Before Detroit was the Motor City II

In the early decades of the 20th century, Indiana was awash in car manufacturers, many of which didn’t survive the 1920s. Kokomo was arguably the home of one of the first gasoline engine-powered cars, the 1894 Pioneer, built by Elwood Haynes.

Elwood Haynes had been inspired by the Chicago Fair and set out to build a car using an engine from the Sintz Gas Engine Company. He employed the Apperson brothers to make a chassis that could withstand the vibrations from this engine. On July 4, 1894, Haynes and the Appersons made a successful test run of the Pioneer on the back roads of Kokomo.

Haynes and the Appersons then went into the car manufacturing business together in 1898 but (amicably) went their separate ways in 1904. (I’ve heard that Haynes wanted to focus on practical family cars. The Appersons wanted to focus on performance.)

With these two early car companies, Kokomo developed a rich automotive history. Unsurprisingly, the city boosts an automotive museum. I visited the museum specifically for an exhibit celebrating Indiana’s bicentennial.

The Kokomo Automotive Museum, in collaboration with two other car museums in Indiana, is hosting a special exhibit on Indiana cars until October 3, 2016. As part of Hoosier Made: World Driven, the Kokomo Automotive Museum is showing Indiana cars made from the late teens to the early 1920s. (The Studebaker Museum is showing cars from 1900-1915 and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum cars from the 1930s.)

So what was important in the car world in the 1920s? The Interstate Highway Act of 1926 helped pave the way, so to speak, for the greater adoption of automobiles.

The Ford Model T, which had been a tried and true car, was no longer grabbing Americans’ interest. They didn’t want to buy the same car again but something with a different design. As a result, on May 25, 1927 production of the Ford Model T ended. On October 20, 1927, the first Ford Model A rolled off of the assembly line.

Duesenberg, a car company known for luxury cars, debuted its J model at the New York auto show on December 1, 1928—about ten months before the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression.

The Kokomo Automotive Museum houses many cars from the 1920s, particularly Haynes cars. The museum has an impressive collection, starting with a replica of the 1894 Pioneer as well as several other Haynes-Apperson and Haynes models. (Haynes gave the original Pioneer to the Smithsonian.)

1900 Haynes-Apperson, 2 passenger runabout; 192 built in 1900
1902 Haynes-Apperson, 2 passenger runabout; engine design used from 1895 to 1905 (8 horse power, 2 cylinder opposed engine); 244 built in 1922
1915 Apperson Jackrabbit, Cloverleaf Roadster
1916 Haynes 36T Light Six touring car
1917 Haynes Model 36T Light Six touring car
1918 Haynes Type 39R, Cloverleaf Roadster; climbed Pikes Peak in 1948
1919 Haynes Light Six chassis
1921 Haynes Model 55, 5 passenger sport touring car; 6,021 built in 1921
1921 Haynes Model 75, 7 passenger touring car
1923 Haynes Model 75, 7 passenger touring car
1923 Apperson 6-23, 5 passenger touring car; 613 built in 1923
1923 Haynes Model 55, Type S sport sedan; only known surviving example
1924 Haynes Model 60, 5 passenger sport touring car; 2,129 built in 1924

The museum also houses many classic cars from various companies ranging from the 1900s to the 1990s. Many of these cars are from more “mainstream” car companies like Ford, Chevrolet, Studebaker, Packard, and Plymouth. Other cars are from lesser-known companies such as Maxwell or Hupmobile.

Out of the hundred or so cars there, a few dozen stood out to me:

1906 Woods electric Queen Victoria Model 214, 4 speed
With twin electric motors, it could reach 18mph. The Woods Company existed from 1899 to 1918, when Wood lost control of the company to an investment syndicate of Standard Oil investors.

1909 Maxwell Model L D, 2 passenger runabout
Oddly, the driver is on the right. Maxwell had a factory in New Castle, IN.

1910 Premier Model 40, 5 passenger touring car
Premier cars were built in Indianapolis from 1903 to 1926.

1913 Cole Model 50 touring car
Cole built cars in Indianapolis from 1909 to 1925. Rivaled the luxury car companies Cadillac and Packard.

1914 Ford Model T speedster
The Tin Lizzy is the only car in the collection that visitors can touch and actually climb into. I wished the large bulbous horn had worked!

1915 Aherns Fox fire engine
Kokomo’s first motorized fire engine, No. 3

1923 Ford Model T truck
Includes Knickerbocker tractor conversion kit that turned the back tires into metal tractor wheels.

1924 Nash, 4 door open touring car
This Nash car was built in Kenosha, WI.

1929 Ford Model I, 150A wood station wagon
The “Woody”. Ford was the first to market station wagons.

1935 Auburn Model 857 (Phaetom) convertible
This type of Auburn is highly sought by collectors, which makes me wonder what it goes for.

1937 Cord Westchester 812
This beauty with a sleek, long nose and a windshield that pops open reminded me of some cars I saw in the Dream Cars exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

1942 Script Food GPW jeep

1942 Packard Clipper, 4 door sedan
Interestingly, this car is owned by the same family that originally purchased it in 1942.

1941 Lincoln 16H Continental Club coupe
The V-shaped hood was open to reveal the V12 engine. V12.

1949 Dodge Wayfarer coupe
Only 9,342 Dodge Wayfarers were produced in 1949.

1949 Willys Jeepster
Sort of like a Jeep. Sort of not.

1957 Ford Thunderbird, red two-seater
With a 312 supercharged V8 engine

1930 Hupmobile Model S, 4 door sedan

1963 Ford Thunderbird sports roadster
Only 455 were produced.

1964 ½ Ford Mustang convertible
Strangely with automatic transmission. How can a serious muscle car be automatic?

1964 AMC Rambler

1964 Pontiac GTO

1965 Corvette Stingray
I’m not really a Corvette gal. Nevertheless I was struck by this small, low riding beauty.

1970 Mustang Boss 302
I was in awe. This was a thing to behold in yellow with black stripes. Only 5,000 Mustang Boss 302 were produced in 1970.

1978 AMC Pacer

1978 MAC Gremlin

1997 GM EV1
Early electric car with 70-mile range

The museum also showcases various car parts, clothing, and items from past decades. The house front of the house where Haynes developed his Pioneer is displayed. You can walk through an early Haynes car manufacturing space with tools. A short video highlights some bits about Haynes and his company. Another interactive exhibit plays videos about Chrysler by decade from the 1920s through the 1980s. In the middle of the museum is a replica of a 1950s diner.

The museum is well worth the visit. Most cars are not owned by the museum but are on loan from private collectors.

Although Haynes and the Apperson brothers were founders of important car companies located in Kokomo, almost next to nothing remains about the Appersons or the Apperson company.

Haynes is another matter. Elwood Haynes was more than a car manufacturer. His interest in chemistry and metallurgy produced patents and the creation of another company that exists to this day. Visit the Elwood Haynes Museum to learn more about Haynes (the car and non-car bits of his professional contributions).


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