Jun 17, 2021
Brownsburg resident Bob Palma has a nine-car garage that houses his treasures: a 1973 Mustang convertible; four 1964 Studebaker Daytona models; a 1956 Packard Clipper hardtop and other cars manufactured more than 40 years ago.
As Hoosier History Live explores the world of Hoosier car collectors like Bob, we won't focus exclusively on "classic" autos; that term has a specific, limited definition with some clubs for owners and enthusiasts, often referring to cars manufactured before the late 1940s.
Instead, with Bob as our guide, we will take a broad look at Hoosier owners and clubs (or local chapters of national groups) with a span from Model A Fords (the Model A was a successor in the late 1920s of the innovative Model T) through enthusiasts of Corvettes, Mustangs and other cars designed in the 1960s and '70s. Bob is a life member of both the Studebaker Drivers Club and the Antique Automobile Club of America.
Where do owners get replacement parts? How do they buy and sell? And with automobile technology having advanced so much in recent years, why do they prefer to hit the road in cars that initially rolled out of showrooms many decades ago?
There are more of these enthusiasts in Indiana than you may assume. The Indiana Region Classic Car Club of America, which was founded in 1959, has more than 125 members who own Duesenberg sedans, Stutz roadsters and other cars made in Indiana during the 1930s or earlier; a 1932 Cadillac, and a 1937 Packard convertible, among other prized possessions.
That group meets monthly, as does the Mustang Club of Indianapolis. About 205 owners of Mustangs and related Ford Motor Company products participated two years ago in the club's Race to Indy, its major annual event.
At least half a dozen Corvette clubs - including Corvette Indy - can be found in Indiana. An online registry of car clubs on the Old Cars Only website lists dozens of other car collector groups, including Indiana chapters of a national club for Model A Ford enthusiasts.
Our guest Bob Palma is the technical editor of Turning Wheels, the monthly magazine of the Studebaker Drivers Club, which has about 10,000 members. Bob, who also is a columnist for Hemmings Classic Car magazine, was a guest in 2020 on a Hoosier History Live show that explored the Studebaker brothers and the company they founded, which became the largest employer in South Bend until the last car was made there in 1963.
Bob is retired from a career that included teaching auto mechanics at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis and editing textbooks. He emphasizes that obtaining replacement parts for older model vehicles is easier than many people assume.
"You can even buy a complete, brand new reproduction of a 1957 Chevrolet or 1969 Camaro body if you want," he reports.
Many of the car clubs in Indiana organize events such as caravans (sometimes called "parades") of owners' vehicles for trips across the state - and beyond - to see notable collections and visit historic sites.
Despite the implications of the "Race to Indy" title, the annual event organized by the Mustang Club of Indianapolis is not a competition. It's a stationary car show that's been held for more than 40 years and includes a silent auction that benefits charitable organizations.