YPSILANTI — There is always an air of camaraderie at the Orphan Car Show here, as guests and owners talk about cars past their glory days.
Some 200 no-longer-built vehicles were scattered across the grass on the banks of the Huron River in September for the 19th Orphan show. They were a gentle reminder that nothing is permanent, though the care with which they are collected and displayed overshadowed that.
Collecting itself can be a challenge.
It took Bobbi Youngblood two years to find and purchase her 1947 DeSoto Custom convertible. But the Eau Claire, Mich. resident wasn’t fully satisfied until she also found fender skirts for her prize.
“It had to have fender skirts,” Youngblood said as she answered questions about her DeSoto from visitors.
Youngblood finally located the car in southern Illinois back 2001. Its exterior was alright, she said, but it needed more mechanical attention than she had anticipated.
One issue was the power top, which was operated by two motors located in the trunk on either side of the rear window. One was not working, and it was a challenge to find someone who could make the necessary repair. The convertible top might be operated by hand, but Youngblood wanted her DeSoto to live up to the condition it was in when it left Chrysler’s Jefferson Avenue Assembly operation in 1947.
“A total of 8,100 DeSoto convertibles were built there between 1946 and 1948,” she said.
Dearborn resident David D’Agostino chased down his 1938 LaGonda LG6 in England two years ago. It is the same car, he said, that his father bought back in 1971 and later sold.
“Did you know that the LaGonda name was a Wyandotte Indian name?” he asked. The British luxury car with its rear-hinged front doors appeared to need work but was certainly drivable. D’Agostino said he has put about 1,600 miles on it this year, including his drive to Ypsilanti from Dearborn earlier in the day.
Finding the trip from Manchester, Mich. to Ypsi a bit too challenging for his blue 1927 Whippet 96, with a top speed of around 35 miles per hour, Charlie Fusilier opted to trailer this member of the Willys-Overland family. Whippet reportedly was America’s smallest car – light and fast and affordable – when introduced in 1926.
“It was built to compete with Ford’s Model T,” Fusilier said. “It cost a little less than the Model T with comparable six-cylinder engine and it was available in colors, unlike the black Ts.”
Fusilier said the six-cylinder engine was unique at the time and later was used in Jeeps. Other pluses included a rear gas tank and four-wheel brakes. Whippets, built in Toledo, Ohio and in Australia, sold here for about $540 new, he said.
Clinton Township collector Joseph Schmuck said his post-war 1946 Hudson Super Six was largely unchanged from its 1941-42 predecessors.
“I also have a ’42 Hudson,” he said – one of few built before the factory switched to wartime production. “This 1946 Super Six has a 103-horsepower six, weighs 3,030 pounds and cost $1,045 new.”
Its combined hydraulic-and-mechanical brakes serve as panic brakes, he said. The car easily does 60-65 miles per hour on the highway.
Show founders and organizers say the New York Times declared the Ypsi orphan show one of among the best auto shows, and the MotorCities National Heritage Area continues to highlight and promote the show as one of the top auto-related events in Southeastern Michigan.
And as long as there are collectors and the automakers cease producing certain makes, there will be a need for orphan shows like this to remind us of our automotive heritage.