Branson, Missouri, is a town that is hard to describe to the uninitiated. For having a population of 10,700, Branson has 16,500 hotel rooms and with 57,000 theatre seats, it can entertain more people than all the theatres on Broadway in New York City combined.
To say there is a flourishing tourism business in Branson is understating their fortunes as any given day there will be in excess of 100,000 visitors. As I have started this article in one of Branson’s many hotel rooms, today alone I have seen license plates from as far east as Connecticut and as far west as Alaska and have heard three or four different languages being spoken.
While the purpose of my trip was an event for Mrs. Jason, I partook of a very appealing destination here, the Branson Auto & Farm Museum. For a now well-aged perspective about Branson, here are links to a 60 Minutes report from 1992, with Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
The Branson Auto Museum was an existing museum purchased by Maurice Wilder in 2011. After a tornado hit Branson on Leap Day in 2012, doing extensive and irreparable damage to the building, a new 90,000 square foot facility was constructed. It was at this time tractors and other farm equipment were added to reflect Mr. Wilder’s interests, making the expansion into the Branson Auto & Farm Museum.
Given the scope of what was on display here, I’m going to break it down into sections. Also, should you be contemplating a visit to Branson, don’t think these are static displays; the vast majority of what you will be seeing here is for sale, so displays are changing regularly.
Tractors and Steam Engines
While this old Ford 8N is fairly pedestrian, similar cannot be said about most of the others on display.
A case in point would be this 1919 Port Huron steam engine. Built in Port Huron, Michigan, this Model 24-75 produced 24 horsepower at the drawbar and 75 horsepower at the belt. It weighs 21,000 pounds.
Sitting behind the Port Huron was this 1904 Case steam engine. If I am correctly interpreting information found with this display, this machine produces 150 horsepower and was one of nine such steam engines built at Case’s Racine, Wisconsin, factory.
The level of detail, even on these old workhorses, is astounding when compared to the austerity of modern farm machinery. Both well reflect their time.
This Robert Bell steam engine was the only stationary engine on display. Built in Seaforth, Ontario, this is one of the few Robert Bell engines left in existence.
These steam engines, as well as the tractors, appealed to me even more than I had anticipated with there being a number of brands of both tractors and steam engines that were previously unknown to me.
One such brand is this 1916 George White & Sons steam engine. White, an English blacksmith from Devon, would later immigrate to Canada, establishing his steam engine manufacturing business.
Looking at the pictures I took, the vast majority of tractors that caught my attention had steel wheels, such as this 1928 Rumley Oil Pull. This Rumley is powered by a 601 cubic inch (9.8 liter) two-cylinder engine manufactured by Rumley. It is powered by kerosene.
Hart-Parr tractors were produced in Charles City, Iowa. This 1929 model is powered by a 309 cubic inch (5.1 liter) two-cylinder engine, with each cylinder having four valves. It is gasoline powered.
This 1937 Case RC has wheels that look absolutely flimsy in comparison to the other steel-wheeled tractors on display. This really jumped out at me.
Believe it or not, tractor styling once was influenced by automotive styling as this 1948 McCormick-Deering has fenders that look like larger versions of those found on many cars during that time period. However, I suspect as this particular example was intended for orchard use, it was desirable to cover as many rotating parts as possible to keep from snagging the trees.
Cockschutt is another brand previously unknown to me. Built in Canada in 1948, this Cockschutt is powered by a four-cylinder Buda engine. At one point in time, Buda also made engines for Checker.
Louis and Walter Brockway, a father and son, founded the Leader Tractor Company in Auburn, Ohio, in the 1940s.
Originally incorporating four-cylinder Chevrolet engines, the Leader transitioned to a four-cylinder Hercules engine around 1945 when the supply of four-banger Chevrolet engines was beginning to evaporate.
The company moved a short distance away to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, sometime prior to this tractor being built in 1949. Why? Auburn, Ohio, had no post office and correspondence was being returned.
It can’t be a farm museum without a few trucks, because how else can you get crops off to market? While the trucks here weren’t plentiful, they were definitely good ones, such as this 1936 Dodge 1.5 ton flatbed.
The 1.5 ton is a reference to its nominal payload, not its curb weight.
Going back a few years, and displaying how styling changed in such a short time, is this 1933 Dodge. Note the suicide doors.
Even Chevrolet was present and accounted for, displaying that new for 1929 six-cylinder engine.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you; Plymouth did indeed make a pickup.
Plymouth entered the commercial market in 1937; this is a 1941 PT-125. This is a nifty looking little pickup.
No vintage truck display would be complete without a Ford Model AA or four being present. At least one of the AA’s had a hand-operated crank for the dump bed.
For perspective, the Model AA’s predecessor could be found with this Ford Model TT.
The British Invasion
This was simply too tempting.
One of the larger theaters in Branson, just up the street from this museum, has the ongoing “Legends of Liverpool” show with the related “British Invasion!” proliferation of billboards. So it’s safe to assume the British didn’t in some fashion invade the United States in only 1812 and 1964 (they were already camped out here in 1776). The British have definitely had a heavy influence on culture in the United States.
Plus they send over some phenomenal cars.
The museum is divided into two pieces with tractors and related accessories on one side and automobiles on the other. Likely a result of needing space, this Rolls Royce was majestically gazing over the vast assortment of agricultural equipment, a tasty prelude of what was to come.
No matter what my automotive tastes of the moment might be, this interior is amazing.
While there was another Rolls from the late ’80s or early ’90s I didn’t capture, this 2014 Bentley belonged to Mr. Wilder, who passed away earlier this year. Information with the car said the serial number was one digit removed from a Bentley delivered to Queen Elizabeth.
Powered by a W-12, the sticker price on this Flying Spur when new was $245,900.
As white isn’t my favorite automotive color, this red Bentley convertible is more to my liking. Despite its exclusivity due to low production, I’ve seen two others just like it on the road within the past year – one black and one white and both in Central Missouri.
This Bentley has a console I would never fuss about. As one who has never been overly concerned about fuel mileage, this Bentley and I could get along quite well.
Pre-World War II
There is so much that can be learned from pre-war cars and trucks as this time period saw a very new technology mature into something formidable. In a sense, one could liken it to a child from birth to age 18 – it goes from crawling to running, growing up rapidly in a relatively very short period of time. This museum had pre-war cars aplenty, such as this 1908 Buick that greets visitors upon entering the building.
Its four-cylinder engine produces 18 horsepower.
Like the tractors, there are a number of brands that are less well-known in modern times. This 1908 Brush Model B is one of those cars.
Built by Alanson Brush, note how this Model B has wooden axles and frame. Another feature of the Brush is a single cylinder engine whose crankshaft rotated counter-clockwise. This was an effort to reduce injuries during cranking. As the crank would often kick, it led to many hand and arm injuries for right-handed persons; Brush was determined to minimize this from happening.
Brush would later design the Oakland, a direct ancestor of Pontiac.
Also from 1908 is this Sears. For being built at the same time as the Buick and Brush, it looks rather antiquated in comparison with its large wheels and tiller steering.
1909 saw the introduction of Hupmobile, manufactured by the Hupp Motor Company which was founded by Robert Craig Hupp. This runabout is one of only 500 Hupmobile’s produced that first year.
While Hupmobile’s are far from plentiful, there were two on display. This is a 1922 model pickup.
Nearby was this 1925 Lincoln Doctor’s Coupe. The treatment of the windshield and A-pillar is rather unique for that era. In the grand Lincoln tradition, this is not a small car.
This 1928 Buick has been in the same family since it was new. This car had a lot of presence.
It weighs 3,300 pounds and is powered by a 207 cubic inch (3.4 liter) straight-six. It reminds me I found a 1924 Buick in Chicago that deserves some attention.
The hood ornament on this Buick is vastly different than the tri-shield that would come later.
While a Durant automobile may not sound familiar, the Durant name likely is. This 1929 Durant was built in Lansing, Michigan, and the company was founded by William Crapo Durant, formerly of General Motors. The Durant was often considered an assembled car due to its number of outsourced components.
Production ceased the second, and final, time in 1932.
A product of Willys-Overland was the Whippet, with a 1929 roadster seen here.
For a brief time, my paternal grandfather owned a 1929 Whippet pickup.
Since hood ornaments were so ornate during this time, and I keep finding where I was rather fascinated with them, from what car does this one originate? Give you a hint – it’s a GM product.
Long before their half-century infatuation with rockets, hood ornaments like this graced the 1934 Oldsmobile.
That straight-eight engine is a thing of pure beauty.
In fact, I think I may like the Oldsmobile even more than I did the amazing 1938 Buick Roadmaster on display. But this Buick is painted in my favorite automotive color.
I would be remiss to no include a freshman year 1939 Mercury, a brand for which I have a strong affinity – until about the 1979 models.
Last up in our pre-war focus is this 1942 Nash Ambassador, certainly one of the more colorful cars to be found that day.
Built on the shorter 112″ wheelbase, it just seems to be beckoning a person to go for a ride. All Nash’s, regardless of wheelbase, were Ambassador’s for 1941 and 1942.
Before I get to what some may interpret as being the prime protein portion of the article, the cars that came about after World War II, I wanted to provide a bit more flavor about the museum itself. One of those is this model of a 15th century ship.
What’s so unusual about it? It was carved from a single piece of jade that was found in China. As she sits, this is 2,200 pounds of amazement. Information at the museum said this took 5.5 years to be built and, sadly, the designer died twelve days after its completion.
Throughout the museum, there were banners on the wall providing different thoughts from various points in time. Here are some I appreciated – you can draw your own conclusions!
Lastly for this section, I have had a grand discovery…
I have finally found a purpose for a compact pickup! The seats were quite comfortable.
Post World War II
Yes, this is post-war and based upon a 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but I needed something to tie these two eras together!
For whatever reason, this Custom Cloud seems to embody the 1970s in ways that just can’t be articulated. A picture does speak 1,000 words.
Light-heartedness aside, the post-war cars on display here were a pretty diverse group depending upon how you slice it. While the cars were almost exclusively from North America (with a lone VW accompanying the British cars previously shown – just remember the inventory is continually changing) what was found ranged from…
Two Crosley’s, such as this convertible…
And this spiffy red wagon, to..
Three (yes, three) 1957 and 1958 Cadillac Biarritz convertibles. Production in 1957 was 1,800; for 1958 production dropped to 815.
Cadillac’s are fine, but I’m more a fan of understatement and, to a degree, elegance. To sate that taste, I found this delightful 1951 Packard 250. The 250 line wasn’t added until March 1951 and only 4,640 Packard 250s were built for 1951 with no breakout between convertible and hardtop.
What’s even more appealing (or perhaps unusual) is this Packard is not equipped with the Ultramatic transmission, but rather has the standard three-on-the-tree. It seeks a shifty new owner.
I would be remiss to talk luxury cars and not include a Lincoln, here a 1957 Premiere.
My, how the Lincoln coupe changed by 1973.
Looking at my pictures, I have realized I was disproportionately captivated by the independent and orphan makes plus a few cars that would appeal to the independent minded buyer.
This pink 1955 DeSoto would be a prime example of non-conforming automotive tastes. The pink really makes this car pop visually. Information with the car stated the interior was leather in, of course, pink and white!
Luckily, this spawn of Hernando DeSoto wasn’t alone.
Also on display was this amazing 1951 DeSoto Custom convertible. This is one of fifty-five produced for export. It is left-hand drive.
It seems like the Jeep (a 1969 Commando seen here) didn’t change much over the years, but over the course of the previous two decades,
This 1949 Willys-Overland Jeepster does show the changes are significant. In a sense, it was a VW Bug type of evolution.
On the other hand, Ford was changing the Galaxie annually. The paint job really amplifies the lines of this 1960, which is why I included it here.
The Ford wasn’t alone in having paint accentuating its lines. This 1949 Nash can make a similar claim.
It’s hard to talk about independent makes without having a gratuitous Studebaker included, here a 1949 Starlight coupe.
The Branson Auto & Farm Museum is located on “The Strip”, also known as Missouri Route 76. Like Branson itself, this museum is not easily described and is well worth the visit. Having visited on a Friday morning in August, the number of visitors was delightfully light. On the flip side, it was much heavier when I drove by the following afternoon.
Plan to spend some time there as I spent three delightfully blissful hours looking at the exhibits. If you ever visit Branson, skip the Baldknobbers, the Presley’s, and the British Invasion shows – reward yourself.
Special thanks to David Rust, manager of the Branson Auto & Farm Museum, for his hospitality – a true virtue of Branson.