The Truth About Cars » Museum The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Museum One Man, One Brand, Five Decades: The Bob McDorman Automotive Museum Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:54 +0000 10383682_242435199288709_3967894888208494067_n

Our current age is one of multistate megadealers, Carmax, Ebay, and an ever-growing number of other depersonalized ways to buy a car. In these giddy times of direct sales experiments and apps for online vehicle purchases, it’s easy to forget that local franchise car dealers were pillars of American community life for decades. At the Bob McDorman Automotive Museum in central Ohio, however, the days when car dealers were more than just a place to buy a shiny new consumer product are alive and well.


Located in the village of Canal Winchester, the Museum is a monument to the legacy of one of area’s most well-known Chevrolet dealers. Bob McDorman, 82 years young, began his career in car sales in 1953 when he was hired by a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer in London, Ohio. The first Corvette was also released that year, sparking McDorman’s lifelong fascination with America’s sports car. After he became a Chevrolet dealer in his own right in 1965, Corvettes formed the backbone of his own car collections. He was inducted into the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2012, in recognition of his contributions to both collecting and promoting the Corvette brand. McDorman has been in Canal Winchester since 1968, and his dealership is still a going concern.


The word “collections” isn’t a typo. Over the years McDorman accumulated three successive collections of GM cars, Corvettes, and memorabilia, which were then auctioned off. McDorman describes the thrill of the chase as his favorite aspect of collecting; the Museum represents his fourth collection of cars. Some of them were sold new by McDorman and were tracked down many years later. Others were cars that McDorman previously owned, but bought back when he decided to open the Museum. The Museum is in the process of adding more memorabilia to the walls, including vintage Chevrolet signs and other automobilia. Many of the light-up signs aren’t hung yet, but will be in place within the next few months.


The Museum isn’t enormous, but it has plenty of rarities and mint-condition originals. The 1957 Cameo you see above is one of one, the only truck produced in that color combination for that model year. My personal favorite is the 1960 Corvair Monza Club Coupe on display. A 10,000 mile unrestored original, the car is also one of McDorman’s favorites. There are several other mint 50s Chevrolets nearby. They might be the finest unrestored originals of their kind, including a delivery-mileage ’53 Corvette. McDorman states that the goal is to fill up the permanent display spots in the museum, while also having a few consignment cars for sale in the middle. McDorman sold a majority stake in his dealership to megadealer Jeff Wyler in 2011, and plans to retire fully in 2015 after fifty years with GM. Even so, he’ll keep his dealer’s license so that he can sell cars within the museum.


Although there are plenty of fantastic cars in the museum, they aren’t the reason that you should go to it; McDorman himself is the most compelling part of the exhibit. He’s seated at the desk in the first picture, flanked by the third and last production 1978 Corvette Pace Cars. He plans to be there, ready to talk to any visitor, whenever the museum is open (usually Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 10 am to 5 pm). This is the part where I admit I was more than a little overawed; he’s had more than twice my lifetime worth of experience in the car biz and he’s still sharp as a knife. Even so, he has a genuine approachability and affable disposition that must account for some of the endless number of customer satisfaction and GM dealer awards that carpet the walls. As a kid I went every year to the massive car show he would throw on his huge lot on the outskirts of Columbus. He’d have a large part of his own collection on display, and street rodders and Corvette people would come from near and far to take it in. Now he entertains a steady stream of visitors in his own museum. How many car dealers can claim that level of community rapport? Even dealership skeptics like me should enjoy chatting with McDorman, who is a genuine enthusiast and still quite knowledgeable about industry goings-on. It’s an opportunity you simply won’t get in most other car museums. As an experiment in living history, the Museum excels.

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Disaster at National Corvette Museum: Can History Be Saved? Thu, 13 Feb 2014 17:12:25 +0000 corvettemuseum1

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky suffered major sinkhole damage yesterday. Now the fate of several important Corvettes, and perhaps the museum itself, hangs in the balance.

No one was hurt in the cave-in, which occurred overnight in the “Skydome” section of the museum. Eight Corvettes were sucked into the hole, including two on loan from GM: a ’93 ZR-1 convertible and an ’09 ZR1 hardtop. The remaining six are owned by the museum: a black ’62, the ’84 PPG Pace Car, the 1 Millionth Corvette (a white ’92 convertible), a ruby red ’93 40th Anniversary Edition, an ’01 Mallet Z06, and the 1.5 Millionth Corvette (a white ’09 convertible). Video from the site is pretty grim. The video below, taken from an aerial drone with a camera attached, is a fairly complete survey of the devastation:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The black ’62 and the ’09 ZR1 landed near the top of the pile, bruised but hopefully still intact. The ’93 40th Anniversary looks pretty trashed though, as does the 1 Millionth Corvette. Both have tumbled end over end at least once, with the 1 Millionth landing behind the slab on which the ’62 precariously lies. What looks like the ’84 Pace Car is almost completely buried, and the 1.5 Millionth Corvette appears to have been squished underneath the slab on which the ’09 ZR1 sits. The Mallet Z06 is nowhere to be seen.

From a historical perspective, the loss of the 1 Millionth and 1.5 Millionth Corvettes is the worst part of the accident. Both represent irreplaceable milestones in Corvette history, as does the ’84 Pace Car to a lesser extent. Time will tell if they can be resurrected, but for now the museum faces bigger worries. The Bowling Green Fire Department estimates the hole to be about forty feet across and up to thirty feet deep, based on the drone video. The Museum has stated that the Skydome is a separate unit from the other facilities, and that hopefully the structural damage can be contained. However, the nature of the disaster raises troubling questions about the viability of the rest of the Museum.

Bowling Green is only about ten miles away from Mammoth Cave National Park. Much of Kentucky lies in what is known as a karst region: an area where easily eroded limestone forms the bedrock. Acidic water and other weathering create natural caverns below the soil, which range widely in size. Some of them have formed tourist attractions like Mammoth Cave, but many others are undiscovered booby traps for human development. Once they collapse in, they are difficult to work around. The Museum’s sinkhole formed from the collapse of one of these caverns. Depending on the engineering report, the integrity of the entire site may be called into question. In any case, there will be tough times ahead for one of America’s best known auto museums.

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Buffalo’s Pierce Arrow Museum Will Hit The Mark With Expanded Facility Fri, 19 Jul 2013 14:49:22 +0000 Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Like so many other cities in the American North East, Buffalo’s days as a great manufacturing center appear to be over. With a few notable exceptions, industry has moved on and the result has been closed factories and hard times. Buffalo must change if it hopes to survive and, like so many other cities these days, it is working to redefine itself. That doesn’t mean that it will forget its roots, however, and well it shouldn’t. It is, after all, the town that gave birth to the legendary Pierce-Arrow and thanks to one local collector it even has a museum to celebrate that fact. Now that museum is set to be more impressive than ever.

At the turn of the last century, Buffalo was poised to take advantage of its position as the Eastern most city on the Great Lakes. Steamships brought the wealth of middle America to the city’s wharves and industry thrived here. One of the more successful operations was that of George N. Pierce and as far back as the 1870s his company had been turning those raw materials into household goods. When the bicycle craze hit, the Pierce company also began to manufacture those and by 1901 had built their first automobile as well. It was a modest one cylinder machine but it was a beginning and just 8 years later the company had risen to such prominence that President William Howard Taft ordered two of their Pierce-Arrows for official duty at the White House.

Photo courtesy of:

Photo courtesy of:

Throughout the first three decades of the 20th Century, the Pierce-Arrow was essentially an American Rolls Royce. These fine, distinguished automobiles served American Presidents from Taft to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the diplomats and dignitaries of foreign countries, including the Shah of Persia, as well as the Tycoons and sports stars of the day. John D. Rockefeller owned a Pierce Arrow and so did Babe Ruth. Wherever the rich and famous needed to go, they were carried there by the Pierce-Arrow.

Times changed at the end of the 1920s, however, and with the sales of luxury cars way down the company was in trouble. It was purchased by Studebaker and under the control of that famous South Bend Indiana brand, Pierce-Arrow managed to soldier on for a few more lean years. When Studebaker went bankrupt in 1933 Pierce-Arrow was sold into receivership and to make end meet the company continued to produce much less extravagant vehicles, a line of gas stoves, ice chests and travel trailers, but as the effects of the Great Depression lingered the company finally faltered and went bankrupt in 1938.

Photo courtesy of:

Photo courtesy of:

Despite the company’s ignoble ending, the Pierce-Arrow has an enduring reputation of excellence and exclusivity and Buffalo celebrates its connection to this storied brand with its own museum. Located close to the waterfront in downtown Buffalo at 263 Michigan Avenue, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum is open between 11AM and 4 PM Thursdays through Sundays. Adult admission is $10, $8 for seniors and $5 for children ages 6 to 17 years old. The facility is also available for banquets and special events and I noticed a nice, fully stocked bar that was, unfortunately, not open at the time of my visit.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The collection itself was not as large as I would have imagined it, but the cars that were there were all very fine examples. It came as a surprise to me that not everything in the museum was a Pierce-Arrow, there were many brands represented and the collection included some cars built as late as the mid 1960s. The bulk of the collection on display currently, however, is pre World War II. The museum is also in the process of an ongoing construction project that will make it two and a half times as large as it is now. The centerpiece for this new part of the facility is a life size version of a gasoline station designed by architect Frank Lloyd-Wright in 1927. Our tour guide took us into the sealed portion of the museum to show us the progress on this ongoing project and I must say it was quite amazing. Because Frank Lloyd-Wright and the gasoline company he contracted with had a dispute about the amount of royalties he wished to be paid on every copy of the station, the project was shelved and never actually constructed, but had it been it is certain that it would be a national land mark today. Other parts of this additional space will house more autos, bicycles and other displays related to the Pierce-Arrow Company.

Photo courtesy of:

Photo courtesy of:

The new facility is indeed an impressive sight and when the work is completed the museum will truly be a show piece that should attract many tourists to this beleaguered city, but as the work is not complete I came away from the museum a little disappointed. To be sure, the vehicles on display were all very fine but I had hoped that the museum would have more cars and memorabilia on display now. Another problem, as I see it, is the fact that the collection is not very cohesive and does not really tell a story as one walks through it. It wasn’t until well after the fact, when I came home and began looking at the museum’s website to put the final touches on this article, that I truly understood that the reason for this hodgepodge of material was because the museum honors other cars with a Buffalo connection as well. I missed that originally because of the focus on Pierce-Arrow and think I would have had an easier time understanding why there seemed to be so many unrelated displays if it was spelled out a little more clearly. Hopefully, these issues will be reconciled when the addition is completed.

As I said at the top of the article, Buffalo is working hard to recreate itself and the Pierce-Arrow Museum is a real step in the right direction. Without a doubt, the sneak peak at the new facility I was given tells me that this will soon be a national caliber museum. To be sure, it will never match the size and scale of some of the other, better endowed auto museums in the United States and abroad, but it doesn’t need to. It has a strictly defined mission, to honor the Pierce-Arrow and the city that gave birth to the brand. In that, I think it does a good job and is worth a visit. I look forward to the grand opening of the expanded facility and know that the museum will soon be one of the crown jewels of a resurgent Buffalo. Come and check it out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Car Collector’s Corner: Hidden Treasure – A Great Classic Car Museum At An Undisclosed Location Sun, 24 Jun 2012 07:20:39 +0000 Some of the greatest car collections are not public friendly for a very simple reason. You can’t trust the public. That’s why some guys keep their collection on a “need to know basis”.

This is one of those cases where you don’t seem to have it. Not to worry, we smuggled-in a camera.

Harold was the caretaker of this incredible collection. When he passed away recently, the hobby lost a true pioneer.  Harold’s last name is being withheld by his own request because he valued his privacy and the privacy of this collection.

Harold knew that the cost of armed guards or CIA-rated security to protect their treasures was just too much for many collectors for another simple reason. They’ve spent all their money on old cars.

This is a classic hidden collection – it’s the automotive equivalent of Shangri-La, but like that fabled city, the location was always a mystery, so the only clue is that these cars are definitely in the Western Hemisphere.

Here’s another clue. A Snopes search will turn up nothing because this isn’t one of those Internet myths like ghosts in pictures or “Family in Trouble” scams that separate concerned grandmothers from a ton of cash.

Harold was a hardcore car guy for over 50 years and he loved the old iron.

Harold’s late father in law was a pioneer in the vintage vehicle arena and many of these cars reflect the last vestiges of his personal collection. This is one of the most eclectic car collections short of Jay Leno’s because it spans nearly 100 years and 2 continents. In fact, Leno might even get car envy for the first time since he was a starving comedian.

The collection begins before the horseless carriage with a few horse drawn carriages.

Harold’s collection then moves into the earliest era of cars with a Holsman that was built before 1905. This car was actually used in a major parade in 1963 where it kept getting stuck in the streetcar tracks, but it made it through the miles long route without a problem.

Harold also owned a 1918 Model TT in mint condition. This truck looked like it could start work tomorrow because its current cargo is a 1966 Ski-Doo snowmobile.

Harold’s collection also included a 1922 Kissel Speedster, and that’s not something you’ll see at any local cruise night. This is a museum quality example of an extremely rare vehicle from the Great Gatsby era.

The Pierce Arrow was purportedly owned by legendary silent screen star Mary Pickford. Harold was a very careful guy and like most car guys, he’s a detail guy, so he was reluctant to add a 100 per cent confirmation on the Hollywood connection to the Pierce Arrow. But simply looking at this rare car in person confirmed that it was a big part of 1920s luxury.

This1928 Essex epitomized Roaring 20s upper echelon society because even without a movie star connection, this beauty carries its own glamour.

The 1930 Ford Town Sedan was not quite as upscale but every bit as important. In person, this old Ford looked right at home as a museum piece.

One of Harold’s prized vehicles was a 1931 Stutz 8 (DOHC straight 8). This car sports engine technology that is still being used in the 21st Century.

The collection also had a few classics from the 1940s including a Lincoln convertible that was the ultimate touring open vehicle of the time. A pristine Ford sedan from the same era represented a more mainstream, but no less glowing example of 1940s automotive styling.

Fittingly, a 1948 Willy’s Jeep reflected the proximity of the late 40s to the industry standard. This was clearly a military vehicle that was the workhorse of World War Two before its role as the 1st Generation SUV.

The 1950s are represented by a mix of classic British racing style with classic 50s North American style because an MGA (title picture) is only a few feet away from a 1959 Cadillac.

This finned icon of the era defined the late 50s styling Space Race in North America.

There was another Cadillac a few feet away. This convertible picked up the torch for the 1960s era. The underlying theme is luxury in the collection and this immaculate white Caddy is a fine representative of any era.

The 1970s continued the upscale theme with a one owner 1978 Diamond Jubilee Lincoln. This car is so complete it still has the factory issued umbrella and the case containing the factory issue garage opener.

Clearly,  late 1970s Lincoln owners didn’t like getting wet and Ford accommodated them.

Harold remembered another facet of this Lincoln – he tried to clean the gold color-coded “white”-walls.

Like most car guys, Harold was a philosopher. He reflected on the Essex with the comment; “the 50s, 60s and 70s cars are going for big bucks, but old classic stuff isn’t worth as much. 20 years ago the Essex was worth more than it is now”.

He added that the Lincoln convertible is “the ultimate car” but looking after these cars “has become a chore.” This classic fleet was a full-time job for Harold. There’s a never-ending battle to change the fluids, upgrade the gas, start them periodically, maintain the tires and keep the batteries up to full charge. He also had a horse that’s so friendly it thinks it’s a Golden Retriever. Everything was labor intensive for Harold.

The building that housed them was also historical and that added to Harold’s workload.  It’s an old dance hall that was moved to the site after many decades of service back in an era when many of the cars inside were brand new. Harold steadfastly refused to replace the original labor-intensive wooden dance floor so it was a constant battle to protect the old timber from the ravages of leaking old cars.

Despite the workload, Harold was still extremely proud of his eclectic fleet, so he continued to baby these classics from the past to his final days.

He did it as a labor of love, but as he said, “If I got somebody else to look after them I’d have to tell him where the cars are.”

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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