The University Record, June 11, 1996

Bentley Library exhibition illustrates tests of the automobile

Photos of Henry P. Joy and his expedition from Detroit to San Francisco along the Lincoln 'highway' are part of the exhibition 'From the Packard to the Sunrunner: 100 Years of Testing the Automobile,' on display at the Bentley Historical Library through June.

Photos courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library


By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

"Ask the Man Who Owns One" was the motto of the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit in the early part of the century, a company boasting that after the engineering department had done its part, "it remains for the Boss to 'take it out and bust it in for 'em' or failing that, to put his final O.K. on a new model worthy of the Packard name." And that's what Henry B. Joy did.

In its exhibition "From the Packard to the Sunrunner: 100 Years of Testing the Automobile" that continues through June, the Bentley Historical Library illustrates what tests man and his machine endured as the auto industry struggled out of its infancy.

Joy, manager and then-president of Packard in 1901­1918, set out with two Packard employees in 1915 headed from Detroit to San Francisco along the proposed route for the Lincoln Highway. The trio encountered 12 consecutive days of rain which turned dry ruts into hub-deep quagmires and the mighty Packard temporarily into a mighty muddy horse-drawn carriage. "Three-fourths of the entire distance was made in low gear," the journal reads, "often at the rate of 35 to 70 miles a day, driving from 12 to 18 hours out of the 24."

It took them 23 days, but the dusty roadmen finally wheeled triumphantly into San Francisco's Exposition.

That was then. Now, with partnerships between universities and major manufacturers, automobile designers are looking into the consumer's future needs and to the sun for power. The drawing board has become a computer.

Featured in the exhibit are excerpts from Joy's journals and photographs taken along his various routes across the country while "testing" yet another model. The exhibit continues into the future with drawings, photos and scale models of U-M's entries in competitions for solar-powered vehicles. Also available for viewing at the Bentley are the videos about those entries, "The Making of Sunrunner: Winner of GM Sunrayce USA" and "The University of Michigan: The Sunrunner Down Under."

The Bentley Historical Library, located on North Campus, is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.­5 p.m. Admission is free and free parking is available.