The Henry Ford preps pony cars for Motor Muster

Two bona fide hits and one narrow miss from The Henry Ford’s automotive collection will take to the streets of Greenfield Village this weekend at Motor Muster. More than 1,100 vehicles are scheduled to appear at the annual event, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Derek Moore, The Henry Ford’s conservation specialist for transportation collections, says the hits — the 1965 Ford Mustang serial number 1 and the 1956 Chrysler 300B Kiekhaefer stock car — have been shown at Motor Muster before and require relatively little preparation: mostly close inspections and installation of fluids. The Mustang, which appeared in the 2004 Motor Muster, was a hit with young buyers when the pony car was introduced some 45 years ago. The 300B Kiekhaefer stock car, part of the 2006 Motor Muster, was owned by Carl Kiekhaefer’s team, which ruled NASCAR in 1955 and 1956, and was driven by NASCAR national champs Tim Flock in 1955 and Buck Baker in 1956.

The third vehicle from THF’s collection, the 1962 Budd XR-400, will make its Motor Muster debut. Prepping it has taken longer than preparing the other two cars. The Henry Ford acquired the XR-400 from The Budd Company in 1997. “We don’t know how long it has been since it ran,” says Derek. “Getting it ready has been about a two-and-a-half-month process.”

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Preparing the XR-400 included extensive inspections of the fuel and brake systems, the engine and the condition of all parts, Derek says. “We try to keep as much of what we call ‘the original fabric’ as possible,” he says, referring to the equipment on the vehicle when it left the factory. He says rubber hoses are sometimes replaced because worn or deteriorated rubber can pose safety risks. One surprise: When Derek and volunteer special projects coordinator George Gunlock were inspecting the brakes, they discovered that the front disc brake system was experimental, which was obvious because of the hand-etched part numbers. The staffers took apart the brakes, cleaned all of the parts and reassembled the system.

The Budd Company, an automotive supplier, wanted to show that it also could design and assemble vehicles, Derek says. In the early 1960s, the company went to American Motors Corp. with a proposal to design and build a car that would attract a new market segment. The XR-400 concept was built on a shortened, two-door AMC Ambassador chassis with a long, sleek hood, a very small rear seat and a short trunk. AMC rejected the XR-400. A couple of years later, Ford made a splash with the Mustang, also a sporty car with a long, sleek front end, a very small rear seat and a short trunk. Could AMC have beaten Ford to the pony-car punch with the XR-400? We’ll never know.

For a list of Motor Muster activities, which include vehicle displays, pass-in-review parades, hands-on activities, a Greenfield Village Cruise from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and a Live WWII USO Show at 7 p.m. Saturday, click here.


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