an important part of Michigan's automotive heritage.

My favorite exhibit was in the G Barn, where the John Stegeman Pedal Car Collection resides. Here I found the 1930 Rolls Royce Phantom II Sedanca DeVille used in the 1967 movie "The Gnome-Mobile." Donald Gilmore and Walt Disney were close friends, which explains how the Gnome-Mobile's back seat became the only movie set located outside of the Disney Corporation. The public isn't allowed inside the Gnome-Mobile, but after a generous helping of pixie dust several participants attending the National Association of Automobile Museums conference were given a ride. Many thanks to the Gilmore's Director, Michael Spezia, for the tour of the museums, shop, archives and storage area. In case you can't tell from the photo, I had a blast!


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