Automotive History of Kokomo, Indiana

Many things have gone into shaping our society as we know it today, but nothing has affected our society and culture as deeply as the invention and development of the automobile.

Kokomo, Indiana has a rich history that revolves around the American automobile and the Automotive Heritage Museum pays tribute to this heritage. Kokomo is home of the Haynes, “America’s First Car” and many products were, and continue to be, developed and manufactured in Kokomo to support the auto industry.

In 1892, inventor Elwood Haynes designed his plans for a motorized "horseless carriage." In 1893 he began building, with the help of the Apperson brothers, America's first gasoline powered car. The car, named the Pioneer was successfully road tested on July 4, 1894. The Pioneer is now housed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D. C.

In 1898, the Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company opened in Kokomo. It was the first automotive plant in Indiana. By 1923, there were over 61 different companies in Kokomo producing automotive components that were shipped worldwide and over 76,000 automobiles were built in Kokomo. The Maxwell Automobile Company eventually became Chrysler and Crosley became Delco Electronics, a division of General Motors. Today both DaimlerChrysler and Delphi continue to develop automotive components in Kokomo.

Today the Automotive Heritage Museum displays over 100 antique and classic autos representing dozens of makes and models. Included are displays of automobile components and accessories such as Kingston Carburetors, Delco Radios and many other auto related products that were manufactured in Kokomo since 1894, thus preserving Kokomo’s unique and important automotive heritage.

The Automotive Heritage Museum is considered by many to be one of Indiana’s finest attractions. During its first year in operation, visitors from over 24 foreign countries and 45 states came to view the automobiles and related displays thereby demonstrating the museum’s potential as a tourist destination.

The first-class Automotive Heritage Museum and the affiliated Johanning Civic Center are indeed, beneficial regional assets, needed to enhance tourism, economic development and educational enrichment throughout North central Indiana.

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