Autoweek Fantasy Camp–from the beginning

We will climb into Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine and return to Friday, May 18, the day before all of our track time.

Friday is actually quite a full day.  We campers came down for a wonderful Dearborn Inn breakfast and then took a stroll down the road to the Automobile Hall of Fame.  This museum celebrates the engineering creativity that has taken place in the hundred plus years that motor cars have been part of the human existence.

The museum had a special exhibition of Fraser cars that day along with all the other great exhibits.  In the front lobby were a couple of beauties:


Further in to museum were a couple more:



The exhibit wound around the building with highlights of creative talent from the very invention of the car to such things as cruise control.  There was a classic example of a WWII Willy’s Jeep:


You can see campers Mike and Al there in the background.

A car close to my heart that was on display was the original style VW Beetle.  This one I pegged as a 1962 or 1963.


I believe that’s Rolf in the background reading intently.

I have had several VWs early in my car driving days but I remember fondly a 1962 one that I had back in the early 1970’s.  At twelve years of age it had only 18,000 original miles on it.  If only we could hang on to all the cars that have passed through our hands.  Sigh.

There was a Honda there representing that company’s early foray into racing.


All this car had for protection were a couple of roll-over hoops behind the driver and passenger.  Racing safety has come a long way.

After all that fun we walked back to the Dearborn Inn and waited a brief period for a bus ride to our lunch destination.  The driver wound his way to a restaurant that had such great food and drink that I cannot recall its name.  But I certainly would recommend it.

We had our fingers crossed that the Vincetta Garage would be completed and that it would have been the place for our noon meal, but believe me, Autoweek and ZF made certain that we ate well in a place with ample ambiance.


There is Dutch Mandel on the left with Michael from Texas (we had four Michaels this year).  Next to him is George, a third time camper. Taking a drink is Dan, also from Texas (grew up in OK). Then Brian from Florida, Al from NJ, and Peter from Kansas who is almost out of view.


At another table is Nick from PA, Dave from MI, Tim – also from MI, and Jeff – also from PA.  That’s Bryan Johnson from ZF who has provided a large part of the sponsorship with Autoweek to make this Fantasy Camp possible.  On the right is Tommy Kendall.  He has had a career as a professional racing driver with a fantastic record of championships.  He followed that up with a TV career as a host and analyst.

After all that good food and drink – well you head to the rest room right?  This place was the perfect place for the racing enthusiast.  It may sound a bit weird, but here are some photos from the men’s room:




Then it was back on the bus with a tour of the Belle Island road course by none other than Tommy himself.


Tommy had some great stories and he really helped you put yourself into the track as only a competitor can.  He shared many insights into his own career as well as illuminating anecdotes of many of the drivers that he competed with.

With all that you might think that we had enjoyed quite a special day, and we had, but it was not over.  We were just getting started.

Back to Oakwood Boulevard and the Henry Ford museum for a private tour of the Racing in America Collection.  This is part of a entirely new display that was completed earlier this year.  At last year’s Fantasy Camp we were given a “behind the curtain” tour of many of the vehicles that now made up the display so to be able to view the completed work was a treat made extra special by having the people responsible for it take us through.


Above is the Mustang I project car that has been shuffled about in storage for decades and is now on display for all to admire.  No, its not made out of fiber glass, the body is hand formed aluminum.


Above is a rough casting recovered from the site where Ford engineers experimented and developed the final design for Ford’s first V8 engine.


No, its not a “bug eye” Sprite, it’s a 1951 Crosley Hotshot.  This is the same company that made radios.


For about five years these “cycle cars” were all the rage.  Using belt drive and motorcycle engines they were snapped up by the thousands until the Model T came out in 1917 and offered people a real car for just about the same money.


This car dominated Stock Car Racing for about three years, but didn’t help to sell outboard motors.


Using stock seats, steering wheel, and keeping most of the interior as it came, the huge diameter roll hoop was the major intrusion of racing equipment into the car.



Below is the third race car that Henry Ford built, the 999.  It was driven by Barney Oldfield.


Dan Gurney was the last one to take it on a track and he said of all the race cars he has driven it was the most memorable to drive.

It got to be closing time, five in the afternoon, so we thanked our hosts and headed back to the Dearborn Inn just a block or two from the museum.

Waiting to greet us were a dozen sedans, ten of which we would evaluate on Saturday.


We spent our time going from car to car.  Sitting in them and adjusting the seats, the controls, and just taking in the style of the interiors.  We each had our expectations, but honestly, we were willing to be as neutral as possible and see what these cars had to offer.


It was also a time for us to meet with and exchange ideas with the Autoweek staff.  There was more time to spend with these great people over food, drinks, and some great shared experiences.  Tomorrow on Saturday it would be our turn to become the evaluators.

This entry was posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Cars, Life and Cars, Road Trips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Autoweek Fantasy Camp–from the beginning

  1. Noel says:

    Sounds like just too much fun! Agree on ’62 or ’63 for the Beetle, but it may even be a ’61. I forget which year the little front vent thingies went away. (And check the typo… in your copy you have 1992 or 1993!)

  2. jimsgarage says:

    Thanks Noel! It is tough being your own editor 🙂

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