A Very Special “Experience” for Del & Margaret Beyer

by George Beyer

Such an offer we couldn’t refuse: an expense-paid trip for Laurie and myself to Kalmazoo, Michigan for the annual edition of the CCCA Museum “Experience”. Our only duty was to play chauffer for my parents, Del and Margaret Beyer, driving both their Lincoln Town Car and a rented golf cart to get around the grounds. This was to be a very special weekend for my parents, and we wouldn’t have missed it for anything – heck we would have paid our own way!

The main event was formally billed as “The Chrysler Experience 2013, the Concours of the Classic Car Club of America Museum”. While most activities surrounded the Experience, we were attending primarily for some ancillary activities involving the CCCA Museum and the Lincoln Museum – more on those later.

The Experience. Most CCCA members know of the annual event held at the Gilmore Museum, located in Hickory Corners, Michigan, just a bit outside of Kalamazoo. This year the focus was on Chrysler automobiles built through 1965, including Full Classics as well as legendary non-classic Chryslers like the 1930’s Airflow and legendary muscle cars of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Automotive art is also on display and offered for sale throughout the weekend. I didn’t know the Experience is a major fundraiser for OUR museum; the CCCA museum keeps the entire “gate” from the admission fee charged.

Experience events included a get acquainted Bar-B-Que on Friday night, a driving tour and gala banquet on Saturday, and the judged Concours on Sunday capped by a narrated drive-by and awards presentation in the afternoon. Wisconsin Region members attending the Experience included Ron De Woskin with his 1947 Cadillac Club Coupe, Roy Margenau and his 1926 Packard Sport Phaeton, Ray Weihoffen, Jay Quail, and Carl and Carrol Jensen.

The Gilmore Car Museum. The Gilmore has a unique concept: the museum offers partnerships to select automotive groups to construct individual museum buildings on the Gilmore campus, with the partner organizations owning and managing the buildings and their contents. The CCCA Museum was the pioneer in this venture, opening in 1987; in the last three years the Pierce-Arrow Foundation, the H. H. Franklin Car Club and the Ford Model A Foundation have opened buildings on the site. In addition, the Gilmore has expanded their own facilities, opening the Automotive Heritage Center, a 32,000 square foot exhibit building that joins a new Restoration and Education Center. My dad and I haven’t been to The Gilmore since 2006; all of this has happened since then! We spent some time each day visiting the outstanding new exhibits. If you haven’t been there lately (or ever) you won’t regret going out of your way to visit!

The CCCA Museum. As one of the earliest partner museums, the CCCA museum as originally constructed followed the original concept of the campus: relocated and restored red barns without air conditioning or plumbing to house the automobile collections. Originally a three-season destination, the museum campus has evolved into a year-round facility, and the CCCA Museum has been keeping pace. Del serves on the CCCA Museum Board of Trustees, and we joined the board on a comprehensive tour of the facility Saturday morning as the Trustees reviewed recent improvements and planned future tasks. Past improvements have provided quarry tile flooring and improved lighting throughout the exhibits and last year a fire sprinkler system was installed to protect the building and collection from catastrophe. As we toured, new electronic kiosks were being prepared for each displayed car to present short videos offering insights into its historical background, interior appointments, engine compartment views and design details – information that you don’t get looking at the outside of the vehicle.

We got a sneak preview of the latest improvement to the CCCA Museum building: an addition to provide staff restrooms and a large storage space. A dedication ceremony for the new addition was held on Sunday afternoon, with CCCA Past President Al Kroemer and museum President Howard Freedman unveiling a bronze plaque to name the wing the Delyle and Margaret Beyer Library Annex, honoring the major donors who made the expansion possible. This physical expansion has allowed the museum to develop its educational and archival mission as well. The new space has provided more room for library collections, much-needed work space for researchers, and allowed a special work station to be set up to digitize the huge collection of drawings, engineering documents and notes of Full Classic custom bodybuilders Judkins, Dietrich, Derham and designer Gordon Buehrig. After digitization, the original materials will be moved offsite to archival storage space and the digital copies will be made available to view online at the museum’s website.

The Lincoln Museum. Future marque museums slated to be built at the Gilmore are the Lincoln Museum and the Cadillac-LaSalle Museum. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on Saturday afternoon for the Lincoln Museum with Del and Margaret invited to attend in recognition of their lead gift to the Lincoln Motor Car Foundation capital campaign. The foundation is a joint venture of four Lincoln Clubs: Lincoln Owners Club, Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club, Road Race Lincoln Register and Lincoln and Continental Owners Club. This new building will be patterned after a historic neo-classical Lincoln dealership constructed in Detroit in the early 1920’s. The 15,000 square foot facility will connect to the existing Franklin Museum and the Gilmore Steam Barn, further transforming the Gilmore into a year round attraction. Del was pleased to wield his personal engraved groundbreaking shovel presented by the Lincoln MotorCar Foundation’s John T. Eby and enjoy a pat on the back from Gilmore Museum founder Bill Parfet.

Del and Margaret were blessed to participate in the special celebrations for the CCCA Museum and the Lincoln Museum and are pleased to see these organizations carry forth their dedication preservation of automobiles, automobilia and documents from the Classic Era.