Porsche Pilgrimage: Days 14 & 15 in Kalamazoo

Revisiting an old friend who has changed in so many ways.

byBradley Brownell| PUBLISHED May 22, 2017 2:40 PM
Porsche Pilgrimage: Days 14 & 15 in Kalamazoo

There's an old saying, an allegory to the fact that people never change, something like "You can take the person out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the person". I grew up on a dirt road in rural Michigan. I was a sheep farmer for most of my formative years. 4H, tractors, chickens, all of it. It was, and I suppose remains, a part of who I am. At the first opportunity possible, I left that life behind to move to a variety of 'big cities', and pushed down my corn pone roots. There is one thing from my childhood that I dearly miss, the place I'd spent my teenaged summers, an automotive Shangri-La packed to the gills with the relics that kicked off a mobility reimagining decades before I was born. The Gilmore Car Museum beckons me to return from whence I came, and I heed its call. 

Day 14

On my way to Michigan, the car was running great, but the steering wheel jiggle had become more pronounced. When I pulled into the homestead of my folks, I set about inspecting the front end of the car. It didn't take much to determine the cause of the issues, as when I turned the steering wheel to point the tires all the way to the right, the tire tread was revealed. The inside shoulders of both front tires had been worn down to the cords. Well, that makes sense. 

At first, I blamed the car's alignment. After further inspection, it turned out to be at least partially caused by an overfilled front trunk, and mostly by wonky front wheel bearings with more play than an elementary school yard. Lacking the time to completely diagnose the issue, I overnighted a new pair of Yokohama S.Drive tires up from Tire Rack's warehouse in South Bend, IN. After a mount and balance, the new tires were re-fitted, and I re-negotiated with the car where the heavy stuff would go. Moving some heavy tools and such from the front trunk to the back seat seemed to help. The steering wheel shake was still there, but it was dampened appreciably. Is it smart to drive the 2000 miles home on wheel bearings that are known to be in bad shape? Not really. Am I going to give it my best shot? You bet your sweet ass I am. 

Day 15

Your average car museum isn't going to be packed with people on a Tuesday afternoon, which makes it the perfect time to stop by for a visit. I used to come to the museum nearly weekly when I was a driving-aged teen, usually for the Wednesday-night drive-in car show. Back then the museum was a collection of vintage barns that housed cars. The concept seems odd, but it was one of those 'you had to be there' kind of things. Today, the barns still stand, but many of the cars have been moved into a handful of huge new modern buildings with heat and air conditioning and everything. 

Following the opening salvo of mostly pre-war beasts, the museum flows through a collection of Lincolns of all ages in one big room, with a collection of aircooled Franklins in an adjacent room. 

Continuing on the tour we enter the 50s/60s room. This section used to be in its own dedicated barn when I came here ages ago. The museum's collection of post-war cars has dwindled in the years since, but every other part of the tour is much larger than it was in my memory. It was cool to be able to see the Chrysler Turbine car again, as well as the ultra-rare Tucker. 

Across the street from the 50s/60s segment was an entire building dedicated to the Ford Model A and its versatility. Did you know that people used Model A parts to power tractors and airplanes? There were Model A school buses and just about every manner of industrial workhorse crafted from the venerable chassis. There were a couple motorsport-inspired engines in the corner with overhead valves and huge carburetors. It's amazing how widely used these cars were. 

Next door to the old Fords was a Cadillac building in the style of a 1950s Southern California dealership. It was very faux-modern in a way that sort of clashed with all of the other architecture of the museum, brick facades and hip-roofed wood barns. Inside was a lot of supremely interesting Cadillac and La Salle history. 

There was just so much to take in that my brain couldn't really process it all. I kept shouting about how "that's now how this used to be", when I saw a new building or the inside of one of my favorite buildings had changed drastically. They even had a motorcycle barn. Can you imagine?

All in all, it was a great museum that was a phenomenal value for just $13. If you're ever in the tiny town of Hickory Corners (or nearby because let's be honest who goes there without a really good reason?), I highly recommend going to the Gilmore Car Museum. It might just be the coolest car museum in the country.