I VISIT THE SLOAN MUSEUM
I was in Flint, Michigan recently on other business, and managed to carve out half a day to check out some of what the area has to offer car guys. Flint and Detroit were at the hub of early American automotive history. Flint was quite literally the birthplace of GM, and I saw the actual spot, the Durant-Dort Factory One complex in Flint. We also squeezed in a visit to the amazing Sloan Museum, and as part of that ticket price was admission to the Buick Gallery & Research Center, which is where Buick used to design its cars. Between the Sloan and the Buick Gallery, they’re chocked full of GM history including significant production cars, concept cars, local history, and tons of great Americana. It made for a wonderful afternoon that I would recommend to anyone visiting the Flint area.
The Sloan Museum is a General Motors History Museum…
ABOVE: The old man himself. Alfred P. Sloan pushed GM-founder Billy Durant out, then took GM into the big leagues. He ran the GM empire for decades.
BELOW: A reenactment of the birth of Buick in 1905, as William C. “Billy” Durant (right) sells stock to raise the money ultimately turn Buick into the world’s largest carmaker in 1908. About this time, Durant wrote “In Flint, in 48 hours, I raised $500,000. Few of the subscribers had ever ridden in an automobile.”
The Sloan Museum is a Car Museum…
ABOVE: This is the 112th of just 300 1953 Corvettes built in its maiden year. For the first two years of production (1953 and 1954), the Corvette was hand-built in small numbers on a temporary assembly line that was set up in Flint.
BELOW: The 1955 Bel Air was not only a major leap forward in design and engineering, a 1955 Chevy was also GM’s 100 millionth car.
ABOVE: The ’63 Buick Riviera Silver Arrowconcept car was customized by GM stylists to Bill Mitchell’s specifications, and became his personal driver.
BELOW: There is a small collection of earlier GM cars of various ilks and from different eras.
ABOVE & BELOW: The Sloan Museum pays homage to GM’s stylists, the dream makers who conceived the wild “Cars of Tomorrow” and foretold the future…or did they? There is a nice collection of original drawings from the inner sanctum of GM Design.
The Sloan Museum is an Industrial History Museum…
ABOVE: Buick became the world’s biggest carmaker in 1908 by building cars in Flint. Production methods were primitive and done largely by hand.
BELOW: Throughout its history, General Motors has always supported America’s war efforts with massive production capacity and design innovation. During World War I, Buick designed the Liberty V12 engine, below, in just 6 days, and it served in the US Army Air Corps from 1917 until 1936. Below that is a partially assembled Pratt-Whitney radial engine for a US fighter plane, which GM built by the thousands during World War II.
The Sloan Museum is an Early American History Museum…
ABOVE: The Sloan Museum has an impressive display of early Native American artifacts along with this recreation of a dwelling. The Flint area is teeming in history dating back before the first Europeans arrived.
BELOW: Early pioneers scratched out a sparse existence against the harsh winters. I know, my mom was raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the 1920s. Even they had it tough, it’s hard to imagine how hard it must have been on those early pioneers in the 1800s.
ABOVE: Logging was a huge industry all through Michigan…until they ran out of trees. This diorama depicted in great detail the entire operation, from cutting down the trees to turning them into lumber.
The Sloan Museum is an American Cultural Museum…
ABOVE: The carriage industry has huge significance not just to Flint history, but also to automotive history. Because Billy Durant, literally the Father of GM, started out in the carriage business in Flint, becoming the nation’s largest. It was this success that allowed him to acquire Buick and parlay that into the creation of GM. It all started with buggies.
BELOW: The Sloan Museum abounds with Americana of every type, housewares, appliances, guns, toys, furniture, clothes, you name it.
ABOVE: The Sloan Museum is arranged like a big lazy circle, so you end up where you started, at the front door. About half way around, you arrive at this very nice kids’ play area. I can only imagine how may parents need to give their kids a chance to blow off some steam after having to be quiet and not touch anything for the last half hour.
BELOW: The Sloan Museum also has a very impressive 1950s-syle