During the recent 2017 Detroit, Michigan, CC group get-together we traveled to Ypsilanti’s Auto Museum housed in an old Hudson Dealership. This small, surprising, a must-see, and delightful museum also highlighted cars and products manufactured in Ypsilanti like the Corvair cars and GM’s Hydra Matic transmissions which began production in 1938.
In the above photo, there is a studious group of CC’ers learning about the intricacies of Corvairs from Paul Niedermeyer. We were all ears learning about the Corvair production changes especially the running changes between production year one and later production variants. Paul’s knowledge was encyclopedic, matching his love and enthusiasm for the Corvair, a car line that, we learned, actually added to Chevrolet sales numbers rather than cannibalizing Ford’s actual sales numbers like Ford Falcon did.
Paul has already posted a CC entry about the stillborn Corvair engine updates with interesting multi cylinder variants. In addition to the engine displays was a small display about the developments in the Corvair Axial fan ultimately culminating in the production magnesium axial cooling fan.
Can you imagine Ralph Nader’s reaction if GM had actually used the Delrin Fan in production Corvairs. The Delrin fans would have released outgassed formaldehyde generated in reaction with sulfuric acid fumes from the adjacent engine compartment car battery and subsequently drawn into the passenger compartment for passenger heating. Luckily GM dodged that bullet, with an expensive magnesium cooling fan that got past the bean counters, but only to be caught up with the tire pressure and roll bars issues to bedevil the Corvair during production.
Ah, the Turbo Charged Corsa.
Corsa’s full instrumentation, definitely not typical of a 1960’s econocar, but the developing American Porsche, only to die in 1969.
The CC’ers were especially attracted to the 1st generation Corvairs.
Then in the next room were the Hydramatics.
The ever curious PN taking in every detail of the cutaway 1938 Hydramatic mounted in a 1938 Olds chassis.
Then sitting in a corner of the Hydra Matic room was a GM prototype twin rotor Wankel Rotary engine, a surprising find.
The GM Rotary was to have been produced by GM’s Hydra Matic Division in Ypsilanti until plans for actual production were cancelled.
After leaving Ypsilanti, sitting in the Dearborn Hotel parking lot was DougD’s VW Bug, Paul was drawn to it like a moth to a candle flame with true air-cooled VW love detailing the fine points of the 1963 Bug. Like a true CC’er, his phone was on camera. When Doug arrived he began to tell us about his epic journey to Dearborn across Ontario.
The ever curious mind of Paul taking in every detail of the engine while giving us nuggets of interesting VW knowledge. Great fun.
In the meantime, another part of the gang arrived in Chrysler 300 style.
Overall, a great CC adventure, with lots of air cooled VW and Corvair love.
Thanks for capturing some of this great museum, Vic. There really was something for everyone there, I’m not sure I have ever been in a museum so small that had such a wide variety of automobilia displayed.
It’s a lesson learned for possible future meet-ups. Small intimate museums are some of the best, because they’re casual and often have exhibits that giant museums like the HF would never do, with their need to appeal to a huge audience (and school kids).
I invariably enjoy places like this, and learn a lot more.
That was indeed a great and unexpected museum. I particularly enjoyed the K-F section and that fabulous Hudson Hornet.
Luckily PN is an aircooled moth so he can get close to that flame.
And Dan’s 300, not just a car, that’s an automobile sonny!
I think I may have skipped right over automobile and straight to “Land Yacht” 😉
A few weeks after I bought the Chrysler, a beetle went up for sale in my neighborhood, so with different timing, I might well have gone in your direction instead.
With my finally (mostly?) having rid myself of the biggest trinket of the Detroit CC trip, I need to put a little something together myself. And, the Kaiser-Frasier display at the Ypsilanti Museum was quite alluring as it was amazing to see so many lined up in one place.
Truly, the sheer variety of displays they had stuffed into this museum is quite mesmerizing. There was even a display talking about how the steering wheels on the Tucker were seconds from a 1942 Lincoln and were to be replaced upon full-scale production. Where else in the world will a person learn about that?
Jason, glad to hear you are almost over it. Paul hasn’t said anything, so I presume he is feeling better.
I was a bit surprised by Paul’s interest in Corvairs, When discussing the museum on the bus from the Rouge, he lit up when I mentioned the half dozen Kaisers the museum has.
Looking forward to your article.
I’m back to 100%, but it took a good week to get there. Even after the bug was over, it left me feeling low energy for days. Major bummer. I’m going to do what Stephanie does every year and get a flu shot this winter.
I’m going to do what Stephanie does every year and get a flu shot this winter.
Well, maybe that is what saved me. I worried when I looked at how many times I was sitting next to you or Jason at lunch. I still have the cough, tho it is entirely allergy related.
Glad everyone enjoyed the Ypsi museum so much. I must be getting a bit jaded. I have been in there so many times that the woman behind the counter mentioned I looked familiar to her. My favorite bits are the Kaisers and the video about Hudson (it runs in an alcove by Edgar Kaiser’s desk) When I go in there, I think of the things they don’t have in there anymore, like this “Super Monza” concept (someone else’s pic)
So much automotive gold in one location!
Pardon me for a minute…
After seeing so much Corvair, VeeDub and Chrysler goodness, I need to wipe the drool off of my phone!
As a write of speculative fiction I have to wonder… if Chevrolet had come out with the Chevy II instead of the Corvair in 1960, would it have cannibalized full-size Chevy sales like the Falcon did to big Ford sales? And what would the ramifications for GM have been if there had been a conventional ‘small’ Chevy instead of the Corvair – no rollover deaths and their attendant bad publicity, no Ralph Nader and his attendant bad publicity, no ‘small Corvair’ styling on so many European cars….. And with no Corvair there would have been no Monza – would that have delayed the onset of all the pony cars, or would Ford have come out with the Mustang in 1964 anyway?
Truly, as Paul says, the Corvair was such an influential car.
The Corvair was only one chapter in “Unsafe at any Speed” so there was plenty for Nader to bitch about. He would’ve still made a name for himself. The question would then become which make & model would’ve become the focus of his ire?
I read that book when I was a teenager. One detail that stuck to my mind to this day was the dashboard being the ‘impalers’ and ‘battle rams’ for the unbuckled motorists and passengers.
A nurse was involved in a frontal collision with another vehicle. She was tossed forward toward the dashboard where one screw protruded about a quarter of inch above. That tiny manufacturing defect had impaled most of her face toward the back of her head.
Ever since I read that statement, I buckled up every time and insisted others to do the same even though it wasn’t mandated in Texas until years later.
I believe the blue ’69 Monza was # 5999, the 2nd to the last Corvair made. It was made famous on the CBS news when they were filming the last Corvair made. Apparently the person driving cars off the line was flustered by all the publicity and flooded #5999 trying to start it. A crew had to push #5999 out of the way so that the last Corvair # 6000 could be filmed driving off the line.
And of course there is no official record of what happened to Corvair #6000. Some accounts say it was damaged during assembly, rendered unsalable and crushed. Other say there was infighting between some of the GM bigwigs and to settle the score it was decided to crush it. And a few speculate it may still be out there somewhere. Yet another mystery…..
I would be curious to know the significance of the other Corvairs that are there. Sounds like a road trip is in order.
Delrin plastic, otherwise known as the main production material for Simplex derailleurs, beloved of lots of $100-125.00 ten-speeds back in the early 1970’s. Wonderfully easy shifting mechanisms, they were a performance bargain back in the day.
Unfortunately, they were never designed to last 40-50 years. A lot of PX-10 and UO-8 Peugeots that pass thru my shop have the derailleurs removed, replaced by Japanese alloy mechanisms (equally good shifting action, and they still work 40 years later), and the Simplex’s are lovingly rebuilt, cracked parts super glued back together, and saved for those restorations that are earmarked to be returned to factory original.
And my favorite bike in my collection, a Gitane Tour de France (their PX-10 competitor) still runs its original Simplex Criterium derailleurs. They made Campagnolo look like overpriced trash in comparison.
Thanks Geelongvic for an interesting report. And anything Corvair – more please. I think those Gen 2 Corvairs are easily the best mainstream vehicle the US auto industry ever produced. What a shame.
Delrin plastic derailers are now prized collectors items? I thought they were considered ‘plastic junk’, and largely responsible for the downfall of Simplex. How times change! (it’s like Billy Connolly marvelling about Glasgow becoming trendy…)
And re. the Ford Falcon cannibalizing sales from the larger models, perhaps one of our CC experts can answer something I’ve wondered about: Why did Ford insist on making the Falcon a six-seater, six cylinder when all it had to do was match the VW??
Thanks Vic for this sweet recap of my favorite part of the whole trip. And I totally missed the fan exhibit, so I’m glad you caught me up to speed on that. Another Corvair tidbit to add to the database.
Paul, of all of the auto and motorcycle museums that I gone to over the years, I think that this little, intimate museum was the the biggest surprise and the most pleasurable with continual unexpected surprises, many of which I didn’t cover in this post, a definite must see for any real motor enthusiast . Thank you for including it on the CC adventure. Count me, the Porsche enthusiast, a new Corvair believer after this trip.
This CC get together was outstanding for all of us attending. Also, it was a real pleasure being able to meet every enthusiast attending, what a great group of guys–everyone was interesting to talk to and everyone had interesting things to share and learn from.
Thanks again from me and on behalf of everyone who attended. Thanks for a really memorable long weekend. Never a dull moment with great guys. I’m looking forward to the next CC adventure, whenever it gets scheduled. ( And I’m glad to hear that you and Jason are on the road to recovery.)
I’m very glad we did the Detroit gathering, but based on the Auburn meet up, a smaller museum and especially a smaller city does seem to make the logistics easier.
They do have a lot of stuff in the Ypsilanti Museum, and having been there a couple of times, I still don’t think I’ve seen everything.
Of course, GM could’ve moved the battery up front to the trunk, which would’ve allowed a delrin fan and improved weight distribution. But oops, those pesky bean-counters again!
Happy Motoring, Mark
Surely someone did the sums to work out which was cheaper… never mind which was better!
Great write-up, and a totally agree about the small museum being great.
Surprised no-one mentioned the Corvan that drove past as we were chatting outside before leaving. The CC effect struck again!
Interesting article, definitely a place I want to visit someday.
I was struck by the difference of the GM rotary design, as opposed to those Mazda designed and installed in my old R100 coupe and RX-2 sedan. Mazda was big on using twin distributors, which sounds like a bear to tune but was way easier than synchronizing the carbs in my Corvairs. Their philosophy apparently was that each distributor acted as backup for the other, should one fail; with the factory redline between 8500 and 9000 RPM (and, with no factory governor at the time to limit RPMs a Mazda easily would rev past 11,000 RPM) my guess is they were concerned with drive-gear failure to the ignition system. Did GM’s design limit top-end RPMs?