Why drive vintage cars on a journey like this?
Most of the journalists, persons following the drive online and those we meet on the way want to know why we would undertake this winter drive? Many wonder why, in their minds we ‘risk’ these vintage vehicles to the rigors of such a journey and to the winter elements. We do our best to explain it and in truth there are many reasons.
First of course was the always present search for innovative ways to present the Museum to the world, to raise public interest with the hopes of increasing attendance, membership and support. Related to this was our partnership with the North American International Auto Show and our mutual desire to celebrate America’s love affair with the automobile and the resurgence of the auto industry and its center – Detroit. I will write more on these things another day.
Of real importance to me is the desire to distinguish America’s Car Museum from traditional notions of a Museum with cars idling lifelessly as relics of an age gone by. I argue that while driving vintage cars may put them at ‘risk’, not driving them makes their ‘death’ certain. Cars that don’t move are sad objects to look at. And driving them is the only way to give them a chance for a meaningful existence giving pleasure to driver and passengers.
I espoused this differentiating attribute of the Museum early on as I endeavored to raise funds for its permanent home. Yet it really took on real meaning for me seven or eight years ago when I drove our 1931 Duesenberg Murphy J roadster on the 1,500 mile Pebble Beach Motoring Classic. In decades the car had been driven only a handful of miles–the most some 140 miles to a regional concours. It ran but not well as the seals had hardened and dried and sludge collected etc through years of inactivity. The Pebble Beach Motoring Classic is a challenging trip especially on the first day with its climbs of the flanks of Mt. Rainier and Mt. St Helens. The first few days of the journey the car’s innate strength kept it on the road but it balked on climbs and engine felt tight and as if not always firing on all cylinders. After a night of labor making valve and other adjustments the car drove more easily, it hummed and did not throb. It was able to reach higher speeds without straining as before. After some 1,200 miles or so it easily climbed the Santa Cruz Mountains and on the descent to the coast and Highway 1 the engine ‘sang’ and car loped easily down the highway feeling as if it was eager to run and run it did hitting 70 mph joyfully. At the Concours the Duesie seemed to enjoy the tour to Big Sur and cruised through Carmel drawing attention from bystanders.
That drive confirmed my belief that cars must be driven and that ACM must be known for giving vintage cars new life bringing pleasure to those who drive them or watch them on the road. The drive in the Duesie, the ’31 Lincoln on a similar trip and the ’27 LaSalle in the Mille Miglia also confirmed the marvelous relationship between man, or woman, and machine as those wonderful cars brought the pleasure of the open road to me.
The Drive Home seeks on a larger scale and, among other things, to demonstrate ACM’s commitment to using cars for their intended purpose and to bring to mind wonderful memories to those we meet on the way, pass on the road or follow us on-line. I can tell you that one third of the way through the journey we are accomplishing these parts of our mission as truckers blast their horns and raise a hand in salute, cars keep pace with passengers smiling or calling out in support and online viewers commenting and urging us on. Many say the are ‘living vicariously’ with us as they follow our progress.
The Drive Home is ‘driving home’ the point that ACM is an entity which promotes and celebrates America’s automotive heritage and is relevant to the car culture today providing opportunities for cars to be put to their intended use–driven–and giving the public the joy of seeing them on the road and resurrecting their own stories of life with the auto.
More random thoughts from behind the wheel tomorrow.