At the Gilmore Car Museum, a 90-acre campus halfway between Chicago and the Motor City, historic barns and authentic recreations of old car dealerships house 400 vintage cars. Vehicles of all sorts are lined up, shined up and primed for reminiscing at this attraction in Hickory Corners near Kalamazoo—“the other Motor City.”

The museum, which opened in 1966, grew from local businessman Donald S. Gilmore’s car-collecting hobby. Now, the collection includes dandies worthy of a four- to six-hour visit, such as:

  • An 1899 Locomobile steam car
  • “The Gnome-mobile” and a 1930 Rolls-Royce, both gifts from Walt Disney
  • One hundred-plus vintage pedal cars and even more World War II era toy cars
  • More than 1,500 automotive mascots and name badges, the largest such display in North America
  • Partner museums showcasing fine examples of Cadillacs and LaSalles, Franklins, Lincolns and Model As

A special exhibit, “Women Who Motor,” continues at the Gilmore through July. Befitting the centennial of women winning the right to vote, this exhibit celebrates their right to drive, design and race vehicles. The exhibit looks at how women and gasoline-powered transportation have influenced one another. Della Crewe, the first woman to motorcycle across the countryshe did it with her dog, Trouble—is recognized with a replica of the 1914 Harley-Davidson V-Twin they rode for 5,378 miles.

You can order a Blue Plate Special at the 1941 Blue Moon Diner, inspect the circa 1930 Shell station, when gasoline was 18 cents a gallon—and even learn to drive a Ford Model T. Themed car, truck or motorcycle shows happen pretty much every week throughout the summer, with Cruise-Ins on Wednesday evenings from May to September. On select “Ride the Classics” dates you can tour the grounds in one of the vintage cars from the collection at North America’s largest auto museum.


Photo: Courtesy the Gilmore Car Museum

Author

Joe Grimm is co-author of “Coney Detroit” with Katherine Yung, which makes him one of the biggest hot dogs in Michigan. Grimm went to high school with Scott Lukas and prefers a coney dog made with a poppy seed bun. As a student, Joe Grimm biked from the Detroit area to Mackinac Island for more bicycling on one of the only places in the United States that does not allow cars. Today, one of his favorite overnight Mackinac resting places is the Island House Hotel.

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