HICKORY CORNERS, Mich. — The Gilmore Car Museum celebrated the official opening of its latest collections not long ago.
The ever-expanding Gilmore operation has housed its Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum adjacent and connected to a Franklin “dealership.” It is just across the street from the stand-alone Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum and Research Center where the smell of paint and presence of workers announces the building is not quite complete.
Examples of America’s more recent luxury cars sit on spotless floors in both museums, surrounded by authentic lighted signs, especially for the Lincolns, blow-ups of stylish period ads designed to persuade car lovers that owning a new Lincoln would be a dream come true.
Visitors to the Lincoln exhibit can watch a video with historic footage featuring Henry Leland, Henry Ford and Edsel Ford among others. Cars, many of which are on loan, represent Lincoln’s earliest decades — resplendent in custom coachwork from LeBaron, Brunn, Locke and Dietrich.
Both collections include the companion cars spawned in the 1920s and 1930s: the LaSalle for Cadillac and the Zephyr for Lincoln. The more affordable companions seemed to have a role as important opportunities for more contemporary styling exercises, and often outshone their more conservative and costly siblings.
A standout among the Lincolns was the 1956 Continental Mark II Sport Coupe: long, luxurious and very desirable. The car was first shown at the Paris Auto Show in the fall of 1955. With a pricetag just south of $10,000, Ford’s Continental Division built 2,550 Mark II Sport Coupes for 1956.
Prices for various Cadillac and Lincoln models were reflections of production costs or market demands. A 1922 Lincoln Type 118 Limousine with Brunn coachwork was priced at $5,800 — an enormous amount for the early twenties. A 1942 Lincoln Zephyr with a V-12 engine sold new for $1,880. Lincoln’s popular 1972 Mark IV two-door hardtop with 460-inch V-8 had a window sticker of $8,640.
The 1937 LaSalle Convertible Sedan with Fisher body just inside the entrance to the Cadillac building was a new model for LaSalle that year. It sold for $1,485. The 6.5-horsepower single-cylinder-powered 1903 Cadillac Runabout was priced at $900. The factory price on a new 1941 Cadillac Sixty Special was $2,195, while a limited-production (19) 1936 Cadillac V-16 Aerodynamic coupe would have sold for $8,150.
A favorite among the Cadillacs is likely to be the 1948 Cadillac Series 75 Limousine once owned by Frank “Mr. Big” Balistrieri, a Milwaukee-based Mafia boss and businessman who served a couple of prison terms. One visitor to the museum pointed to several Cadillacs similar to models used in the popular Godfather movies.
The Cadillacs on display favored Fisher and Fleetwood coachwork. Information in the Lincoln museum said Edsel Ford in the early 1920s convinced esteemed designer Raymond Dietrich to forsake the LeBaron operation in New York and travel to Detroit to work for Lincoln, which Ford Motor Co. had purchased in 1922.
The Gilmore Car Museum is open year-round, taking only a few major holidays off. These latest additions to the vast collection highlight certain important models in the history of American luxury car makers Cadillac and Lincoln. Other points of interest at Gilmore include a Pierce-Arrow museum, Model A Ford museum, Tucker historical collection and Checker Motors Archive – along with many other makes once manufactured in Michigan.