Tucked away in an obscure warehouse in Detroit sits the almost inaccessible Transportation Collection of the Detroit Historical Museum. Lacking facilities and money to display them, the museum keeps its classics entombed in protective bubbles. Here's a rare look inside.
This building was used to store military vehicles in World War II, and housed a large population of pigeons in the decades after. The cars are stored here because the museum hasn't got the money or the facilities to display them.
It wasn't until fairly recently that someone got the neat idea of putting the vehicles into protective bubbles. There are about five dozen cars here and a smattering of other items. There are a couple of boats, a few cannons, and pretty much anything else people thought belonged in a museum.
Quick – Name that car! It's a 1930 Scripps-Booth Da Vinci "Pup" Cycle Car. Elsewhere among the bubbles are other Scripps-Booth vehicles from 1914 and 1915. The Museum also owns a 1908 Bi-Autogo - a V-8 powered motorcycle.
This one? No clue. There are little 3 X 5 cards on each bubble with the information. There was a 1975 Pacer in here – allegedly the first one off the assembly line. There are also 11 Packards in here and a even a horse drawn vehicle or two.
One vehicle they have is a 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car – I was researching the turbine program and heard that one of the survivors was here. Along with the car, they have an extra engine. This was the only car I got to see outside of its bubble when I was there.
Some of the vehicles get out from time to time, when they loans cars to other museums that have space to display them. The Bi-Autogo was out on loan when these photos were taken; the Chrysler Turbine Car was sent out to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan shortly after these pictures were taken.
Notice the nice layer of historical dust that has settled on the car's interior. Presumably, this dust predates the bubble.
This is a 4th generation Chrysler Turbine engine. Note that the transmission assembly is attached. Sharing its bubble is a piece of a ride from a local amusement park, Boblo Island. Detroiters are more likely to recognize the boat than the engine.
Steve Lehto is an author, attorney, and educator. Most recently he wrote Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise And Fall Of Detroit's Coolest Creation, which you can read a chapter from here, before you rush out and buy the book.