Davis Delta. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Paul Williams
2009 Orphan Car Show
Ypsilanti, Michigan – These are trying times for the automotive sector, both in North America and world-wide. Apparently Saturn will continue after all, but Pontiac is doomed. Europe’s Opel (a division of General Motors) appears saved by new Canadian/Russian ownership and Chrysler by Fiat. We’ll see.
Perhaps surprisingly, these events are nothing new for an industry that has seen countless brands come and go over the years, some of which built important vehicles that set standards for innovation, design and quality.
Which is why Ypsilanti, Michigan’s annual “Orphan Car Show” is so interesting. There, on the first weekend of June each year, unmodified examples of vehicles that are no longer made or imported (makes, rather than models) are displayed by car enthusiasts who like owning something different.
The operation of the show is a little different, too. Located at a park next to a scenic river in Ypsilanti’s historic “Depot Town,” the cars are arranged alphabetically, by marque, and participate in a scheduled parade lap during the day. The circuit begins with vehicles stopping in front of a small grandstand, where they’re introduced to an appreciative crowd comfortably perched on bleachers.
1930 American Austin. Click image to enlarge
About 300 vehicles were present at the 2009 show, with many examples from former volume manufacturers like Hudson, Studebaker, Packard, Edsel, Nash and Rambler, and some from specialty makers like Kissel and Crosley.
Of particular interest was the 1948 Davis Delta, a three-wheeled vehicle with seating for four abreast (an idea that didn’t catch on…). This California-built car is usually seen only in museums or books, but here was Bill Miller’s Davis, one of 13 built, and in excellent condition.
Another rare car was C.E. Stephenson’s tiny, 12-horsepower, 1930 American Austin Roadster. Built under license from the British parent in Butler, Pennsylvania, the car was assembled by the American Austin Car Company, operating from 1929-1934.