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Gilmore Car Museum pre-WWII event

Hickory Corners, MI – The Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, MI celebrates its golden anniversary with an all-new event in honor of its founder with “The Donald Gilmore Classic.” This pre-WWII car show and swap meet will be held Saturday, May 21st, with a driving tour taking place on Friday, May 20th.

The Museum, which turns 50 this summer, considers this new show a homage to its roots. The non-profit’s very first event, held in the spring of 1966, was a “Brass & Gas” car show, so named for the pre-1916 autos that had brass head lamps, bulb horns and windshield frames, rather than the chrome we know today.

Maxwell Chalmers Detroit

Pictured (L to R) is the very popular Model T Ford, a Maxwell, which helped start Chrysler Corporation and a very rare Chalmers Detroit at a pervious Gilmore Car Museum event. photo - Gilmore Car Museum

“The Donald Gilmore Classic” will be dedicated to all pre-WWII vehicles dating from 1896 - 1942, representing both the first fifty years of the automobile as well as cars that established the Gilmore Car Museum.

“The Museum hosts more than a dozen car shows each year,” Michael Spezia, Executive Director explains, “and for this one, we honor the legacy of Museum founders Donald and Genevieve Gilmore.”

With encouragement from his wife Genevieve, Donald Gilmore became a reluctant antique car hobbyist in 1963 when he acquired just two “old” cars. Within three years however, he had obtained 57 vehicles, ranging from the pioneering 1903 Columbia Electric to a 1929 Duesenberg, the auto of the ultra-wealthy.

Donald Genevieve Steamer c1965

Donald and Genevieve Gilmore are pictured driving their 1908 Stanley Steamer on the campus of the future Gilmore Car Museum, circa 1965. photo - Gilmore Car Museum

Those are also the types of cars to be featured at the May 21st event, as well as such exceptional models as the rarely seen high-wheeled motor buggies—true horseless carriages, and one-cylinder autos like the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, as well as the classic luxury cars of the 1930s from the likes of Cadillac, Lincoln and Packard.

Today, Donald Gilmore’s legacy is that three years after starting his unique collection, he not only opened it to the public in 1966, but he and his wife shared their passion with the community—and world—by gifting it to a non-profit foundation to secure it for generations to come.

It was likely unfathomable to the Gilmores that their very first antique car would grow into a venue that has become North America’s largest auto museum. Today, the Gilmore Car Museum is home to seven independent auto museums and displays over 400 vehicles in two dozen historic structures on a 90 acre parklike campus.

The public is invited to help celebrate that legacy and the Museum’s fiftieth anniversary during “The Donald Gilmore Classic” pre-war car show and swap meet on Saturday, May 21st. Guests will enjoy antique car rides, narrated auto parades through the Museum’s historic campus, and meeting the show car owners—many of who will be dressed in the period attire of these magnificent vehicles.

Columbia Electric 1903 med

Guests at the May 21st “Donald Gilmore Classic” car show will enjoy the very rare opportunity of seeing early examples of both steam and electric powered autos, like the 1903 Columbia Electric, in motion as they are driven in narrated car parades through the Museum’s historic campus. photo - Gilmore Car Museum

Demonstrations will showcase the crank starting of the popular Model T Ford “Tin Lizzy,” lighting a fire under a steam-powered Stanley, and revealing the mammoth 522 cubic inch engine of a 1909 Thomas Flyer—something you’d expect to find only in the high-performance muscle cars of the 1960s.

The Museum anticipates this one-day event to be the largest public gathering of pre-WWII vehicles—passenger automobiles, commercial vehicles and trucks, and motorcycles—in the region. In addition to the more well-known brands of Buick, Chevrolet, and Dodge Brothers, many of the cars expected to attend carry names long lost to history, including Desoto, Hudson, Kissel, Nash, Overland, Packard, Pierce, Reo, Studebaker, and Winton.

The show will also include a swap meet area for car parts, tools, vintage attire, and antiques.

Those that enter a vehicle built between 1896 and 1942 into the show (Sorry—no hot rods, customs or modified vehicles will be included) are eligible for a limited edition of awards unique to this show and are invited to take part in a free driving tour on Friday prior to the event. Registration information is available online at

Whether you’re exhibiting, touring, admiring or vending at the swap meet, “The Donald Gilmore Classic” is certainly the “don’t miss” event of the season.

Spectator admission to the Show is only $12.00 per person and includes visiting the entire Gilmore Car Museum campus and all exhibits at no extra charge, and those under 11 are FREE!

Gilmore Logo

The Gilmore Car Museum—North America’s Largest Auto Museum—is located just 20 minutes northeast of Kalamazoo on M-43 and Hickory Road. You can learn more about the Museum and its events at or call 269-671-5089 for more information.

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