Today was my day to visit the Tupelo Automobile Museum in beautiful downtown Tupelo – and I mean that. Tupelo is a charming city at its center. It is not hard to travel around and find your way.
My hotel is outside the original city center and right on the perimeter of what looks like most modern urban/suburban areas. Full of the common franchises for eating and shopping. It could be any town. But downtown Tupelo is a mix of architecture from the early twentieth century and some late twentieth century buildings at its margins.
The museum is right where US 45 and US 278 intersect. It is a modern facility with plenty of parking. It has cars from the very earliest times to the most recent. In particular the collections cars from the early 1900’s are some of the most interesting.
Most early cars had the driver sitting on the right side of the vehicle. Left hand drive really didn’t become a standard until Henry Ford manufactured millions of Model T cars. Brakes were originally only on the rear wheels and were often mechanically operated drum brakes. Beam axles with leaf springs were also fairly standard and the front wheels had king pin hubs to turn on. Grease fittings were actually grease cups that were filled with grease and then turned down from time to time to provide fresh lubricant.
The car above was the Brush – an inexpensive and relatively small car. It had a wooden front axle and used coil springs in a unique fashion. No shock absorbers on early cars. Eventually they came up with a friction shock that tempered the oscillations of springs, but it was not until hydraulic shocks that rides became tamer.
The Owen Magnetic was probably the first hybrid. Its gasoline engine was there only to provide electricity to the electric motor that drove the rear wheels. It cost what it took the average person ten years to make.
Front wheel drive was used in race cars early on and the Cord Motor Car company decided to use it in their production cars. They had problems with the life of the early versions of constant velocity joints which wore out often.
Then there was the Tucker. The most modern car of post WWII. It was way ahead of its time. It used a helicopter engine mounted in the rear for traction and safety. It had many innovations that took decades to come about after the company was driven into ruin by a political hacks under the influence of the major car corporations.
Post WWII introduced many interesting automobiles including the Volkswagen. Also out of Germany was the Messershmitt. It was featured in the film Brazil.
And this BMW that opened to the front. I remember seeing one on the Interstate back in 1962. I don’t think it ever went much more than 40 MPH, but I’m sure is sipped fuel.
The guy who drove it would push it down the on ramp and then jump in to get it started.
One of the truly interesting cars was this one that the owner of Domino Pizza had designed as his standard delivery vehicle. He wanted to have something to really stand out and be recognizable. It was a three-wheeled car with a motorcycle engine. The problem was getting insurance for it with 17 year olds driving.
Later in the day I drove to the Nachez Trace Parkway, which was just completed in 2005. I wish I had the time to transverse the entire 444 miles of this gorgeous road, but I did travel for a good forty miles and stopped at several areas the National Park Service maintains.
Tomorrow I start for the Museum of Automobilesin Morrilton, Arkansas.