During a visit to the Western Reserve Historical Society Museum in Cleveland, Ohio I was very impressed by the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection they have on display there. The collection includes over 140 antique vehicles plus aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles, boats and carriages!
For me some of the most unique vehicles they had there were 3 stainless steel bodied Ford cars:
1936 FORD DELUXE
This car came out of a request from the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation for the Ford Motor Company to build them a 6 stainless steel bodied cars to promote the use of stainless steel in America. That metal is tough, so the Engineers of Ford and Allegheny had to develop a special method to form and weld it into a car body. Once the cars were built they were sent to Allegheny Ludlum offices in Detroit, Cleveland, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis where officers and salesmen of the company would drive them around the country doing promotions. The cars apparently caused quite a stir in the day. They were so popular that they used them right up until 1946!
1960 FORD THUNDERBIRD
This one was my favourite. When Ford first introduced the Thunderbird in 1955 they had a very popular car on their hands. By the 1960’s it was a new and improved Thunderbird so it’s popularity continued to soar especially the hard tops (the car was in production from 1955 to 1997 then again from 2002 to 2005). 2 such vehicles in 1960 though became the ultimate T-Bird. Yes the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation stepped in again with a request for 2 of them to be made with stainless steel bodies for promotional purposes. What an amazing looking vehicle they got!
1966 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL
The big daddy of them all and an American classic! The Lincoln Continental was a popular luxury vehicle produced by the Lincoln division of Ford from 1939 to 1948 and then again from 1956 to 2002. By the 1960’s they were loaded with standard features including automatic transmission, power steering, power windows, power seats, front disc brakes and options included air conditioning, AM/FM radio (fancy!), a tilt steering wheel, automatic headlight dimmers and more.
Given the promotional success of the earlier stainless steel cars for Allegheny Ludlum, 3 Lincoln Continentals were produced in 1966 to celebrate the 50,000th Lincoln built that year. This time one was also for the Ford Motor Company.
These cars are some of the finest work I have seen come out of Detroit Motor City! Just next door to them was another stainless steel car, this time though it was a regular production vehicle…
The DeLorean Motor Company was formed in Detroit in 1975 by John DeLorean but the DMC-12 (their only car) was manufactured in Northern Ireland. This was due to major incentives provided by the British government who wanted to create jobs there. Production of the DMC-12 was only from 1981 to 1982 when unfortunately due to lack of demand, high costs and poor exchange rates the company entered bankruptcy and went into liquidation (a Texas company started up in 1995 with the rights to the company name and they continue to make new rebuilds of the vehicle). With its gull-wing doors, steel backbone chassis and composite underbody with brushed stainless steel panels attached, the DMC-12 had a very distinctive look. Only around 9,000 of the original DMC-12’s were ever produced. Today it is somewhat of a cult car.
If you are ever in Cleveland and love cars do not miss this museum! Allow plenty of time to see all the exhibits.
On a side note in Branson, Missouri at the Celebrity Car Museum – Velvet Collection I saw a great replica Back to the Future DeLorean. The level of detail on this rebuild is amazing!