The Man Defined “Visionary”

by Margaret McAvoy

MasterCard, take note…this is truly priceless!  I suspect that few fellow mothers would disagree with the sentiment that we are indeed chauffeurs, delivery boys, nursemaids, and glamour girls on a daily basis…and then some!  This was one item in an incredible exhibit entitled, “Driving America” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, of which I had the good fortune to visit today.  Chronicling mostly the automotive industry in the United States, I could think of no better city in which to show it, could think of no better museum in which to house it, built by none other than the incredible visionary himself, Henry Ford.

Having grown up here, I’m well aware of all that Mr. Ford realized with his foresight, and grateful for all that the Ford Motor Company, Ford Foundation, and Ford family endowed to the city and, indeed, to much of Southeastern Michigan.  Residents of Dearborn have enjoyed much, because of the generosity and planning of Henry Ford. And Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of this.  On occasion, when I was very young, we could request guest passes for the Museum and Village, as a benefit through my Mother’s work.  Then, when we were a bit older,  we bought memberships, so running around the Village when I was a child was, for me, not unlike playing at the corner park.  Only much better.

Wonderfully clever installation near the front of the Museum, showing various parts of the automobile, suspended vertically.

The “Driving America” exhibit opened a few weeks back, but today was my first opportunity to see it, fortuitously, as it was free of admission thanks to Target-sponsored Family Days.  As a decorator, I’m keen on all-things-design, and this exhibit is a treat!  I can probably (stress “probably”) hold my own in a discussion of cars, I can confidently identify a Pony interior, would happily spec a “Hemmings Motor News”-orange, if the occasion ever called for it, and I love the Glass House (move over Mad Men…I prefer the original).  At any rate, the history buff in me loved the stories behind the vehicles and the designer in me can’t help but fall for the lines and the colors:  they are so deeply and richly opaque, yet gleaming.  They’re not unlike the lacquered walls that are prevalent in shelter magazines of late.  When I was young, we had a charming older couple as neighbors.  Mr. would treat me to yogurt on the back porch while I recited the state capitals to him, and Mrs. would entertain us with her impressive skill at rousing tunes on the organ.  To say that life was simple is indeed an understatement.  But back to cars:  Mr. had the most beautifully pristine old Mercedes-Benz sedan, in the most handsome warm, charcoal grey.  It was so deep and rich, without a hint of metallic to it, that it looked like pudding on wheels (only I can’t, for the life of me, think of a yummy pudding that is a warm, charcoal grey!) .  And it was gleaming.  Always gleaming.

The banners at each of the groupings feature some wonderful images.  Here, and in the previous photos, it asks, “What is Luxury?”…an ever-present question in the design industry.

This roadster reminds me of the one Andy Hardy drives.  Not unlike this one, young Mr. Hardy has his initials “AH!” monogrammed on the door.  The sets from those movies deserve a post unto themselves!

It’s hard to distinguish, but this body is actually two-toned in black and chocolate.  It reminds me of the exterior color scheme of a London building featured in the last episode of “The Adventure of English”, with Melvyn Bragg.  Terrific series for language historians and enthusiasts.

This perhaps would be a saddle, brandy, and faded green English library.  Or Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.

Yes.  Yes, it is.  Probably the most identifiable grille in the world.  And it reminds me of the Summery blue Atlantic water…and white Laura Petrie capris (with a headscarf and a Nantucket basket, if you must know).

One never tires of pale grey, but I adore the proportions of this Plymouth Suburban.  It reminds me of the book, “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation”, but goodness knows, I could fit half of the Design Center in here!

Lemon pudding.

Think what you will of his Duesenberg, but this gentleman clearly knows how to hire staff to set a blazing fire.

This could have been in this month’s HB issue!

B. Altman & Co.

This belongs in a Pixar film, with his seemingly bespectacled headlights, pointy nose, and mouth agape in exasperation.  Not unlike Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast”.  Still with me?

More Pixar.  And more lemon pudding.

And of course, one can’t visit the Museum without an obligatory stop at the very icon of Americana…

And despite the fact that it is now Tuesday, I actually started composing this post on Monday, which was of course, President’s Day.  So, I will close with two patriotic vehicles from the “Driving America” exhibit, and in my effort to be bipartisan, I’ve shown one from each Party.  And while I’ve posted many more photos than I had originally planned on doing, I do hope that you’ve enjoyed this small tour of the offerings.  Do visit if at all possible, as the automotive display is only one small part of the Museum, and I will be sure to post additional information regarding the architecture and the Village proper at a later date.  Kind regards & warm blessings!

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Limousine.

President Ronald Reagan, Limousine.

Exterior of Henry Ford Museum.