In episode 6.1, Translogic took a trip to The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, to see if old school technology offers any insight into the future of the automobile. Looking to the past to understand the future may seem counterintuitive but the museum's collection is so comprehensive, many exhibits show just how forward-thinking industrialists of past really were. A perfect example is the experimental, lightweight Pierce-Arrow from 1925 that's on display. Built in cooperation with aluminum producer ALCOA, virtually the entire car is made of aluminum. The body, engine, transmission, steering and braking hardware are all made from the lightweight alloy. Sixteen of the cars were built, but only one car has survived. In the end, aluminum was deemed too expensive for commercial purposes – and while aluminum is regularly used for all these parts and more today, automakers still struggle with its cost.

The Henry Ford also has plenty of examples of automakers trying to come up with alternatives to gasoline-powered automobiles. There are several Detroit Electric cars on display including the one pictured above from 1922. Also featured are a handful of steam-powered cars and locomotives including a Stanley Steamer and a Doble steam powered touring car. The museum also has one of the first diesel-electric hybrids, a locomotive built by Ingersoll-Rand in 1926. Part of the original sales pitch to railroads was its low cost of operation.

In the early 1900s, some electric cars actually had a range of 100 miles (although top speed would have been under 30 mph). Fast-forward 100 years and that's the same range as the Nissan Leaf EV. When it comes to all-electric cars, it seems like there are no new problems, as limited range has always been a major stumbling block for EV's. Electricity also powered delivery trucks at one point. The museum has a Riker electric truck built in 1898; it was used to make furniture deliveries for customers in big cities.

The Henry Ford is a non-profit organization, though at one time it housed the private collection of Henry Ford. So many historically significant Fords are housed there including the Ford Tri-Motor airplane plus many other trains, trucks, cars and horse drawn buggies. There's also a life size model home of the future from the 1940s called the Dymaxion home, developed by futurist Buckminster Fuller.

The museum is also packed full of notable cars like the first bubble shaped Ford Taurus, one of the first cars with a factory sunroof (a late-'60s Mercury Cougar), a methanol powered Indy Car, a scale model of the Ford Nucleon Concept, Chrysler's experimental Turbine car, and one of the first Honda Accords built in the US. The museum houses a handful of presidential limousines including the Lincoln Continental limo President Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated. There's also a 1970's Lincoln limo that served both Presidents Nixon and Reagan. This one is the last Presidential limo to be restored since the Secret Service now requires them to be crushed at the end of service for security reasons.

More than just a museum, The Henry Ford is a collection of historically significant exhibits, displays and Americana. Since cars have been such an integral part of American transportation, the museum has several elaborate displays depicting American cars in everyday situations from the past. There's a life size drive-in movie display, perfect recreations of various motels from the past and a whole section dedicated to camping technology throughout the years. Other life size exhibits include a replica of Ford's first factory, period correct buildings and working Model T's that transport visitors. A modern factory tour at the Rouge plant and IMAX Theater are also available to visitors.

The Henry Ford Museum is located at 20900 Oakwood Blvd. in Dearborn. It's open seven days a week from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm but is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Click the image below to watch episode 6.1


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