Between Syracuse and Albany and south of Utica just off route 23 in Norwich, NY is one of the finest collections of automobiles that you will find in the country.
I rolled up in the P71 just as it was opening for business, about nine in the morning, and was warmly greeted by the staff of volunteers. There was a special exhibit featuring station wagons in addition to the 150 other cars on the property. There was a beautiful example of a classic woodie wagon right at the front door.
A large part of the cars on exhibit are from the collection of George Staley, who grew up in the area and who’s family had a working farm and dairy.
George attended the New York Aviation Training School in Utica, NY, and qualified for a federal license a year-and-a-half later. Just in time for WW II.
He worked for Bendix corporation specializing in engineering carburetors for aircraft engines. The needs of the war had him traveling to South America, Africa, and similar locations to set up carburetors on aircraft. Moving to Boeing he found himself in Utah, at Wendover AFB to work on the B-29’s of the 509th Bomber Group. The B-29 was the most massive bomber in the world and suffered from its high paced move from concept to production. Particularly in its fuel injection system. George had to work to perfect that system because this was the bomb group that would deliver the first atom bomb. Next he moved to the island of Tinian and worked on the Enola Gay and the group’s other B-29’s.
After the war he worked for TWA on the Lockheed Constellation, a four-engined commercial airliner. Later he moved to a company that overhauled the air-cooled engines of the Franklin car company. He bought his first collectable car in 1962 and from that one, built his impressive collection. While Franklins were a favorite, he also acquired Auburns, Packards, Cords, and Deusenbergs.
This museum also has an area set aside for a post-war collection of collectable cars.
Of course there is a special section reserved for his beloved Franklins:
There is a small, but fascinating area set aside for WW I and WWII aircraft engines.
This is a sample from the area of the museum where the station wagon was represented:
The station wagon started out as just that, a wagon that would take people and their luggage to and from a railroad station in comfort and out of the weather. As the automobile matured this style of vehicle was adapted to a gasoline-powered chassis. Essentially a small bus, it pre-dated the mini-van and SUV by decades.
In the post-war era it became a favorite of the baby boom families as it provided comfort and capacity that matched the expanding Interstate system. The early pre-war versions often were made with hand formed and varnished wood for their main cabin area and became known as “woodies”. Through the decades after the war this look was sustained even though the wood work was replaced with metal and vinyl.
The exhibit hall featured a documentary produced by some students of Wake Forrest University called: Wagonmasters. It was a great film and hopefully will be available on DVD.
This gem of a classic car museum should definitely be on your “must-see” list. If you are traveling around the northeast be sure to leave some time for a look-see.