On the middle weekend of May, I usually look forward to the Fox Valley Road & Classic Tour that ends at the Vintage Races at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. After I committed to attend Book Expo America from May 19-21 in Washington, D.C., I discovered the tour and the races were the same weekend. To make matters worse, two shows near home also conflicted with the book trade show dates.
I decided to drive to Washington instead of flying, and figured I could stop at car museums and businesses along the way to turn my business excursion into an old-car adventure.
My first stop was a private visit with car collector Paul Terhorst in Mundelein, Ill., to get the story behind his '35 Auburn, which I had photographed earlier. While his collection is private, you can attend the ACD Festival in Auburn, Ind., where Terhorst displays his pale yellow cabriolet nearly every year. And speaking of ACD, it was on my list of stops:
The world-renowned ACD Museum allows visitors to experience 120 Classic, vintage, antique, and special-interest cars in eight galleries of the beautiful art deco factory showroom of the Auburn Automobile Co. I can quickly tell you that it's improved immensely in the past 10 years since my last visit. It is truly a Mecca for old-car lovers. I even ran into OCW writer Phil Skinner, of California, as I was leaving.
ACD is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details on the museum, call 260-925-1444, or visit www.acdmuseum.org.
National Automobile and Truck Museum of the United States
The city of Auburn has worked hard to turn itself into an old-car lover's finest "destination," and NATMUS was the second museum to evolve there. The museum is adjacent to the ACD collection. NATMUS followed the same path of ACD by converting what was once a derelict factory building into an historic treasure house.
The NATMUS collection has many interesting vehicles in close-to-original condition, and a huge collection of automobilia, petroliana, and car dealership artifacts. There are more than 100 vehicles from thrill-driver cars to vintage tow trucks, plus a collection of toys and models, and a roadside market.
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 260-925-9100.
Kruse Foundation Museums
The latest additions to Auburn's museums are the multiple collections erected by the Kruse Foundation in a gigantic highway-side building south of Auburn. The multi-museums consist of the car and carriage collection, a World War II Victory Museum, a television museum, and a James Dean Museum.
In addition, Pro-Team Corvette will be opening a new annex in the museum building, and future plans call for the V-8 Ford Museum, and possibly the Cadillac Museum, to move to Auburn.
The museums are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, call 260-927-9144, or log onto www.kamuseum.org.
With so much to see in Auburn, I spent most of my second day on the road not moving down the highway. After the book show, I was anxious to continue my road trip and wind my way back to Iola, Wis.
On the way home, but before heading to Indiana, I stopped in Canton, Ohio, to peek at Motorcar Portfolio, an operation selling old cars.
There are about 50 cars on display at the company's location in the Hyatt Hotel, and more cars in inventory at other locations. The company also sells Bliuss Surreys, a replica of the curved-dash Olds that was built in Canton in the late '50s. Cars for sale include several unique offerings, like the 1964 Amphicar, a 1967 Austin 1800 sedan, and a 1977 I-H Scout Traveler.
Motorcar Portfolio is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, call 866-653-8900, or log onto www.motorcarportfolio.com.
I'd never been to Pro-Team Corvette in Napolean, Ohio, and I was expecting a shiny emporium of Corvettes. Instead I found buildings filled with great Corvettes that are serviced, restored, and sold by a team of dyed-in-the-wool Corvette fanatics.
I was treated to several warehouses holding about 150 cars: one building had only 1962 and older models, and another held only mid-year cars. The emphasis was definitely on vintage Corvettes, many with big-block V-8s.
Cars can be viewed Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; appointments are recommended. For details, call 419-592-5086, or log onto www.proteamcorvette.com.
A bit north of the Illinois state line, I cruised past a used car lot, Hy-Way Sales, and noticed a '55 Packard, plus seven or eight other collector cars. I also spotted a '59 Pontiac Bonneville Safari, a '66 Falcon Ranchero, a customized '67 Karmann-Ghia coupe, and a '68 Mustang convertible.
The lot is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. 3 p.m. Call 262-859-9400 for details.
I stopped for dinner at a place called "Spokes," and it turned out to be the right place. Not only was the food good and the beer cold, but the restaurant was decorated with about 20 vintage motorcycles.
The restaurant is south of Milwaukee at Highways 20 and 94 in Yorkville. For more information, log onto www.spokesdelibar.com.
The next morning, I stopped by Valenti Classics, and stared at its beautiful new showroom. It's hard to believe this is the same building operated years ago by the legendary "Friendly Bob Adams." However, the famous neon-outlined '50s Corvette is still on the roof.
For details, call 262-835-2070, or log onto www.valenticlassics.com.
Colin's Classic Auto
Colin Comer's describes the vintage building that he keeps his car collection in as an "automotive bat cave," and the cars inside are split between his personal collection and sale cars. He's been collecting muscle cars for nearly 20 years ' and he's only 34.
"I'm a collector who sells cars," Comer said. "I do this because I love the cars, and I don't have to work at it, because the cars I go after sell themselves."
The collection includes mainly sports cars and muscle cars, and many rarities like the last Cobra 289 ever sold, or a '65 GTO given away in a promotional contest. For details, call 414-964-3747, or log onto www.colinsclassicauto.com.
Zero to 60 Garage
Former Old Cars Weekly editor Tony Hossain told me about a collector-car destination called "Zero to 60" in the 1940s-style Les Stumpf Ford dealership in Sherwood, Wis., and that was my next stop.
Co-owners Dave Treichel, a body man, and Jim Wagner, a mechanic, have built the business around their automotive passions. When I stopped in, they were working on a Porsche racer, a Porsche 356, a clone of the Bullitt Mustang GT390, and a '59 El Camino.
They keep the doors open so that car enthusiasts can stop in to inquire about restoration work, buy a T-shirt (or a car), or just enjoy the nostalgic setting. With heavy traffic passing by ' much of it on the way to Road America ' the partners hope to become nationally known. For more information, call 920-989-0260.
In nine days, I covered about 2,600 miles, and saw gas prices from $2.66 to $3.29. I estimate that I saw more than 2,000 old cars in that time. More than just a leisurely "summer road trip," any of these stops would be excellent destinations on shorter excursions.