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Photos by Richard A. Wright
This 1903 Packard "Old Pacific" Runabout was one of the first automobiles to cross the country. Its one-cylinder engine displaced 183 cubic inches and put out 12 hp. It cost $2,250 new.

Ford museum preserves greatest moments in automotive history

By Richard A. Wright

April 21, 2003

Henry B. Joy, leader of the group of investors who brought Packard Motor Car Co. to Detroit, had a 1916 Packard camp truck outfitted when he headed the Lincoln Highway Association. In fact, Packard had built the Truck to accompany General Pershing on his pursuit of Pancho Villa into Mexico. It was later bought for use as a camper by Joy. It is powered by an 88-horsepower V-12 engine.

On display is a 1929 Packard Speedster, one of only 50 built. The car, powered by a 130-hp straight eight, was capable of 100 mph.

One of the rarest and most desirable cars in the world is the Bugatti Royale, made in 1930-31. This Royale cabriolet is one of only six Royales still in existence in the world. Powered by a 300-hp straight eight, the Royale has one of the most famous hood ornaments, an elephant on its hind legs, designed by Rembrandt Bugatti.

One of the rarest and most desirable cars in the world is the Bugatti Royale, made in 1930-31. This Royale cabriolet is one of only six Royales still in existence in the world. Powered by a 300-hp straight eight, the Royale has one of the most famous hood ornaments, an elephant on its hind legs, designed by Rembrandt Bugatti, a son of Ettore Bugatti, who founded the company.

Barris Kustom Industries of North Hollywood, one of the top car customizers in the country, customized a '49 Mercury as one of its first jobs. The car is powered by a 270-hp 276-cubic-inch V-8. The '49 Mercury cost $2,409 stock and an estimated $3,900 for the custom job.

The '53 Ford X-100 concept car, built on a '52 Lincoln platform, was an exercise in the personal luxury field. Among its features were a power hood and built-in dictaphone, electronic jacks and electric shaver. It had a 300-hp 317-cubic-inch V-8 engine.

The one-of-a-kind '62 XR-400 was built by Budd Co. on a '62 Rambler platform as a demonstration of Budd's capability and a proposal for manufacture of a small, sporty personal car. Powered by a 327-inch 270-hp V-8, the Budd XR-400 could have gone into production six months ahead of Ford's Mustang, but no makers were interested.

This 1916 Packard Camp Truck was made to accompany Gen. Pershing on his pursuit of Pancho Villa into Mexico, was later bought for use as a camper by Henry B. Joy, leader of the group of investors who brought Packard Motor Car Co. to Detroit. Joy used this 1916 Packard camp truck when he headed the Lincoln Highway Association. It is powered by an 88-hp 424-cubic-inch V-12 engine. The chassis alone cost $3,650.

Star of the 1956 GM Motorama, the Firebird II gas turbine car still looks futuristic. The turbine engine puts out 200 horsepower and the body is made of titanium.

In 1964 Chrysler Corp. built 50 experimental gas turbine-powered cars and lent them to members of the public for testing. Most of the Ghia-bodied coupes were destroyed, but a few survive, including one at the Henry Ford Museum. The resemblance to Thunderbirds of that era is no accident. The turbines were the first assignment for Elwood Engle after the stylist moved from Ford Motor Co. to Chrysler Corp.

A display of presidential limousines spans our nation's history from the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the assassination of President Kennedy and the attempted shootings of Presidents Ford and Reagan

Star of the 1956 GM Motorama, this Firebird II gas turbine car still looks futuristic. Thge turbine engine puts out 200 hp and the body is made of titanium.

It includes the last horse-drawn carriage used by presidents, ordered put into service in 1902 by Theodore Roosevelt; the '39 Lincoln "Sunshine Special" presidential limousine created for use by Franklin D. Roosevelt and also used by Harry Truman, and the famed 1950 Lincoln "Bubble-Top" presidential limousine associated most with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but actually built for use by Truman. It was still in service into the John F. Kennedy administration.

Most notorious of the limos is the '61 Lincoln "Kennedy Car" in which President Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas. Apparently presidents are not superstitious, as the limo continued in service and was used by Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. After the assassination, the car was rebuilt with titanium armor, bulletproof glass and a permanent hard top.

The 1972 Lincoln limousine known as the "Reagan Car" because it was the car used by Reagan when the attempt was made on his life, went into service under President Nixon. It is also the car in which President Ford was riding when an attempt was made on his life by a female member of the Charles Manson cult.

There is a lot of history in the Henry Ford Museum's special cars.

A precursor of the Ford Mustang as this 1962 experimental Mustang. The small personal sports car was powered by a 109-hp 91-cubic-inch V-4 engine.

Richard A. Wright is a Detroit-area free-lance writer. He can be contacted via e-mail at ac8328@wayne.edu

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