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The Drive Home: FAQs and Numbers

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By William Hall. Photos by the author and Derek Klein.

The Drive Home, a cross-country tour from America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, to The North American International Auto Show in Detroit, has concluded. The crews have returned home, and the cars have settled into the Cobo Center where they will be on display to the public from January 11 to 26. We crunched the numbers and answered some of the questions submitted by Hemmings readers.

Who owns the cars? All the cars are part of Tacoma’s LeMay-America’s Car Museum permanent collection. The 1961 Chrysler 300G and the 1957 Chevy Nomad had sat on display for about five years before getting a comprehensive refurbishment for the trip; the 1966 Ford Mustang had seen more recent but infrequent use. The cars were selected for their representation of the Big Three American automakers, the eras they defined, and the available cars among the most roadworthy from the ACM Collection.

Read the rest in Hemmings News.

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The Drive Home: Woodward Avenue

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By William Hall. Photos by author and Derek Klein.

Like Caesar returning to Rome after his conquests, the three classic cars of The Drive Home made their way down Woodward Avenue in suburban Detroit to a hero’s welcome in Cadillac Square after a 3,100-mile cross-continental drive. These three chariots were led by a state police escort and accompanied by approximately 30 local classic cars down the historic cruise strip to downtown, flanked by camera cars and ride-along newscasters. The drivers were treated like celebrities, answering questions and posing for photos for the teeming international motoring press in town early for the North American International Auto show. Starting at Lincoln of Troy with a frenzied morning media blitz, the motorcade glided through stoplights and into the heart of the town that they were built in.

The reception was beyond anything The Drive Home crews had envisioned. Veteran Detroit motor journalists, some of whom were along on The Drive Home, confided that they had never seen this level of excitement for such an event. The mainstream media was prevalent, and all three major news networks carried footage of the arrival. Given the over-the-top reception, it’s fairly certain the America’s Car Museum and the North American International Auto Show will endeavor to do this next year. The organizers have heard the feedback from the public and alternate starting points and itineraries will be considered. The hope is that more people will heed the call and join the journey.

Read the rest in Hemmings News.

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Final Drive Home update from ACM CEO David Madeira

We made it!  The cars were escorted in to the Motor City by the Michigan State Patrol accompanied by numerous collector vehicles and an amazing press contingency. We held a press conference with NAIAS, hosted by our good friend, Lisa Dancsok from Rock Ventures/Opportunity Detroit at Cadillac Square. She has arranged an amazing party set up with 50s theme for more than 500 people. It is an amazing celebration and fantastic prelude for the opening of the foremost auto show in the nation and our great partner – the North American International Auto Show. This my friends is only the beginning!

David

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Day 11 update on The Drive Home from ACM CEO David Madeira & Credit where credit is due

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As I wheeled the Mustang into the Shell station in Schaumburg for the Caffeine & Gasoline event yesterday morning I was delighted to see two red mid-60s Mustangs arrive at the same time. Shortly thereafter a number of other collector cars joined our gathering at the station where Shell provided donuts and coffee and gave out free gas cards to customers arriving at the pump. Not only did this generate good will for Shell but it provided an opportunity for ACM staff to interact with customers and tell them about The Drive Home.

We left Schaumburg and drove into Chicago down picturesque Lake Shore Drive before turning south and east into Indiana and our final dash to Michigan. Four collectors joined the caravan and escorted us for about 60 miles before turning back to Illinois. A number of these had been with us for all three Illinois events and had become good friends of the Museum.

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We arrived in Birmingham at the Townsend Hotel where tonight we and the North American International Auto Show will host a private celebration on the eve of our final journey down historic Woodward Avenue into the Motor City. We have put over 3,000 miles on the cars on this amazing rolling celebration of Detroit and America’s cars.

We arrived with all cars in great shape– running better and faster than when we set out. The Drive Home crew had bonded on the journey through our shared experiences which included the ability to view the beautiful variety of the American landscape and to interact with car enthusiasts and curious public along the route. As we drew close to Birmingham I had a chance to contemplate the origins of the journey and all those who made it possible. While I have been the visible ‘face’ of so much of the journey the truth is that there are a number of individuals and organizations whose involvement is what ensured success and to whom we owe our most sincere thanks. It is with that in mind I want to recognize our corporate partners and give credit where credit is due.

TDH_RallyMap_with_stopsFirst, of course, is our partner in The Drive Home — the North American International Auto Show and Detroit Auto Dealers Association and, in particular, Rod Alberts, the Executive Director of both organizations. Their involvement leading to The Drive Home began more than ten years ago when I, an unknown newcomer to the enthusiast community, approached Rod and shared our vision to build America’s Car Museum and asked if he would allow us to exhibit classic cars at the NAIAS to provide exposure to the automotive media, manufacturers and general public to promote our ‘brand’.  Many busy execs would not have agreed to see an unknown person obviously wanting something, but Rod the consummate nice guy and also someone who is always exploring creative ways to refresh the Auto Show and stay ahead of his competition agreed to meet me for a cigar and cocktail at the Capital Grille one of his favorite haunts.

I shared our vision and learned about the Show, America’s #1 show, and among the top two or three in the world. Rod had limited space, but generously made room for an ACM exhibit and continued to do so for several years as we worked with him to help him start an early galleria event as well.

While we may have marginally helped the Show, what Rod and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association gave us was important — a world stage and credibility for the brand America’s Car Museum. He also agreed to lend his name to our efforts and joined our Steering Committee becoming an important advisor. I could not have found a better friend and partner for our efforts than Rod who has directed the auto show for more than 25 years now and is well-respected throughout the industry for his creativity, energy, leadership and integrity.

While we ceased regular exhibits over time (all things run their course), Rod and I would meet whenever I was in Detroit most usually to share a cigar and cocktail and sometimes a meal moving to Churchill’s a great cigar bar in Birmingham. And, similar in our approaches, we would bat about ideas to work together in new ways to promote our institutions and America’s love affair with the car.

In September 2014 Rod and I met once again at Churchill’s –seems to be a theme here–and began to talk again about how to collaborate in a way uniquely different than commonly done by auto shows or museums– who rarely partner anyway. We hit on the theme that cars are meant to be driven and the best way to promote enthusiasm for the car is to drive them and to let the public see them and appreciate them as moving art and as vehicles which bring us pleasure and autonomy in a too regulated world.

We knew that road rallies are nothing new but that winter rallies are rare. We recalled post WWII America when Detroit and the auto industry were on top of the world and car design reflected the boldness of the country. We recalled that everyone drove in the snow and ice resorting to all kinds of tricks–such as cramming cardboard in front of radiators to keep engines warm and assist heaters– as we drove on daily business and long trips through the worst of winters. It wasn’t brave or unusual. Few flew anywhere. We simply drove.

And so we decided to celebrate that era, the auto industry, and Detroit as THE Motor City by staging a cross country winter drive from the Museum in Tacoma, Washington, some 2,900 miles to Detroit to open THE Auto Show. What could be better than ‘America’s Auto Show’ and ‘America’s Car Museum’ to partner in this celebration of America’s love affair with the automobile across nearly the entire country!

We shook hands agreeing to see if we could get it done as it required the right cars, sponsorships, planning etc. We promised to do some background work and get back in touch. Little did we know that enthusiasm for the project would come so quickly and make it all happen.  But it did.

The next morning I caught a flight for Bloomington, Illinois, to meet with Ed Gold, the Advertising Director for State Farm, with whom I had also formed a partnership and friendship over the years. Ed’s also energetic and creative and a car guy–Mustang enthusiast in fact –and it was Ed who developed the now decade old partnership between State Farm and ACM. Over the years State Farm has supported the Museum construction, its annual operations and to this day State Farm is the Presenting Sponsor of the Museum and has worked with us on a number of collaborations.

Ed also looks for innovative ways to promote our mutual interests and is particularly aware of the importance of effective social media efforts and so when I told him of the idea Rod and I were concocting he immediately said State Farm is in as your first sponsor and made a cash commitment that signaled to me that we could pull this off.

Turns out that Ed was really on to how social media would embrace and promote the drive around the world. News outlets–print, online, radio and TV have covered this in areas far from our route –as far away as Germany in fact. And so, it was with gratitude and excitement that our caravan visited State Farm headquarters several days ago and I could thank Ed for making this trip possible and for the continued State Farm partnership with ACM.

Next up was our other strategic partner–in fact our longest continuous sponsor –Hagerty the world’s largest provider of insurance to collectors of classic vehicles and wooden boats. Again as a newbie to the field, I knew we needed such a partner in the enthusiast community and began to check out a number of well known firms. As always, I knew that you are judged by the quality of the company you keep and it has always been my goal that ACM would be known as a first rate institution of high integrity and that we would align with the finest brands of similar ilk–if they as established institutions would join us.

As I met McKeel Hagerty and saw his organization at work it was immediately clear that Hagerty was the premier company of its type and partner I would want. Fortunately McKeel was also approachable, shared our vision and values and was a leader who ‘makes it happen’. I was fortunate that he immediately embraced our vision as a unique museum–one committed to serving the enthusiast community and promoting the use of vintage vehicles not simply a repository of lifeless vehicles. He agreed to join our board of directors and put the power of Hagerty behind the Museum and our Club Auto program.

McKeel and I became close friends and motorcycle buddies and he became a consigliere to me as I learned about the collector community. Over the years we worked together to create the Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum providing training for young people for careers in preservation and restoration of collectible vehicles and boats–serving a critical need for the future of these vehicles and the community.

And so I approached Hagerty about The Drive Home and Hagerty was immediately on board providing a much-needed ‘advance’ SUV and road service, hosting an enthusiast event on New Year’s Eve at Club Auto Colorado, and promoting the tour and our events among the enthusiast community to help generate the sought after, grass roots, enthusiast involvement throughout the journey.

As NAIAS, State Farm and Hagerty put their vast resources in motion word quickly spread about our plans. Soon their partners, who trusted them and their choice of investments began to reach out to us. Immediately two very important corporate partners joined the endeavor. We had perhaps two critical needs for a cross country journey– appropriate tires and fuels. Think about it. Remember what tires were like in the 50s and 60s and how we struggled for traction in ice and snow, suffered flats and blow outs?  Remember engines pinging from inadequate octane, engine trouble from watery gas, and oils which did not stand up to hard use or which were so thick you couldn’t get a cold engine to turn over? Well thank God that two of the finest providers of these products offered to supply them for the journey and provided cash support and technical assistance as well. Shell –the ONLY fuels I would use as a young man for my high performance motorcycles–and Michelin who interestingly to me also make high performance motorcycle tires which are great in the rain–came on board. Not only did they provide product and cash support of The Drive Home, but they offered technical assistance to our team so we would have the right tires and oils for each vehicle.

Michelin and Shell’s assistance was critical to our success. The tires were flawless in snow, slush and ice and ‘footing’ felt secure. Grip was great. And I was stunned by how quiet they were at high speed. Shells high octane fuels, at times in the west ethanol free, had the cars running increasingly smoothly as the trip progressed. Cautious about speeds early on, by Missouri we were running regularly at 75 mph at length with occasional higher spurts.

I am delighted that Shell has signed a five year deal as the Official Fuels of America’s Car Museum  and as we do driving events in the future Shell scientists will evaluate and report on the conditions of our engines pre and post trip. I have no doubt that engine conditions will show improvement for I have experienced it in the performance of our cars on The Drive Home.

Meanwhile the NAIAS introduced me to Lisa Dancsok, VP of Rock Ventures and associated with Opportunity Detroit which is doing so much to promote Detroit’s resurgence. As a major purpose of The Drive Home is to celebrate Detroit as the ‘spiritual’ home of the auto industry and to promote the NAIAS, Opportunity Detroit became an important partner to our efforts. Lisa knows how to make things happen and once again I found a new friend with vision, energy and the knowledge and ability to bring resources to bear to promote The Drive Home and create a celebration of its arrival in Detroit as a perfect stage-setter for the NAIAS one of the City’s most important institutions for the past century. Lisa put her efforts to bear even flying to Tacoma this fall to learn more about the Museum and work on plans with me for The Drive Home. As a result we are trilled that tomorrow Opportunity Detroit will stage our arrival in the city and host a major celebration on Cadillac Square tomorrow night.

In addition Lisa brought us into interaction with the Robb Report which is covering The Drive Home and sent a film crew to Tacoma to cover the departure. Only the massive floods and flight schedules in and out of Kansas City kept the Robb Report from joining us for the leg of the trip to Chicago. I was thrilled with the ‘reunion’ with the Robb Report for they too had provided early promotional assistance to establishing the ACM brand when Robert Ross arranged a major feature story on our efforts to build the Museum back in 2004. Another important lesson in the importance of relationships!

These important sponsors provided the critical resources for this wonderful adventure which has captivated enthusiasts and media these past two weeks. As we put out word of our itinerary and called for others in the community to join with us to create events along the way the response from clubs, museums, and businesses was overwhelming. We received offers of assistance, provisions of meals and coffee and event venues along the way from Keith Martin and American Car Collector in Portland; Walt Tomsic and Deni Sullivan in Bend; a number of clubs in Boise and Salt Lake City including Mustang, Nomad and Porsche; Glenwood Springs Ford; Jeff Thisted in Silverthorne; the Intrigue Collection in Lakewood; Ace Cafe Orlando in Kansas City in partnership with the Kansas City Automotive Museum; Mark Hyman Classic Cars in St. Louis; the Pontiac-Oakland Museum and Tourism Bureau of Pontiac and the Collector Car Garage in Chicago and The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. All these wonderful friends–old and new–made The Drive Home a rolling celebration of a shared experience in our love affair with America and America’s cars!

What was amazing to me was the response of countless individuals who drove to meet us and urge us on at stops along the way. Some drove hundreds of miles in the old cars they loved and some attended multiple events. And inevitably THEY thanked us for coming and bringing these cars to life and to them!! Incredible!!

The Drive Home has demonstrated to me anew the power of relationships and what can be achieved when you collaborate with institutions of vision, quality and integrity as has happened here. America’s Car Museum is blessed to have such partners and it is those partners to whom credit and our thanks is due! Tonight is our opportunity to thank these partners Paul Sabatini, the dynamic Chairman of the Detroit Auto Dealer’s Association, Corry McFarland, ACM’s Board Chairman, Rod Alberts and I host them to a private celebration of our combined efforts at The Townsend. As a side note, Paul and Rod flew to Tacoma to join in the send off and drive the first leg, so it is fitting to celebrate together here.

Tomorrow is the final drive into the Motor City. The big Chrysler, cool Nomad and spirited Mustang will arrive home.

As activities end and the NAIAS opens, I know that Rod and I will soon enjoy another cigar and conversation and come up an even more interesting The Drive Home II in celebration of Detroit and America’s love affair with the car.

Stay tuned!

 

With gratitude to all,

David

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The Drive Home, Day 11: Oz the Magnificent

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By William Hall. Photos by author and Derek Klein.

Remember when Dorothy laid down in the poppy field, and later awoke to find herself home? Grey tones were gone, and the screen was awash in color. Magic was the rule, and the road was paved with golden bricks.

Welcome to Oz. Welcome to the new Detroit.

After 11 days and 3,050 miles across the continental United States, The Drive Home has reached its destination. What started out as a crazy idea to take three iconic cars from America’s automotive past and propel them through the winter heartland to the place of their birth has reached fruition. The brainchild of LeMay-America’s Car Museum CEO David Madeira and The North American International Auto Show director Rod Alberts, the idea was to return greatness, literally and figuratively, back to the Motor City. And in the most American of ways: to simply do.

So we set out from Tacoma, Washington, on an overcast winter day. Climbed mountains of snow. Traversed windy plains. Crossed the greatest of rivers. The most incredibly diverse and culturally rich topography in the world. In 50-plus year old consumer products – made by Americans, for Americans – that are as competent now as the day they were created.

Read the rest in Hemmings News. 

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Day 10 update on The Drive Home from ACM CEO David Madeira

Derek Klein

This morning we left at a more leisurely pace as our first stop was for lunch at the Pontiac-Oakland Museum in Pontiac, Illinois. Shortly after we announced The Drive Home several months ago and invited enthusiasts to join us in cities along the route, Tim Dye, the Director of the Pontiac-Oakland Museum called offering to host us for lunch at his museum. It was yet another offer of assistance ashley bice 10from enthusiasts along the way who have ‘hosted’ us and promoted us in their communities throughout the journey.

What a delightful experience we had! Pontiac is a charming town on Route 66 with gorgeous courthouse, a Route 66 museum, the Pontiac-Oakland Museum and restaurants and businesses developed around the town’s auto heritage as a stop on the historic route. We were met by Tim and his wife, museum board members and volunteers, and two representatives from the tourism bureau–all were proud of their small but dynamic town and greeted us warmly and wanting to show us as much of it as we could see in the 1.5 hours we would be there. When greeted a small crowd of car guys studied the cars closely, looked under the hoods and asked us countless questions about the ACM, the cars and the trip. Again people thanked us for driving the cars and for coming to their community.ashley bice 17

We toured the modestly sized museum focused on the history of Pontiac autos. It was very traditional in nature but extremely well done due to the passion of Tim and Penny Dye and the support given by their community which is thrilled by the museum’s presence in the town. Tim and I were interviewed by the local newspaper and he was very supportive of what we are doing through this trip. We both spoke of the importance of independent museums like our own to preserving our auto heritage. I was impressed by the quality and commitment of this man and community and pleased that our trip would bring media and enthusiast attention to his museum. In fact, a reporter drove from Chicago more than 100 miles to the event and a Mustang collector drove a similar distance to join us even though he will join us again in Chicago area tomorrow. At the conclusion of our visit they piled us in the town ‘trolley’ and drove us to an auto themed diner with ‘down home’ food– I enjoyed homemade chicken pot pie. Shortly thereafter we began the trip to Chicago having made new friends.

The drive was uneventful and we beat rush hour traffic and arrived at the newly opened Collectors’ Car Garage. The CCG is a car ‘country club’ founded by former ACM Board member Burt Richmond. It is huge facility 60,000 square feet of space — and first class in every respect.

IMG_5383We had an excellent program organized by Diane Fitzgerald the national director of the Hagerty Education Program at ACM. The program was well received by the some 80 guests who were very affirmative of our mission and The Drive Home. Several Hagerty representatives were present and very helpful in explaining HEP and purposes for us to many guests. A number of persons indicated they will be bringing their cars to the ‘Caffeine and Gasoline’ event sponsored by Shell tomorrow morning at one of their major stations in Schaumburg. A number of media who joined us earlier promised to turn out tomorrow and AutoWeek is sending a reporter with us to report on our final drive to Birmingham, Michigan, tomorrow night.

It was a terrific day in every respect! Tomorrow on to Michigan!

David

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The Drive Home, Day 10: A Chrysler in Pontiac

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By William Hall. Photos by the author and Derek Klein.

Long before I owned a Ferrari, raced a Mustang, or restored a Triumph, I was a Pontiac man. My first car was a 1970 LeMans Sport, which unfortunately suffered all the indignities that go with the teenage hot-rod bug: jacked up suspension, tatty exhaust and mismatched aluminum-slotted rims. But the car itself was marvelous. I’d felt as if I was one of a privileged few to fully understand the genius in the restrained design and wonderful finish of these intermediate GMs. And though it’s been years since I’ve owned my last GTO, the fire still burns.

I had a chance to fan the flames today, as our rolling car show called The Drive Home heads northeast through Illinois with an early stop at the Pontiac-Oakland Museum in Pontiac, Illinois. Pontiac could be one of those Midwestern towns used as the wholesome backdrop in “Back to the Future” or “Groundhog Day” with its center-square courthouse and historic murals. Housed in a former five-and-dime store on the town square, the museum is a private/public partnership between the town and Tim Dye, a Pontiac enthusiast and publisher of the Smoke Signals magazine of the Pontiac-Oakland Club. He discovered Pontiac while on a road trip and happened to mention his interest in forming a museum dedicated to his passion for the car of the same name. Proactive town officials and merchants took note, and a day later Tim was on the phone with Pontiac’s mayor and on his way to fulfilling every car guy’s fantasy.

Read the rest in Hemmings News.

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Day 9 update on The Drive Home from ACM CEO David Madeira

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Photo credit Bill Hall and Derek Klein

Yesterday was a short drive across the Mississippi into southern Illinois for a visit at the headquarters of State Farm in Bloomington, Illinois. We were excited by the visit for State Farm has been the Presenting Sponsor of America’s Car Museum for ten years now!

We positioned the caravan for photo opportunities in front of State Farm headquarters and took time for lunch with our friend and State Farm liaison Tamara Harvell who then led us to the US Cellular day9.Still007-700x394Coliseum where State Farm had arranged a media and enthusiast event that afternoon, it was nice to be in out of the cold. One man drove his 1960 Chrysler 300 the 150 miles from Chicago to join us and will join us again for our two Chicago events. Several others were climbing in, under and around the cars and engaged in enthusiastic dialogue with us about them. All wanted to share their personal stories about their cars and a few parents brought some enthusiastic children along including a 13 year old who was so excited to sit behind the wheel in the Mustang and told me it is his dream to have one some day as his mom took our photo.

Today it is on to Chicago for events tonight and tomorrow before driving the final leg to Michigan!

David

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The Drive Home, Day 9: Just about Normal

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By William Hall. Photos by the author and Derek Klein.

We are leaving St. Louis, and the end is nearly in sight. We are officially in the East now and have a tight schedule as we enter the last couple legs of our transcontinental road trip from America’s Car Museum in Tacoma to our triumphant homecoming at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. ACM chief David Madeira has an important luncheon meeting in Bloomington-Normal with the expedition’s major sponsor, State Farm Insurance, and we are running late due to a backup on the interstate. Our riding mechanic Dale throws out a trivia question over the car-to-car radio: Name a famous early rock and roll star living just off I-70. Answer: Chuck Berry in Wentzville, Missouri.

Well, shoot, that’s not that far at all.

Silence over the radio, except for the click of lightbulbs turning on.

Read the rest on Hemmings News.

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Day 8-9 update on The Drive Home from ACM CEO David Madeira

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After a great night in St. Louis at Hyman Classic Cars we crossed the flood swollen Mississippi and arrived at State Farm headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, where we were greeted–as you see in photos – by Director of Marketing Ed Gold and colleague Tamara Harvell. It was Ed who I approached with the idea of The Drive in September 2014 the day after Rod Alberts and I concocted it. Without hesitation he said State Farm is ‘in’ and it was his commitment that enabled me to know we could do this and put the planning in gear! Thank you, Ed!

We had an enthusiast event hosted by State Farm at US Cellular Coliseum later this afternoon. Stay tuned – less than 500 miles to go!

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