Classic car museum is visitor friendly

CHESTERFIELD, Mich. — The black 1934 Duesenberg Model J, one of Ted Stahl’s recent acquisitions, stands proudly inside the visitor-friendly museum building the avid collector opened here earlier.

The Society of Automotive Historians held a meeting on site in December, with a talk by College for Creative Studies historic design instructor Brian Baker.

Stahl precedes him in a welcome to the day’s guests.

“Each car has its own story, and each visitor here has about 40 stories of his or her own,” Stahl tells the attentive audience. He explains that he started collecting a coouple of decades ago because he wanted to develop in his children an understanding of how cars work and an appreciation for their beauty.

It takes three buildings to house the collection today. Two appear to be for storage and maintenance; the third is this museum.

Here special interest cars and trucks are parked in neat rows or groupings. Several of them have bright-yellow towels resting on their window sills.

“That’s to catch the drooling,” quips an SAC member obviously enjoying his tour.

There are two 1936 Cord softtops: one a swooping, supercharged, blue-green boattail Speedster, the other a classic black cabriolet convertible with red leather interior and silver-and-black art deco dash.

A 1948 Tucker torpedo sedan sits with truck lid up, showing off its 166-horsepower flat-six engine which works with a Cord 810 transmission. This car, according to Stahl, was number 15 of the total 51 assembled by the Tucker enterprise before is was closed down.

On this occasion, the museum houses a 1925 Kissel Gold Bug, a 1908 Cartercar, a 1935 Ford Model 48 Deluxe station wagon, a 1937 Mack Jr. pickup truck and the 1931 Chevrolet Landau Phaeton Stahl showed at the 2011 Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Mich.

Stahl’s 1941 Graham Hollywood sedan with its radical aero design holds it own among the many custom luxury cars on display. So does the 1936 Brewster Town Car with its enormous heart-shaped grille.

According to Stahl Collection buyer and caretaker Bill Sherwood, Graham purchased the Cord automotive dies and artwork after the Indiana auto maker folded in 1937. As it turned out, 1941 was the last year for the Graham-Paige company. Massachusetts-based Brewster often did bodies for larger auto makers but occasionally produced one of its own. The museum limo-size Brewster here uses 1935 Ford V-8 running gear. Auto historians figure only 113 Brewsters were built between 1934 and 1935. Those on Ford chassis sold for $3,500.

The Society of Automotive Historians, which arranged for this day at the Stahl Automotive Collection, dates to 1969. The international organization has more than 900 members in 45 states and some 20 countries. Its purpose is to encourage research, preservation, recording, compilation and publication of historical materials.

The Stahl Automotive Collection is open to the public Tuesday afternoons. Further information at stahlsauto.com.

Jenny King is a Detroit-area free-lance writer. She can be contacted via e-mail at Wright-King@comcast.net