KOKOMO, Ind. — If there’s one thing Jeff Shively knows, it’s that Kokomo loves cars.
And it’s that love that has inspired Shively, director of development at the Kokomo Automotive Museum, to bring a series of exhibits and car shows to both the museum and local community this summer.
In an interview last week, Shively – surrounded by early 20th century Haynes sedans and classic Chevy Camaros on the museum floor, with retro car advertisements hanging overhead – discussed those displays and upcoming events, each of which will pique the interest of amateur historians and car buffs alike.
Notably, the museum has on display its Crossroads Gallery, a now-permanent component of the facility named after Indiana’s Crossroads of America moniker, complemented by the Kokomo/Howard County Gallery of Automotive Innovations.
The Crossroads Gallery, opened in mid-April, includes a total of 11 cars, including historic luxury vehicles from the former Cole Motor Car Company in Indianapolis, one from 1913 and another from 1924. Both of the latter are assembled vehicles, meaning they were put together with the best available parts.
“Some are new, some are ones we had before,” said Shively about the gallery as a whole, which will at various times substitute in new cars. “But we’re reinterpreting things.”
As visitors will notice, the gallery starts off with Indianapolis vehicles before transitioning to cars from Marion, Connersville and more. Each vehicle is complemented with signage displaying world news and pop culture references from the year it was manufactured.
“I included that sort of stuff to give people context,” noted Shively, also pointing to the then-state-of-the-art advertisements from former Indiana car companies, including one of a 1963 Studebaker Avanti parked next to a swimming pool in a Mad Men-esque tropical scene.
“It’s real important to me to do that because I want folks to understand, because when I look at the museum, I’m a car guy and I love the car stuff. But my wife is not a car person, and my dad is not a car person. So I want them to come to the museum and have a good time, too. There are a lot of folks like that.”
Shively – who expects to open a permanent Chrysler exhibit sometime this summer and a temporary Lincoln showcase this fall – also showed off the museum’s current temporary Camaro exhibit, which includes a 1982 Indianapolis 500 pace car replica.
The exhibit will be open through Aug. 20.
“I’m trying to get rotating exhibits going again, and the reason I picked the Camaro is that it’s its 50th anniversary this year,” said Shively.
The exhibit, which winds through a time-hop of sorts past the Camaro’s six generations, includes the exceedingly rare 1967 Camaro Z28 all the way up through the modern-day sports car.
Unbeknownst to many, the Camaro also incorporated a variety of family-style vehicles, a version of which can be seen at the Kokomo museum.
“You could have everything in-between,” said Shively. “They had so many different options, so many different seating options. There’s all these things a person could do with a Camaro when they were brand new. It was designed to be anything from a factory racer to a family car.”
Next year could include an Indy 500 pace car exhibit and more, added Shively.
As for summer events, Shively described the 10 a.m. May 27 “Hoosier Classic,” a classic car auction at the Kokomo Event and Conference Center, next door to the automotive museum.
Shively hopes the auction, which will be held by Earlywine Auctions and act as a fundraiser for the museum, will include more than 100 cars.
A similar auction was held in November and drew collectors from across the Midwest in what Shively called a “great turnout.” Now, organizers hope to make it a twice-a-year event.
“It’s a good way to draw people, because they come to the museum, they come to the auction,” he said, noting that the 1982 Indy 500 pace car replica will be auctioned off.
“And it’s good for the collector car hobby, to have Kokomo go on the map that way.”
Additionally, the museum will sponsor the June 19 “Sunday in the Park” Father’s Day car show in Highland Park, a “longtime Kokomo tradition” and museum fundraiser, said Shively.
The open car show will include 200 to 300 cars.
“See the entire spectrum of the car hobby, ranging from antiques to mid-century collectibles, street rods, and even a few of today’s hottest cars. Enjoy food and drink from local vendors. Bring the kids and let them frolic in the playground,” reads the automotive museum’s website.
For more information, contact the Kokomo Automotive Museum at 765-454-9999 or visit www.kokomoautomotivemuseum.com.